Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cowboys Trading & Rental Solutions clears plane crash site: LAM Linhas Aereas de Mocambique Embraer ERJ-190, C9-EMC, flight TM-470

Local company, Cowboy’s Trading & Rental Solutions, successfully completed the clearance of the site where the Mozambican plane, TM470, crashed in the Bwabwata National Park in the Zambezi Region in November last year.

Cowboy was contracted in January this year by Jan Vader of the BCG Aircraft Recoveries BV from the Netherland’s on behalf of the insurance brokers and lawyers involved in the LAM Mozambique TM470 crash.

Since March 3rd, Cowboy had to employ its logistics ability set up a remote base camp, provide the workforce of 25 men, expertise and equipment to take on the painstaking job to recover the plane’s parts and any remains from the site stretching 2,5km. 

All operations and work procedures were undertaken under the jurisdiction of the Namibian Aircraft Accident Investigation Division, headed by Captain Ericksson Nengola. Despite the rough terrain compounded by the rainy season, Cowboy’s managed the work in a record time, although it was the first time it  undertook such a project.

“Each day was an adventure in itself as the Kavango flood plains rose and made 4x4 access to the crash site a daily challenge. The crash site was divided into a grid formation, with each area having to be individually cleared. The rake teams were carefully guided to separate the aircraft components.

They were monitored to ensure that the proper bagging of the debris into specifically labelled bags. These bags were all registered by the BCG team. All recovered debris is now stored in a secure, airtight storage facility for the duration of the investigation,” said Ulla Büttner of Cowboy’s.

Captain Nengola expressed his satisfaction with the professionalism of the Cowboy’s team and was impressed by the high standards that have been set. An official from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Cletius Maketo approved the clearing and rehabilitation of the crash site and the base-camp by the end of last month.

Thirty-three people, all foreigners, died in the plane crash and their remains have been repatriated to Angola, Mozambique, and China.

NTSB Identification: DCA14RA018
Accident occurred Saturday, November 30, 2013 in Rundu, Namibia
Aircraft: EMBRAER ERJ190 - UNDESIGNAT, registration:
Injuries: 33 Fatal.

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

The Namibia Ministry of Works and Transport (MWT) has notified the NTSB of an accident involving an Embraer ERJ-190 that occurred on November 30, 2013. The NTSB has appointed a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the MWT investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13 as the State of Manufacturer and Design of the engines.

All investigative information will be released by the MWT. 

Embraer ERJ 190-100 IGW, Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique LAM, C9-EMC 

Masks for extra precaution were used to protect against carbon fiber. (Below) Cowboy’s 4 x 4 truck transporting the debris from site. 
Photos contributed 

Pennsylvania group sues Mercer freeholders, Frontier Airlines and Federal Aviation Administration over Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN) use

EWING — A Bucks County organization is taking the Mercer County Freeholder Board, Frontier Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration to court in an effort to compel the county to perform an environmental study on the Trenton-Mercer Airport operations.

Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management (BRRAM) has butted heads with the Mercer County government repeatedly in recent years over quality of life concerns related to the use of the Ewing airport. With the arrival of Frontier Airlines 18 months ago and its subsequent dramatic increase in passenger flights in and out of the airport, BRRAM has resumed its activism. On Monday it took legal action by filing a lawsuit in federal court.

BRRAM claims that the county is acting outside of the law by refusing to perform an environmental impact study. The study, which BRRAM claims the county should be required to perform under the National Environmental Protection Act, would look at how the airport affects surrounding communities and would be open for public comment.

“With increasing flights, you’re going to have increasing traffic at increasing hours of the day, and you’re going to impact quality of life,” said Holly Bussey, a spokeswoman for the organization. By June Frontier will have 73 weekly flights out of the airport to 17 different destinations.

The organization’s main concern is the impact of noise on the communities that sit underneath Frontier’s flight paths, she said. Some residents of surrounding communities find the noise created when planes fly over their homes to be a great nuisance, but the larger concern is that the continued expansion of flights from Trenton-Mercer will eventually threaten property values, Bussey said.

BRRAM did not want to resort to a lawsuit, but the county and the FAA have not been receptive to its concerns, Bussey said.

“We have made inquiries to the FAA and they have responded with no commitment or not at all,” Bussey said.

The county has not been any more cooperative, she said.

BRRAM is joined in the lawsuit by a number of individual residents of the towns surrounding the airport in both Bucks and Mercer counties, according to court documents. They have also won the support of the Yardley Borough Council and are working with Lower Makefield Township, Bussey said.

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes has held firm to the position that the introduction of Frontier to the airport and the company’s growing list of destinations does not warrant an environmental impact study.

“We feel we’ve done everything to comply with the FAA regulations, including the environmental regulations,” Hughes said.

Hughes said he does not believe that the county is required to perform an impact study unless they expand the runway or the terminal at the airport. While the county invested in the renovation of both last year, it did not expand either, he said.

If compelled to by the FAA or the federal court in Trenton, the county would perform the study, but Hughes said that the airport would remain open during the process.

While Hughes understands that BRRAM has concerns over the increased flights from the airport, he said that situation has improved since previous commercial airlines used the space. The planes that Frontier flies are quieter than the ones past carriers brought in, he said.

“We don’t think we’re adding significantly to the pollution standards or the volume,” Hughes said.

A Frontier spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

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'I had the honor of flying your brave son' - Captain S Srinivasan: Air India pilot who flew Major’s body home writes moving letter to parents

Captain Srinivasan, whose letter to slain army major Varadarajan's parents went viral on Monday, says it was meant as a personal gesture of comfort. 

Major Mukund Varadarajan. Photo courtesy: Facebook.

Captain S Srinivasan, the Air India pilot who flew the body of Major Mukund Varadarajan from Delhi to Chennai on Tuesday, said he was saddened by the manner in which his letter to the major's parents got leaked.

Varadarajan was killed in an encounter with militants in South Kashmir's Shopian on Friday. In his condolence letter to Varadarajan's parents, Srinivasan addressed them as "Dearest Father and Mother' and said it was an honour to fly the martyr's body.

Varadarajan was cremated at an electric crematorium in Besant Nagar, Chennai, on Monday. He is survived by his three-year-old daughter Arsheya, wife Indhu Rebecca Varghese and parents R Varadarajan and Geetha.

Interestingly, Srinivasan, who has been flying with the national carrier for more than a decade, secured an admission to the National Defence Academy in Khadakwasla in the 1990s but did not join due to personal reasons.

Still disturbed by how a personal condolence message went viral online on Monday, Srinivasan now plans to meet Varadarajan's family later in the week to get back his "lost peace of mind."

"I am also curious to know how it got out," Srinivasan told Mirror. "It was a letter written from my heart with no intention of creating news."

Recalling Monday's flight, Srinivasan said he was aware that he would be carrying a martyr's remains the moment he saw men in army fatigues boarding the flight. "I was aware of the encounter at Shopian and that a Chennai-based Major was killed in battle," said Srinivasan. "When the passenger and cargo information came for my signature, I confirmed what I suspected. Though we often fly human remains, I was moved by the occasion."

As the aircraft reached cruising altitude, Srinivasan sent across a cabin crew member to speak to Major Srikantan, who was the Indian Army's protocol officer accompanying the coffin. But Major Srikantan was asleep. Srinivasan, a young father himself, decided not to disturb the officer.

That is when, he said, he took an instant decision and grabbed a piece of paper in the cockpit to pen down his 'words of comfort' in less than two minutes.

