Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kearney Regional Airport (KEAR), Nebraska: Boardings soar in 2013

KEARNEY — Kearney Regional Airport could land $1 million in Federal Aviation Administration funding because enplanements are near the 10,000 mark for a third consecutive year.

“We’re having a great year which shows the community is doing well,” Airport Manager Jim Lynaugh said after August numbers brought total boardings to 8,934 so far this year.

The FAA grants commercial airports with more than 10,000 annual boardings $1 million of enterprise funding for airport improvements. Lynaugh expects to hit the mark by the end of September at this rate.

The total enplanements at this point last year were 8,115, Lynaugh said, and last year was a record year for enplanements at the airport at 5145 Airport Road. Total enplanements at the airport could reach more than 12,000 before 2013 ends, something Lynaugh hopes will become a trend.

“As things are, I’d say we will continue to be around the 12,000-14,000 mark for the next five years,” Lynaugh said. Exceeding 10,000 enplanements does not entitle the airport to any more federal funding than the $1 million.

Lynaugh said the funding comes with two stipulations. It can only be spent on safety-related items for the airfield, and a five-year capital improvements list must be submitted.

The bulk of the $1 million will be spent to refinish the primary and secondary runways in the next few years, Lynaugh said. He said some of the money will also help construct a new hangar and the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Facility that are under construction.

The airport hit the 10,000 milestone in 2009 but failed to do the same in 2010. Boardings in 2011 got a boost over the 10,000 mark when 360 people took hour-long Christmas-season rides over Kearney offered by Otis Air Service for $15 per person.

Enplanements reached record numbers in 2012 with 12,408 boardings and are on par to break that record. The airport offers three nonstop flights to Denver International Airport every day. A 30-passenger plane leaves at 6:30 a.m., and smaller 19-passenger planes depart at 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. every day.

Great Lakes Airlines of Wyoming is contracted by the federal government to serve the airport through the Essential Air Service program. The federal government created the EAS program to subsidize companies willing to serve smaller communities.

Original Article:

Jet Asia sells two more planes

Private aviation operator Jet Asia Ltd is selling two more airplanes, as the company cuts down on its fleet because it does not get enough charters.

SJM Holdings Ltd said in a filing that one of its subsidiaries is paying Credit Suisse AG US$9.9 million (79.1 million patacas) to exercise an early buy option in order to place Jet Asia in a position to sell the two airplanes.

Jet Asia is owned by Stanley Ho Hung Sun’s Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM) SA, one of the controlling shareholders of SJM.

Jet Asia has recently agreed to sell four airplanes to “an independent party,” the company had told the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last month.

The sale of two of these four airplanes was completed in August and the other two are now being negotiated.

The company is selling these four Hawker mid-sized jets to a United States company, a source told Business Daily in July. Jet Asia is seeking to sell a total of six airplanes.


Google Jet Fleet Loses a Pentagon Fuel Perk: Questions Raised about Founders Use for Non-Government Flights

Updated September 12, 2013, 7:03 p.m. ET 


The Wall Street Journal  

Google Inc. founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin may have to dig deeper to operate their fleet of private jets, after the U.S. Department of Defense ended a little-known arrangement that for years allowed the tech billionaires to travel on sharply discounted jet fuel bought from the Pentagon.

The agreement between the Google founders and the government, which started in 2007, ended Aug. 31 after officials at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration—which sponsored the arrangement—opted not to renew it, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The move followed discussions earlier this year between the Pentagon and NASA over whether the Google founders may have exceeded contract terms by using fuel for non-government flights, according to a letter from a Pentagon official released by Sen. Charles Grassley.

Sen. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said he is seeking an audit of the arrangement by the Pentagon's inspector general. "Are some executives getting a special deal on fuel that isn't available to other businesses?" he asked, saying the setup raises concerns about the government's role as a "fair broker with businesses and responsible steward of tax dollars."

The relationship with the Google founders already is part of an ongoing audit by NASA's inspector general, an official in that office said.

The cheap fuel for the Google executives came courtesy of a special agreement with NASA, whose Ames Research Center is based at Moffett Federal Airfield, a former U.S. Navy base that is the most convenient airport to Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, about three miles away.

Although Moffett is closed to most non-government traffic, NASA in 2007 signed a deal allowing H211 LLC, a private company representing jets owned by the Google founders and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, to base aircraft at Moffett. The fleet recently included seven jets and two helicopters. H211 agreed to pay about $1.3 million in annual rent and cost recovery, while Google separately is leasing some Moffett land for a future office campus.

In explaining the unusual arrangement, NASA officials have pointed to a related agreement by the Google executives to perform scientific flights and other NASA-related transport. That mostly has involved flights by an Alpha jet, a small trainer bought by the Google executives and used by NASA to measure atmospheric greenhouse gases and ozone.

"NASA is always looking for innovative, public-private partnerships to help advance our mission and provide benefit to the American taxpayer," a spokeswoman for NASA Ames said. The rent collected from H211 and other tenants, she said, helps to defray the cost of operating the airfield. She also noted that H211 covers operational costs for some of the scientific flights.

