Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ercoupe 415-C, N2788H: Accident occurred April 12, 2014 in Cookson, Oklahoma

NTSB Identification: CEN14LA199
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, April 12, 2014 in Cookson, OK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/23/2015
Aircraft: ERCOUPE 415 C, registration: N2788H
Injuries: 2 Serious.

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

The pilot-rated passenger reported that he and the pilot aborted the first takeoff attempt due to a loss of engine power. They taxied the airplane back to the departure end of the runway and applied full and partial power several times but were unable to duplicate the engine problem, so the pilot chose to take off again. Shortly after the airplane became airborne, the engine lost power, and the pilot subsequently landed the airplane in wooded terrain. 

A postaccident examination of the airplane and engine revealed that the fuel tanks were breached during impact; however, some fuel was found in the header tank and gascolator. The carburetor inlet fitting had broken off at impact, and the carburetor bowl was empty. The mixture arm was separated from the carburetor and not safety-wired in the full-rich position. The Nos. 1 and 3 plugs were found blackened. The engine was manually rotated via the propeller, and valve train continuity was established. The primer was found unlocked and partially pulled out. An unsecured primer can cause the engine to run richer than normal, which could result in a rough-running engine, loss of power, and blackened spark plugs. 

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to properly secure the primer, which resulted in the loss of engine power during takeoff. 

On April 12, 2014, at 1100 central daylight time, N2788H, an Ercoupe 415-C, sustained substantial damage when it made a forced landing after a partial loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from Tenkiller Airport (44M), Cookson, Oklahoma. The pilot and the pilot rated passenger were both seriously injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. No flight plan was filed for the flight that was destined for a private airstrip in Etna, Arkansas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilot rated passenger stated the first takeoff attempt had to be aborted due to a loss of engine power. He and the pilot taxied the airplane back to the departure end of the runway and cleared the engine by applying full and partial power several times. The pilot rated passenger said the engine seemed to be performing well and departed. Shortly after becoming airborne, the engine began to lose power and the pilot made a left turn back toward the runway. The pilot was unable to maintain altitude and landed in wooded terrain. There was no post-impact fire.

A witness, who was a friend of the pilot, provided a statement similar to that of the pilot rated passenger. He also said the pilot had a rough running engine on takeoff the day before the accident and quickly landed. The pilot was unable to duplicate the problem on the ground but noted that the header tank had overflowed. The witness and the pilot then opened the cowling and saw that a large amount of fuel had evaporated and residual fuel stains were observed around the carburetor. The witness then got in the airplane, started the engine and did several high speed taxi-runs with no engine problems. He elected to takeoff and made two full-stop landings. On the second landing, the witness said the header tank began to overflow. The pilot consulted the airplane's manual, and read that a loose gasket in the gas cap might be the cause of the fuel overflowing and tightened the gasket. The next day, the witness asked the pilot if tightening the gasket had resolved the problem and he said it did.

A postaccident examination of the airplane wreckage revealed that all of the fuel tanks were breached and a small amount of fuel was found in the header tank and gascolator. The carburetor inlet fitting was broken from impact and there was no fuel found in the carburetor bowl. The mixture control was disconnected from the carburetor and was not safety-wired in the full-rich position. The top spark plugs were removed and the No.1 and No.3 plugs were black. The engine was manually rotated via the propeller and valve train continuity was established on each cylinder. Inside the cockpit, the primer was found unlocked and partially pulled out. Fuel was also found in the primer line to the carburetor.

The airplane's last annual inspection was completed on February 1, 2014, at an airframe total time of 2,235. The airplane had accrued 15 hours since this inspection. 

The private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land. His last FAA third class medical certificate was issued in November 2008 and his last biennial flight review was conducted in November 2009. The pilot reported a total of 850 flight hours, of which, 300 hours were in the same make/model as the accident airplane.

The pilot rated passenger held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land. His last FAA third class medical was issued in May 1979. He reported a total of 500 flight hours, of which, 30 hours were in the same make/model as the accident airplane.


NTSB Identification: CEN14LA199 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, April 12, 2014 in Cookson, OK
Aircraft: ERCOUPE 415 C, registration: N2788H
Injuries: 2 Serious.

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

On April 12, 2014, about 1050 central daylight time, N2788H, an Ercoupe 415-C, sustained substantial damage after it made a forced landing to wooded terrain after a partial loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from Tinkiller Airport (44M), Cookson, Oklahoma. The pilot and the pilot rated passenger both sustained serious injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot rated passenger. No flight plan was filed for the flight that was destined for a private airstrip in Ozark, Arkansas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a witness, the airplane experienced engine trouble on the first takeoff attempt but was able to land back on the runway. The airplane then taxied back to the departure end of the runway and took off again. The witness said the airplane began to climb and when it was 100 feet above the ground, the wings dipped back and forth. The airplane then pitched up and descended into trees.

Two men from Ozark, Ark., remained hospitalized Monday after their plane crashed near the Cookson Airport in Cherokee County.

John McCreary, 75, is listed in fair condition, and Albert DeMarco Jr., 85, is listed in serious condition, said a spokeswoman at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa.

The crash occurred at 11:43 a.m. Saturday, less than one-half mile west of Oklahoma 82 and less than one-half mile north of Cookson Bend Road in Cherokee County, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report states.

The crash occurred shortly after the aircraft took off. Witnesses said they could hear what appeared to be engine trouble and observed the plane flying just above the tree tops before losing sight. The plane was found in a wooded area of a pasture, according to the report.

Officials do not know which man was the pilot of the 1946 Ercoupe, the report states.


COOKSON - A man who was in a plane crash near Tenkiller Lake Airpark on Saturday morning has been identified.

A St. John spokesperson says the man is Demarco Albert. 

Albert is listed in serious condition, the spokesperson says. 

Another man was in the plane during the crash. Updates on his condition are not available right now. 

The crash happened about a mile away from the Airpark, which is located in Cookson, Okla., just south of Tahlequah.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the plane experienced engine issues after departing from the nearby airport. 

Related: Oklahoma Highway Patrol confirms plane went down at Tenkiller Lake Airpark in Cookson, Okla.

They were flown to St. John Hospital in serious but stable condition. 


Helicopter pilot challenges Torrance municipal noise regulations


TORRANCE >> With a noise-weary public increasingly clamoring for stricter controls on loud aircraft, the City Council on Tuesday, for the first time, is scheduled to hear an appeal from a helicopter pilot who violated municipal noise regulations at Zamperini Field. 

The potentially precedent-setting hearing also is shaping up as the initial skirmish of what could well evolve into protracted legal conflict over the validity of the city’s noise ordinance itself.

“We recognize this is a Pandora’s box,” Mayor Frank Scotto said. “Unfortunately, pilots don’t believe a municipality has the right to dictate noise levels to them and we believe we do have the right to protect our residents.”

Battle lines are already being drawn.

The helicopter pilot, Hitomi Jinda, who has operated a helicopter flight school at Torrance Municipal Airport since 2003 called JJ Helicopters, has retained an attorney who fired off a nine-page letter to the city contending the issue is outside municipal jurisdiction.

