Thursday, March 20, 2014

Human remains found in trash bag near DeLand Municipal Airport (KDED), Florida

DELAND --  The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said it is investigating skeletal human remains found by a passer-by just east of the DeLand Municipal Airport.

Deputies said a man walking along Oak Street, near International Speedway Boulevard, made the discovery Thursday.

The remains have already begun decomposing and may have been there for some time, deputies said.

According a Gregg Mapp, who lives on Oak Street, one of his friends was cleaning up the area, taking trash bags and throwing them into a trash can, when he came upon some bags with something suspicious inside.

"He saw bones protruding out the back," said Mapp. "He immediately recognized it was bones, and he called the police."

Deputies could not immediately determine the age or gender of the remains. The medical examiner in Volusia County has picked up the remains to conduct an autopsy.


Relatives can start claiming compensation although MH370 still missing - lawyers

KUALA LUMPUR -Twelve days without sign of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is raising the possibility the plane with 239 on board may never be found.

But lawyers said the families of those on Beijing-bound flight MH370 can already start claiming for compensation despite the absence of the plane and its passengers.

At a minimum, an international aviation treaty allows the next-of-kin of the plane’s 227 passengers to seek up to US$175,000 (RM573,475) without proving any fault with MAS.

Beyond that amount, lawyers said they must furnish proof of negligence.

According to Floyd Wisner, a US aviation lawyer, airlines need not wait any period before issuing payments, as long as families can show the company was negligent.

"The airline and its insurers may choose to pay compensation to the victims' families before the wreckage or bodies are found and even if the wreckage or bodies are never found," Wisner, whose firm acted for families of the 2009 Air France Flight 447 crash in the Atlantic Ocean, told The Malay Mail Online in an email interview.

Most of the wreckage and bodies in the Air France flight were not recovered until nearly two years after the crash.

Wisner also cited the Adam Air Flight 574 crash in January 2007, where his firm reached an agreement with the airline’s insurers to compensate families within four weeks of the plane’s loss, also before the wreckage or bodies were found.

Shailender Bhar, a lawyer at a Malaysian law firm specializing in insurance claims, similarly said all that was required for compensation to be paid out by an airline’s insurer is a “presumption that the aircraft cannot be found” and that all passengers are presumed dead.

"Hence, even with the lack of evidence, airlines can pay out compensation based on their coverage policies. Compensation can be paid out immediately," the Brijnandan Singh Bhar & Co senior associate told The Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview when commenting on a scenario where no dead bodies and plane wreckage is found.

Compensation even if terrorist act

While investigators probing the disappearance of MH370 do not believe that terrorist organizations were involved, the lawyers said this would not prevent the airline’s insurer from paying out even if it later turns out to be the case.

Shailender said the airline would still pay compensation to the passengers' families "even where an aircraft is crashed due to terrorist act" as the passengers are "not at fault", citing the Pan American Flight 103 crash in Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

Wisner said the policy limits of MAS's insurers could be US$1 billion (RM3.28 billion), citing his previous experience when saying that international airlines operating large passenger jets such as the Boeing 777 have liability insurance up to that amount and also carry terrorism insurance.

"I expect the claims of the passengers of Malaysia Airlines 370 could total $500 million to $750 million," he said. This would amount to between RM1.64 billion and RM2.46 billion under current exchange rates.

German group Allianz confirmed last Monday that it is the lead insurer for the missing Boeing 777-200 ER plane used in the MH370 flight, but did not disclose its exposure or reveal other insurers.

Compensation capped unless crash is airline's fault

But even without the airline’s insurers paying out additional claims to the families of passengers, the lawyers noted that MAS is already bound by an international convention to pay claims up to an estimated figure of between US$175,000 to US$178,500.

David Fiol, another US lawyer, said Malaysia has adopted the Montreal Convention which regulates claims for wrongful death against airlines, with MAS having to pay a strict liability up to proven damages of about US$175,000 (RM 573,475) for each passenger.