Kenneth Ambrose, an executive with H211, said the company bought "the only fuel available at Moffett" and pays "full retail for hangar space that includes none of the ground support typically included at business aircraft hangars." He added that the total value of H211's payments and scientific flights means NASA and taxpayers are "$2 million a year to the good from our presence at Moffett."

In total, H211 has bought 2.3 million gallons of jet fuel since early 2009, according to Pentagon records viewed by The Wall Street Journal, paying an average $3.19 per gallon.

"I don't see how in the hell anybody can buy it that cheap," said Fred Fitts, president of the Corporate Aircraft Association, a nonprofit that negotiates discounted jet-fuel prices for 1,600 corporate flight departments at airports around the U.S.

Mr. Fitts provided figures showing that CAA members paid an average of $4.35 a gallon across the U.S. over that period.

Since the fuel cutoff, the Google executives' planes have been coping by flying back to Moffett with extra fuel purchased elsewhere, Mr. Ambrose said.

The NASA spokeswoman said the agency is developing plans to keep fuel flowing to H211, and "certainly will require the company to pay fair market prices."

The Pentagon probably didn't lose much, if any, money on the fuel sales. The agency says it recently charged H211 on a cost-plus basis, and before that charged a standard budgetary price that was infrequently reset but over time reflected the government's costs.

Even so, the contract between H211 and the Pentagon stated that the fuel was supposed to be used only "for performance of a U.S. government contract, charter or other approved use," and said violations could trigger civil or criminal penalties. There is no indication of any such investigation.

Flight records from the Federal Aviation Administration suggest that the vast bulk of the flights by the Google executives' fleet have been for non-NASA purposes.

The main jets in the fleet—a Boeing 767, Boeing 757 and four Gulfstream V's—have departed from Moffett a total of 710 times since 2007, FAA records show. The most frequent destinations were Los Angeles and New York, but the planes also flew 20 times to the Caribbean island of Tortola; 17 to Hawaii; 16 to Nantucket, Mass.; and 15 to Tahiti.

Meanwhile, as of last year NASA told Sen. Grassley that the Google craft had flown a total of 155 missions for it. All but 11 of those, however, had been flown by the small Alpha jet, a fuel sipper compared with the big aircraft.

Three of the Google founders' jets, including the 767, took off from Moffett for Croatia this past July. The departures were just before the wedding in Croatia of Mr. Page's brother-in-law, held in a medieval hill town near the Adriatic coast. Mr. Page, the Google CEO, attended as a groomsman and was photographed sporting an eyeglass-like Google Glass computer at the altar.

A Google spokeswoman didn't respond to questions about the Croatia travel or other matters, instead referring all questions to Mr. Ambrose.

H211 bought a total of more than 24,000 gallons of jet fuel at Moffett just prior to the Croatia departures, paying an average $3.33 a gallon, Pentagon records show. That was at least $1.10 per gallon less than the going rate in the region, local aviation officials said.

One reason commercial prices are higher is that they include sales tax levied by California on all fuel sales to private jets, currently 8.75% in Moffett's locale. It's unclear if H211 ever paid that tax. The Pentagon said it collected only federal taxes, and H211 was responsible for remitting any local taxes owed. H211's Mr. Ambrose said the Pentagon's invoices included "all applicable taxes."

Tensions between the Pentagon and NASA over the arrangement appear to have grown this year. In a July letter to a third party but released by Sen. Grassley, a Pentagon colonel wrote that the Google executives' company was authorized to purchase fuel "to support NASA mission-related activities," and after becoming aware of the issue earlier this year, the Pentagon ensured that "NASA is aware of their responsibility" under the contract.

—Tom McGinty contributed to this article.


Pilot Ticketed in Crop Dusting Accident

A pilot is being accused of violating the Illinois Pesticide Act. Josh Pavia has been ticketed for accidentally spraying more than 70 teenagers with fungicide in late July. The teens were working in a Champaign County field detasseling corn. Pavia was flying a crop-duster for North Carolina based Atlantic Ag Aviation. Police say Pavia isn’t facing criminal charges, he was ticketed on an Ag violation and could face a fine up to 750 dollars.

TUSCOLA -- More is now known about who is to blame for a crop dusting accident which sent more than 70 teenagers to the hospital. WCIA-3's Jeff Wagner has the details.

It's taken almost seven weeks to get to this point. The Illinois Department of Agriculture finished its investigation and says Atlantic Ag Aviation is behind the incident. The company is based in North Carolina, but also works out of the Tuscola airport. But for one parent, naming who's at fault isn't enough.

Mother Nicole Ferguson said, "$750, you know, that's nothing. (It) doesn't seem like a whole lot of money when you think about the lives of these kids."

$750, or about $10 per detasseler, is the maximum amount of money pilot Josh Pavia will have to pay if he's found guilty of applying a pesticide in a faulty, careless or negligent manner.

Ferguson said her son had to be hosed down and sent to the hospital after getting dusted with a fungicide. Investigators say the pilot was working in a neighboring field and accidentally sprayed the teens.

"I talked to that pilot that afternoon when we left the hospital. He admitted to flying over them."

