Friday, May 16, 2014

Appeals court rejects Anderson’s appeal of lawsuit dismissal: Tupelo Regional Airport (KTUP), Mississippi

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has turned down the appeal of former Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Terry Anderson, whose age discrimination lawsuit was dismissed last fall. 

Anderson, who was 64 when he was fired by the Tupelo Regional Airport Authority in December 2009, sued the board in early 2011, claiming he was fired because of his age and that the authority violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

But Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills last September dismissed Anderson’s lawsuit. Mills wrote that the court “sees no valid argument whatsoever that age was a cause of his termination.”

Anderson appealed Mills’ dismissal, but the 5th Circuit said the district court “did not err in its summary judgment.”

The airport authority said it fired Anderson because it had lost confidence in his ability to lead the airport.

In 2004, when the TRAA board began to consider extending the runway, Anderson gave interviews and spoke with reporters at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal about the project, chiefly in its support, although some board members had reservations.

In later conversations in 2009, Anderson questioned the board’s decisions and later claimed he was not the source for an article about the disagreements.

The board also claimed that Anderson was dishonest when he said he did not know who provided telephone service to the airport. Board members also believed that Anderson’s claim that he was not represented by legal counsel was dishonest because the board’s attorney had earlier received a letter from an attorney who referred to Anderson as his client.

Authority members  questioned Anderson’s truthfulness and loyalty, which the court said were difficult to reconcile with Anderson’s emails to a board member and to the Daily Journal.

Said the appeals court, “Whether Anderson truly believed he was being honest with the board in answering their questions is not the proper inquiry. Our inquiry focuses on whether TRAA’s stated reasons for terminating Anderson were not true. The record makes clear that board members had reason to believe that Anderson provided false or misleading responses to its questions. Anderson has failed to provide evidence that the board’s beliefs were unwarranted, unfounded or contrived.

“Accordingly, Anderson’s alleged dishonesty – which resulted in the board’s loss of confidence in his ability to do his job – constitutes a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for his termination which he has failed to rebut. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Anderson, we conclude that there is no genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether TRAA terminated Anderson because of his age.”


Swiss Air Force Seeks Sky Patrols Outside Office Hours; Country to Vote on Purchase of Gripen Fighter Jets

The Wall Street Journal
By John Letzing

May 16, 2014 11:33 a.m. ET

PAYERNE AIR BASE, Switzerland—Switzerland's air force is pitching an upgrade it says could enable it to do something taken for granted in other countries: Actively patrol its own skies after dark and on weekends.

The country's military chief, Ueli Maurer, has been stumping for a plan to pay 3.1 billion Swiss francs ($3.5 billion) for 22 new Gripen fighter jets from Saab AB. But the proposal has run into stiff opposition, even in a country that prides itself on its independence and military strength.

Opponents call the purchase a waste of money. Supporters counter that most of the Swiss air forces's aging jet fleet isn't up to the task of full-time defense, and that the military shouldn't have to rely on its neighbors when it needs help on nights, weekends and at lunchtime.

Pierre de Goumo├źns, a Swiss Air Force pilot who attended a recent media event featuring Mr. Maurer, likened the country's inability to patrol its airspace around the clock to giving up sovereignty. "You have to expect the unexpected," he said.

The Swiss people will have their say in a referendum on Sunday. Polls indicate voters will likely reject the purchase of the new jets. Though the "yes" camp has grown slightly in recent weeks, the military's backup plan if it fails remains unclear.

The air force generally limits patrols of Swiss skies to between 8 a.m. and about 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with an hour-and-a-half break for lunch. That schedule became widespread public knowledge when French military jets had to be called in early one morning in February to escort an Ethiopian Air jetliner that had been hijacked to Switzerland by its co-pilot.

"The situation in Switzerland is quite peculiar," said David Cenciotti, who maintains the Aviationist blog. The country's neighbors have their own so-called quick reaction alert services, Mr. Cenciotti noted, while smaller European nations can rely on NATO assistance. Switzerland, always doggedly independent, isn't a NATO member.

The military says the Gripen purchase could make 24-7 patrols possible. Switzerland's current fleet is made up of 54 F-5 Tiger jets from Northrop Grumman Corp., and 32 F/A-18 jets built by McDonnell Douglas Corp., which has since been bought by Boeing.

The F-5s are equipped with radar and weapons systems built in the 1970s that are useless during bad weather and in the dark, according to Swiss Air Force spokesman Laurent Savary. The aging jets are scheduled to be retired in 2016.

Opponents of the Gripen purchase say the F/A-18 jets, which went into service in the 1990s, should be sufficient to patrol the skies. "Especially since we are surrounded by friends," said Evi Allemann, a member of Swiss parliament representing the Social Democratic Party.

If Switzerland really wants full-time air patrols, opponents say, the military should focus on investing in the personnel needed to man the existing jet fleet for longer periods.

Ms. Allemann and others say the Gripen jets would end up costing more than $10 billion over their lifetime, money better spent on public transportation and education.

Friction over the jet purchase has fueled a broader debate about how well armed this small, neutral country in the heart of Europe should be. Switzerland maintains mandatory conscription, and has a relatively large standing army for a peaceful country of just eight million people. However, the size of that army is being cut to 100,000 by 2016, less than a sixth of what it was as recently as 1990.

Earlier this year, public pressure in Switzerland forced Saab, the Swedish defense manufacturer, to request the return of 200,000 Swiss francs it had given to the Association for a Safe Switzerland, which advocates for the Gripen purchase.

"When it became a debate about what's proper, we said then we can't be a part of the financing and took the money back," said Saab spokesman Sebastian Carlsson.

More recently, Mr. Maurer got into a testy exchange with a moderator on Swiss public television about that station's news coverage of the possible jet fleet upgrade, an event that turned heads in this consensus-driven culture.

The most recent poll conducted by gfs.bern showed 44% expressing favor of approving the Gripen purchase, and 51% opposed. 5% said they were undecided.


McKinney National Airport eyes expansion, Love Field traffic; Corporate aviation remains top priority

Business is picking up at McKinney National Airport, and city officials aim to keep the momentum.

A billboard reading “The time is ‘Wright’” has moved along Dallas North Tollway in recent weeks, touting the airport as an alternative destination for corporate aviation once the Wright amendment ends in October.

The city hopes to take on aviation customers who don’t want to deal with a busier Dallas Love Field. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced this week the airport will have 50 more flights, or 100 more operations, per day when gate restrictions are lifted.

“As it gets more crowded, they’re going to have more delays,” said Ken Wiegand, McKinney National Airport (TKI) executive director. “We’re just trying to take advantage of the situation.”

The airport, one of McKinney’s primary attractions for economic development, has already garnered national attention since the city purchased it in November. McKinney Air Center, the airport’s fixed-base operator (FBO), and the airport’s 78-foot air traffic control tower were named No. 1 in their respective categories in the Pilots’ Choice Awards on, an online general aviation service.