Addressing R Varadarajan and Geetha as 'Dearest Father and Mother', Srinivasan wrote: "I had the honour of flying your brave son from Delhi to Chennai. I send my sincerest condolences and pranams to both of you, please accept them. May God bless Mukund's soul and give you strength. Please think of me as 1 of your sons."

On landing in Chennai, Srinivasan handed over the letter to Major Srikantan and asked him to hand it over to Varadarajan's parents. 


Alva Regional Airport (KAVK), Oklahoma

Alva Regional Airport has a breakfast fly-in every third Saturday of the Spring and Summer provided weather is decent.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Paulding County, Georgia: Feds seeking comments on airport plans review

Those wishing to tell federal officials what the officials should address in their review of plans for commercial airline service at Paulding’s Silver Comet Field airport have until May 21 to mail or email comments.

The Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an environmental assessment of the planned expansion of the airport and began a 30-day comment period recently for those interested in submitting written or emailed comments on what should be included.

Comments can be mailed or emailed to:

- Atlanta Airports District Office, Attn: Lisa Favors, Env. Program Manager, 1701 Columbia Ave., Suite 2-260, Atlanta, GA 30337-2747.


The agency will organize at least one public meeting in Paulding County after it completes the assessment, according to a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment of the county airport authority’s request for a federal operating certificate to allow commercial passenger flights. The notice was filed in the Federal Register.

The assessment is being done as part of a settlement of six Paulding residents’ legal challenge to the federal agency’s earlier approval of a taxiway and runway expansion project at the airport on Rockmart Highway in Dallas.

A private company announced in October it planned to recruit an airline to provide limited passenger service to the airport. In November, residents challenged the approval because they said it did not satisfy a federal law requiring a detailed environmental review of airports converting to commercial status.

The residents and the federal agency settled the legal action in late December after the agency agreed to conduct the environmental assessment.

However, it led to a delay in construction of projects like a new fire station that also would serve the airport — and include space for a new county 911 center — until the assessment is completed.

Read more: Neighbor Newspapers - Feds seeking comments on airport plans review

Hillsboro, Kansas: Council may open airport to aerial sprayers

The Hillsboro City Coun­cil agreed in principle at its April 22 meeting to a proposal that would open the municipal airport as a base for aerial spraying operations.

Mike Kleiber, owner of Ag Service Inc., said his company would like to use the local airport because it would reduce flying time and the expense for producers who want fungicide applied to fields in the area.

Ag Ser­vice has contracted the aerial services of Tyree Ag Inc., based in Kingsley. The planes have been flying the past three years out of the Marion airport, which has a runway that is 600 feet shorter than Hillsboro’s runway.

The shorter runway impacts the takeoff operations of the firm’s pilots, City Admini­strator Larry Paine reported.

Paine said Hillsboro currently has a provision in the city code that prohibits aerial spraying operation from using the airport. The ban was initiated after a spraying company damaged the runway and grounds by not following appropriate procedures.

Paine said core drilling by engineers has indicated the Hillsboro runway can handle planes weighing up to 12,500 pounds. A plane fully loaded with fungicide would weigh less than that, according to Tim Tyree, Tyree Ag owner, who was present at the meeting.

The proposal had been reviewed by the Airport Board. Chairman Lyle Leppke suggested that the city consider a one-year trial period.

In response to questions from the council, Tyree said the fungicide would not pose a chemical threat if a spill would occur. He also said planes could veer away from residential areas upon takeoff.

The only inconvenience to residents, Tyree suggested, could be noise as planes take off and land.

Mayor Delores Dalke suggested that the city ask aerial spraying companies to apply for a city permit to use the airport—much like contractors do for housing projects. That way, she said, the city could deny companies that have an unsatisfactory performance record.

Kleiber said timing could be an issue. If it were to start raining for a few days, the need to apply fungicide would develop quickly. But in lieu of that, the council likely will take action to repeal the current ordinance and approve a new one at the next meeting.

If it would happen to rain sufficiently before that meeting, planes could use the Marion airport again as they have the past three years.


St. Lucie County International Airport (KFPR), Fort Pierce, Florida

No injuries reported after plane crashes at St. Lucie County International Airport

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — Engine trouble during a training flight led to a rough emergency landing for a flight instructor and his student Tuesday, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said.

Neither the pilot, Lloyd Goodsen, 48, of Sebastian, nor his student, Marcus Goli, 20, of Duxbury, Massachusetts, were injured during the emergency landing just short of a runway at St. Lucie International Airport, officials said. The landing, about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, damaged the front landing gear.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

Goodsen is an instructor for Aviation College, based at the airport. He was flying a twin-engine Beechcraft Duchess plane — owned by the college — and was teaching Goli how to pilot the aircraft with just one engine, the Sheriff’s Office said. When he tried to restart the disabled engine, it failed, deputies said.

The plane came just 15 feet short of an unused runway as Goodsen made the emergency landing.

Paramedics from the St. Lucie County Fire District responded to the scene, but both Goodsen and Goli declined treatment, spokesman Catherine Chaney said.


ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- No one was injured when a plane made a forced landing at St. Lucie International Airport, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office. 

On board were Lloyd G. Goodsen, 48, of Sebastian, a pilot/instructor and student Marcus A. Goli, 20, of Duxbury, Mass.

Goodsen was illustrating how to fly the plane with one engine disabled in windy conditions, according to the sheriff's office.  After disabling one engine, Goodsen was unable to re-start the engine and tried to land on a runway that was not currently in use but he came up 15 feet short, the sheriff's office said. The propeller hit the ground and the front landing gear was damaged.

The Federal Aviation Administration was notified and is sending an investigator from Orlando, according to the sheriff's office.


Feds recommend cutting subsidy to Hagerstown Regional Airport (KHGR) - Affected airports have 20 days to object to the proposed order and apply for a waiver

The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing to cut a federal subsidy for air service at 13 small airports, including Hagerstown Regional Airport, that could eliminate Sun Air International’s daily commuter service, according to an order issued Thursday.

The order states that the Federal Aviation Administration’s Essential Air Service, or EAS, subsidy should be eliminated for Hagerstown, because the airport falls short of new requirements — approved in 2012 — that call for an average of 10 enplanements per day.

The local airport, located off Showalter Road north of Hagerstown, is within the 175-mile threshold of another major hub, Washington Dulles International Airport, which makes the regional facility subject to the 10-enplanement requirement, under the DOT order.

During federal fiscal 2013, Hagerstown generated a total of 2,419 passengers — inbound and outbound — aboard twice-daily Sun Air flights to and from Dulles, resulting in an average of 3.9 enplanements per day, figures show.

The affected airports have 20 days to object to the proposed order and apply for a waiver, which could be granted by the department.

Washington County officials on Tuesday supported filing a letter opposing the proposed cuts.

Hagerstown airport Director Phil Ridenour urged the Washington County Board of Commissioners to support writing a letter of objection, saying Sun Air has had a lackluster record in the past, but a new management team that took over in October 2013 appears to be turning a corner.

Ridenour told the commissioners that a new chief executive officer has taken over the company, and a new marketing team is actively promoting the twice-daily service in the community.

Sun Air’s reliability dropped to about 20 percent with many canceled flights under previous management, but that figure has shot back up to nearly 100 percent, Ridenour said.

He said that on-time flight rates are “fantastic,” and operations have improved substantially.

Commissioner John F. Barr said that keeping the service is important to the community despite its low enplanement numbers. He likened it to customers getting a bad meal at a restaurant, making them reluctant to return.

“With the former management as bad as it was, I know folks like myself couldn’t depend on it, so you kind of put it in the back of your mind ... once you’ve had a bad experience,” he said. “It just takes a little while to turn over a new leaf, and for the business community in general to reaccept it.”

