Thursday, March 06, 2014

An exercise in public safety

MacDill Air Force Base personal took part in an exercise on Thursday morning, simulating that a jet had clipped a helicopter at the upcoming AirFest with people being injured. In advance of "MacDill AFB presents Tampa Bay AirFest," the 6th Air Mobility Wing air show exercise to practice in case of an emergency at the show.

The exercise is to prepare first responders in case of an actual emergency during the air show on Mar. 22 and 23.

The air show typically brings in more than 150,000 attendees from the entire central Florida region, and this year base officials expect even more.

"With our outstanding community partners, we feel prepared for any emergency, and will validate our preparedness while sharpening our skills," said Col. Scott DeThomas, 6th Air Mobility Wing commander. "It is important for our attendees to have a great time and feel safe. This exercise is just one more way to ensure the public safety."


Unusual Property Seizure from Plane and Hotel Room

From documents presented to Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters, probable cause for securing the search warrant on a suspicious airplane and the hotel room of its pilot was established using a drug detection canine.

Powell Police Sargent Chad Miner brought in the department's drug detection dog to sniff the outside of the plane that landed suspiciously on the night of February 27th. The dog alerted on the plane's right door.

Cody Police Officer Ronald Parduba then interviewed an airport staff member who was on duty when 25 year old pilot Scott Lewis and his passenger landed. Parduba asked if the men had any bags with them when they deplaned and went to their hotel. The airport employee said the men had three bags with them, one looked particularly heavy. The Holiday Inn's manager confirmed that two men, as described by police, had arrived with three bags.

Parduba then received at search warrant for the hotel room from Judge Waters at 3:30 in the morning of February 28th. When officers searched the room, seized were two laptops, six electronic storage devices, fifteen cell phones, and three Idaho drivers' licenses, each with a different name.

Also seized was a duffel bag full of 12 vacuum sealed bags containing over 250,000 dollars in US Currency. Another $1,500 was seized from the pocket of a jacket in the room.

A search warrant for the plane was received later that same morning with Officer Parduba citing the drug detection dog's alerting on the right side of the plane and the plane being of high payload, which is typical of drug trafficking operations.

Seized from the plane were documents indicative of possible drug trafficking.

According to Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam, the pilot's seized property, including the money and plane, has been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Scott Lewis, of Colorado, faces two misdemeanor charges. When asked if it was customary to seize property in this manner, without evidence for a felony charge, Rockvam said that the case is not typical but "Obviously there are other things underlying."

Rockvam wouldn't comment further on the seizure of property.

 Cody Police are conducting extra patrols at Choice Aviation.

Pilot Scott Lewis has been released on his own recognizance.


Diamond DA20-C1 Eclipse, N108WA, Lake Aviation Inc: Accident occurred March 06, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio

NTSB Identification: CEN14CA153  
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, March 06, 2014 in Cleveland, OH
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/01/2014
Aircraft: DIAMOND AIRCRAFT IND INC DA 20, registration: N108WA
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The solo student pilot reported that he was attempting to make a full stop landing. He attempted to land twice before, but bounced both landing attempts, and ultimately executed go-arounds each time. He reported that during the third attempted landing, he bounced the landing and attempted another go-around, but "could not recover." The airplane veered off the left side of the runway and impacted a distance marker, a stop sign, and a pile of rocks, which resulted in substantial damage to the wings.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's improper flare and recovery from a bounced landing, which resulted in a loss of control and impact with terrain.


Plane goes off the runway at Burke Lakefront Airport ...  It happened about 6:30 p.m. and involved a Diamond DA20.

CLEVELAND -- Rescue squads responded to Burke Lakefront Airport Thursday evening after a small plane went off the runway as it attempted to land. 

According to an airport spokeswoman, it happened about 6:30 p.m. and involved a Diamond DA20.

The Cleveland Fire Department and EMS responded.

No injuries have been reported.

The owner of the plane is listed as Lake Aviation Inc. of Mentor.

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Plane goes off runway at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport; no injuries reported 

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A small-single engine plane went off the runway as it attempted to land Thursday evening at Burke Lakefront Airport.

Airport spokesperson Jackie Mayo said the pilot was the only person on the plane and was uninjured. However, the plane did suffer some minor damage.

Operations at Burke were not affected by the accident, which occurred around 6:30 p.m., and the airport remained open, Mayo said.

Mayo said the plane was a
Diamond DA20 aircraft. Officials are not sure why the plane left the runway and Mayo said runway conditions were good.

She said the plane will be taken to a hangar and officials will investigate the incident.


Late Minnesota State University aviation prof to be inducted in MN Aviation Hall of Fame

John Roberts, the former head of Minnesota State University's aviation program, has been selected for induction into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.

Roberts helped build the MSU pilot program into one with a national reputation that was home to as many as 300 students at a time. But his 22-year tenure at the college ended with rancor and lawsuits. The dispute included university leaders criticizing Roberts' practice of getting fees from administering Federal Aviation Administration flight-check tests to students and Roberts accusing MSU's top brass of waging a vendetta against him.

Countless students, however, credited their careers in aviation to Roberts, who personally tested and approved more than 3,000 students for pilot certificates and ratings. He also provided the mentorship and structured an innovative flight-training program that enabled 400 of them to obtain employment with the airlines.

Shortly after Roberts' death from cancer in 2012, one of his trainees — Jerry Goodrich of Prior Lake — told The Free Press that he once offhandedly asked an airline cap­tain whether she knew Roberts. He recalls her response: “Know him? I am wearing this uniform because of John. Please tell J.R. that I thank him from the bottom of my heart.”

“John really is something of a legend in Minnesota aviation,” Goodrich said.