Monarch Air, a leading provider of aviation services, last week selected McKinney National Airport (TKI) for a major expansion: it will lease a significant portion of a 53,750-square-foot hangar and office facility at the airport to offer a wide range of services including aircraft maintenance, flight training, charter service, fleet management, acquisitions and private sector sales.

“McKinney’s commitment to growing McKinney National Airport provided an outstanding opportunity for us to grow our business to meet the increasing demand for our firm’s services,” said Trey Sawtelle, Monarch Air president, in a released statement.

The airport has the infrastructure and city-backed desire to accommodate that growth – for now. Its 7,000-foot-long runway and location in Collin County, the state’s fastest growing county, have likely helped attract internationally based companies like Hisun Motors Corp. and Toyota, who both are moving their North American headquarters to the county.

But the airport’s hangars are full. City officials have discussed in recent weeks the next steps for adding hangar space and other assets crucial to the airport gaining significantly more business come this fall.

“We need to build some hangars,” Wiegand said. “We can’t sell anything unless we’ve got something to sell.”

Officials, who last week presented to the city council end-of-year airport budget and expense estimates, said that revenues are close to initial projections. They anticipate a $137,000 surplus in revenues over expenditures and a $1.45 million operating fund balance by the end of the year, said Rodney Rhoades, city chief financial officer.

The city expects to see a “positive cash flow,” he said, even in 2016, when it will start paying principal on debt issued upon purchase of the airport.

“We are already seeing an increase in interest and activity at the airport since our acquisition,” McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller said in an email, adding that the city previously didn’t get revenue from hangar leases and fuel sales. “I still believe that in the long term, the acquisition will pay off in additional economic development and tax revenue for the city.”

The city will transfer about $585,000 from its general fund to help cover airport operation costs – down from the $600,000 average – and Wiegand said the airport annually brings in about $520,000 in ad valorem taxes not included in its revenue stream, so the shortfall number “isn’t quite as big as it looks.”

“We’re hoping the FBO can take care of everything,” he said. “That’s going to be our cash cow.”

Torchmark Corp. and Texas Instruments are among the airport’s major corporate tenants, and Loughmiller said the city is interested in bringing in corporate aviation for Toyota and “any other corporation that moves into the area.” Though corporate aviation is its main priority, the airport’s availability and related services like Monarch are also attracting businesses to McKinney, he said.

On Thursday, the McKinney Airport Development Corporation Board approved its strategic plan for next fiscal year, and included in its stated mission is the possibility of attracting future commercial aircraft.

For now, though, it could at least be a more convenient option.

“In major markets such as Chicago and New York, corporate jets use alternative airports to avoid conflicts with air carrier operations and improve efficiency,” Wiegand said in a city release. “We will see the same trend here at McKinney National Airport as Love Field gains new air carrier operations.”  


Amarillo College suspends Aviation Maintenance Program

AMARILLO, TEXAS -- Amarillo College has suspended its Aviation Maintenance Program on its East Campus for the summer. It's a move that students say has left them scared, mad, and worried. 

 Pronews 7 received two emails from concerned students and their family members, angry over what they said is negligence on Amarillo College's part to keep the program running and properly and leaving them high and dry. So Pronews 7 went in search for answers from both Amarillo College and the Federal Aviation Administration.

As Chris Johnson sifts through what is left of his classroom on the Amarillo College East Campus, he and his classmates are worried that their college plans might not turn out the way they had hoped. They tell Pronews 7 it was earlier this week their counselor broke the news they would not be allowed to finish their final week.

"The counselor and the director came in and they told us kind of what know for a year that the FAA has stepped in told them they need to shut it down," said AC student, Chris Johnson.

Pronews 7 spoke with Amarillo College and the FAA. Both say it was the college's decision to suspend the program to make improvements to it.

"We have voluntarily suspended our program because we're moving into the new space and we're working with the FAA to make sure the new space is in compliance with their regulations," said Vice President for Academic Affairs, Russell Lowery-Hart.

Students also expressed their anger over what they're calling a wasted summer semester trying to earn their degree. They say now they're set back.

"It's heart breaking I was really looking forward to getting this thing done and over with and starting my life," said AC student, David Booe.

However, Amarillo College officials say this should have no impact on these students graduating on time.

"Students that are seeking a degree there won't be specific classes this summer for them to take in aviation, but there are other classes they can take toward their associates degree, core classes. Their aid won't be affected, their time degree won't be affected," said Lowery-Hart.

Amarillo College officials did say the students confusion and anger comes from miss-communication on the college's part, and they're working to fix it.

"We've sent an additional email this afternoon and will be meeting with them next week in person just to clarify because the program will be bigger and better they'll actually benefit from the changes that we're making".

Amarillo College officials also said they were not aware of the issues these students were facing until Pronews 7 brought their concerns to their attention. Russell Lowery-Hart said when this project is finished there will be new equipment and the students will be working out of two airplane hangers rather than one. He also stressed the program will be back in the Fall with all the upgrades made. Pronews 7 will follow up.


Pratt & Whitney Closing Its AeroPower Unit, Staff Cuts Expected in 2015

Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp., said it’s closing its San Diego-based AeroPower unit over the next two years, eliminating 530 jobs here.

A realignment of Pratt & Whitney has been in the works for some time, and the company announced the decision Thursday.

“At this time we don’t expect staff reductions to begin until sometime in 2015,” said UTC spokesman Ray Hernandez.

The Kearny Mesa plant that has been operating since 1980, and was formerly owned by Hamilton Sunstrand, makes auxiliary power systems for jets to supply power while on the ground and the backup power for in-flght systems.

In a prepared statement, Pratt & Whitney said while it was a difficult decision to make, was “necessary to maintain our competiveness in the market, further leverage Pratt & Whitney’s network and best position the company for the future.”

AeroPower’s military operations will move to Pratt & Whitney’s military engines organization, while its commercial operations will be merged into its small engine business at Pratt & Whitney, Canada, the statement said.

Under consideration to receive the military business are sites in Florida, Georgia and Texas. Most of the commercial work will be moved to Pratt & Whitney’s plant in Rzeszow, Poland.

Employees who don’t accompany Pratt & Whitney’s transition plans are eligible for a severance benefits packages including outplacement services upon their layoff, the company said.

Connecticut based UTC, which also operates an aerostructures division with a plant in Chula Vista, had revenue last year of $62.6 billion, up 9 percent from the prior year.


Jury acquits homeowner who fired shots to ‘get paraglider’s attention’

EAST WENATCHEE — The Orondo man who admitted firing a shotgun to warn a paraglider away from his Box Canyon Road property was found not guilty Thursday on a charge of unlawfully displaying a weapon.

A three-man, three-woman Douglas County District Court jury found Stephen B. Flinn, 66, not guilty on the gross misdemeanor charge, which could have yielded up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Flinn saw the paraglider, Matt Senior of Issaquah, sail past his living room window last July 2. He told Douglas County sheriff’s deputies he emerged from his home carrying a 12-gauge shotgun and fired it into the air “to get his attention.”