Jinda contends she only violated noise regulations because she wanted to keep two other aircraft at a safe distance.

“A city cannot regulate an aircraft in flight that is compliant with federal law and regulations, even for noise-abatement purposes,” the letter from Los Angeles-based attorney Stan M. Barankiewicz II reads in part, citing FAA policy and a previous court case.

“Further, to find appellant guilty when putting safety before noise concerns would impermissibly impinge into an area that the federal government has clearly pre-empted,” he added. “Determining appellant guilty of a noise violation threatens the very existence of JJ Helicopters.”

However, the helicopter in question — although not necessarily the same pilot — has racked up at least 10 violations of the city’s noise ordinance in the past five years, city officials noted at the January noise-abatement hearing where Jinda was found to have exceeded noise limits.

A mere three violations of the ordinance within three years could find both the pilot and helicopter banned from the airport for three years.

“It’s unusual to have a helicopter that has this number of violations,” said Linda Cessna, deputy community development director said at the hearing. “There’s some kind of issue with this particular helicopter.”

It’s unclear why municipal staff haven’t already cracked down on the company. Cessna could not be reached for comment late Friday.

But it appears city staff haven’t followed up on the noise violations, said John Bailey, a local homeowners association president who is one of the most active government watchdogs in the community.

“There’s a problem in the system,” he said. “It’s ludicrous that over a time span of five years they just let this go on and on and on. ... The city has let the problem get out of control by never following up.”

The City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 3031 Torrance Blvd.


Eagle Helicycle, N78CS: Fatal accident occurred April 13, 2014 in Reno, Nevada

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Final Report:

Docket And Docket Items  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -   National Transportation Safety Board: 

NTSB Identification: WPR14FA167
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 13, 2014 in Reno, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/15/2014
Aircraft: SANDS HELICYCLE, registration: N78CS
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

The student pilot was flying his single-seat helicopter as part of a flight of two helicopters with the intention of flying around the airport traffic pattern. Witnesses located adjacent to the accident site reported that, as both helicopters reached an altitude consistent with pattern altitude, the accident helicopter suddenly pitched down. One witness stated that the helicopter shuddered a few times and then pitched down while rolling in a clockwise rotation. The helicopter subsequently impacted flat desert terrain. Postaccident examination of the helicopter revealed no evidence of any preexisting mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the helicopter while in the traffic pattern. 


On April 13, 2014, about 1209 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Sands Helicycle, N78CS, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near the Reno-Stead Airport (RTS), Reno, Nevada. The helicopter was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The student pilot, sole occupant of the single-seat helicopter, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which originated from RTS at 1204.

Witnesses located adjacent to the accident site reported observing two helicopters fly along a taxiway about 15 feet above ground level (agl) on a southerly heading while in trail from one another. As the helicopters made a left turn to an easterly heading, they ascended to about 500 feet agl. As both helicopters turned to a northerly heading, the lead helicopter began to "pull away" from the second helicopter. Witnesses stated that the second helicopter suddenly pitched downward towards the ground. Subsequently, the helicopter impacted terrain about 1,425 feet northeast of the threshold of runway 32. One witness added that the accident helicopter "shuttered a couple of times, [and] then dove at the ground" while rolling in a clockwise rotation.

The pilot of the lead helicopter reported that the accident pilot and he departed from the west hangars to the east along taxiway Alpha. He stated that the accident pilot intended to follow him on a left traffic pattern for runway 08. As he turned crosswind for the runway, he asked the accident pilot if he was "back there," and the accident pilot responded "yes, I am behind you and everything is fine." The pilot further reported that he continued on downwind and made another radio call to the accident pilot, but did not receive a reply despite multiple attempts to contact him. Shortly thereafter, the pilot located the wreckage of the helicopter.

A friend of the pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) that the morning of the day of the accident, the pilot had flown uneventfully around the airport and performed a few low speed quick stops on one of the taxiways. In addition, the friend of the pilot reported that the helicopter was test flown about a week prior to the accident by a test pilot, and the helicopter was within weight and balance limitations.


The pilot, age 46, held a student pilot certificate with an endorsement for an R22 helicopter. A third-class airman medical certificate was issued to the pilot on November 30, 2012, with no limitations stated.

Review of the pilot's logbook revealed that as of the most recent logbook entry, dated March 23, 2014, he had accumulated 52.7 hours of total flight time, of which 4.6 hours was solo flight time. The pilot had logged 4.2 hours of flight time within the preceding 30 days to the accident, of which no solo flight time was logged.


The single-seat experimental amateur-built helicopter, serial number (S/N) 5-14, was completed in 2014, and issued an experimental airworthiness certificate on March 6, 2014. It was powered by a Solar T-62-32 turboshaft engine rated at 160 horsepower. Review of the airframe logbook revealed that since the issuance of the airworthiness certificate, no further logbook entries were made.


A review of recorded data from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) automated weather observation station, located about 15 miles southeast of the accident site, revealed at 1155, conditions were wind from 130 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 13 degrees Celsius, dew point -12 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.19 inches of mercury. Using the reported weather conditions and field elevation, the calculated density altitude was about 5,751 feet.


The Reno/Stead Airport is a non-towered airport that operates in class G airspace. The airport features two runways, 14/32, a 9,000-foot long and 150-foot wide asphalt runway, and 8/26, a 7,608-foot long and 150-foot wide asphalt runway. The reported airport elevation is 5,050 feet.


Examination of the helicopter by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the helicopter came to rest on its left side in an open desert area. All major structural components of the helicopter were located at the accident site. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.


The Washoe County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on the pilot on April 14, 2014. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries."

The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were tested, and had positive results for an unspecified amount of Diphenhydramine within the liver.

Information obtained from CAMI revealed that Diphenhydramine is a common over the counter antihistamine used in the treatment of the common cold and hay fever. In addition, warnings for the medication include: may impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks (e.g., driving, operating heavy machinery).


Examination of the recovered airframe and engine was conducted at the Reno-Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada, on May 28, 2014, by the NTSB IIC, and a representative from Eagle R&D.

Examination of the recovered wreckage revealed that one of the two main rotor blades was separated at the blade grip and the retention bolt was sheered. Signatures observed on the blade grip were consistent with the rotor blade separating in a forward direction. The upper, lower, and center portions of the retention bolt remained within the rotor blade and blade grip. The outboard three feet of the blade was separated, including the blade tip and leading edge spar, which was located about 300 feet southwest of the accident site. Some leading edge gouges were observed near the separated blade tip. Chordwise striations were observed throughout the span of the separated rotor blade. The rotor blade that remained attached to the hub exhibited chordwise striations throughout the blade span and was bent and buckled throughout. The tailrotor assembly was unremarkable. The tailrotor slider functioned normally by hand. The tailrotor driveshaft was intact and twisted at the forward attach point.

Flight control continuity was established throughout the helicopter for all primary flight controls. Separations in the control torque tubes were observed, and the areas of separation exhibited signatures consistent with overload.

The forward portion of the airframe was destroyed. The instrument panel was impact damaged with multiple instruments displaced. The forward portion of both landing skids were bent upward. Impact damage to the fuselage was found consistent with a main rotor blade strike.