Previous providers that flew out of Hagerstown had enplanement numbers over 10 per day, Ridenour said. He is confident that Sun Air can achieve the same under new management.

In emailed statements, U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., as well as U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., all supported the county’s decision to object to the cuts.

“I’m on the side of the Hagerstown airport and of economic development in Western Maryland,” Mikulski said. “We know from FAA data that the airport exceeded the enplanement threshold from 2010 to 2012, qualifying for federal support through the Essential Air Service program. ... Hopefully, the huge dip in 2013 enplanements was a temporary decline that would afford the airport a waiver, which I will support.”

Cardin said the airport is an “essential transportation hub” for the county and the entire Western Maryland region.

Delaney noted that the EAS subsidy would limit the airport’s job creation and economic development potential.

“I fully support the airport’s request for a waiver, and I will make that support clear to the Department of Transportation,” he said. “The data suggests that the airport’s lower number of enplanements is likely temporary, and that other extenuating circumstances led to a dip in reported traffic.”

If Sun Air service is terminated at Hagerstown airport, it would cost the facility around $30,000 in annual revenues, Ridenour told the commissioners.

That would include about $15,000 in landing fees, $8,700 in fuel fees and $6,000 in terminal rent, as well as the loss of a handful of local employees, he said.

The proposed EAS funding cut would not affect twice-weekly flights to Orlando, Fla., via Allegiant Air, Ridenour said.

The EAS program was established under the Airline Deregulation Act, passed in 1978, to ensure small communities are served by air carriers with scheduled service, according to the DOT website.

The federal agency currently subsidizes commuter airlines that serve about 163 rural communities across the country that otherwise would not have any scheduled air service, the website said.

The federal subsidy to the airline provides up to $200 per passenger on each flight, offsetting the low cost of airfare to consumers, Ridenour said.

Other airports identified for elimination of EAS subsidies include three in Pennsylvania, two each in Georgia and California, and five others in Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Mississippi, Tennessee. 


Drones Above Us

Amazon’s ambitious plan to use drones to deliver your purchases sounds like a pie-in-the-sky idea, but drones are already being used in Connecticut. Now a recent court decision is throwing the FAA’s regulations on drone use up in the air.

In March, a National Transportation Safety Board judge dismissed a Federal Aviation Administration levied ten-thousand dollar fine against commercial aerial drone photographer, Raphael Pirker.

The FAA accused Pirker of flying his 5-pound Styrofoam glider in a “reckless and dangerous manner” when he shot video at the University of Virginia Medical Center for an advertising agency in 2011.

Pirker’s attorney’s argued the FAA had no authority over the regulation of drones, or small unmanned aerial systems. Arguing the FAA’s assertion that drones can’t be used for commercial use are based on 1981 voluntary guidelines meant for model aircraft hobbyists.

The judge ruled with Pirker. The FAA is now appealing the decision.
Quinnipiac law professor John Thomas believes the ruling is comparable to the dawn of the Internet age for drone technology. He calls the current state of drone regulation the “Wild West” and believes the case will be upheld on appeal.

“Under the FAA’s contentions, says the judge, the FAA regulatory authority would extend to paper airplanes,” Thomas said.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters found that drone technology is already being used in the public and private sectors here in Connecticut.

Drones have been spotted over a quarry in Branford. With the fire approaching sheds filled with dynamite at a granite company, Branford Fire Chief Jack Ahern asked one of his volunteers, Peter Sachs, a drone hobbyist, to give him a bird’s eye view before sending in any firefighters.
It worked and the firefighters were able to put out the fire and return hundreds of evacuated residents back to their homes within hours.

“The chief did say that the flight itself made all the difference whether they could send firefighters in safely,” said Sachs, who authors a blog

That successful flight led to the owner of the granite company donating a drone to the department. It’s been used once – to rescue a lost puppy in a marsh. It's a situation Ahern calls “a perfect test case.”

“We really look at this as public safety and I don’t think the FAA is going to go against public safety,” said Ahern, who does not believe they are defying the FAA by its use of the drone in rescue operations.

A drone is also being used to help market luxury homes in Fairfield County.
New Canaan Realtor Mark Pires says he’s picked up several listings based solely on his creative pictures and videos. He says the Pirker case gives him more confidence that he is in the right.

“People that are coming to buy a house like this, they’re looking online first,” said Pires. “If they’re not taken by what they see online first, then it's six seconds and on to the next house.”

A drone was also spotted over a fatal car crash in Hartford. The drone photographer, a freelance journalist who says he was off-duty at the time, is currently suing the Hartford Police Department over their brief confiscation of the three pound quadcopter.

The New York City based attorney for Pirker, Brendan Schulman, says his client has caught the attention of the FAA before. Most notably, after posting drone video from a joy ride over downtown Manhattan. He says the reason for the fine this time was the fact that Pirker got paid to shoot the video at UVA Medical School.
“I do think the case has started a national dialogue about how we should regulate, whether we should regulate,” said Schulman, who heads a special drone law division at his midtown Manhattan law firm, Kramer Levin Naftalis and Frankel. “It’s a discussion we should have had a long time ago.”

Last week, Schulman sued the FAA on behalf of a Texas-based volunteer search and rescue group. The suit alleges that the FAA told Texas EquuSearch to “stop immediately” with their use of a drone to assist in their searches for missing persons. The suit says the company has assisted in over 1,400 missing persons cases and have found 300 missing people alive.
When reached for a response to the lawsuit, the FAA wrote:

"The FAA is reviewing the appeal. The agency approves emergency Certificates of Authorization (COAs) for natural disaster relief, search and rescue operations and other urgent circumstances, sometimes in a matter of hours. We are not aware that any government entity with an existing COA has applied for an emergency naming Texas EquuSearch as its contractor."

The FAA tells the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that they plan on releasing a draft proposal for the operation of small drones by the end of this year, with the hope being that regulations will be in place by the end of 2015.

With them, some scholars believe our notion of privacy will be greatly changed.
“We got get this Orwellian notion of big brother, but it’s not really just big brother,” said Thomas. “We’re gonna have little brother, little sister, annoying neighbor, the paparazzi. It transforms, sort of, an entire social life in our country from a legal perspective, commercial perspective and from a personal privacy perspective.”

As for those federal regulations, Thomas would not be surprised if the FAA never issues any regulations regarding drones, leaving states to enact their own individual sets of laws.

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After years buried in Everglades, another warplane mystery solved

Hidden in the dense sawgrass or buried in the deep muck of the Everglades are the mysterious wrecks of numerous aircraft.

Some were drug planes that fled federal agents, others were private aircraft that ran into trouble or vintage warplanes that crashed during exercises.

No one knows for sure how many remain out there. Estimates range from less than a dozen to more than 50. But, a group of volunteer aviation sleuths, has resolved to find — or learn the story behind — as many of the wrecks as possible.

Their most recent find occurred about three weeks ago, when air boaters spotted the wreckage of a Marine AD-4 Skyraider in northwest Broward County. From photos taken of the plane's bureau number, the group was able to determine the single-engine attack was piloted by First Lt. Norman Dolsen, 27, and crashed on May 19, 1955.

"He was just married two weeks before the crash," said Andy Marocco, president of

The group was actually trying to find the TBM-3 Avenger flown by the commander of Flight 19, also known as "the Lost Patrol."

That was the squadron of five Navy torpedo bombers that vanished after taking off from Fort Lauderdale in 1945, popularizing the myth of the Bermuda Triangle.