But hearing what she already knew isn't enough for Ferguson. The investigation might be finished, but not for her and several other parents involved.

"When are we going to find out what was sprayed, why it was sprayed, and who's going to be held responsible? Well, we got who's going to be responsible answered, now we've got to get the other two answers, and what are the long term effects?"

Pavia will go in front of a judge next week. The owner of Atlantic Ag Aviation says the pilot isn't one of its employees. He says Pavia was subcontracted by another company but needed to use its airstrip in Tuscola.


Civilian pilot awarded Coast Guard award for helping boater in 2012 - Delaware Bay

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Thomas F. Passalacqua Jr. was presented The United States Coast Guard Public Service Award at the Air Station Wednesday, Sept. 11 for his efforts to save a mariner in distress in the Delaware Bay, Oct. 14, 2012.

 While acting as pilot in command of an aircraft flying above the Delaware Bay, Passalacqua spotted an overturned boat and a person in the water about three miles north of the Cape May Ferry Terminal.

Passalacqua reported the distress and remained on scene for more than an hour, providing updates, vectoring the Coast Guard responders to the scene and using his presence to assure the person in the water that help was coming.

Story and Photo:

Piper PA-18A 150 Super Cub, N444LZ: Accident occurred October 13, 2012 in Kenai, Alaska

NTSB Identification: ANC13FAMS1 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 13, 2012 in Kenai, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/27/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-18-150, registration: N444LZ
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The solo student pilot likely departed during dark night conditions on a personal, visual flight rules, cross-country flight between two Alaskan communities. An Alaska state trooper said that, during his initial investigation, he learned that the pilot was asked by security personnel to leave a bar after a disturbance with other bar patrons. The bar security guard stated that the “very intoxicated” individual left in a taxicab about midnight. The taxicab driver reported that, just after midnight, he drove the pilot to the airport. The taxicab driver stated that the pilot told him that he intended to sleep in the airplane overnight, which was something that he had done many times before.

A review of archived radar data revealed that, about 0137, an unidentified aircraft, believed to be the missing airplane, departed from the airport. After departure, the radar target initially proceeded southeast of the airport before it turned and flew west, then northeast, before making a series of erratic turns, along with several changes in speed, heading, and altitude. Eventually, the radar target proceeded northwest over a saltwater inlet, before turning back to the northeast. The last position of the radar target was recorded about 0248, roughly mid-channel, while in a descent over the inlet, about 30 miles north of the departure airport. The area of the presumed crash site experiences extreme tides and strong currents, with reduced visibility due to turbidity. An extensive search was conducted, but the airplane has been declared missing and is presumed to have crashed; the student pilot is presumed to have received fatal injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
Undetermined. The airplane and pilot were not found.


On October 13, 2012, at an undetermined time, a tailwheel-equipped Piper PA-18-150 airplane, N444LZ, went missing and is presumed to have crashed, at a location between Soldotna, Alaska, and Palmer, Alaska. The student pilot, who was also the airplane owner, is presumed to have received fatal injuries, and the airplane is presumed to have been destroyed. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules cross-country personal flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. Dark night, visual meteorological conditions likely prevailed at the point of departure, and no flight plan was filed. The flight is presumed to have originated at the Soldotna Airport in Soldotna, at 0137 and was reportedly en route to the private Wolf Lake Airport in Palmer. 

An Alaska State Trooper who participated in the search reported that the missing airplane was one of two airplanes that arrived at the Soldotna Airport on the afternoon of October 12. He said that the two pilots parked their airplanes in the transient parking area with plans to stay overnight in Soldotna and return to Palmer the next day. The State Trooper added that, during his initial investigation, he learned that both pilots went to local bar in Soldotna, and that the pilot of the missing airplane left the bar in a taxicab about midnight. 

In a written statement to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), dated November 2, the pilot of the second airplane, a longtime friend of the missing pilot, reported that after arriving in Soldotna the pair attended a local hockey game together. After the game, they met a group of friends and visited a few local bars in Soldotna. He added that just after midnight, on October 13, his friend was asked by security personnel to leave a bar, so he walked his friend to an awaiting taxicab. He reported that, once his friend was in the back of the taxicab, he instructed the driver to take him to a local hotel, and that was the last time he saw him. 

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) on October 30, a bar security guard reported that, just after midnight on October 13, he escorted an individual matching the description of the pilot to an awaiting taxicab after the individual had a brief disturbance with other bar customers. The security guard stated that the individual was very intoxicated.

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on October 30, a taxicab driver reported that, just after midnight at the bar, two individuals placed an intoxicated person (later determined to be the missing pilot) in the back of his taxicab and instructed him to take the pilot to a local hotel. The taxicab driver said that, after he drove the pilot to the hotel as instructed, the pilot refused to get out of the taxicab. The driver stated that the pilot first asked to be taken back to the bar but subsequently insisted to be taken to the Soldotna Airport. After the taxicab driver reluctantly agreed to take him to the airport, and when he asked the man about his intentions, the pilot reported that was going to sleep in the airplane, something he had done many times before. The taxicab driver said that after arriving at the Soldotna Airport, the pilot got out, but he did not see which way he went, and he did not see an airplane nearby. 