Flinn told Senior, then hovering 60 to 80 feet overhead, to get away from his property. Senior, an 11-year veteran paraglider, swore at Flinn and threatened to come to his home and assault him. Flinn fired another round into the air as Senior departed.

Both shots were aimed away from Senior and his paragliding canopy, which led to the misdemeanor charge of displaying a weapon rather than a felony charge of assault. Senior told deputies and testified on the stand he heard three shots total.

The jury debated for more than an hour, at one point asking Judge Judith McCauley if they had to give a unanimous verdict.

In his summation, Flinn’s attorney, John Brangwin of Wenatchee, said other paragliders had passed over Flinn’s property that day, but sailed far higher. He called Flinn’s confrontation of Senior a defense of his property, and invoked the spectre of drones and “black helicopters” spying on citizens’ private lives.

“We can debate whether he’s a trespasser or not, because his feet are not on the ground,” Brangwin told the jury, referring to Senior. “… But at what point do you have the right to protect your home?”

He also questioned why Senior wasn’t charged for his verbal threat to Flinn, calling it “a direct threat to my client for which he’ll face no consequence.”

Douglas County deputy prosecutor Jason Mercer said Senior’s threat was made “in the heat of the moment,” after he was alarmed by Flinn’s first gunshot and saw Flinn carrying a firearm and yelling from the ground below him.

Flinn later told deputies he’d been having problems with gliders “trespassing on his property,” according to police reports. But Mercer noted Flinn never called police to complain.

“What he chose to do instead was march out of his house with a loaded shotgun and fire a shot into the air,” Mercer told the jury. It was Senior who called deputies after he landed safely at Chelan Falls.

Flinn did not face any threat from Senior or other fliers, and acted only out of irritation, Mercer said. Senior could not be reached for comment Friday morning.

Flinn’s home, built on a Columbia River bluff in 2012, lies along a popular flight path for paragliders taking off from Chelan Butte, across the river in Chelan County. The thermal drafts that rise near the cliff face allow fliers to regain altitude.

Mercer said Friday the verdict doesn’t appear to establish any “zone of privacy” involving airspace above a person’s home.

“If any kind of incidents like this happen again, I think calling the sheriff is the right thing to do for both parties,” he said. “It’s not up to me whether there’s a legitimate privacy interest there. I think that’s up to the legislature.”

Story and comments:

NASA Predator flights seek to show drones no threat to airliners

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Predator drone, known for its stealthy strikes on terrorists, will begin flight tests early next year to prove large unmanned aircraft are safe while operating amid commercial planes.

Researchers will be studying so-called sense-and-avoid technology, designed to alert the drone's remote pilot to nearby aircraft, according to Chuck Johnson, senior adviser for unmanned and autonomous systems at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

NASA's goal: Harvest data that will help design systems so big drones can fly above 18,000 feet, in airspace used by airliners, cargo planes and business jets. Pilotless aircraft could be used to haul freight or hover high in the sky to beam Internet signals across remote terrain, Johnson said.

"You could see down the road aircraft that are very large flying in the national airspace that are either remotely operated or semi-autonomously operated," Johnson said in an interview at a conference for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International trade group that ended Thursday in Orlando, Florida.

Air travelers don't need to worry about high-altitude drones alongside any time soon. NASA's tests are aimed at paving the way for a future generation of pilotless aircraft, not the current array of small, helicopter-type models able to perform mundane chores like lofting a movie camera.

NASA's MQ-9 Predator B has a 66-foot wingspan that is almost as broad as the 78-foot width for a G450 from General Dynamics Corp.'s Gulfstream. Built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the Predator started its military life as a surveillance aircraft before being equipped with missiles for ground attack.

In early 2015, high in the California desert skies above NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, live drills will begin with the propeller-driven Predator and two piloted aircraft that intrude near the drone's flight path.

To push the technology to its limits, one of the tests will involve flying the Predator and another plane at different sites while using live computer simulation to make it appear as if their paths cross. That will allow researchers to create more extreme near-misses even to the point of a virtual collision.

"The idea is to try and figure out whether or not the algorithms that are part of the system are able to tell the pilot when to turn in advance of something that could introduce a safety risk," Johnson said. "You want to test the boundaries of that."

The first Federal Aviation Administration regulations for commercial unmanned aircraft may come this year, covering models that weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) — a fraction of the size of the Predator.

Small commercial drones may be limited to flying below 400 feet and within an operator's sight. A comment period for possible changes may run 18 months, Jim Williams, chief of the FAA's unmanned aircraft division, said at the conference.

An aerial close call between a small drone and an American Airlines jet in March underscored the risks of having remote-controlled vehicles in the nation's airways. The pilot reported the encounter while at 2,300 feet, and will be interviewed by the FAA, Williams said.

The bigger drones envisioned by engineers actually will be easier to integrate into the air traffic system, because they will be fewer in number and can be fitted with the same systems as commercial planes, said Michael Francis, chief of advanced programs at United Technologies Corp.'s research center.

The U.S. military now uses unmanned helicopters to deliver supplies to soldiers in Afghanistan, and in September the Air Force flew an F-16 fighter jet that was converted into a drone.

NASA's tests of the sense-and-avoid technology will conclude in 2016, and the data will allow the FAA to create standards for manufacturers to build the systems, the space agency's Johnson said. With the sensing equipment and FAA regulations, the larger drones may be ready to fly in commercial airspace as soon as 2018, Johnson said.

"This is about getting the rules aligned so that any commercial entity can take advantage of them," Johnson said.

ABC 6 INVESTIGATORS: State Says Federal Aviation Administration Dropped Ball In Deadly Plane Crash: Cessna U206C Stationair, Eugene Damschroder, N29122; accident occurred June 08, 2008 in Fremont, Ohio

COLUMBUS -- It remains one of the deadliest plane crashes in Ohio history.

Six people died when a single-engine Cessna crashed in a field in
Fremont. The pilot - an 86-year-old former Ohio state lawmaker - was
selling airplane rides at a small airport he owned. 

ABC 6 Investigators will show you why this deadly accident should
have never happened. And how the federal agency that oversees air travel put Ohioans at risk on the ground.


And jumping for joy.

The last video images of four-year-old Emily Gerwin. Just 30
minutes after takeoff, the plane she was riding in crashed in a field
less than one football field shy of hitting several homes. 

All six people aboard, including Emily and her mother died, on the

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the accident on
three factors:

Investigators say the pilot, 86-year-old Gene Damschroder - failed
to maintain control of the airplane, which resulted in the aircraft
stalling. The former Ohio state lawmaker, according to NTSB
reports, also  used poor judgment in continuing to fly with severe
visual deficiency. Damschroder suffered from macular degeneration.