While many aviation buffs believe the plane was lost over the Atlantic Ocean, "until Flight 19 is found elsewhere, the possibility remains the planes could still be in the Everglades, and we'll continue to look for them there," Marocco said.

The aviation enthusiasts use historical clues, air boater sightings and Google Earth satellite imagery to locate planes. Yet spotting them isn't easy.

"It's almost like a wheat field in Kansas, just miles and miles of sawgrass, blowing in the breeze," said Brett Holcombe, president of the Broward County Airboat Halftrack and Conservation Club and an Aeroquest member. "It's literally like searching for a needle in a haystack."

Compounding the problem, air boaters and hunters sometimes take pieces of wreckage for souvenirs.

Ron Bergeron, commissioner for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and an avid outdoorsman, said he has observed several wrecks hidden in the swamp in the past six decades, including warplanes.

He said in the 1940s and 1950s, Navy and Marine aircraft used to make practice bomb runs in an area not far from the Sawgrass Recreation Park, off U.S. 27, north of Interstate 75.

"I've even found the old bombs in certain areas, where they were taking target practice," he said.

In the most recent find, Marocco learned the details after obtaining a Marine accident report based on the plane's bureau number.

It said Dolsen had been practicing high-G maneuvers with three other planes. While at about 1,000 feet, he blacked out and lost control of the plane.

The Marine Corps at the time recovered the body but left the wreckage in the swamp. It was essentially forgotten for 59 years until the air boaters rediscovered its wings, tail section and landing gear.

Earlier this month, Marocco solved another Everglades case when he verified that a torpedo bomber originally found in far west Broward in 1989 had crashed in March 1947 and that its pilot, Ens. Ralph Wachob, was killed.

Wachob, 26, of Fort Lauderdale, a Naval Reserve officer, had been en route from Miami to Tampa on a navigational exercise when he flew into bad weather, developed vertigo and lost control of the aircraft.

Initially, Marocco and fellow aviation sleuth Jon Myhre thought that plane was flown by Lt. Charles Taylor, the Flight 19 leader. However, from photos originally taken in 1989, Marocco was able to confirm that wasn't the case.

In addition to the Avenger and the Skyraider, Holcombe said he knows of two other wrecks in the Everglades of west Broward, both involving small private planes. One was too mangled to determine why it went down. The other is a red, white and blue twin-Cessna that crashed about 30 years ago.

"The story behind it is that the pilot left a suicide note in his car, took off in his plane and flew straight into the swamp," Holcombe said.

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Federal Aviation Administration: Ad-dragging drone plan won't fly

A Philadelphia entrepreneur who wants to use small drones to fly advertising above the city cannot do so without authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, an FAA spokesman said Tuesday.

DroneCast, a company formed by a 19-year-old former Drexel student, says it will use small, remote-controlled aircraft to carry advertising banners about 25 feet above the ground, according to the company's website.

But that plan flies in the face of FAA rules, which require any commercial use of U.S. airspace to use a licensed pilot, a certified aircraft, with FAA authority.

"It does not sound like it would meet those requirements," FAA spokesman Les Dorr said Tuesday. He said he did not know if the FAA has been notified of DroneCast's plans or if an effort is underway to ground the company's drones.


Kalamazoo's Air Zoo begins restoration of 'Wildcat' WWII fighter

KALAMAZOO — The restoration of a General Motors/Eastern Aircraft Division FM-2 “Wildcat” fighter that sat upside down on the bottom of Lake Michigan for 68 years has officially begun at the Air Zoo.

With work on the mangled World War II fighter beginning in February of this year, Air Zoo president and CEO Troy Thrash said that Air Zoo volunteers have been eager to begin restoring the aircraft since its arrival to the museum in August 2013.

“Our restoration team was champing at the bit,” Thrash told the Kalamazoo Gazette. “It’s like taking a kid into a candy store and not allowing the kid to get candy and just say, ‘You’re going to be in here for five months.’ So having that airplane here, they were so excited to work on it, so as soon as we got that green light they were rolling and they’re doing some wonderful work already.”

Thrash said that one of the reasons that the Air Zoo was chosen to restore this aircraft was because it would serve as a way to educate and engage the community. Air Zoo volunteers will be working to restore the plane over the course of the next four to five years.

“We didn’t really want to do restoration for restoration’s sake,” Thrash said. “We wanted to really expand this to become a community education project. The opportunity to say that I was a part of that restoration and that I helped to sand that wing or I helped to clean something or I turned a wrench or I drove a rivet or something like that we thought would be a fantastic piece of community engagement.”

On April 3, a group of students from the West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids came to the Air Zoo and worked alongside restoration volunteers in order to learn about the Wildcat and what it will take to restore the aircraft.

“Just being able to be around these (aircraft) shows the great opportunity and appreciation we have for the aircraft history and bringing that back to see how far we have advanced, from nothing,” 16-year-old academy sophomore Daniel Herweyer said.

The Wildcat, Bureau Number 57039, was being used for aircraft carrier landing and takeoff training on Dec. 28, 1944, when a problem with the aircraft’s engine caused Ensign William Forbes to leave the deck of the U.S.S. Sable, operating in Lake Michigan, without sufficient flying speed.

The aircraft struck the water and was then run over and cut in half by the oncoming Sable. Forbes survived the crash and completed his training.

The Wildcat sank, upside down, in roughly 200 feet of water where it rested for decades.

The aircraft was discovered in the mid-1990s and was removed by Chicago-based A & T Recovery on Dec. 7, 2012.

The Wildcat came to the Air Zoo last year.

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The Arkansas Tornado Footage The Federal Aviation Administration Doesn't Want You To See

Storm chaser and videographer Brian Emfinger used a drone to capture stunning video documenting the aftermath of a tornado that ripped through Arkansas.  His use of a drone to capture the footage raises questions about the FAA’s expansive claim of authority to prohibit this valuable form of news gathering.  Emfinger shot the footage just moments after a tornado struck Mayflower, Arkansas, one of the hardest hit areas in the state located just forty minutes north of Little Rock.

Estimates place the size of the tornado at nearly a half mile wide, the storm left a wide swath of destruction in its wake, shutting down the interstate in both directions and killing fourteen people.  While the winds associated with the storm reached up to 150 miles per hour, Emfinger was able to use the drone almost immediately after the storm’s winds subsided.

Drones are an ideal platform for quickly gathering information in the aftermath of storms and other calamities as they can be quickly deployed by storm trackers like Emfinger.  Drones are also an ideal way to conduct search and rescue operations, especially after a tornado when debris may block access to areas where survivors may be found.   The speed with which Emfinger deployed his drone shows how it is an obvious tool for first responders.

Despite the clear value of drones in disaster response and search and rescue operations, one search and rescue group based out of Texas has been forbidden from flying their drones in search and rescue operations, prompting them to sue the federal government.  That case has sent a message to all would be search and rescue groups, letting them know they should keep their drones grounded, lest they face fines for trying to help find lost persons.

Read more here:

Lamar track stars recount deadly plane crash: Beechcraft 65, N968Q

John Fuller awoke to the news of his own death.

Not many knew he had left the Drake Relays a day early, ahead of the rest of the Lamar track team.

"Is this the home of John Fuller?," the voice on the other end of the line asked.

The phone call came at about 2 a.m. on April 28, 1968. It was a Sunday.

"Yes, this is him," Fuller responded.

"No, no. I'm looking for John Fuller, the athlete from Lamar."

"Yes, this is him," Fuller clarified.

The call was intended for his wife, to tell her that her husband had died in a plane crash an hour-and-a-half earlier. Everyone on-board was killed.

