Friday, April 18, 2014

Nigeria: Unemployed Pilots - The Inevitable Glut

Capt. Daniel Omale

— April 19, 2014

For the past three years, this column has remained constant in forecasting the potential unemployment plague that would be facing the aviation sector in Nigeria. But as usual, no one in government, not even the ministry of labor and productivity appears bothered about the scourge, and the possible repercussion that comes with youth idleness that usually leads to restiveness.

It is estimated that over 60% of Nigeria’s workforce is unemployed. The definition of a workforce is: total number of a country’s population employed in the armed forces and civilian jobs, plus those unemployed people who are actually seeking paying work. Sadly, the majority of Nigeria’s population seeking paying work is below the age of 40.

Job creation is a fundamental responsibility of the government in power, and, the government must visibly be worried if more than 70 million able/ active people in the country, who are qualified for gainful employment, are without income. It’s needless to reemphasize the looming danger as a result of the state of hopelessness and despondency.

In every psychological and sociological study of crime rate in most societies, the fundamental reason for rising crime wave lies with the economic disposition of the community in question.

The rate of unemployment among newly trained Nigerian pilots has been on the rise for the past three years, although the latent failure began with the demise of Nigeria Airways, the single, largest employer of airline pilots in Nigeria’s history.

Why the issue of unemployment amongst Nigeria’s pilots is almost incurable are as the result of the following problems:

First, there  are fewer airlines in Nigeria today than before, although the number of trained commercial pilots has tripled; second, the five currently active airlines in Nigeria are heavily indebted to the Asset Management Company (AMCON) of Nigeria; three, the majority of the corporate jets operating in Nigeria are financed from abroad, with stringent financing terms, which include keeping the aircraft’s registration in the country of the lending institution and, for European banks, the aircraft must be registered in Europe. Few Nigerian pilots have European commercial pilot’s certificate.

Another major issue is that no Nigerian bank can lend to a potential airline investor below interest rate of 25%, which is a glaring doom even before the business starts.

The number of commercial pilots without jobs in Nigeria as of today stands at about 300. The Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, has nearly 100 student pilots that will graduate and join the unemployment scheme in less than 12 months from now. The International flying school in Ilorin, Kwara state, has about 30 students or more, while those sponsored abroad by the Kano and Niger Delta states exceed 150 students.

Airline business is generally expensive with very low profit margin. The illusion that airline business is worth  investing in, has led a number of investors into bankruptcy.

Professional commercial pilots are trained to acquire a linear skill which limits their versatility in other economic sectors; therefore, they suffer from structural unemployment.

Structural unemployment, one of the main unemployment types, is the mismatch between job openings and job seekers in an economy. For example, local job seekers may be generally skilled, but lack the specific skills required for available job openings. This type of unemployment can also result if sufficiently skilled workers are seeking employment, but available jobs are in another part of the country or the world. Any disparity between the abilities of available workers and the requirements for open positions can be considered structural unemployment.

The dynamics of the labor market tend to give rise to this type of unemployment. Shifting market conditions, such as changing technology, continuously alter the demand for labor. Training can become a major issue as workers try to predict the future job market. Training for specialized skills requires a significant amount of time and resources. The resulting lag between the actual demand for labor and the current skill set of available workers is one major cause of structural unemployment.

Last week, the minister of finance enthusiastically announced to Nigerians that our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has become the highest in Africa. But the question on everyone’s mind, including one of the unemployed pilots who was in my office was: what does this mean to us? Well, my definition of GDP got him even more confused: the value of a country’s overall output of goods and services (typically during one fiscal year) at market prices, excluding net income from abroad.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can be estimated in three ways which, in theory, should yield identical figures. They are (1) Expenditure basis: how much money was spent, (2) Output basis: how many goods and services were sold, and (3) Income basis: how much income (profit) was earned.

The core reason why Nigerians are unhappy or not enthusiastic with the finance minister’s announcement is that life is becoming harder everyday for the majority of Nigerians, not the unemployed pilots alone. But it is even harder if your parents spend N10m to train you with the hope that one day, you will be able to take care of yourself and, that is far from happening. Improvement in our GDP without corresponding improvement in livelihood is mere economic jargon.

This is the case of the unemployed commercial pilots in Nigeria: their parents have spent millions of Naira to train them either abroad or in Nigeria, but jobs are not forthcoming.

Arik air, the largest airline in Nigeria, has in theory, employed 80 of the idle pilots, but it will take approximately five years for the airline to actively engage all of them, because, Arik can only send three pilots for simulator training every three months. Therefore, in one year, only twelve out of the 80 newly recruited pilots will effectively be absorbed in the company to earn income. So, this translates to one pilot per month.

There is no government legislation that can force private aircraft owners to employ any of the unemployed, but government can support the airlines in this country through subsidized operational costs to boost revenue, and invariably more aircraft for airline operators.

The more aircraft we have in this country, the better the chances of those out of job to gain employment.

Government policies should gear towards encouraging those who are interested in acquiring aircraft for the purpose of operating in our national airspace. A contrary policy will continue to hurt the economy with more unemployment news in the polity; obviously, an ambiguity exists: supply is more than demand.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Spatial Disorientation

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

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


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

WAILUKU, Hawaii — Maui County officials chose to ride a ferry to attend the first Lanai Planning Commission meeting since a February crash of a chartered plane killed two county workers and injured three other employees.

Four planning staffers and a deputy corporation counsel took the ferry to Lanai island Wednesday and remained there overnight before heading back on the ferry, the Maui News reported.

Among the staffers who went was Clayton Yoshida, a planning program administrator who said workers thought the ferry would be a good way to resume the meetings.

"For now, I guess we're looking at some alternatives to the (airplane) charter," he said.

