Tuesday, November 05, 2013

California Pacific Airlines suspends operations after Federal Aviation Administration puts off decision until 2014

Ted Vallas, founder of California Pacific Airlines

The commercial airline that plans to fly out of Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport is seeing another big delay.

The Federal Aviation Administration has informed California Pacific Airlines that it will not be able to review its latest application to fly until at least next year.

The delay is so lengthy that California Pacific has furloughed all employees and suspended operations until it hears back from the federal agency, Chief Executive John Selvaggio said Tuesday, adding that he has returned to his Florida home. It’s the latest setback for California Pacific, first proposed in 2010 by owner Ted Vallas of Rancho Santa Fe.

The airline plans to provide commercial service to such regional destinations as San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Phoenix and eventually Cabo San Lucas. A 72-seat Embraer regional jet landed to fanfare in summer 2012 but has been idled during a series of disputes with the federal agency.

The airline has seen its application rejected, and then consideration of its reapplication delayed due to sequestration, the $1.2 trillion of across-the-board federal budget cuts over 10 years that began in March. The FAA eventually denied that application, before the airline resubmitted it for a third time in September.

Last week, the FAA sent a letter to Selvaggio, informing him of the latest holdup.

“The recent government shutdown, along with personnel changes and other resource losses within FAA Flight Standards has unfortunately resulted in further delay of the California Pacific Airlines air carrier certification,” says the letter from Keith Ballenger, assistant division manager for the FAA’s Western Pacific region. “The FAA will review our staffing situation in early 2014 to determine whether we can resume the California Pacific Airlines certification project. We will certainly inform you immediately if we can start certification work for CP Air any sooner.”

Airline management had repeatedly expressed confidence that California Pacific would begin service by the end of 2013.

The Embraer jet was ultimately sent back to the manufacturer, so the airline didn’t have to continue paying $200,000 per month in rent. California Pacific had raised at least $11 million from investors.

Attempts to reach Vallas at his office were unsuccessful.

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Piper Aerostar 601P, N22CH, Bravo Aviation LLC: Aircraft landed gear up, Williamsport Regional Airport (KIPT), Montoursville, Pennsylvania


BRAVO AVIATION LLC:  http://registry.faa.gov/N22CH

A Mississippi pilot escaped injury Tuesday night after his Piper Aerostar 601P aircraft crashed on one of two runways at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, according to Jonathan L. Baker, airport fire chief and director of operations and safety. 

One of the aircraft's engines lost power about an hour from Williamsport, but the pilot - the only one on board - did not declare an emergency until he landed on the runway without aircraft landing gear at about 6:15 p.m., Baker said.   The airport was closed for about 30 minutes, but no scheduled airplanes had to be diverted, Baker said.

Damage to the aircraft was estimated to be at least $50,000, Baker said. The Federal Aviation Administration was expected to start their investigation into the crash later today. The aircraft was placed in one of the airport's hangars.

Story and Comments/Reaction:  http://www.sungazette.com

Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County-   A small plane made a hard landing Tuesday night at the Williamsport Regional Airport. 

Emergency crews were called to the airport around 5:30. 

According to airport officials the landing gear did not deploy and the pilot was forced to make a hard landing.

The pilot was on the only one on board. He walked away uninjured. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has been called to the scene. 

Source:   http://www.pahomepage.com

All clear at plane landing near Hansen's Truckstop - Humboldt County, California

A pilot that caused quite a stir when he landed his small plane Monday on a gravel bar near Hansen's Truckstop said he often sets down at the spot. 

The man, who declined to give his name, said that his landing near Highway 36 and Highway 101 was intentional. He said his plane had a flat tire and he was waiting for a replacement.

”I was just out having fun,” he said.

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and other local agencies responded to the scene of a possible plane down or forced landing around 1:30 p.m.

The sheriff's office said the pilot communicated to officials at the scene that the landing was done on purpose and everyone was fine.

”There was no crash. No crime was committed,” Lt. Steve Knight said.

Story and Comments/Reaction:   http://lostcoastoutpost.com

Story and Photo:  http://www.times-standard.com

Avianca's Comeback Trip: From Tragedy to NYSE -- Investor Germán Efromovich Aims to Continue Expansion


The Wall Street Journal

By Darcy Crowe and Sara Schaefer Muñoz

Nov. 5, 2013 8:10 p.m. ET

BOGOTÁ, Colombia—In the past 10 years, Germán Efromovich has turned Avianca Holdings SA  from an airline in bankruptcy court and beset by a drug-lord attack into one of Latin America's leading carriers. Along the way, the one-time quail farmer converted a $64 million bet into an estimated $1.5 billion.

The Colombian national airline caps its comeback story with a share offering on the New York Stock Exchange expected for Wednesday, in a sale slated to raise about $500 million that will be used to continue expansion plans, including the acquisition of new planes.

Today, Avianca boasts about 140 planes, a fast-growing number of customers and flights to more than 100 cities, including Madrid and Buenos Aires. Its turnaround follows an investment made nine years ago by Mr. Efromovich, now the airline's chairman, who built his fortune in the Brazilian oil industry and heads the conglomerate Synergy Group Corp.

The listing, Mr. Efromovich told reporters recently, "will give more visibility to the company and will make it easier to obtain loans and financing in more favorable conditions."

Little known outside of Latin America, Avianca is the region's oldest airline, tracing its lineage to a precursor carrier founded in 1920. Its fleet size is now second in the region only to Chile-based Latam Airlines Group SA.

Avianca's change in fortune mirrors that of Colombia. In 1989, drug lord Pablo Escobar ordered the bombing of one of the airline's jetliners, killing 107 people in an attempt to assassinate a presidential candidate who never made it on board. Avianca's brand took another blow in 1990, when one of its airplanes flying from Bogotá to New York City crashed in suburban Long Island, killing 73. By 2004, the carrier was in bankruptcy court in New York.

That is when Mr. Efromovich stepped in, putting down $64 million in cash and taking on $220 million in debt for a controlling stake.

The timing was perfect. Colombia, thanks to a successful U.S.-backed military campaign against communist guerrillas, became far safer, spurring economic growth that helped create a new middle class that increasingly shells out money for domestic trips or vacations to New York and Miami. This helped make Mr. Efromovich's bet an investment coup.

Avianca's fleet has more than tripled to roughly 140 planes with an average age of four years, from about 40 planes with an average age of 13 years in 2004. The company plans to invest as much as $5 billion during the next six years to further expand and upgrade the fleet, and the New York listing will help pay for that effort. In 2010, Avianca boosted its reach and streamlined costs through a merger with Taca, a Central American airline.

The airline's new planes, complimentary meals and individual entertainment screens, even in economy class, have made it popular with travelers. It carried 16.3 million passengers in the first eight months of this year, up 8.3% from the same period a year earlier.

Mr. Efromovich, 63 years old, can occasionally be spotted in the Bogotá airport, testing Avianca's new check-in stations and monitoring boarding operations. Avianca didn't respond to a request for an interview with him.