The other contributing factor? A former FAA aviation medical
examiner, and Ohio emergency room doctor. The agency says Dr. Jerome McTague "failed to accurately assess and report" Damschroder's failing eyesight. At the time of the crash, records show that Damschroder was legally blind.

The accident happened June 8, 2008. ABC 6 Investigators learned
the State Medical Board of Ohio didn't learn about it until two years
later when a staff member read about it in the Toledo Blade newspaper.

Long after lawsuits were filed, and the FAA terminated Dr. McTague as an aviation medical examiner.

The FAA declined to be interviewed on camera for this investigation.

A spokesperson told ABC 6 Investigators it's not required to contact a state medical board regarding its doctors. But "under certain circumstances involving misconduct such a report might be

The Executive Director of the State Medical Board of Ohio says this
 was one of those circumstances.

"What if he's (Dr. McTague) doing physicals for athletes? What if
he's doing it for student athletes? And does it in the manner he's doing
 these and there's a heart murmur or heart condition that they're
suppose to be able to detect when doing these sort of examinations and  the kid collapses on the floor?"

What we do know is this:

2003 and 2007 - FAA reversed Dr. McTague's decision to clear two
pilots to fly based on overlooked medical conditions.

April 2008 - FAA noted significant errors in one of Dr. McTague's

May 1 2008 - FAA reported Dr. McTague cleared some pilots to fly
who were hypertensive.

 May 6 2008 - FAA discovered "significant aerospace medical
certification errors on airmen" Dr. McTague examined. He was grounded as  an FAA aviation medical examiner.

One month later - the Fremont plane crash.

ABC 6 Chief Investigator asked Haslam "do you believe the FAA
dropped the ball?" "Absolutely. Absolutely," says Haslam.

 "If we would have been contacted there's a good chance that this
particular pilot may not have had the opportunity to fly that plane and
cause that accident that caused those six deaths that day."

The FAA says "all of our records indicate Gene Damschroder was
reported to have vision that was correctable to 20/20." The agency says Damschroder also withheld medial information about his failing eyesight.

During his ten years with the FAA, Dr. McTague did 1,036 airmen
physicals. Following the Fremont crash, the agency reviewed his records
and uncovered "serious concerns" with 102 cases that required action.

Information Haslam says FAA should have shared. "We could have
checked it out and made certain that he was practicing medicine to the
standards that Ohio demands."

In February, following a lengthy investigation of its own, the
Medical Board took action. Dr. Jerome McTague is banned from practicing medicine for a minimum of two years. Melinda Snyder, a lawyer with Ohio
Attorney General's Office told the Board "Dr. McTague certified a
legally blind man to fly an airplane. Maybe he was sloppy. Maybe he
missed the red flags. Maybe he didn't do the examination."

Dr. McTague received his Ohio medical license in 1992. His record
free of any other complaints or disciplinary action. Unlike his years
with the FAA.

"He failed to be the gatekeeper," says Haslam. "He failed to
prevent this individual who should not have been flying from flying and
ultimately that decision helped lead to six deaths."

Between 2011 and 2013, FAA aviation medical examiners cleared about
 1.1 million pilots to fly. During that time, the agency reversed nearly
 400 cases and grounded pilots for medical reasons. Six doctors were
terminated for "poor performance."

Not once, did the FAA notify any state medical boards.


NTSB Identification: CHI08FA156 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, June 08, 2008 in Fremont, OH
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/15/2010
Aircraft: CESSNA U206C, registration: N29122
Injuries: 6 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.

On the day of the accident, the 86-year-old accident pilot was providing rides in his single-engine, six-seat airplane at the airport that he owned and managed. Passengers purchased tickets for the rides in the airport office. The rides were given concurrently with a Lions Club International charitable “fly-in breakfast” at the airport, which had been advertised in the local newspaper. According to a representative of the Lions Club, the air rides were a separate activity, and the money collected for the air ride tickets was not given to the charity (evidence indicates that the pilot retained the money). The accident flight was the fifth or sixth airplane ride the pilot gave that day. Videotapes of previous flights and of the beginning of the accident flight indicated that the pilot was performing nonstandard takeoffs. Rather than beginning a normal climb after lifting off from the ground, the pilot would maintain an altitude just above treetop level until reaching the departure end of the runway, at which point he would initiate a steep pitch-up maneuver followed by a pushover maneuver. Also, a witness, who was a pilot, reported that the accident pilot commonly performed a nonstandard maneuver called a “buttonhook turn” to align the airplane with final approach for landing. The maneuver involved flying the airplane at an altitude of about 300 feet above ground level perpendicular to the final approach course and then executing a 270-degree turn to the final approach. The witness stated that he observed the pilot perform this maneuver during one of the passenger-carrying flights preceding the accident flight.

About 30 minutes after the airplane departed on the accident flight, witnesses observed it returning to the airport. Witnesses near the accident site reported that the airplane was flying at a low altitude toward the runway when it banked, descended, and impacted the ground. One witness stated that the airplane “appeared to be flying very slow, almost on the edge of a stall.” This witness heard the engine “throttle up” and observed the airplane stall, with the left wing “dipping,” and then descend below the tree line.

The accident site was about 0.75 mile east of the approach end of runway 27. Ground scarring and wreckage distribution covered a relatively small area, consistent with an accident due to an aerodynamic stall. Examination of the airplane revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. During a test cell run, the airplane’s engine performed within the manufacturer’s specifications.

Review of the pilot’s personal medical records indicated that he had been treated for age-related macular degeneration in both eyes for over 2 years. About 3 weeks before the accident, his distant visual acuity without correction was recorded as 20/200 for each eye. On at least two occasions, the pilot’s retinal specialist advised him not to drive. However, the pilot continued to drive and was involved in a traffic accident, in which he turned in front of an oncoming vehicle, 10 days before the aircraft accident. The pilot’s visual deficiency would have made it difficult for him to decipher the readings on cockpit instruments and to distinguish objects on the ground. This lack of visual acuity increased the likelihood that the pilot would fly at an inappropriate speed or altitude, thus increasing the chances of a stall.

About 1 year before the accident, the pilot applied for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman Medical Certificate and provided false information about his eye condition (he did not report his visits to the retinal specialist). Even so, the pilot’s visual deficiency, given its severity, should have been detectable during the vision examinations required before issuance of such an Airman Medical Certificate. However, the pilot's aviation medical examiner (AME) reported normal eye test results, including 20/20 uncorrected vision, and issued the pilot a second-class medical certificate. About 7 months after the accident, the FAA decertified the AME for improper issuance of medical certificates.

The pilot’s autopsy noted severe coronary artery disease, which could have increased the likelihood of a heart attack or abnormal heart rhythm, resulting in impairment or incapacitation. There was no evidence of such an event, but no such evidence would necessarily be expected if death occurred within a few minutes to an hour of the impairment or incapacitation. The pilot’s personal medical records did not indicate coronary artery disease.