The left side engine mount remained intact. The right side engine mount was separated (consistent with a forward motion). All six drive belts were found separated into multiples pieces. The engine was removed from the gearbox. Damage was noted to the pulley and gearbox assembly. Rotational continuity was established throughout the gearbox assembly. Rotational continuity was also established throughout the turbine engine, however, was stiff. The exhaust, combustion housing, and nozzle were removed. Slight scoring rubbing was observed on the nozzle, found consistent with slight turbine wheel contact with the housing. Once the nozzle was removed, the turbine assembly rotated freely.

Examination of the recovered airframe and engine revealed no evidence of any preexisting anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

For further information, see the NTSB Recovered Airframe and Engine Examination Summary Report within the public docket for this accident.

 NTSB Identification: WPR14FA167
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 13, 2014 in Reno, NV
Aircraft: CHRISTOPHER W SANDS HELICYCLE, registration: N78CS
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators 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.

On April 13, 2014, about 1209 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur built Sands Helicycle, N78CS, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near the Reno-Stead Airport (RTS), Reno, Nevada. The helicopter was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The student pilot, sole occupant of the single-seat helicopter, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight which originated from RTS at an undetermined time.

Witnesses located adjacent to the accident site observed two helicopters fly along a taxiway about 15 feet above ground level (agl) on a southerly heading. The helicopters began a left turn to an easterly heading while ascending to about 500 feet agl. As both helicopters turned to a northerly heading, the lead helicopter began to "pull away" from the second helicopter. Witnesses stated that the second helicopter suddenly pitched downward towards the ground. Subsequently, the helicopter impacted terrain about 1,425 feet northeast of the threshold of runway 32.

Examination of the helicopter by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that the helicopter came to rest on its left side in an open area. All major structural components of the helicopter were located at the accident site. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

 Helicopter flight lesson - November 10, 2013
Video by Michael Seeliger
 Published on Nov 10, 2013 
Helicopter flight lesson in Robinson R22. Take off, landing and autorotation entries at MEV. 

Obituary for Michael Brooks Seeliger 

 Michael Brooks Seeliger, 46, of Reno, passed away on April 13, 2014 while enjoying one of his many passions in life. He leaves behind his beloved wife and daughter, Traci and Ella Seeliger.  
Mike was born in Reno, Nevada on January 20, 1968 to Tom and Kay (Park) Seeliger. He graduated from Bishop Manogue High School in 1986, and attended both the University of Nevada, where he was a member of the ATO fraternity, and Chico State University. He married the love of his life, Traci, in 2005 and welcomed their cherished daughter, Ella Brooks, in 2007.

Along with many successful business ventures, Mike was Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley for seventeen years. He constantly strove to continue educating both himself and his clients. Mike always believed his clients came first. In addition, he served on the Board of Directors for Edgewood Companies for over ten years. He had a great love for Edgewood and was very proud to be part of the Edgewood family. Mikes family history was extremely important to him, as he was a sixth generation Nevadan.

Mike gave 110 percent in all that he did, but none more than to his family, who came first above all else. He was a devoted husband and father, with weekends finding him enjoying quality time with his wife, or taking his treasured Ella to shoot bow and arrows, race go carts and ride ATVs. He was an avid wine connoisseur and enjoyed many special days in Napa Valley with family and friends. Mike had numerous hobbies in his life, and pursued all that he loved with great passion. Summers found him riding motorcycles, camping, jet skiing, and boating on Lake Tahoe; in winter months, he could be found snow skiing and snowmobiling in Lake Tahoe and Graeagle. He had a love for exotic cars, and enjoyed taking trips with Traci and Ella to car events. Building and flying R/C model planes was another of Mike’s interests. He lived life to the fullest and made sure every single moment was accounted for. He had a generous and giving heart, willing to lend a hand to many in need. Mike was a friend to all and cherished his blessed life surrounded by his precious family and many friends.

Mike is survived by his wife and best friend Traci (Henson) Seeliger and daughter Ella Seeliger (7), of Reno; parents Tom and Kay Seeliger, of Reno; brother Tom Seeliger, of Reno; Sister Sally Seeliger, of Reno; and brother Dan (Silvina), of Santiago, Chile. He is also survived by his nephews and nieces Abbie Seeliger (18), Nathan Seeliger (16), Sarah Seeliger (9), Zen Seeliger (9), and Soren Seeliger (5); and in- laws Dave and Jenny Giusti and Lance (Tammy) Henson and nephews Aaron and Chaz Henson.   Grandparents Albert and Frances Seeliger and Brooks and Jeanne Park, as well as his Uncle John Seeliger preceded Mike in death.

A service will be held at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church, 1138 Wright Street, Reno, at 11:00 am on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. A celebration of life will immediately follow at The Grove, 95 Foothill Rd, Reno. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that all donations be made to Our Lady of the Snows School, the Mike Seeliger Scholarship Fund, 1125 Lander Street, Reno, Nevada 89509.


UPDATE: The Washoe County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim of the helicopter crash that happened at the Reno-Stead Airport on Sunday. The victim is identified as Michael Seeliger, 46. The accident happened shortly after 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 13, 2014.

 A pilot died Sunday in the crash of a small helicopter in a field at the Reno Stead Airport, authorities said.  

The crash of the privately owned single-seat, home-built aircraft known as a helicycle was reported at 12:10 p.m., officials said.

"Two helicopters were flying together," airport spokesman Brian Kulpin said. "One of the pilots lost sight of the other pilot, flew back around and discovered the wreckage and called in the incident."

"They might have been flying together to test the aircraft," Kulpin said later.

The victim's name and age had not been released Sunday evening. The pilot, who was a resident of the Reno-Tahoe area, was the only one on board, authorities said.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash's cause is being determined, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, he said.

Kulpin said that the helicopter had been recently built and was certified a week ago, but authorities did not know if it was flown for the first time on Sunday.

Kulpin said it was not known if the small helicopter was based at Reno Stead Airport.

"Kit aircraft are built at airports and even sometimes in someone's garage," he said. "It's a common thing."

The Reno police and fire departments were assisting at the scene, along with airport officials, police Lt. Mohammad Rafaqat said.

A fire crew that arrived described the helicopter as destroyed. Other responding crews were sent back to the station.

"Our thoughts and our prayers go out the family of the pilot," Kulpin said.

Rafaqat said that the airport remained open after the crash.

Hervey Bay Airport, Fraser Coast Queensland, Australia

Airport security questioned after fuel stolen from plane

A fuel-filching job on a plane parked at Hervey Bay airport is sparking concerns about security and safety in the region.

Fortunately for the plane's owner Col Veldon the pilot noticed the $300 theft as part of his pre-flight checks prior to taking to the skies.

However, Mr Veldon said less reassuring was that someone was able to steal from a site that's supposed to be secure and not be captured on CCTV or caught by security patrols.

He said it raised questions as to what other crimes or acts could be committed within the airport's grounds without capture.

"The reality is it would be someone with (aircraft) knowledge because kids don't want to use old fashioned fuel in a new car," Mr Veldon said.

"It's outdated fuel, it used to have lead in it in the old days, so it's outdated fuel that would be no good in cars, it's not rocket fuel or anything.