A review and forensic analysis of archived radar data was done by the National Radar Assessment Team, along with technicians for the U.S. Air Force 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, commonly known as RADES, which revealed that, on October 13, about 0137, an unidentified aircraft, believed to be the missing airplane, departed from the Soldotna Airport. After departure, the radar track initially proceeded southeast of the airport before it turned and flew west, then northeast, before making a series of erratic turns, along with several changes in speed, heading and altitude. Eventually, the radar track proceeded northwest over the waters of Cook Inlet, before turning back to the northeast. The last position of the radar target was recorded about 0248, roughly mid-channel, while in a descent over the Cook Inlet, about 30 miles north of Soldotna, or about 25 miles north-northeast of Kenai, Alaska. A copy of the radar flight track map overlay is included in the public docket for this accident.


The pilot, age 27, held a student pilot/third class medical certificate that was issued on April 11, 2011. The medical certificate contained no limitations. A student pilot certificate, for an individual under 40 years old, is valid for 60 months.

No personal flight records were located for the student pilot, and the aeronautical experience listed on page 3 of this report was obtained from FAA records on file in the Airman and Medical Records Center located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. On his application for medical certificate, dated April 11, 2011, he indicated that his total aeronautical experience was 15 flight hours, all of which were accrued in the previous 6 months.

A review of the student pilot’s third class medical certificate, dated April 11, 2011, revealed that in section "V" of the application for airman medical and student certificate, FAA form number 8500-8, the accident pilot checked "No," indicating that he had never been convicted or arrested on any charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI). 
According to information provided by the Alaska State Troopers, the pilot was charged, and he was convicted to a DWI charge in June of 2002.


The closest weather reporting facility was at the Kenai Municipal Airport, about 25 miles south-southwest of the last position of the radar target. At 0153, a weather observation from the Kenai Airport was reporting, in part: Wind, 020 degrees (true) at 3 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; cloud and sky conditions, clear; temperature, 25 degrees F; dew point, 23 degrees F; altimeter, 29.11 inHg. Dark night conditions prevailed at that time.


There were no reports of communications with the missing airplane.


The presumed crash site is the Cook Inlet, a saltwater inlet off the Gulf of Alaska. According to nautical charts, at the last known location of the airplane, the water is less than 100 feet deep during mean low tide. The several rivers that terminate at the inlet are glacier fed, and visibility in the water is often less than 1 foot due to turbidity. The Inlet is an area with strong tidal influence, and strong currents.


The sole occupant has not been recovered, and no medical or pathological information is available.


After the airplane did not arrive in Palmer the following day, family and friends of the missing pilot reported the airplane overdue. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert notice on October 14 at 0923 Alaska daylight time. Search personnel from the Civil Air Patrol, Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Air National Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard, along with several volunteers, were dispatched to conduct an extensive search effort. The official search was suspended on October 21. Family members and volunteers continued to search for the missing airplane.

No emergency transmitter locator (ELT) signal was received by search personnel. The missing airplane was not equipped with, nor required to be equipped with, a digital, 406 MHz ELT that instantly transmits a distress signal to search and rescue satellites, thereby alerting rescue personnel within minutes of the location of the crash. As of February 1, 2009, analog, 121.5 MHz ELT's stopped being monitored by search and rescue satellites, and the installation of the 406 MHz has been voluntary. The missing airplane had an older generation 121.5 MHz ELT installed. Both types of ELT’s can be turned on manually, or automatically, by impact forces.

Search personnel reported that survival time, in water less than 40 degrees F, is typically less than one hour.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska—   Nearly 11 months after a Palmer man and his plane were reported missing en route from Soldotna to Palmer and never found, the discovery of wreckage on a beach near Kodiak may offer closure in the case.

According to Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters, troopers were informed that beachcombers on Sitkinak Island Sept. 4 had found landing gear parts which may be from 27-year-old Brendan Mattingley’s green, red and white Piper PA-18 Super Cub. While they examined the items, they didn’t retrieve them.

“They drug it above shoreline but it’s there -- I’m not aware of anyone with plans to collect it,” Peters said.

Mattingley’s aircraft took off from the Soldotna airport between 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. on Oct. 13, headed for the Wolf Lake Airport in Palmer. Its disappearance prompted an eight-day search involving more than 350 flight hours and 50 aircraft, which found neither Mattingley nor his plane before it was suspended.

A preliminary NTSB report says that a radar track identified by investigators as Mattingley’s probable path traces a meandering path north, then ends over Cook Inlet. In statements made to investigators and later released by the NTSB, four witnesses say Mattingley had gotten drunk at a Soldotna bar the night before the crash and was asked to leave, eventually taking a taxi to the airport and being dropped off there on the morning of the crash.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Clint Johnson says he was notified of last week’s discovery by troopers. He says he’s seen photos of the wreckage, and that investigators have been able to identify the serial numbers of some items found on the beach.

“It does appear that it’s from a PA-18 or a Piper-series aircraft,” Johnson said. “It does resemble the paint scheme, but it’s been in the water for a while.”