Fuller had no idea that five of his teammates and his coach were gone.

"John, they're all dead."

What Could Have Been

Joe Lee Smith had flown with Winston McCall before.

"He was a good pilot," said Smith, Lamar University's sports information director from 1963-89.

According to a National Transportation Safety Board report, McCall, 46, had logged 4,900 hours of flight time.

This wasn't his first time making a round-trip to Beaumont Municipal Airport.

The aircraft that night was a Beechcraft Queen Air 65 with twin propeller engines.

McCall was attempting his initial landing when the plane crashed at 12:15 a.m. in a rice field a mile short of the airport.

A fire started on impact and the ensuing explosion produced a heat so intense that firemen had difficulty approaching the wreckage.

The NTSB lists the cause of the crash as "MISCELLANEOUS-UNDETERMINED."

However, the commonly-accepted theory is that McCall had a heart attack.

Under remarks, the report notes that an autopsy found that McCall had coronary arteriosclerosis, a condition that narrows and blocks arteries to the heart.

Seven people were on the flight: McCall, Lamar track coach Ty Terrell and five student-athletes - Randy Clewis, Don Laune, Waverly Thomas and Beaumont residents Mike Favazza and John Richardson.

The team was returning from the Drake Relays, an annual track meet in Iowa that drew some of the best collegiate track teams from across the country, like the University of Texas and Kansas.

Read more and photo gallery:

NTSB Identification: FTW68A0090
14 CFR Part 91 General Aviation
Aircraft: BEECH 65, registration: N968Q
 FILE    DATE          LOCATION          AIRCRAFT DATA       INJURIES       FLIGHT                        PILOT DATA
                                                               F  S M/N     PURPOSE
3-2404  68/4/28    BEAUMONT,TEX        BEECH 65            CR-  1  0  0  NONCOMMERCIAL             COMMERCIAL, AGE 46, 4900
        TIME - 0015                    N968Q               PX-  6  0  0  PLEASURE/PERSONAL TRANSP  TOTAL HOURS, 40 IN TYPE,
                                       DAMAGE-DESTROYED    OT-  0  0  0                            INSTRUMENT RATED.
        TYPE OF ACCIDENT                                         PHASE OF OPERATION

LETTER: Don't Cut Blue Angels From Show; Their Noise Is the Sound of Freedom


Recently, Jim Phillips wrote that he felt the Navy's Blue Angels should be excluded from Lakeland's Sun 'n Fun ["Cut Blue Angels From Show," April 11].

A U.S. soldier in combat coined the phrase "Jet noise is the sound of freedom." It is more than applicable in rebuttal to the letter from Mr. Phillips suggesting the Blue Angels should perform elsewhere.

Were it not for American military aviators, such as the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds, the noise you hear overhead, someday, could be that of an enemy bomber preparing to annihilate your neighborhood.

Performing service to their country, the Blue Angels defend and boldly support your constitutional right to express disagreement with their appearance at Lakeland's Sun 'n Fun festivities. There are oppressed people in many countries who would willingly sacrifice everything — including life itself — to hear the "freedom noise" from a Blue Angel jet.

For selection as a Blue Angel pilot, the candidate must be able to fly and land on an aircraft carrier and have 1,250 jet flight hours, as well as complete a three-year tour in a jet fighter squadron.

If your house were an object floating in water at 30 knots, these pilots could land in the space of your living room without disturbing dinner in the dining room.

Millions of Americans have been inspired by Blue Angel performances. Their purpose is not to put on a carnival-like show, but to project pride in our country, to demonstrate excellent competency in their chosen profession and to follow their service traditions.

Americans should be proud of our military pilots who serve and should continue to have opportunities to see them perform. If these pilots are willing to commit their time, careers and three years of duty as Blue Angels, surely a few hours of noise should bring to you and your neighbors the sound of freedom.



Letter and comments/reaction:

Piper PA-32R-300 Cherokee Lance, N8700E: Accident occurred April 27, 2014 in Highmore, South Dakota

NTSB Identification: CEN14FA22414 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 27, 2014 in Highmore, SD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/27/2015
Aircraft: PIPER PA 32R-300, registration: N8700E
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

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

During a dark night cross-country flight, the instrument-rated pilot was approaching the intended airport for landing when the airplane collided with the blades of a wind turbine tower. The weather had started to deteriorate and precipitation echoes were observed on radar. Witnesses in the area described low clouds, windy conditions, and precipitation. In addition, weather briefing records and statements made to a witness indicate that the pilot was aware of the current and forecast weather conditions for the route of flight. Investigators were unable to determine why the airplane was operating at a low altitude; however, the pilot was likely attempting to remain clear of the clouds even though both the pilot and the airplane were capable of flying in instrument meteorological conditions. An examination of the airplane, systems, and engine revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Toxicology findings revealed a small amount of ethanol in the pilot’s blood, which was unlikely due to ingestion since no ethanol was found in liver or muscle tissue. The investigation revealed that the wind turbine farm was not marked on either sectional chart covering the accident location; however, the pilot was familiar with the area and with the wind turbine farm. Investigators were not able to determine what the pilot was using for navigation just before the accident. The light on the wind turbine tower that was struck was not operational at the time of the accident, and the outage was not documented in a notice to airmen. The wind turbine that was struck was the 5th tower in a string of towers oriented east to west, then the string continued south and southwest with an additional 13 towers. If the pilot observed the lights from the surrounding wind turbines, it is possible that he perceived a break in the light string between the wind turbines as an obstacle-free zone.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's decision to continue the flight into known deteriorating weather conditions at a low altitude and his subsequent failure to remain clear of an unlit wind turbine. Contributing to the accident was the inoperative obstruction light on the wind turbine, which prevented the pilot from visually identifying the wind turbine


On April 27, 2014, about 2116 central daylight time (CDT), a Piper PA-32R-300 airplane, N8700E, was destroyed during an impact with the blades of a wind turbine tower 10 miles south of Highmore, South Dakota. The commercial pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan. The flight originated from Hereford Municipal Airport (KHRX), Hereford, Texas, approximately 1700, and was en route to Highmore Municipal Airport (9D0), Highmore, South Dakota.

According to family members, the pilot and three passengers had been in Texas for business. The pilot's family reported that they had intended to leave earlier in the day, on the day of the accident, but elected to delay, and subsequently left later than they had planned. The family stated that most likely, the flight was going to stop at 9D0 to drop off one passenger before continuing to Gettysburg Municipal Airport (0D8), Gettysburg, South Dakota.

A fixed base operator employee at KHRX witnessed the pilot fuel the accident airplane at the self-serve fuel pump just prior to the accident flight. He reported that the fuel batch report showed 82.59 gallons of fuel had been dispensed. The pilot commented to the employee that he was going to "top it off" as he had "pushed his luck on the trip down." The pilot also discussed the weather conditions in South Dakota, noting that it was raining there. The pilot also added that the only reason they were leaving was because one of the passengers was anxious to get home.

The pilot contacted the Fort Worth Lockheed Martin Contract Flight Service Station at 1711 when the airplane was 38 miles west of Borger, Texas, on a direct flight to North Platte, Nebraska. The pilot requested and obtained an abbreviated weather briefing. During this briefing, winds aloft and weather advisories for the reported route of flight were provided. The pilot also provided a pilot report for his position.

At 1812 the pilot sent a text stating that they were "Into KS aways" (sic). At 1923 he sent a text stating that they were "into NE". At 2054 he stated that they were flying by Chamberlain, South Dakota.