"The security issue is still a big issue, I was thinking about that last night. The council might think they have a secure airport but obviously they don't."

The Fraser Coast Regional Council manages the site. Its mayor Gerard O'Connell claimed entry had not been forced.

"The airport is patrolled regularly throughout the night and day and there have been no forced entries or security breaches," Cr O'Connell said.

"All Lessees and private aircraft owners have appropriate security clearance and access to their leased sites and aircraft, and are responsible for the security of their own private property."

Mr Veldon said his aircraft was not on private property when he believes the fuel was taken, and was instead parked in council managed zones.

He said it's not the first time he has heard of fuel theft happening at Hervey Bay airport.

Although Hervey Bay police said they were not aware of a spate of similar incidents when contacted.

The $300 fuel heist

  • Fuel type not suitable for cars  
  • Owner believes for that reason it's more likely another aircraft owner has taken it

Gilmer Municipal Airport (KJXI), Texas

Vandals damage lights at airport

Vandals struck at the Gilmer Municipal Airport last week, Gilmer Police Lt. Mark Case said.

They damaged or destroyed 18 runway lights.

Case said that at present there are no suspects, and the crime remains under investigation.

Anyone with information on the crime should call Gilmer Police at 903-843-5545.

Airport Board member Anson Young said that this is extremely hazardous for pilots trying to land at night.

Young also said perpetrators should note that tampering with lights or other 

airport safety equipment is a federal crime.



David Taisch of Tavares, Florida: Pilot wins award for 50 years of safe flight

LEESBURG — Getting a pilot's license and a drivers license back-to-back is a rare occurrence for most young people, but the accomplishment kicked off decades of safe flying for David Taisch, 68.

The Tavares retiree recently earned the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot award given for professionalism, skill and aviation expertise over 50 years of safe flying. Since 2003, only about 3,000 U.S pilots have been presented with the award by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Taisch said he wanted to buy a boat when he was young, but his parents were against the plan — he had lost his right eye in a boating accident at the age of 5.

Earned pilot's license at 16

"I remember when I was 15, I knew I could fly. I am very proud to have received this, but wish I wasn't old enough to have done so," Taisch said.

Taisch first soloed at age 16 and earned his pilot's license at 17.Though his career led him into manufacturing clothing in Illinois, he never stopped flying. He has accumulated 6,400 flight hours in 37 different aircraft. Since 2005, Taisch has flown 118 missions for Angel Flight Southeast, based at the Leesburg International Airport and he also is active in the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles flight program.

Giving back to community

Along with his wife Ruth, 67, who also is a pilot, the two transport those who require repetitive medical treatments or organ transplants elsewhere, or are victims of abuse or natural disasters. The Taisches own a seaplane and a Mooney M-20M Ovation, a single-engine craft. David Taisch also serves with SouthWings, a nonprofit conservation organization that uses pilots to provide aerial education about conservation efforts across the Southeast.

"We feel so fortunate to be able to give back to the community in this way and do good work rather than just enjoying it privately," Taisch said.

Taisch is the founder of the "Florida Mooney Lunch Group," composed of area pilots who own Mooney aircraft and fly to different Florida airports for lunch. About seventy members celebrated the group's 10th anniversary last month at an awards luncheon in Leesburg. A representative of the FAA safety team presented Taisch with a certificate and a lapel pin.

Flying a 'magic carpet ride'

"Fifty years of contributing to aviation is an amazing accomplishment," said Steve Purello, CEO of Angel Flight Southeast. "He is very involved and always willing to take missions, even at the last minute and is always willing to take people up for a flight."

Taisch said he has flown over most of the United States — he just loves to fly.

"It is a magic carpet ride that takes you anywhere you want to go," he said. "It is a tremendous experience and has been a major part of my life."

Story and photo:

David Taisch of Tavares with his 1981 Lake Amphibian airplane, on Monday, January 27, 2014. Taisch of Tavares, who recently received the Wright Brothers' Master Pilot Award, which "recognizes pilots who have demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 or more years," according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Taisch has more than 50 years flying experience and 6,400 flight hours accumulated over the years in 37 different aircraft. He currently owns and flies a Mooney M20M Ovation and a Lake amphibian. He has been active in the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles Flight program and has flown 116 Angel Flight Southeast missions. He soloed at age 16 and got his private pilot's license

Monroe County, Michigan

State Police Special Unit Training Here Next Week 

 A group of highly skilled members of a Michigan State Police unit will be training in Monroe County this week and two Black­hawk helicopters will be in the sky at times during the events. 

Sgt. Bret C. Smith, who once served at the Mon­roe post, said the four-day operation will include vari­ous scenarios at several lo­cations, including Dundee, the Federal Correctional Institution at Milan, the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant and the Petersburg State Game Area. 

The unit is called the Emergency Support Team, which is similar to a SWAT team, and is used in many situations, including those involving hostages, rob­beries, barricaded gun­men, terrorist acts and drug raids. In fact, an ES team was at the scene of a suspected meth lab that was raided last week at Oakridge Estates Mobile Home Park. 

Sgt. Smith, who is sta­tioned in Detroit, said up to 85 state police person­nel and local emergency responders will be partici­pating in the drills, which will run Monday through Thursday.

The team last trained in Monroe County in 2009. Sgt. Smith said the area has various types of to­pography as well as rural and urban settings, which makes it ideal for training. 

“Monroe County offers a lot of training opportu­nities,” Sgt. Smith said. “It has a very good combina­tion of environment and structures.”

Story and comments/reaction:

Cessna 177, N3158T: Incident occurred April 13, 2014 in Commerce, Georgia

Plane that made emergency landing in Commerce was running out of gas

A police report indicates that the pilot of a small plane forced to make an emergency landing on a highway near Commerce did so because the plane was running out of fuel.

The incident occurred late Sunday morning when the pilot of a single engine Cessna made the decision to land the plane.

The four passengers on the plane were not injured, nor was anyone on the ground, officials said.

The plane was occupied by two adults and two children en route from Charleston, S.C.

The Commerce Police Department report names the owner of the plane, Donald S. Moffett of Cumming, as the pilot. Moffett had recently purchased the plane.

“Moffett stated the plane was possibly out of gas,” the report reads. “The FAA arrived ... spoke with the pilot and assessed the airplane. ... (A Federal Aviation Administration official) stated that the FAA and the (National Transportation Safety Board) would have no need to be further involved.”

The plane was moved from U.S. Highway 441 to Highway 59 and parked behind the Tractor Supply Building overnight, according to the police report.

Moffett was then given a ride to a gas station to purchase fuel for the plane.

“Once the gas was in the plane, Moffett was able to start the engine,” the report reads. “Moffett was then given a courtesy ride to Taco Bell.”


COMMERCE, Ga. —  A small plane had to make an emergency landing Sunday morning after the pilot reported a loss of power.

According to Commerce police, the single engine Cessna landed on US-441 about 2 miles south of the 441 exit off Interstate 85.

Police Chief John Gaissert said there were four people on the plane, two men and two children. He said they were returning from Charleston, South Carolina to Gainesville, Georgia after attending a scouting event.

Gaissert said the pilot noticed an intermittent loss of power on the plane and felt he wouldn't be able to safely land at the Jackson County Airport. He was able to land the plane on the highway passing between two cars.

There were no injuries.

The plane was towed off the highway and will remain there until FAA investigators arrive.


Wyoming airports endure spike in cancellations by local airline: Great Lakes cites pilot shortage due to federal regulations

Anna Erixon sat down at a laptop in her Lander home Wednesday afternoon and pulled up the Great Lakes Airlines website to book a flight.

She is a scientist for Merck, a major pharmaceutical company, who loves the Wyoming lifestyle. She usually works remotely, but once or twice a month she flies to Memphis or the company's New Jersey headquarters for meetings.

The last time Erixon flew Great Lakes, she was stranded in Denver for two days when a flight was canceled without notice. In the past, Great Lakes has called Friday to tell her the Sunday flight she booked was canceled.

Erixon is starting to fly out of Denver International Airport, a six-hour drive from her home. When she does use Riverton Regional Airport, she tries to fly out as many as two days in advance so she has plenty of time to endure the expected cancellations.

As she scrolled through her flight options – never take the last flight of the day, she warned – Erixon muttered an ultimatum.

“If this one fails, I’m done,” she said. “I’m not going to continue flying Great Lakes unless they give us some communication and commitment they can deliver what they’re promising.”

Four of Wyoming’s 10 community airports rely on Great Lakes for air service. Since October, taking off from or landing in Riverton, Sheridan, Worland or Cheyenne has had about the same odds as a coin flip. Great Lakes could not be reached for comment, but airport managers speculate new pilot regulations could be to blame. Whatever the reason, business leaders say reliable air service is crucial to local economies, and airport managers say fed-up passengers are abandoning local airports.

One month ago, 11 students from all over the country landed in Denver. They were one flight away from a semester-long outdoor course through the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander. The students were repeatedly told to head to the airport for a flight to Riverton only to have it canceled each time. Ultimately, some of the students drove to Lander, while the rest were re-routed to Worland and were picked up and driven to Lander by Outdoor Leadership staff members.

“All of our courses are field-based, so being a day late doesn’t work for our business model,” said Bruce Palmer, director of admissions and marketing at the school. “I think students look at getting here and getting home as part of the whole experience, and it will have a negative impact on our image. We would hate for their lasting memory to be that it took them five days to get home.”

The program is flying more than 1,200 students and instructors into Lander this summer. In past years, the outdoor school staff has accounted for another 100-plus flights, but most of them are choosing to fly out of Casper, Denver, Rock Springs or Jackson, Palmer said.

“You get snakebit a couple times, and you have to make a choice,” Palmer said. “Most people flying in and out of [Riverton Regional] are not particularly cost-sensitive. They are reliability-sensitive.”

Palmer said the school is continuing to use Riverton Regional for its students for now, but they are devising a plan B. Wyoming Catholic College, however, has ditched the airport altogether.

Late last year, college president Kevin Roberts issued a college-wide policy forbidding work travel with Riverton Regional.

“We have endured too many nights stranded out of town and too many days wasted by canceled flights,” Roberts wrote in a letter to Lander city officials. “I am sure that you know that once our and others’ decisions of going to Casper, Denver and Jackson become habits, it will be hard to ever re-attract us to using Riverton. That would be a terrible result of inaction, and one that has serious economic consequences on our region.”

The results of a recent study commissioned by the Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division spelled out the potential economic impact of reduced air service at Wyoming airports.

An estimated 527,200 passengers boarded Wyoming flights in 2013. About 70 percent were visitors. Those visitors stayed an average of 4.5 days and spent about $580 per trip, excluding Jackson.

Of the businesses who responded to an online survey, 90 percent said they rely on air service on a regular basis.

The study estimated the total impact of Wyoming’s 10 airports resulted in 10,000 jobs and $413 million in payroll.

“It’s critical for all communities to maintain that air service. Wyoming is such a big state, and it’s a long way to drive from point A to point B,” said John Stopka, airport manager at Sheridan County Airport.

Nonetheless, that’s what’s happening in Sheridan and Worland. Since 2011, annual cancellations were below 4.5 percent at the Sheridan airport. In October, that number spiked to 20 percent and has climbed to 44 percent of all flights as of March.

Worland Municipal Airport has had flight cancellations jump from 3 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2013 and 51 percent through March of this year.

As a result, the number of passengers in Sheridan has dropped 34 percent from March 2013 to March 2014. Passenger leakage, or the number of passengers within Sheridan County Airport’s service area that choose to drive to another airport, climbed from 70 percent to 85 percent. Most of those passengers go to Billings or Denver, Stopka said.

Some are even flying out of the Casper/Natrona County International Airport, which reported a record 100,124 passengers last year, Stopka said.

With Great Lakes still cancelling nearly half of its flights to and from Sheridan County Airport, there is little Stopka can do to stem the tide.

“At this point, [passengers] won’t fly Great Lakes if the airplanes were gold-plated,” Stopka said. “They’re just done, and they’ve been canceled, and too many things went wrong with good, loyal customers.”

The airports those passengers leave behind are at risk of losing federal money. The federal government gives money to some of the nation’s smallest airports for infrastructure projects like runways. Drop below 10,000 passengers, though, and that $1 million subsidy plummets to $150,000.

“We’ve had air service here since the early 1930s, and we’ve never had this issue where we’ve been so close to falling under the 10,000 number,” Director of Aviation David Haring said.

The airport is on track to bring in only 6,500 passengers this year, he said.

Great Lakes officials did not return calls during a two-week period requesting an interview. Airport managers around the state say the airline is blaming two major changes in federal regulations for causing a dearth of pilots available to regional airlines.

In a March letter to the Riverton Regional Airport Board, Great Lakes CEO Chuck Howell said the increased flight training hours necessary for co-pilots are behind the recent spike in cancellations.

Howell’s letter said the airline hopes to remove 10 seats from its 19-seat Beech 1900s in order to use co-pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours.

Congress mandated new rules for on-duty and rest hours for pilots in response to a Colgan Air flight that crashed into a home in New York, killing 50 people. The FAA said fatigue was a contributing factor in the crash.

The new rules also increased the training hours required for copilots to fly regional planes from 250 hours to 1,500 hours.

That rule went into place August 2013.

“It’s like seeing a mouse come out of a hole, and instead of using a mousetrap, you use a shotgun and destroy the whole floor,” said Kevin Sweeney, a Wyoming Pilots Association board member.

Students used to receive their commercial license after 250 flight hours. They would start working at regional airlines like Great Lakes as co-pilots, and then build up to 1,500 hours and become a pilot. Eventually, they would accumulate enough hours to move to major carriers such as United or Delta, according to Sweeney.

Now, co-pilots need the same hours as pilots. Pilots mostly earn those hours flying crop dusters or as flight instructors, Sweeny said.

The average regional airline pays $24 an hour, half of what the major carriers pay. Since requirements are now the same across the board, the major carriers are hiring away the most qualified pilots, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Airport managers in Cody, Gillette and Casper, all of which are served by SkyWest Airlines, said they haven’t had their operations affected by pilot shortages.

Mike Thompson, vice president of market development at SkyWest, said the airline hasn’t had staffing issues.

SkyWest, Wyoming’s only other airline, is also much larger than Great Lakes. It has 336 aircraft and 10,500 employees and partners with major carriers, like Delta and United, to provide service to small communities. Great Lakes operates independently.

Some passengers doubt a pilot shortage fully explains the cancellations.

Tracy Donovan, vice president of James L. Davis, the architectural firm building Lander’s new oncology unit, wonders if Great Lakes cuts flights with few passengers to save money.

“Rumors are the plane isn’t full enough, so they cancel it,” Donovan said.

She said she has had flights canceled as many as two or three days in advance. Other times, she has seen her flight simply disappear from the board at Denver International Airport.

“It’s aggravating and it’s unproductive,” she said.

That lack of communication creates the perception Great Lakes doesn’t care about them, some Fremont County residents said.

In his letter to the board, Howell argued against that perception.

"This is not just a Great Lakes problem," Howell wrote. "(This just) happens to be where the effects of the unintended consequences (of the new rules for pilots) will be first seen. The cry for help from the airline industry regarding the pilot shortage is not being heard."

Cancellations were up to 60 percent at Riverton Regional in March. One disgruntled passenger told the Star-Tribune she wouldn’t use Riverton Regional unless she could be 30 hours late. The decision came after having two flights canceled on the same day and having to drive to Denver that night to catch the next morning’s flight to her final destination.

Ultimately, Sarah Annarella, an account manager for the outdoor leadership school, said not having a reliable local airport only adds to the community’s remoteness.

Those customers are trying to do something about it. In Sheridan, Riverton, Worland and Cheyenne -- Wyoming’s four airports that exclusively use Great Lakes -- committees are forming to recruit a new airline to their struggling airports.

It's a slow process, which is why Haring said he and his staff members are now aggressively recruiting other airlines to fill the void, while still trying to maintain a relationship with Great Lakes.

“Great Lakes is based here, so by no means are we trying to kick Great Lakes out … but at the same time, our survival mode is trying to recruit another airline,” Haring said. “We are one of how many airports who would love another airline carrier, but the number of airlines expanding is small … communities have to go out and sell yourselves to the carriers. They aren’t going to mitigate their own risk anymore.”

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Bird, plane safety devices installed on new power lines

Devices to protect flying objects from running into power transmission lines can be seen along the new Susquehanna-Roseland route.

While sets of whipsawed wires responded with a loud, echoic twang as work continued on one part of the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission project, crews went ahead with a second part of the project that aims to protect manmade and natural flying objects.

 Since the nearly 200-foot-tall towers went up during winter, the one atop Kittatinny Ridge announced its presence far and wide with a bright blinking beacon, visible from miles away and creating calls to police and newsrooms about the strange new sight on the horizon.

As part of the $1.5 billion project, and necessary to get approval from the National Park Service for the new lines to cross the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and two other units of the park service, Public Service Electric & Gas and PPL, the utilities building the line, agreed to several safety measures.

One is to alert low-flying airplanes of the presence of the new wires, more than twice as high as the ones they replaced, both at the top of the ridge and along the Delaware River on the west side of the ridge and Sand Pond on the east side.

The other project, which was a vital concern to ecologists, was to keep birds, especially large raptors like eagles and hawks, from flying into the lines.

That part of the project involves a couple of steps, making the wires appear larger than they are and documenting what effect the wires have on the birds and, if possible, how many times the birds collide with the wires.

Jason Kalwa, manager of the project for PSE&G, said the bird avoidance system consists of spirals attached to the

topmost set of two wires. Known as shield wires, they carry information about the condition of the two sets transmission lines below, with each set capable of carrying a half-million volts (500 kilovolts) of electricity.

The Kittatinny Ridge, as it is known in New Jersey, is a major north-south flyway for migrating birds, especially raptors, which use the uplifting currents of the ridge to soar from Connecticut to near Maryland.

The topmost shield wires, for the four sections that cross over the top of the ridge through the park, are outfitted with spirals, several times larger than the shield wires, and give birds the optical clue that this is something to avoid.

Similar spirals are being installed along the wires where they cross the river since that route is also a migratory route for smaller songbirds.

In both places, the company is also installing a series of infrared cameras and detectors that will trigger the cameras when birds are detected flying close to the wires.

Even though there are thousands of volts of electricity in the lines, the detector/camera system doesn’t draw its power from the lines. Several of the transmission towers have been outfitted with large solar panels, which will feed the batteries that run the camera/detector system.

Kalwa said the system isn’t just for the migrating period, but pretty much year round since there are bald eagle nests all along the valley, and the Delaware River is a winter home for eagles since long stretches of the river remain ice-free.

For manmade flying objects, the beacons, one atop the ridge, one set on either side of the river and one set at Sand Pond, could be kept on 24/7 as they are now.

But as part of the volumes of environmental safeguards set down for this project, the beacons will only come on when there is a low-flying aircraft within about 3 1/2 miles horizontally, Kalwa said.

Inside each of the two globes atop towers on each side of the ridge is a radar antenna that is monitoring the sky.

Although there are usually planes flying overhead, most of them are on a higher flight path taking them to major airports such as Newark, Teterboro, Stewart, Philadelphia or Allentown and wouldn’t be flying low enough to be concerned.

But there are also local airports, such as Pocono, East Stroudsburg, Newton, Sussex, Blairstown and Andover, as well as some private airstrips that serve local traffic and sightseeing flights through the valley.

Kalwa said both projects will be done by midsummer.

Kalwa said the radar project should be done by the end of May when the beacons will be switched over to the detector system, rather than on all the time.

During construction, the Appalachian Trail, a unit of the National Park Service, has been rerouted.

The normal trail route followed the right-of-way for a ways at the top of the ridge and, with the vegetation kept low, provided amazing vistas both east and west.

The detour route makes a straight line across the right of way on the western side of the ridge with the new path outlined by orange fences. The route then snakes its way to the top of the ridge through some woods, rejoining the trail.

And the overhead twang?

Kalwa said the sound was of crews “tensioning” the new 500-kilovolt lines that have been strung between the towers but still hang from large pulleys. At each end of lengthy sections are large machines that are pulling the wires to the required tension to hang where they can expand and contract with the weather.

During the process, the three large cables that make up one set of lines are not connected to keep a proper distance apart.

As the wind and the tensioning process moves the lines, they often bang into each other. The resulting shockwave, while not damaging to the lines, does create sounds that travel along the lines. 

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Bank of India loans $200 million to Air India for purchase of 3 Dreamliners

New Delhi, Apr 13: 

Bank of India (BoI) has become the first Indian bank to extend a bridge loan of $ 200 million to Air India to finance the purchase of two Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Confirming the development, a senior Airline official said that the London branch of the Bank had come forward to extend funds to Air India to acquire the Boeing 787 aircraft.

The funds raised from BoI will be used to acquire the 13th and 14th B-787 aircraft which the airline is to take delivery of.

Like in the past, the state owned carrier will go in for a sale-and-lease back mechanism, a common route adopted by several airlines to acquire expensive assets like aircraft. The Boeing website shows that a Boeing 787 retails for between $ 211 and $ 288 million. The actual price of the aircraft varies from airline to airline depending on the number of aircraft ordered.

Meanwhile, Air India has started liquidating its debts and has paid off ₹ 465 crore to the Delhi Airport International Limited between April 2013 and March 31 this year, officials said.

During fiscal year 2014-15, Air India expects revenue from carrying passengers to touch ₹ 16,400 crore with international passengers accounting for 55 per cent of this revenue. The state owned carrier expects to carry close to 16 million passengers during the fiscal. The turnover of the Group is expected to touch ₹ 21,500 crore during fiscal 2014-15 with Air India contributing ₹ 19,100 crore with its two subsidiaries Air India Express chipping in with ₹2,200 crore and Alliance Airlines providing about ₹ 200 crore. 


Pakistan International Airlines: Plane accidentally lands at wrong airport in Saudi Arabia - Passengers driven overland for around 1,000km to reach their destination

Manama: Passengers have asked for financial compensation after a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane flying them from Karachi to Riyadh landed at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.

The passengers were deeply shocked when they found themselves at the airport in the Red Sea city instead of the international airport in the Saudi capital, Saudi news site Sabq reported on Sunday.

No explanation was given how Flight 731 with more than 200 passengers on board ended up almost 1,000km west of the announced destination.

The Pakistani company provided buses to transport the passengers to the capital and offered them food and drinks, Sabq said.

Some of the passengers speculated that the plane was originally scheduled to fly to Jeddah, but accepted to take people who had booked to go to Riyadh without informing them they would be flying to Jeddah.

Other passengers called for stringent action against the pilot in case he is found to have committed the mistake of landing at the wrong airport, the news site said.


Air Marshal director stepping down amid agency gun scheme probe

EXCLUSIVE: The director of the Federal Air Marshal Service is retiring after being investigated for his role in an alleged operation to acquire guns for officials' personal use, has learned.

Director Robert Bray's home was raided in December in connection with the ongoing probe, according to sources and documents. Law enforcement and congressional sources told that Bray's recently announced retirement, which is effective in June, is directly related to the investigation.

Transportation Security Administration officials say no such raid ever happened.

But Bray allegedly is among several officials who were obtaining weapons through this operation.

The probe stems from whistleblower accusations involving federal Air Marshal supervisor Danny Poulos. Sources say the Department of Homeland Security inspector general is involved, and possibly the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. TSA officials disputed that those agencies are involved, but acknowledged that there is an internal review underway by the TSA Office of Inspection into the supervisor's alleged activity.

The supervisor, a TSA official confirmed to, is "on administrative leave."

Poulos is accused of using the agency's federal firearms license and his relationship with gun manufacturer Sig Sauer to obtain discounted and free guns. He then provided them to high-up agency officials for their personal use, according to whistleblower documents obtained by and interviews with multiple officials with knowledge of the ongoing probe.

It is unclear, based on the allegations, whether he made money off the alleged transactions, and how many guns were involved.

TSA officials confirmed to on Friday that Bray did buy weapons from the supervisor, but stressed that he did so legally and with "no knowledge" that they may have been "ill-gotten."

“We are aware of the allegations and we are looking into them," a TSA spokesman said. 

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., chairman of the House Homeland Security transportation security subcommittee, wrote a letter to Transportation Security Administrator head John Pistole on Thursday raising "grave concern" about the claims of possible "gross misconduct."

Though Congress is supposed to be notified of these types of probes, when reached by for comment, a spokesman for Hudson said they had received no such notification.

In the letter, Hudson cited claims that an Air Marshal supervisor "may have accepted free firearms that were offered because of the employee's official position in 2010, at a time when such firearms were being tested by FAMS for possible future procurement."

He wrote that the same employee "may have, in turn, sold or given those firearms to other Federal employees, including but not limited to the current Director of FAMS."

He also voiced concern that the director's retirement "may be directly related" to the investigation into the activity. Further, he complained that Congress was not notified of any of this.

"I am extremely concerned about recent allegations of unethical behavior involving firearms within the Federal Air Marshal Service, dating as far back as 2010," Hudson told in a written statement. "The alleged behavior is unbecoming of any official entrusted with the duty to protect and serve the American public. I am outraged at the apparent attempt by TSA and the Federal Air Marshal Service to hide this from Congress. TSA needs to come forward and provide clear and complete answers so that we can conduct a thorough and open review of these alleged activities on behalf of the American people."

Hudson gave Pistole until next Friday to provide more information on whether illegal and/or unethical activity took place and other details.

TSA spokeswoman LuAnn Canipe defended Bray, when asked about the allegations.

"Director Bray has an exemplary record of public service in the federal government," she said. "He has protected presidents and he has protected the traveling public for nearly 40 years." attempted to reach Bray for comment via email, but has not received a response.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Poulos told "I don't have a comment." Poulos' lawyer also told it was premature to speak on the record about his client.

The DHS-OIG office said it would not comment on "investigative matters," when reached by

The details in Hudson's letter square with accounts from whistleblower documents and other sources.

"The DHS IG is presently investigating a pervasive personal gun purchasing issue at the FAMS. The investigators are quietly calling in federal air marshals that purchased weapons from [the supervisory agent] out of his federal government office and taking photographs of the [sic] each gun's serial numbers," one document obtained by said.

The document detailing the allegations -- written by a whistleblower and circulated among some employees -- claimed that Poulos, at the Washington Field Office, is "under an active investigation by the DHS IG" for using his FAMS license to buy guns "from Sig Sauer for the FAMS Director, senior TSA/FAMS staff and a few Federal Air Marshals at a discounted 'FAMS Agency' rate."

The document further said "some of these weapons may not fully be accounted for or some stolen -- thus the reason for the DHS IG to want photos of the serial numbers."

Sources and documents say that the director's home was raided on Dec. 26, 2013 and at least one gun was seized that was allegedly connected to the gun operation.  

Sources told that Bray filed a police report after the raid reporting the weapon stolen -- even though it allegedly was seized by ATF during the raid. The Fairfax County police in Virginia, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by, provided information saying that on Dec 26, a pistol was reported stolen from the home address of Bray. But the date of theft was listed as Dec. 20.

It is unclear when the DHS OIG investigation began, but if the Dec. 26 stolen weapon police report is any indication, it was going on at that time.

Poulos did not personally have a federal firearms license, but had been authorized to use FAMS' license to purchase guns for the agency, according to documents -- he's accused of using that license to buy the weapons for other officials, including the director, for their personal use.

Documents obtained by also claim the ongoing investigation "is being conducted quietly to keep Congress in the dark on the gross mismanagement and misdeeds that the FAMS senior management staff have perpetrated for several years."

Texas Republican Rep. John Carter, chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee, said Friday he was "deeply disappointed and disturbed" by the claims and urged the TSA to provide "clear and comprehensive information" to Congress.

Bray announced his retirement in a March 31 email to agency employees.

"Many of you have heard me talk about the importance of change and how vital it is to keep any agency moving forward," he wrote. "Therefore, I need to practice what I preach and so effective June 28th, I am going to retire from Federal service."