"The biggest challenge since the purchase has been to change the perception of the brand and to recover the loyalty of our customers," Avianca Chief Executive Fabio Villegas said in an interview.

Still, the company faces several hurdles, including the risk of currency fluctuations that can dent profits, incursions into its home turf by Chilean competitor LAN, and a Bogotá airport that analysts and Avianca executives say is too small.

For the second quarter of this year, Avianca posted a profit of $70.3 million, down 6.6% from $75.3 million for the prior three months. The peso weakened compared with the dollar amid expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve would start to end monetary easing, and that weakness deters Colombians and others in the region from buying flights for vacations in places such as the U.S. and Europe.

The airline's expansion plans also are hindered by problems at the new airport under way in Bogotá, which became a bottleneck for the carrier despite the recent opening of a new international terminal. Avianca already needs additional gates to serve all its flights; in some cases, the carrier must ferry some of its international travelers by bus to planes on the tarmac.

"It's a big challenge to connect passengers and an operational headache for airlines, and even when this airport is finished, it's already going to be too small for the demand," said Carlos Ozores, who works with international aviation consultancy ICF SH&E.

Mr. Villegas, Avianca's chief executive, acknowledged that the Bogota airport "was a very real problem" that placed the carrier at a disadvantage against regional rivals such as Latam and Copa Airlines Inc., which runs a hub in Panama. LAN, part of Latam, is mounting competition in the Colombian market, which has traditionally been controlled by Avianca.

Recently, Avianca also has been beset by pilot strikes, which led to September cancellations as the pilots demanded higher wages. The airline and the union representing the majority of the pilots reached an agreement last month.

Mr. Efromovich continues to press ahead with his expansion plans. Last year, through Syngery, he made a bid for Portugal's TAP Airlines that was eventually rejected by the Portuguese government. He recently said he continues to consider a European acquisition.

The Bolivian-born Mr. Efromovich entered the airline sector in an unusual manner 14 years ago, when a cash-strapped oil client paid him with a twin turboprop aircraft. The small King Air plane Mr. Efromovich received was the first of four aircraft that he deployed to create an airline for workers traveling to oil fields in Brazil. His business empire now spans nearly all of South America in areas such as oil services, agriculture, hotels, shipbuilding and power plants.

Born to Polish émigrés in Bolivia in the aftermath of World War II, Mr. Efromovich sold encyclopedias door-to-door in one of his earliest jobs. He later started and sold a quail farm and launched and taught at a for-profit academy in Brazil for working-class adults. Among the students was Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who years later would become Brazil's president.

Mr. Efromovich's energy ventures eventually led him to an oil field in Colombia in 2000, an investment that gave him a feel for the country that ultimately led to his bailout of Avianca.

"What I knew about Colombia before…was kidnappings and killings," Mr. Efromovich said at a recent conference on entrepreneurial leadership, where he promised to give away Avianca tickets to anyone in the audience who could correctly guess the lifting capacity for a crane in his shipbuilding yard.

Source:   http://online.wsj.com

FAA Unveils Stricter Training Standards for Pilots


The FAA announces new requirements for pilots who fly commercial airplanes: including tougher training and enhanced monitoring. The FAA’s announcement follows an in-depth investigation by NBC Bay Area which exposed foreign pilots getting minimal training. 

New training requirements put into place by the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday include tougher proficiency requirements for pilots who fly commercial airlines. The FAA wants to improve pilots’ ability to handle stalls in mid-air as well as other unusual maneuvers.

The FAA’s new training requirements also will the following:

  • ground and flight training that enables pilots to prevent and recover from aircraft stalls and upsets. These new training standards will impact future simulator standards as well;
  • air carriers to use data to track remedial training for pilots with performance deficiencies, such as failing a proficiency check or unsatisfactory performance during flight training;
  • training for more effective pilot monitoring;
  • enhanced runway safety procedures; and
  • expanded crosswind training, including training for wind gusts.

The FAA’s move was first prompted by the fatal crash of a Colgan Air flight on final approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport back in 2009. That crash killed 49 people on board the commuter airplane and one person in a home on the ground struck by the airplane.

The FAA’s action also touches on pilot training issues that the NTSB continues to investigate as possible causes for the crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013.

That Asiana accident prompted NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit to begin a deep look over several months closely examining the training of foreign pilots. As part of that investigation, NBC Bay Area traveled to several flight schools in the western United States that specifically train foreign pilots. 

Many of those flight schools are either owned by or sponsored by foreign airlines to train their employees in basic flight training in the United States. One school in Bakersfield was actually created and currently owned by the Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA).

At each of these flight schools the students train for 10 to 12 months, getting a private pilot’s license and instrument-rated licenses. That training typically ends with a check ride, which is overseen by an FAA examiner, before those students get their pilot’s license.

Last year alone the FAA issued nearly 4,820 individual commercial and air transport licenses to foreign pilots.

Eight different flight instructors told NBC Bay Area that, once students graduate with about 200 hours flying time, they go home and quickly get into jumbo jets with automated cockpits. That means within the current training system, almost all of those foreign pilots get only a year or so of manual flying on small airplanes.

The flight instructors also say that most, if not all, of those students become very proficient using computers and automated systems. But they don’t get a lot of time to practice manual flying skills before heading back to their home country to fly big jets.

That lack of manual flying skills can be problematic, according to numerous flight instructors.

“When things don’t work, you have got to know how to fly the aircraft,” said Jason Pachall, a flight instructor at California Airways in Hayward.

“I don’t want you to fly with the autopilot, I want you to be able to fly by hand,” he said. “It’s very important. I think you should always feel like everything is going to fail.”

Lead instructor at IASCO flight training center in Redding, Calif., Matt Lazenby, agrees, saying that once students graduate, they do not fly planes manually frequently enough.

“They’re not hand flying the airplane as much as they should,” Lazenby said. “Aviation as a whole, I think those stick-and-rudder skills degrade after they leave the little airplanes and they go to big automated airplanes.”

A former veteran flight instructor, who wishes to remain anonymous because he fears for his future career in aviation, told NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit that he believes this lack of practice has the potential to jeopardize safety.

“The quality of the pilot is not as good as it could be for sure,” the anonymous instructor said.

He also told the Investigative Unit that foreign airlines pressured the school where we worked to graduate students once they reached certain hours of training, whether they were ready or not.

“If they went over on those hours, that would fall on the flight school so they would tell you, you have to get them done in those hours you cannot go over so do what you have to, to get them ready,” he said.

And the Investigative Unit found the pressure to get more pilots in the cockpits of Asia-based airlines has never been greater: According to a Boeing Market outlook for 2011-2030, growth in the Asian airline market – including new orders for airplanes — far outpaces the rest of the world; 34 percent of expected orders for new airlines will come from the Asia Pacific region, according to the Boeing study.

That demand to fill the seats of the cockpits of those new planes puts even more pressure on flight schools to turn out more and more pilots.

“More people need to speak up about what’s going on,” the anonymous instructor said.

