Sunday, April 21, 2013

Paraglider crashes near Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Carbon County, Pennsylvania

A paraglider had a very close call Sunday afternoon, after he survived a crash landing next to Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Carbon Co. Witnesses said it was a sudden and violent fall.

Falling from the sky is not the way Gene Gleason hoped to end an afternoon of gliding with friends.

"The wind caught him the wrong way and down he came," said Dawn Reinert of Kunkletown.

Reinert and other witnesses saw Gleason's paraglider begin to violently spin as they drove past the ski resort.

"All of a sudden, the chute just turned and he started to do a spin, and we got nervous because, oh my gosh, it didn't look good at all," said Reinhert.

Neighbor Travis Berghold added:  "I just saw the chute catch the tree and I saw him hit the ground, and that's about it.  He wasn't moving, so I had to make sure he was alright."

Gleason is an experienced glider from Hoboken, N.J.  Friends said that experience helped him survive this fall.

"When he came in for the landing, had his risers trip, twist, half of his wing collapsed and then he caught a tree on the landing," said John Davis, who landed just before Gleason.

Gleason was gliding about 150 feet up in the air when he hit what's called a "thermal."  It's basically a pocket of warm air, and just like when you hit turbulence on an airplane, things can get very rough, very fast.

"It's quick," said Davis.  "He caught some bubbles of warm air as he was trying to land, and that spun his wing around."

As friends packed up what's left of his glider, Gleason is recovering from what state troopers call minor injuries at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown.

Story and Video:

Zlin 143Ls find no takers as bureaucrats prefer road, rail travel

Maoists and maimed roads bother them less than winged machines owned by the state. 

Jharkhand’s top-notch bureaucrats decline flight comfort between districts and instead prefer five-hour road trips or AC three-tier discomfort through red bastions even at night, leaving three prized aircraft procured more than half a decade ago with no takers.

In August 2007, the state had imported the four-seater Zlin 143Ls from Moravan Aviation, a manufacturer based in the Czech Republic, for Rs 3.78 crore. The objective was to train aspiring pilots and ferry officials. The target was never achieved, first owing to trainer crunch, then due to unavailability of pilots and, finally, due to lack of maintenance.

Bright red and trendy to the hilt, the aircraft also remained in media glare after the CAG dubbed it “mindless” purchase. For four years, the planes idled in the state hangar.

In 2011, chief flying instructor Surinder Sinha mooted a proposal before then deputy chief minister Hemant Soren to allow IAS officers to use the planes for transit during meetings in the districts, a practice common in mother state Bihar.

The proposal was forwarded to then chief minister Arjun Munda who gave his nod and, at the same time, directed the civil aviation department not to charge the bureaucrats because travel costs would be borne by their respective departments.

The order was “widely circulated” among principal secretaries and secretaries. But, no officer has till date managed to gather courage to take wings. Ask them to fly to a far-flung district, they would straightaway spurn the proposal or more easily call off meetings.

Additional chief secretary Sudhir Prasad, who also heads the drinking water and sanitation department, claimed he was unaware of the order. “It was perhaps not widely publicized. If we have permission to fly, I will definitely like to fly,” he added.

Sukhdeo Singh, principal secretary (finance), echoed Prasad, but admitted that some bureaucrats had inhibitions regarding single-engine aircraft. “There may be two reasons for the Zlins not finding takers. One, bureaucrats are perhaps unaware of the provision. Two, many believe twin-engine planes are safer,” he said.

Principal secretary (social welfare) Mridula Sinha was expected to break the jinx by travelling to Dumka last month. But, she too called off her trip in the eleventh hour. “Yes, I was supposed to fly, but I got tied up with some other urgent work. I may travel next month,” she said.

Confirming that no babu had taken a Zlin ride till date, civil aviation secretary Sajal Chakraborty said it was unfortunate because the flights could have saved time and increased efficiency of the bureaucratic machinery.

“One can reach Jamshedpur in 20 minutes, Dhanbad in 30 minutes, Palamau in 40 minutes and Dumka and Sahebganj, which are farthest, within an hour and a quarter. I do not understand why they hesitate. Maybe, they think a single-engine aircraft is not safe enough. But, a Zlin is powered by a six-cylinder engine and it is an excellent training aircraft,” Chakraborty, himself a frequent flier, hoped to revive faith in air travel.

Story and Photo:

Despite accident, two flights allowed to land: Nagpur Airport, Maharashtra, India

MUMBAI: The runway is considered so sacrosanct that there are a number of rules in place that dictate when it can be deemed active, and hence be used for aircraft operations, and when it cannot. On Saturday evening, a passenger aircraft from Mumbai and another from Bangalore landed at Nagpur airport's runway even though it was unfit for handling flight operations and so should have been shut down temporarily. The revealing detail of the incident is that the safety norm was violated because the aviation officials concerned had poor knowledge and were ignorant of the rules.

The problems began around 2.30pm when a Cessna 152 aircraft belonging to the Nagpur flying club, touched down on runway 32 of Nagpur airport only to swing off a few seconds later to the left. The small, piston-engine aircraft ploughed into the mud and lodged itself a few metres off the runway.