Either the pilot’s macular degeneration or his unrecognized coronary artery disease could have contributed to his failure to maintain control of the airplane. The NTSB could not conclusively determine whether either condition directly resulted in the accident. However, given the incompatibility of the pilot’s vision deficiency with safe motor vehicle operation and the pilot’s awareness of this, the pilot displayed extremely poor judgment in not only continuing to fly but in deciding to perform passenger-carrying flights. Furthermore, the pilot did not provide all of the required information on his most recent application for an Aviation Medical Certificate, and his AME did not adequately evaluate the pilot’s eyesight.

The passenger seated in the right front seat of the accident airplane was one of the accident pilot’s former student pilots who purchased a ride in the airplane. He held a private pilot certificate, but did not hold a current Airman Medical Certificate. If the accident pilot had become incapacitated, it is possible this passenger could have taken control of the airplane. There was insufficient evidence to determine whether or not this passenger was manipulating the flight controls when the accident occurred.

The local FAA flight standards district office had no records of any concerns raised or complaints about the pilot. Also, the FAA had no record of the pilot applying for a Letter of Authorization to conduct passenger-carrying flights for compensation or hire, which is required by 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 91.147 for all passenger-carrying flights not conducted under 14 CFR 91.146 (flights for the benefit of a charitable, nonprofit, or community event). Therefore, the FAA was unaware of, and provided no oversight of, the pilot’s passenger-carrying flights.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control for an undetermined reason, which resulted in an inadvertent stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's poor judgment in continuing to fly with his severe visual deficiency. Also contributing to the accident was the aviation medical examiner’s failure to accurately assess and report the pilot’s visual deficiency.

Charleston airport names new deputy director

The months-long search for a new deputy director of Charleston County Aviation Authority is over.

On Friday, the agency named Al Britnell to the position. He is currently director of public safety. He will serve as deputy director of airports for administration and public safety, according to Airports Director Paul Campbell.

Britnell starts Monday. He will earn about $143,000, a 17.2 percent increase over his current salary, Campbell said.

Britnell, 50, replaces Bill New, who retired in April.

"We had several outstanding candidates to choose from. It was a tough decision," Campbell said. "Al's experience with the Aviation Authority over the last 24 years gives him a valuable understanding of airport operations. That combined with his expertise in public safety is a plus for us during an exciting period of change and growth at the airport."

Britnell joined the Aviation Authority in 1990 as a patrol officer. He rose through the ranks, being promoted to police chief in 2007, then to director of public safety in 2011.

A graduate of Charleston Southern University, Britnell previously worked as a detective and patrol officer for Goose Creek Police Department. Prior to that, he served in the U.S. Army as a light infantry sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division.

"I'm honored and excited for the opportunity to work with the board, Director Campbell and the entire Aviation Authority team as we work to complete the airport's renovation and begin to look forward to the next five to 10 years," Britnell said.

Britnell is one of two deputy directors. The other is John Connell, who oversees engineering and planning. Britnell will manage and direct finance, properties and contracts.

More than 170 applications were received for the position.


Sussex County Airport (KGED), Georgetown, Delaware: Main runway re-opens

GEORGETOWN — The Sussex County Airport’s main runway is taxied and ready for takeoff after a six-week maintenance project kept it closed to all aircraft.

Crews this week have been putting the finishing touches on a $4.7 million project to repave and repaint the main runway at the facility east of Georgetown.

The 5,500-foot-long main runway, which re-opened late Thursday night, had been closed since April 9 to allow construction crews to mill the main surface and lay down 15,000 tons of new asphalt that is two inches thick.

An adjoining shorter runway remained open during construction for smaller planes.

The paving project is part of an overall $8.8 million effort to make a variety of improvements at the airport, including enhanced lighting, obstruction removal, and a main runway extension.

That extension – which brought the main runway’s total length up from 5,000 to 5,500 feet – was completed in fall 2013. The federal government has funded at least 90 percent of all costs.

“This repaving project should make for a smoother and cleaner surface for aircraft to land on and take off from,” said Jim Hickin, director of airport and industrial park operations. “Just like a home, a car, or even an aircraft, you have to keep up on maintenance, and that’s what this was.”

The repaving project is the first time the runway surfaced has been upgraded since 1994, and has a life expectancy of 20 years, Mr. Hickin said.

The general aviation airport, owned by Sussex County, records as many as 35,000 landings and take-offs annually from aircraft ranging in size from single-engine planes up to Boeing 737s.


New Long Beach Airport (KLGB) Association board focuses on aviation’s role in regional economy

LONG BEACH >> A new 14-member board of directors has been formed to foster diversity in business and bring awareness of the aviation sector’s contribution to the regional economy, it was announced Thursday.

The Long Beach Airport Association, whose membership represents more than 18,000 employees and 200 diverse businesses at the airport, elected a board of aviation-related business owners and kicked off, designed to inform the public of its efforts.

In the coming months, the association will discuss ways to recruit and keep jobs, promote and improve the airport and tackle regulatory and policy challenges.

“The LBAA’s new direction is the result of a strategic planning process and ongoing collaboration among our members,” LBAA Board President and Aerolease Group CEO and President Curt Castagna said in a statement. “We’re excited about working closely with airport management, city leaders and the community on marketing efforts that will sustain commerce and industry in the Long Beach area.”

Board leaders include Castagna as president, Signature Flight Support Area Director Eric Hill as first vice president, Experimental Aircraft Association President Don Thompson as second vice president, CPA John Murrill as treasurer and Aerolease Group Manager Cindy Goodfellow as secretary.

Board members also include Thomas Berg, JetBlue Airways general manager; Fred Cei, JFI Jets executive vice president of sales; Phillip DiFiore, Island Express president; Paul Giczewski, Facilities, Security & Operations, Gulfstream Aerospace; aircraft owner Paul LaGreek; Cody Pierce of Aces High Aviation; Glenn Ray, owner of MillionAir North; Arthur Rosales, director of sales and marketing at Long Beach Airport Marriott; John Tary, aviation general manager at AirFlite, Inc. and White Buffalo Holdings Property Manager Jonnie Weber. 

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Evergreen Aviation bankruptcy reveals schism among lenders, creditors

A flurry of filings this week in the Evergreen International Aviation bankruptcy case in Delaware has revealed a sharp division among stakeholders. On one side is an Arizona company that leased 1.5 million square feet to Evergreen to park aircraft. On the other side is a coalition of lenders led by Goldman Sachs.

The parties are squabbling about who should be first in line when and if the trustee in the case proceeds with a proposed sale of "substantially all" of Evergreen's aircraft assets to Jet Midwest, a Kansas City company.

Marana Aerospace Solutions of Arizona has argued it should be paid first, partly because it had begun in December to proceed with the sale of Evergreen's Supertanker -- a modified Boeing 747 -- in lieu of rent and other payments that the Oregon company had failed to make. But when an involuntary bankruptcy case was filed against Evergreen later in the month -- and then Evergreen itself filed for dissolution on the last day of December -- the sale was frozen.

The lenders argue their claims should come ahead of Marana's. They note in a filing that Evergreen owes them more than $100 million and "the Lenders have valid first and second priority liens upon all of the Assets, and any lien Marana may claim to have on the Supertanker would be junior to the Lenders' liens."

In another wrinkle that emerged this week, the trustee managing the case said he was told Evergreen planes had been moved from some of the leased space -- information he said that turned out to be inaccurate. As a result, a dispute has arisen over which Evergreen aircraft remains in the bankruptcy case and which may be deemed "abandoned."

The trustee proposed earlier this month to sell "substantially all" of Evergreen's assets, including the Supertanker and other aircraft, to Jet Midwest for $4.28 million.

- Mike Francis


Pikesville, Baltimore County, Maryland

Plane loses towed GEICO banner over Pikesville at about 6:00pm


Central Wisconsin Airport (KCWA), Mosinee, Wisconsin: Mock plane crash tomorrow

MARATHON COUNTY (WAOW) -- A mock plane crash will take place on Saturday, May 17 at Central Wisconsin Airport.

The exercise will begin around 7:45 a.m. 

Crews from more than a dozen agencies will be there for the event.

It's expected to last until noon.

Michael Scola: 16-year-old takes to the sky and the highway

MARCO ISLAND — Michael Scola didn’t let any time go to waste. The Marco Island resident, a sophomore at Seacrest Country Day School in Naples, turned 16 on May 8. That morning, he went to the DMV and got his driver’s license at 8:30 a.m., went across the street to the Naples Airport, took and passed his written FAA exam for a private pilot’s license, and at 1 p.m., made his first solo flight from the Immokalee airport, taking off and landing the airplane with no one else aboard.

Of course, Michael had a little headstart in the flying department. He has been flying copilot with his dad, Marco Scola, in the family’s Cirrus SR22 airplane.

This is a high-performance aircraft with complex avionics, a high-powered engine and a price tag to match, and Michael said for him, the toughest aspect of learning to fly has been going back and forth between the Cirrus and the more pedestrian airplanes encountered in flight school.

“This plane is like flying a Mercedes, a sports car,” said Marco. “It has everything digital, touchscreens, collision avoidance, air conditioning, de-icing, everything a ‘triple seven’ (Boeing 777) has.”

The Cirrus also comes with one special feature, that is near and dear to his mother’s heart: a parachute, not for the passengers, but for the entire plane.

“Right behind the seat, there’s a rocket. Deploy it, and in eight seconds you’re parachuting to earth. Pretty much everyone who pulls that handle lives,” said Marco. A realtor and president of the local Independent Brokers Realty franchise, the elder Scola uses the plane to tour prospects around, and commute to check his holdings to the north.

“I own a lot of property in Georgia and North Carolina,” and the Cirrus lets him get to it easily, he said.

“I was scared to death. I hate flying,” said Michael’s mother Rosa Scola, a CPA. “That’s whether it’s an airliner or whatever. We had another little plane, and I wouldn’t go near it.”

She told her husband the only way she would fly was in “the one with the parachute, and he called my bluff,” she said. The cost to call Mrs. Scola’s bluff would be about $750,000 for a new Cirrus, although Marco said he bought used, at about half the price.

Michael can’t get his actual full-fledged pilot’s license until he turns 17, but with his first solo under his belt, he is now ready to undertake two longer cross country solo flights, of 50 and 100 miles, readying him for his license. Marco has earned a commercial pilot’s license and an instrument rating, but while he certainly taught his son a thing or two about flying, Michael still had to go through the regular ground school and flight training through an accredited flight school.

Of course, having the funds to buy an airplane doesn’t give the skill to fly it.

“Once you roll down that runway, and pull back the stick, you’re committed,” said Marco.

In addition to flying, Michael enjoys tinkering in the garage, boating and kayaking. His dad said he expects him to go into something related to engineering or finance as a profession. While he attends Seacrest, as does older sister Danielle, a junior, Michael will go to Lely High School next year for one course, the aviation program they are offering.

“Michael is paying for his own flight school,” said Marco. “We clean out a lot of houses for banks, and he grabs stuff that people leave in there, and sells it on eBay. That pays for his flying.”

Back on the ground, getting his own wheels probably makes more immediate difference in Michael’s life. He has a shiny Ford F-150 pickup truck, the mirror image of his dad’s, except bright red rather than midnight black. So far, he says, he has only used it to go back and forth to school, starting the day after his birthday.

Michael also has a “project car, a ’74 Alfa Romeo my grandpa gave me,” and he’s restoring it “slowly,” said his dad. In fairness, it’s not as though he doesn’t have enough to do to fill up his days.

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Michael Scola with solo certificate and family plane. Scola, who turned 16 on May 8, got his driver's license, passed his FAA written pilot's test, and earned his flying solo certificate all on that morning.

Council responds to AOPA Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO) initiative

CITY HALL — Pro-airport activists are backing a ballot initiative that would reduce City Council’s ability to control the future of the Santa Monica Airport but council may add an item of its own to the ballot.

Council voted unanimously to have city officials craft a proposed amendment to City Charter that would protect its ability to manage the future of the airport but would require voters to approve any “significant changes in the use of the land.”

The current petition, filed by three residents, also addresses development but requires major changes of any kind to go before a public vote.

Three councilmembers, Pam O’Connor, Terry O’Day, and Kevin McKeown presented the idea.

“I’ve been told that some of the people out circulating the petitions going door to door are saying that the measure they’re circulating is a measure that the City wants to put on the ballot, which isn’t true,” McKeown said. “So actually that sort of inspired us to think, well what if we do put something on the ballot.”

The current petition is financially backed by the national aviation advocacy group Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). The organization has given $20,000 to the cause of which at least $10,000 has been spent to pay signature gatherers.

The petition is under fire from many local organizations, including at least three neighborhood groups and the city’s largest political party, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights.

Last week, 11 residents filed a lawsuit against the petition filers and City Hall claiming, among other things, that the petition’s summary itself is inaccurate in its claim that closure of the airport would “likely result in high-density development.”

“If we put something on the ballot it could be clear and transparent and not obfuscate the fact that the current thing being circulated will keep us from being able to manage the airport in a responsible way,” McKeown said.

Santa Monica Airport Association representative Bill Worden spoke during the public portion of the item.

“I think you should realize we’ve done you a favor by setting this up for a vote of the people,” he said.

A second ballot measure would clarify the AOPA ballot measure, McKeown said.

It could, he said, “basically explain to people what they’re voting on, which the currently-circulated measure deliberately does a very bad job of doing, even beyond the fact that it’s being misrepresented by the people who are circulating it.”


Lawsuit filed against pro-Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO) petitioners, City Hall

SMO – Filers of a petition that attempts to put future Santa Monica Airport decisions to a public vote are being sued by 11 residents.