The FAA sponsors special training sessions for local pilots who fly as a hobby. At Tradewinds Aviation last month, Assistant Chief Flight Instructor Gene Hudson gave a presentation on the importance of understanding automation in the cockpit and not relying too heavily on it.

“He has to be disciplined about not allowing himself to be consumed by the automation,” Hudson told the room full of pilots. “So the pilot has to exercise some flight discipline, and maybe some of the time just turn the automation off and fly the plane,” Hudson said.
NTSB Identification: DCA13MA120 
 Scheduled 14 CFR Part 129: Foreign operation of Asiana Airlines
Accident occurred Saturday, July 06, 2013 in San Francisco, CA
Aircraft: BOEING 777-200ER, registration: HL7742
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 6, 2013, about 1128 pacific daylight time, Asiana Airlines flight 214, a Boeing 777-200ER, registration HL7742, impacted the sea wall and subsequently the runway during landing on runway 28L at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco, California. Of the 4 flight crewmembers, 12 flight attendants, and 291 passengers, about 182 were transported to the hospital with injuries and 3 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The regularly scheduled passenger flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 129 between Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea, and SFO. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

The Investigative Unit travels to international flight schools in the Bay Area and across the country. Former instructors question whether the in- flight training is enough for young pilots before they get into the cockpit of wide-body commercial jets.

Several former flight instructors who trained students to fly for different airlines based in Asia say there is a rush to get inexperienced pilots into cockpits of large, wide-body jets to fly long-haul transoceanic flights. These instructors say that rush could be putting the public at risk.

Many of these airlines deny there is a rush or a problem with safety for these pilots. But the airlines admit that there is a growing demand for pilots as commercial airline traffic continues to grow in the Pacific region.

Meanwhile, in the United States, this demand for more and more commercial pilots has created a little known foreign exchange program where young students travel from Asia to flight schools in the U.S. to learn to fly large, commercial jets.

According to the FAA, 23,719 foreign pilots have received a U.S. commercial or air transport license over the last four years. The FAA gave out 4,820 licenses to foreign pilots last year alone. A large portion of those licenses go to pilots from Pacific Rim countries.

Flight schools across California and the rest of the western U.S. often are contracted by foreign airlines to train newly hired pilots how to fly. The Investigative Unit discovered that, for many of these student pilots, their flight from home to the U.S. is their first time in an airplane, much less a cockpit.

Some insiders and former instructors question whether that training is sufficient to fly a large, commercial plane.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit spoke to more than two dozen flight instructors, commercial pilots, flight school managers and students to learn about how the current system works. The Investigative Unit either visited or closely researched a half dozen different flight schools that specifically train foreign pilots to get a sense of how this system might differ from what a pilot in the U.S. system must go through.

Unlike the U.S. system, where young pilots either train in the military or for years in general aviation (or both), NBC Bay Area found in internationally-focused pilot training programs the duration of hands-on experience typically lasts between 10 to 12 months. During that time, students get between 180 and 200 hours of flight time in the cockpit. A typical training regime then involves that student going back to his or her home country, where they gain an additional 40 to 60 hours flight time, becoming type trained on certain aircraft. In other words, they become certified to fly specific airplanes; for example, the 747, 777 or 737.

One former flight instructor said the pressure was high to pass pilots who weren’t ready to fly large, commercial jets.

“Students I didn’t feel were ready for check rides, we’ll just send them anyways, we’ll see how they do,” said one former flight instructor who taught Chinese student pilots for four years. The instructor asked not to be identified because he fears it could harm his career in aviation.

But the instructor, who worked for a large flight school on the West Coast where 90 percent of the students came from Asia, said he wants to expose a system where the rush to get pilots in the cockpits could potentially put passenger safety at risk.

“Even though I didn’t feel that I should sign them off (to fly),” the instructor said, the flight school and foreign airlines put pressure on the instructor to pass the pilot, especially if the pilot was nearing the end of the time the airline had paid to have him in the U.S.

“If they [the student pilots] went over on those hours, that would fall on the flight school (to pay),” said the instructor. “So they [the school] would tell you, ‘You have to get them done in those hours…You cannot go over,’” said the instructor. “So you do what you have to to get them ready.”

Typically that means that these pilots often become first officers of large, jumbo jets with only about 250 hours total flight time in a cockpit.

Compare that to almost every pilot in a U.S.-based airline, where the pilots have 1,500 flying hours or more before they are even considered as a first officer in similarly large jets for long-haul flights.

“Being a commercial pilot is a special job,” 23-year-old Anthony Yan from China told NBC Bay Area.

Since Yan was 10 years old and spotted a man in the sharp-looking pilot uniform in an airport, he has wanted to fly planes. However, in China, general aviation is essentially non-existent. So, to get in the cockpit of plane, he had to come to the U.S.

“America is one of the best countries in aviation,” Yan said.

For the last 11 months, Yan has been learning to fly at IASCO flight training center in Redding. He is one of 140 students there, hired by a domestic Chinese airline as a pilot and learning to fly for the first time. The airline contracts with IASCO and pays for Yan’s training.
Before coming to the U.S., Yan had never flown a plane. Even though Yan studied aviation for three years at a college in China, that was all book training. His first time in the cockpit was Jan. 1, 2013.

Yan has racked up over 100 hours flying time so far.

“I have to make the most of the one year I have here,” Yan said.

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit followed Yan for a day as he prepped for a flight and took a Cessna 172 up in the air with his instructor.

“The goal of all these students is to become commercial pilots,” IASCO lead instructor Matt Lazenby said

Lazenby, a retired US Marine, has been teaching foreign students for nearly a decade. He says the basic training students get at IASCO is the foundation for their flight careers.

“I’m always telling students, you’re going to carry thousands of people in your career, thousands of people that you don’t know are going to trust you to get them to their destination safely,” Lazenby said.

The focus of the training: manual flying. Students at IASCO take courses in three areas of flying: private, instrument and commercial. Lazenby said the training is very procedure-oriented. He said that means the students can apply their knowledge to all different types of planes.

Students also take 170 hours of English courses at IASCO.

“English is the international language of aviation,” Lazenby said. “They can speak English for the job they are doing.”

When international flights go into an out of countries around the world, English is the language used that bridges communication.

Lazenby said it’s also one challenge in training foreign pilots.

“Somebody may know how to teach. But how to teach someone whose English is not their native language is another thing entirely,” he said.

Another challenge facing both instructors and these students is a lack of general aviation in their home countries.

“General aviation is virtually nonexistent in China,” Lazenby said. “Most of them have never even driven a car before so they don’t have the mechanical aptitude just naturally in them when they get in the aircraft.”

“One thing that has to be taught to them just might come naturally to a domestic student,” said the veteran flight instructor.

Students aren’t just traveling from Asia to get trained in the United States. They come from Africa and South America, too.

Mohammad Chaabene, 27, grew up in Tunisia.

Like Yan, Chaabene took three years of book study before coming to America to actually fly.

Chaabene currently is working on obtaining his instrument-rated pilot’s license at California Airways Flight School in Hayward. He, like Yan, yearns to be a commercial pilot, flying large jumbo jets such as a 747.

“I want a big airplane,” Chaabene told NBC Bay Area. “I trust the American system.”

Chaabene already has his private pilot’s license. He’s paying his own way for his continued training. He doesn’t have a job lined up with a major airline yet, but coming to the U.S. was the only way to get the necessary practice flying take-offs and landings.

“I like the practice here, flying here,” he said.

However, some critics, citing safety concerns, say it may not be enough practice.

In the U.S, similarly trained pilots don’t set foot in the cockpit of big commercial jets until they have at least 1,500 hours of flying time.

“They definitely need more practice,” said the former flight instructor who wished to remain anonymous.

This instructor said he finally quit his job in frustration over safety lapses at the school.

“Their decision-making ability was lacking,” he said about his foreign students. “They didn’t want to make decisions on their own. They always wanted someone to tell them what to do.”

NBC Bay Area reached out to the flight school where the instructor worked. A manager there denied that pilots were rushed to graduate and given commercial licenses before they were ready.

This instructor said the pilots he trained would then go back home and within a year be flying as co-pilot of big jets such as the 737, 777 and 747.

“I had students write me all the time, who, two years after they left me…were already in wide-bodied aircraft in the right seat (as first officer co-pilots),” he said.

“We need to give them more training,” veteran flight instructor David Baker also told NBC Bay Area. “There seems to be, I think, an almost indecent hurry to get young, cadet co-pilots, into the cockpit.”

Baker was a flight instructor at Cathay Pacific before retiring to fly corporate jets.

Baker agrees that many foreign airlines are in a hurry to fill a rising demand for pilots.

“It does worry me,” Baker said when asked if this poised a safety risk. “It should worry any responsible pilot that co-pilots are getting into cockpits these days and quite simply they’re unprepared. They’re unprepared for the task for which they’re being paid.”

In response, Cathay Pacific issued this statement:

Cathay Pacific Airways has some of the most rigorous pilot training standards in the world. Our pilot training is stringent and ongoing and meets – and in most cases, exceeds – those of many industry governing bodies. In particular, Cathay Pacific Airways provides its pilots with dedicated manual flight training and practice that is additional to regulatory and industry standards.

All the flight schools NBC Bay Area visited said they train to full FAA standards and that they don’t cut corners. But every flight school and every flight instructor who spoke to NBC Bay Area admitted that they have no control over what happens after these pilots go back home. They also admit many of the pilots they train for a year or less soon end up in the cockpit of large, wide-body passenger jets within a year’s time of returning to their home country.

The Investigative Unit reached out to several foreign airlines for an interview, but all declined the request.

As for students like Yan, they are just enjoying the time they have to fly. “My favorite part?” Yan repeats the question, “Is flying,” he says with a smile. “I get to fly the planes.”

Story, Video and Comments/Reaction:   http://www.nbcbayarea.com

Opinion: San Juan EMS is making decisions for wrong reasons | Guest column

by John Nance 

Author of “Why Hospitals Should Fly,” Nance is an aviation analyst for ABC world News, and a San Juan resident.

San Juan EMS Chief Jim Cole's statement flies in the face of the reality in the Sounder’s story “Airlift Northwest cuts ties with Island Air Ambulance” that ran last week.

Neither he nor Larry Wall nor anyone else associated with Island EMS is making decisions “... on the basis of what’s best for the patient...” when a patient is pushed into an inferior form of emergency transport involving two ambulances and a fixed wing aircraft versus transport directly to the helipad of a hospital.

Here’s a real fact: There is an obvious and provable bias in the decisions that have been and are being made on a daily basis by Chief Cole and others in San Juan EMS to shunt San Juan County residents off to Island Air’s structurally inferior air transportation services. At times, Airlift Northwest has been told to turn back because EMS officials have decreed that a transportee will use Island Air instead, and at other times people have been told that Airlift was not available when the record indicates they indeed were.

No one is impugning the safety dedication of Island Air Ambulance or the services of Island Air Inc. that they utilize, but those services are seriously inferior to Airlift in every significant way, in particular: One available non-pressurized, non-de-iced, Cessna 207, which means a single-engine, fixed wing aircraft flying over very cold waters, airport to airport rather than Airlift's top-of-the-line transportation directly to the hospital attended by two highly trained nurses (versus one). There is no comparison.

Island Air Ambulance is a useful emergency backup, but never should be the primary means of emergency medical evacuation when Airlift's superior capabilities are available. But the questions here revolve around the massive shunting of emergency airlifts to Island Air over the past year and the self-congratulatory empire building that is going on at county expense to build up this fixed wing service and fraudulently bill it as an equivalent.

Why, for instance, has there been a heavy weight bias toward Island Air and a partial sandbagging of Airlift? Is the motivation monetary? Have island residents been fully informed that Island Air Ambulance bills insurance companies the same amount (around $12,000, and in some cases more) than the charges Airlift bills?

Where, exactly, is that money going? Why have scarce San Juan County funds been squandered to create an inferior parallel service now being touted by one official, Larry Wall, as equal when under no circumstances is that correct? (Wall's two recent advertisements passing as OpEds in the Journal clearly show a propensity for massive misrepresentation of the quality and nature of the services provided, but do nothing to explain why public funds are being poured into this parallel service).
Some very serious questions of propriety and legitimacy are now being raised and must be answered publicly and fully.

If this were a battle between two profit-making companies, no such questions would be appropriate. But this involves a vital public utility class service, and continuation of this bias at the cost of millions in county funds raises the possibility that Airlift's services, if too little used, may have to be truncated with respect to the Bellingham helicopter base, which would immediately add life-losing time to an emergency transport.

I, for one, absolutely refuse to use anyone but Airlift for myself or my family, and am highly suspicious of what has been “built” here and why.

Author of “Why Hospitals Should Fly,” Nance is an aviation analyst for ABC world News, and a San Juan resident.

Source:  http://www.islandssounder.com/opinion

Italico Aviation USA: Despite delay, plane maker hopes to start assembly at Kissimmee Gateway Airport next summer

Italico Aviation USA's plans to build light sport aircraft at Kissimmee Gateway Airport are still on the runway, almost a year after the company's announcement.

Executives for the company had hoped to start assembly in March, but Sonny Buoncervello, marketing and sales executive for the Italian plane-maker, said getting certified by the Federal Aviation Administration was more complicated than he had realized.

So the company decided to wait until 2014 before applying to the FAA. For now, it's working on tweaking its plane design, establishing a U.S. dealer network and seeking approval for sales in Europe from the European Aviation Safety Agency. Italico's new goal is to start assembling planes in Kissimmee next summer.

Light sport aircraft are the newest type of federally approved planes, recognized in 2004. The planes, which have weight and speed restrictions, are intended for recreational use. Flying them requires only a sport pilot certificate, attainable through a 20-hour training class.