That will become official at a banquet April 12 in Bloomington, according to Noel Allard, Chairman of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. Banquet and registration information is available at

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Flags at half-staff for pilot

“To lose a member is very sad when talking about a young person getting started in the military. Our heart goes out to the family, his unit and the air station as they work through this.” — Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. 

Flags flew at half-mast this week to remember the Marine Corps pilot who died in a jet crash Saturday afternoon near the Monitor Mountain Range.

Gov. Brian Sandoval ordered flags to be lowered from Tuesday through Thursday.

The pilot, whose named has not been released by his higher command in Okinawa, Japan, had been a student at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center.

A spokesman for the III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific said Thursday the command is working through the deliberate and sensitive process of when it can officially release the pilot’s name, service record, hometown and awards.

Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. said Thursday it is very difficult to lose a military member whether that person is training here or assigned to the air station.

“The community takes this hard,” Tedford said, explaining how active duty servicemen and women as well as veterans and their families take the loss of a life hard.

“To lose a member is very sad when talking about a young person getting started in the military,” Tedford added. “Our heart goes out to the family, his unit and the air station as they work through this.”

Tedford said the city has an open offer to assist Naval Air Station Fallon whenever the need arises.

Retired Cmdr. Steve Endacott, a former squadron commander at NAS Fallon, said situations like these are always difficult.

“The grieving whether it’s family or a squadron is a very private thing,” said the Fallon resident.

The Navy said a memorial service for the pilot will be conducted next week.

Earlier this week, the governor and his wife expressed their condolences.

“It is with a heavy heart we learn of the death of the military pilot whose aircraft crashed this weekend,” said the governor, who is also the state’s commander in chief for the Nevada National Guard. “This incident is a sad reminder of the dangers our military men and women are faced with every day. Kathleen and I extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of this fallen hero.”

Sen. Dean Heller also offered his sympathies.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family of the brave Marine whose life was lost in service to this great country,” Heller said Thursday in a statement. “This tragedy is a sad reminder that every day our nation’s military pilots report for work, they risk their lives on our behalf. We are grateful for their bravery and commitment to this nation.”

Natalie Parrish, executive director of the Fallon Chamber of Commerce, said the Fallon community mourns the loss every time a military member dies.

According to the Navy, the pilot, who was training at NSAWC, died when his jet crashed on a training flight over the rugged Nevada terrain about 40 miles east of Austin. Spokeswoman Lt. Reagan Lauritzen of the Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Feet in San Diego said a debris field was found within the training area.

Search crews discovered the U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C that was on loan to NSAWC for use as a training aircraft. Lauritzen said the craft was a total loss.

The Navy Range Complex, where the accident occurred, provides Carrier Air Wing training, advanced instructor training, fleet replacement squadron training, integrated air-to-air and air-to-ground unit level training, joint exercises and tactics development. The range extends primarily east and northeast from Fallon.

The Navy said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.

The Maui Police Department released a report today confirming the identities of those aboard a plane that crashed on Lānaʻi last week.

The report also states that the cause of death for the three individuals that died in the incident has not been determined pending a coroner’s physician’s report.

The department issued a press release this afternoon classifying the crash as a miscellaneous accident.

According to the document, the Piper PA-31-350 aircraft, which was owned and operated by Maui Air Tours, crashed at 9:11 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.

The incident occurred shortly after departure, in the area known as “Miki Basin,” about 1 mile south of the Lānaʻi Airport.

The flight was chartered by the County of Maui Planning Department for a meeting on Lānaʻi, and was carrying five county personnel and a Maui Air Tours pilot.

The report confirms that the three survivors are:
  • James Giroux, 43, of Haʻikū, deputy for Corporation Counsel for the County of Maui;
  • Douglas Miller, 57, of Kahului, planner IV for the Maui Planning Department; and
  • Mark King, 43, of Kīhei, geographical information systems analyst V for Maui.
All three are still being treated in hospitals on Oʻahu, with Miller and King in critical condition, and Giroux in stable condition, police said.

The report also confirmed the names and identities of the three individuals who died in the crash which included the following:
  • Richard Rooney, 66, of Pāʻia, who was also the pilot and owner of the aircraft;
  • Tremaine Balberdi, 52 of Kahului, secretary to the boards and commission II; and
  • Kathleen Kern, 50, of Kīhei, planner V for the Planning Department.

On Friday, the Maui Police Department confirmed that all victims of Wednesday’s plane crash on Lāna‘i had been recovered and were taken to the department’s forensic facility in Wailuku.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Peter Knudson said the on-scene investigation was expected to conclude on Monday, and that a preliminary report is due out later this week.

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Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain, Maui Air, N483VA

Verdict in Crop Duster Shooting Trial

TWIN FALLS - After deliberating for nearly five hours, a jury returned its verdict Thursday afternoon in the case of a Filer man accused of firing a shotgun at a crop duster.

Christopher V. Lewis, 42, was found guilty of discharging a firearm at an aircraft, a felony.

His trial started Tuesday morning.

At about 10:45 a.m. Aug. 24, a pilot with Ken-Spraying LLC told police he was spraying from his crop duster when someone wielding a shotgun waved at him and "did not appear to be happy."

At the same time, someone contacted the spraying company threatening to "dust the pilot with his 10-gauge shotgun."

Jurors heard a recording of the call.

In the recording, the angry caller said the pilot was flying too low over homes and threatened to “spray him with a 10 gauge.”

Two neighbors in the area near where the plane was flying told deputies they saw a man, later identified as Lewis, standing outside with a shotgun.

But Shana Gonzales, a Twin Falls police and fire dispatcher, testified she was in her house Aug. 24 when she heard four shots, walked outside and saw Lewis fire twice at the low-flying plane.