On Thursday afternoon, Johnson was reviewing documentation on the tundra tires fitted to Mattingley’s plane, required by the FAA for any non-standard aircraft components. While Johnson says non-standard landing gear are “very, very common” in Alaska, the paperwork may help confirm whether the parts once belonged to the missing aircraft.

Johnson says investigators may visit the site of the wreckage if the serial numbers match those from Mattingley’s landing gear. He spoke with Mattingley's father, Ken Mattingley, about the discovery Wednesday.

“It doesn’t change the outcome, but it may change it from a missing (plane) to an actual crash,” Johnson said.

Original Article:

Eyewitness News talks with survivor from Alaskan plane crash

WILKES COUNTY, N.C. —  A Wilkes County man spoke to Channel 9 just days after he survived a plane crash on the Alaskan tundra.

James “Larry” Minton and his pilot were stranded in the wilderness for several days.

The crash happened during a fishing trip last week.

Minton shot video himself and even captured the helicopter rescue near Lake Park, Alaska.

The men were flying over the area, scouting for a location to go moose hunting last Thursday when their plane lost power.

Minton told Channel 9 his family was the first thing to run through his mind when crews finally rescued him, more than a day later.

Although he didn’t suffer any major injuries, Minton said bug bites covered his face.

Story and Video:

Piper J3L-65 Cub, N38262: Accident occurred September 05, 2013 - Nondalton, Alaska

Closing date for Edmonton City Centre Airport picked: All operations at Canada's first airfield would cease November 30

The final date to close the sputtering Edmonton City Centre Airport has been set.

In a report to be presented to and finalized by City Council next Wednesday, the final day of activity will be Nov. 30.

The closure would mark the end of a decades-long, and often divisive road to close the historic airport, which is widely considered the first licensed airfield in Canada.

At the 1995 municipal election, Edmontonians voted to move scheduled air service to the International Airport. Short-haul flights, charter flights and air ambulance service continued at City Centre.

But costs for upkeep escalated, with an estimated $45 million in upgrades needed at City Centre in 2009. So City Council that year voted to close the airport in stages, with an eye to redevelop the land into a new neighborhood.

A group of business owners called Envision Edmonton argued the airport could still be viable, and just prior to the last municipal election in 2010, presented more than 90,000 signatures on a petition to force a plebiscite on the issue.

The move was unsuccessful, and in October that year, one of two runways was closed. Court battles to keep the airport open by Envision Edmonton and one of the airport's tenants, Airco Aircraft Charters, were also rejected.

Fight against closure virtually grounded

In June 2012, the last scheduled flight left the airport, leaving only charters. STARS Air Ambulance moved to the Edmonton International Airport that October.

Earlier this year, a process to expropriate airport land that was still occupied began, while in March, Alberta Health Services moved inter-hospital flights, known as Medevac, to the Edmonton International Airport.

Since 2012, support among existing tenants to keep the airport has drifted away. A survey this week by CBC News found that of roughly 40 tenants that were at the airport in 2012:

  • At least five had moved or intended to move to the International Airport;
  • two had moved or intended to move to Springbank Airport, just outside Calgary;
  • the telephone numbers for four were disconnected;
  • the remainder were not available for comment or had not decided what to do.
The city report calls on administration to continue working with tenants at City Centre to "mitigate impacts and ease transitions, if possible."

Last October, the city picked Blatchford as the name for the new neighbourhood to replace the airport, a nod to former mayor Kenneth Blatchford, who helped establish the airport in 1926.

Groundbreaking for Blatchford is scheduled for early 2014, with the first residents moving in two years later. Once the development is complete, it will be home to 30,000 people.

Tenant exodus in full flight

Not an exhaustive list

  • Closed or disconnected: Air Mikisiw, Harv Air Services, InfinitAir, Kitplane, Millar Western
  • Undecided: Alberta Aero Engine, Centennial Flight Centre, Thomas Aircraft Maintenance
  • Moved or moving to International: Airco, Canadian Helicopters, Can-West Charters, Medevac (AHS), Morningstar Air Express, Northern Air, STARS
  • Moved to Springbank Airport (Calgary): Foster Aircraft
Original Article:

Possible Bullet-Hole Grounds New Medevac Chopper

 Maryland State Police say they temporarily grounded a new medevac helicopter after a hole was found in the rotor.

The newly purchased AW139 helicopter has been stranded on the helipad atop University of Maryland Shock Trauma Hospital since yesterday when a pilot discovered the damage during a routine inspection.

 State Police spokesman Greg Shipley says investigators are exploring the possibility the hole was caused by a bullet.

Built by Augusta Westland the helicopters costs state taxpayers $130 million. The trooper 3 flies out of the Frederick Barracks.


Sikorsky lays off 200 workers

STRATFORD -- Sikorsky Aircraft announced plans Thursday to reduce its hourly workforce by 200 people, mostly from Connecticut, the second such cut of that scale by the Stratford-based company that is battling business headwinds that include a global cutback in government spending.

Sikorsky, a unit of United Technologies in Hartford, has a global workforce of about 18,000 people, more than 8,400 of whom work in Connecticut.