The petition was filed by three residents just days after City Council voted to move forward with plans that could downsize the airport in 2015.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a national aviation advocacy group, back the petition, which requires signatures from more than 9,000 registered Santa Monica voters and then a majority vote later this year. They’ve given $20,000 to the cause, at least $10,000 of which was used to hire paid signature collectors.

Petitioners have been sighted in various locations throughout the city. Petitioners that the Daily Press encountered have been paid for their work.

Neighbors have long complained about the noise and pollution caused by the airport. Others fear for their safety with homes located about 300 feet from the runway.

Advocates point to the roughly $275 million generated annually for the local economy, per a City Hall-sponsored report. They say that the airport would be essential in the case of a disaster.

Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, the city’s largest political party, has come out in opposition to the petition, as have at least three neighborhood groups.

Jonathan Stein, who filed the lawsuit against the petition filers and City Hall on behalf the 11 residents, has numerous issues with the initiative.

He claims that the notion the airport “benefits the entire City of Santa Monica,” as the petition states, is false, claiming that at least one neighborhood is negatively impacted by its pollution.

He also takes issue with the idea, as is mentioned in the petition, that city documents state that redevelopment of airport land would “likely result in high-density development.”

Council members were emphatic in their belief that high-density development would not make sense in the area.

The petition also conflates council’s ability to act on the airport with their ability to develop the land, Stein said. One initiative can’t ask the voters to make two decisions, he said.


Midland International Airport (KMAF) to have assessment approval in 30 days; Federal Aviation Administration decision on Midland spaceport license still due by Sept. 15

Midland International Airport continues on its mission to obtain a spaceport license by Sept. 15 by passing a 30-day public comment period with no objections and solving a minor hiccup caused by the lesser prairie chicken’s threatened status.

At Thursday’s Spaceport Development Corp. meeting, Director of Airports Marv Esterly said the next step in the spaceport license process is the Federal Aviation Administration’s “finding of no significant impact,” which is the final approval of the environmental assessment for the spaceport, expected to be passed in 30 days.

But one minor threat, what Esterly called a “small glitch,” was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s listing in March of the lesser prairie chicken as “threatened,” after the airport drafted its environmental assessment. Esterly said the airport contacted FWS and submitted information to the agency that explained the spaceport wouldn’t have any effect on the bird.

The airport will receive a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approving the information submitted and attach it to the environmental assessment, Esterly said.

The spaceport license is still slated for Sept. 15, but can be approved anytime after the environmental assessment’s final approval. Esterly said the airport has been coordinating with the FAA for the last 1 1/2 years and   that there is nothing new in the spaceport application that the agency doesn’t already know.

“There’s no indication or anything out there that says that we haven’t done everything that we needed to do,” Esterly said. “We proved everything we needed to prove.”

If approved, Midland’s spaceport would be the first spaceport at a commercial airport in the country. Midland International would be both a “Part 139” and “Part 420” airport, per FAA regulations.

“As the future of travel starts to progress toward space travel, this uniquely positions Midland to take advantage of that,” said John Love III, Midland Spaceport Development Corp. president.

In other Spaceport Development Corp. news, the corporation received a presentation from Denver-based law firm Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell about the city’s legal obligation to prevent certain development from happening around the proposed spaceport.

In order for the spaceport to be in operation, the city has to ensure safe overflight of property around the airport, exercise land use authority to protect against encroachment on and near the airport and ensure compatible land use, according to the presentation.

The most common way for the city to meet its obligations is to adopt special zoning rules for the land around the airport, which spans five miles from the end of each runway and 1 1/2 miles from the centerline of each runway. Any development that is associated with high-pedestrian density, such as retail and housing, may be prohibited in the area, as previously reported.

Love said if a developer plans to build around the airport, it will have to explain to the Planning and Zoning Commission how the development will impact the area.


Team 6 Investigates: Laser Laws

Imagine piloting an aircraft and then being suddenly blinded by bright light that comes out of nowhere. 

 "What goes through your mind is 'how am I going to be able to complete this flight safely. How am I going to land when I can’t see?'" said airline captain Robert Hamilton, with the Airline Pilots Association.

The bright light, it turns out is a laser – intentionally aimed at a pilot by someone on the ground. It’s a federal crime that has the potential to cause a plane crash, and federal statistics show a sharp increase in the number of incidents.

Veteran Miami-Dade Police Department pilot Brendan Gill said it happened to him.

“I was flying around and the next thing I know I got a bright flash coming off the left side of the helicopter,” Gill said. “And it was a green laser that was being pointed up at me from a mile and a half away.“

Police said they tracked the laser to a Miami home where they saw Dennys Diaz point the laser at Gill’s helicopter. He was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors. NBC 6 found Mr. Diaz at his home recently but he told us, “I’m sorry but I don’t want to talk about it.”

Diaz avoided jail time by agreeing to continue his education and stay out of any other trouble, but a federal judge in California gave 26-year-old Sergio Rodriguez a 14-year prison sentence for pointing a laser at a police helicopter and interfering with aircraft operations.

“The FBI is taking this crime very seriously,” said FBI agent John Kitzinger. “We don’t want a catastrophe to happen.”

The FBI said that in 2005, lasers were pointed at pilots 384 times. Last year, the number grew to almost 4,000.

In 2014, there have been 63 incidents of lasers and pilots in South Florida. Across the Sunshine State, the number of incidents jumps to 129.

The FBI said pilots often describe it like a camera flash going off in a pitch black car.

“When it’s actually shown at an aircraft the intensity of the laser light and the affect that it has on you in a darker cockpit is actually quite intense,“ Officer Gill stated.

Dr. Andrew Schimel, an Ophthalmologist, who is a professor at FIU’s medical school told NBC 6, “The worst time for the lasers to be shot in the eyes is just as they are landing because they are closer to the laser beam. The closer they are to the laser beam—the more likely they get damage to the retina.”

Schimel warns that more powerful lasers are hitting the market-- primarily from China. He says those lasers are up to 200 times stronger.

“It is a very real safety hazard. And it brings the very real possibility of having an aircraft accident,“ Capt. Hamilton said.

“Lots of times we will get the call from the FLL tower saying that someone is lasering the airliners,” said Sgt. Christine Ponticelli, who runs the aviation division for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

The perimeter patrols at Ft. Lauderdale airport are on the lookout for someone with a laser. Airport Commander Capt. Roy Liddicott told NBC 6, “All our guys are very aware of this as an absolute problem.”

At night police helicopter pilots wear night vision goggles that brighten everything on the ground, but having them on makes the lasers even more dangerous.

“Because night vision goggles work off of light that’s really going to enhance and intensify the light that’s coming towards them,” Ponticelli said. “If someone was to actually put that laser on them as they were coming on short final it could blind them. The pilot could lose control of the aircraft and crash into the house.”

The FBI told NBC 6 most people think it’s a joke. They just don’t realize the very real danger they are causing.