"For damages above that amount, if proven by the family, the airline is liable unless it proves the accident was not the result of its own fault," Fiol — who was involved in lawsuits over the Lockerbie plane crash and other plane crashes —told The Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview.

Shailender explained that under the convention, MAS cannot contest claims up to 100,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) and should offer payments within six months of the plane’s scheduled date of arrival.

He added that Article 16 of MAS’ own terms and conditions of carriage with passengers said the airline would only start limiting its liability for deaths once the claim exceeds 113,100 SDR.

The current exchange rate against the Malaysian ringgit under the International Monetary Fund is set at 5.095.

When is payment due?

Airlines are bound by the Montreal Convention to offer compensation within six months from the date of a flight’s schedule arrival, Shailender said, but conceded there is no penalty if the airline fails to or chooses not to do so.

In such cases, what is left for families who still want to claim compensation is to go to court within two years, with the same time limit set under both the Montreal Convention and MAS’s own terms and conditions, he said.

Wisner explained that airlines are not bound to pay compensation unless the courts find that their negligence caused a plane crash, stressing that it was a matter of the airline’s liability rather than the date of declaration of a plane crash.

“There is no time period by which an airline must pay compensation other than the date a court orders it to make payment. A declaration or finding that the plane is missing or has crashed does not trigger the date for the airline to pay compensation,” he said.

Wisner said there was no law on how long a search can go on, but noted that a “continued search or any failure to declare the plane as having crashed” would not stop families from exercising their right to “immediately seek compensation” from MAS.

Wisner also explained that while claims against the airline and its insurer was possible even without the plane, families could face problems pursuing compensation elsewhere.

He said that the "absence of dead bodies may present administrative difficulties for the families in presenting wills or making claims for life insurance benefits", saying that this will be determined by the law of the country which the victim was living in or the terms of life insurance contracts.

What about the crew members?

For the 10 cabin crew and two pilots of MH370, their families' ability to claim would be tied to employment laws and their contracts with MAS, Wisner and Shailender said.

Claims under the Montreal Convention and to MAS's insurers would likely not apply to the crew members' families.

"The claims of the crew members against Malaysia Airlines are different as they will be governed by workers’ compensation laws," said Wisner.

“It will be necessary to see their employment contracts to see the terms stated there. Nonetheless, it will be safe to presume that they will be covered by some form of insurance by their employers,” Shailender said.

The MH370 Beijing-bound flight — which set out from Kuala Lumpur on March 8 with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board — has been missing for over 12 days, with the number of countries searching for it swelling to 26. 

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World Jet: Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport’s biggest fixed-base operator faces foreclosure

World Jet, the biggest fixed-based operator at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, has been hit with a foreclosure lawsuit.

This comes after a November raid by the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and Homeland Security on World Jet investigating alleged drug shipments to South America. The company denied the allegations.

Branch Banking & Trust Co. filed a federal foreclosure lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida on March 14 against World Jet and guarantors Reginald Don Whittington Jr. and Sheri Whittington. It concerns a mortgage originated in 2003 by BankAtlantic, which was acquired by BB&T in 2012. That deal was supposed to exclude BankAtlantic’s problem loans but the World Jet loan apparently was performing at the time of the sale.

According to the complaint, World Jet owes $7.16 million in principal and $106,610 in interest. BB&T signed a forbearance agreement in September 2013 with World Jet that allowed it to hold off on payments until February 2014, but it failed to make payments at that time. The complaint also says World Jet has been delinquent on its lease payments to the City of Fort Lauderdale since September and provides letters from the city to the tenant as evidence.

Whittington, a former racecar driver, couldn’t be reached for comment.


Jamestown Regional Airport (KJMS) Rejects All Bids For Hangar Project

JAMESTOWN, N.D. ( – The Jamestown Regional Airport Authority has rejected all the bids that they’ve received for the 8 T-Hangar bay project.