Several witnesses in the area reported seeing an airplane fly over their homes the evening of the accident. The first witness, located near the shore of the Missouri River, near Fort Thompson, South Dakota, reported seeing an airplane about 200 feet above the ground, flying to the northeast, about 2045. He stated that the airplane was low and was moving quickly. The second witness, located a few miles southwest of the accident site, reported seeing an airplane flying at a very low altitude, headed north, about 2115. Neither witness reported hearing problems with the engine.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airplane was reported missing by a concerned family member when the airplane did not arrive in Gettysburg, South Dakota, on the evening of April 27, 2014. The wreckage of the airplane was located by members of the Hyde County Fire Department and the Hyde County Sheriff's department around 0330 on the morning of April 28, 2014. The pilot was not communicating with air traffic control at the time of the accident and radar data for the accident flight was not available.


Wind turbine tower #14, part of the South Dakota Wind Energy Center owned by NextEra Energy Resources, was damaged during the accident sequence. One of the three blades was fragmented into several large pieces. One large piece remained partially attached to a more inboard section of the turbine blade. The inboard piece of this same turbine blade remained attached at the hub to the nacelle. The outboard fragmented pieces of the wind turbine blade were located in a radius surrounding the base of the wind turbine tower. The other two wind turbine blades exhibited impact damage along the leading edges and faces of the blades.


The pilot, age 30, held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, multiengine land, and instrument ratings. He was issued a second class airman medical certificate without limitations on January 19, 2014. The pilot was a professional agricultural pilot and had flown agricultural airplanes in the area for several seasons.

The family provided investigators the pilot's flight logbook. The logbook covered a period between April 22, 2010, and April 20, 2014. He had logged no less than 3,895.8 hours total time; 100.7 hours of which were in the make and model of the accident airplane and 95.1 hours of which were in the accident airplane. This time included 76.2 hours at night, 1.1 hours of which had been recorded within the previous 90 days. The pilot was current for flight with passengers at night. He successfully completed the requirements of a flight review on January 18, 2013. He successfully completed an instrument proficiency check in a PA-32R on February 7, 2014.

According to the FAA, the pilot was familiar with the accident area. Specifically, the pilot was familiar with the wind turbine farm and had expressed his concern about the wind turbine farm to the FAA Flight Standards District Office in Rapid City, South Dakota. The details of his concerns were not available.


The accident airplane, a Piper PA-32R-300 (serial number 32R-7680159), was manufactured in 1976. It was registered with the FAA on a standard airworthiness certificate for normal operations. A Lycoming IO-540-K1G5D engine rated at 300 horsepower at 2,700 rpm powered the airplane. The engine was equipped with a 2-blade Hartzell propeller. The airplane was equipped and certified for flight in instrument meteorological conditions.

The airplane was maintained under an annual inspection program. A review of the maintenance records indicated that an annual inspection had been completed on April 17, 2013, at an airframe total time of 4,766 hours.


The closest official weather observation station was Pierre Regional Airport (KPIR), Pierre, South Dakota, located 35 miles west of the accident location. The elevation of the weather observation station was 1,744 feet mean sea level (msl). The routine aviation weather report (METAR) for KPIR, issued at 2124, reported wind from 010 degrees at 19 knots, visibility 10 miles, light rain, sky condition broken clouds at 1,000 feet, overcast at 1,600 feet, temperature 6 degrees Celsius (C), dew point temperature 5 degrees C, altimeter 29.37 inches, remarks ceiling variable between 800 and 1,200 feet.

The METAR issued at 2139 for KPIR reported wind from 070 degrees at 19 knots, visibility 4 miles, rain, mist, sky condition ceiling overcast clouds at 800 feet, temperature 6 degrees C, dew point temperature 5 degrees C, altimeter 29.37 inches, remarks ceiling variable between 600 and 1,300 feet.

Huron Regional Airport (KHON) in Huron, South Dakota, was located 53 miles to the east of the accident site at an elevation of 1,289 feet. The METAR issued at 2055 for KHON reported wind from 100 degrees at 20 knots, gusting to 27 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky condition ceiling overcast at 1,000 feet, temperature 9 degrees C, dew point temperature 7 degrees C, altimeter 29.36 inches, remarks peak wind of 29 knots from 090 degrees at 2015, rain began at 1956 and ended at 2006.

The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 2200 CDT depicted a low-pressure center in southern Nebraska, with an occluded front extending into northeastern Kansas. A stationary front extended from northeastern Nebraska southeast through southern Iowa. Surface wind east of the accident location was generally easterly, with surface wind to the west of the accident location generally northerly. Station models across the state of South Dakota depicted overcast skies, with temperatures ranging from the high 30's Fahrenheit (F) to the mid-50's F. Rain and haze were depicted across the state.

A regional Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) mosaic obtained from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) for 2115 identified a large portion of South Dakota under light to moderate values of reflectivity, including the region surrounding the accident site. WSR-88D Level II radar data obtained at 2114 from Aberdeen, South Dakota, (KABR), depicted altitudes between 5,460 and 13,200 feet at the accident site. The KABR data identified an area of light reflectivity coincident with the accident location approximately two minutes prior to the accident time.

Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data from the NOAA-16 satellite data were obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and identified cloudy conditions at or near the accident site. Cloud-top temperatures in the region varied between -53 degrees C and 6 degrees C. The temperature of -53 degrees C corresponded to heights of approximately 35,000 feet. Due to a temperature inversion in the ABR sounding near 4,000 feet, the temperature of 6 degrees C may correspond to various cloud heights ranging from at or very near the surface to between 3,500 and 6,500 feet.

An Area Forecast that included South Dakota was issued at 2045 CDT. The portion of the Area Forecast directed toward the eastern two-thirds of South Dakota forecasted for the accident time: ceiling overcast at 3,000 feet msl with cloud tops to flight level (FL)180, widely scattered light rain showers, and wind from the east at 20 knots with gusts to 30 knots. Prior to the 2045 CDT Area Forecast, another Area Forecast that included South Dakota was issued at 1345 CDT. The portion of the Area Forecast directed toward the central and eastern portions of South Dakota forecasted for the accident time: ceiling overcast at 3,000 feet msl with clouds layered up to FL300, scattered thunderstorms with light rain, cumulonimbus cloud tops to FL400, wind from the southeast at 20 knots with gusts to 35 knots.

Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) SIERRA for IFR conditions was issued at 1959 CDT for a region that included the accident location. AIRMET TANGO for moderate turbulence for altitudes below 15,000 feet was issued at 1545 CDT for a region that included the accident location. The AIRMET also addressed strong surface winds for a region that did not include the accident location. AIRMET ZULU for moderate ice for altitudes between the freezing level and FL200 was issued at 1545 CDT for a region that included the accident location.

There were no non-convective Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMET) advisories active for the accident location at the accident time. There were two Convective SIGMETs issued for convection close to the accident location in the two hours prior to the accident time

According to the United States Naval Observatory, Astronomical Applications Department Sun and Moon Data, the sunset was recorded at 2037 and the end of civil twilight was 2109. The moon rose at 0615 on the following day.

At the time of the accident the wind turbine tower #14 recorded the wind velocity at 9.7 meters per second or 21 miles per hour and the ambient temperature was 7 degrees C.

The pilot logged on to the CSC DUAT System on April 26, 2014, at 2141:36 and requested a low altitude weather briefing quick path service. The pilot identified the route of flight as a direct flight between KHRX and 0D8, at an altitude of 8,500 feet.