He said he has no plans "except to spend time with my wife and family, without whose love and support I could not have had such a great, long career." 


Westchester County Airport (KHPN), White Plains, New York

Trees return as Westchester airport issue

Several dozen trees in Greenwich are inching into airspace traversed by jets landing at Westchester County Airport, stirring what could be the start of another border battle between Connecticut tree-owners and the neighboring New York airport.

For Airport Manager Peter Scherrer, it's a case of deja vu.

In 1989, those same trees had grown tall enough to penetrate the airspace pilots then used when landing on the airport's alternate runway. The tree growth prompted federal regulators to mark the first 1,300 feet of the shorter of the airport's two landing strips off limits to pilots.

Now those same trees -- 25 years older and several inches taller -- are breaching the edge of the new flight path. Scherrer said he's already been warned by Federal Aviation Association officials that further tree growth could force additional shrinking of the runway.

For vacationers flying on US Airways, JetBlue or Delta, travel delays could increase if more of the small, corporate airplanes and flight school crafts that now use the alternate strip are forced to use the main runway because theirs has become too short.

That's something Scherrer said he would like to avoid. So he's setting out to resolve the airport's tree problem before the branches actually penetrate the threshold.

"It's my job to keep our runways," Scherrer said on a recent afternoon. "It's my job to keep people who use the runways safe. All we're really trying to do is be proactive and take a look at solutions. What can we do to save this runway for the future? We may never find a solution to the tree issue, but we're going to search for one."

Tree trimming or removal is an obvious option. But Scherrer said that's not a plan he's advocating.

That's because back in the early '90s, Westchester County waged a court battle against the town of Greenwich, the state of Connecticut and several landowners in an attempt to have about 50 trees chopped down so more aircraft could use the backup runway. The county offered to pay the cost to remove the trees, most of which are on land owned by Convent of the Sacred Heart, Fairview Health of Greenwich, the town of Greenwich and a King Street resident.

But a judge ruled that the county had no right to order the Greenwich property owners to chop or top off their trees.

Greenwich tree owners contacted by Greenwich Time this week either did not return requests for comment or declined to comment because they said they had not been notified of the new problem by any authority. Town officials did not return requests for comment.

Scherrer said one alternate solution he and other officials are studying involves realigning the alternate runway so that the trees are no longer anywhere near the flight path. The drawback to this idea, Sherrer said, is it's likely to be very expensive.

Scherrer said he's also considering a plan to install lights that help pilots land safely. The lights, called Precision Approach Path Indicators, are already installed on the main runway.

"If you're high on your landing, the lights appear white to you and if you're low, the lights appear red," Scherrer explained. "When you're spot on, you see two red and two white lights.

"At night, it almost looks like you're landing in a hole because it's so dark, so you want to get as many indicators as possible to make sure the pilot has a sense of where the trees are, where the runway is and so that the landing is safe."

The lights wouldn't solve the tree problem so much as buy time, Scherrer said.

The trees are not currently a safety issue for pilots and airline passengers, he said, but could become one with continued growth.

An FAA spokesman said the agency monitors the tree growth annually and has not found any present safety issues.

All told, the alternate runway is 4,450 feet long, with 1,300 feet marked out-of-bounds due to the trees and an additional 300 feet of usable length on the chopping block next year in order to satisfy a federal safety zone requirement.

If additional tree growth prompts the FAA to cut even more length on top of that, airport officials say it could be detrimental for the airport's economic health.

"Ground delays are less frequent here than they are at most other airports nearby and the reason is because we have two good runways that we can use," said John Johnston, president of the Westchester Aviation Association. "But if all of a sudden there are more delays because that alternate runway can't be used by certain airplanes, you may lose airplanes that move to other airports. So there are economic risks here, too. It's easier to drive to Danbury and take off there than it is to sit here for an hour and a half and wait to take off."

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Fresno Air Guard wows crowd

 Seven-year-old Alex Loyd could hardly contain himself after checking out the cockpit of an F-15 fighter jet in Fresno with its pilot on Saturday.

"This thing is amaaazing! I love the brownish color. It kind of matches chocolate."

Alex's visit to the Air National Guard base was a family affair. He came to the 144th Fighter Wing's open house — the first in nearly two decades — with 17 members of his family, including his grandpa, who retired from working at the base a few years ago.

Thousands poured onto the 80-acre base alongside Fresno Yosemite International Airport. This year is the base's 60th anniversary.

Alyssa Carmona, 8, came dressed in bright pink and ready for roaring engines with a pair of large earmuffs. They came in handy when a few F-18 jets from Lemoore Naval Air Station took flight.

Jumping up and down clapping her hands, Alyssa exclaimed, "They are fantastic!"

Alex still was marveling at the F-15 he toured. "This is actually the amazingest plane I've seen all year. This is the greatest plane I've seen since I was barely born."

His favorite features? A star painted on its side and a "very cool badge."

"I'm going to join this base when I grow up and I'm going to pilot one of those planes," Alex said. "I want to ride on one of these hot rod babies ... They keep the world safe."

Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge was excited to welcome the community back to the base.

"Once 9/11 hit, certain security restrictions came on board. We had to put up the 'great wall' and it became a kind of mystery what we do here," Drudge said of a 24-foot wall on the base which runs alongside McKinley Avenue, built soon after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

The base is home to about 20 jets tasked with California's homeland security, and is the only air national fighter wing in the state.

"There's so much we do," Drudge said of the base's many departments, including things like civil engineering and firefighting. "We're just like the Air Force but on a smaller footprint."

But the 144th Fighter Wing's special mission is primarily this: ready at a moment's notice to protect the U.S. from an invasion, Drudge said.

Emma Loyd, 5, was reassured by that thought as she looked at the missiles on an F-15.

"If there's a bad guy plane, it can shoot it," Emma said.

Since last fall, the base has been swapping out its F-16 planes, which have been used for about 24 years, with F-15s. While the planes are older, they're easier to repair which will help extend the life of the aircraft, Drudge said.

Along with the F-15s and F-16s on display Saturday, visitors checked out an Army Blackhawk and sheriff's helicopter, a few old Air Force planes and a half-dozen private planes.

Bill Hoffrage, 73, of Madera displayed one: His bright yellow Boeing-Stearman Model 75 was used in the 1930s and '40s as a training plane for members of the Army and Navy, he said.

Hoffrage said he wants to leave an appreciation for the plane's "heritage and where it came from and what it did — it trained a lot of pilots."

Col. Clay Garrison, the 144th's commander, spoke of the base's place in the community. It employs about 1,000 people — almost half full time.

"Even everyone here that is a full-time employee lives out in the community," Garrison said. "Their kids go to local schools. I grew up here, my wife grew up here, and that's normal. This is a community-based organization."

Garrison was excited to share the base with the public again.

"I want them to know that something exists behind here, that work gets done," he said. "I want them to see the F-15. When they hear that over their house, I want them to associate that noise with our mission. ... When they hear that noise, I want them to think, 'Hey, that's the California Air National Guard at Fresno. They do air defense alert. They do air dominance nationwide. I know those guys. I've gone out there and met them."