As a manufacturer of light sport aircraft, Italico must have its production facility audited by FAA officials to ensure quality control. But budget cuts in Washington, known as "sequestration," have hindered the agency, experts said.

"The FAA had announced long before sequestration that they could only audit two companies per month," said Dan Johnson, vice president and executive director for the Light Sport Aircraft Association. "It partly depends on Italico and it partly depends on things out of the FAA's control."

In the meantime, Italico will build three planes in Italy. After they're approved by the European agency, they'll be shipped to Kissimmee for reassembly and display at Lakeland's annual aviation event, Sun 'n Fun International Fly-in and Expo, in April.

"Once we reassemble the planes, we'll apply for the LSA status," said John Long, dealer liaison and test pilot for Italico.

Italico's soon-to-come signature model, the FX-1, will cost $118,000 for the standard version and $138,000 for the amphibious type. The company hopes to build at least six planes a month in Kissimmee.

The company will receive $550,000 in tax refunds from the state for the creation of 55 high-paying jobs over four years, with 22 of those to be created during the first year of operation. The company has 18 employees and has reached the 80-percent hiring goal required to receive the incentives for this year.

Italico is also the anchor of the airport's planned World Preview Center, a $14 million corporate-expo facility that will market various products and services.

Despite the delay, executives say they are confident the company will continue hiring.

"Our dealer network process needs more people," Buoncervello said.

Source:   http://www.orlandosentinel.com

PZL-Mielec M-18A Dromader, Rebel Ag, VH-TZJ: Accident occurred October 24, 2013 in Ulladulla, Australia

NTSB Identification: WPR14WA029 
 Accident occurred Thursday, October 24, 2013 in Ulladulla, Australia
Aircraft: PZL OKECIE M18, registration:
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On October 24, 2013 about 1000 local time, a PZL M18A Dromader aircraft, Australian registration VH-TZJ, collided with terrain near Ulladulla, Australia. The airplane was substantially damaged and the pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as an agricultural flight under the pertinent civil regulations of the government of Australia.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of Australia. This report is for information purposes only and contains only information released by the Government of Australia. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)

P.O. Box 967, Civic Square

Canberra A.C.T. 2608


Tel: +612 6274 6054

Fax: +612 6274 6434



The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has announced it has grounded all Dromader aircraft, one of Australia's key firefighting planes.

Pilot David Black, 43, was killed when his Dromader plane crashed two weeks ago at Wirritin, in Budawang National Park, near Ulladulla while fighting the New South Wales bushfires.

Reports said one wing fell off before the plane plummeted to the ground.

The Dromaders are used widely for crop dusting and for water bombing during the fire season.

A total of 30 planes, including eight in Victoria, have been grounded.

CASA says the grounding is to allow work to continue on safety issues relating to maintenance inspections and the operation of the aircraft.

"CASA is obtaining maintenance data and information from the Dromader operators. This will be carefully analyzed before Dromader flights resume," the organization said in a statement.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report in April highlighted safety concerns with the planes when they carry loads of more than 4.2 tonnes.



In-flight breakup involving PZL Mielec M18A Dromader aircraft, VH-TZJ, 37 km west of Ulladulla, NSW on 24 October 2013

Handley Page HP-137 Jetstream III, Air US, N11360 -and- Cessna TU206, N4862F, operated by Sky's West Parachute Center: Fatal accident occurred April 17, 1981 near Fort Collins–Loveland Municipal Airport (KFNL), Colorado

NTSB Identification: DCA81AA015 
14 CFR Part 135 Scheduled operation of AIR U.S.,INC
Aircraft: HANDLY PAGE HP-137, registration: N11360

NTSB Identification: DCA81AA015
14 CFR Part 91 General Aviation
Aircraft: CESSNA TU206A, registration: N4862F

GYPSUM - More than three decades have passed since two planes collided over the skies of Loveland. However, for Jon Ezequelle, it feels like it was yesterday. 

"Oh, I remember it vividly. It happened on Good Friday, April 17, 1981 at 4:02 p.m.," Ezequelle said from his living room in Gypsum.

Ezequelle was a skydiver on board a small plane when he noticed something out the window at 18,500 feet up.

"I turned to look south and I saw this very large plane. I could actually see the [propeller], I could see faces in the windows and I quickly turned and said, 'I'm dead,'" Ezequelle explained.

Ezequelle's plane and a passenger plane heading to Wyoming collided mid-air. The back end of the plane Jon was inside tore off and sucked the passengers out, including Jon.

"When I opened my eyes I was free falling. I was floating out of the plane," he said.

Ezequelle was one of the lucky ones. His parachute released and he was able to float down to the ground. Others weren't as lucky. Fifteen people died that day, including everyone on the passenger plane.

"I was kind of surprised any of us had survived," Ezequelle said. "But four of us had."

While watching the news Monday evening, Ezequelle saw footage of the mid-air plane crash in Minnesota. He was amazed by the video, but said there were a lot of differences between his experience and the Minnesota experience.

"They didn't experience the impact we had experienced," Ezequelle said. "The National Safety Transportation Board is going to say the same thing about that accident as they said about ours. It's an unsurvivable accident. It's just luck."

The reason why Ezequelle's plane collided with another plane was due to a lack of communication and a lack of radar equipment, he said.

In the years and decades that followed his crash, he continued to skydive and even took up other extreme sports such as whitewater kayaking and hang gliding.

At the age of 75, he continues to be adventurous.

"What am I to do? Sit here in a sofa and watch that TV? No thanks," he said.

Santa Barbara City Airport Director Announces Retirement

After 37 years of public service, City Airport Director Karen Ramsdell announced that she will retire from her position on December 30. She has served as the Santa Barbara Airport Director for 26 years.

Ms. Ramsdell started her career with the City of Santa Barbara in 1976 in the City Clerk’s Office and accepted a variety of challenging assignments in the following years, including positions with the City’s Redevelopment Agency and Risk Management Program. In 1980, she moved to the Waterfront Department to become the Assistant Harbor Director managing services to harbor users and the boating public. By 1984, she transferred to a similar position at the Airport, serving as the Assistant Airport Director, and was appointed Airport Director in 1987.

With over 26 years at the helm of the Santa Barbara Airport, Ms. Ramsdell is responsible for the maintenance, operations, fiscal management, and long-term capital planning for the airport. She leads a staff of 54 employees and manages a $17 million operating budget. She has provided oversight to the overall planning and development of the $55 million Airline Terminal Improvement Project, which included the construction of a new 72,000 square foot terminal, relocation and renovation of the historic 1942 terminal, and improved roadways and parking facilities. Ms. Ramsdell played a lead role in planning and construction of facilities with an emphasis on modernizing the airport’s passenger amenities and incorporating public art and historical displays. The Airline Terminal and Rental Car Maintenance Facility recently received LEED Gold certifications for operating as high performance green buildings with model sustainability practices. Today, over 700,000 passengers begin or end their travel at the Santa Barbara Airport.