"About five minutes later a call was made to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) office in Mumbai and the official concerned in charge of investigation was informed,'' said a source. ``The DGCA officer instructed that the aircraft should not be removed till the time he flew down to Nagpur to investigate the matter," the source said.

Now that was surprising as the Cessna 152 was lodged close to the runway. "It was about 90 metre from the runway centerline, which meant that it was too close to the runway and so would need to be removed if other flight operations were to be allowed on the said runway,'' said the official. That is because according to the DGCA and the International Civil Aviation Organization's "Clearway Standards", a distance of at least 150 m (500 feet) from the runway centerline should be kept free of obstacles or objects. A stranded aircraft within the clearway distance is a clear violation.

It seems that neither did the DGCA official concerned nor the Airports Authority of India officials based in Nagpur knew about this 150m clearance rule. So even as the Cessna 152 aircraft lay close to the runway, a Jetlite Boeing 737 from Bangalore landed in Nagpur around 4.30pm and took off an hour later. Around 6 pm, an IndiGo flight from Mumbai landed in Nagpur and took off a while later for Kolkata.

By evening the news of the stranded aircraft had spread in AAI and DGCA, which is when officials in the know raised an alarm. "They called Nagpur air traffic control and asked if the runway had been temporarily shut down. That is when they learnt that the AAI officials did not even know that they were supposed to shut down the runway," said an AAI source. "When the DGCA official who instructed that the aircraft be not moved was informed about this rule, he immediately asked the Nagpur airport officials to take photographs of the aircraft and remove it from its location," said a DGCA official. The aircraft was removed around 6.30pm.

The director-general of civil aviation Arun Mishra was not available for comment. When asked why was the runway not shut down, A K Verma, AAI airport director, Nagpur, said: "Our air traffic control officials investigated the matter and we have followed all safety norms." When he was told that the aircraft was 90m from the centerline, Verma responded that he did not know how far the aircraft was but it was within the safe limits.

An investigation is on, but not into how the runway was deemed active despite the obstacle. The DGCA is investigating how the flying training aircraft went off the runway. The Nagpur airport is operated by AAI and Maharastra Airport Development Company and these are the two organizations that primarily have the responsibility of keeping the runway and its clearway free of obstacles.

Story and Reaction/Comments:

Engineered Material Arresting System: Lafayette Regional Airport (KLFT), Louisiana

Flyers, motorists and those who live and work near Lafayette Regional Airport may be safer thanks to new runway safety improvements unveiled Friday.

The airport, between the Vermilion River and U.S. 90, lacks additional land to expand. As a result, its Runway Safety Area did not meet traditional safety requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration, Sherri LeBas, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, said.

The FAA allowed the airport to install an alternative safety system, Director of Aviation Greg Roberts said.

At each end of the airport, where runways approach the river and U.S. 90, engineered materials arresting system beds were installed.

They are lightweight, crushable concrete beds that gently slow down aircraft.

The beds are made of crushed concrete baked into forms, said Tim Gaines, URS Corp, an engineering firm. Four-foot by 4-foot blocks of the material varying from 6 to 27 inches thick, are placed where the runway ends, he said.

When an aircraft overshoots the runway or encounters an emergency, the plane’s wheels would strike the beds, which causes the plane to gently slow down without damaging the aircraft or jarring the passengers.

The beds on the southern end of the airport are about 500 feet from the Evangeline Thruway, where thousands of motorists pass each day.

The project costs $8.7 million, with the state providing $435,000 and the federal government paying the rest, LaBas said.

Story and Photo:

Pilot says he followed protocol during mosquito spray

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) -  A pilot is saying he followed all safety protocols as he flew over the Arthur Ravenel Bridge during a mosquito control operation on Wednesday.

Tommy Phillips says he has been hired by Charleston County Government to spray the area around Drum Island for the past seven years.

"It wasn't very low to me and it wasn't very close and there wasn't any danger," he says.  "I'd be an idiot to travel at 150 miles per hour and take chances."

Several people reported seeing the plane and calling emergency officials due to the proximity of the craft to the bridge.

"We have a crazy plane flying over the Ravenel Bridge," a woman can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher."I don't know anything about planes, but I'm not kidding you when I say he barely missed part of the bridge."

Med student Garrick Klaybor was running over the around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday when he also spotted the plane flying closely over the bridge.

"It surprised me and it was a little exhilarating," said Klaybor who reported that the plane flew over the bridge at least five times before heading towards Sullivan's Island. "It was kind of cool to see, but a little too close for comfort."

Phillips says he stays at least 100 feet above ground during the aerial spraying.

"I want people to know we take them into consideration," he says.  "We're there to prevent mosquitoes and West Nile virus."

The Federal Aviation Administration announced it would investigate the incident, despite Charleston County Government officials saying that the pilot was following normal protocol within FAA safety guidelines, which enables crafts to fly low to treat mosquito larvae.  Phillips says he has been cleared by the FAA.

Story, Videos, Photo: