Wednesday, December 25, 2013

deHavilland DH-82A Tiger Moth, Tiger Moth Joy Rides, VH-TSG: Accident occurred December 16, 2013 off Couran Cove, South Stradbroke Island, QLD - Australia

Tiger Moth Flight Surfers Paradise / Gold Coast 

Published on Jan 4, 2014

Short video of the Tiger Moth aerobatics flight near Gold Coast / Surfers Paradise Australia. December 2013.

Unfortunate events caused the Tiger Moth to crash and the pilot and passenger to go down with the airplane within a few days of the filming of this video :-(


In-flight breakup involving de Havilland DH-82, Tiger Moth, VH-TSG, near South Stradbroke Island, Qld on 16 December 2013 

Acting as a team, these members of the Mackay Tiger Moth Museum (from left) Peter Currey, Greg Christensen, Barry Dean, Ian Thomason and Ross Robotham flew the second Tiger Moth to Mackay in 2011. 
Tony Martin 

The Mackay community can rest assured the region's two Tiger Moths are in tip-top condition, despite a fatal crash in the south. 

Video footage recently captured the wing of a Tiger Moth snapping off during an aerobatic manoeuvre performed off the Gold Coast.

The plane crashed into the ocean, killing the pilot and passenger.

Mackay Tiger Moth Museum owner Barry Dean said he had been flying Tiger Moth planes since 1973 but had stopped performing aerobatics not long afterwards.

He said back then, there were four or five pilots flying the same plane and performing their own tricks.

"You're not quite sure what the last pilot had done... whether he'd overstressed the engine or not," Mr Dean said.

"We did ruin an engine from over-revs at one stage."

The museum has two Tiger Moths.

Mr Dean said the Tiger Moth was initially built and used by the air force to train pilots.

"They had to do a lot of aerobatic manoeuvres," he said.

While both Mackay planes were inspected regularly, Mr Dean said when anyone asked about aerobatics, they were referred to other aircraft in the area.

"You're pulling up to five Gs... which is five times your weight... that really loads up your wings," Mr Dean said.

"When you're doing spins, you've got loads (or stresses) on the tail plate and rudder.

"We're trying to preserve the aeroplane.

"And there are quite a lot of different pilots flying (them)."

Mr Dean said it was easier to monitor stresses put on a plane when there was just one pilot flying it.

"If he knows he's overstressed it, he'll get on the ground and have it checked out."

Mr Dean added he could not say for certain what happened to the Tiger Moth on the Gold Coast.

"Anything could happen... from pilot error to something failing in the aeroplane," he said.

"In this particular case, we just don't know.

"We just have to wait and see what the investigation brings up." 



Hilton Head (KHXD), South Carolina: Beaufort County seeking comments on airport improvements study

Beaufort County airport officials are seeking feedback on a study for improvements that will bring the Hilton Head Island Airport up to Federal Aviation Administration standards.

The study examines five projects that must completed to meet those standards, including the relocation and realignment of two taxiways, county airports director Jon Rembold said.

"We have some items that have to be corrected," he said.

The projects also include the acquisition of seven properties at either end of the runways that are too close to the airport and fall in "obstacle-free areas," Rembold said.

Federal rules do not allow buildings in those areas, so the airport intends to buy and demolish them, he said. Those seven properties include Insty-Prints, The Deep Well Project and neighboring businesses in The Commons on Beach City Road, and businesses in The Airport Office Park at 21 Dillon Road.

The projects are expected to cost $12.9 million, about 90 percent of which would be funded by the FAA, according to the study. Beaufort County would pay $870,000 to acquire adjacent properties, and the county and state would split $420,000 of construction costs, according to the study.

The county will file funding requests for the projects with the FAA and S.C. Aeronautics Commission within the next few months, after it reviews public comments, Rembold said.

In the mean time, the county is reviewing at least five bids for a proposed $2 million, 4,250-square-foot terminal expansion to increase passenger comfort and comply with Transportation Security Administration requirements, Rembold said.

"We're still reviewing those, but the hope is that we'll have something actionable in the springtime," he said.

Surveyors are also reexamining trees at each end of the runway that might have to be removed or trimmed in a second phase of tree removal to provide enough clearance for planes using the airport, Rembold said.

The FAA has approved a change in the airport's approach slope, which will require less trimming than the first phase, Rembold said. When the survey is completed in February or March, the county will know how many trees need to be removed or trimmed and will open the project for bidding.
"We should have a significant reduction of trees that need to be removed or trimmed, which I think is good for everyone," he said.

How to comment 

Beaufort County airport officials seek feedback on a study for improvements to bring the Hilton Head Island Airport up to Federal Aviation Administration standards. 

The study can be reviewed in person at the Hilton Head Island Airport or the nearby library, at 11 Beach City Road. 

It can also be viewed online at 

Comments are due by 5 p.m. Jan. 15 and can be delivered in person or mailed to airports director Jon Rembold, Hilton Head Island Airport, 120 Beach City Road, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926

Squabble over island's 'unsightly' windsock could risk lives

Quoin Island residents are engaged in a squabble over what could potentially be the difference between life and death.

The body corporate committee has been involved in an ongoing dispute over a windsock located on the island's helipad, on the island's north-eastern end, which resulted in one resident cutting the windsock down at ground level, after complaining it was an "eyesore", according to former committee chair Owen Griffiths.

After the January floods, Mr Griffiths said the site where the helipad lay was the only spot on the island that was above water.

He fears the removal of the windsock, which may have provided important assistance to helicopter pilots in an emergency, may cost someone their life in dismal conditions.

"We had a majority vote to construct the helipad and windsock, so we introduced a thing to have a helipad put on the island for safety for our designated emergency evacuation area," he said.

"There's only one area that can be on the island, at the north-east end. I designed the pad to the specifications of the rescue people in Rockhampton."

Mr Griffiths has spent 25 years in rescue work.

"When big, strong south-easter blows, it directs the wind down this hollow in the middle of the island," Mr Griffiths said.

"A chopper pilot will come in looking at the waves in front of him and think south-easter, but when he gets down to tree level, he's got a big south-wester blowing.

"In adverse conditions you can't see 50 yard in front of you,. My concern is it's a safety factor. They have windsocks at airports to tell pilots the direction and the velocity of the wind at ground level."

Mr Griffiths said he was disappointed by a fellow member of the committee who, after the helipad had been voted for and constructed, convinced the committee the windsock was unnecessary and reduced the value of properties because it was "unsightly". 

Story and comments/reaction:

Diamond DA40CS Diamond Star, VT-FGE, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udan Academy (IGRUA): Accident occurred December 24, 2013 in Chhindwara, near Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh, India

Sohail Zahiruddin Ansari; (inset) debris of the Diamond DA40CS Diamond Star aircraft in the jungles of Sitadongri, Madhya Pradesh

Sohail Zahiruddin Ansari

While the investigation into trainee pilot Sohail Ansari's tragic death in an air crash at Chhindwara is likely to take at least three months as informed to his father by Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy (IGRUA) officials, a quick look at the accidents involving the academy indicate that it has a history of human errors causing crashes of aircraft flown by trainee pilots. The last mishap involving a Trinidad TB 20 aircraft of IGRUA took place on December 29, 2008.

According to Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the student pilot flew in an unauthorized region at a very low altitude and touched water. In the course of recovery, he took a sharp left turn to avoid a tree ahead and crash landed, damaging the aircraft substantially. However, the student pilot survived the crash with minor injuries. Not adhering to the Standard Operating Procedure was the cause of accident. Using autopilot without functional knowledge and flying low so as to touch water contributed to the accident."

Another accident took place on June 11, 1999 when a IGRUA-operated Trinidad TB -20 aircraft was engaged in training flight from Fursatganj to Patna via Varanasi. The aircraft was under the command of Captain S R Singh along with trainee pilot Mohd Tariq. Two passengers were also on board the aircraft. The flight was to be operated under Visual Flying Rules.

DGCA records reveal that en-route to Patna from Varanasi, the aircraft encountered CB cells. The pilot lost control and aircraft and went into a spiral dive and crashed.

 Sohel’s brother Shoaib. 
Relatives and neighbors gathered outside the Ansari residence upon hearing the news of Sohel’s death

Sohel Ansari’s (left) brother Sohaib outside their Tadiwala Road residence.

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered an investigation into the Tuesday crash that led to the death of 19-year-old city-youngster Sohail Ansari.  
Officials of Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy (IGRUA) to which Sohail belonged however said that he was a trained and tested pilot with 90 hours of flying experience. This was also not the first time he was flying solo, said Air Commodore T K Chatterjee, Chief Flying Instructor, IGRUA.

Sohail was on a navigation sortie on Tuesday when he went missing and his body was traced by the police in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, on Wednesday. His body is being taken to his native place in Uttar Pradesh for burial, relatives said.

Chatterjee said that Sohail took off from Gondia at 12.40 pm and was expected to return by 2.45 pm. "When there was no radio contact till 2.45 pm, overdue action was initiated. The transponder of his aircraft was in touch with Nagpur radar and the last contact with the radar was at 1.15 pm, after which he went untraceable," Chatterjee said adding, "He was trained and tested pilot. He was halfway through his training and this was not the first time he was flying solo."

While the reason that led to mishap is being probed, a quick look at the data available with IGRUA and the DGCA shows that this is arguably the first IGRUA operated DA- 40 aircraft crash, ever since the academy received the aircraft in 2008. According to data available on the website of Diamond Aircraft, the manufacturer, IGRUA is reported to have ordered 14 such aircraft after April 2008. IGRUA website too calls it "the newest addition to the fleet used for ab-initio flying training".

According to a popular global accident records website, the DA- 40 platform has had 51 accidents across the globe since 2003, in 18 of which, the aircraft was completely written off. Chatterjee however said that the fleet is "not grounded" and that it is too early to comment on the specific cause of the accident.

While the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has initiated an inquiry into the aircraft crash in which a trainee commercial pilot Sohel Zahiruddin Ansari was killed, the chief flying instructor of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) said that within half an hour of the take off, he lost contact with the radar and his aircraft. It was later found crashed nearly 90 kilometres away from the runway.

A resident of the Tadiwala Road area in Pune, Sohel was undergoing the training of commercial pilot in IGRUA at Raibareli.

As part of the training, Sohel had taken a solo sortie from Gondia’s Birsi airport on Tuesday afternoon. The aircraft was found on Wednesday in a damaged state. Sohel’s parents had gone to Gondia where Sohel’s body was handed over to them.

Yasin shaikh, local Congress worker and his neighbor said, “Sohel’s parents wanted to cremate his body in Pune, but his body was so damaged that they decided to cremate his body at their native place in Uttar Pradesh which was closer from there.

“DGCA has initiated an inquiry in the crash incident. Air Commodore (retd) TK Chatterjee, chief flying instructor of IGRUA said, “As a standard procedure after any crash, the DGCA has initiated an inquiry.

Sohel had completed 90 hours of flying out of the total 200 hours of flying required during the course which means that he had sufficient experience of flying. His aircraft took off at 12.40 pm on Tuesday and he was supposed to land at 2.45 pm, Chatterjee added.


Directorate general of civil aviation begins probe into crash 

 NAGPUR: The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has begun investigation into the crash of an Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy (IGRUA) training aircraft in Chhindwara.

Nineteen-year-old trainee pilot Sohail Ansari lost his life when his Diamond 40 aircraft crashed in the Thakkurdev hills near Pachmarhi on Tuesday. Ansari had set out for a cross country solo sortie to Pachmarhi from Gondia, where IGRUA conducts some of its training during winters.

Ansari's aircraft went missing at about 1:27pm when it was reportedly last spotted by Nagpur air traffic control ( ATC). On Thursday a team of two from DGCA went to the crash site as a part of the investigation.

Two officials from IGRUA accompanied the DGCA team in order to take possession of the wreckage after the inspection was over. It is learnt that Ansari's body was identified by his parents and relatives. His body has been taken back to Bijnore, Uttar Pradesh for the last rites.


Life was cut short for 19-year-old Sohel Zahiruddin Ansari minutes after the two-seater Diamond DA40 aircraft he was flying crashed on Tuesday afternoon. A trainee pilot at the Uttar Pradesh-based Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA), Sohel took off for his solo sortie from Birsi airfield in Gondia (near Nagpur). 

His body was recovered from Delakhedi Village in Chindwada district in Madhya Pradesh yesterday. Father, mother, brother and two younger sisters survive Sohel.

Trainee pilots from IGRUA are sent to Gondia base for training due to bad weather and poor visibility in Rae Bareli during winter. Sohel took off from Gondia at 12.30 pm for Panchmarhi and was expected to return by 3 pm.

The family

The Ansaris live in a small house in slums on Tadiwala Road, where Sohels’ father Zahiruddin runs a tiny bakery by paying a monthly rent of Rs 2,500. Making Sohel a commercial pilot was an unaffordable dream for this lower middle-class family, but Zahiruddin and his relatives did every possible thing to raise Rs 38 lakh for the 18-month course. Sohel had joined IGRUA in December 2012 and was supposed to complete the course in the next five months.

A father waits

“The officials here are telling me not to lose hope. Search operation is on. They are saying that they will find Sohel soon using the inputs they received from the black box of the aircraft,” said Zahiruddin, who was in Gondia hoping to get news about his son’s well-being.

 While Zahiruddin still believes that his son would be returning home soon, Sohel’s brother Shoaib came to know about his death through news channels. “He was sincere, hard working and very good in studies. My father is telling me that soon he will meet Sohel, but I already know...” Shoaib said.

Commenting on Sohel’s flying skills Zahiruddin said this was not the first time that Sohel had flown solo. “He’s got good flying skills. That’s why he was a few of those who were selected for the course from across the country.”

Zahiruddin and his wife had visited their hometown in Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh last month to make provision for Rs 8 lakh, the remaining fee for the course.

Young achiever

A good student, Sohel had passed HSC with distinction from Wadia College and had planned to become an engineer for which he attempted and cleared CET in May 2012. But it was one of his friends, Sumit, who induced the idea of becoming a pilot into Sohel. Though both appeared for IGRUA entrance test, it was Sohel who cracked it and was one of the few to be selected for the course from among 4,500 candidates.

 “I clearly remember the day when Sohel had his maiden flight because his father distributed cake from his bakery to all of us saying that once Sohel completes the course, he will give opportunity to each one of us to sit in an aircraft next to him,” local political activist Yasin Sheikh, who knows the Ansaris well, said.

Commenting on the sense of pride the Anasris and the locals felt, Sohel’s friend Elahi Jamadar said it was a big achievement for a boy hailing from Tadiwala Road slums of attempting to become a pilot. “Zahiruddin’s brother-in-law had taken a promise from Sohel that he would marry his daughter after becoming a pilot.”

Police speak

“The pilot was expected to return to Gondia base by 2.30 pm on Tuesday. But after confirming that the plane was missing in Chindwada area, we immediately informed the MP police. They initiated a search operation in jungles of Balaghat and Chindwada. Finally, Ansari’s body was recovered from Childongri jungle on Wednesday afternoon,” siad Vijay Halmare, Asst Sub Inspector of Gondia 


PUNE: A pall of gloom descended on the slum pocket located opposite Tadiwala police chowky here as news of the tragic death of the young trainee pilot Sohail Ansari in an air crash trickled in. Ansari, who lived in this slum pocket with his family and was scheduled to visit them before the year ended, was flying the single engine Diamond 40 aircraft when it crashed near Pachmarhi in Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday.

Locals here recollected how Ansari, a diligent student, had often shared with them his dream to fly one day. "Sohail was a promising youngster who wanted to achieve something big in his life. He would always share his dream that on becoming a pilot, he would give all his neighbors a ride in an airplane to show them an aerial view of Tadiwala road," said Surekha Kamble, his neighbor.

"He would interact very little with people around his house but was very good in his studies," recalled Kamble, pointing out that Sohail often studied at her residence along with her children till late night. "His death has come as a shock to all of us," she said.

Sohail had joined the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy in Rae Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, last December after completing his Class XII in science from Nowrosjee Wadia college. His father, Zahiruddin, runs a bakery on Tadiwalla road and the family resides in a small house in the slum pocket. Sohail's brothers, Mohsin and Sohaib, completed Class X from Dastur Boys school.

His brother Sohaib told TOI, "Our parents were in Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh when we got a call from the academy around 6 pm on Tuesday informing us that Sohail's aircraft had gone missing. The academy has not given us an update about the incident. My parents and our relatives from Pune have rushed there. We came to know about his death from media reports."

Sohail's friend, Rohan Kamble, a first year mechanical engineering student, said, "Sohail had called two days ago and informed me that he will be visiting Pune on a five-day leave to meet his parents and friends on Christmas."

Local corporator Pradeep Gaikwad said, "Zahiruddin had taken loans to educate his four children. We are constantly communicating with the academy as well as senior NCP leader Praful Patel, who was influential in bringing the academy to Gondia for the winter training activities, and also through MLC Jaideo Gaikwad for providing all support to the family members of the victims."

Sohail was a promising youngster who wanted to achieve something big in his life. He would always share his dream that on becoming a pilot, he would give all his neighbors a ride in an aeroplane to show them an aerial view of Tadiwala road.


A  city-based trainee pilot was killed when his aircraft crashed in the hills of Chhindwara near the Maharashtra- Madhya Pradesh border, officials said on Wednesday. 
Sohail Zahiruddin Ansari, 19, had taken off along with a pilot in a Diamond DA40 aircraft on a three-hour training flight from Birsi Airport in Gondia on Tuesday afternoon.

“The flight was scheduled to return by 3.30 pm. But an hour into the air, it lost all ground contact and was reported missing,” an official from Gondia police control said.

On Wednesday morning, some villagers from the Pandhan village near Sitadongri in MP, reported sighting the debris of the aircraft in the nearby hills and alerted police and district officials. The causes of the disaster are not known. Sohail was reportedly a student of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy, Uttar Pradesh.

His father runs a small bakery inside the Imam Masjid on Tadiwala Road — the family’s financial condition is not too good, but they decided to support his ambition to become a pilot. As they could not afford the fees, it was paid with the help of loans from relatives.

Sohail’s brother Shoeb Ansari said, “Since our childhood, Sohail was a very bright boy. After Class XII, he accompanied a friend fascinated by flying and filled out a form to be a pilot. In a twist of fate, he got selected instead of his friend and was just five months short of his 13-month training.”

Their father was in their hometown of Bijnor in UP, when he got the call about the crash. “He was there to arrange for the remaining Rs 5 lakh in fees,” said a stricken Shoeb. The body will be brought to the city on Thursday.


Five months from now, Sohail Zahiruddin Ansari, 19, would have become a commercial pilot. Six months ago when he flew his first solo at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udan Academy (IGRUA) in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, his father Zahiruddin Ansari, 44, had distributed cake in the basti off Tadiwala Road. It was a proud moment for a father, a small time bakery owner, who had borrowed money from his friends and relatives to pay Sohail's course fee of Rs 40 lakh. He even took a loan from a bank for which his friend has mortgaged his house. 

On Wednesday evening, when Sohail's death in an air crash was reported, his father, a heart patient, was in Gondia on the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border pinning his hope on the IAF's search operation in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh. Sohail, who was on a solo training flight in his Diamond DA40CS Diamond Star aircraft, had gone from there on Tuesday afternoon. "He is still missing. The IAF captain told me not to trust anyone and wait till the aircraft is found," Ansari said over phone.

Chhindwara district police chief Purshottam Sharma said local villagers informed the police about the plane crash, after which a search was launched. While it was not immediately known as to what caused the crash, the Chhindwara police said the pilot, Sohail Ansari (19), lost his way due to the fog. The body of the pilot was found Wednesday near Belakhadi in the Pachmarhi hills.

After finishing Class 12 from Wadia College in 2012, when Sohail first told his father that he wanted to become a commercial pilot like his friend Sumit, Ansari told him that the family had no money to pay the fees. The only source of income for his family of six, including two sisters and two brothers was a small bakery. Even if the family mortgaged their 10 X 12 sq ft room, the money would not have been enough for the fee.

"He had cleared CET and could have become an engineer, but he told me that he wanted to become a pilot. For me, it was my son's dream. I asked many of my relatives if they could lend me some money, but all had their own children to feed and educate. Meanwhile, Sohail got a scholarship of Rs 10 lakh and my relative gave me Rs 15 lakh. I generated remaining Rs five lakh from other friends," Zahiruddin said. But Sohail's dream was still far from reality. By the time the admission to IGRUA took place, the scholarship lapsed and the institute hiked its fees to Rs 36.5 lakh. It was here that his friend, a dairy owner from the mohalla, stood by the family and mortgaged his home  to raise a loan.

Sohail joined IGRUA on December 6, 2012, and would call his father almost every day. In fact Zahiruddin and his wife were at their ancestral village in UP where they had gone to collect the remaining Rs 8 lakh to pay Sohaill's fee, when on Tuesday, they were told that their son, who took off from Gondia had gone missing. "He was supposed to return by 3 pm. But did not return and has been missing since then," Zahiruddin said.

Zahiruddin has not been informed about his son's death. As he waited for Sohail's return at Gondia airport, he said, "Why should I think of paying the loan? My son will pay after he becomes a pilot in five months." However, at their home in Tadiwala Road, a scaffolding has been erected even as the people in the mohalla discussed where to bury Sohail's remains.

Wilburn ‘Tommy’ Speed

Wilburn ‘Tommy’ Speed

Mr. Wilburn “Tommy” Speed, age 70, and a resident of Columbia, passed away Friday, December 20, 2013 at NHC Hillview.

Visitation will be held on Saturday, January 4, 2014 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at Heritage Funeral Home, and a memorial service will follow at 3:00 p.m.

Heritage Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

Born in Maury County, Tennessee on July 17, 1943 Tommy was the son of the late Wilburn Thomas and Eulalah Rodgers Speed.

Tommy held a Commercial and Instructors Pilot’s License through the Federal Aviation Administration and a Bachelors Degree from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. He was a member of the Quiet Birdmen Organization, an organization of aviators and a past member of the Jaycees and Elks of Columbia. He loved boating, flying, snow skiing, and was a Green Bay Packers fan. Tommy was Chief Pilot for Northern Engraving Corp in La Crosse, Wisconsin until his retirement in 1992. After retirement, he instructed pilots for Gulfstream and Citation aircraft recertification for CAE in Dallas, TX. He was always the life of a party and will be remembered by all who knew him. He was known loving as “Cappy” to his grandchildren, a loving father and respected aviator.

Tommy left behind to cherish his memory two sons: Wilburn Thomas Speed, III in Philadelphia, PA and Justin “Bubba” (Amy) Speed of McFarland, WI.; daughter: Lauri Speed of Kings Mountain, NC.; sister: Delilah Speed of Columbia, TN.; two grandchildren: Jackson Speed and Stella Speed; aunt: Jewel Rodgers Latta and numerous loving cousins.

You may share condolences with the family at the Heritage Funeral Home website. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or their site on-line at

Troubled flight for dreamliners

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner — Air India's (AI) newest jet that is central to its turnaround plans — continues to give the airline sleepless nights. The aircraft has suffered nearly 140 technical problems since September last year when it was inducted into AI's fleet.

The Dreamliners have been anything but a dream for AI. First, the plane was delayed for over four years and then overheating batteries prompted regulators worldwide to ground the entire fleet in January. Flights only resumed in April.

Experts have questioned AI's decision to place bulk orders for a plane that hadn't flown a single flight. AI was one of the first five airlines in the world to take delivery of a 787.

"Why go in for something that has not yet been tested?" questioned PC Sen, former chairman and managing director. "Why not go in for a tried-and-tested model if it is not affecting your business? That is common sense."

In fact, aviation ministry and AI officials have said on many occasions that the 787s delivered to them were not exactly what had been promised, and  are overweight when compared to the initial design.

Kiran Rao, executive vice-president, Airbus — Boeing's arch rival — had told HT in an interview in 2011 that Dreamliners were heavier, burned more fuel and were five years late.

Boeing and AI have maintained there are no safety issues with the aircraft. "It is a safe airplane. It has never caused issues with the safety of passengers," said Dinesh Keskar, senior vice-president, Boeing.

"AI has put all its recovery eggs on 787 basket. They have to be aggressive in resolving glitches," said aviation safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan.

"The 787s have been a positive addition to AI's fleet, but operational challenges might continue for six months," said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO for consultancy firm Center for Asia Pacific Aviation.


YEARENDER: A seesaw year for Philippine aviation

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine aviation industry had its “ups and downs” in 2013 as local airlines, both full service and low cost carriers, eye and gear up for more long-haul destinations in 2014.

The year 2013 saw accidents involving several airlines resulting in the closure of international airports for days, several cancelled flights due to typhoons as well as congested airports, the suspension of the permit to fly of one airline, and the merger of two low cost carriers.

Aviation authorities in the Philippines also convinced the European Union to lift the ban that prevented local airlines from flying into the European airspace, paving the way for the launch of direct flights to London by national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) last Nov. 4.

Authorities also successfully negotiated with several countries new and expanded air service agreements (ASAs) allowing airlines to mount additional flights and servicing more passengers particularly overseas Filipino workers.

Accidents, flight delays and cancellations

Passengers had to deal with flight delays and cancellations this year due to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as well as bad weather catapulted by Super Typhoon Yolanda that battered several provinces  in the Visayas last Nov. 8 and several accidents involving airlines.

An aircraft of budget airline Cebu Air (Cebu Pacific) of taipan John Gokongwei skidded off the runway of the Davao International Airport last June 2 resulting to the closure of the international gateway for several days. Another aircraft of the low cost carrier damaged several landing lights at the NAIA a few days after.

On the other hand, an aircraft of Tiger Airways Philippines stalled on the end of the runway last Aug. 26 resulting in the suspension of operations of the Kalibo International Airport that serves as one of the gateways to the Island of Boracay for several hours.

Both Cebu Pacific and TigerAir got a slap on the wrist as the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) only suspended the pilots of both airlines.

However, the CAAP suspended the Airline Operator’s Certificate (AOC) of Zest Airways Inc. of former Ambassador Alfredo Yao resulting to the grounding of from Aug. 16 to Aug. 19 due to six aviation safety concerns in violation of the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulation (PCAR).

Consolidation, mergers, new partners

This paved the way for the consolidation in the industry after Zest Air decided to team up with AirAsia Philippines Inc. to form a new brand known as AirAsia Zest that is now operating at the congested NAIA after the partly Malaysian-owned airline ended its operations at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

ZestAir entered into a strategic alliance agreement with AirAsia Philippines last March 11. Under the agreement, AirAsia Philippines would acquire an 85 percent economic interest and 49 percent voting rights in ZestAir as well as a 100 percent interest in Yao’s Asiawide Airways Inc.

The transaction was consummated last May 10, wherein Yao’s ZestAir got $16 million as well as 13 percent interest in AirAsia Philippines. After the transaction, AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia now owns 40 percent of AirAsia Philippines while Filipino investors led by Romero, Yao, Marianne Hontiveros and Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco Jr. control 60 percent.

All the shareholders of budget airline Zest Airways Inc. including AirAsia Inc. Philippines committed to infuse $100 million worth of investments to recover heavy losses and fund the merged airline’s working capital.

Michael Romero, chairman of AirAsia Zest, told The STAR that the rebranded airline is looking at a brighter 2014 after the successful tie up with ZestAir this year.

“2013 is a good year for AirAsia especially with its partnership with Ambassador Alfredo Yao that resulted to the birth of AirAsia Zest,” Romero said.

He added that the rebranded airline was able to mount new international destinations to Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Miri, Macau, Shanghai and Incheon and at the same time expand its hubs in Cebu and Kalibo.

PAL, jointly owned by taipan Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp., is on the lookout for a new partner as it is in the middle of a fleet modernization program with an end view of acquiring 100 new aircraft.

SMC, which infused $500 million for a 49 percent stake in the national flag carrier, is looking for a new partner that would take up the 51 percent interest of the Tan Group who is also into banking, beverage, property development, among others.

PAL has so far inked a $10 billion contract with the EADS Group for the delivery of 65 new Airbus aircraft.

PAL was able to fly back to Europe via London last Nov. 4 after the EU agreed to lift the ban last July 12 as aviation authorities were able to comply with the safety standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) last February.

The application of Cebu Pacific to fly to European countries, on the other hand, would be reviewed by EU in March next year.

Gearing up for Europe, US

 After successfully getting the ban lifted by the European Union, transportation and aviation authorities are confident that the ban imposed by the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) would be lifted early next year.

In 2008, the safety rating of the Philippines was downgraded by the US FAA upon the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Category 2 from Category 1after CAAP failed to comply with safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations.

Aside from Europe, Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei earlier said the listed budget airline is also gearing up for long-haul flights to the US as it pursues its $4 billion refleeting program.

Gokongwei said Cebu Pacific is looking at mounting flights to the US particularly Guam and Hawaii once the country’s status is upgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) back to Category 1.

 “For the US, there have been some pronouncements that Philippines expects to get out of Category 2 in the fourth quarter. At that point, we will probably look at certain routes in the US including Guam and Hawaii,” Gokongwei stressed.

The Cebu Pacific chief pointed out that the airline is in the middle of a $4 billion refleeting program. Between 2013 and 2021, Cebu Pacific is scheduled to take delivery of 15 more brand-new Airbus A320, 30 A321neo, and four A330 aircraft.

Cebu Pacific was also able to service its 80 millionth passenger last November.

Both PAL and Cebu Pacific mounted flights to several countries in the Middle East including Dubai, Riyadh, Dammam, among others where several Filipinos are working and living.

Phl is low cost carrier capital of the world

 Earlier, Cebu Pacific general manager for long haul division Alex Reyes said the aviation industry in the Philippines could be likened to the capital intensive telecommunications sector.

“Just a few years ago, phones were considered luxury items, and very few people could afford to have them. Along came low-cost phones, and suddenly communication anywhere, anytime was in reach of every Juan. Text messages were so cheap that mobile phone subscribers preferred to text, rather than to call, because it was so cheap. At one point in time, the Philippines became the test messaging capital of the world,” Reyes explained.

Now, just like mobile phones which were once considered luxury items air travel is in reach of every “Juan” as low cost carriers (LCCs) are now dominating the aviation sector.

 “Eight out of 10 seats on the domestic market are low-cost carrier seats. No other aviation market in the world has this kind of market share for LCCs. You can thus call the Philippines the LCC capital of the world,” he said.

Another low cost carrier, newly rebranded Tigerair, is also undertaking a massive re-fleeting program as it intends to beef up its existing fleet of five aircraft to 25 within the next three to five years.

TigerAir, a unit of Tiger Airlines, has an existing fleet of three Airbus A320s with a seating capacity of 180 and two A319s.

TigerAir president and chief executive officer Olive Ramos said the airline is excited about the prospects of the industry next year but stressed the need to promote the habit of traveling to Filipinos whether locally or internationally.

 “I am very hopeful about next year. I am looking at a very exciting and vibrant year for the airline industry,” Ramos said.

More air agreements

 The Philippines through the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) is looking at signing and expanding air service agreements (ASAs) with several countries next year after finalizing pacts with six countries this year.

The Philippines successfully concluded air talks with Israel, Japan, Italy, Macau, Brazil, and Australia this year.

President Aquino has signed Executive Order 29 authorizing the CAB and the Philippine air panels to pursue more aggressively the international civil aviation liberalization policy.

Volume of passengers traveling by air climbed 4.6 percent to 28.46 million in the first nine months of the year from 27.2 million in the same period last year. The number of domestic passengers was flat as it reached 15.42 million from January to September while the volume of international passengers posted a double-digit growth of 11.6 percent enough to 13.05 million.

CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said the regular would start the ball rolling early next year as the Philippines is scheduled to hold air talks with France and Singapore in the first quarter.

Cessna 152 ZK-TOD and Cessna 152 ZK-JGB: Fatal accident occurred July 26, 2010 near Taonui airfield, Feilding (New Zealand)

A mid-air plane crash that killed two women in Manawatu was caused when the wing of one light aircraft was clipped by the tire of the other, an interim report into the accident has found.

Flight instructor Jess Neeson, 27, and her student Patricia Smallman, 64, died in the July 2010 crash between two Cessna C152s over Feilding. Their plane - ZK-TOD - went into a "steep descending spiral dive" before smashing into a farmer's paddock. It was destroyed on impact.

A student flying the second aircraft managed to land the damaged plane at the training school's airstrip.

It is likely the Cessnas collided as the uninjured student climbed higher into the air while Ms Neeson and Mrs Smallman were making their way back towards Feilding Aerodrome, an interim factual report into the tragedy by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) states.

"Impact marks on the leading edge of the right wing (of aircraft ZK-TOD) were consistent with having been struck by a tire, with black rubber deposit on the surface of the indentation," the report said.

"Outer sections of the right wing, including the aileron, were found about 280 metres north of the main wreckage."

The engine of the second plane, ZK-JGB, stopped soon after the midair collision and the student managed to glide back to the aerodrome and land on the side of the runway.

He later told investigators he "heard a loud noise and the aircraft nose then pulled down".

"The fixed non-retractable nose wheel of ZK-JGB had been forced rearward. The fuel line to the carburetor was broken, as well as the carburetor. This is considered the most likely reason for the engine stopping in flight," the report said.

The commission said it had a number of lines of inquiry still to investigate, including the standard of pilot training in New Zealand and whether the growing level of pilot training in the country had an effect on the level of air traffic services at uncontrolled aerodromes, such as Feilding.

The inquiry was yet to establish if any malfunction in either aircraft could have contributed to the collision, it said.

Ms Neeson grew up near Tokirima, south of Taumarunui, and boarded at Sacred Heart Girls' College in Hamilton.


Cessna 152 ZK-TOD and Cessna 152 ZK-JGB, mid-air collision near Feilding, Manawatu, 26 July 2010:

Fatal plane crash caused by mid-air collision:

Flight instructor Jess Neeson and a student pilot were killed when two planes collided in Manawatu in July 2010

PATRICIA SMALLMAN: Died on July 26, 2010.  The 64-year-old student pilot died with her flight instructor when their Cessna 152 collided with another plane over Feilding.

 SURVIVOR: Manoj Kadam gives evidence during a coroner's inquest in 2011.

Frustration over MidAmerica Airport ends in heated exchange at county board meeting

One of the St. Clair County Board members pushing for more control of MidAmerica airport is not optimistic the struggle will ever bear fruit.

County Board member Frank Heiligenstein, a Democrat representing Freeburg, said Tuesday he wondered whether key decisions made by the county's Public Building Commission concerning the financially -struggling airport would ever come before the board for review.

The commission oversees the county-owned airport and recently requested the commission's attorney to review when decisions should be brought to the County Board for final approval.

"I just can't understand why some decisions are not coming forth to the full County Board. It almost appears as if a supermajority of the board members are not really interested in seeing it," Heiligenstein said.

"It's really disheartening to see the way it transpired. Too many things are just sliding through. I don't think sometimes fellow County Board members are doing their due diligence on stuff they are asked to approve."

Heiligenstein said the board should have the final say because they are representing taxpayers. Heiligenstein and other proponents of the measure have pushed for more control and transparency regarding the Mascoutah-based airport since July.

"I think (the commissioners') legal counsel needs to definitely recommend to them that ... some decisions need to be submitted for County Board approval to retain the public's confidence," Heiligenstein said. "The County Board retains the checks and balances, particularly for the facility out there. I think it's basic common sense."

Frustrations surrounding the issue brought about a heated exchange Monday night between County Board member Ed Cockrell, a Republican of New Athens, and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern during a meeting of the County Board.

The exchange followed a question from Heiligenstein about whether a lease agreement and consulting contract OK'd by the commission would be coming before the full County Board for approval.

Kern, a Democrat, said the commission has "always brought activities from the airport before the board." He cited as an example the board's approval of an expansion at North Bay Produce, which operates a refrigerated warehouse at the airport.

"The board continues to vote for improvements on those types of issues at the airport, and as always (MidAmerica Director) Tim Cantwell comes to Economic Development Committee and reports," Kern said. "I encourage County Board members to attend those meetings and hear those reports. It is eye-opening to hear the good things that are happening there."

The committee's monthly meeting was canceled in December, Heiligenstein noted.

The heated exchange began when Cockrell said the commission should seek County Board approval for contracts and real estate agreements as outlined in a board approved resolution from 1996.

"I think ... there appears to be some conflicting language in that resolution but I still think the spirit of that resolution needs to be followed," Cockrell said. "I was at the Public Building Commission meeting and asked that certain items come to this County Board if for nothing else information purposes, but it doesn't say that. It says approval by the County Board."

Kern said Cockrell's assertions were politically motivated.

"I think the fact that agreement was done 16 years ago and we haven't heard from you on that since smacks of politics," Kern said. "I think a lot of people understand this is election time, and politics tend to come out. For 16 years it seemed to be OK and now all the sudden you have issues."

Cockrell responded he is not up for election and he is pursuing the issue because the projected deficit at the airport is $1.4 million this year. The airport regularly relies upon subsidies from the county to operate.

"Being fiscally responsible is not political," Cockrell said.

Kern said Cockrell was not being fiscally responsible when he voted against the county issuing bonds to support expansions at the Boeing Company and North Bay Produce at the airport. The bonds are being repaid by both companies through lease agreements.

"I tend to think you need to look at your voting record and determine whether you are truly committed to improve MidAmerica Airport," Kern said.

Cockrell said he voted against those proposals because the public was not informed about them.

When an Airplane Needs a Taxi: New Devices Aim to Boost Fuel Efficiency and Save Passengers Time at the Airport Gate

Lufthansa has tested an electric vehicle called a TaxiBot. The company says it will save on fuel by allowing planes to leave the gate with their engines off. 

The Wall Street Journal

By Scott McCartney

Updated Dec. 24, 2013 3:33 p.m. ET


Can a vehicle that looks like a tow truck crossed with a Prius improve commercial aviation and air quality?

Airplanes burn a lot of jet fuel using engines to drive between terminals and runways, adding to polluting emissions and costing airlines money in fuel and maintenance. The airline industry is trying to develop electric-powered alternatives, both on and off the plane.

For passengers, this could mean that soon the anxious, slow trip to the end of the runway before takeoff may be silent—and come after less waiting.

An electric-powered tug that can be controlled by the captain in the cockpit is being tested here. Lufthansa hopes to start putting it in regular passenger-flight service next year. Called TaxiBot, it slides under an airplane's nose wheel and tows the plane, steered by the pilot moving the nose wheel just as if the plane were taxiing under its own power using its engines. An aviation startup is testing a new kind of motorized wheel to move the plane on the ground. And a partnership of two big aerospace firms, Honeywell and Safran, is testing the two main wheels of another motorized wheels system for single-aisle planes.

"You're starting to see quite a push in aviation for green initiatives," said Honeywell Vice President Brian Wenig.

Lufthansa has been testing TaxiBot since May at Frankfurt International Airport in the middle of the night, when the airport's flight curfew curtails other activity. The vehicle, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, looks just like the souped-up tractors that push and pull airplanes into and out of gate areas.

But the TaxiBot is really a robotic tow truck for planes. It has a safety driver onboard who makes the coupling with the plane. The tug drives up to the nose wheel and raises it off the ground. The plane and tractor brake using the airplane's brakes. And each tug has its own navigation system, accurate to about 1 foot. It knows the airport and can help guide planes, automatically slowing down when a sharp curve is ahead so there is less wear on brakes.

The TaxiBot, which will cost at least $1 million for the smaller version and perhaps twice as much for a bigger model capable of towing jumbo jets, has the advantage of being completely separate from the plane. There are no motors or equipment to install on jets that add weight and increase fuel burn.

The average taxi-time in Frankfurt is 10 to 12 minutes. Gerhard Baumgarten, director of marketing in Lufthansa's engineering unit, says the net savings using TaxiBot to deliver a Boeing  737 to an area near the end of the runway is about 35 gallons of jet fuel, which costs more than $100 at today's prices. For an Airbus A380 superjumbo jet on a 10-minute taxi, TaxiBot would cut 95% of the fuel burn, or a net savings on each departure of about 130 gallons of jet fuel costing nearly $400.

Airlines also stand to save on maintenance, since engine overhauls are scheduled based on hours of use. Brakes would get less wear. And damage from litter around airport terminals that gets sucked into engines should drop since engines won't be starting by the terminal.

Starting aircraft engines at a holding area near the runway instead of around the terminal also saves time. Often planes block alleys and gates while they start engines, leaving other planes sitting with engines burning fuel.

Engineers are working to fine-tune the system, Mr. Baumgarten said, so pilots feel no difference between their engines and a TaxiBot tow. "We are not there, but we are getting closer and closer," he said.

New Competition for Tugs

Honeywell and Safran say their competing Electric Green Taxiing System, or EGTS, should be ready for airline service in 2017. That system has some big supporters: Airbus and Air France have both signed on as partners.

"Electric motors are not complex, but it is a new system added to aircraft and it needs to fully integrate into aircraft," said Mr. Wenig, who oversees EGTS at Honeywell. The system must undergo lots more testing and win certification from regulators like the Federal Aviation Administration.

EGTS, which was demonstrated on an aircraft at last summer's Paris Air Show, uses electric motors mounted on the main landing-gear wheels under the center of a plane. The motors can back the plane away from gates and taxi it to the end of a runway with the pilot using the plane's tiller to steer. "It will reduce or eliminate tugs," Mr. Wenig said. Beyond the environmental benefits, the system would speed up departures, since planes—and passengers—wouldn't have to wait for pushback tugs to decouple and get out of the way.

Mr. Wenig says EGTS only makes sense for single-aisle aircraft like the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737. Widebody jets would require bigger electric motors on the wheels and they typically fly long trips with relatively little time each day taxiing on the ground. Fuel burned to carry the extra weight would nullify any savings from using the electric motors at the airport. But smaller planes tend to fly short trips all day long and spend a lot of time on the ground. EGTS will add about 700 pounds to the weight of airplanes, but each flight can carry less fuel since it won't be needed for taxiing.

