Saturday, May 17, 2014

Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport ( KLMT) may operate without a director

Leaving two full-time positions unfilled and a projected dip in city revenue are some of the significant changes highlighted in the city of Klamath Falls’ proposed 2014-15 budget released Friday.

In order to fund pay increases for police under a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters union, the document proposes leaving one police officer position unfilled and reducing officer overtime pay by 10 percent, according to Klamath Falls City Manager Nathan Cherpeski. The city released a draft of its nearly $35 million budget, which shows a projected decrease of 5 percent compared with the 2013-14 budget, and forecasts a possible 7 percent dip in revenues in 2015.

Klamath Falls Police Chief Jim Hunter, who said he’s considering retirement in January 2015, is preparing for a proposed $5.4 million budget.

“I’m not going to lay anybody off,” Hunter told the Herald and News Friday afternoon.

“It’s going to be tight losing this position,” Hunter added, of the unfilled officer position. As result, Hunter said, “There could be a slight delay in response to non-emergency calls. It should have no effect to our response to emergency calls.”

Hunter said if the proposed budget is approved as is, code enforcement may help out with non-emergency calls to pick up any slack. He also emphasized the unfilled position is currently a proposal, and could be modified by the city’s budget committee Wednesday, when it meets at 9 a.m. at City Hall.

The police department isn’t the only department looking at proposed changes to personnel.

Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport Director John Longley, who plans to retire in October, may not be immediately replaced, as city staff consider restructuring airport administration, according to the budget summary. With air service by SkyWest ending at the airport June 4, the airport is slated to lose $127,000 in revenue. Longley said in a recent Herald and News story he felt his staff could handle airport administration tasks if he were away for up to a year.

“City staff continues to investigate alternative carriers, however, changes will need to be made in airport operations to account for the lost revenues,” Cherpeski said in his budget message.

The proposed changes come as a way for the city to tighten its financial belt, part of an effort by 2019 to cut $300,000 from its budget, according to the budget proposal. Cherpeski highlighted several city funds are experiencing financial pressures, and emphasized a need to bring expenditures in line with revenues.

“All departments will need to examine programs and practices to determine what provides the greatest value,” Cherpeski said. “This may lead to changes or eliminations of some programs as funds are shifted to higher value activities. Further personnel changes will likely need to occur in future years.”

Cherpeski said the city will continue a “soft” hiring freeze, with all vacant positions analyzed based on need before they are filled. He said the city hopes most changes in personnel can occur as individuals retire.

“To make changes and to determine the highest value activities, it will be essential to have open and honest discussions about how much value certain programs return to the citizens,” he said.

The city also announced it plans to continue operations at the Ella Redkey Pool, an area Cherpeski said could be reviewed on a regular basis.

Copies of the proposed budget are available online at and at City Hall, 500 Klamath Ave.


Fire in airplane at Watertown International Airport (KART) extinguished before crews arrive

DEXTER — A fire in the engine of a small plane at the Watertown International Airport activated Jefferson County’s emergency response personnel but the fire was extinguished before they arrived on scene, according to Airport Manager Grant W. Sussey.

An entry in the county’s dispatch log showed crews responding to an “aircraft incident” at 8:10 p.m. Friday.

Mr. Sussey said that there was a fire in a single-engine Cessna airplane during engine starting but that it was extinguished before crews arrived on scene.

Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Joseph D. Plummer did not return a call seeking comment Saturday night.


Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival: Air show attendance meets organizers' expectations

American-Canadian camaraderie was strong Saturday at the Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival, where a crowd of 12,000 to 15,000 watched an afternoon of fancy flying capped by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds' nine synchronized pilots in red-and-white CT-114 Tutor jets.

The annual festival at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, with plenty of vintage airplanes to see and with children's inflatables and concessions available, featured two members of the Golden Knights diving from their black and gold C-31 Troopship on Saturday afternoon.

Streaming red smoke, the first carried an American flag and the second a Canadian flag. Six Golden Knights followed, slowly descending and hitting or nearing a circular target on the runway.

Airport manager Bruce Loy said moderate cloudiness, temperatures in the low 60s and winds under 5 mph had helped bring out the crowd. "We were expecting something in the 12,000 to 15,000 range, and when I looked around it seemed like we were close to meeting that number," Loy said.

"The weather is beautiful, and it should be even better Sunday."

With the Snowbirds waiting as the closing act before the show ended at 5 p.m., Dacy followed the Golden Knights in her souped-up "Big Red" 1942 model Super Stearman biplane.