The FAA Twin Cities Sectional Chart 87th edition, dated 9 January, 2014, through 26 June, 2014, depicted the city of Highmore, South Dakota, and the Highmore Airport on the southern edge of the chart boundary. The city of Highmore and the airport were both within the same boundary box with a maximum elevation figure of 24 or 2,400 feet msl. The maximum elevation figure immediately south of Highmore was 27 or 2,700 feet msl. An obstacle at an elevation of 276 feet above ground level (agl) and 2,180 feet msl was depicted immediately south of the city of Highmore. A wind farm was depicted south and east of Ree Heights, South Dakota – this wind farm was at an elevation of 420 feet agl and 2,447 feet msl. The wind farm involved in this accident was not depicted on this sectional chart.

The FAA Omaha Sectional Chart 89th edition, dated 6 February, 2014, through 24 July, 2014, depicted the city of Highmore, South Dakota, and the Highmore Airport on the northern edge of the chart boundary. The city of Highmore and the airport were both within the same boundary box with a maximum elevation figure of 24 or 2,400 feet msl. The maximum elevation figure immediately south of Highmore was 27 or 2,700 feet msl. A wind farm was depicted south and east of Ree Heights, South Dakota – this wind farm was at an elevation of 420 feet agl and 2,447 feet msl and 420 feet agl and 2,500 feet msl.

A single obstruction was depicted on the chart about 7 miles south of the city of Highmore, just to the east of highway 57. The obstruction was at an elevation of 215 feet agl and 2,335 feet msl. A group of obstructions was depicted on the chart about 9 miles south of the city of Highmore, just to the west of highway 57. The obstructions were at an elevation of 316 feet agl and 2,496 feet msl. The wind farm involved in this accident was not depicted on this sectional chart as a wind farm.

According to the FAA, the 90th edition of the Omaha Sectional Chart, effective from 24 July, 2014, through 5 February, 2015, added the depiction of the accident wind farm just south of the city of Highmore. This depicted the wind farm west and southwest of highway 57 at an elevation of 2,515 feet msl. In addition, an unlit obstruction at an elevation of 415 feet agl and 2,597 feet msl was depicted just south of the wind farm boundary.

There are no instrument approach procedures into 9D0. There are two RNAV (GPS) approaches, runway 13 and runway 31, into 0D8.


The accident airplane was equipped with an Apollo GX-50 panel-mount 8-channel GPS receiver. The unit includes a waypoint database with information about airports, VOR, NDB, en route intersections, and special use airspace. Up to 500 custom user-defined waypoints may be stored, as well. The GX-50 is a TSO-C129a class unit capable of supporting IFR non-precision approach operations. Thirty flight plans composed of a linked list of waypoints may be defined and stored. The real-time navigation display can be configured to show: latitude/longitude, bearing, distance to target, ground speed, track angle, desired track, distance, and an internal course deviation indicator (CDI). The unit stores historical position information in volatile memory; however, by design there is no method to download this information.

The unit was sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders Lab in Washington D.C. for download. Upon arrival at the Vehicle Recorders Laboratory, an exterior examination revealed the unit had sustained significant structural damage. An internal inspection revealed most internal components, including the battery, were dislodged. Since the internal battery was dislodged and the unit relied upon volatile memory to record information, no further recovery efforts were attempted.


The accident scene was located in level, vegetated terrain, in the middle of a wind turbine farm, about 10 miles south of Highmore, South Dakota. The terrain was vegetated with short and medium grass. The wreckage of the airplane was fragmented and scattered in a radius to the north, through to the west, and then through the south, surrounding the base of wind turbine tower #14. The fragmented pieces of the fuselage, empennage, engine and propeller assembly, and both wings were accounted for in the field of debris.


The autopsy was performed by the Sanford Health Pathology Clinic on April 29, 2014, as authorized by the Hyde County Coroner's office. The autopsy concluded that the cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries and the report listed the specific injuries.

The FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI), Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological tests on specimens that were collected during the autopsy (CAMI Reference #201400071001). Results were negative for all carbon monoxide and drugs. Testing of the blood detected 11 mg/dL ethanol; however, none was detected in the muscle or liver. Tests for cyanide were not conducted.


Wreckage Examination

The wreckage was recovered and relocated to a hangar in Greeley, Colorado, for further examination. The wreckage was examined by investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, Piper Aircraft, and Lycoming Engines.

The left wing separated from the fuselage and was fragmented. The fuel tanks were impact damaged and the left main landing gear separated from the wing assembly. The aileron and the flap separated from the wing assembly and were impact damaged.

The right wing separated from the fuselage and was fragmented. The fuel tanks were impact damaged. The right main landing gear was extended and remained attached to the right wing spar. The aileron and the flap separated from the wing assembly and were impact damaged.

The fuel selector valve was impact damaged. The position of the selector handle was at the left main fuel tank. Disassembly of the valve found the selector in an intermediate position between off and the left main tank. The fuel screen was clear of debris.

The instrument panel was fragmented and many of the instruments, radios, and gauges were destroyed. The ADI case and the directional gyro exhibited signatures of rotational scoring. The tachometer exhibited a reading of 2,400 to 2,500 rpm. The altimeter was broken and the needles separated. The Kollsman window was set at 29.27 inches. The airspeed indicator exhibited a reading of 235 miles per hour.

The pitot static system was impact damage and fragmented. The pitot tube and static port were clear and free of debris or mechanical blockage. Due to the damage, the system could not be functionally tested.

The empennage separated from the fuselage and was impact damaged. The aft portion of the vertical stabilizer was impact damaged and remained partially attached to the rudder at the hinge points. The stabilator was impact damaged and fragmented.

Flight control continuity to the ailerons, stabilator, and rudder could not be confirmed. The flight control cables were fractured in overload in multiple locations. The position of the flaps and landing gear could not be determined due to impact damage.

The engine was impact damaged impeding examination and testing for functionality. The spark plugs exhibited worn out normal signatures when compared to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug chart. The fuel injectors for the 1, 3, and 5 cylinders were clear of debris. The fuel injectors for the 2, 4, and 6 cylinders were impact damaged. The oil pick-up screen was clear of debris. The fuel servo and fuel pump were impact damaged and could not be functionally tested. The fuel flow divider was clear of debris. The vacuum pump case was bent and exhibited internal scoring consistent with operation at the time of the accident.

The propeller separated from the engine at the propeller flange. One blade exhibited S-bending, a curled tip, chord-wise scratches, and nicks and gouges along the leading edge of the propeller blade. The second blade exhibited chord-wise scratches, nicks and gouges along the leading edge of the propeller blade, and grey angular pain transfer near the tip of the propeller blade.

Wind Turbine Tower #14 Obstruction Light Power Supply, Flash Head, and Photocell Examination

The obstruction light, which included the power supply, flash head, and photocell (44812A), was removed from wind turbine tower #14 by an employee of ESI at the request of the wind turbine company. All of the components were shipped to Hughey & Phillips for further examination.

During the examination the following observations were made:

The flash head gasket was broken into 5 pieces. The day lens was crazed and a screw was loose in flash head.
The photocell which was in the container is an aftermarket unit and not as supplied by Hughey & Phillips.
An aftermarket transformer was added to the power supply above the TB1 terminal block. This was not wired into the power supply and two wires hung from the transformer.

The power supply was placed on test jig and the power supply and flash head were connected via a 7-wire power cable, 7 feet in length, provided by Hughey & Phillips. When power was applied to the unit the flash head did not work - the red lamp attempted to flash and the white lamp did not flash.

The lower flash tube was black consistent with age/use
The power supply - capacitor C3 – was bulged at the top consistent with a bad capacitor

The capacitor was replaced and the red lamp functioned as designed. The white lamp did not function. The white flash tube was replaced with a new flash tube.