Mr. Wenig estimates fuel savings of about 4% from not using engines during taxi. Honeywell said airlines could save about $200,000 a year on each aircraft with EGTS.

Sideways Parking Job

WheelTug, the brainchild of startup company WheelTug PLC, is an electric-powered nose wheel installed on planes that replaces existing nose wheels. The system's savings come not from lower fuel burn but from quicker maneuvering on the ground. Planes can park sideways to terminals and unload and load from rear doors as well as front because there's no exhaust blast from engines.

Thirteen airlines—most of them low-cost discount carriers like Mexican airline Volaris—have reserved delivery positions for 731 aircraft, said Isaiah Cox, WheelTug's chief executive. He thinks the system will enter service in 2015, FAA-permitting. One attraction: WheelTug is offering the system free in exchange for a promise to pay the company half of what the airline saves.

That savings can come in many forms beyond lower fuel burn. Mr. Cox figures less time spent at gates means airlines will be able to operate more flights per day. In addition, WheelTug could let airlines squeeze in an extra takeoff at airports with curfews. If the curfew bans starting engines before 5 a.m., for example, a WheelTug-equipped plane could be waiting at the end of the runway to start engines at 5 a.m. and take off while other airplanes were still back at gates waiting to start engines.

"It guarantees first flight out," he said.

Friends of Animals sues agencies over snowy owls

An animal advocacy group, Friends of Animals, filed suit Monday against several federal agencies over the recently halted practice of shooting snowy owls near the runways of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The suit's defendants include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said Michael Harris, the attorney representing Darien-based Friends of Animals.

"The fact that they stopped the shooting doesn't make this a moot point," Harris said. "Not only could this program of shooting owls resume at any time, but also because we need to know their guidelines for shooting this and other animal species."

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which oversees JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports, said five planes at the three airports have struck snowy owls in recent weeks. 

Port Authority officials also said two snowy owls were shot before the practice was suspended; Friends of Animals puts the number at three in its lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. Federal Court, Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, Harris said. 

Snowy owls were spotted regionally this fall because their usual home turf this time of year, the tundra surrounding Hudson Bay, has seen a decline of their favorite food, the lemming.
This isn't called a migration but rather an irruption, which is when birds are seen in places where they don't usually frequent.

"People remember that owl from the Harry Potter movies," said Priscilla Feral, FOA's executive director. "There's outrage over this. It's kind of a sick idea. But that aside, we're saying in the lawsuit that the law does not protect this killing of the snowy owls, and that they have violated environmental laws in doing so."

Feral said there's a bird refuge adjacent to JFK, and airport administrators need to have better policies in place with regard to controlling wildlife.

"They have to stop thinking that everything that flies over the airport has to be shot," she said.

Terri Edwards, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers that her agency issues the permits to major airports that enable them to control threatening animal populations. The permits are issued annually under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"In almost all cases, non-lethal control efforts are used," Edwards said. "Noise, scare tactics, that kind of thing. But in certain cases -- when there's an emergency situation -- the permit does authorize lethal takes."

Edwards said, to her knowledge, it's up to the discretion of the airport to decide the best way to take care of the situation. Edwards said she couldn't comment on the FOA suit because it was just filed.
Just about everyone is in agreement that the Canada goose -- particularly the heavier, non-migratory variant of the species -- poses a threat to commercial aviation. The geese fly in formations of dozens, and each goose typically weighs about eight pounds or more.

But Feral is quick to point out that a snowy owl and a Canada goose are vastly different animals.
"For starters, the snowy owl doesn't fly in flocks," Feral said. "In fact, they prefer to stay away from one other."

Plus, there's not much to them, she explained.

"They're mostly feathers," Feral said. "Shave off the feathers, and there really isn't much there except for two big eyes."

All of that aside, could a snowy owl take down a Boeing 767? Not a chance, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

This is because all commercial aircraft engines must pass what's referred to in the industry as the "chicken test" as stated in Part 33, Subpart E, Section 33.76 of the FAA's "Airworthiness Standards: Aircraft Engines" regulations.

The regulations describe the bird ingestion tests that running turbofan engines must pass before they are certified. The tests are performed with engines operating "at no less than 100 percent takeoff power," and store-bought chickens are typically used to assess bird-strike performance.

"Engines are designed to withstand bird ingestion," Jim Peters, a spokesman for the New England Region of the FAA, told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers.

Still, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has assisted airports in various animal-control efforts since the 1980s, maintains that snowy owls -- those yellow-eyed, balls of white fluff -- do indeed pose a danger to flying machines. 

"In looking at records in the FAA's strike database, out of 66 birds (species), snowy owls rank 17th," said Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman for the USDA. "They can be damaging."

She said neither the USDA nor other "government agents" were directly involved in the owl shootings at JFK, despite some media reports to the contrary. 

Officials with the Port Authority said on Dec. 9 that they would implement a program to trap and relocate the birds.

"The Port Authority's goal is to strike a balance in humanely controlling bird populations at and around the agency's airports to safeguard passengers on thousands of aircraft each day," the agency said in a prepared statement.

The FOA lawsuit notes that the snowy owl is the darling of children, teens and young adults everywhere, thanks to the Harry Potter franchise of books, movies, dolls, accessories and such.

It's "a species widely familiar to children as Hedwig, the beloved pet of boy wizard Harry Potter ... ," the lawsuit states.

Iowa State Patrol Keeps Holiday Drivers Safe with "Eye in the Sky"

A driver that ends up in a ditch can go unseen for hours or even days. The Iowa State Patrol is out on the roads searching for stranded drivers every day, but sometimes that's not enough.

"People that end up in the ditch sometimes can't be seen from the interstate or the traveled portion of the highways," said Sgt. Scott Bright of the Iowa State Patrol.

Three people died this year in Iowa after being stranded in their cars for hours.

"Temperatures especially like today, 13 below zero, we're looking that if somebody's in the ditch, chances of them surviving are very, very slim," Bright said.

The state patrol scans ditches from their patrol cars every day, but sometimes the best way to see the roads is from the sky.

"We have a large field of view, we can see miles of roadway at a quick glance," said Senior Trooper Pilot Scott Pigsley.

The state patrol's seven pilots search from the skies on a regular basis, but because of the extreme cold, they'll now be out every day looking for anyone who needs help.

Pigsley has been patrolling Iowa from thousands of feet in the air since 1995.

"We'll call in stranded vehicles that might be occupied and have ground officers dispatch to those locations," Pigsley said.

Spotting a car that would be unseen from the roads gives pilots the chance to get anyone inside it out of the cold and potentially save their life.

In sub–zero temperatures it doesn't take long to get frostbite or even hypothermia. The state patrol said everyone should keep a charged cell phone with them when out on the roads as well as extra clothes or blankets.

Fremont County Airport (1V6) sports new taxiway: FAA covers 90 percent of $1.8 million project

Florence — It's been on the drawing board for four or five years.

In October, the Rocky Mountain Materials started work on the project, smoothing and building up the ground before paving it, which was completed Dec. 3.

On Dec. 20, the Fremont County Airport opened the new 4,800-foot taxi way parallel of the runway on the north side. The taxiway is not lighted so the company added the reflectors so airplanes stay on course.