Dacy looped, rolled and did maneuvers that would have seemingly been unrealistic in a normal aircraft, and Younkin went up in a twin engine Beechcraft Model 18 that the announcer said wasn't designed for the strenuous aerobatics Younkin sent it through.

Patrick McAlee, Paul Stender, the Friends of Jenny, the Aerostars and Michael Vaknin all will demonstrate their talents again Sunday afternoon.

John Amelunke of Gordonville said numerous veterans take part "for the camaraderie and to look at the military displays.

"Most of the aviation advances have been made because of the military," said Amelunke, who served with the Army in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968.

"We're always picking on each other," he said, chuckling. "There were more Canadians who went south to join our military than there were draft dodgers who went north. A number of us fought alongside them."

Billy Thomason Jr. of Marble Hill, Missouri, said for him the festival was a given because he is an aircraft mechanic and Air Force veteran.

"The Air Force taught me to love aviation," Thomason said. "I have never seen the Snowbirds."

Charles Smoot of Cape Girardeau also reported an intense interest. "I like airplanes, period," Smoot said, watching Younkin rumble low over the runway and zoom high into a loop.

"I wanted to be a pilot, but that was something I never could do. I used to build scale models, and I can name almost every plane out here. That's what they called a Beech Bomber."

Referring to a 1950s TV series, Smoot said, "It's the Sky King plane. They built it for the British in World War II, but they didn't want it because it was too slow."

Smoot's wife Annette enjoys the planes but is not an authority.

"I don't know much about them, but I like to look and learn," she said.

The air show continues at 1:30 p.m. today at the airport, southwest of Cape Girardeau off Interstate 55. The Snowbirds will again top a lineup of the Army Golden Knights in their flexible-wing gliders, stunt pilots Susan Dacy, Matt Younkin and others.

The gates open at 10 a.m. Admission is $13.50 for adults and $8.50 for children.

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Nigeria: Aged Aircraft, Maintenance and Air Crashes

IRS plane crash in Niger Republic

The crash of IRS aircraft in Niger Republic while returning to resume service after maintenance checks brings to the fore the need for proper maintenance of aged aircraft and why the regulatory body should be stricter to ensure accident free flight operations in Nigeria, writes Chinedu Eze.

An aircraft, a Fokker 100 with registration number 5NSIK, belonging to IRS crashed last week at Ganla in Niger Republic, some nautical miles outside the Nigerian airspace.

The captain and the co-pilot, the only two persons on board the flight survived and there were indications that the pilot crash landed the aircraft for reasons which are still under debate.

But many Nigerians are happy for three reasons. One, the crash did not take place in Nigeria. Two, the aircraft did not have passengers on board. Three, no life was lost in the crash. But Nigerians are also wondering why an aircraft that went for major maintenance check, known as C Check, should crash on its way to resume operation after it had been certified and tested after the checks. What happened? Many more people have become skeptical and apprehensive about aircraft that operate in Nigeria.

Cause of the Crash

THISDAY gathered that the crash was caused by navigational systems failure in the aircraft. The aircraft was said to have developed the problem while flying back to Nigeria after the maintenance. The pilots claimed they arrived at Kano’s airspace but the weather was bad and they returned to Niger and started looking for where they could land while their fuel was running low, so while scouting for where to land, the fuel in the aircraft was exhausted.

But an inside source said that the explanation had flaws; that it was unbelievable because if there was system failure in the aircraft, how did the pilot know they arrived Kano airspace and that there was bad weather? how did they know that they had moved away from Kano airspace?

“The aircraft came out of a major C check. There was test flight in which some problems were identified and corrected and it successfully flew before the final flight. So the suddenness with which another fault developed in the aircraft is worrisome,” said an insider from the regulatory body, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

THISDAY also gathered that the fault knocked out two flight management systems and that made some engineers privy to the workings of the aircraft to insist that there was something wrong somewhere. “There is something wrong that we don’t know. Proper investigation has to be conducted. I stand to see things done right,” NCAA insider said.

THISDAY learnt that an NCAA engineer that approved the flight also directed the test flight and was satisfied before allowing the aircraft to be brought back, but did not accompany the flight back to Nigeria; rather, he chose to fly commercial plane. The aircraft was said to have been maintained in a facility in Latvia, Eastern Europe.

“Occasionally, our people follow the aircraft certified after maintenance back to Nigeria but sometimes they fly commercial, especially to insulate themselves from any influences by the airline operator,” explained a source from NCAA.