Lewis told deputies that a neighbor brought children into Lewis' home because the neighbor was frightened by how low the crop duster was flying.

Lewis told the deputies he became angry, went outside with his shotgun and "did something bad."

A sentencing hearing is scheduled May 5.

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Love-hate Relationship with Crop Dusters in Magic Valley 

HAZELTON • A disgruntled neighbor fired a 10-gauge shotgun at a Ken-Spraying LLC crop duster in August as it flew over his house south of Filer.

He was tired of the crop duster flying over his home.

Christopher V. Lewis, 42, told deputies that his neighbor brought his children into Lewis’ home, because the neighbor was frightened by how close the crop duster was flying to the ground. Lewis told the deputies he became angry, went outside with his shotgun and “did something bad.”

He was arraigned in Twin Falls County District Court on one count of discharging a firearm at an aircraft, a felony.

A preliminary hearing for Lewis was delayed until Nov. 1.

Incidents like that are “really rare — and really extreme,” said Rod Weeks, flight office manager of Ken-Spray Inc. People have a love-hate relationship with crop dusters, those low-flying acrobats in the sky.

“Some love to pull over and watch our planes in the air,” said Clay Jurak, manager of Red Baron Ag Service. “Others think we are out to kill the planet.”

But chemical pesticides used today are not as toxic as in the past, Jurak said. And modern planes are safer, too.

Clay’s parents have owned Red Baron for more than 30 years. His dad, Mike Jurak, has flown since he was 18.

“I used to run the business,” Mike Jurak said, “but I really just like to fly.”

While it might appear that crop dusters fly with reckless abandon, they don’t. Pilots must follow strict FAA regulations, as well as federal chemical applicator laws, he said.

Wind speed and direction, time of day and temperature all play into when and how fields are sprayed.

Communication between farmers and their neighbors “is the backbone of any crop dusting business,” he said. That’s where Clay comes in.

“I have a master’s degree in plant pathology,” Clay said. “But I spend most of my day talking to all the neighbors (of sprayed ground) to let them know what we are doing.

“I encounter a lot of folks with respiratory issues, and I’ll stand out in their yard with them, talking to the pilot on the radio as he sprays.”

Weeks said his company also tries to be proactive.

“The most common complaint I here is, ‘Why do they have to fly so low to the ground and pull up right over their house or trees?’” Weeks said.

Most times, pilots have no other choice, he said.

Only experienced pilots with more than 1,000 hours of flight time are hired to fly crop dusters, because of insurance requirements, he said. Many of them were military pilots.

Weeks said he understands where some fears come from. In the past, fields sprayed with some toxic chemicals had to be posted and quarantined for a few days.

“Today’s chemicals are very safe compared to even 10 years ago,” Weeks said. “If you read the label, the basic ingredients are the same stuff sold off the shelf in a gardening store.”

Considering how many hundreds of thousands of acres one plane covers over the course of a year, the industry is a safe one, said Clay Jurak.

One field will be sprayed a dozen times in one season, he said. “We hit potatoes with fungicides and insecticides five or six times, then another five or six times with fertilizer.”

One advantage to aerial application over ground spraying, said Mike Jurak, “is a farmer doesn’t have to shut off the irrigation and dry out the field just to get a ground sprayer in.”

On top of that, with GPS installed in the planes, crop dusting is as precise as ground spraying, he said.

But sometimes, things get sprayed that aren’t supposed to.

“I had some problems when they first sprayed pesticides,” said Randy Stock of Jerome. “I have a field of hay on one side of me and a potato field on the other. And I didn’t want them to spray on my property.”

Stock called Clay Jurak.

“He was very accommodating, very responsible,” Stock said. “We live in a farming community and I make a living from that farming community.

“It’s my belief that some people just overreact.”

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Drone Pilot’s Fine Dropped by Judge Finding Against Federal Aviation Administration

A judge overturned a U.S. regulator’s first fine against a drone operator, a ruling that may lead to more commercial unmanned-aircraft flights in the U.S. before rules are written to govern their use.  
Judge Patrick Geraghty of the National Transportation Safety Board, which decides appeals of enforcement actions by the Federal Aviation Administration, dismissed the agency’s $10,000 fine against Raphael Pirker for reckless flying. The FAA has no authority over small unmanned aircraft, the judge ruled.

“This has very significant implications for companies that have been eager to proceed with commercial applications for UAS technologies,” Brendan Schulman, Pirker’s lawyer, said in an interview.

The decision is a setback for the FAA, which has held that U.S. commercial drone flights are prohibited until it writes rules governing their use. Agency officials didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

At the time of Pirker’s flight to shoot a promotional video over the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Oct. 17, 2011, “there was no enforceable FAA rule” on the type of model aircraft he used, Geraghty said in his decision.

The FAA argued that Pirker’s flight, with a plane made with a foam wing and weighing less than 5 pounds, was “careless and reckless,” putting it under the agency’s authority to enforce flying safety.

Pirker flew under bridges, near statues and over pedestrians, as documented on video he shot that day.

Regulation Undermined

The decision counters the FAA’s assertion, most recently made in an update posted on its website Feb. 26, that there are “no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft -- manned or unmanned -- in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval.”

Even before today’s ruling, the FAA was struggling to police the commercial use of drones that anyone can purchase online or at hobby shops.
Story: Should Cargo and Passenger Pilots Fly With Different Rest Rules?

Drones have been used to film scenes in the Martin Scorsese-directed movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” and sporting events for Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN. They’ve inspected oilfield equipment, mapped agricultural land and photographed homes and neighborhoods for real estate marketing, according to industry officials, company websites and videos on the Internet.

While the FAA hasn’t issued any permits for commercial drone use outside the Arctic, the agency said in a Feb. 10 statement that it will consider them on a case-by-case basis.