"This was a federal project," said manager Richard Baker. "The total bill was $1.8 million."

He said the Federal Aviation Association paid 90 percent with the Colorado Aviation Administration and Fremont County split the other 10 percent to complete the taxi way.

He said Fremont County Commissioners Debbie Bell, Ed Norden and Tim Payne were in full support of the project.

"The taxi way will help with the flow of traffic when we have fire events and military traffic in here," Baker said. 

 A new taxiway adorns the Fremont County Airport. 

Grand County, Utah: Sheriff welcomes help from air ambulance

Search and rescue operations in Grand County’s backcountry areas can be tricky and time consuming.

But the average response time has improved dramatically since an air ambulance service opened a new base of operations in Moab, according to Grand County Sheriff Steve White.

Classic Lifeguard recently moved one of its medically configured Bell 407 helicopters to town, and in the few months since that time, it has already helped local law enforcement and Grand County Search and Rescue on half a dozen rescue missions.

“They’ve been a huge asset to us,” White said Dec. 20.

Classic Lifeguard’s helicopter team members were there, for instance, not long after Ammon McNeely almost severed his foot during a horrific Oct. 28 BASE jumping accident off Kane Creek Boulevard.

“They’re the ones who transported him to Grand Junction [for life-saving medical care],” White said.

In another incident, White said it took the company’s team about 12 minutes to reach a disoriented man who went missing in the Poison Spider area.

Frigid weather unexpectedly rolled in on the man, and rescuers were concerned that he might be at risk for hypothermia.

White estimated that it would have taken a conventional search and rescue team anywhere from six to eight hours to find the man. But Classic Lifeguard’s crew tracked him down in a matter of minutes with the help of night vision technology.

“It’s very nice to have that quick response,” White said.

The Woods Cross-based company got its start as a chartered tourist flight service that offered scenic trips over Bryce Canyon National Park. Its mission broadened over time to include medical evacuations in the Lake Powell area, as the National Park Service called on Classic crews for help.

Classic Tour Helicopters officially became Classic Lifeguard in May 1988, and since that time, the company expanded its base of operations from the Utah-Arizona border to Vernal and Riverton, Wyo.

The company’s latest expansion made sense because no one else has maintained a permanent, on-the-ground presence in Grand County, according to Zach Henderson of Classic Lifeguard.

“There really hasn’t been anyone out there, which is why we decided to move to Moab,” he said Dec. 12.

Company CEO Tony Henderson said in a statement that Classic Lifeguard is committed to serving Moab over the long haul.

“We continue to invest in our operations and the community and this move reinforces our commitment to operating in the safest possible environment with the greatest need for the community,” he said. “We look forward to being an even more important part of the solution for our community. We are grateful for the opportunities this move will have not only [for] our company, but the entire area.”

Read more: Moab Times-Independent - Sheriff welcomes help from air ambulance

A Classic Lifeguard helicopter lands along state Route 128 during a search and rescue mission earlier this year. The medical helicopter company set up shop in the Moab area several months ago and has been helping local law enforcement with backcountry rescue efforts. The service has dramatically reduced response times, especially in areas where reaching an injured person on foot could take several hours, according to Grand County Sheriff Steve White.

Nebraska: New state plane? Plans for one up in the air

LINCOLN, Neb. — Whether to buy a new state plane, which sparked a hot debate between the governor and state lawmakers last session, appears to be a political hot potato heading into the 2014 session.

A consultant hired by the Nebraska Legislature has concluded that the state needs to buy a turboprop plane capable of traversing the state, and that it makes the most financial sense to purchase a new one.

But it's up in the air if the governor or anyone in the Legislature will take the next step and ask for the $3.3 million or more to buy one when the session begins in January.

A trio of state lawmakers involved in the issue said they don't plan to make a budget request for a plane and said the issue is back in the hands of Gov. Dave Heineman, who had sought to buy a $2.1 million plane from the University of Nebraska Foundation.

"Right now, this is not a priority this upcoming session, unless it's a priority for the governor," said State Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, who heads the Appropriations Commit-tee, which crafts state budgets.

But a Heineman administration official said he figured senators had taken over the issue and would pursue a new plane, based on the study's recommendations, after the Legislature rejected the governor's idea and commissioned its own study.

"It's hard to interpret it any other way," said Gerry Oligmueller, who heads the governor's budget office.

It's unclear if the state plane issue will take off in the 2014 session, or be grounded for another year.

Purchases, and disposal, of state airplanes have generated controversy in other states.

When Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska, her sale of the governor's jet in 2007 was seen as a symbol of reducing government waste.

Years before that, in the 1990s, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad sold the state's three planes in a budget-cutting move, and began driving more and chartering planes when necessary.

State planes also have made headlines when they crashed or didn't work. Two governors have died in accidents involving state planes, and planes carrying Nebraska governors have slid off runways and struck geese in the past two decades.

In a bid to improve safety and to assist in getting around a big state, Heineman proposed buying a 12-year-old turboprop plane owned by the NU Foundation. The governor had been using the plane for several years, but it would have been the first purchase of a state plane in 31 years.

The Appropriations Committee first rejected and then recommended purchase of the foundation's plane.

But the idea hit turbulence when it was debated by the full Legislature. Some senators, led by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, a longtime military and private pilot, and Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas, questioned whether the asking price for the plane was too high and why the state wasn't considering buying new.

In the end, lawmakers opted to postpone the plane purchase and conduct a study by an expert in the business.

That $4,800 study by aviation consultants Conklin & de Decker was completed in September. It concluded that the Beechcraft King Air B200 offered by the NU Foundation for $2.1 million was overpriced by about $170,000 and that buying a new aircraft would make the most financial sense in the long term.

The analysis recommended buying a slightly smaller but more expensive five-passenger turboprop plane, a Beechcraft King Air C90GTx, at an estimated cost of $3.3 million to $3.7 million, to take advantage of a new-plane warranty and better long-term reliability.

An additional study, to determine how to charge for use of the plane and who should use it, is expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks.

"We've done the homework," Krist said. "The way the process should work at this point, if (the governor) should want a new airplane, he should request it."

Dubas, who is chairwoman of the Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, had proposed this spring buying a plane if the Legislature's study recommended it. But it was determined that lawmakers could not appropriate money on a contingency basis.

Last week, the senator said she doesn't plan to introduce a bill on her own to buy a plane. That's now the governor's call, she said.

"We've got some pretty big issues on our plate this session, and where does a plane fall?" Dubas said. "Probably on the periphery."

Currently, the governor is flying around the state in a seven-passenger, 1982 Piper Cheyenne, which Heineman had proposed selling.

Whether the governor will request money for a new plane is unclear. His spokeswoman, Jen Rae Wang, said she had nothing to add beyond the comments from the head of the governor's budget office.

Krist said he would be willing to introduce a bill if the governor asked him.

Omaha Sen. John Nelson, who supported the plane purchase this spring, said he was still disappointed that lawmakers didn't buy the NU Foundation plane, which was sold to a private buyer in late September. A foundation spokeswoman declined to reveal the purchase price.

The senator said he still thinks the state needs a plane but that he, too, probably has bigger priorities in 2014, his last year in office.