According to Steve Aldinger, the intrepid engineer for the project, bids ranged from $989,000 to $1.3 million, much more than the original engineering estimate of $870,000. So, the board plans to rebid the project after specific design changes are made to reduce the estimated cost.

According to Aldinger, the plan is to remove the fire suppression from the hangar. They will also design the hangars with the possibility of having either hydraulic doors or bi-fold doors. The original design incorporated the hydraulic doors, but having the options of the bi-fold doors may lower the costs.


Montesano, Washington: Storage unit thieves make off with $250K in aircraft equipment - Anyone with information should contact the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office

Thieves made off with around $250,000 in aviation materials after a break-in at a Montesano storage business Saturday. The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office believes the thefts may be related to break-ins at a storage business just outside Aberdeen a day earlier.

Henry Thomas said he got a call Saturday morning that his storage unit had been broken into. Inside, he said, were materials for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, as well as parts for jet turbines and various exotic metals and tools used for their repair. Some of the parts date back to World War II.

“Whoever did this was extremely organized and had heavy lifting trucks,” Thomas said.

The manager of Glenn Road Mini Storage noticed Saturday five storage units had a different type of lock than the business uses. Only two of the units were rented, the locks cut off in order to gain entry.

Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate said the thief or thieves likely added new locks in order to hide the crime.

When Thomas arrived, he said he found about two-thirds of his storage unit cleaned out, including the aircraft parts and and “incredible fishing tackle that was still new in the box from 1912.”

On seeing the unit, Thomas was so distraught he wasn’t initially able to talk with the responding deputy about what was missing, Shumate said. He was later able to provide a list of the items and is working with his insurance company.

Thomas is a retired U.S. Coast Guard aviator and U.S. Air Force navigator.

Shumate said at least three units at Hilltop Storage outside Aberdeen were also broken into March 14. A washer and dryer set and various tools are among the stolen items listed so far. Victims have been working with the Sheriff’s Office to catalogue what was taken.

“This all appears to be during business hours, during the day,” Shumate said. “Our subjects are showing up, probably acting as if they are clients or tenants, and when people aren’t looking, cutting the locks and taking items of value.”

Anyone with information should contact the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office at 360-249-3711, or the Grays Harbor Dispatch Center at 360-533-8765 if after hours.


OPINION: Emptying skies

Airport boardings are dropping as Great Lakes continues to cut flights

Western Nebraska Regional Airport Manager Darwin Skelton had bad news for board members this week. Boardings at the airport have fallen by more than half as Great Lakes Airlines struggles to maintain a schedule.

The airport boarded 734 travelers in January and February, but last year it boarded 796 in January alone. In February the airport saw 38 flights, compared with 32 in January. Normally it averages at least 100 per month.

The airline recently ended service to McCook and booming Williston, N.D., among other airports. In press reports, the airline blames a “severe industry-wide pilot shortage” on a federal requirement that pilots at small airlines must have 1,500 hours of experience, instead of the previous 500 hours.

But other reports over the past few months suggest another problem: Small airlines simply don’t pay enough.

Major airlines pay significantly higher salaries than regional carriers and frequently hire pilots away from regionals. Qualified pilots are available, but they’re not willing to work for low entry-level wages, the federal Government Accountability Office said in a report. Eleven out of 12 regional airlines failed to meet their hiring targets for entry-level pilots last year, the report said. However, no major airlines were experiencing problems finding pilots.

GAO found that the size of the pilot pool has remained steady since 2000. There are currently 66,000 pilots working for U.S. airlines, but there are 109,465 active pilots with a first-class medical certificate who are licensed to fly airline passengers. Pilots leaving the military only have to have 750 hours of relevant experience, while other pilots can obtain restricted licenses with 1,000 hours if they are university trained.

Education and flight training from a four-year aviation degree program can cost well in excess of $100,000, the report said. Pilot schools that GAO interviewed reported fewer students entering their programs resulting from concerns over the high costs of education and low entry-level pay at regional airlines.