When it was in day mode the white light activated
When in night mode the red light activated
When in auto mode, light was applied to the photocell sensor and after 30 seconds it switched from night to day mode. When light was removed and the sensor was covered to remove light, it switched back to night mode after 30 seconds.

The photocell was placed in a test chamber. When all light was removed, one light bulb illuminated. When 5 candelas was applied there was no change. The candelas were increased incrementally to 30 with no change. When the candelas were increased to 50, the test chamber switched to night mode within a minute or more.

The flash rate of the unit was tested.
The red lamp tested at a rate of 25 flashed per minute – This is within the FAA specifications for the L-864 fixture, 20 to 40 flashes per minute.
The white lamp tested at a rate of 40 flashes per minute- This is within the FAA specifications for the L-865 fixture, 40 flashes per minute.

The alarm function tested as designed.

The entire system operated normally with basic replacement of the flashtube and capacitor. The system was not operational in its as removed state.


Wind Turbine

The wind turbine farm south of Highmore, South Dakota, was constructed in 2003. There are 27 towers in the entire farm oriented from east to west across highway 57. It was reported to the NTSB, on scene, that each turbine tower is about 213 feet tall (from the ground to the center of the hub) and the blade length is 100 feet long. Each tower is equipped with three blades and FAA approved lighting. The blades are constructed from carbon fiber.

On June 2, 2003, the FAA issued a Determination of No Hazard to Air Navigation, regarding the installment of wind turbine tower #14 near Highmore, South Dakota. The document identified that the wind turbines would be 330 feet agl and 2,515 feet msl. A condition to the determination included that the structure be marked and/or lighted in accordance with FAA Advisory Circular 70/7460-1K Change 1.

The wind turbine tower #14 was located to the west of highway 57, and was the 5th wind turbine tower in a string of wind turbine towers, oriented from east to west. Wind turbine tower #14 was 0.3 miles to the west of the 4th wind turbine tower and 0.5 miles to the west of the 3rd wind turbine tower. The string of wind turbine towers changed direction after wind turbine tower #14 and continued to the south and south west for about 2 additional miles with 13 additional wind turbine towers in the string. The next closest wind turbine tower to #14 was 0.5 miles south.

The wind turbine tower #14 recorded an alert in the system when the airplane and the turbine blade collided and the turbine went offline. The impact was recorded at 2116:33. The blades were pitched at -0.5 degrees and the nacelle was at 112 degrees yaw angle (not a compass heading, rather nacelle rotation). There were no employees at the wind farm maintenance facility when the accident occurred. The NextEra control center in Juno Beach, Florida, received an immediate alert when the collision occurred. The company response would have been to send an employee to the wind turbine the next morning to determine why the turbine had gone offline.

Maintenance records for wind turbine tower #14, for 5 years prior to the accident, were submitted to the NTSB investigator in charge for review. These records included major and minor inspection sheets for 2010 and 2011 in addition to work management records for general maintenance, repairs, and fault troubleshooting that occurred between June 2010, and October of 2014 (after the accident). The major and minor inspection sheets for 2010 and 2011 indicated that the FAA lighting was inspected and found to be "normal" or "OK." No other maintenance records were provided which illustrated maintenance that was conducted or performed on the FAA lighting system between 2010 and the accident.

It was reported to the NTSB IIC that the light on tower #14 was not functioning at the time of the accident and had been inoperative for an undefined period. The actual witness to the inoperative light did not return telephone calls in attempt to confirm or verify this observation.

FAA Lighting Requirements

The US Department of Transportation – FAA issued Advisory Circular AC 70/7460-1K Obstruction Marking and Lighting on February 1, 2007.

Section 23. Light Failure Notification states in part that "…conspicuity is achieved only when all recommended lights are working. Partial equipment outages decrease the margin of safety. Any outage should be corrected as soon as possible. Failure of a steady burning side or intermediate light should be corrected as soon as possible, but notification is not required. B. Any failure or malfunction that lasts more than thirty (3) minutes and affects a top light or flashing obstruction light, regardless of its position, should be reported immediately to the appropriate flight service station (FSS) so a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) can be issued."

Section 44. Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance states in part that "Lamps should be replaced after being operated for not more than 75 percent of their rated life or immediately upon failure. Flashtubes in alight unit should be replaced immediately upon failure, when the peak effective intensity falls below specification limits or when the fixture begins skipping flashes, or at the manufacturer's recommended intervals. Due to the effects of harsh environments, beacon lenses should be visually inspected for ultraviolet damage, cracks, crazing, dirt, build up, etc., to insure that the certified light output has not deteriorated."

Section 47. Monitoring Obstruction Light stated in part that "Obstruction lighting systems should be closely monitored by visual or automatic means. It is extremely important to visually inspect obstruction lighting in all operating intensities at least once every 24 hours on systems without automatic monitoring."

Chapter 13, Sections 130 through 134, addressed Marking and Lighting Wind Turbine Farms. Wind turbine farms are defined as "a wind turbine development that contains more than three (3) turbines of heights over 200 feet above ground level." In addition, a linear configuration in a wind farm is "a line-like arrangement… The line may be ragged in shape or be periodically broke, and may vary in size from just a few turbines up to 20 miles long."

Section 131. General Standards states in part that "Not all wind turbine units within an installation or farm need to be lighted." "Definition of the periphery of the installation is essential; however, lighting of interior wind turbines is of lesser importance…" "Obstruction lights within a group of wind turbines should have unlighted separations or gaps of no more than ½ statute mile if the integrity of the group appearance is to be maintained."

Section 134. Lighting Standards states in part that "Obstruction lights should have unlighted separations or gaps of no more than ½ mile. Lights should flash simultaneously. Should the synchronization of the lighting system fail, a lighting outage report should be made in accordance with paragraph 23 of this advisory circular." Section c. Linear Turbine Configuration states in part "Place a light on each turbine positioned at each end of the line or string of turbines. Lights should be no more than ½ statute mile, or 2,640 feet from the last lit turbine."



Captain Neil Schmid has been a pilot for many years, now working with the Civil Air Patrol. He's been through many different types of weather conditions and knows how quickly a flight plan can change.

"Clouds, ceilings, wind, winds upstairs and winds on the ground, visible moisture, visibility and so on," Schmid said.

More than one thing can keep a plane on the ground, and it could be more than one thing that led to a crash near Highmore, killing all four people on board. Schmid won't speculate about what could've brought the plane down, but he does know that on Sunday, the day the Piper 32 disappeared; the winds led to the cancellation of a scheduled drill and grounded every Civil Air Patrol aircraft.

"There were several aircraft in the air and it got too windy and we brought them down and held by the safety standard that we have," Schmid said.

Those planes are still grounded, waiting for the winds to calm down. Schmid says that he has flown a Piper PA-32R-300, like the one that went down, and like the planes he flies for the Civil Air Patrol; the smallest weather change can keep him from going in the air.

"Most light aircraft have weather capabilities, but it's fairly limited. You don't want to be flying through thunderstorms and severe high wind situations, you want to be very careful," Schmid said.

Schmid says the experience of the pilot can also go a long way in determining whether flying in certain weather conditions is safe.

"Always have an out. You can always turn around and go back the way you came from, that's probably best because if you're going into bad weather, the weather you came from is probably better than where you're going," Schmid said.

Schmid emphasized that anything discussed about why the plane went down is purely speculation until the NTSB concludes its investigation.

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Piper PA-32R-300 Cherokee Lance, N8700E, Donald J. Fischer: