Friday, March 28, 2014

‘Why U.S. FAA is keen on auditing Nigeria’s aviation sector’

As the March 30 date set for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandatory assessment of Nigeria’s aviation draws near, there are indications that the happenings in the country’s aviation sector over the past 12 months may have prompted the planned audit.

A Ministry of Aviation source, who spoke to Daily Independent under conditions of anonymity said happenings especially in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), prompted the audit by the U.S. safety inspectors.

The source said the FAA specifically wrote to NCAA, seeking to check its books on the recent issuance of Air Operators’ Certificates (AOCs), to some new airlines in the country, which did not go through due process.

“FAA in its letter to NCAA specifically requested to see the papers leading to the granting of AOC to Hak Air and some other airlines granted certificates in 2013. You know, there were speculations that some of the airlines issued AOC in 2013 did not follow the due process and that they were favored by the government.

“Also, FAA is concerned about the interference in the running of NCAA by the government. NCAA is supposed to be autonomy and it’s expected to do its job professionally, but recent happenings in the agency call for concern. The FAA feels if the interference in the agency is not stop, it might eventually affect safety in the sector.”


Private operators set to face random Directorate General of Civil Aviation checks

Last week the DGCA carried out surprise checks on aircraft owned by Reliance Commercial Dealers Ltd and JSPL and found violations.

 The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has initiated random safety checks of planes operated by all 45 non-scheduled operators across the country.

This move by the aviation regulator is to ensure that safety procedures are followed by the private operators during the election season.

“We have already conducted safety checks on four private charter operators and the audit of the rest 41 will be complete in the next one month,” said a senior DGCA official.

In its audit done on Friday, the aviation regulator delayed a private aircraft to take off from Delhi for violating safety norms.

Sources in DGCA informed a Hawker 800 XP of a Delhi-based aviation company, which was to fly from Delhi to Colombo, was not allowed to take off for several hours as DGCA checks found several safety violations. The violations, included absence of life jackets or minimum equipment list.

The aviation regulator found issues in a Falcon 900EX aircraft operated by a Mumbai-based general aviation company. The plane, which landed in Mumbai after flying people from Agra, had three bags in the cabin, when the plane does not provide space for any bag in the cabin, said DGCA officials.

Last Saturday, DGCA officials conducted surprise inspections and grounded a 14-seater Falcon 900EX belonging to Reliance Commercial Dealers Limited and suspended its pilot for violating safety norms.

While the aircraft was released after the deficiencies were removed, the regulator’s actions also led to dismissal of the pilot of the aircraft for not carrying his licence with him.

A Global Express BD 700 aircraft (VT-JSB) belonging to Jindal Steel and Power was also held up for not carrying operations manuals or the lists of safety and emergency equipment on board.

The DGCA has stepped up safety and surveillance checks of aircraft close on the heels of India’s safety rating coming under scrutiny and being downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).


FBI: Pilot landing at LaGuardia Airport (KLGA) injured by green laser

NEW YORK (AP) — The FBI is searching for someone who flashed a green laser at least twice into the cockpit of a Delta plane landing at New York's LaGuardia Airport, injuring the pilot.

New York Assistant Director George Venizelos says Friday a $10,000 reward is available for information leading to the arrest of whoever shined the laser beam into Delta Flight 1102 just before 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Venizelos says the laser caused flash blindness and severely disrupted the vision of one of the plane's two pilots. He says agents believe the laser originated from somewhere along Queens Boulevard in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens.

The plane, traveling from Atlanta, Ga., landed safely.


American Air to Shrink Regional Carrier After Pilots Reject Contract: American Eagle Pilots Opposed Proposal to Freeze Pay Scales

American Airlines Group Inc.  said it would sharply shrink its regional carrier American Eagle Airlines after its pilots voted down a contract proposal.

About 92% of American Eagle's 2,700 pilots voted, with 70% opposing the 10-year contract proposal, which would have frozen their pay scales until 2018, eliminated profit-sharing and increased health-care costs. In return, American Airlines would have put the Eagle pilots on firmer paths to jobs at American Airlines—which offers the chance to fly bigger jets for more money—and would have committed at least 170 aircraft to the Eagle unit.

Instead, after the contract rejection, American Airlines said it would contract other carriers to fly new regional jets it has on order and begin retiring some of the smaller, less efficient aircraft American Eagle currently flies. American has said it is considering reducing Eagle's fleet of 225 aircraft by more than 100 by retiring or moving those planes to other regional carriers, said Bill Sprague, head of the Eagle chapter at the Air Line Pilots Association. When those changes will occur is unclear, he said.

Pedro Fabregas, American Eagle's president, said in a letter to employees on Friday that he was disappointed with the vote, "but now is the time for us to collectively accept our pilots' decision and move forward." He said that American Eagle won't go away as an airline but that it will "need to make appropriate changes to our business to…ensure our costs are in line with our reduced fleet."

Mr. Sprague told reporters that the Eagle pilots generally couldn't accept such a long contract that locked in pay scales that "are clearly unacceptable." He said Eagle pilots haven't seen meaningful contract gains since 2004 and that new pilots begin at less than $23,000 a year. Keeping those compensation levels would threaten Eagle's ability to attract new pilots, particularly amid an increasing shortage of passenger-airline pilots in the U.S.

He said that as Eagle shrinks, its pilots should be able to find work at American Airlines or discount airlines that are growing, such as JetBlue Airways Corp. or  Spirit Airlines Inc. 

Eagle pilots voted on the contract proposal over the past three weeks. Voting concluded on Friday morning. American Airlines plans to rename its Eagle unit Envoy later this year, as it keeps the Eagle brand for its regional flying, which will increasingly be done by other carriers.


Police say burnt aircraft near Spanish Lookout was a drug plane

PATRICK E. JONES Reporting: The Belize Police Department has issued some information on the wreckage of a small plane that was found near Spanish Lookout on Tuesday morning.

Authorities say that the aircraft was a Cessna 6-seater.

While initially it was thought that the plane crash-landed, police say their initial investigation reveals that the plane was used to transport illegal drugs.

That would suggest, according to one source, that the plane may have landed, and then deliberately set on fire.

Pictures from the scene show that most of the aircraft was destroyed and only the tail section and a portion of the wings which did not burn remained.

The remains of the plane were located by authorities on a feeder road in an area north of Spanish Lookout near the Aguacate Lagoon.

The Civil Aviation Department is assisting with the ongoing investigation of the illegal aircraft landing in the Spanish Lookout area.

As for the illicit cargo which the police believe was in the plane, authorities have not said if they know where it was taken.

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Pilots grounded amid safety fears

New Zealand pilots have been permanently grounded after testing revealed concerns about their medical fitness to fly, with some suspended because of depression, the aviation regulator has confirmed.

Commercial pilots are subject to rigorous psychological tests designed to weed out unstable individuals who pose a potential risk to passenger safety.

The Civil Aviation Authority said some pilots' licenses had been suspended because of medical fitness - which can include psychological health concerns - though such cases were rare.

The monitoring process has numerous checks and balances, but an industry expert warns the system is not foolproof.

"Pilots like anyone else have problems in their life and that can affect their performance," New Zealand Airline Pilots Association technical officer Dave Reynolds said.

"People do go off the rails."

Authorities investigating the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are probing the psychological backgrounds of pilots and crew.

A fellow pilot told the New Zealand Herald Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was in no state to fly the day the flight disappeared and could have taken the Boeing 777 for a "last joyride" after separating from his wife.

Mr Reynolds said Kiwi pilots operating commercial aircraft are regularly assessed for physical and mental health under a three-tier monitoring regime involving the Civil Aviation Authority, airlines and peer support.

Pilots are assessed at least once a year by specialist aviation doctors and also undergo psychometric tests to assess psychological fitness.

The doctors are legally bound to "flag up" any concerns to the regulator and airline employer, and a pilot's license can be immediately revoked.

Pilots are also monitored in the cockpit by flight inspectors and undergo high-stress exercise scenarios every six months in flight simulators to test their ability - for instance trying to safely land a badly disabled jet.

"All commercial aircraft pilots will go through some form of psychological, psychometric testing. Internationally there are standards that are required to be met."

Asked if the system was rigorous enough to prevent a mentally unstable pilot taking control of an aircraft, Mr Reynolds said: "You can never be 100 per cent sure because ... one person can be perfectly fine one day and then go totally off the rails the next.

"A guy may go home and his wife says, 'I've been seeing the milkman, bye'.

"[But] outside that, yes, there are checks and balances in place to make sure, as reasonably as possible, that a pilot doesn't get into an aircraft who is psychologically unfit to do so."

Mr Reynolds did not believe Flight 370's disappearance was pilot suicide.

Air New Zealand declined to provide details of the airline's regime for monitoring pilots' psychological fitness, referring queries to CAA.

Anyone applying for a commercial pilot's license is subject to a "fit and proper person" assessment by CAA.

It has powers to perform "total background" checks on pilots' criminal histories and physical or mental health problems.

Authority spokesman Mike Richards said this process had resulted in "adverse decisions", with some pilots' licenses suspended or revoked, meaning they could no longer fly commercial aircraft. However, they could reapply at a later stage.

"But if we're not satisfied we can literally suspend someone's aviation documents almost on the spot and they just can't get on a flight deck.

"It does happen. The Director [of Civil Aviation] has far ranging administrative powers. We can pretty much prevent the wrong types of behaviour if we get any hint of it."

CAA manager personnel and flight training, John McKinlay, knew of pilots having their licenses suspended because of depression.

"It is a risk and the risk has to be mitigated."

Background checks gave a person's history "which can be a reliable predictor of future behavior."

"Our medical folk have got the ability to gain information from various sources if there is an issue that's going to affect flight safety." 


Aviation regulator cracks whip on flights for poll campaign

New Delhi: Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has directed pilots and crew of aircraft or helicopters flying VIPs for poll campaigning to ensure that no unauthorized cash, narcotics or arms are carried in the flight.

It has also directed business jet operators and pilots to ensure that the hired aircraft or helicopters are airworthy and adhere to all safety requirements.

In a dos and don'ts list ahead of Lok Sabha elections, DGCA said that the operators may face penal action if their pilots do not adhere to safety guidelines while flying VIPs.

It directed them and flight crew to ensure that no unauthorized cash, narcotics or arms are carried in the flight.

The guidelines also include submission of passenger manifests to the aviation regulator a week in advance.

The flight crew would have to carry local and other maps during flight for navigation and "shall not rely on GPS (global positioning system) only", the guidelines said.

DGCA has asked the flight crew to Google helipad coordinates as an additional measure to check their correctness, suitability and other flying aspects like obstacles (for instance, tall trees and high-tension wires) and landing and take-off directions, among others.

A special cell has also been set up within DGCA to monitor the flights of the non-scheduled charter operators, official sources said.

These guidelines, many of which already exist, as also surveillance and regular checks by DGCA are basically meant to keep the private operators on their toes, they said.

The latest circular also lays down penalty for non-compliance with guidelines which include suspension of operations, flying license as well as the pilot's license.

Copies of the latest circular have been sent to the Election Commission, state governments and all the non-scheduled operators.

The guidelines came nearly a week after the regulator grounded a business jet owned by Reliance Industries following a surprise inspection at Delhi airport for carrying expired safety equipment on board and suspended its pilot for flying without a licence.

The aircraft was later cleared after RIL replaced the equipment and furnished the required documents.

DGCA had also inspected Jindal Steel and Power Limited's Global Express BD 700 aircraft and found several lapses.

The regulator said that analysis of earlier accidents or incidents associated with small aircraft or helicopter operations from airstrips and temporary helipads and past experience of election flying by the operators has revealed that laid down instructions were violated time and again and safety was jeopardized.

Election flying is a highly demanding exercise in terms of skill levels and professionalism, the sources said, adding that long flying hours, large number of take-offs and landings, weather changes, lack of proper rest, hurriedly prepared helipads, crowd control and congested airspace pose serious challenges to air travel during polls.

Besides, frequent changes in itinerary, time management, highly stressed security arrangement, surcharged crowds, difficult and disturbed areas and lack of adequate communications also pose risk, they said.


Father, son bond over 2-year restoration of 1946 plane

Dave Retka stands by the 1946 Taylorkraft plane he spent two years rebuilding along with his son at Fleming Field in South St. Paul. 

Earlier this month, Dave Retka and his son, Matt, took their restored 1946 Taylorcraft to the sky for the first time. It was a moment two years and two months in the making.

"It was quite an experience, a nice feeling, especially knowing what we put into it," Matt recalled.

What they put into the old tube and fabric tail-dragger aircraft was thousands of hours of labor in the home shop -- stripping paint, inspecting and cleaning greasy parts and lots of sanding -- to bring it back to life. It had been sitting in a barn for 25 years.

"Every single nut and bolt, everything, came off for this project," said Dave Retka, 56, of South St. Paul.

But the father and son say the plane gave them something, as well: It strengthened their relationship through their shared passion -- aviation -- and taught them a few things about themselves and each other.

"I think it's fair to say there was lots of bonding going on," said Matt Retka, 26. "Work seems to do that."

Dave Retka -- like his father did for him -- made it a point to introduce Matt to aviation at a young age.

"My dad would take me on these hunting and fishing trips. We'd go by his plane. And I would wonder why he would let this little kid tag along with him and his friends," Matt Retka said. "But I had a blast."

Dave Retka, a flight instructor, also taught Matt how to fly. He earned his pilot's license at age 17.

But Matt Retka, who moved to North Dakota for college in 2006 and lives in West Fargo, said they haven't been able to see as much of each other recently as they would have liked. So when the restoration invitation came from his dad, he saw it as another learning opportunity.

"My dad has an A&P (aircraft mechanic) license, and he's restored other planes as a hobby before," said Matt Retka, who works as an environmental geologist for a consulting company. "And I already knew that he's a good teacher."

Dave Retka has been teaching kids for 35 years, first as an industrial arts teacher at South St. Paul High School, his alma mater, and then for the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school district. He's been the shop teacher at Skyview Middle School in Oakdale since 1996.

But Matt Retka says he initially questioned his decision after seeing pictures of the plane disassembled and stored in a chicken coop of a barn in southeastern Minnesota.

"It was in rough shape, not air worthy, but everything was mostly there," Dave Retka said.

The work routine consisted of Matt traveling to Minnesota once a month to work with his dad and learn a few new steps in the process. He would then bring smaller parts back home to West Fargo to work on.

"I stayed busy, but my dad really did way more than his share," Matt Retka said. "I kept track of hours back home, and I was a little more than 700. I'm guessing he put in three or four times that."

What he appreciated the most was how his dad took the time to explain how to do things, even though it would have been quicker to just do it himself.

"It was a good project and a chance to pass down some things that I've learned," Dave Retka said.

Matt said he learned that his dad is even more of a perfectionist than he ever thought previously, while Dave said he learned "how good of a kid he is and how capable he is."

Mike Hilger, who leases space in Dave's hangar at Fleming Field in South St.

Paul and has been around airplanes his whole adult life, said the father-son project has resulted in one of the nicest Taylorcrafts he's ever seen.

"Matt has a really nice plane now to fly," Hilger said.

Matt recalled what his dad said to him after they flew the plane together for the first time.

"He said, 'A big project like this is just a ton of smaller projects that need to come together,' " Matt said. "It's funny, but he still really gets a big kick out of teaching me things. And I appreciate it."

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Cortez Municipal Airport (KCEZ), Colorado

Pilot shortage cancels Cortez flights

FAA’s new training rules are blamed

A pilot shortage at Great Lakes Airlines is causing frequent flight cancellations from Cortez Municipal Airport to and from Denver International Airport.

Increased training requirements for co-pilots have left scheduled flights without the required staff, causing the cancellations.

Airport manager Russ Machen told the Cortez City Council that the situation is not the fault of Great Lakes Aviation, which usually offers three daily round-trip flights to Denver.

“Co-pilots now need three times the flight training, and that takes time,” Machen said. “Great Lakes is fast-tracking the training in order to resume normal scheduling.”

Since January, Great Lakes has had to cancel half its flights because of the regulation change. Business travelers have been inconvenienced, including Gunther Hardt, who runs Plaza Laundry in Cortez.

“I’ve missed business appointments. It has been spotty service. You take a chance booking a flight, then it is canceled,” he said.

Starting on April 1, Great Lakes will have a firm schedule of two round-trip flights per day to DIA, and one round-trip on weekends, through mid-summer, Machen said.

In part because of the Colgan Air 3407 crash that killed 49 people near Buffalo New York, new Federal Aviation Administration regulations implemented tougher training requirements.

Instead of 500 hours of flight training, first officers (co-pilots) now are required to have 1,500 hours, which can take up to six months to achieve.

Great Lakes went from 300 qualified pilots to 80, as a result of the new rules, according to airline officials, impacting the more than 40 communities it serves.

The change affected larger airlines as well, Machen said, and they are recruiting pilots from smaller airlines who already have the required hours to compensate, worsening the situation at rural airports.

“Great Lakes is addressing the problem by paying for the training in exchange for pilot contracts to fly for so many years,” Machen said.

To ease the schedule disruption, Great Lakes petitioned the FAA and received permission to reduce seating in some aircraft to nine seats, which only requires one pilot. This has helped to stretch pilot resources.

To free up pilots for higher-use routes, Great Lakes will suspend its Telluride service to DIA from April 8 to June 4.

The FAA also lengthened the rest hours of pilots before flying another schedule.

Cortez Municipal Airport is an Essential Air Service facility, meaning it receives a federal subsidy to insure rural communities have access to the national air transportation system.

According to the Denver Business Journal, Great Lakes is proposing that it be paid less to fly passengers between Cortez and DIA, requesting a $2.27 million per year, down from $2.24 million. The Wyoming based regional airline is the largest EAS provider in the United States, serving 41 communities.

“What can we do to make sure our airport continues to have airline service?” asked council member Karen Sheek.

Machen responded that the airport stays in the black financially due to the commercial service of Great Lakes. Without that revenue, the airport would lose money and need to be subsidized by the city to stay in operation.

“One potential you should be prepared to accept might be a larger aircraft that can take more passengers, 50, but only offers one round-trip per day,” he said. “That would mean less travel flexibility, but by Fall we expect the schedule to resume to three flights per day to Denver.”

An investigation of the 2009 Colgan crash by the National Transportation Safety Board identified pilot error as a major factor in the accident, prompting family lawsuits and Congressional action to tighten up flight training regulations.


Lafayette, Indiana, chosen for GE Aviation plant

WEST LAFAYETTE – GE Aviation officials said Wednesday that a $100 million jet engine factory that it’s building in Lafayette will be a key in producing its new-generation engine for passenger airliners.

The company already has orders for more than 6,000 of its new LEAP engines, which are now undergoing development testing. The Lafayette factory will complete final assembly, said David Joyce, the president and CEO of GE Aviation.

“So we’re kind of in a hurry,” he said. “With that backlog in sales, we’ve got to move fast, so we hope to break ground this year in Lafayette. We hope to hire in 2015.”

The company expects the factory will open in 2016 in a Lafayette industrial park and have more than 200 workers within five years. The new engine will be used by passenger jets built by Airbus, Boeing and the Chinese company Comac for airlines worldwide, according to GE Aviation, which is based in suburban Cincinnati.

Joyce stood before one of the engines as he spoke from a stage at the Purdue University Airport during the announcement ceremony with Gov. Mike Pence and several local officials. He pointed to the long ties between Purdue and parent company General Electric Co., which he said had more than 1,200 Purdue graduates among its employees.

Joyce said Lafayette beat several communities in an aggressive competition for the factory.

“If this facility works the way any of our others, we’ll be knocking down one of the walls shortly and adding on,” he said.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. said it offered the company up to $3.6 million in tax credits and training grants based on its hiring plans. The state also will pay for about $1.3 million in infrastructure improvements.

The new engine is expected to have a 15 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over current engines, along with being quieter and having lower emissions, the company said.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said he was proud that a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility would be coming to the city.

“The Lafayette plant will be at the forefront of aviation technology,” he said. “It will put us on the map in a new and different and very important way.”


Roy Stuart: Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, man building his own plane

CALEDONIA — For pilot and aircraft hobbyist Roy Stuart age means little. So does the notion of retirement.

At 90 years old, the Mount Pleasant resident serves as a volunteer and member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Racine.

The one-time salesman for Massey-Ferguson and Cessna, also manages to keep working.

Every three months he hops in his car and travels across three states to visit the 75 customers he serves as a sales rep for Super Swivels in Minneapolis.

When he’s not working or volunteering, he spends his time in a small hangar at the back of the local Experimental Aviation Association (EAA Chapter 838) building at Batten International Airport, fastening rivets into gleaming aluminum and studying the plans for a Sonex light sport aircraft.

Stuart has been working on the plane since Nov. 1, 2008 — the date the kit for building the aircraft arrived in the mail.

Since then he has spent an average of 10 hours a week at the hangar, carefully constructing various sections of the plane.

Asked why, in his late 80s, he decided to take on such a large project, he said simply “because I want to fly again.”

On Wednesday Stuart was joined by his fellow Kiwanis for a special weekly meeting at the EAA Chapter building, 3333 N. Green Bay Road.

Instead of meeting at the club’s usual spot they decided to take a “field trip” of sorts, said members, so they could both celebrate Stuart’s birthday, which was Monday, and take a look at this plane.

Gathered around two long tables, members joked about not putting candles on Stuart’s cake with so much aviation fuel nearby.

After lunch, they huddled into the hangar so Stuart could give them a brief presentation on the ongoing construction of the plane. Some marveled as Stuart explained that what appeared to be the frame of a fairly small cockpit would be large enough to fit a flight instructor and student.

“I guess you have to like who you are flying with,” one member joked.

Asked what he thought about Stuart’s effort, Randy Savaglio said “The thought of building a plane is intimidating enough (at any age).”

When all the pieces are put together, Stuart said he plans to paint the aircraft white and green.

He hasn’t quite settled on a name yet, but so far he likes “Roy Express.”

His hope is that it will be all done in time for next year’s Fourth of July parade.

Asked what he would say to those who might question someone his age flying a small plane, let alone building one, Stuart said “It’s only years.”

“Most of the time I feel like I’m about 60,” he said.

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The Eastern Iowa Airport (KCID), Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Eastern Iowa Airport fire: Passengers describe scene
CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - Bob Greenwood was flying out of the Eastern Iowa Airport on his way to a conference when he and his wife had to de-board the plane due to a fire in the back.

"They did a great job of evacuating," said Greenwood, who lives in Waterloo. "Everybody came off the plane calm. The steps were there. There was help from the ground crew of getting people down the steps and off the plane."

Public safety officers say the fire was in the auxiliary power unit, or APU. That's a piece of equipment near the tail of the plane that powers the electrical systems.

Crews shut off power to the APU and the fire went out -- thanks to the employees' training.

"We've all gone through airport firefighting school and have monthly training and then annual re-certification for aircraft firefighting," said Kenneth Washburn, public safety commander at the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Public safety officers respond to planes when safety sensors are triggered. While actual fires are rare, they do happen.

"Occasionally we've had a few, like today," said Washburn. "But not very often."

Greenwood was glad the three crew members and the other 49 passengers were all able to get off the plane safely.

He's a frequent flier, but this was a new experience.

"I've flown probably a million miles on various airlines over the past 20, 25 years, and have never had anything like this happen before," said Greenwood.

The Delta flight was heading to Detroit.

Some travelers, like Greenwood and his wife, booked new flights from other airports. Others waited for a new flight out of Cedar Rapids.

The plane was taken in for maintenance and repairs.

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Sussex Airport (KFWN), New Jersey

Two injured in skydiving accident during Safety Day at Sussex Airport

WANTAGE — The co-owner of a skydiving facility said he “misjudged” a skydive landing when he collided with a person and a picnic table at Safety Day at the Sussex Airport on Saturday.

Richard Winstock, 45, of Hackettstown, who co-owns Skydive Sussex and is national director of the U.S. Parachute Association, collided around 6:45 p.m. with fellow skydiver Tyfani Detky, 25, of Stockholm, who was sitting at the picnic table, New Jersey State Police Trooper Jeff Flynn said.

Detky was knocked unconscious and Winstock broke his leg. Both were transported by helicopter to Morristown Medical Center, Flynn said.

Detky remains at Morristown Medical Center in fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Winstock, who was released from the hospital on Tuesday, said he was falling about 20 mph when he crashed into Detky and the table. This was his first accident in about 25 years of skydiving.

“I have 14,000 jumps, and I’ve never so much as broken a nail,” he said.

Winstock plans to return to skydiving in about four months. He has co-owned Sussex Skydive at the Sussex Airport in Wantage since July 2013. The facility opened for the season about two weeks ago.

“I love Sussex,” he said. “It is a great airport, and we are having a good time there.”

The accident occurred near the end of the U.S. Parachute Association’s Safety Day, which included safety seminars and jumps.

Winstock said beginners should not be concerned about the type of landing accident he was involved in because newcomers always do tandem skydiving, where the person is connected to a harness attached to an instructor during the jump.

“We have a flawless safety record with tandem skydiving and a brand new plane,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to a great season.”

The U.S. Parachute Association said that there were 19 fatal skydiving accidents and 915 non-fatal skydiving injuries out of about 3.1 million jumps in the United States in 2012.

“Tandem skydiving is extremely safe,” Winstock said, adding people are more likely to die in a car crash.

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Legal Complications Loom for Families of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: WSJ

The Wall Street Journal

By  Chester Yung And Jake Maxwell Watts

March 27, 2014 6:08 p.m. ET

The circumstances of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370—with its lack of physical evidence and numerous potential jurisdictions—are likely to make legal action especially complicated for families seeking compensation in the courts.

Regardless of what caused the plane's disappearance, family members of the passengers and crew can bring legal action against Malaysia Airlines for compensation, legal experts say. One U.S. law firm has already filed a petition in a U.S. court on behalf of the relative of a Flight 370 passenger seeking information from the airline and Boeing Co.  —a precursor of what the firm said was a planned wrongful-death lawsuit.

But the fact that investigators have yet to find the Boeing 777, and the possibility that it could take a long time to locate items such as the plane's so-called black box—which contains digital flight data and recordings of cockpit conversation—could make it difficult to move forward with legal action, some lawyers said.

In a case like this "you need a lot of information and documents to back up the claim because it involves so many people," said Lee Chooi Peng, partner at Justin Voon Chooi & Wing, a law firm in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that handles negligence cases. "To substantiate the claim I think a lot more information and documents are required."

Families who want to litigate will need to determine in which country to file any lawsuits. "The courts of different countries have very different views of what compensation is appropriate," said Mike Danko, a California attorney with law firm Danko Meredith, which has represented crash victims and their families in previous air disasters.

The Montreal Convention, an international treaty governing air disasters to which Malaysia, China and the U.S. are signatories, leaves the amount of compensation to the courts of each country where the claims are made, though airlines are strictly liable for compensation to an equivalent of around US$174,800 per passenger.

Aviation lawyers and legal experts say that families of crash victims would be best off financially by suing via U.S. courts, given the nation's track record of awarding large damages in air disasters.

Under the Montreal Convention, families can file claims at a U.S. court if the passenger was a U.S. resident, bought the ticket from the U.S. or ended his journey in the U.S. Apart from the three U.S. nationals aboard Flight 370, the likelihood that the flight's passengers could fit this category appears low, some lawyers say.

Families also could make claims in the U.S. against Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, as well as other U.S.-based component makers for the Boeing 777, if it could be proven that the crash was caused by a design defect. That, however, is far from certain, and would take much longer to establish, especially as the flight remains missing.

Chicago-based Ribbeck Law Chartered filed a petition on Tuesday in the circuit court of Cook County, Ill., seeking information from Malaysia Airlines and Boeing, centered mostly on the identities of people who worked with the aircraft or crew of Flight 370, including those who trained the pilots.

Boeing has declined to comment on possible lawsuits. Malaysia Airlines said it had received a copy of the Ribbeck petition. "Our lawyers have been briefed and are on standby to deal with this although it has not yet been formally served," it said.

While Malaysia's government has said it believes all on board perished after the jet went down in the southern Indian Ocean, searchers haven't yet positively identified the plane's wreckage. Investigators also haven't determined a probable cause of the disappearance.

Courts in Malaysia, where the legal system is based on English common law, hold a more conservative view on negligence claims and compensation.

The multimillion-dollar awards for negligence suits in the U.S. are "not the trend under Malaysian law," said Jeremy Joseph, principal partner at Joseph & Partners, a maritime law firm based in Kuala Lumpur that has handled aviation cases. "That said, this is an unprecedented case and no doubt the courts would adjudicate based on applicable laws and principles," said Mr. Joseph.

Already, third parties have made some insurance payments, while Malaysia Airlines has made bridge payments to some families of around $5,000 per passenger, even as rescuers continue to look for the plane.

—Jason Ng contributed to this article.