Under her leadership, the Airport made great strides in adopting an Airport Master Plan in 2003 that charted out the use, development, and preservation of 950 acres of airport property, including not only aviation uses, but the Airport’s commercial/industrial property north of Hollister Avenue. Since the airport property includes 400 acres of the Goleta Slough, significant attention was given to restoring the wetlands and habitat for native species, ultimately representing the largest wetlands restoration effort on the Santa Barbara South Coast.

During her tenure as Director, the Airport was successful in receiving over $109 million in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funds for projects that improved airport safety and security for the flying public. She also helped guide the airport through recent challenges in the commercial air service industry, as many airlines reduced flights nationwide and more time was spent to promote Santa Barbara as a viable air destination.

Ms. Ramdsell has worked closely with the Santa Barbara and Goleta Valley Chambers of Commerce to ensure a strong connection between the Airport and the local business community. She is an active member of the American Association of Airport Executives and was named the Airport Executive of the Year in 2000 by their Southwest Chapter. In 1992, she was honored as Santa Barbara County’s Outstanding Woman of the Year (for the 3rd District) and she has earned awards and recognition from the California Association of Airport Executives, the Santa Barbara Business and Professional Women’s Club, Tres Condados Girl Scouts Council, and Soroptmist International of Goleta. In 2011, Santa Barbara Beautiful awarded Ms. Ramsdell the Heritage Oak Award for Lifetime Achievement. She received her Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Source:   http://www.independent.com

Federal Aviation Administration Releases New Pilot-Training Rules: Regulations Prompted By Regional Carrier Lapses

The Wall Street Journal 

By  Andy Pasztor

Nov. 5, 2013 11:37 a.m. ET

Federal regulators on Tuesday issued more stringent training and proficiency requirements for airline pilots to handle stalls, other in-flight upsets and windy runways.

Describing the changes as the most sweeping rewrite of airline cockpit training in two decades, Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta said the goal is to harness advances in-flight simulators and other safety practices to ensure pilots can cope with "rare but potentially catastrophic" emergencies.

The rules, which become effective in five years, also enhance tracking of pilots with spotty training records; expand training to prevent using or crossing incorrect runways; and step up efforts to teach aviators how to more effectively monitor flight paths and instruments. The FAA estimates the cost to the industry could be as much as $350 million over 10 years.

Primarily aimed at upgrading training and flight procedures at some regional carriers, the changes complete the FAA's last big airline-safety initiative prompted by the high-profile 2009 crash of a Colgan Air Inc. turboprop near Buffalo, N.Y. The regulatory package had been in the works for years and should make fliers "feel safer than ever before," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters at a briefing.

The FAA said it is drafting companion rules mandating higher minimum standards for makers of flight-simulators, aiming for more realistic training to help pilots cope with aerodynamic stalls, when airplanes lose lift. The final rules, however, left out increased emergency training for flight attendants and additional oversight of airline dispatchers, concepts included in the initial proposal two years ago.

The latest version was modified to reflect recent global hazards such as unreliable airspeed indicators, which played a central role in some major accidents and incidents in the past few years. With the changes, all pilots should "have the skills and the confidence" to react to airborne emergencies, Mr. Huerta said.

The biggest international killer in commercial aviation is loss of control by pilots, typically after they are startled when autopilots disconnect and lose awareness of aircraft systems or their surroundings.

Overall, the FAA adopted most of the steps long demanded by lawmakers, outside safety experts and families of crash victims, particularly those who died in the Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident. But many of the changes and enhancements already are in place, because mainline carriers typically have been relying on such training practices and commuter airlines increasingly have voluntarily adopted the same principles.

Roger Cohen, president of the association representing regional operators called it "a good example where rule making has moved to catch up to the continually improving safety practices in place today at many airlines."

The captain of the Colgan Bombardier Q400 turboprop mistakenly pulled back sharply on the controls as the airplane was flying dangerously slow approaching the airport, instead of pushing forward to lower the nose and increase airspeed. The result was an aerodynamic stall that killed all 49 aboard and one person on the ground. Federal crash investigators later determined that both the airline and the captain had significant training lapses.

The Colgan accident in February 2009 also highlighted other problems faced by commuter carriers, including low salaries, inadequate pilot experience behind the controls and lack of cockpit discipline.

Starting two years ago, the FAA began formally revising so-called stall recovery standards for pilots, training instructors and simulator providers. Since then, various global industry groups have issued separate guidelines to prevent airline pilots from flying too slowly or losing control of their aircraft. Tuesday's announcement mirrors those efforts, but it goes further by locking in tougher training requirements and subjecting airlines that don't comply to FAA enforcement.

Mr. Huerta stressed that "we're encouraging airlines, if they are ready, to implement sooner" than the five-year compliance deadlines. The FAA chief also disclosed he will host a meeting in Washington later this month with U.S. airline-safety leaders to discuss voluntary compliance.

Partly in response to congressional requirements prompted by the Colgan crash, the FAA previously issued revised rules intended to prevent pilot fatigue and increase the minimum experience of co-pilots and captains flying for scheduled carriers. Compared with the pilot-training rules, those regulations sparked greater controversy and industry criticism as being overly expensive.

Meanwhile, the FAA is working on proposed regulations to improve mentoring of new pilots, set up a reliable, nationwide database of pilot qualifications and require stepped-up training to ensure leadership and professionalism among all commercial aviators. But concerns over cost and other issues have delayed those proposals.

Both Messrs. Foxx and Huerta credit persistent lobbying efforts by families representing the victims of Flight 3407 in helping to get the rules issued. The group said the changes "take pilot training into the 21st century after nearly 15 years of fits and starts," and the families praised the FAA for embracing "a fresh approach to remedial training."

Source: http://online.wsj.com

NTSB Identification: DCA09MA027 
 Scheduled 14 CFR Part 121: Air Carrier operation of COLGAN AIR INC (D.B.A. Continental Connection)
Accident occurred Thursday, February 12, 2009 in Clarence Center, NY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/28/2010
Aircraft: BOMBARDIER INC DHC-8-402, registration: N200WQ
Injuries: 50 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The Safety Board’s full report is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/A_Acc1.htm. The Aircraft Accident Report number is NTSB/AAR-10/01.

On February 12, 2009, about 2217 eastern standard time, a Colgan Air, Inc., Bombardier DHC-8-400, N200WQ, operating as Continental Connection flight 3407, was on an instrument approach to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, Buffalo, New York, when it crashed into a residence in Clarence Center, New York, about 5 nautical miles northeast of the airport. The 2 pilots, 2 flight attendants, and 45 passengers aboard the airplane were killed, one person on the ground was killed, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire. The flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The captain’s inappropriate response to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. Contributing to the accident were (1) the flight crew’s failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the rising position of the low-speed cue, (2) the flight crew failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures, (3) the captain’s failure to effectively manage the flight, and (4) Colgan Air’s inadequate procedures for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions.


Tuesday morning: Emergency drill at Cecil Airport (KVQQ), Jacksonville, Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Aviation Authority will be conducting an emergency drill on Tuesday at Cecil Airport beginning at 8 a.m.

According to a release from JAA, a smoke grenade simulating an F-18 engine fire will be set off by the JAA Police Department.

Responding to the mock aircraft emergency drill will be the Florida Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, Jacksonville International Airport Operations Control Center and crash trucks.

JAA is alerting the public about the exercise so people in the area will not be alarmed when the drill is going on.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Fire Dept. Ready for Airplane Disaster, Should One Occur

With the increased aircraft traffic in Middle Tennessee, Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Department is taking proactive measures to prepare personnel for responding to aircraft and airfield emergencies. 

A total of 28 MFRD personnel attended a three-day/20-hour course hosted by Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority’s Department of Public Safety in conjunction with the Tennessee Fire and Codes Academy in Deason, Tenn.

The course covered basic procedures for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting, commonly referred to as ARFF, for municipal firefighters. Course topics included: Aviation Fire Suppression, General Airfield Safety, Airport Terminology, and Search Procedures for Locating Downed Aircraft. Emergency response to commercial incidents and rescue of occupants were also included in the course.

MFRD recently acquired four mobile aviation radios that will allow the department to communicate with aircraft when necessary. The radios can even be used to detect signals from an aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter or ELT to assist personnel with locating a downed airplane. Personnel got a chance to practice this task while in class.

Chief Joe Johnson with the Department of Public Safety for the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority said, “We were glad to be able to offer the expertise of our staff to provide this invaluable training opportunity to MFRD. The knowledge gained from this course greatly benefits the flying community in the Murfreesboro area. Pilots can be assured that during an emergency MFRD is ready to respond and address the situation at hand.”

Students practiced hands-on activities at the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport, but also had a day of training at Murfreesboro Municipal Airport. Personnel were able to tour the facilities and visit the Middle Tennessee State University Aerospace Department to learn about their fleet of aircraft which are based at Murfreesboro Municipal Airport.

More than 20 MFRD personnel completed this class in Spring 2013. Director of the Murfreesboro Municipal Airport, Chad Gehrke, commented on MFRD’s commitment to proactive training, “The class that we conducted last Spring and this Fall demonstrates the high level of professionalism that we have in our MFRD. MFRD is always striving to learn all they can to be able to respond quicker and more efficiently no matter the facility or type of operation that is occurring in this community.” He also mentioned what he gained from the experience, “Through this training, I learned some valuable information as well which we can incorporate here at Murfreesboro Municipal Airport to improve signage and communications with MFRD personnel to assist them with their response at our airport.”

MFRD Fire Chief Cumbey Gaines was very appreciative of the opportunity for MFRD personnel to attend this class. “Just last week, the Nashville airport experienced a small plane crash. That confirms to me even more that we did the right thing in preparing our personnel for a local incident. MFRD is fortunate to have a good working relationship with our Murfreesboro area airports, and thankful for the training opportunities we have with them. We are also proud to be able to provide the community with a diverse set of rescue operation services.”

Source:   Ashley McDonald, Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue


Piper PA-23-250 Aztec, N6068Y, Garlam Aviation Co: Accident occurred November 01, 2013 in Caledonia, Minnesota

NTSB Identification: CEN14FA034
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 01, 2013 in Caledonia, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/05/2014
Aircraft: PIPER PA 23-250, registration: N6068Y
Injuries: 3 Fatal,1 Serious.

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 pilot, a pilot-rated passenger seated in the front right seat, and two additional passengers departed on a cross-country flight in a twin-engine airplane. As they neared an airport, about halfway to their final destination airport, the pilot was cleared by an air traffic controller to conduct an instrument approach to the airport; shortly afterward, the pilot cancelled the clearance. There was no further communication with the pilot. The airplane was found about 590 feet northeast of the runway by a resident who happened to notice the wreckage. Examination of the airframe and engines revealed residual fuel was at the site and in both engines' fuel system components. The landing gear and the flaps were in the retracted positions. The examination did not find any abnormalities with the airframe or engines that would have prevented normal operation. The surviving passenger, who had flown with the pilots on numerous occasions, stated that they would typically stop for a break about halfway to their destination airport, but he could not recall any of the accident details.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's loss of control for reasons that could not be determined because the postaccident airplane examination did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.


On November 1, 2013 around 1515 central daylight time (CDT), a Piper Aztec, PA-23-250 airplane, N6068Y, impacted terrain near the Houston County Airport (KCHU), Caledonia, Minnesota. The private rated pilot, a pilot rated passenger, and one passenger were fatally injured; one passenger received serious injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to Garlam Aviation, Troy, Michigan, and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a cross-country flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) plan was filed. The flight originated from the Oakland/Troy Airport (KVLL), Troy, Michigan, about 1100 CDT and was en route to KCHU.

There were no reported witnesses to the accident; however, a local resident discovered the airplane wreckage and alerted authorities.

The surviving passenger later reported that his first recollection was wakening up in the hospital. He stated that he could not remember any details surrounding the accident, nor did he recall any comments made to the first responders. In subsequent conversations with the passenger, he still could not recall any details of the accident; however, he did recall events prior to, and shortly after takeoff. He was the first one to arrive at airport, followed afterwards by the others. The pilots conducted a preflight, opened tanks, went under the wing to sample the fuel, and looked at the airplane. The pilot had sandwiches for everyone; he remembered the airplane taxiing out and the run up, and then flying along. He then remembered waking up in the hospital.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land, and instrument-airplane. The pilot held a third class medical certificate that was issued on June 12, 2013, with the restriction, "must wear corrective lenses". At the time of the exam the pilot reported 400 total flight hours and 3 hours in last six months.

The pilot rated passenger held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land, and instrument-airplane. The pilot held a third class medical certificate that was issued June 15, 2012, with the restriction, "must wear lenses for distant, have glasses for near vision". At the time of the exam the pilot reported 2,150 total flight hours and 10 hours in the previous six months.


The Piper PA-23-250, Aztec, is a twin-engine, low-wing airplane with retractable landing gear, and Hartzell 2-bladed, constant speed, full-feathering propellers. The airplane was powered by two Lycoming IO-540 reciprocating engines. A review of maintenance records revealed the airplane's last annual inspection was on March 12, 2013, with an aircraft time at 4, 768 hrs. The right engine tachometer time read 1,440 hours since overhaul and the left engine tachometer time read 1,108 hours since overhaul.


At 1553, the automated weather observation facility located at the La Crosse Municipal Airport, (KLSE), La Crosse, Wisconsin located about 20 miles northeast of the accident site, reported wind from 320 degrees at 7 knots, visibility 10 miles, a broken ceiling at 3,700 feet, temperature 51 Fahrenheit (F), dew point 38 F, and a barometric pressure of 29.64 inches of mercury.


Prior to departure, the pilot contacted a Flight Service Station (FSS) and received a weather briefing for the route of flight. The pilot then filed an IFR flight plan from KVLL to KCHU, with an en route time of two and a half hours and five and a half hours of fuel on board. According to a review of air traffic control communications, prior to reaching KCHU, the pilot was cleared for the GPS-A approach; the pilot canceled his IFR clearance about 1405. There was no further communication with the pilot, nor any reported distress calls.