"Sikorsky continues to look to a promising future, but today we face difficult challenges," spokesman Paul Jackson said in an email Thursday, echoing a very similar statement released after the previous layoffs were announced in June.

Those challenges include "U.S. and international budget declines, rising costs to compete and heightened uncertainty due to sequestration," Jackson said.

"We must do all we can to protect our competitiveness while investing in our future," Jackson continued about the "difficult but necessary step." "To help offset any involuntary employment actions that would otherwise be required, we are extending a voluntary separation offer to eligible Teamster represented employees in Connecticut, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, and we will work very closely with all the impacted employees to ease the transition," Jackson continued.

Representatives from Teamsters Union Local 1150 were not immediately available to comment Thursday.

Jackson said it was impossible to say whether the cuts would impact one department more than another until receiving the results of the voluntary separation offer.


Pilot admits Civil Aviation Authority charges

A helicopter pilot has admitted colliding with the center pivot of a large irrigator while crop-spraying at Cromwell, seriously damaging his aircraft and then repairing it, all without the appropriate license or aviation documents.

Daniel James Parker (22), of Ranfurly, appeared in the Alexandra District Court yesterday before Judge Michael Crosbie and pleaded guilty to five charges of committing offenses against the Civil Aviation Act.

He was remanded for a probation report and sentencing on November 14. Michael Morris appeared for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and was given permission to withdraw a further 10 charges faced by Parker, which related to the same incident.

Parker admitted operating a Robinson R22 helicopter on a commercial agricultural aircraft operation at Lochar Downs Farm, Cromwell, on March 16, 2012, without having a commercial pilot's license, an agricultural aircraft operator certificate or an agricultural rating.

He also pleaded guilty to operating the helicopter in a manner that caused unnecessary danger to property - colliding with a centerpoint irrigation system on the farm that day.

The other charges related to his actions after the incident. Parker admitted careless operation of an aircraft by flying it on and off a truck when it was not in an airworthy condition, carrying out repairs on the helicopter without having an aircraft maintenance engineer license and making a false statement to the CAA after the incident, saying the damage was caused by a heavy landing rather than a collision with the irrigator.

The facts summary said Parker was the pilot in command, flying at low level, spraying a kale crop, when the helicopter hit the irrigator.

Despite the helicopter being seriously damaged, he was able to land it nearby and later flew it on to a truck. It had not been inspected by a licensed aviation mechanical engineer to see if it was airworthy to fly, even over a short distance.

The helicopter was taken to a hangar in Cromwell and Parker again flew the helicopter, off the truck and into the hangar.

He carried out repair work on the aircraft and submitted an occurrence report to the CAA with false details about how the damage happened, the facts summary said.

Parker had a private pilot's license but did not hold a commercial pilot's license.


Unanswered questions from plane crash probe: Cessna 172N Skyhawk II, C-GBLG, Accident occurred October 25, 2012, near Puslinch Lake in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Additional work by federal investigators into a plane crash that killed a Guelph entrepreneur last fall shows the limited nature and value of the first probe into the incident.

Were it not for pressure brought by the family of Russ Hawkins and media scrutiny into the crash and the Transportation Safety Board's first review of it, all that might have emerged from the incident from the federal agency was an 87-word report that left behind many unanswered questions. In that way, it was like the Oct. 25, 2012 crash itself.

Hawkins, 47, was killed when his Cessna 172 crashed into the shoreline of Puslinch Lake. He was practising landing and taking off from water. A second man on board survived.

In its brief report, the federal Transportation Safety Board, which investigates crashes, ruled Hawkins misjudged his takeoff and might have been saved if he had elected to wear his shoulder harness.

But that investigation never addressed mechanical concerns about the plane that were raised by Hawkins before the crash. Nor did it reveal that the crash survivor was a flight instructor. It also neglected to mention that the flight may have violated aviation regulations. Further, it included no reference to a cockpit struggle alleged to have occurred in the final seconds in a failed bid to abort the takeoff.

Following a Metroland Media report about these issues, Transport Canada — the agency that regulates pilots and instructors — initiated a new review to determine if there were any violations of Canadian aviation regulations that govern flight training, flight instructors and flight rules.

The results of that probe, at least the portions accessible through an access-to-information request, make it clear there were aspects of the crash that seem not to have been covered in the Transportation Safety Board investigation.

For example, the subsequent review suggests "it seemed that the aircraft was not performing to 100 (per cent)." Based on a new interview with the flight instructor-passenger, the Transport Canada report also cites the possibility of "reduced power?" and notes "a number of issues with the plane" related to malfunctioning electronics.

However, the Transportation Safety Board continues to point to pilot error, ruling out mechanical causes.

Hawkins had been a licensed pilot for just four months and was training to earn seaplane credentials at the time of the crash.

Transport Canada reports the failed takeoff saw the qualified pilot-passenger tell Hawkins to "reject" the takeoff but was overruled.

In the wake of the latest crash report emerging, Hawkins' widow has expressed doubt about some of its findings.

The mandate of the Transportation Safety Board is no longer to conduct full probes of each crash report it receives. But its efforts on this case show how that budget-motivated change of policy sometimes results in limited reviews that have many interested stakeholders questioning their value. 