Model Planes

Congress in 2012 ordered the FAA to craft rules to safely integrate drones into U.S. skies by 2015. The agency doesn’t expect to allow all drone operations by then and will instead phase them into the system over a longer period, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a Senate hearing Jan. 15.

While flying a model aircraft “solely for hobby or recreational reasons” doesn’t require approval, hobbyists must operate according to 1981 guidelines, such as staying away from populated areas, the agency has said.

Pirker didn’t qualify as a hobbyist, the FAA argued.

Geraghty found the guidelines can’t be enforced, at least for people piloting a “model” plane.

The agency needs to create exceptions for businesses that want to use them, Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said yesterday at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee session in Washington.

Toscano’s association is an Arlington, Virginia-based trade group representing unmanned aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing Co.and Textron Inc. 


Pilot sues Kobus Smit for R1.75m

A Port Elizabeth pilot has dragged mining magnate Kobus Smit to court after a job promise offered by Smit went sour.

In papers filed at the Port Elizabeth High Court, Rod Crichton, who runs Ebhayi Charter Air in Theescombe, claims Smit did not honor an oral employment agreement by which he would render aircraft piloting services to Smit’s JP Smit Family Trust for a period of five years, starting from April 2008.

Smit, however, denies the claim and said the agreement was only for three years and that he and Crichton also altered their arrangement following challenges the trust’s string of companies encountered as a result of the economic crisis in 2009.

Story and photo:

Solberg-Hunterdon Airport (N51), Readington, New Jersey

Trial on remaining issues in Solberg Airport condemnation suit put off for one week

READINGTON TWP. — A trial to sort out the last remaining issues in the Solberg Airport condemnation suit that was set to begin on Monday is now set to start on March 17.

In November, Judge Yolanda Ciccone denied the township's request to file a second amended complaint, in which the township wanted to change its lawsuit to allow Readington to buy the 102 acres used for airport operations — and then operate it as a public airport — rather that purchase the development rights only.

Ciccone further lifted a stay on a suit filed by the Solbergs in 2006 against the then-members of the Township Committee, saying that Readington officials have failed to comply with state law and zone for an airport safety zone and re-zone of the existing airport to a conforming use.

The 2006 suit accuses the township, former Mayor Gerry Shamey and elected officials Julia Allen, Frank Gatti, Beatrice Muir and Tom Auriemma with misconduct.

The 2006 suit that may now move forward in the courts claims that Readington taxpayers have been harmed by the "misuse of" township "monies and resources," including the "indiscriminate use of public monies for public relations specialist to further their illegal and unauthorized actions."

Ciccone's ruling was received the day after the Township Committee voted 4-1 to adopt ordinance to allow the township to buy Solberg Airport and convert it to a municipal operation.

At the end of January, a motion to dismiss the suit was granted as it pertained to some aspects of the suit and denied as to others. The township then filed it's answer to the counterclaim on Feb. 14.


Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport (KPIB), Mississippi

Hattiesburg-Laurel Airport Officials Look For New Carrier 

ONES COUNTY, Miss. - The contract for the one commercial airline carrier at the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport expires in a few months. 

Airport management says the airline most likely wont be returning.

"That hasn't worked well as we thought, said PIB Executive Director Tom Heanue. "There have been some issues."

Heanue  believes Silver Airways will soon pull air service in the Pine Belt. The small airline has been the commercial carrier at the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport since Delta decided to leave in 2012.

"We use to do about 1,000 people a month flying out and about that much coming in," he said. "Our  numbers are down to about 300 a month leaving."

Some of the problems, Heanue said comes from new FAA regulations, and a shortage of pilots.

"That's really put a hindrance on small carries and Silver was one of them," he said.

Right Silver provides commercial flight service to Atlanta.

"I believe its been poor management they've not been able to make the Southern hub work out of Atlanta," he said.

The contract between the airport and the air carrier expires at the end of September. PIB says no other airlines have submitted bids to service the Pine Belt, and Heanue doesn't believe Silver Airways will return.

"We are hoping that we can go out and find someone else, it's not easy, it's difficult," he said. "About 25 years ago they would want to knock on your door and come to your location. Now it is  a money game, fuel is high, moving passengers, unions, so small airports is not really where they want to be unless there's an opportunity for profit."

PIB is asking for travel data from 2013 from customers to help them seek a new carrier. You can submit that information to your local chamber or to the airport at

Story and video:
WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Boeing to end pensions for 1,000 workers in North Charleston, South Carolina

Pension plans for 68,000 nonunion Boeing workers, including 1,000 in North Charleston, will end in 2015, the company announced Thursday.

Participating employees will be switched to a 401(k)-style retirement savings plan instead on Jan. 1, 2016.

The decision affects about 15 percent of the 6,700 direct-hired Boeing South Carolina workers in North Charleston, company spokesman John Dern said.

"The reason it's relatively few is that all Boeing employees hired after 2009 are already part of the defined-contribution model," he said. "Of course, many in Charleston fall into that category since they are relative 'new hires.'"

All benefits earned in the pension plan before the transition will be paid to employees in retirement, and the company will continue to match employee savings in an existing 401(k) plan. Retirees already receiving pension benefits aren't affected.

The aerospace and defense giant has been moving away from pension plans to hold down costs and remain more competitive against French airplane-building firm Airbus. The move helps "Boeing to better predict and manage financial risks," the company said in a statement.

"Our objective in making this transition is twofold: continue providing an attractive, market-leading retirement benefit contributing to employees' retirement security, while also assuring our competitiveness by curbing the unsustainable growth of our long-term pension liability," said Tony Parasida, a Boeing senior vice president.

Similar changes were recently included in an eight-year contract extension ratified in January by members of the company's biggest union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751 in Seattle and the IAM District 837 in St. Louis.

The narrow vote came with the promise that Boeing would build its new long-range passenger jet, the 777X, and its composite wings in the Puget Sound area after Boeing threatened to move the work elsewhere if the union didn't agree to the new contract.


ST Aerospace to hold job information session

ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- An aviation company that's looking to expand to Pensacola is starting to talk about job opportunities. 

ST Aerospace repairs and customizes jet airplanes. They're expected to hire three-hundred workers, if they move into the Pensacola International Airport Commerce Park. 

They're holding a job information session on March 20th, from ten to two, at the Naval Aviation Museum. 

Company reps will talk about job opportunities and the training needed to qualify.


Dutchess County Airport (KPOU), Poughkeepsie, New York

Study Recommends Privatizing Dutchess County Airport Operations 

WAPPINGER, N.Y. – An independent assessment of the Dutchess County Airport by industry experts has recommended several major initiatives it says are necessary for the facility become financially self-sufficient, including taking it out of the hands of the county government and privatizing its operations.

The operational and financial assessment, conducted by Steven Baldwin Associates LLC, compared the Dutchess County Airport to several other similarly sized airports, including  Danbury Municipal Airport, Lawrence Municipal Airport in Massachusetts, Reading Regional Airport in Pennsylvania, Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville, Wisc., and the Waterbury-Oxford Airport in Connecticut.

The comparison found that Dutchess County Airport was the only airport to provide its own fixed-base operator (FBO). An FBO is responsible for airport operations and can provide services such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance and other services. Dutchess County currently serves as the airport’s fixed-based operator, operating as “Dutchess Aviation.” According to the assessment, the County subsidizes the airport in order to close any operating deficits, and that subsidy has been reduced by 35 percent over the past two years.

The study also noted that airport maintenance was commonly the responsibility of the municipality and the County should continue to oversee the maintenance of the airport property as it was viewed favorably in the study’s survey input.

“The Dutchess County Airport is an important economic asset and already provides huge economic benefit for our community,” said County Executive Marcus Molinaro. “We must maximize its potential as an unparalleled economic asset. Privatizing airport operations will assist in this important effort.”

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Master Records, the Dutchess County Airport ranks third among general aviation airports in the New York State for total operations, which includes takeoffs, landings and total based aircraft. The FAA defines general aviation airports as those not designated as commercial, cargo, or reliever.

Besides finding a privately operated FBO to replace Dutchess Aviation, the study also recommended:

  • Initiating a water and sewer feasibility analysis.
  • Developing an airport-focused marketing plan.
  • Restructuring the Airport Advisory Board legislation to clarify membership criteria, meeting frequency,  board duties and responsibilities, among other items.
  • Market existing vacant airport property and real estate/land parcels.
  • Engaging current valuable tenants in talks to ensure continued tenancy at the airport.
In his 2014 State of the County address earlier this week, Molinaro identified the need for water and sewer at the airport and the opportunity to privatize operations with a contracted FBO as the two most critical of the recommendations. He said there is already progress on getting water and sewer infrastructure to the airport site. In December, the County was awarded a $750,000 economic development grant through the Mid-Hudson Economic Development Council and other funding opportunities are being pursued.

Molinaro also announced that the County would begin requesting proposals to seek a privately owned fixed-base operator, with the goal of smoothly transitioning from the County’s FBO to a private firm without disruptions of critical aviation services.

The recommendations and other suggestions outlined in the assessment will be reviewed over the next several weeks in conjunction with the Dutchess County Legislature and the Airport Advisory Committee and other interested parties to make final determination on the most appropriate path forward for the facility.


Virgin plane suffers two mid-air incidents, one resulting in woman breaking leg

An investigation is underway into a flight that left a Virgin Australia crew member with a broken leg, and another incident involving the same plane a few days later.

The female crew member was injured when the ATR-72 turbo prop encountered severe turbulence on a flight from Canberra to Sydney last month.

Virgin says the plane was inspected by an engineer and cleared to fly.

Five days later, during a flight to Albury in New South Wales, the pilot reported a possible bird strike.

He later found the aircraft had been damaged.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says the plane remains on the ground at Albury.

The bureau is interviewing crew and maintenance personnel and examining the flight recorder. 


Air India sacks 17 crew members for defying Flight and Duty Time Limitation norms

Mumbai: National carrier Air India has sacked 16 air hostesses and a flight purser in the past nine days for not following flight duty time limitation (FDTL) norms.

"The action (against the 17 cabin crew) is not off-handed. The management had been asking them to follow FDTL rules for over six months now but they failed to do so. We took the decision only after the indiscipline crossed the tolerance limits," a senior Air India official said here.

FDTL are guidelines governing the aspects such as the maximum daily flight duty period including flying hours limitations, rest period, staff-on-duty travel and number of landings allowed per pilot as well as the crew.

The Civil Aviation Ministry had in September 2012 directed Air India to immediately implement the FDTL.

Noting that Air India can't be an exception to the flight duty time norms, mandatory across the airlines, the official said these cabin crew wanted duty hours "by their choice and as per the earlier rules agreed with the unions".

"These rules were made at the time when Air India was doing financially well. But now situation is different. We made cabin crew understand this. While most of the people started following the new rules, these people did not. Hence the action," the official said.

The carrier last month issued a general notice, warning crew of serious action including termination, the official said. "We feel that all issues can be sorted out as long as flights are taking off on time. But February was worst for us in terms of on time performance."

As against an industry average of 75 hours of monthly flying, Air India averages only 52 hours on international routes. In domestic sector it is slightly better at 55 hours per month, the official said.

"We can not compete at this average, particularly when we are going to be a part of the Star Alliance. So accountability has to be there," the official said.

Though the Airline cabin crew association had approached the various courts seeking a stay to implementation of the new FDTL, both Bombay and Delhi High courts refused any relief.


Police: Vulgar passenger using gang signs 'for Jesus' forces plane to land at Portland International Airport (KPDX), Oregon

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -  A man accused of cursing at flight attendants and other passengers on a plane bound for Sacramento forced the pilot to make an abrupt landing in Portland.

Police said the Southwest Airlines flight left Seattle Tuesday morning. Flight attendants immediately reported issues with Lamar Sheron Rogers, 26.

According to court documents, Rogers confronted workers on the plane about his reserved seats in first class. Flight attendants informed him Southwest doesn't have a first class, then asked him to stow his bags three times, to which he replied "I do what I want."

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court states Rogers then repeatedly pushed the call button demanding a drink using vulgar language.

The complaint says Rogers asked for three glasses of wine, and when he was told he could only have one, he told a flight attendant to "get the f*** out of my face," before saying, "Jesus loves you."

Rogers demanded to speak with the pilot, according to court documents, and when he was told that wouldn't be possible, he began shouting "f*** off" to passengers around him.

Flight attendants told police Rogers was making gang signs with his hands elevated above his head.

An off-duty flight attendant on the plane contemplated retrieving zip ties from his bag in case they were forced to restrain the suspect, court documents state, while flight attendants asked another passenger if he would help them if Rogers became violent.

One flight attendant even prepared a pot of boiling water to use in defense against Rogers if he were to approach the flight deck.

At that time the plane was 65 miles southeast of Portland, and the pilot decided to immediately divert the flight to Portland International Airport. There were 44 passengers on the plane, including one baby, along with three flight attendants and two pilots.

At 7:49 a.m., the plane landed at PDX and two Port of Portland police officers took Rogers into custody.

Court documents state Rogers kept referencing Jesus as he was escorted off the plane, saying "Jesus loves you" and "praise Jesus."

Rogers told officers he believed the flight attendants were racist and the "people on the plane were evil," according to a probable cause affidavit.

Rogers stated that he had been associated with gangs previously, but any gang signs he "threw up were for Jesus."

Court documents state Rogers admitted smoking "purple hash" marijuana prior to the flight, but stated he did not feel high.

He was arrested on the charge of interference with flight crew members. Rogers was set to appear in federal court Thursday afternoon.

Story, photo, comments/reaction:

Former Owner of Florida Airline Fuel Supply Company Pleads Guilty in Scheme to Defraud Illinois-Based Ryan International Airlines

A former owner and operator of a Florida-based airline fuel supply service company pleaded guilty today to participating in a kickback scheme to defraud Illinois-based Ryan International Airlines, a charter airline company located in Rockford, Ill., the Department of Justice announced.

Sean E. Wagner, the former owner and operator of Aviation Fuel International Inc. (AFI), pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.  On Aug. 13, 2013, a grand jury returned an indictment against Wagner and AFI, charging them for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud Ryan International Airlines.  According to the indictment, Wagner and AFI made kickback payments to Wayne Kepple, a former vice president of ground operations for Ryan, in exchange for awarding business to AFI.  According to court documents, from at least as early as December 2005 through at least August 2009, Wagner and others at AFI made kickback payments to Kepple totaling more than $200,000 in the form of checks, wire transfers, cash and gift cards.  The charges against AFI were dismissed on Feb. 21, 2014.

Read more here:

Ohio Rickenbacker International Airport (KLCK), Columbus, Ohio

Editorial:   Rickenbacker pays back

For small county investment, hub yields many economic benefits

Rickenbacker Airport is an economic engine for the region and a key part of the assets overseen by the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.

While it continues to receive a subsidy from Franklin County, the amount is modest compared to the return on the investment and is an important economic-development expenditure that helps attract and retain jobs to central Ohio.

Last year, the airport that formerly was part of a U.S. Air Force base had a shortfall of $1.8 million — about the same amount as the county put into Animal Care and Control to make up for a shortfall in that agency. For 2014, the air hub’s shortfall is just over $700,000.

Meanwhile, the airport and its surrounding warehouse and freight-handling operations have a $2.8 billion impact on the local economy, according to a 2012 economic study conducted for the airport authority. Rickenbacker and its associated operations account for about 20,000 jobs and $500 million in payroll. Warehouse space in the industrial park next to Rickenbacker is nearly fully leased, thanks in large part to the Columbus-based apparel retailers that are the biggest customers of air-cargo flights.

Franklin County agreed to subsidize Rickenbacker for 10 years in 2003, when the Columbus Airport Authority and Rickenbacker Port Authority merged to form the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. That first year, the county contributed $4.3 million to make up the shortfall between Rickenbacker’s revenue and expenses. Since then, Rickenbacker’s revenue from such items as landing fees and cargo-handling services has climbed steadily, except for a pause during the worst of the recession.

The aviation landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade, and the airport authority has navigated the shifting sands. The past 10 years have seen the rise and fall of a number of low-cost passenger carriers, historic spikes in fuel prices and the merger of several of the country’s largest airlines. Cargo giant FedEx has shifted some shipments from planes to trucks in recent years, reducing the volume of air cargo through its non-hub airports such as Rickenbacker.

Cargo flights serving the wealth of local clothing retailers, though, are on the upswing. Just last week, Cathay Pacific announced a new regular cargo flight from Hong Kong to Rickenbacker, joining a similar Cargolux flight added last year.

And after periods with no passenger flights, low-cost carrier Allegiant Air began regularly scheduled service out of Rickenbacker in 2012, the airline’s typical pattern of using secondary airports around the country. It has now expanded to several markets from the original, single destination of Orlando.