Houston County Airport (KCHU) is a public use airport, located about 3 miles south of Caledonia, Minnesota. The airport is unattended and does not have a control tower; pilots are to use the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). The airport features a single asphalt runway 13-31, which is 3,499-foot long and 77 foot wide. The field elevation is 1,179 feet mean sea level (msl).


The accident site was located about 590 feet northeast of KCHU's runway, in an open soybean field. The wreckage path consisted of several ground scars and airplane pieces which extended approximately 100 feet from the main wreckage on a 260 degree heading. The first impact point was a ground scar which contained remains of a green navigation light lens. From the first impact point, about 24 feet from the green lens fragments, the ground scar contained several cuts; the next major ground scar contained the airplane's nose baggage door and fragmented pieces of windshield. Both wings had extensive damage, and were twisted in an upward position from the wing roots. The airplane's fuel bladders, located in the wings, were compromised, however, a small amount of fuel was found in the tanks. The left engine and engine mount had mostly separated from, but remained next to, the left wing. The right engine had totally separated from the wing and was located about 15 feet to the right of the main wreckage. The ground scars and wreckage were consistent with the airplane's right wing impact, followed by the right engine and fuselage impact. The airplane came to rest in an upright position, turned about 180-degrees, and facing the first impact point. The landing gear and flaps were in the retracted positions. Control continuity was established from the tail control surfaces to the forward section of the fuselage; aileron continuity was established out to the left and right bellcranks; the right aileron bellcrank had impact damage.


The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, conducted autopsies on the pilot and pilot rated passenger. The causes of death were determined to be "multiple blunt force injuries".

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot and pilot rated passenger. These tests were negative for carbon monoxide, ethanol, and tested drugs.


The wreckage was recovered and examinations of the airplane's engines were conducted. Continuity was established from the front of the crankshaft to the rear gear drive section of each engines, and through their valve trains. The top set of sparkplugs were removed, each engine was rotated by hand; each cylinder produced suction and compression during a thumb test. Both magnetos were removed from each engine; all four rotated freely and produced a spark on each terminal. The engines fuel flow dividers were removed and opened, along with the fuel pumps, and fuel servos. The units contained residual fuel and appeared clear of any contaminants. Both propellers remained attached to their respective engines, and had similar signatures. For identification purposes the propeller blades are referred to as blade A or B. The left engine's propeller blade A appeared straight and absent any polishing or scoring; blade B was bent towards the cambered side, about 12 inches from the hub to about a 45-degree angle. The blade had only minor leading edge polishing near the tip of the blade. The right engine's propeller also had one blade (blade B) bent towards the cambered side, starting about 12 inches from the hub, to about a 45-degree angle. Blade B had only minor leading edge polishing, outboard of the deicing boot. Blade A was relatively straight and absent any scuffs or scoring on the blade.

No abnormalities were found that would have prevented the engines from producing rated power.


The surviving passenger stated that he didn't know why they would be at Caledonia; however, typically they would pick a place about half-way to their destination, to exercise the dogs, use the restroom, and to refuel the airplane. He added that he'd flown with them numerous times, and never observed anything unsafe with the pilots or airplane. The usual routine would be to put the airplane away full of fuel.


NTSB Identification: CEN14FA034
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 01, 2013 in Caledonia, MN
Aircraft: PIPER PA 23-250, registration: N6068Y
Injuries: 3 Fatal,1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.

On November 1, 2013 around 1515 central daylight time (CDT), a Piper PA-23-250 airplane, N6068Y, impacted terrain near the Houston County Airport (KCHU), Caledonia, Minnesota. The private rated pilot and two passengers were fatally injured and one passenger received serious injury. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to Garlam Aviation, Troy, Michigan, and operated by a private individual. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 cross-country flight. The flight originated from the Oakland/Troy Airport (KVLL), Troy Michigan about 1100 CDT.

There were no reported witnesses to the accident; however, a local resident discovered the airplane wreckage and alerted authorities.

The accident site was located about 590 feet northeast of KCHU's runway, in an open soybean field. The wreckage path consisted of several ground scars and airplane pieces extended approximately 100 feet from the main wreckage on a 260 degree heading. The first impact point was a ground scar which contained remains of a green navigation light lens. From the first impact point, about 24 feet from the green lens fragments, the ground scar contained several "cuts"; the next major ground scar contained the airplane's nose baggage door and fragmented pieces of windshield. The ground scars and wreckage is consistent with a right wing airplane down impact followed by the right engine and fuselage impact. The airplane came to rest in an upright position, turned about a 180-degree and facing the first impact point.

According to a preliminary review of air traffic control communications and radar data, the airplane departed KVLL and flew for about three hours en route to KCHU. Prior to reaching KCHU, the pilot was cleared for the GPS-A approach; the pilot canceled his IFR clearance about 1405. There was no reported distress calls from the pilot.

After initial documentation of the wreckage site, the wreckage was recovered for further examination.


CALEDONIA, Minnesota (WXOW) – Federal authorities continue to investigate what caused a twin-engine plane crash in Houston County Friday.

About a dozen units responded to the crash.

When dealing with a mass trauma, mutual aid is crucial, said Caledonia Ambulance Director Mike Tornstrom.

Tornstrom has worked as a paramedic for more than 20 years, and in that time, has only seen a plane crash twice, maybe three times.

"We used to dealing with car accidents. That's one of the things that we deal with on a common basis. So we know exactly what our fellow fire department personnel are going to do," Tornstrom said. "In the situation of an airplane crash, we have no idea."

But with any trauma, Tornstrom and his fellow paramedics rely heavily on other responding units, like firefighters, who help extricate patients.

Friday's plane crash near Caledonia had four. And since Caledonia only has two ambulances, they had to rely on Tri-State and Spring Grove to back them up. Generally one ambulance is assigned to one patient.

"The first unit on scene is instant command. Once you arrive on scene as an additional unit, you take orders from them," Tornstrom said.

"Obviously a plane crash this magnitude, they would just launch us," said Terry Dorshorst, flight nurse for MedLink AIR.

If MedLink AIR is called, they often land while paramedics are triaging, Dorshorst said. "If we don't take anyone, we don't take anyone. At least we're up, we're in the air, and we're there if they need us."

According to Dorshorst, transporting a patient via helicopter isn't always the quickest option. But when there's a lot of traffic, or the accident is in a rural area, MedLink often lends a hand.

"To us it's a trauma. If someone needs expedient help, then we get here as fast as we can," Dorshorst said, adding that extra speed can help save a life.

The National Transportation Safety Board said at the earliest, they expect a preliminary report on the crash to be out by the end of the week.

The Houston County Sheriff's Office and NTSB are looking to talk to anyone who has information regarding the crash, or witnessed the crash.

The Sheriff's Office can be reached at (507) 725-3379. NTSB can be contacted 24/7 at (202) 314-6297.

Source:   http://www.wxow.com