Clothes are so passĂ©: Alibaba’s Taobao shopping site now sells airplanes

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has just given jetsetting an entirely new spin — as aeroplanes are now up for sale on its Taobao marketplace.

The sale process is auction-style, and one of the six planes being auctioned — the J160C aircraft manufactured by Australian company Jabiru — had a starting bid of just CNY1 (or barely an American quarter). As of now, its price tag has risen to CNY1.01 million ($165,000).

The most expensive plane listed has an opening bid of CNY16.8 million ($2.75 million).

The auction will end on September 16. Besides the CNY1 Jabiru plane though, which has received a total of 23 bids, none of the other planes have gotten any interest.

This may be because Taobao isn’t making it easy for any Tom, Dick and Harry to place a bid. A report by Xinhua notes that there are some hurdles to cross: most notably that includes a deposit of CNY50,000 ($8,170) for each plane, although the Jabiru 160C requires a more modest CNY2,000 ($327).

Read more here:

USAF plane flies over Queens, New York

A C-123 military plane led to some confusion and concern Saturday morning when it flew over southern Queens.

The twin-engine propeller plane, a U.S. military staple during the Vietnam War, flew at around 5,000 feet over JFK Airport, Howard Beach and Ozone Park at around 9:45 a.m. Saturday. The dull buzz of the plane’s engines sent eyes skyward, leaving some residents to wonder what was going on.

Military aircraft, including C-130s and Chinook helicopters, are not uncommon over southern Queens and typically herald a visit by the president of the United States or another world leader, but Saturday’s event seemed out of the ordinary.

“I thought it had something to do with Syria,” one Howard Beach resident wrote on Facebook.

But the real story is much less threatening.

The plane, which was retired by the U.S. Air Force in 1980, was being used in filming a scene for the show “Alpha House” at Republic Airport in Suffolk County and was on its way back to base out west.


Official: 19 Firefighters Possibly Saved Had Air Tankers Responded

(PRESCOTT, Ariz.) -- The 19 firefighters who died in the Yarnell wildfire in Arizona this summer might have survived had any of the six U.S. Forest Service air tankers requested by the state arrived on the scene, a senior fire official told ABC News.

But only one plane, a Korean War vintage aircraft, was dispatched to help and it had to return to base because of engine problems.

"It may have bought them ten minutes to get to a little safer place than where they were," Prescott, Arizona, Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis told ABC News in an interview aired on World News with Diane Sawyer and Nightline. Willis spoke not far from where the men he hired, trained and often fought wildfires with perished in a field of chapparal scrub brush.

"If they'd had ten more minutes, they could have made it. That crew was totally fit. There's no question in my mind that they would've made it," he said.

The incident highlights an increasingly critical shortage of large air tankers used to fight wildfires across the country. An ABC News investigation found that the federal fleet of the planes has shrunk over the last decade from 44 to 11.

In the case of the deadly Yarnell blaze, air tankers had been hitting the fire, but none were on site when it took a sudden, vicious turn. Arizona Forestry Division spokesperson Jim Paxon said it was then that his office requested the six tankers.

"We got one committed, but he didn't get here," Paxon said, referring to the Korea War-era plane with engine troubles. The other five planes, state documents said, were either held back by inclement weather or were fighting another simultaneous blaze.

Officials at each fire had to argue for the federal air tankers, including two converted DC-10 passenger jets that drop 11,000 gallons of retardant slurry to block a fire's progression, based on need.

State officials were up against a familiar problem facing states such as Arizona, California, Oregon and Nevada battling wildfires that have gotten bigger and more numerous over the past decade, as the western U.S. has faced drought and residential development into dry, forested areas.

Of the shrunken Forest Service's fleet of large air tankers, most are museum pieces dating to the Korean War.

The ABC News investigation over the summer found that reports over the past decade warned of the loss of vintage firefighting airplanes and urged replacements be found -- which have yet to be identified despite nine studies during that time recommending immediate action.

"Air tankers are a rare commodity in today's fire world," Arizona Forestry spokesman Paxon said.

The chief of Cal-Fire, the California state agency, wrote to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last year, saying the diminished federal fleet "risks large fires that threaten lives and natural resources."

In an ABC News interview, Tidwell repeatedly insisted that he's "moving forward" to fix the decade-old problem, even though the service has eleven or fewer large planes flying this fire season. He said the Forest Service can also use military cargo planes when needed and blamed the federal contracting process.

"Eleven is not enough," Tidwell admitted.

But he would not answer why it has taken so long -- more than a decade -- to replenish the depleted air fleet.

"It's my responsibility to move forward to make sure that we have the contracted aircraft that we need," Tidwell said.

The Forest Service has proposed spending more than $1 billion to buy new military planes but hasn't won over budget crunchers at the White House or on Capitol Hill.

Instead, the service is relying on two converted DC-10 passenger jets operated by contractor 10 Tanker to battle one of the worst fire seasons in years -- in terms of lives and fatalities -- which has killed at least 25 this year. Investigators are still working on the final report on the Yarnell fire, and no one may ever know if the tankers would have made a difference to the 19 dead Hotshots.