Richard Rooney, the 66-year-old pilot of the plane chartered from Maui Air Tours, also died in the Feb. 26 crash, which occurred shortly after takeoff following a planning commission meeting. The crash also killed two women working for the Maui County Planning Department — Tremaine Balberdi, 52, and Kathleen Kern, 50.

Yoshida said it was business as usual at Wednesday's meeting.

"Everyone is trying to get back on their feet, slowly, getting back into the things they were trying to do before the crash," he said.

There were no formal remembrances at the Wednesday meeting, but staff members fielded many questions on the conditions of the survivors, according to Yoshida.

Planning staff also told the audience of a memorial fund, "Maui County Remembers," to provide financial assistance to the families of those killed or injured. The fund was set up by Pulama Lanai, billionaire technology entrepreneur Larry Ellison's management company for Lanai.

Lanai is part of Maui County, and it is common for county officials to travel frequently between the islands via plane or ferry.

Information from: The Maui News,

NTSB Identification: WPR14FA124 
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 26, 2014 in Lanai City, HI
Aircraft: PIPER PA 31-350, registration: N483VA
Injuries: 3 Fatal,3 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 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 February 26, 2014, about 2130 Hawaii standard time, a Piper PA-31-350, N483VA, collided with terrain shortly after departure from the Lanai Airport, Lanai City, Hawaii. The certified commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured and three other passengers were seriously injured. The airplane was substantially damaged and was partially consumed by postimpact fire. The airplane was registered to Maui Aircraft Leasing, LLC and operated by Maui Island Air under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on demand air taxi flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on a visual flight rules flight plan. The flight had a planned destination of Kahului Airport, Kahului, Hawaii.

An initial examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board, investigator-in-charge, revealed about a 640-foot-long debris field that stretched from the first identified point of contact (FIPC) to an engine component near the main wreckage. The FIPC was a ground scar that stretched about 160-feet-in-length and about 1-foot in width. Charring vegetation was observed about 100 feet down the ground scar from the FIPC and fanned out on either side of the debris path for about 260 feet; it was about 50 feet in width at its widest point. The majority of the wreckage debris was found in the last 2/3 of the debris field. The main wreckage was mostly consumed by postimpact fire.

The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

When a person is injured, is it better that they fly?

 An ambulance would not have been enough for Hannah Dardzinski.

The use of police helicopters to transport injured people is sometimes controversial, but Hannah and her mom, Sue, believe having a state police helicopter readily available saved her life.

In May 2011, a driver sped down an Interstate 70 exit ramp at 61 mph and rear ended a Honda Civic. Hannah, now 17, was in the Honda's backseat. She was immediately knocked unconscious.

Hannah was taken by ambulance to the Howard County Fairgrounds where she was met by Trooper 3, the Maryland State Police helicopter assigned to the Frederick barrack and housed at Frederick Municipal Airport.

"My injuries were so life threatening, I was apparently a minute away from dying," Hannah, an Eldersburg resident, said.

In the 15 to 20 minutes it took the helicopter to fly Hannah to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Trooper First Class Lance Shank put a tube down her windpipe to keep her breathing and gave her a drug so she wouldn't wake up during the flight. Shank could immediately tell she had a dislocated hip, a broken femur and trouble breathing, which indicated lung damage, Hannah said.

Doctors at shock trauma discovered Hannah had a skull fracture; the bone was pressing into her brain. She also had a laceration on the back of her head, blood collecting in her head outside her brain, fractures in her back and pelvis, a bruised lung and kidney and a lacerated liver. She had one surgery to fix her skull fracture and another putting a rod in her femur. The rest of her injuries healed with time, she said.

Hannah still cannot remember her two weeks in shock trauma due to post-traumatic amnesia, but after another six weeks in rehabilitation re-learning how to walk, talk and move the right side of her body, she considers herself in the same shape she was before the crash.

She and her mother do not think this would be the case if they had needed to wait for an ambulance.

After a Maryland police helicopter carrying victims of a vehicle collision crashed in September 2008, such use of helicopters was questioned. That 2008 crash killed four of the chopper's five passengers, including a veteran pilot, a flight paramedic, a county emergency medical technician and one of the crash victims.

But a helicopter can move a patient more swiftly than an ambulance, especially during times of heavy road traffic.

"The first hour after an injury is huge," Sue Dardzinski said of Hannah's crash. "And it was rush hour, so it would have taken an hour [by ambulance] to get down to Baltimore."

How Trooper 3 is used

Trooper First Class William B. Jansen, a flight paramedic said Trooper 3 is used for law enforcement, homeland security checks, emergency medical services, critical infrastructure checks, and search and rescue.

The majority of Trooper 3 calls are for emergency medical services, according to Lt. Walter Kerr, commander of flight operations for the Maryland State Police Aviation Command Center. This is the case with all of Maryland's police helicopters.

Maryland bought new helicopters in June 2013, a fleet of 10 AgustaWestland AW139s, which Jansen described as more reliable, with larger engines and 21st century technology. The old helicopters were about 20 years old, according to Trooper 3 Pilot Russ Zullick. The new helicopters cost $11.8 million each.

The average pilot flies about four missions a day -- two at night and two during the day, Jansen said. Trooper 3 primarily serves Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties. Nine trooper paramedics are assigned to Trooper 3, according to Zullick. They are required to be state troopers but did not necessarily come from the Frederick barrack. Seven civilian pilots are also assigned in Frederick.

Flights are made with two pilots and two care providers -- either two paramedics or one parametric and one emergency medical technician, Zullick said.

When it comes to law enforcement, Jansen said, the helicopter can see things officers on the ground cannot, such as oncoming traffic or a person pointing a gun out of a car. Trooper 3 can also help find missing people using cameras that indicate the presence of humans based on their body heat.

"Your body will show up a different shade than the rest of the picture," Jansen said. "It's pretty frequent that we find people."

Critical infrastructure checks involve flying over areas that may be susceptible to criminal activity or the sites of mass gatherings, Jansen said.  A police helicopter flying over such areas could deter future criminal activity or stop it as it is in progress.

Areas that might require critical infrastructure checks include the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick and Coniwingo Dam, Kerr said.

Homeland security and critical infrastructure checks are often done coming back from other missions or at the request of Department of Natural Resources Police, Jansen said.

"Every time we're coming back from our missions we try to do some type of patrol check."

State police helicopters cost about $5,000 per flight hour, according to Kerr. This includes operation of the aircraft, crew salaries and scheduled maintenance. Eighty percent of the helicopters' operating cost comes from Maryland's Emergency Medical Services budget and the other 20 percent comes from the Maryland State Police operating budget.

When people register their cars in Maryland a portion of the fee they pay goes to the EMS budget to help pay for the helicopters, Kerr said.

Emergency medical flights

Field responders decide whether someone needs to be flown to a shock trauma unit based on a number of different factors, according to Tom Coe, battalion chief of Emergency Medical Services with Frederick County Fire and Rescue. These responders could include police or firefighters, Kerr said.

In extremely critical cases, Coe said, 911 dispatchers can say "send a helicopter." Field responders might call a doctor to make the decision if a patient does not meet the qualifications for air transport, but the responders believe one is needed.

"Those are the things that might not be visible," Coe said.

A non-visible injury or ailment might still warrant a flight to shock trauma if the patient is very young or elderly, he said.

The most critical cases for ordering a helicopter could involve an emergency medical technician noticing decreased consciousness, unstable blood pressure or respiratory rate, or a traumatic injury, Coe said. Less common, but still life-threatening cases could involve a dive injury or exposure to carbon monoxide or harmful gases.

Helicopters are more likely to be called upon in rural areas such as Frederick County, Coe said, where a lot of traveling is required to get to an urban trauma center.

Not all states follow Maryland's model for police helicopter use. Pennsylvania's police helicopters are not flown for emergency medical transport, according to Trooper Adam Reed, public information officer with the Pennsylvania State Police. Such use is not funded and pilots are not trained in emergency medical services.

Pennsylvania's helicopters are used for police chases and search and rescue, Reed said. They "are not set up to do double duty as medical services helicopters."

Penn State Hershey Medical Center has a small fleet of helicopters stationed around South-Central Pennsylvania for emergency medical services.

The system works well, Reed said. "I've never run into a circumstance where (medical center helicopters) weren't there when requested. I don't believe it has hindered our operations in any way."

Even without emergency medical calls, Reed said the Pennsylvania State Police helicopters are "out and about almost every single day."

Maryland's emergency medical use of helicopters is what drew Jansen to the program in the first place. He said Delaware has a similar program but fewer helicopters than the 10 owned by Maryland.

Trooper 3 can get to shock trauma in about 18 minutes from most Frederick County locations, he said.

"Most states do not have what Maryland has," Jansen said. "The bottom line is when someone is seriously injured, every minute counts, and that's why we're here."

Why it's good

How seriously injured are most people who are flown to shock trauma? That's difficult to calculate.

According to a shock trauma fact sheet, 18.8 percent of patients are brought to the center via helicopter. Thirty-eight percent of all shock trauma patients are from vehicle collisions, 33 percent are from falls, 19 percent are from violence and 10 percent are from other causes.

Ninety-six percent of patients survive their injuries.

The average stay in shock trauma is 4.5 days, according to Karen Lancaster, University of Maryland Medical Center spokeswoman. Stays in shock trauma can range from a few hours to a few months, she said, but statistics are not kept on the length of each patient's stay and how they got there.

Discharge can mean going home, being transferred to rehabilitation or outpatient clinics, or needing follow-up surgeries, Lancaster said.

Hannah Dardzinski now volunteers at shock trauma and hopes to become a nurse. She said most people brought in by both ambulance and helicopter do not appear to have life threatening injuries.

"There's a lot of falls from elderly people," she said.

On the other hand, she said, many internal injuries do not initially appear life threatening even when they are.

"When I first came in, I didn't look life threatening, so it could be that type of situation, too," she said. "I just kind of looked like I got banged up and that was it."

Zullick is the pilot who flew Hannah. He has said he seen people who looked near death but then lived, he said, and also people who initially looked like their injuries were minor, but later died in the hospital.

Hannah has stayed in touch with both Zullick and Shank.

"It's nice to see a positive end result of what we do here," Shank said.

2013: A year in the life of Trooper 3

 -- 363 medical transports

-- 164 support missions, mostly including three months of training on new helicopters

-- 150 critical infrastructure checks coming back from other missions

-- 120 law enforcement assistances

-- 59 search and rescue missions

-- 2 homeland security missions

Source: Lt. Walter Kerr, commander of flight operations, Maryland State Police Aviation Command Center

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Aviation and law enforcement continue battle of laser-related incidents

For pilots getting a laser beam shined in their eyes, the effects can be similar to having a camera flashed in their eyes at close proximity.

The number of incidents where laser devices — namely laser pointers — have been aimed at aircraft have seen a massive spike in recent years, a trend law enforcement and the aviation industry is working to curb.

Last year, a little less than 4,000 incidents were reported nationwide — the highest on record, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal Aviation Administration. In 2005, it was 283 reported incidents.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported 20 laser incidents in Wisconsin last year, including one each in Green Bay and Appleton. Milwaukee had the highest number with nine.

The incidents pose a threat to aircrew, passengers and bystanders. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime that can land the offender in prison for up to five years on a single charge.

“We’ve had some pretty explosive growth in the number of hits... And those are only the reported ones,” said Capt. Sean Cassidy, first vice president of the Air Lines Pilots Association . “ here are a lot of folks out there doing this that don’t realize the potential it has to really impair the safe operation of the aircraft.”

Lasers can cause pilot blindness and disorientation, and possible loss of control of the aircraft, which could result in a crash. Low-flying aircraft, commercial flights on approach to an airport or law enforcement and medical helicopters, are among the most susceptible to strikes.

“These laser hits are happening during what we call ‘critical phases of flight’ when the aircraft tends to be a little closer to the ground and the crew is busy,” said Cassidy, a 737 pilot with Alaska Airlines.

It can also harm the pilots causing dazzle, after-image formation, flash blindness as well as retinal bruising. At least 35 incidents have been recorded in which where aircrew required medical attention because of exposure to a laser pointer, according to the FAA and FBI.

What leaves the laser device, a laser pointer for example, as a pinpoint of light, expands to a winder, blinding, beam by the time it reaches an airborne aircraft.

The FAA describes the effects of a laser strike on a pilot as similar to “a camera flash at close proximity or the high-beam headlights of an oncoming car.”

It can take several seconds, or minutes, for flight crew to regain “optimal” sight conditions.

Helicopter crews from ThedaStar of Neenah, which provides medical air transportation for trauma and critically ill patients, have not reported any laser-related incidents. Crews are up to speed on the threat and know how to react if the helicopter is targeted.

“The best thing we can do is educate our crews,” said Jeff Grimm, a flight nurse and safety program coordinator with ThedaStar. “There’s not a whole lot more you can do other than monitor air traffic control, and if someone else has reported something to be alert.”

“There’s not a whole lot we can do to prevent it, but we can mitigate it if it does happen,” Grimm said. “Close your eyes for that moment and avoid looking directly into any of the light and do what we need to do to maintain control of the aircraft.”

Through mid-March, a single laser strike was reported in the state this year — in Milwaukee, according to the regional office of the FAA.

Tom Miller, director of Austin Straubel International Airport in Ashwaubenon, said about a half dozen incidents have been reported at the facility over the past several years.

“The predominate victims have been commercial airlines,” he said. “They’re typically late in the evening.”

The incidents were reported to local and national law enforcement agencies.

Nationwide, California recorded the highest number of incidents last year with 734. It was followed by Texas with 416 and Florida with 326, according to data complied by a website called aimed at being a resource on related information to users, media and others.

The vast majority of illuminations, almost 93 percent, are by green lasers, according to

“It goes from bored school kids to some of the folks who do it a bit more deliberately that tend to be younger or middle-aged males ... who see this as a cheap thrill,” Cassidy said.

“Obviously they are old enough to know better. Those are the folks we’ve seen getting nabbed and arrested by the FBI.”

Last month, a California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno Police Department helicopter, according to media reports. Investigators say the 26-year-old Clovis, Calif., man shined a laser pointer into the cockpit of the aircraft multiple times during a 2012 incident.

A new federal law that makes it a felony to point a laser device at an aircraft and the related public information push are ongoing efforts to stem the tide of laser-related incidents, Cassidy said.

“In markets where we do have this public awareness campaign, we have actually seen, statistically speaking, the number of hits go down,” he said.

“I think a lot of folks ... don’t really understand the magnitude of what can happen when (a laser) obliterates your ability to see out of the windscreen of an aircraft.”

 By the numbers 
Reported laser incidents involving aircraft in the United States.

2005: 283
2006: 384
2007: 590
2008: 913
2009: 1,527
2010: 2,836
2011: 3,591
2012: 3,482
2013: 3,960

Source: Federal Aviation Administration


Air show coming to Kalispell

KALISPELL - The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce is bringing in the Mountain Madness Airshow to Glacier International Airport this summer.

The event is expected to draw around 30,000 spectators, and tickets for the show are now on sale. They can be bought online.

Kalispell Chamber of Commerce Vice President Chris Parson says this event will be one of a kind for residents.

"It's an airshow where we bring in the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds - which is their jet performance team - along with that other professional performers that will do some nice stuff for us."

The show will take place on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31.


Fly on, Cape Air

Editorial , Adirondack Daily Enterprise  

Cape Air is listening to its customers and stretching itself to do what they ask, and one can't ask a company for more than that.

The airline, based on Cape Cod in Hyannis, Mass., flies three round-trips a day between the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear and Boston's Logan International Airport, where passengers can connect to all kinds of places. The federal government subsidizes those since it considers passenger service to our airport "essential." Peak-season traffic has gotten so heavy that in recent summers, Cape Air has added a fourth daily Boston flight to its schedule, without subsidy.

What's new is that, in response to advocacy from people and institutions up here, Cape Air is going to switch that fourth daily summer round-trip from Boston to White Plains, with van service from there to Midtown Manhattan (about an hour and 15 minutes away).

The airline previously tried to get the feds to subsidize this service. Adirondack Health, North Country Community College, Paul Smith's College, St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers, Trudeau Institute and The Wild Center - all among the region's biggest and most prominent employers - sent letters this fall asking for that, but the U.S. Department of Transportation said no.

Now Cape Air is stepping up and doing it on its own. Good.

Connecting the Adirondacks by airline to the New York City area is important for business trips, tourism, family visits, locals travel and other things that are valuable to the local economy and people's lives.

There are a few potential downsides. Harrietstown officials (the town owns and runs the airport) have publicly worried about reducing the popular Boston service. There's also a possibility that the higher prices to and from White Plains (roughly twice that to Boston - it's unsubsidized) will be prohibitive, and some fear cutting into the business of an expensive charter service that serves our airport. When that charter pays the town for landing fees, fuel, sewage disposal, deicing, etc., it helps cover airport costs that townspeople would otherwise pay through taxes.

But we don't know if these will actually be major problems, and even if they are, it seems likely that the upsides of connecting to New York City outweigh them. The White Plains service is definitely worth trying. Cape Air has only committed to it for this summer. If it doesn't work, it won't last.

Meanwhile, Cape Air is almost ready to move some newly hired employees into a storefront ticket office and call center in downtown Saranac Lake. One or two agents are expected to work there at a time, welcoming walk-ins and answering the phone to help anyone from the 518 area code who calls who calls the airline's main customer service number, 1-800-CAPE-AIR.

Call-in customers will not only get a real human being on the phone, but one in the Adirondacks rather than Cape Air's Hyannis headquarters. That agent can tell them about the weather, upcoming events or things to do, the way someone at a visitor center would. That will make potential visitors more comfortable and give them an accurate impression of the Adirondacks as friendly, busy and community-oriented as well as a place of great natural beauty and terrain.

The agency also will be good for downtown Saranac Lake's image - it needs those vacant storefronts filled - and for connecting with other local businesses and institutions for mutual benefit.

After a couple of lackluster airlines at the local airport, Cape Air is a success story. Since it took over in early 2008, annual ridership has increased from 8,119 that year to 11,810 in 2012. That's good for everyone. The nine-seat planes make its trips a little funky - kind of like flying in a skinny van - but the views are amazing and the customer service is consistently good, according to everything we've heard and experienced.

The White Plains service is likely to make things even better.

Article and comments/reaction:

Quicksilver GT-400: Accident occurred April 18, 2014 in Hillsboro, Kansas

NTSB Identification: CEN14LA205 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 18, 2014 in Hillsboro, KS
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/19/2014
Aircraft: QUICKSILVER GT400, registration: -
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

After completing the assembly of the unregistered airplane, the pilot made a high-speed taxi on the grass strip and the airplane veered off the runway. He taxied back to attempt a takeoff and, after takeoff, the airplane made a steep right. The airplane continued the flight, and the left wing collided with a tree. The pilot was ejected from the cockpit, and the airplane continued into a pond. The airplane did not contain a seatbelt. Continuity of the flight controls was confirmed, and no anomalies were noted with the engine or systems during postaccident examination. Weather in the area included a gusting wind up to 20 knots. 

 The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the unregistered airplane in gusting wind conditions. 

On April 18, 2014, about 1345 central daylight time, an unregistered Quicksilver GT400 airplane, collided with a tree and impacted water after takeoff from a private grass strip near Hillsboro, Kansas. The commercial pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was owned and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight and no flight plan was filed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident and was destined for Alfred Schroeder Field Airport (M66), Hillsboro, Kansas.

According to the responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the airplane had undergone extensive maintenance and the pilot assembled portions of the airplane prior to departure. After the airplane was fully assembled, the pilot attempted to start the engine. When the engine did not start, he poured fuel into a cylinder from the spark plug opening and the engine started. The pilot taxied onto the grass strip and made one high speed taxi and veered off the runway. He returned to the beginning of the runway and departed. After takeoff, the airplane made a steep right turn to the north and climbed to about 100 feet above the ground. The airplane continued north and the left wing collided with a tree. The pilot was ejected from the cockpit and the airplane continued into the pond next to the tree.

An acquaintance reportedly suggested that the pilot should trailer the airplane to the airport. The pilot stated he "had to fly it to the airport" and continued to assemble the airplane. The intended airport, M66, was 1.5 miles away. The acquaintance witnessed the accident.


The pilot, age 69, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for single engine land, multi-engine land and instrument airplane. On November 30, 1998, he was issued a third class special restriction medical certificate with the limitations that it was not valid for night flying or by color signal control. On the medical certificate application he reported that his flight experience included 20 total hours and 0 hours in the past 6 months. On prior applications he reported 4,500 flight hours in 1991 and 1992, 30 flight hours in 1994, and 40 flight hours in 1995.

The pilot's logbooks and records were not available during the investigation; therefore his total flight experienced could not be determined.


According to marketing information from the Quicksilver Aircraft website, the GT400 is described as an ultralight. The airplane is built from a kit, with a single seat, high wing, and tricycle landing gear. It can be equipped with either a 47 horsepower Rotax R447 or a 50 horsepower Rotax R503 engine. The airplane has a removable 5 gallon fuel tank. With the R503 engine, the airplane's empty weight would have been about 316 pounds. The manufacturer's information also notes that the pilot is responsible for operating the aircraft in accordance with the applicable Federal and State regulations. The airplanes logbooks were unavailable during the investigation so the extent of the maintenance performed, complete airplane configuration and performance information could not be confirmed.

There was no record of the airplane being registered with the FAA or having been issued an airworthiness certificate. FAA regulation Part 103 describes an ultralight as having a single occupant, empty weight of 254 pounds or less, fuel capacity not exceeding 5 gallons, not capable of exceeding 55 knots and a stall speed less than 24 knots.


At 1355, the automated weather observation at Newton City Airport (KEWK), Newton, Kansas, which was 15 miles south-southwest of the accident site, reported: wind from 170 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 18 knots, 10 miles visibility, a clear sky, temperature 66° Fahrenheit (F), dew point 43° F, and altimeter setting 30.24 inches of mercury. According to the FAA, witnesses reported weather in the area as gusting wind from 15-20 knots and a clear sky.


The wooden propeller was shattered and splintered near the wreckage area. The FAA inspector confirmed continuity of the flight controls. The engine components were continuous from the front to the back when the propeller was rotated by hand. The airplane did not contain a seatbelt.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Frontier Midwest Morgue, Kansas City, Kansas, on April 19, 2014. The cause of death was blunt traumatic injuries. The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute completed a Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report which revealed no tested for drugs detected.

