Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Yellowstone Regional Airport (KCOD), Cody, Wyoming

Authorities place hold on cash, plane in Cody

 CODY, Wyo. — U.S. authorities are holding a plane and nearly $260,000 in cash seized by Cody police pending an investigation.

A police dog indicated it smelled narcotics on the Cessna aircraft Feb. 28 at Yellowstone Regional Airport.

No drugs were found, but a search of a hotel room occupied by two men who flew the plane found $258,000 in cash in a duffel bag. The cash and plane were turned over to U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement.

The pilot, Scott Lewis of Englewood, Colo., was cited Monday for two misdemeanor charges alleging the plane was not properly registered and that he flew the aircraft without carrying a license. Lewis told the court he did have a valid license.

He was released on his own recognizance. His companion was not cited.

==========

 Cody police discover large amount of cash on pilot

Citing suspicious behavior, Cody police seized what may be close to $260,000 in cash from a pair of men who flew into the area last week.

Court documents indicate that police suspect the large amount of money could be connected to drug trafficking, but no charges have been filed actually alleging any wrongdoing with the cash.

One man, 25-year-old Scott M. Lewis of Englewood, Colo., has been charged with low-level misdemeanor crimes, alleging the private plane he arrived in was not properly registered and that he flew it to Yellowstone Regional Airport last Thursday without a pilot’s license.

Lewis pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance Monday afternoon, while the second man faces no criminal charges.

An affidavit from Cody Police Detective Ron Parduba filed in connection with Lewis’ case says police received a tip from one of the airport’s fixed-base operator about a suspicious plane that was in the airport overnight.

Choice Aviation’s operations manager told police that the Cessna TU206E had stopped at the airport twice before, including in November. At that time, police were told, several unusual things had been noticed: The pilot paid with $100 bills, never used the fixed-wing cargo plane’s tail number when calling into the airport over the radio and, after being told he couldn’t stay the night at Choice Aviation’s facility, flew out in bad weather.

When the Cessna touched down Thursday afternoon, the individuals on the plane reportedly immediately pulled shades over the side windows and then put a sunshade over the front windshield after the plane was parked.

Poor weather conditions forced Lewis and the other man to stay the night at the Holiday Inn, Parduba wrote, and they were reportedly seen leaving the plane with “several bags.” Choice Aviation’s operations manager thought that was a lot of luggage for two people only staying for a night, the affidavit says.

It’s unclear exactly what evidence Cody police presented to Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters, but at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning, he granted a search warrant for the plane and the two men’s room at the Holiday Inn. Both men refused to answer any questions when contacted by police around 10 a.m. Friday and asked to speak with a lawyer, Parduba wrote.

In the hotel room, Parduba said officers seized a blue duffel bag with a large amount of cash wrapped in 12 vacuum-sealed plastic bags. A handwritten note in the bag indicated there was $258,520 in the bag. Cody Detective Sgt. Jon Beck said on Monday that law enforcement officials had not officially counted it yet.

Officers also found $1,467 in a jacket pocket, Parduba wrote.

He said police also seized two laptops, six electronic storage devices and 15 cell phones. Parduba said they also found three Idaho driver’s licenses; each had different names on the license, but each had Lewis’ photo — the same image that appeared on the Colorado license he presented to police.

Parduba said documents “indicative to possible drug trafficking were seized” from the airplane.

Officers initially detained Lewis and the other man, but ultimately arrested only Lewis — who was identified as the Cessna’s pilot by Choice Aviation personnel. A trial on the misdemeanor registration and licensing charges — each punishable by up to $500 in fines and six months of jail time — has been set for May 15.

In Circuit Court on Monday, Deputy Park County Attorney Tim Blatt asked for Lewis to be held on a $2,500 cash bond. Blatt argued that an unlicensed pilot flying an unregistered aircraft was a public safety risk and that Lewis was a flight risk given his lack of ties to Wyoming.

Lewis said he actually does a have a pilot’s license and had a digital copy at the time of his arrest. He also said he has a job and address in Englewood.

“You can track me down, look for me, I’m easily found and have no plans to be a flight risk at all,” Lewis said.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters rejected Blatt’s request and instead allowed Lewis to go free on his own recognizance. That was in part because prosecutors took slightly more than 72 hours (from 1:10 p.m. Friday to 1:30 p.m. Monday) to get Lewis before the court.

Perhaps reflecting the unusual nature of the case, Lewis said he wasn’t provided a copy of the charges against him until he reached court on Monday.

“I was given very little information,” he told Judge Waters. “I was put in the back of a squad car and taken to booking and until this very moment, in fact, your honor, I was not given really any information about the charges against me or the information about the case, your honor.”

Lewis testified that he currently works part-time at the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences in Denver and earns between $200 and $500 monthly.

Lewis said he has no money in savings. He listed more than $100,000 in debt, which he said primarily stemmed from resigning from the U.S. Air Force Academy in his junior year.

He asked about when he could retrieve his seized personal items — including the electronics and clothes — as well as the status of the plane. Blatt said he didn’t know the items’ status.

Lewis did not ask about or mention the cash during his appearance. The police are still holding it.

Detective Sgt. Beck said he believed the investigation — which involved help from a Powell Police Department drug dog and Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents — would be turned over to a federal law enforcement agency in coming days.


Source:   http://www.powelltribune.com

Aviation Students Build Airplane

 It took more than three years, 50 students and countless hours in the classroom, but it's finally done. The aviation class's Piper Cub airplane is hanging in the Bismarck Public Schools Career Academy atrium. 

The class has already started another airplane project. Once students are finished building the Van's R-12 plane, instead of hanging it somewhere in the building, they're going to fly it.

First year aviation students learn the basics of flying, the importance of flight patterns and study computer simulations.

Students Trey Iszler and James Schultz are happy to be doing more than the basics.

"Just thinking about building the plane. Being in aviation class, that's what makes me get up in the morning and actually want to come to be an early bird, every day," says Schultz.

"I joined the first year at the beginning of the year. I didn't know if I wanted to go on to the second year. And after the first year and seeing this is kind of really enjoyable. I absolutely love it," says Iszler.

The boys also worked on the wooden plane, but say it's not as fun as building this one. They had to cut out the wooden pieces, then glue, drill and fasten them together. It sounds simple, but it took months.

The pieces of the metal Vans Airplane are cut out when they arrive, and while the students still have to polish, drill and fasten them together, it takes less time.

"The learning that's gonna take place, it might seem like you're having a bunch of fun, and it is. It is fun. But you're learning at the same time. And you having something that you're proud of when you leave and say, 'You know what? I made that,'" says Career Academy director Dan Hoerauf

This plane isn't for show.

"So, this one's gonna fly. When this one's done it'll be out at the airport," says aviation teacher Mike McHugh.

The Eagle's Nest organization is paying for the plane, but that's not all they're doing.

"In the end, they actually help, provide our students with some flight training in the aircraft that they built," says McHugh.

Students will receive 20 hours of free flight training.

The aviation class is aiming to have the plane finished by next year.


Story, photo, video:   http://www.kmot.com

'No place for a woman': Sexist note left for female pilot of WestJet flight

A routine flight from Calgary to Victoria was marred by a passenger who apparently didn’t appreciate having his flight captained by a woman. 

 A passenger, who identified himself as “David” left behind a sexist note questioning the credentials of Carey Steacy, a pilot with more than 17 years of experience.

In it, he said “a cockpit is no place for a woman” and that WestJet should inform him if a woman is flying the plane so he can book a different flight.