The experience requirement has been in place for almost a year. Regional airlines, which account for about half of all domestic airline flights, told GAO it has forced them to limit. But the average starting salary at regional airlines for first officers, also called co-pilots, is $22,400 a year, according to the Air Line Pilots Association. The association told the Associated Press that Great Lakes pays newly hired first officers $16,500 a year.

Overall, average professional pilot salaries fell 9.5 percent from 2000 to 2012, while the number of pilots employed went up 12 percent, GAO said. Both trends are inconsistent with a shortage. And the unemployment rate for professional pilots is only 2.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the cost of an airline ticket rose for the fourth straight year. The average domestic round-trip ticket, including tax, reached $363.42 last year, up more than $7 from the prior year, according to an Associated Press analysis of travel data collected on millions of flights throughout the country. The 2 percent increase outpaced inflation, which stood at 1.5 percent. Airfares have risen nearly 12 percent since their low in the depths of the recession in 2009. At the same time, airlines have eliminated unprofitable routes, packed more passengers into planes and merged with one another, providing travelers with fewer options.

So blaming the government for the problem leaves out a lot of the story. The federal Essential Air Service program offers generous subsidies for regional airlines to serve remote communities, where the choice for travelers is to risk cancellations or schedule changes by the airlines or drive for hours to reach an airline hub.

Airport officials here are looking at other options for local service but don’t have many immediate options. If Great Lakes was to end service here, Skelton said, it could be months before another carrier takes over.

That’s not good news for western Nebraska. Without air service, a city that’s more than 40 miles from the nearest Interstate and hours from the Denver Airport will seem very isolated to anyone looking to take a job or start a business here.


High Court judge's ruling is legal victory for air accident victim's family: de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth, G-AOIL

Orlando Rogers  

The Newton Abbot family of a former Royal Marine captain who was killed when he was a passenger in a aircraft are hailing a victory in the latest round of legal proceedings at the High Court to seek compensation for his death.

Orlando Rogers, who was a passenger in a vintage Tiger Moth bi-plane, was killed when the plane crashed on May 15, 2011.

Scott Hoyle, the pilot, was seriously injured but survived.

The mother and sister of Orlando, Julia and Jade Rogers, are bringing a claim on behalf of his estate and dependents, against Mr Hoyle (and his aviation insurers at Lloyds of London), claiming damages for his death which they attribute to Mr Hoyle's alleged negligence.

In the latest hearing, an appeal judge has agreed with an earlier decision that what they believe is a key piece of evidence is admissible in the case.

James Healy-Pratt and Sarah Stewart, of the aviation team at Stewarts Law LLP, represent the Rogers family.

Mr Healy-Pratt, said: "This decision is a real victory for the Rogers family, and the memory of their son Orlando.

"It will have wider benefit to all families who lose loved ones, and those who survive with injuries, in other aviation accident cases and whom wish to improve air safety following tragic aviation accidents."

The family believe the report from the Air Accident Investigation Branch is vital to their claim that Mr Hoyle was undertaking a spin he was not trained to manoeuvre.

Mr Hoyle denies he is to blame.

The AAIB investigated the accident and on June 14, 2012, published openly its official accident report.

Information in that report included that the aircraft 'was seen by observers on the ground to pull up into a loop and during the manoeuvre it entered a spin from which it did not recover. The manoeuvre started at 1,500ft agl (above ground level) and there was insufficient height for the pilot to recover from the subsequent spin'.

The Rogers family have claimed in High Court proceedings that they wish to rely on the AAIB official accident report as evidence.

The Lloyds of London aviation insurers (QBE and others) defending Mr Hoyle disagreed with this, and fought the Rogers family to have the AAIB official published accident report excluded from evidence.

In 2013, the family won in a High Court hearing that the published accident report was admissible.

The Lloyds of London aviation insurers then appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal.

At that stage, the Department of Transport and the airline trade body, the International Airline Transport Association, also joined in asking the Court of Appeal to find against the Rogers family and to exclude the report.

However, the Rogers family won the appeal, and succeeded in getting the Court of Appeal to confirm their earlier victory in the High Court.

In hearing the decision, the family said, "We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has seen how helpful the work of the AAIB can be to assist with the facts of an air disaster.

"We are also comforted by the fact that this will assist not only our own case but also future victims of air crashes.

"Our aviation lawyers, Stewarts Law, will now be able to continue with our civil claim as we seek justice for the loss of Orlando in such tragic circumstances."

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de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth,  G-AOIL


The pilot and a passenger were on a local pleasure flight. The aircraft was seen by observers on the ground to pull up into a loop and during the manoeuvre it entered a spin from which it did not recover. The pilot was not formally trained in aerobatics and had limited experience of spin recovery. The manoeuvre started at 1,500 feet agl and there was insufficient height for the pilot to recover from the subsequent spin. The passenger was seriously injured and died later the same day in hospital. The pilot, who was also seriously injured, survived.

Air Accidents Investigation Branch:

Civil Aviation Authority - Registration History:

SoaringNV: Discover new perspective by soaring above Sierra

It’s the transition that makes the difference.

One moment, your glider is being pulled aloft from Minden-Tahoe Airport, the sound of the tow plane’s engines traveling back and mixing with the slight rumble from the small amount of turbulence.

Then the glider’s pilot detaches the tow rope. You’re soaring above the world as the air rushes past the craft’s canopy, with only a little bumping from interacting layers of the clear air you sail through, and the Douglas County landscape flowing away to the surrounding mountains.

Throughout the year, many people experience this introduction to the wonders of gliding, thanks to SoaringNV, a glider tour and training firm that operates out of the general-aviation facility about 45 minutes south of Reno.

“You know how sometimes in the winter you wake up and it’s a crisp day? That’s actually very cold, dense air that makes for a very smooth ride,” said Laurie Harden, SoaringNV’s owner (though her business card identifies her simply as “Glider Girl”).

Depending on the weather, folks can have an airborne adventure Thursday through Monday thanks to the airport’s position on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, which gives it a year-round gliding climate.

There is another company that offers glider rides — Soar Truckee, which operates out of Truckee-Tahoe Airport east of Truckee — whose season is May through September.

Starting April 1, SoaringNV will expand operations to seven days a week.

“Somebody who’s really feeling timid about unpowered flight can do a short ride, where you can only see the airport and go in a little circuit around the airport with wings level,” Harden said. “That’s one end of the spectrum.”

That end of the spectrum is the Taste of the Sky, with a trip up to 2,000 feet and a slow glide down in about 15 minutes for one or two people, depending on weight.

“The other end of the spectrum would be to go fly inverted,” Harden said. “And then there’s everything in between.”

Inverted flight is included in the Tahoe Wild Ride, which takes one passenger on a roughly 30-minute acrobatic odyssey.

In between are the Big Sky, soaring 3,000 feet above the Carson Valley, and the Tahoe Sky Ride, during which passengers can see Lake Tahoe from a mile above the earth and even take control of the glider.

The longer the ride, the wider the experience of how sailplanes work, including their ability to catch thermals, rising columns of warm air that act as atmospheric elevators and increase the time the glider stays in the air.

This up-close and personal view of the upper world — most rides place the passenger in the front seat of a two-person glider — is not a cheap thrill, starting at $99 for a single-person Taste of the Sky and topping out at $309 for a two-passenger Tahoe Sky Ride.

But the adventure is worth the price.

“They (customers) tell us it is just an unbelievable experience to see Lake Tahoe silently from a glider,” Harden said. “These include people who live on top of Kingsbury Grade, so they’ve seen the lake from the road and from the water, but somehow, floating over it in a glider makes all the difference for them.”

For more information, visit the SoaringNV website at or call 775-782-9595.

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