NTSB Identification: CEN14LA205
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 18, 2014 in Hillsboro, KS
Aircraft: QUICKSILVER GT400, registration: -
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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On April 18, 2014, about 1345 central daylight time, an unregistered light sport Quicksilver GT400 airplane, collided with a tree and impacted water after takeoff from a private grass strip near Hillsboro, Kansas. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was owned by a private individual and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident and was destined for Alfred Schroeder Field Airport (M66), Hillsboro, Kansas.

According to a witness, the pilot assembled the airplane prior to departure. After the assembling was complete, the pilot attempted to start the engine. When the engine did not start he poured fuel into the carburetor and the engine started. When the airplane taxied down the runway to prepare for takeoff, the airplane veered off the grass strip. The pilot repositioned the airplane and aligned the airplane for takeoff. After takeoff, the airplane made a steep right turn to the north but did not appear to gain any altitude. The airplane continued north and collided with a tree about 15 feet high. The pilot was ejected from the cockpit and the airplane continued into the pond next to the tree. He noted that the airplane's engine sounded the same throughout the duration of the flight and didn't appear to be malfunctioning.

According to the responding federal aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the airplane did not contain a seatbelt. 

The airplane was retained for further examination.

Donald Dahl died in ultralight plane crash Friday

Donald Dahl of Hillsboro died from injuries he suffered in an ultralight plane crash Friday south of Hillsboro. He represented the area in the Kansas House of Representatives for 12 years and before that had a career in aviation for the U.S. Navy.

Vi Dalke’s late husband, Jerry, was a close friend of Dahl’s, growing up together in Hillsboro.

“He was just a good guy,” she said of Dahl. “Very strong in his faith, and when my husband died, I relied on him a lot.

“He had such a quality, he’s a kind of person you want around,” she said. “His values were the best.

“Between him and Jerry, it was such a dry sense of humor.”

After his retirement from the Navy at the rank of commander, Dahl was a member of the American Legion post in Hillsboro. Harvey Ray, 1st vice commander of the post, said Dahl helped with funerals and spoke multiple times at the city’s Memorial Day service.

“He highly respected his activity in the service,” Ray said. “He was a very good man, a good friend. I’ll miss him a lot.”

Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke had a working relationship with Dahl, often speaking with him about policy issues that affected the area.

“He did a good job representing this part of the state,” she said.

She said his longevity and leadership in the legislature were a great benefit to his constituents. In his final term in the legislature, he was speaker pro tem, the third-highest leadership position in the House, and he was able to get signs placed on highways pointing to Hillsboro, she said.

“I really miss having him up there,” she said.

She said he was conservative but had a personality that allowed him to work well with Democrats and Republicans. Delores Dalke also said she respected the care he provided for his mother for many years.

“He did everything for her,” she said.

County Commissioner Dan Holub, like Dahl, made a career of service in the Navy, and because of that they had a good rapport when Holub spoke to him about policy issues. Holub said Dahl was more than willing to listen with people who had different viewpoints.

“He didn’t listen with a closed mind,” Holub said.

Even after Dahl left office in 2008, Holub said he provided valuable insight on how the legislature worked and how legislators thought.

Gov. Sam Brownback appointed Dahl to the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission in December.

“I am greatly saddened to hear of Donald Dahl’s passing today,” Brownback said in a news release Friday. “He had a proud legacy of public service. The lieutenant governor and I extend our personal sympathy to his family and friends.”

Ultralight crash

Friend Arnold Pete Klassen helped Dahl with takeoff in the ultralight plane Friday afternoon at a farm south of Hillsboro.

“There was a brand new engine in it,” Klassen said. “It buzzed beautifully.”

Dahl was turning southwest when he passed out of Klassen’s view.

“I don’t know how he turned that quick, except for maybe the wind,” Klassen said. “I didn’t see it crash. I just heard a bang.”

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Dahl was northbound when the plane hit a tree branch, then hit the ground next to a pond and flipped upside-down and stopped in the pond.

Dahl was taken by ambulance to Hillsboro Community Hospital where he was declared dead about 2:30 p.m. He was 69.

A celebration of life service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church. Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the church.

Donald Dahl, 69, of Hillsboro, died at the hospital.

He was flying an ultralight plane northbound at a low altitude about 1:45 p.m. when it hit a tree branch, crashed into the ground next to a pond and then flipped upside down into the pond about two miles south of Hillsboro, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol. Dahl was the only person in the plane.

Dahl died surrounded by family, the patrol reported. He was in the U.S. Navy for 22 years before joining the Kansas House of Representatives, where he served from 1996 to 2008.

In 2013, he was appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback to serve the remainder of the late Janet Juhnke’s term on the Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

“I am greatly saddened to hear of Donald Dahl’s passing today,” Brownback said Friday. “He had a proud legacy of public service. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served the people of Kansas as a representative for six terms and was a member of the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The lieutenant governor and I extend our personal sympathy to his family and friends.”

Sen. Jerry Moran also released a statement.

“I was disheartened to hear the news of Don Dahl’s passing this afternoon,” Moran said. “Don was a man of principle who served his country and returned home to improve his community and our state. I encourage all Kansans to join Robba and me in keeping his family in our thoughts and prayers during the days ahead.”

Federal Aviation Administration Fails to Follow Up on Safety Violations Even When Carriers Self Report: Judicial Watch

Six years after Congress learned that the federal agency in charge of aviation safety ignores serious violations that endanger the public, the culture continues and the details are documented in a distressing government audit released this month.

It’s a truly unbelievable tale of incessant negligence—and corruption—on the part of a huge government agency, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), tasked with protecting millions of lives. In 2008 two FAA inspectors actually testified before Congress about how the agency let the safety violations of major U.S. airlines slide because supervisors had cozy relationships with the carriers.

The inspectors were threatened with dismissal when they pointed out the serious safety violations and became government whistleblowers. A year earlier a scathing congressional report detailed the serious safety mishaps that regularly occur on runways across the country, especially at the nation’s busiest airports. That investigation also exposed that the FAA has unscrupulously close ties to the industry it regulates.