Wondering why the airplane could have developed fault after a major check, another NCAA source said, “A lot of this depends on how a pilot handled it. If you don’t know how to do the job when a problem comes you won’t know what to do. It is true there are processes, procedures and checklist, but you have to have good knowledge, experience and background. It is during emergency that you know a good pilot.”

IRS Airlines which is one of the indigenous carriers that has operated for a long time stopped scheduled services last October due to technical problems with its fleet.

The airline which operated three Fokker 100 aircraft stopped operation when its aircraft developed hydraulic problem while landing at the Kaduna airport last year, prompting the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to ground its operations.

No Speculation

Responding to THISDAY inquiries on whether IRS Airlines had been re-certified by NCAA to resume operation after it was grounded last year; the spokesman of the regulatory body, Sam Adurogboye, said IRS Airlines has not recommenced operations.

“They are currently undergoing re-certification. The crashed plane was meant to join their on-going re-certification exercise. The plane had undergone maintenance. It was monitored by our inspectors while the maintenance lasted.

“Note: a maintained plane is issued with Certificate of Release that will indicate the type of maintenance carried out and the next due date.”
Adurogboye said since the golden principle of air plane incident or accident investigation is, “do not speculate, but to wait for the outcome of the investigation to determine what went wrong that led to the accident”; therefore, there was no need to speculate what happened until after investigation.
“I would at this point appeal that we should wait for the outcome of the investigation.”

Aged Aircraft and Lack of Indigenous MRO Industry experts and seasoned pilots have said that as long as the country operates old aircraft without maintenance hangar domiciled in the country, there would continue to be air crashes in spite of the efforts to improve safety in flight operations.

A pilot once argued that because old aircraft needs constant maintenance, the operators cannot keep to the maintenance demands when there is no maintenance facility in the country, adding that to ensure that an old aircraft is worthy all the time, the operator must have to carry out scheduled maintenance, unscheduled maintenance and preventive maintenance.

He noted that while the regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, monitors the regulated maintenance, it does not monitor unscheduled maintenance which is left at the discretion of the operator and preventive maintenance, which should ensure that the aircraft is air worthy every morning before it begins service.

According to him, the operator can compromise on unscheduled and preventive maintenance when there is no local maintenance facility because as an old aircraft, maintenance could be a daily routine, especially as the aircraft is flogged daily, so the operator would have to compromise this important aspect of maintenance because of the time and cost of ferrying the aircraft overseas.

“Operating old aircraft in an environment where there is maintenance facility is not a problem, but if it is in a place where there is no maintenance facility it is dangerous because old aircraft needs regular maintenance and monitoring; if not it will endanger safety of lives.

“A simple analogy is a new car and an old car. An old car normally is taken to the mechanic more frequently. Imagine the challenge if you are driving an old car and you don’t have a mechanic in your area. You would prefer to manage some problems in the car till when you will have time and money to take it to the mechanic a distance away.”

The pilot also observed that Nigeria does not have the culture of maintenance so an airline operator may choose to carry out the scheduled maintenance that is in NCAA log book and defer unscheduled maintenance and of course will not carry out preventive maintenance until the next scheduled maintenance.

“The lifespan of an aircraft is average of 25 to 30 years. At 22 years about 80 percent of the aircraft life is spent. The aircraft needs regular maintenance at that age and close monitoring by the NCAA, so we expect the regulatory body to have greater oversight, overseeing how snags (technical problems) are cleared to make sure that the aircraft remains serviceable, not only for scheduled maintenance like A check, B check, C check and D check, but also for unscheduled maintenance.” The pilot also said that in spite of all the arguments about old and new aircraft, to ensure that there is safety in Nigeria air transport, the country should do away with old aircraft or urgently establish maintenance facility for regular maintenance of these aircraft.

“If there is local maintenance hangar, an operator after the day’s flight can take his aircraft to the hangar, examine it and prepare it for tomorrow’s flights.”

The sudden development of mechanical problem after the IRS aircraft had gone through a major check shows the inherent problem with old aircraft and explains the need for Nigeria to ensure that there is local maintenance facility in the country.

The acting Director General of NCAA, Benedict Adeyileka, last Monday said that it was the responsibility of airlines to ensure the air worthiness of their aircraft; that the function of NCAA is to carry out oversight functions, but it has been established that airlines cut corners; not only in Nigeria, but in other parts of the world, so the regulatory body may not repose any trust in the airlines but should ensure that regulations are strictly followed by the operators.