 “All of us had our mouths open in shock, we didn’t know what to say,” Steacy said, referring to her and her crew’s response.

Steacy said in all her years working as a pilot, she has rarely seen notes left behind for cabin crew.

“I’ve heard the odd comment in jest usually, that’s the only time I’ve seen something as raw as that,” Steacy said.

The note-writer questioned Steacy’s ability as soon as she took to the PA system to address passengers during take-off.

He reportedly kept asking flight attendants if she had enough flight hours to be flying a plane.

Steacy took to Facebook to post the note, and respond to the comment.

“In fact, there are no places that are not for ladies anymore,” she wrote, adding that the cockpit is now referred to as the flight deck.

The post quickly earned hundreds of re-posts and praise for her reaction.

WestJet also came out supporting Steacy, calling the note “disappointing.”

For her part, Steacy hopes more women enroll in flight school and help fight against sexist attitudes.

“They’ve been told it’s not for men or they can’t do it, and I hope that that mindset can change,” she said.


Story, photos, video and comments/reaction:  http://bc.ctvnews.ca


(Facebook)

Why This Plane Seat Is the Most Profitable: Airlines Charge Thousands Extra for a Few Inches of Legroom on Long Flights

The Wall Street Journal

By  Daniel Michaels


Updated March 4, 2014 6:12 p.m. ET

FRANKFURT—For fliers, the ideal seat is usually in first or business class. For airlines, the sweet spot on long-haul flights is, increasingly, farther back in the plane.

A new hybrid class, called premium economy, is appearing on more planes due into its attractive economics. The seats generally give passengers a bit more space than traditional coach and often come with extra amenities like better food. Tickets are pricier than for basic economy, but still much cheaper than flying up front.

For carriers, the whole package costs much less than business class. That means they only need to spend a bit extra to generate higher fares than tourist class and can still pack in seats. Airline executives say it can be the most profitable cabin.

The favorable equation is part of what prompted Deutsche Lufthansa AG  to start rolling out a new premium economy section on all intercontinental flights as of this coming October. "It will be a very profitable product," said Jens Bischof, Lufthansa's chief commercial officer.

Airlines, like passengers, fret about space. Fliers want as much elbow and knee room as possible, while carriers want to make optimal use of each square foot. Lufthansa's new seat gives passengers up to seven extra inches to stretch their legs, and four more inches at shoulder-height because each row has two fewer seats than in traditional economy class. There are no shared arm rests.

Lufthansa's new seat takes up about 50% more floorspace than a traditional economy seat. The incremental cost of other extras, such as one additional checked bag, meals served on china tableware and an amenity kit, is proportionally less, Mr. Bischof said.

A round-trip premium economy ticket will average €600 ($824) more than basic economy. Lufthansa doesn't disclose average economy-class fares.

Business-class seats, meanwhile, use three times the area of standard economy seats and round-trip fares are €2,000 higher on average, Mr. Bischof said.

Travel website TripAdvisor Inc.  estimates premium economy fares range from double to four times the lowest economy fare, while business fares can reach 10 times the cheapest fare. Andrew M. Wong, regional director of TripAdvisor Flights in Singapore, said premium economy is "a good compromise" for business fliers whose travel policies don't allow business class.

Boeing Co.now delivers more than 30% of its top-selling 777 intercontinental planes with premium economy seating, and the proportion is rising, said Kent Craver, a director of cabin experience and revenue analysis at Boeing. Ten years ago, no new 777s had the seating.

Even more old planes are being updated with premium economy, although the total isn't tracked. Lufthansa, for example, plans to install the cabin by late next year on 106 long-haul planes, most already in its fleet.

"There definitely has been a significant uptick in the installation and interest in premium economy," said Mr. Craver. "It's one of the hottest topics we discuss with airlines."

Excitement built slowly, though. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. introduced the first enhanced economy section in 1992, "aimed at the cost-conscious business traveler," said a Virgin spokeswoman. Almost a decade later, rivals including British Airways, now a unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA,  copied the concept.

By 2009, about a dozen airlines offered special economy service and today almost twice as many do, said Chris Emerson, senior vice president of marketing at Airbus Group NV. "Flights are fuller than ever, so there's a renewed interest in capturing high-fare traffic," Mr. Emerson said.

Products vary widely, though. U.S. carriers and several others only give some extra leg room and use basic economy seats. Perry Cantarutti, a senior vice president at Delta Air Lines Inc.  said the layout works well for the carrier's network and "space is what customers say is the primary benefit." At the other extreme, Air New Zealand Ltd. offers seats that can become beds.

"It really is all over the board," said Mr. Craver at Boeing.

The trend has gathered speed due to widening differences between the front and back of international airliners. Over the past 15 years, most global carriers have upgraded their business cabins with seats that spread out into flat beds. These are so luxurious that most airlines have ditched first class.

To make room for these loungers, airlines have squeezed coach class. First they compressed rows by shaving knee space. Now many are wedging an extra seat into each row, although Lufthansa has no plans to do that, Mr. Bischof said.

The German carrier considered introducing premium economy twice before and its hesitation shows the cabin's potential downside. Airlines want economy fliers to buy pricier seats, rather than business travelers opting for cheaper ones. Only after Lufthansa in 2012 began upgrading its business class to horizontal beds from slanted ones was it confident of not cannibalizing its own premium traffic.

"You ask yourself, isn't there a down-sell risk," said Mr. Bischof. "I see the up-sell potential as significantly higher."

Mr. Craver at Boeing said premium economy's rise mirrors the emergence of business class in the 1980s. Then, the gap between coach and first was wide. Today, business class seats are cushier than first-class seats a generation ago.

Now airlines are coming full-circle to three-class configurations again, Mr. Craver said. "Premium economy is kind of the new business class."


Source:  http://online.wsj.com



GoJet Properly Penalized for Landing Gear Snafu: Courthouse News Service

 Courthouse News Service
By JACK BOUBOUSHIAN 

(CN) - GoJet Airlines must face federal penalties after an error by mechanics caused a plane to take off with landing gear that would not retract, the 8th Circuit ruled.

 GoJet, which operates commuter flights for United Express and Delta Connection, needed a worn brake assembly replaced on one of its aircraft in November 2007.

 Mechanics needed to jack the main landing gear to remove the break, and did so by installing landing gear pins that locked the assembly in place.

 When they were done with the repair, however, the mechanics forgot to remove one of the pins.

 This error kept the landing gear from retracting on the plane's next flight, and the pilots returned to the departure airport.

 GoJet reported the error to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), under the agencies voluntary disclosure program. It also submitted a proposed fix, but the FAA inspector rejected the proposal.

 When the airline missed the deadline to make a new proposal, the FAA commenced a civil penalty enforcement action.
 

 A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit upheld the agency's action Tuesday, finding that GoJet's error affected the "airworthiness" of the plane, and that the airline knowingly failed to abide by the voluntary disclosure procedure.

 Inoperable landing gear is clearly related to the safety of the airplane, the court said.

 "GoJet's evidence that a CRJ-700 with fixed landing gear can be flown in compliance with its type certificate through the use of approved MEL [Minimum Equipment List] procedures is irrelevant because those procedures were not used," Judge James Loken wrote for the panel (italics in original).

 And, while the purpose of the voluntary disclosure program is to encourage airlines to admit their mistakes to avoid penalties, the agency was within its authority to end that procedure and begin an enforcement action when GoJet failed to honor the process.

 "[Inspector Gary] Cooper's letter clearly stated his position and gave GoJet a deadline to submit a satisfactory comprehensive fix or face enforcement action," Loken said. "When GoJet elected not to accept Cooper's suggested comprehensive fix, it knew the negotiations were deadlocked and the time to seek elevation of the dispute was at hand."

The agency was not required to give GoJet further notice before terminating the voluntary disclosure proceeding, the court concluded. 


Source:   http://www.courthousenews.com

Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain, Maui Island Air, N483VA: Accident occurred February 26, 2014 in Lanai City, Hawaii

NTSB Identification: WPR14FA124  
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 26, 2014 in Lanai City, HI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/21/2015
Aircraft: PIPER PA31, registration: N483VA
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 3 Serious.

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

The airplane departed during dark (moonless) night conditions over remote terrain with few ground-based light sources to provide visual cues. Weather reports indicated strong gusting wind from the northeast. According to a surviving passenger, shortly after takeoff, the pilot started a right turn; the bank angle continued to increase, and the airplane impacted terrain in a steep right bank. The accident site was about 1 mile from the airport at a location consistent with the airplane departing to the northeast and turning right about 180 degrees before ground impact. The operator’s chief pilot reported that the pilot likely turned right after takeoff to fly direct to the navigational aid located southwest of the airport in order to escape the terrain-induced turbulence (downdrafts) near the mountain range northeast of the airport. Examination of the airplane wreckage revealed damage and ground scars consistent with a high-energy, low-angle impact during a right turn. No evidence was found of preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. It is likely that the pilot became spatially disoriented during the right turn. Although visual meteorological conditions prevailed, no natural horizon and few external visual references were available during the departure. This increased the importance for the pilot to monitor the airplane’s flight instruments to maintain awareness of its attitude and altitude. During the turn, the pilot was likely performing the additional task of engaging the autopilot, which was located on the center console below the throttle quadrant. The combination of conducting a turn with few visual references in gusting wind conditions while engaging the autopilot left the pilot vulnerable to visual and vestibular illusions and reduced his awareness of the airplane’s attitude, altitude, and trajectory. Based on toxicology findings, the pilot most likely had symptoms of an upper respiratory infection but the investigation was unable to determine what effects these symptoms may have had on his performance. A therapeutic level of doxylamine, a sedating antihistamine, was detected, and impairment by doxylamine most likely contributed to the development of spatial disorientation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s spatial disorientation while turning during flight in dark night conditions and terrain-induced turbulence, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s impairment from a sedating antihistamine.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 26, 2014, about 2130 Hawaii standard time, a Piper PA-31-350, N483VA, collided with terrain shortly after departure from the Lanai Airport (PHNY), Lanai City, Hawaii. The commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured, and three other passengers were seriously injured. The airplane was substantially damaged and was partially consumed by postimpact fire. The airplane was registered to Maui Aircraft Leasing, LLC, and operated by Maui Island Air under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on demand air taxi flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on a visual flight rules flight plan. The flight had a planned destination of Kahului Airport, Kahului, Hawaii.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) interviewed one of the survivors 6 days after the accident. The survivor reported that after the airplane departed the runway, he could see the lights of Lanai City and the Big Dipper star constellation off the left side of the airplane as it started its right banking turn. As he pointed out the constellation to the passenger seated to his right, he felt the sensation of G-loading in his seat. Shortly after, he said simultaneously his legs were forced towards the left side of the airplane and his upper body towards the isle. While trying to regain his position, he said he looked up, and saw the pilot leaning his upper body towards the right; it appeared that he was looking to the right, as if out the forward right cabin window. He said the airplane was in a steep right bank when he saw the ground impact the forward side of the airplane. He recalls that there was no realization that there was an emergency situation and that he had flown rougher [turbulent] flights before in this airplane.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the 66-year-old-pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane multiengine land and instrument airplane, and private privileges for airplane single-engine land. His second-class medical certificate was issued in March of 2013, with the limitation that he must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision.

According to the pilot's last medical application, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 4,570 total hours, and 1 hour in the last six months.

The passengers onboard were Maui County employees on a business trip.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The 10-seat, low-wing, retractable-gear airplane, serial number 31-7552124, was manufactured in 1975. It was powered by Lycoming model TIO-540-J2BD and LTIO-540-J2BD engines. The airplane was also equipped with Hartzell model HC-E3YR-2ALTF and HC-E3YR-2ATF constant speed propellers. The airplane was on an FAA Approved Aircraft Inspection Program (AAIP). Review of the maintenance logbook records showed an inspection [event inspection number #3] was completed December 1, 2013, at a total airplane time of 12,172.4 hours. A total airplane time at the accident site was undetermined due to damage.

Fueling records at Air Service Hawaii established that the airplane was last fueled on February 26, 2014, at 1559, with the addition of 27 gallons of 100LL-octane aviation fuel.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A review of recorded data from PHNY, automated weather observation station revealed at 2056 conditions were wind 050 degrees at 21 knots, with gusts to 25 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 18 degrees C, dew point 16 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.03 inches of mercury.

According to the Astronomical Applications Department at the United States Naval Observatory, the official moonset was at 1611, and the official end of civil twilight was at 1853. The phase of the moon on the day of the accident was waning crescent, with 9 percent of the moon's visible disk illuminated.

COMMUNICATIONS

A VFR flight plan was filed, and no ATC communications took place.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

The FAA Digital Airport/Facility Directory indicated that PHNY Airport had an Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS), which broadcast on frequency 118.375.

The FAA Digital Airport/Facility Directory indicated that runway 03 was 5,001 feet long, 150 feet wide, and the runway surface was asphalt. The airport has an instrument landing system (ILS), and distance measuring equipment (DME) instrument approaches.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

An initial examination of the accident site by the IIC, revealed that the airplane impacted terrain southeast of the airport, about 1 mile perpendicular to the arrival end of runway 03. The debris field was about a 640-foot-long, and stretched from the first identified point contact (FIPC) to an engine component near the main wreckage. The FIPC was a ground scar that stretched about 160-feet-in-length and about 1-foot in width. Charring vegetation was observed about 100 feet down the ground scar from the FIPC, and fanned out on either side of the debris path for about 260 feet; it was about 50 feet in width at its widest point. The majority of the wreckage debris was found in the last 2/3 of the debris field. The main wreckage was mostly consumed by postimpact fire. Both wings separated from the main wreckage outboard of the engine nacelles. The tail section including the left and right side elevators; the rudder surface and vertical stabilator remained attached to the empennage.

A follow-up examination of the accident site was conducted on May 13, 2014, due to additional ground scars found in an aerial photograph of the accident site. During the follow-up examination, an FAA inspector and the IIC found the additional ground scar, which was about 360 feet in length about 270 feet, east-northeast from the original FIPC and was consistent with a right wing impact. Wing tip fairing sections and wing tip light assembly components were found near the mid-section of the ground scar. A plexiglas light cover was found near the east-north east end of the ground scar. The debris field had a total length of 1,270 feet with a magnetic heading of 250 degrees. See the Wreckage Diagram in the docket of this accident for further information.

The examination of the recovered airframe and flight control system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction. Examination of the engines and propellers revealed that they separated from their nacelles with sections of the engine mounting assembly bent and attached. The propellers remained attached to the engines. Examination of both recovered engines and system components revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

The attitude indicator was found onsite after the initial examination of the accident site. An examination of the recovered attitude indicator revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The attitude indicator had minor damage to its housing, and the instrument face indication would not move freely when the instrument was tumbled by hand. The instrument was disassembled, and the gyro and surrounding housing revealed no mechanical rubbing.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Maui Memorial Medical Center, Wailuku, Hawaii. According to the autopsy report, the cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries sustained in an aircraft crash.

Toxicology testing was performed at the request of the coroner by NMS laboratories identified caffeine, dextromethorphan and its metabolite dextrorphan, pseudoephedrine and its metabolite norpseudoephedrine, as well as doxylamine in the pilot's blood.

Toxicology testing was also performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol. The toxicology report identified dextromethorphan, its metabolite dextrorphan, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, trimethoprim, doxylamine, and montelukast in blood and liver.

Review of the FAA medical certification file, autopsy report and toxicology tests, was conducted by the NTSB Medical Officer. Documents revealed that the pilot reported to the FAA that he had hay fever and childhood asthma. At the time of the accident, the pilot's medical certificate was limited by the need for corrective lenses. Mild enlargement of the heart and mild coronary artery disease was identified on autopsy. Postaccident toxicology testing in two laboratories identified caffeine, dextromethorphan and its metabolite dextrorphan, pseudoephedrine and its metabolite norpseudoephedrine, ephedrine, trimethoprim, doxylamine, and montelukast. The doxylamine was quantified at 120 and 62 ng/ml in the two laboratories.

For further information, see the Medical Factual Report within the public docket for this accident.

TEST AND RESEARCH

Spatial Disorientation

According to the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3), "Night flying is very different from day flying and demands more attention of the pilot. The most noticeable difference is the limited availability of outside visual references. Therefore, flight instruments should be used to a greater degree.… Generally, at night it is difficult to see clouds and restrictions to visibility, particularly on dark nights or under overcast. The pilot flying under VFR must exercise caution to avoid flying into clouds or a layer of fog." The handbook described some hazards associated with flying in airplanes under VFR when visual references, such as the ground or horizon, are obscured. "The vestibular sense (motion sensing by the inner ear) in particular tends to confuse the pilot. Because of inertia, the sensory areas of the inner ear cannot detect slight changes in the attitude of the airplane, nor can they accurately sense attitude changes that occur at a uniform rate over a period of time. On the other hand, false sensations are often generated; leading the pilot to believe the attitude of the airplane has changed when in fact, it has not. These false sensations result in the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation."

According to the FAA Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-15), a rapid acceleration "...stimulates the otolith organs in the same way as tilting the head backwards. This action creates the somatogravic illusion of being in a nose-up attitude, especially in situations without good visual references. The disoriented pilot may push the aircraft into a nose-low or dive attitude." The FAA publication Medical Facts for Pilots (AM-400-03/1), described several vestibular illusions associated with the operation of aircraft in low visibility conditions. Somatogyral illusions, those involving the semicircular canals of the vestibular system, were generally placed into one of four categories, one of which was the "graveyard spiral." According to the text, the graveyard spiral, "…is associated with a return to level flight following an intentional or unintentional prolonged bank turn. For example, a pilot who enters a banking turn to the left will initially have a sensation of a turn in the same direction. If the left turn continues (~20 seconds or more), the pilot will experience the sensation that the airplane is no longer turning to the left. At this point, if the pilot attempts to level the wings this action will produce a sensation that the airplane is turning and banking in the opposite direction (to the right). If the pilot believes the illusion of a right turn (which can be very compelling), he/she will reenter the original left turn in an attempt to counteract the sensation of a right turn. Unfortunately, while this is happening, the airplane is still turning to the left and losing altitude. Pulling the control yoke/stick and applying power while turning would not be a good idea–because it would only make the left turn tighter. If the pilot fails to recognize the illusion and does not level the wings, the airplane will continue turning left and losing altitude until it impacts the ground."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

During a conversation with the NTSB IIC, the Chief Pilot of Maui Island Air reported that when they normally depart from runway 3 at PHNY, "it's like flying into a black hole" with no distant lights for situational awareness. He thought that the airplane could have hit down drafts off the mountain north of the airport during the right turn, and more than likely the pilot would have gone direct to the VHF omni directional radio range and a tactical air navigation system (VORTAC) located 1.6 miles southwest of the PHNY to escape the downdrafts. He stated that he would normally engage the autopilot once the airplane was established at 3,500 feet mean sea level (msl). He explained by leaning slightly to the right and reaching down with his right hand where the autopilot would be located as if positioned in the pilot seat. The autopilot unit is located below the throttle quadrant.

Contributing factors for a fatal Lanai plane crash last year included downdrafts and a pilot's spatial disorientation, probably enhanced by a sedating antihistamine, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

In its probable cause report, the NTSB said pilot Richard "Dick" Rooney had spatial disorientation while turning during flight in dark night conditions, with few ground-based light sources and no natural horizon visible. Moments before it crashed, the plane was making a right turn to possibly escape from the "terrain-induced turbulence," the report said.

Contributing to the accident was Rooney's impairment from a sedating antihistamine, which "most likely contributed" to the development of spatial disorientation. That can result in the pilot receiving false sensations involving altitude and turning, the report said.

The probable cause report Wednesday came nearly two weeks after release of the crash's factual report on Oct. 9. The factual report included interviews with one of the survivors along with Rooney's employees from Maui Island Air.

Rooney, 66, of Spreckelsville was killed. He was an owner of Maui Island Air, which was chartered by Maui County to bring back county employees who attended a Lanai Planning Commission meeting on the night of Feb. 26, 2014.

Also killed were planner Kathleen Kern, 50, of Kihei and Planning Department secretary Tremaine Balberdi, 52, of Kahului. Deputy Corporation Counsel James Giroux, planner Doug Miller and geographical information systems analyst Mark King survived the crash, but they were hospitalized, suffering from burns. Miller and King have returned to work. Giroux returned to work briefly after the accident, but he has since been on a leave of absence, county officials have said.

Malia Balberdi, the daughter of Tremaine Balberdi, still struggles with what happened.

"Although the NTSB results are able to bring some closure to our family, it doesn't make it any easier," she said in an email Thursday. "To think how our lives would be so different if the crash was prevented, is something that we think about especially during times of happiness and sadness."

"We still miss her terribly, at work, (Malia Balberdi also works in the county Planning Department), and at home. Learning to live without someone who was always so thoughtful and loving is by far the hardest thing to do," Balberdi said.

Balberdi said she can find comfort knowing her mother had faith and a love of God and is "in a much better place."

Balberdi said she has received support and love from her co-workers and the congregation at Valley Isle Fellowship along with its Pastor Stephen Kaneshiro.

A memorial plaque for Tremaine Balberdi and Kern was unveiled on the county building grounds on Feb. 26, the one-year anniversary of the accident. A service was also held.

Richard Fried, an attorney for Kern's family, said via email Thursday afternoon that he didn't think the family would like to make a statement. Fried is assisting the family in a lawsuit that claims negligence against Maui Island Air and Rooney's estate.

Sheila Magers, Rooney's ex-wife, who was his business partner, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

On Thursday, Maui County did not release formal comment on the probable cause report, but said after the factual report was issued that it still grieves for all of the victims, including Rooney. And there was an expression of gratitude for the return of the surviving county employees.

Around 9:30 p.m. Feb. 26, 2014, the Piper aircraft crashed shortly after departure from the Lanai Airport. The plane was registered to Maui Aircraft Leasing LLC and operated by Maui Island Air.

It was a dark moonless night, and weather reports indicated strong gusting wind from the northeast.

Giroux told NTSB investigators that shortly after take-off Rooney started a right turn, with the bank angle continuing to increase until the plane "impacted terrain in a steep right bank."

The operator's chief pilot, Billy Baldwin, told investigators that Rooney likely turned right after takeoff to fly direct to the navigational aid located southwest of the airport to escape the downdrafts near the mountain range northeast of the airport, the report said.

The airplane wreckage revealed damage and ground scars consistent with a high-energy, low-angle impact during a right turn.

No evidence was found of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have caused the crash, the report said.

The pilot likely became spatially disoriented during the right turn. Although skies were clear, no natural horizon and few external visual references were present during departure, making it important for the pilot to monitor the airplane's flight instruments of its attitude and altitude.

During the turn, the pilot was likely performing the additional task of engaging the autopilot, which was located on the center console below the throttle quadrant. The combination of conducting the turn with few visual references in gusting wind conditions while engaging the autopilot "left the pilot vulnerable to visual and vestibular illusions" and "reduced his awareness of the airplane's attitude, altitude and trajectory."

The report cites the Federal Aviation Administration Airplane Flying Handbook, which notes issues with flying at night with visual flight rules when visual references, such as the ground or horizon are obscured. Under these conditions, pilots can receive false sensations, such as believing the altitude of the plane has changed when it has not.

A pilot could also have the illusion that the plane is no longer turning, when in fact it is, leading the pilot to turn the plane further into the same direction while losing altitude, the report noted.

Toxicology findings show the pilot most likely had symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, but the investigation was unable to determine what effects these symptoms may have had on his performance.

A therapeutic level of doxylamine, a sedating antihistamine, was detected, and impairment by the medication most likely contributed to the development of spacial disorientation, the report said.

The factual report said Rooney died from "multiple blunt force injuries." His seat was thrown from the aircraft.

Giroux said he was able to get out of the burning plane himself after tugging on his seat belt. He recalled either pushing, carrying, or following Miller out of the plane, but he unable to recall the exact details.

Miller, who was on fire, rolled on the ground to smother the flames, Giroux told NTSB inspectors who interviewed him at his hospital bed at Queen's Medical Center on Oahu and another time following the crash.

Giroux saw King, who was still in his seat. Not recalling exactly, Giroux said he must have somehow lifted King out of the plane.

He told the inspector that he looked back at the plane and could see Kern and Balberdi, but there was no motion and the plane was engulfed in fire.






Q: I was devastated to hear about the terrible plane crash on Lana‘i. I watched the mayor’s press conference on TV, but wondered why the county couldn’t release the names of the victims when that information was already circulating in the news and in social media?

A: Yes, we were all devastated by the news. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and our prayers are with the three county employees who survived the crash. Maui Police Department (MPD) is responsible for identifying remains and releasing that information to the public once it is confirmed. Their investigators accomplish this through a number of ways, but it must be backed up by science/medical examination.

In some cases, positive identification cannot be made without some extreme measures, such as comparing dental records or even testing DNA. When this happens, it delays the release of information. However, these steps are necessary in order to make positive identification, and we support the department’s protocol.


Source:   http://mauinow.com 


 

Piper PA-28-161 Warrior II, N1449H, FAA Flying Club Inc.: Accident occurred March 04, 2014 in Atlantic City, New Jersey

NTSB Identification: ERA14LA141 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 04, 2014 in Atlantic City, NJ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/27/2015
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-161, registration: N1449H
Injuries: 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot said that, before departure, he cleared “minor snow accumulation” from the bottom of the engine compartment. The pilot performed the preflight inspection, engine start, taxi, run-up, and before takeoff checks in accordance with the applicable checklists. The engine accelerated normally during the takeoff roll with a “slight hesitation” at 2,200 to 2,300 rpm as the takeoff continued. When the airplane was at 70 knots and over the departure end of the runway, the engine experienced a partial loss of power. Rather than attempt to return to the runway or land straight ahead to wooded terrain, the pilot chose to perform a forced landing to the airport perimeter road. The airplane’s left wing struck a tree and a fence and then separated from the airplane, and the airplane then impacted the road and came to rest inverted. Examination of the airplane revealed no preimpact mechanical anomalies, and, during a test run, the engine started immediately, accelerated smoothly, and ran without interruption through several rpm changes. The magnetos were tested and functioned as designed.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A partial loss of engine power at takeoff for reasons that could not be determined during a postaccident examination or engine test run.

On March 4, 2014, at 1650 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-161, N1449H, operated by the FAA Flying Club, INC, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain and a fence during a forced landing following a partial loss of engine power after takeoff from Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), Atlantic City, New Jersey. The airline transport pilot received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

In a written statement, the pilot stated the purpose of the flight was to travel in order to give a presentation on cold weather survival and civilian air intercept procedures. He said he specifically checked to see if the airplane was "clear of snow and ice" prior to departure, and determined that it was, but then later described clearing the "minor snow accumulation" at the bottom of the engine compartment. The pilot described his preflight inspection, engine start, taxi, run-up, and before takeoff checks as performed in accordance with the checklist. 

He then described a "normal" acceleration of the engine during the takeoff roll, with a "slight hesitation" at 2,200-2,300 rpm, as he continued the takeoff. At 70 knots and over the departure end of the runway, the engine "lost significant power." Rather than attempt a return to the runway, or land straight ahead to wooded terrain, the pilot elected to perform a forced landing to the airport perimeter road. Just prior to ground contact, the airplane's left wing struck a tree and a fence, and the airplane impacted the road and came to rest inverted.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. He also held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for rotorcraft-helicopter. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued on October 21, 2013. He reported 3,245 total hours of flight experience, of which 318 hours were in single-engine airplanes.

According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1977. Its most recent annual inspection was completed September 12, 2013, at 5,038.1 aircraft hours. The airplane accrued 37.1 hours of flight time after the inspection.

At 1654, the weather conditions reported at ACY included calm winds, clear skies, and 10 miles of visibility. The temperature was -4 degrees C, the dew point was -9 degrees C, and the altimeter setting was 30.28 inches of mercury.

Examination of photographs revealed the airplane came to rest inverted on the airport perimeter road, entangled in a fence. The left wing was separated from the airplane at the wing root. Photographs taken at the original point of touchdown, revealed slash and paint transfer marks in the pavement that were consistent with the color and dimension of the propeller blades. The airplane was removed from the site, and recovered to the operator's ramp space at ACY. Later, it was moved to an aircraft recovery facility in Clayton, Delaware for a detailed inspection which was performed by the FAA on May 14, 2014. 

The airplane was secured to a flatbed trailer, with the left wing separated by impact, and the right wing removed by recovery personnel. A substitute propeller and aircraft battery were installed, and an auxiliary fuel supply was plumbed into the fuel system to attempt an engine run.

The engine started immediately, accelerated smoothly, and ran without interruption. The magnetos were tested, and found to be functioning as designed. Several rpm changes, through rapid accelerations and decelerations, were accomplished with smooth operation throughout.


http://registry.faa.gov/N1449H

NTSB Identification: ERA14LA141 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 04, 2014 in Atlantic City, NJ
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-161, registration: N1449H
Injuries: 1 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On March 4, 2014, at 1650 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-161, N1449H, operated by the FAA Flying Club, INC, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain and a fence during a forced landing following a partial loss of engine power after takeoff from Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), Atlantic City, New Jersey. The airline transport pilot received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

In a written statement, the pilot described his preflight inspection, engine start, taxi, run-up, and before takeoff checks as performed in accordance with the checklist. He then described a delay in the acceleration of the engine during the takeoff roll, but because the engine eventually accelerated to "2500-2600" rpm, he elected to continue the takeoff.At 70 knots and over the departure end of the runway, the engine "lost significant power." Rather than attempt a return to the runway, or land straight ahead to wooded terrain, the pilot elected to perform a forced landing to the airport perimeter road. Just prior to ground contact, the airplane's left wing struck a tree and a fence, and the airplane collided with the road and came to rest inverted.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. He also held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for rotorcraft-helicopter. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued on October 21, 2013. He reported 3,245 total hours of flight experience, of which 318 hours were in single-engine airplanes.

According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1977. Its most recent annual inspection was completed September 12, 2013, at 5,038.1 aircraft hours. The airplane accrued 37.1 hours of flight time after the inspection.

Examination of photographs revealed the airplane came to rest inverted on the perimeter road, entangled in the fence. The left wing was separated from the airplane at the wing root. Photographs taken at the original point of touchdown, revealed slash and paint transfer marks in the pavement that were consistent with the color and dimension of the propeller blades. The airplane was removed from the site, and recovered to the operator's ramp space at ACY. A detailed examination of the airplane was scheduled for a later date.



 http://faaflyingclub.com

"The FAA Flying Club is a nonprofit flying club based based at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center located at the Atlantic City International Airport (KACY). The club currently owns and operates a Piper Warrior. Membership is available to anyone working at the Technical Center including FAA Employees, Contractors, DHS, Coast Guard, Air National Guard, and to FAA employees working elsewhere in the local area. Whether your interested in learning to fly or a seasoned pilot looking for a cost effective way to fly we can help."
 
Pilot who crashed at Atlantic City International is Coast Guard lieutenant commander  
 
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A pilot who walked away from a crash at the Atlantic City International Airport on Tuesday is a lieutenant commander at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, with extensive flight experience.

William K. Blair, 36, crashed shortly after takeoff when the plane developed mechanical problems, State Police Trooper Jeff Flynn said.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Blair’s wife, Kathryn Blair, confirmed he was unharmed.

Blair has two addresses, in Linwood and Kodiak, Alaska. Based in the Aleutian Islands, Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak is one of the largest units in the Coast Guard. Blair did not return calls or an email seeking comment.

Blair was commissioned in September 2001 and rose to his current rank in July 2012, according to Coast Guard records. Federal Aviation Administration records show he holds an array of certifications on his pilot’s license. These include an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate for helicopter, the highest level of American pilots’ licenses, allowing a person to serve as the lead pilot on a multi-crew plane.

The certifications require extensive training, including at least 1,200 hours of flight, consisting of at least 500 hours on cross-country trips, 100 hours of night flight and 75 hours of flight using just instruments alone.

The FAA also licensed Blair in November to serve as a helicopter instructor.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Nick Ameen confirmed that a Coast Guard member was involved in a non-military crash while off-duty Tuesday.

The FAA said that the Piper Cherokee went down on airport property at around 4:50 p.m., clipped a fence and was substantially damaged. Responders at the scene said the plane broke a wing and landed on its roof.

Registration numbers show the crashed plane belongs to the FAA Flying Club, a 50-year old club open to all FAA employees or others working at the tech center. Members pay a $300 initiation fee and $30 monthly dues, and $65 per hour, plus fuel, to use the plane, which they identified as a four-seat 1977 Piper Warrior II.

The club provides both liability and hull damage insurance for the plane, with a maximum $500 deductible for a club member.




Officials investigate crash of small plane at A.C. International 

A Piper Cherokee plane crashed after trying to return to Atlantic City International Airport after taking off Tuesday, officials said.

Only the pilot was onboard and he apparently escaped serious injury, said Kevin Rehmann, a spokesperson with the South Jersey Transportation Authority.

The single-engine plane lost power and hit a fence, Rehmann said, adding that the pilot exited the plane seemingly unharmed and was being evaluated by medical personnel at the site.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that at 4:50 p.m., the Piper Cherokee PA28 had departed Runway 13, then attempted to return to the airport due to a reported engine problem.

“It went down on airport property, and clipped a fence. ... Damage to the aircraft is substantial,” the statement said. The FAA is investigating.

Responders on the scene said that when the engine stalled, the pilot tried to land on the dirt perimeter. He clipped the fence, breaking a wing and the plane landed on its roof, they said.

Rehmann did not have an identity of the pilot.

According to the FAA website, the plane is registered to the FAA Flying Club Inc. at the William J. Hughes Technical Center.

At the airport, flashing red emergency lights were distantly visible from the top of the airport’s parking garage shortly after the incident. The crash appeared to be past the eastern end of the 10,000-foot main runway, beyond buildings used by the U.S. Coast Guard.

A firetruck and two ambulances were seen entering the 177th Fighter Wing entrance at the airport around 5:15 p.m.


Story and comments:  http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com 
 
Officials say a small plane, believed to be a single engine crashed at Atlantic City International Airport Tuesday afternoon.

Pilot was the only occupant, sources say he was checked out and is uninjured.

According to officials the plane is upside down off of the runway.

Rescue crews have been called to the scene.


 A small plane crashed shortly after take-off from Atlantic City International Airport in Pomona this afternoon. 

According to The Press of Atlantic City, a small plane crashed around 5:00 Tuesday afternoon as it was trying to take-off from Atlantic City International Airport.

Preliminary reports indicate the engine on the plane stalled, the pilot attempted to return to the airport, but hit a fence before landing, which caused the plane to flip and land on its roof.

The pilot, who was the only person on board, was checked by emergency crews and was not seriously injured.

Bid to delay airport project doesn’t fly: Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport (KGFL), Glens Falls, New York

QUEENSBURY -- Warren County supervisors on Tuesday rejected a request to hold off on spending more than $1 million to buy land and easements around Warren County Airport. 

 The Board of Supervisors’ Facility Committee voted unanimously to continue with the project instead of shortening the airport’s auxiliary runway or suing to enforce decades-old easements.

Shortening the runway would have eliminated the need for the land and easements.

The decision came after a contentious, hourlong discussion that pitted a group of local pilots and project supporters against a group of supervisors and residents who have asked that alternatives to the $1.04 million property and easement purchases be given a closer look. All but 5 percent of the project would be paid by state or federal grants.

The alternatives have been proposed by Queensbury at-Large supervisors Mark Westcott and Doug Beaty and Queensbury resident Travis Whitehead, who are members of a group that has questioned the need to buy property and easements when less expensive options are available.

“This really is about options. I don’t think we’ve vetted all the options correctly,” Whitehead said.

One alternative is shortening the 4,000-foot-long runway to do away with the need for easements and more land for the “runway protection zone.”

The group questioned why the county has agreed to pay Ronald Chartrand $855,000 for a 53-acre parcel assessed at $102,000 when Chartrand recently bought 20 acres of nearby land from the county for $40,000. Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe called that a “huge discrepancy.” Chartrand had opted not to sell the county an avigation easement but to require a full purchase.

But the land Chartrand bought was landlocked by his property and not as developable as the land he has agreed to sell the county. County Attorney Martin Auffredou said the FAA approved the appraisal.

Beaty pointed out some of the land is in Kingsbury, which would put the county in the position of losing property from its tax rolls and having to pay Washington County taxes on the land instead.