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Cape Girardeau Regional (KCGI) Air Festival: Heroes and Legends will occupy the city's skies Saturday and Sunday

Flying High: 2014 air fest will take to the skies of Cape Girardeau 

The Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival: Heroes and Legends will occupy the city's skies Saturday and Sunday.

The air show will take place at Cape Girardeau Municipal Airport, and this year's headliners are the Royal Canadian Forces demonstration jet team, the Canadian Snowbirds.

The air festival almost didn't happen this year. In February, the Snowbirds canceled all of their 2014 air show appearances in the United States because of budget cuts. As a result, the air festival was canceled.

But the group reversed direction and in early March informed organizers the team would be able to perform at several U.S. shows this year, including Cape Girardeau's. The Snowbirds typically perform in only about five U.S. cities during air show season. This will be their first performance in town.

This weekend, members of the public also will get to see military and civilian aerobatic performers, jet-powered vehicles, ground displays and other family-oriented activities.

Gates will open at 10 a.m. At 1:30 p.m. both days, the opening ceremonies will begin, with performances by the U.S. Army Golden Knights, Patrick McAlee, Paul Stender, Matt Younkin, Friends of Jenny, Aerostars, Michael Vaknin, Susan Dacy and the Snowbirds. The shows will end at 5 p.m.

The Golden Knights are the Army's official aerial demonstration parachute team.

The Aerostars are a precision aerobatic demo team that performs in the Yak 52TW, a former Soviet-designed, Romanian-built, World War II-type aerobatic trainer.

Friends of Jenny is a not-for-profit organization that raises awareness for the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny biplane, the first mass-produced World War I flight trainer that carried the first regularly scheduled airmail.

Some of the most unusual performances will include Paul Stender's unique jet-powered vehicles he creates and drives, including a 367-mph jet powered school bus.

The audience also will get to watch Matt Younkin flying his Beech 18, a plane never designed for aerobatic flight, and to applaud aviators Paul McAlee and Michael Vaknin.

As for Susan Dacy, she will take people back in time by flying her 450-horsepower Super Stear­man, "Big Red," in a style reminiscent of flying's barnstorming era.

The audience also can view Warbirds on display on the tarmac, and children will have access to a large inflatables area. 

Tickets can still be bought online at

National Transportation Safety Board: Investigation into fatal 2013 plane crash determines broken wing was caused in collision with turkey vulture

Avions Fairey Tipsy Nipper T-66, Sharman Enterprises Inc., N1959N: Accident occurred February 13, 2013 in Winters, California 

Jeff Sharman is shown here inside his Nut Tree Airport business. 
(Courtesy Curt Fargo)


NTSB: Force of collision severed aircraft's wing

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have determined that a mid-air collision with a large bird is to blame for the structural failure of the wing of an experimental airplane last year that sent the craft plummeting to the ground, killing its pilot.

Jeffrey Sharman, a 68-year-old Vacaville resident and lifelong aviation enthusiast, was identified as the owner and pilot of the Avions Fairey Tipsy Nipper T-66 that sustained major damage Feb. 13, 2013, after hitting a turkey vulture, causing the wing to break apart and Sharman to lose control of the plane just south of Winters, according to a report by NTSB investigators.

The NTSB report, citing the impact with the bird as the probable cause of the accident, was approved May 8.

The 1959 single-engine, propeller-driven airplane was manufactured by Avions Fairey in Charleroi, Belgium and was certified in the U.S. as an experimental exhibition airplane, reports stated.

Sharman had taken off from Yolo County Airport, was believed to be heading to Vacaville's Nut Tree Airport and was in cruise flight approximately 2,000 feet above the ground when the impact occurred, according to the NTSB. Witnesses reported hearing "a loud 'crack' or 'snap' sound" and looked up to see something separate from the plane and two pieces spiral to the ground.

The outboard four feet of the right wing was found in the median of Interstate 505, about 2,000 feet north of the main wreckage along the eastbound embankment near Wolfskill Road.

The wing was later shipped to the National Transportation Safety Board's Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Post-accident examination of the plane's wing revealed blood spots and "a downy barbule," according to investigators.

The samples were sent to the Smithsonian Institution Feather Identification Laboratory for expert analysis and later determined to be a fragment of a turkey vulture feather, the NTSB stated. According to experts at the Smithsonian, turkey vultures average around 4.5 pounds and have a wing span that can measure up to 6 feet.

A dead turkey vulture was also found near the wreckage, the NTSB reported.

Remembered by many for his helpful, friendly demeanor, Sharman entered into the aviation realm following in the footsteps of his father.

Originally from South Africa, Sharman came to California in 1986 and founded an aircraft rebuilding business that eventually included exporting plane parts and shipping, which was later renamed Sharman Enterprises Inc., based out of the Nut Tree Airport.

Toxicology tests performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City came back negative for alcohol or drug use.

NTSB Identification: WPR13FA123

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 13, 2013 in Winters, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/08/2014
Aircraft: AVIONS FAIREY TIPSY NIPPER T-66, registration: N1959N
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 airplane was in cruise flight about 2,000 feet above the ground when several witnesses reported hearing a loud "crack," "pop," or "snap" sound and then looking up and seeing something separate from the airplane and then pieces falling to the ground. The outboard 4 feet of the right wing was found about 2,000 feet away from the main wreckage, and a turkey vulture carcass was found near the wing section. Postaccident examinations of the wing section revealed blood spots and a downy barbule, which was identified as a fragment of a turkey vulture feather.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The airplane's impact with a turkey vulture in cruise flight, which resulted in the structural failure of the right wing and the subsequent loss of control.

FAA, NTSB investigating close call between 2 planes: Preliminary data shows planes were as close as 5.3 miles laterally, 800 feet vertically

HONOLULU — The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating an incident nearly three weeks ago when two jets came within miles of each other.

On April 25, United Airlines Flight 1205 from Kona to Los Angeles responded to a warning from the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System about 200 miles northeast of Kona.  The warning told the crew to avoid a U.S. Airways Boeing 757 heading westbound.

The FAA says the required separation between aircraft in the airspace where the incident occurred is either 5 miles laterally or 1,000 feet vertically.

Preliminary data shows that the aircraft were 8 miles apart when the alert came.  The United plane was told to descend.  On the next radar hit 12 seconds later, the aircraft were 5.3 miles apart laterally and 800 feet apart vertically.

The FAA says it not drawing conclusions about whether the aircraft were on a collision course.  The agency began investigating the incident immediately and says it has taken steps to prevent a recurrence.  FAA officials say the TCAS performed as it was designed.

A joint FAA and NTSB investigation team was scheduled to arrive on Oahu on Thursday.

Since the 1980s, the FAA has required the TCAS on airliners with more than 30 passenger seats to help prevent mid-air collisions.  It alerts pilots to potential conflicts and may issue them instructions to climb or descend to avoid the conflict.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating an incident nearly three weeks ago when two jets came within miles of each other.

United Airlines says it is working with the NTSB in its review of the incident.