In Africa, Nigeria is ranked second as the largest country with aircraft fleet above 15 years of age, while Ethiopia, Morocco and Egypt seem to have smaller number of aircraft above 15 years and these countries have also benefited from strong national/flag carriers and also government support. These countries have significantly smaller domestic traffic compared to Nigeria.


Coast Guard Jayhawk Helicopter Lands on Martin Luther King Boulevard, Panama City, Florida

A United States Coast Guard helicopter lands in the middle of Martin Luther King Boulevard in Panama City early Saturday morning.  The Jayhawk chopper was airlifting a patient to Bay Medical Sacred Heart but was too large to land on the helo pad. 

Panama City Police assisted the helicopter down onto the roadway.  According to the Coast Guard out of Sector Mobile the chopper was dispatched out of Clearwater, Florida to respond to a 46 foot fishing vessel 50 nautical miles off Apalachicola Bay.  A 29-year-old fisherman had severed off his thumb and was hoisted from the AC-3 vessel. 

The Jayhawk helicopter is more than 60 feet in diameter and weighs more than 20,000 pounds.  After circling the hospital for more than 30 minutes the helicopter successfully landed and the patient was transported into Bay Medical.



Timberview Helicopters: Department of Transportation cease and desist order keeps copter from using helipad

 DESTIN — Timberview Helicopters will not be among the recreational vendors to descend upon Crab Island on Memorial Day weekend for the official start of the summer season.

The company, which had been flying helicopter tours off a barge in Destin Pass, was issued a cease and desist order April 22 by the state Department of Transportation.

In the letter, officials with the DOT’s aviation division said Timberview had not followed the state’s ap-proval process for structures used as private aviation facilities.

“We’re not a structure. We’re a vessel,” counters Justin Johnson, who owns Timberview. “We don’t consider that letter valid. ... The Coast Guard has already said we’re a vessel.”

The existence of a helipad “doesn’t suddenly make it a structure,” he said, adding that he’s waiting on a letter from the Coast Guard that will explain his status to the state.

The DOT said Timberview must cease its operations off the barge until an aeronautical determination is completed by the Federal Aviation Administration and the state has approved the barge — and its location — as a private aviation facility.

In the letter, state officials warned Johnson that continued operation from the barge was a violation of state statutes and a second-degree misdemeanor.

The dispute is the latest controversy surrounding Timberview, which was banned from operating in Destin harbor and most recently cited for trespassing when its barge anchored next to Eglin-owned beach property just south of Marler Bridge.

Meanwhile, Johnson is flying sightseeing tours only out of Destin Airport.

He said he isn’t sure when he will resume flying off the barge but hopes to return to the Crab Island area soon.

“We want to be kind of on the back of it,” he said. “We want to be able to get people to us but not be on top of anybody.”

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One dead, one injured in unrelated parachute crashes

A woman was killed in a parachute accident in Georgina, while another man was hurt in a separate mishap.

One person is dead after a skydiving accident in Georgina, according to York Regional Police.

Police say the unidentified woman was killed after an accident involving her parachute. They received the call around 7:40 p.m. Saturday.

The victim was found on Old Homestead Rd., near Baldwin airport.

In an apparently unrelated accident, a man was found on Woodbine Ave. near Ravenshoe Rd., near Keswick, Ont., after injuring his leg in the crash of a parasailing-type apparatus, involving a parachute and a large fan.

Police say the man, a regular participant in this activity, was attempting to gain liftoff, but failed and was injured in the resulting crash. He was taken to hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Police were gathering further information in both incidents.

A person answering the phone at the Parachute School of Toronto, based at Baldwin Airport, refused to comment.

The Parachute School bills itself as the only skydiving centre in the Greater Toronto Area, and says on its website “First jumps are our specialty.”

Alana Shamrock: Accident occurred May 17, 2014 near Baldwin Airport in the Town of Georgina, Ontario, Canada

Alana Shamrock is seen in this undated photo. 

Alana Shamrock, 28, died Saturday night when her parachute malfunctioned at the Parachute School of Toronto in Georgina, north of Toronto.

KITCHENER — An experienced skydiver who fell to her death last weekend has been identified as a former Kitchener resident and University of Waterloo graduate. 

Alana Shamrock, 28, died Saturday night when her parachute malfunctioned at the Parachute School of Toronto in Georgina, north of Toronto. York Regional Police released her name Wednesday.

It was the second skydiving death in less than a year at the school.