Auffredou said the county could subdivide the land and sell portions of it, outside the runway protection zone, for development.

Some questioned why the county had not pursued eminent domain proceedings to acquire Chartrand’s property, but county officials said that was viewed as a last resort.

Shortening the auxiliary runway, which is generally used only when strong winds come out of the northwest, did not sit well with pilots in attendance.

Pilot Harrison Freer said the FAA could place restrictions on pilots, while pilot Dave Alexander said the bad conditions under which that runway is usually used require the full length of pavement.

“I don’t see shortening Runway 30 as an option,” he said. “If you’ve got windy conditions, you want as much runway as you can have.”

Freer accused opponents of the project of using “inaccurate and misleading” information to make their case.

The county bought avigation easements over the property in the 1940s, which prompted discussion over whether litigation to enforce those easements was possible. But the map detailing those easements has long been lost.

“Absent those maps, the chances of success are greatly diminished,” Auffredou said.

Monroe asked that the vote to continue on the path to property and easement purchases be tabled because Westcott was not present for the meeting. But his request was not seconded.

Monroe and committee members Evelyn Wood, Thurman’s supervisor, and John Strough, Queensbury’s supervisor, voted to go ahead with the project.

Westcott said he had a previously scheduled business trip so he could not attend the meeting.

“We’re not trying to railroad this through. We just want the county to take a closer look at it,” he said.

Westcott and his supporters have planned a public meeting on the issue March 12 at Crandall Public Library, starting at 6 p.m.


Source:   http://poststar.com

Fantasy of Flight to Close as Public Attraction, Will Focus on Private Event Business: Attraction has world's largest private collection of vintage aircraft

AUBURNDALE | Troubled by waning attendance and image problems, Fantasy of Flight, an aviation-themed attraction boasting the world’s largest private collection of vintage aircraft, closes to the public April 6.

Kermit Weeks, the charismatic former aerobatics champion and aircraft designer who built Fantasy of Flight in part to house his collection, said he delivered the somber news Tuesday morning to staff inside the attraction and airfield just off Interstate 4 near Polk City.

“I turned 60 last year and the clock is ticking; it’s time to move on,” Weeks said. “So the bottom line is, instead of focusing on a business that quite honestly is not sustainable, I can focus my energy and resources toward a dream that will sustain.

“I have great employees, a great product,” he said, “but people think we’re (little more than) a dusty old airplane museum.”

Weeks said he failed to change that misperception over the 18 years Fantasy of Flight has operated, despite adding elements such as aerial demonstrations of rare, vintage aircraft, tram tours that give visitors a glimpse of ongoing restoration efforts and a zip line.

Over the next few years, Weeks said, he’ll continue to build on his private event business while working on plans to create a new destination attraction, one where aircraft take a back seat to character-driven entertainment and opportunities for self-discovery.

“I’m going to get some of the best minds in the design business,” he said. “We’re going to look like the big boys up the street,” meaning major theme parks, “but with a completely different product.”

Fantasy of Flight was a good fit in a county where aviation continues to be a thriving business, said Mark Jackson, director of Central Florida Tourism and Sports Marketing.

He expressed optimism over Weeks’ assurance of a new venture.

“Kermit has always been a visionary and someone who has a unique ability to make the necessary changes to his products and offerings, which ultimately will put the business in a more competitive position,” Jackson said in an email.

“Fantasy of Flight has played an important role in the message we convey to potential visitors. I’m looking forward to what Kermit’s creativity and perseverance will come up with next. We’ll certainly be there to help him market his next great idea.”

Bobby Green, city manager of Auburndale, which annexed the Fantasy of Flight property in 2008, said growth along the I-4 corridor bodes well for Weeks’ future plans.

“If there’s anyone that can reinvent Fantasy of Flight and the opportunities of that property, Kermit Weeks is quite capable of doing that,” he said.

“I think with Florida Poly, and the things happening with light rail, I think he realizes he’s in the center of the universe ... Let’s remember that Legoland (Florida) used to be Cypress Gardens. Whatever happens there will be good for Auburndale but will also be good for Polk County.”

Without mentioning specifics, Weeks said the closing will result in a reduction of his workforce. At one time the attraction employed as many as 70 people.

It’s the second reduction since May 6, when Fantasy of Flight cut operating hours from seven days a week to four, entertaining guests Thursday through Sunday, only. A general admission ticket was most recently priced at $29.95 for ages 13 and over.

Weeks said he intends to concentrate on restoration of rare, vintage aircraft, which is the reason he developed the property following the destruction of his Miami air museum by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Weeks has said he bankrolled Fantasy of Flight with royalties from the work of his grandfather, a geologist involved in the oil industry. A part of his collection of aircraft, some of which dates to the dawn of aviation, is scattered around the globe.

Despite efforts to fuse the museum aspects with interactive, immersion experiences, putting visitors into the belly of a B-17 Flying Fortress to witness aerial battle at an altitude of 25,000 feet, Fantasy of Flight never quite earned its keep.

“In its current form it is not a sustainable operation based on attendance numbers,” said Kandice Stephens, the attraction’s operations manager, adding that Weeks’ long-range plans call for a “main attraction” for which people will travel out of their way.

“His (Weeks) vision is to use quality entertainment to help people discover themselves, pushing their boundaries, facing their fears,” she said.

For those who enjoy aviation history, plans are to open an aspect of the present aircraft collection in a reduced capacity and admission price later this year, Stephens said.

“We’ll be reduced to just one (hangar) with a select number of aircraft with historic value, no tram tours, no back lot (tour),” she said.

Meanwhile, the events staff will be retained and the facility will continue to host weddings, meetings and corporate events, including team building and birthday parties.

Groups booked for admittance to the attraction after April 6 will be issued refunds, the release said. Groups currently contracted only for private events will not be affected by these changes.

Annual passholders will receive a pro-rated refund based on the date of purchase. Questions may be sent to: btaylor@fantasyofflight.com.


Story, photo and comments/reaction:   http://www.theledger.com


Restored Ball Turret back on WWII-era Aircraft

The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force B-17 Restoration Team has installed a restored ball turret onto a World War II-era aircraft. The ball turret was revealed during a ceremony on Tuesday.

The ball turret was purchased from the set of the movie "Memphis Belle" and has been under restoration for the last 11 months to transform it from a movie prop into a functioning turret.

The installation was overseen by two groups of the B-17 Restoration Team, an all-volunteer force that has given over 35,000 hours to restore the aircraft.

The Museum's B-17G Flying Fortress arrived in 2009. A donation from the National Air and Space Museum, the Flying Fortress is undergoing a complete restoration to return it to its original combat configuration. When complete, it is anticipated that it will be the only static restoration of a B-17 Flying Fortress in the world with three fully-functioning power turrets.

Story and photos:   http://www.wsav.com

Mooney aircraft owner faces a repair bill of more than $100,000 after an encounter with a kangaroo at Kempsey Airport in New South Wales, Australia

Runway roulette: Kangaroo killed after being hit by plane

The owner and pilot of a small plane faces a repair bill of more than $100,000 after an encounter with a kangaroo at Kempsey Airport on Tuesday.

The Mooney aircraft, which had been flown from Port Macquarie, struck an adult kangaroo on the runway as it headed for a hangar, at about 2.30pm.

The kangaroo was hit by the propeller and the fuel tank on one of the wings, killing the animal.

Darren Gibson chief engineer at Macleay Aircraft Maintenance said the pilot had walked away unscathed.

"(The pilot) is fairly laid back, it would take a lot to shake him," he said. "He came around and said 'someone might have to pull a kangaroo off the runway'.

"If it had happened during take-off, when the plane would've been going a lot faster, it would've been a different story."

Mr Gibson said it was the first time he had known of an aircraft striking a kangaroo, but said bird strikes were relatively common.

"There should be a fence it would need to be seven or eight feet (2.13m to 2.43m) high," he said. "Everywhere else has a fence other places that do don't get kangaroos. This might be the catalyst for a fence."

By law, the collision must be reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Kempsey Shire Council's infrastructure services director Robert Scott said it had been the first recorded incident at the airport of a plane hitting an animal in the past 10 years.

"We have had a couple of reports of near-misses involving birds and concerns have been raised about the presence of kangaroos at the airport," Robert Scott said.

"Council adopted a Wildlife Hazard Management plan for the airport, which is focused on providing a better understanding and evaluating the risk of collision."

Mr Scott said measures included runway clearances for aircraft taking off or landing at night, and during routine inspections; keeping grass short; and a communication system warning pilots of the risk of wildlife.

There are no plans to fence the airport.

Last year $150,000 of a federal government grant, promised by the former Labor government, had been set aside for the construction of a fence.

But the funding promise was scrapped by the new Coalition government.


Story and photos:   http://www.portnews.com.au

Las Vegas, Nevada: Deafness doesn’t ground aspiring pilot

Nineteen-year-old Jordan Livingston was born to fly.

Growing up in Canada, Livingston lived near Calgary International Airport, where his father worked the ground crew.

As a young boy, he would gaze up as jets flew over his house en route to the airport. Watching those planes soaring above the clouds inspired the boy to become a commercial airline pilot someday.

“I looked up at the sky and said, ‘I want to fly one of those,’” said Livingston, who built model airplanes as a child. “I’ve always been passionate about flying since before I could even remember.”

However, Livingston was born profoundly deaf in both ears.

As a baby, he slept through everything, from loud thuds to thunderstorms. Early on, doctors dismissed his parents’ concerns that their son may be deaf. They said Livingston was just a very sound sleeper.

One day, his mother took a walk with her infant son in his stroller. A firetruck sped by, horns blaring. Jordan — then nearly a year old — didn’t even bat an eye.

“That was the moment I knew,” Trina Livingston, 41, said. “There was no denying it.”

Trina placed her son on a Canadian government wait list for a cochlear implant. It’s an electronic device that stimulates the auditory nerve in the inner ear, and allows a deaf person to hear sounds.

After more than two years on the wait list, Livingston received his first cochlear implant. It allowed him to hear for the first time out of his right ear.

“When they turned them on, I saw his eyes light up,” his mother said. “He was so excited.”

Since he was diagnosed late, Livingston entered kindergarten the following year developmentally behind. He worked with a private speech therapist to catch up to his talking peers, training his right ear to recognize sounds and distinguish spoken words.

By the time he moved to Las Vegas a couple of years later, Livingston could hear without assistance from traditional hearing aids or speaker systems. He went on to Bridger Middle School and Rancho High School’s aviation magnet programs.

However, having only one cochlear implant, Livingston couldn’t tell which direction sounds were coming from. He lacked directional hearing, like a one-eyed person lacks depth perception.

It’s a skill that’s crucial for flying. Pilots use their ears to diagnose engine failures and heed auditory warnings in the cockpit.

People wondered if Livingston could pass the Federal Aviation Administration's stringent medical exams. Some even questioned whether a deaf person should fly at all.

"The more people told me I couldn't, the more determined I became not to let any obstacle prevent me from reaching my goals," Livingston said.

He decided to get a second cochlear implant for his left ear, an expensive proposition that could run upwards of $100,000. His family coughed up about $8,000 in co-pays; health insurance covered the remainder.

Livingston passed the medical exam, and when he was 16, he received his private pilot's license, which allowed him to fly small, single-engine planes. At the time, he didn’t even have a learner's permit to drive a car.

“I remember sitting in the plane, and thinking if Jordan makes a mistake, we’d be dead,” Trina Livingston said. “But he did very good. It was exhilarating.

“When he was diagnosed deaf, all I could think was all of those dreams that were ripped away from him,” she continued. “But all of a sudden, I realized it didn’t affect his life at all. Seeing him fly was a pretty amazing thing.”

After graduating from Rancho’s aviation academy, Livingston entered Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., where he is an aviation business administration major. Livingston is still training for his dream job: piloting a Boeing 737 plane for Southwest Airlines.

“One day, I’ll be that pilot flying over a little boy who is gazing up at me as he dreams of flying,” Livingston said. “I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t gotten those cochlear implants. Without them, I’d be upset I couldn’t pursue my dreams.”

Livingston recently received an $8,000 scholarship from Cochlear Americas, a cochlear implant manufacturer impressed with his sense of determination in the face of daunting obstacles. He hopes to inspire other deaf children to follow their dreams.

“So many people have said I can’t be a pilot,” Livingston said. “If you have drive and perseverance, you can accomplish anything.”

Story and photos:  http://www.lasvegassun.com

Grand Junction Regional (KGJT), Colorado: Airport may lose $1.4M in funding - Grant requests revised in wake of federal probe

Re-applying for grants for a new administration building at Grand Junction Regional Airport is likely to cost the Airport Authority up to $1.4 million.

The Airport Authority, with sponsorship from Mesa County commissioners and the city of Grand Junction, applied for a $3.7 million Federal Aviation Administration grant in September in hopes of getting money for a $6.2 million building construction project at the airport. The grant application listed the proposed building as a terminal.

Following an FBI raid at the airport in November, airport officials decided the building should actually be classified as an administration and aircraft rescue and firefighting building. Airport Authority board members voted Jan. 14 to rescind the original grant and re-apply for funding with the new building label.

Re-classifying the building means the FAA is likely to grant closer to $2.8 million to $3 million this time, according to Airport Authority Chairman Steve Wood. The amount of a state grant for the project similarly has been downgraded from $1.8 million to $1.18 million, Wood told Mesa County commissioners on Monday.

“The difference will be borne by the airport unless we are able to establish a usage for a portion of building that would increase its eligibility” for grant funding, Wood said.

The Airport Authority may try to find a way to decrease the construction project price, but Wood said so far the board has not had enough time to devote to that pursuit. He added changing the design may add more expense to the project.

County commissioners added their support Monday to the Airport Authority’s effort to back out of the federal grant by voting unanimously to send a letter of support for rescission to the FAA. The Airport Authority authored its own letter and Grand Junction City Council members are expected to do the same.

The FAA will consider the new grant after the original one is rescinded.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca told Wood he appreciated the Airport Authority board’s willingness to include the county in the rescission process. Commissioner John Justman said he attended the board’s Jan. 14 meeting and agreed with the authority’s decision.

“You got the wrong grant for the wrong project, I think,” Justman said. “You really don’t have a lot of options. ... None of them are great options but under the circumstances this is it.”

Wood said the board decided to rescind rather than attempt to amend the grant based on advice from the state and the FAA. Starting fresh with the proper information on grant documents will help the airport avoid problems procuring government grants in the future and downplay any perception of impropriety, he said.

“There is a collective and strongly held opinion with the board we want to be absolutely certain we do not proceed with anything that is tainted in any way,” Wood said. 

Source:   http://www.gjsentinel.com