The Allegiant flights also help Rickenbacker reach the 10,000 passenger-per-year threshold that triggers additional funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. That money goes toward capital improvements, such as the new air-traffic-control tower now in the works there. The airport authority has $90 million in total capital improvements planned, but will go forward with each piece only after funding is in place from a variety of federal, state and local sources.

Rickenbacker is an important and growing component of the central Ohio economy, and the airport authority continues to manage it wisely. County support of such an asset that brings jobs and money into the local economy is a sound investment.


Loss of Engine Power (Partial): AMD CH-2000, N285AM; accident occurred March 05, 2014 in Woodland, Yolo County, California

Location: Woodland, CA 
Accident Number: WPR14LA153
Date & Time: 03/05/2014, 1930 PST
Registration: N285AM
Aircraft: ZENAIR CH2T
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (partial)
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional


The flight instructor reported that the airplane entered clouds as it was descending during the training instrument approach. The flight instructor suggested that the student pilot increase the descent rate to pass through the clouds more quickly. After about 1 to 2 minutes in the clouds, the student reduced the engine power and pitched the airplane slightly down to increase the descent rate. Immediately thereafter, the engine speed dropped to between 800 and 1,000 rpm, and the propeller sounded as if it were windmilling. The flight instructor took control of the airplane and completed a mental emergency checklist with the student confirming the steps, which included applying carburetor heat; however, the instructor’s attempts to restore engine power were unsuccessful. The airplane exited the cloud layer between 1,500 and 2,500 ft. The flight instructor declared a Mayday with approach control as he and the student completed the emergency checklist again with no results. The flight instructor initiated an off-airport landing, and, during the landing roll, the airplane collided with trees.

A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The weather conditions encountered at the time of the accident were conducive to the formation of serious carburetor icing at cruise power. It is likely that carburetor ice formed during the descent and that the extended low-power setting prevented the engine temperature from getting high enough to melt the ice. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A total loss of engine power during approach due to carburetor icing, which resulted in an off-airport landing into trees.


Environmental issues
Conducive to carburetor icing - Effect on equipment (Cause)
Tree(s) - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

On March 5, 2014, about 1930 Pacific standard time, a Zenair CH2T, N285AM, made an off airport forced landing near Woodland, California. Sierra Academy of Aeronautics was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91.  The flight instructor and the student pilot were not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage during the accident sequence. The cross-country instructional flight departed Merced (MER), California, with a planned destination of Yolo County Airport (DWA), Woodland. Visual (VMC) meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed.

Postcrash examination determined that both wing spars had been damaged, and the incident was upgraded to an accident on April 2, 2014.

The flight instructor reported that the flight was for IFR training. The flight instructor and student completed one leg culminating in an instrument approach to Willows, California. The flight instructor stated that, at 1-2 minute intervals during 10-15 minutes of the flight, the engine rpm dropped about 100 revolutions per minute (rpm) audibly and visually on the tachometer during the flight. The airplane was in level cruise flight at 4,000 feet mean sea level (msl).  The drop never exceeded 100 rpm; application of carburetor heat, a magneto check, and adjustment to the mixture and throttle settings had no effect. After 15 minutes, the anomaly ceased to occur. The student completed an approach, executed the missed approach, and proceeded on course to Woodland.

The flight instructor reported that he and the student were en route to GHEER intersection on the RNAV 16 approach to Yolo County Airport. Approximately 20 miles from the airport, the student switched fuel tanks as scheduled (every 30 minutes) in accordance with the Sierra Academy checklist. They were cleared to descend to 3,000 feet to cross the GHEER intersection at or above 3,000 feet. With some distance to cover, the flight instructor suggested a descent rate of 200-300 feet per minute (fpm). The student reduced power, and completed the approach checklist, which the flight instructor verified. About 12 miles from GHEER, the airplane entered IFR conditions (a stratus cloud). As the airplane entered the clouds, the flight instructor suggested a higher descent rate to pass through the clouds more quickly.

After 1-2 minutes in the clouds, the student pilot reduced power, and pitched slightly down to increase the descent rate. Nearly at the moment of the reduced power, the engine rpm dropped to 800-1,000 rpm, and the propeller sounded as if it were windmilling. The flight instructor asked the student why he cut the power completely, and the student replied that he had not. The flight instructor stated verbally full power, but the rpm did not change. The flight instructor took control of the airplane, and tried to troubleshoot as he completed a mental emergency checklist (carburetor heat, fuel selector-mixture-fuel pump combinations, fuel gauge, throttle pumping, magneto check, starter check, engine instruments crosscheck). The student confirmed all steps using the emergency checklist. The attempts to restore power were unsuccessful, and the airplane exited the cloud layer between 1,500 to 2,500 feet.  The flight instructor declared a Mayday with approach control, as he and the student completed the emergency checklist again with no results.

The crew resigned themselves to an off airport forced landing. The flight instructor had the student pilot call out airspeed and altitude while focusing on a landing point. During 300 feet of the descent, the airplane began shaking violently; the airspeed indicated 60 knots, and there was no stall horn. The shaking stopped about 300 feet above ground level (agl). About 200 feet agl, the landing lights illuminated a power line, and the flight instructor determined that the airplane would stall if he attempted to climb over it. The flight instructor had the student grab a flight bag as a cushion, and turned the fuel selector off. At this point, the flight instructor flew under the power line, and landed just beyond it. The airplane touched down smoothly, and the flight instructor held the nose wheel off the ground as long as possible. A line of small tress came into view, and the flight instructor began to let the nose drop. The nose drop coincided with the wings hitting the trees.

After the airplane came to rest, the flight instructor and student thought that they turned off the rest of the power sources, and exited toward the rear of the airplane. They observed that the fuel tanks appeared undamaged, there was no smell of fuel, and the airplane seemed secure. After waiting a few minutes, they approached the airplane in order to use the radio to call for assistance. They discovered that the avionics master switch was still on. Unable to establish contact with the radio, the flight instructor used his cell phone to contact air traffic control, and provided them with the site's GPS location. About 1.5 hours later, a helicopter spotted them, and directed emergency crews to them.


A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector oversaw an examination of the wreckage at the operator's facility. The left and right fuel tanks contained 5 and 6 gallons of fuel, respectively. The gascolator contained a few ounces. The fuel selector valve was in the OFF position. The oil level was 5.5 quarts. The throttle, mixture, and carburetor heat cables were intact, and operated properly. One propeller blade was bent; the other was undamaged. The engine could not be run; a cold compression check resulted in all cylinders testing at or above 68/80 psi.

Carburetor Ice

The conditions encountered in this accident (ambient temperature 61 degrees / dew point 55 degrees Fahrenheit, 82 percent relative humidity), were in the area of serious icing at cruise power.

The FAA's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge Chapter 6 discussed carburetor icing. It stated that whenever the throttle was closed during flight, the engine cooled rapidly, and vaporization of the fuel was less complete than if the engine was warm. In this condition, the engine was more susceptible to carburetor icing. It stated that application of carburetor heat would cause a further reduction in power, and possibly engine roughness as melted ice went through the engine. It stated that these symptoms could last from 30 seconds to several minutes, depending on the severity of the icing. It recommended opening the throttle periodically for a few seconds to keep the engine warm; otherwise, the carburetor heat may not provide enough heat to prevent icing.

Airplane Flight Manual

The approach (pre landing) checklist in the airplane's flight manual specified that the carburetor heat should be in the ON position. It did not contain any guidance on periodically adjusting power during extended low throttle operation.

History of Flight

Approach-IFR initial approach
Loss of engine power (partial) (Defining event)

Emergency descent
Off-field or emergency landing 

Flight Instructor Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial; Private
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  522 hours (Total, all aircraft), 132 hours (Total, this make and model), 409 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 245 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 83 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 7 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Student Pilot Information

Airplane Rating(s):
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s):
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s):
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s):
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification:
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot:No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: ZENAIR
Registration: N285AM
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 20-1046
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, activated
Engine Model/Series: O-235-O2C
Registered Owner: KS Aviation
Rated Power: 110 hp
Operator: KS Aviation
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: KEDU, 100 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1915 PST
Direction from Accident Site: 72°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 3700 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 7 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 210°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.99 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / 13°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Merced, CA (MER)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:IFR 
Destination: Woodland, CA (DWA)
Type of Clearance: IFR
Departure Time:
Type of Airspace:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion:None 
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 38.566667, -121.850000 (est)

YOLO COUNTY- A small fixed-wing plane went down in Dunnigan, Calif. in Yolo County Wednesday night.

The Yolo County Sheriff's Department said deputies and fire personnel pulled the pilot and his passenger out of the plane after finding it in a field near Road 7 and County Road 99W. The pilot had contacted Travis Air Force Base to say that he was not injured; the passenger had a black eye.

Both occupants did not want any medical care and did not need to be treated at the hospital.

"It was a very surprising outcome," Yolo County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Mez said. "It's pretty surprising you've got a plane crash and they're able to walk away on their own two feet."

The sheriff's department said the two occupants had taken off from Watts Woodland Airport. The pilot reported that the plane was having trouble and going down shortly before 8 p.m. According to Lt. Martin Torres of the Yolo County Sheriff's department, the loss of power to the plane caused it to go down. The FAA is investigating.

Officials searched for the plane in West Sacramento, Woodland and Davis before it was located by a California Highway Patrol helicopter in Dunnigan, which is north of Woodland along Interstate 5.

YOLO COUNTY, Calif. (KCRA) —Rescue crews on Wednesday night found a plane that had been missing for about an hour after officials at Travis Air Force Base received a mayday call.

At 7:28 p.m., the base took a call from a small
fixed-wing aircraft, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Shortly after, the base lost radio contact and lost the plane on the radar. Its last known location was somewhere in Yolo County, the CHP said.

But before the aircraft went off-radar, its pilot did relay some GPS coordinates on its location.

When crews uploaded the coordinates, they came back to a location in West Sacramento.

But officials went out and were unable to find the plane, the CHP said.

Finally, an observant CHP chopper pilot noticed the coordinates were aviation coordinates -- and pinpointed the aircraft in Dunnigan. The plane went down near County Road 7 and County Road 99W.

The aircraft lost power, so the pilot had to make an emergency landing in a field.

One passenger was on board at the time, but no one was hurt.

Two people are reported safe after their plane made an emergency landing this evening in a field near Dunnigan.

Lt. Martin Torres of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department said a call was received at 7:28 pm. from Travis Air Force Base reporting that a small plane had made an emergency call. The plane was reported to be about 12 miles northwest of Watts Woodland Airport, a small private airport near Woodland. Travis reported that the plane had disappeared from radar but provided coordinates for the location it was believed to have gone down.

The coordinates put the site near West Sacramento and a search was launched, but when a California Highway Patrol air crew joined in the search, they recognized the coordinates as aviation coordinates, not GPS coordinates, which are different, Torres said. That shifted the search to the Dunnigan area, where the small fixed-wing aircraft was found at 8:41 p.m., he said.

An emergency medical service crew was dispatched to the scene and reported that the pilot and a passenger were uninjured, although one may end up with a black eye, Torres said.  No information was available on where the pilot and passenger were from or where they were going.