At the time the head of the FAA, Marion Blakey, accepted a job as head of a powerful trade group that represents major firms regulated by the agency. As FAA chief, Blakey oversaw and awarded lucrative federal contracts to many of the firms that she went on to represent in the private sector.

A number of other scandals have rocked the FAA over the years and Judicial Watch has reported many of them. For instance, the agency certifies mechanics that can’t even speak English, has lost track of more than 100,000 airplanes and fails to properly secure flight schools. Remember how the 9/11 hijackers received their training at U.S. flight schools? It’s the FAA’s duty to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening yet even after the 2001 terrorist attacks it has failed miserably to do so. Read JW’s coverage of the FAA here.

Read more here:

Ultimate Aero 10-200, N827D: Accident occurred April 18, 2014 in Saint Albans, Vermont

NTSB Identification: ERA14LA202 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 18, 2014 in Saint Albans, VT
Aircraft: OCONNOR PAUL A ULTIMATE AERO 10-200, registration: N827D
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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 18, 2012, about 1203 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur built Ultimate Aero 10-200, N827D, was substantially damaged near Saint Albans, Vermont, after an in-flight separation of a propeller blade. The commercial rated pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, which departed Franklin County State Airport (FSO), Highgate, Vermont about 1200.

According to the pilot, He had just recently returned from an airshow in Florida where he had been performing aerobatics with the airplane. On the day of the accident, he was performing a "high-level shakedown" flight, which was his common practice after a long cross country flight. He stated that "the shakedown flight is made at a higher altitude to ensure the satisfactory condition of the aircraft". He departed FSO at approximately 1200 (he reports this is his normal daily practice time) and departed the traffic pattern to the west. He then climbed to 3,000 feet above mean sea level (msl), over some farm fields. He went to begin his high-level shakedown maneuvers but since he was in a "flat pitch attitude" decided to head approximately northeast. As he did so, there was a sudden loud bang/shudder and the canopy shattered. The pilot initially thought there was some type of catastrophic structural failure, and thought a wing had failed. The engine "stopped instantly" and the canopy "clam-shell opened and then slammed back down". He realized that the airplane was "un-flyable" after trying to control the airplane with the flight controls. The airplane then began to spin and he could not arrest the spin. He related that it seemed like a "car accident" loud and sudden and that it seemed the aircraft had lost a lot of forward airspeed.

He advised that before every flight he would practice his egress routine. When he realized that he could not arrest the spin and the airplane was un-flyable, he decided to leave the airplane and initiated an egress. The egress went as planned but his headset jacks would not unplug easily and he ended up breaking them off. He advised that this caused him some concern and a challenge to alleviate the issue. He could not remember what altitude he egressed from the airplane but, after exiting the airplane, his parachute deployed fully at 700 to 1,000 feet msl, and he came to rest in the top of a tree.

According to two witnesses at FSO, They were both familiar with the pilot's airshow practice routine, and the airplane. Both witnesses stated that a couple of minutes after the airplane took off that they heard a normal engine noise followed by a "pop" or a "bang". They both stated that they then ran to the open door of the hangar they were in and looked to the northwest of the airport they saw that the pilot had egressed the airplane and was already descending under a fully deployed chute. They stated that he was approximately 500' to 1,000 feet high and above the trees and was drifting to the northeast.

The airplane was later discovered on the shoulder of the north bound lane of Interstate 89 were it had impacted, and was subject to a post impact fire which consumed the majority of the airplane.

Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed that a propeller blade had separated from the two bladed constant speed propeller's hub.

The propeller hub, the remaining propeller blade, and the propeller governor were retained by the NTSB for further examination.



Photo (above) of Ultimate Aero 10-200 (N827D) taken at  Sun N Fun in Florida  shortly before the accident.  
Photo Credit/Courtesy:  Mark H.

BAKERSFIELD, Vt. —Pilot Dan Marcotte works in his machine shop, shaping metal parts for a new project, just like any other Saturday. But after what he went through the day before, even the most mundane task feels like a miracle. 
"It's a really scary thought when you just stepped out of the plane and you no longer have any control over where it went and it's headed for the ground," said Marcotte.

He has been showing planes for 11 years and is well-known for flying his biplane all over North America. But the trick pilot got more of a ride than he bargained for Friday.

"There was a real loud bang, and some parts left the airplane and when they did they went through the canopy that went over my head," he said.

Marcotte could no longer control the aircraft. Still, his first instinct was to try and save it.

"My first though was that I wanted to save my airplane, its my employment. I love it. I love flying air shows. I love entertaining people," Marcotte said.

But it didn't take long for the veteran pilot to realize that whatever had broken made it impossible for him to regain control of his plane. As precious seconds were ticking by, he was getting closer to the ground. Marcotte decided to bail out.

He released his seat belts, jumped out of the cockpit and let the plane slip past him. He pulled his parachute. Marcotte drifted into a tree, where he was suspended until rescuers helped him down. Through it all, he says the most frightening part was wondering what -- or who -- the plane may have crashed on.

"Thats the first thing I asked when people came to the scene, was 'Has anybody seen where the airplane went?' And when they said it's just off the side of the road with nobody around, then I went back to thinking that I'm suspended 40 feet up in a tree hanging off a parachute," said Marcotte.

About 20 minutes later, rescuers had him down. All that was left of his beloved plane was a mangled metal frame and some burnt debris. Marcotte says the initial cause of the crash is still a mystery.

"It's important for people to understand this was not just an engine failure. Parts departed the airplane. Parts went through other parts of the airplane and started a chain reaction that, within seconds, I realized that I no longer had control of the airplane," said Marcotte.