"On any given day when we get hundreds of fires started on any given day we will never have enough aircraft for every single fire. So there always has to be priorities set," Tidwell said.

Paxon said that it's become clear wildland firefighters cannot wait for Washington, given their "extreme" need for large air tankers to support them as they dig fire lines and clear brush to deny fast-moving fires fuel.

"We need them now," he said.

Original article:

New Federal Aviation Administration System Targets Air-Traffic-Control Errors: Regulators Attribute Rise in Mistakes Last Year to New Automated System

Updated September 12, 2013, 7:03 p.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

U.S. aviation regulators said reports of air-traffic-control mistakes more than doubled nationwide last year, but they attributed nearly all of the increase to a new automated system that vastly expanded the amount of data collected.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday disclosed that for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2012, an enhanced flight-tracking system helped identify roughly 4,400 midair incidents in which aircraft flew too close to each other. The overall number of events reported in the year-ago period was about 1,900.

FAA officials stressed in a media briefing that the numbers aren't comparable because in 2012, the agency substantially altered its procedures for collecting and assessing controller slip-ups. The changes included implementing automated systems designed to collect more data and identify many minor errors that previously went undetected.

Agency officials said the new computerized system and other changes—amounting to a 10-fold increase in the total number of available reports over the past three years—enhance safety because they more clearly identify budding hazards before they turn into accidents.

Still, the significant jump in overall incidents—coupled with challenges in interpreting the latest data—is likely to spark more questions on Capitol Hill about whether the chances of midair close calls or collisions are falling. Some industry safety experts also have concerns about how the automated incident-tracking system will affect voluntary reporting of controllers' mistakes.

The FAA for years bucked criticism from lawmakers and others about the frequency of controller slip-ups. Now, agency officials argue that given the influx of raw data, many so-called loss-of-separation events—when aircraft fly too close—are inconsequential and don't pose any significant danger to planes or passengers.

Yet critics are still likely to argue that the old system understated the extent of potential dangers, while the new approach makes it nearly impossible to get an accurate year-over-year comparison of critical safety trends.

Over the first eight months of 2012, the FAA received 121,499 mandatory and computer-generated reports of potentially inadequate airborne separation. Of that total, the agency said 4,394 were "validated losses of separation" and 1,271 of those were investigated in depth.

The agency has changed its classification of the most dangerous incidents, identifying 41 "high risk" events in fiscal 2012, including seven that could have been "catastrophic." That compares with 55 that were in the most hazardous category a year earlier. The FAA said it would make comparable, year-to-year data available later in a congressionally mandated report.

Using the latest computerized technology, the official said "we are able to do more, see more and we are being more transparent," in releasing incident rates. The goal is to "proactively address risk," he added, by identifying the most hazardous precursors for potential accidents and then digging deeply into the causes to eliminate the danger.

Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican and former chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said the report signals the urgency of expediting air-traffic-control changes. "That will help us avoid these operational errors that have the potential of turning a near miss into a hit," he said.

The FAA said the new data helped it identify five top hazards, including simultaneous operations on parallel runways and planes abruptly halting landing approaches to climb away from airports. The agency said it has implemented 19 of the 22 recommended remedies.

Another FAA official said the latest data not only provide a "much broader and deeper view into our system," but are part of an unprecedented "cultural shift" meant to enlist controllers, supervisors and others to work more cooperatively to enhance safety.

On Thursday, the FAA also reported that across the U.S. for fiscal 2012, there were 1,150 so-called runway incursions, or incidents in which planes improperly crossed or failed to stop before encroaching on another runway. After years of remaining flat, that number amounts to a 20.5% increase over the prior year. The 2012 count includes 18 incidents in the two most severe categories, compared to seven such incidents in fiscal 2011 and six in 2010.

Over the past year or so, agency leaders have been mulling how to describe, categorize and learn from the barrage of additional information. In addition to cutting-edge software, the FAA has benefited from a new policy to encourage pilots and controllers to voluntarily report operational errors.

In fiscal 2012, the FAA received about 17,000 voluntary reports from controllers, a 7.5% increase over the previous year. The agency also has revised its procedures to most closely analyze only those incidents that appear to pose the greatest risk in coming months or years.

The FAA has long faced controversy and scrutiny over the frequency of controller mistakes. A 53% rise in so-called operational errors—primarily resulting from controller mistakes—occurred between fiscal years 2009 and 2010 and attracted attention from lawmakers. The FAA has said that increase was due in part to the increased voluntary reporting of slipups by controllers.

The Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General said in a report this year that "the increase in reported errors was linked, in part, to a rise in actual errors rather than increased reporting."

The number of operational errors virtually stayed flat between fiscal years 2010 and 2011. But the most serious errors increased from 37 in fiscal year 2009 to 43 in 2010 to 55 in 2011.

The FAA's new software system, called the Traffic Analysis and Review Program, or TARP, automatically identifies losses of separation between aircraft and other objects; it logs the incidents in FAA databases without any input from local officials.

TARP, now fully implemented across the agency's network of radar-control centers, generated about 600 to 900 additional reports of losses of separation daily, according to congressional testimony earlier this year by the inspector general.