The incident has not dampened the pilot's spirit. While it did set him back for the next few months of air shows, Marcotte does have a trick up his sleeve.

"Its a full afterburner engine that puts out about 5,500 to 6,000 pounds of thrust," he said.

The jet engine is not for an airplane though. Marcotte will fit the engine inside a car that he has been working on for the past few months. He's hoping his jet-powered vehicle can replace his plane on the show circuit for the time being.

Meanwhile, as he moves on from the plane crash, Marcotte says it has not shaken his confidence.

"Some people look at it as a relief -- people can get out of these things when they go wrong," he said.

Watch video:


(NECN: Jack Thurston, Highgate, Vt.) - A small, single-passenger stunt airplane crashed Friday afternoon into one lane of Interstate 89 North in Highgate, Vt., not far from the Franklin County State Airport, near the border with Canada. 
The pilot was able to parachute to safety, Vermont. State Police said, before the fiery crash that charred the ground.

"Something happened to the plane; he knew something was wrong," Lt. Garry Scott of the Vt. State Police said of the pilot.

The section of I-89 was shut down twice during this emergency: once during the initial frenzy, once as the wreckage was cleared away. At times during the removal of the wreckage, one lane of slow travel was allowed. No drivers were hit when the plane hurtled to the ground.

"These high speeds; we're pretty lucky no one else was injured," Lt. Scott said.

State Police gathered the pilot's parachute and put it in the trunk of a police cruiser, shortly after Lt. Scott said Highgate Fire cut the man down from a tree. He had dangled, stuck in the tree, after having to bail from his small plane.

The Facebook page of Dan Marcotte AirShows identified Marcotte as the operator. He's an experienced stunt pilot who performs aerobatic tricks at events such as the Independence Day celebration on the Burlington, Vt. waterfront.

A loved one wrote on the Facebook page that the performer is doing okay, explaining Marcotte was practicing when he had to jump. The page administrator wrote, "Thank God for our STRONG parachute!"

"He was very upset; emotionally upset," Lt. Scott said of Marcotte. "But no real significant injuries. He was able to walk, he came back to the scene, and talked to investigators."

Scott said the Federal Aviation Administration, out of Maine, will look into what went wrong. Police and a towing service gathered as much of the wreckage as they could find.

Asked if this was a first-of-its-kind response for him, Mike Cota of Cota's Towing in Swanton, Vt., said "No. We have about one a year or so; somebody goes down up here."

The Facebook page of Dan Marcotte AirShows was lighting up with well-wishes Friday afternoon, with folks very glad their friend lived through this, likely still with more thrill-seeking left in him.


Dan Marcotte

HIGHGATE, Vt. -  The pilot of a small plane parachuted to safety before his aircraft crashed on Interstate 89 north in Highgate Friday afternoon. Police got the 911 call at 12:12 p.m. about the fiery crash near mile marker 125 north of Exit 21.

A state airport official confirmed a single-engine aerobatic plane was in the vicinity of the Franklin County State Airport practicing, when its engine failed.

The pilot, Dan Marcotte, a stunt pilot from Bakersfield, parachuted to safety and his plane crashed along the highway.

Marcotte's girlfriend says he is OK. Sarah Jo Willey told WCAX News, "Dan is okay. Thank GOD!!!! He used his parachute...and it worked just fine."

Northbound traffic on I-89 was stopped at Exit 21 in Swanton all the way to the Canadian border for nearly an hour. One lane has since reopened. The other lane will remain closed for an extended period of time as crews work to remove the burned out wreckage of the single-passenger plane. Motorists should seek other routes.

Related Story:
Vt. man's car goes more than 300 mph

HIGHGATE, Vt. —The pilot of a small plane that crashed on the interstate Friday afternoon is okay.
Vermont State Police say the pilot, and only occupant, sustained minor injuries after parachuting out of the plane before it crashed on Interstate 89N in Highgate, Vt. just after noon on Friday.

Tap here to view photos from the scene.

The pilot parachuted out before the crash and landed in a tree. Emergency crews were able to get the pilot down.

State police say initial reports from first responders indicated the single passenger plane was fully engulfed in flames and because of the crash location, posed a risk to traffic safety.

Police say one northbound lane has been reopened to traffic and the right-hand lane is expected to remain closed for some time.

Northbound traffic was redirected at Exit 21 in Swanton and through the Canadian border while emergency crews worked to extinguish the plane and provide medical attention.

Members of the Vermont State Police Bureau of Investigation and Vermont Agency of Transportation are investigating. The Federal Aviation Administration has been notified and will conduct a further investigation.

Michelle Frank
Pilot caught in tree after parachuting out of a small plane before it crash on Interstate 89N in Highgate, Vt.

The pilot of a plane that crashed Friday afternoon on Interstate 89N in Highgate, Vermont dangles from a tree. 
Photo Courtesy/Credit:   Josh and Fred Vanslette

Michelle Frank
Emergency crews reach the pilot of a plane who parachuted out shortly before the small plane crashed onto Interstate 89 in Highgate Friday afternoon.

Michelle Frank 
 Emergency crews reach the pilot of a plane that crashed on Interstate 89N in Highgate Friday afternoon



HIGHGATE, Vt. - A small plane crashed on I-89 near exit 21 Friday afternoon. The crash happened near the Swanton exit on the interstate at around 12:15 p.m.

 Vermont State Police say a single passenger plane, fully engulfed in flames crashed onto the interstate. The pilot was able to parachute out prior to crashing. The pilot sustained minor injuries and is being provided medical treatment.

One lane of traffic has reopened, but the right-hand lane is still closed. Crews expect this lane to be closed for an extended period of time.

The FAA will be investigating the crash. The plane is going to be brought to the Vermont State Police St. Albans Barracks to be investigated.

Police couldn't provide any other information.

Officials are still investigating.