Shamrock attended Resurrection Catholic Secondary School in Kitchener, Conestoga College in Kitchener and the University of Waterloo, according to her Facebook page. She graduated from UW in 2012.

Shamrock and her boyfriend jumped together, said Adam Mabee, chief instructor at the parachute school. Both had their own parachute. Her boyfriend wasn’t injured. Shamrock, who lived in Newmarket, had jumped from airplanes 250 times. Saturday’s jump was from 5,500 feet. Mabee said he knew Shamrock very well. “She was a very well-liked person around here — a friend to many.”

Her Facebook page says she used to work at the YMCA and Extend-A-Family, which has an office in Kitchener that helps people with disabilities form relationships and participate in the community. Shamrock’s obituary requests donations to “charities related to long-term care facilities or cognitively challenged persons.”

“Alana was passionate about skydiving, knitting, scrapbooking, travelling, music and patient advocacy,” her obituary says.

A celebration of her life will take place today in the chapel at Williamsburg Cemetery in Kitchener.

Shamrock’s main parachute deployed, but “it didn’t open in normal fashion,” Mabee said. “There was a malfunction of the main parachute.”

An automatic activation device deployed the reserve parachute, but it may have been when Shamrock was too low to the ground, Mabee said. “It appears that it did not have enough altitude to get inflated.”

Her death is the second fatality in less than a year at the school. In July 2013, Igor Zaitsev, 42, of Etobicoke, died after a jump went wrong. Zaitsev was an advanced student who had completed a five-hour training class at the school. He crashed into the yard of a house near Highway 48.

Police have called in Canadian Forces experts to investigate Shamrock’s parachutes.

“It’s probably going to be a matter of weeks before the Canadian Forces team is going to be finished their investigation of the equipment,” Mabee said. “That may give us some answers. Up until that point, we don’t have a whole lot to work with, unfortunately.”

He hopes the investigation will make skydiving safer.

“It might help. Certainly the focus of trying to figure out what happened is to see if there’s any way it can be prevented in the future.”

John Gustafson, spokesperson for the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association, suggested the reserve parachute activation device — triggered by the combination of high speed and low altitude — can be a double-edged sword.

“The wonderful thing about them is they potentially save lives,” he said. “If a person is unconscious in free fall or somehow unable to deploy their main parachute, there’s a backup measure that’s sort of free of human limitations.

“The drawback is if the main parachute’s pulled too late, the automatic activation device might have already started doing its thing and now you potentially have two parachutes out and they can entangle or just not fly correctly. Two is definitely not better than one.

“That being said, it’s not an unsurvivable situation. I saw a guy land just this last weekend with two parachutes open and he bruised his rear end and his ego, but he was fine.”

Gustafson said it’s too early to say whether a coroner’s inquest should be held.

“An inquest would help if there was a suggestion of sloppy training or low safety standards, something like that. But you can have solid training and really good safety standards and still have accidents.”

He said the Toronto school does not have a bad reputation.

“When you have a lot of people doing a sport that has even a small amount of risk, sometimes the law of big numbers catches up to you,” Gustafson said.

The Parachute School of Toronto website says it has trained 56,515 first-time jumpers.

“Whether you are an experienced jumper, are new to the sport, or just want to watch from the ground, you’ll enjoy our facility. … Come fly with us and feel the adrenalin rush of a lifetime!” the website says.

Skydiving is much safer than it was 30 years ago, Gustafson said. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, four to six skydivers died each year in Canada. Now, thanks to automatic activation devices and better parachutes, the average is one a year, said Gustafson, who has more than 1,000 jumps under his belt.

“Most of the accidents we see today have nothing to do with equipment failure,” he said. “It’s usually either students refusing direction or experienced skydivers pushing themselves too far, trying more aggressive manoeuvres.

“There are some risks in the sport that people have to accept and prepare for. I don’t want to see anyone get complacent.

“But compared to (30 years ago), it’s night and day. In a lot of ways I feel safer jumping out of an airplane than I do driving through Vancouver traffic. And I probably am.”

A woman who died in a parachute accident north of Toronto last weekend is being remembered as a person who was "passionate about skydiving." 

Alana Shamrock, 28, fell to her death last Saturday after jumping with her boyfriend from a plane about 5,500 feet above the ground. According to the Parachute School of Toronto, she experienced equipment failure.

Shamrock's body was found on Old Homestead Road in Georgina, near Baldwin Airport, police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

"It is with heavy hearts we announce the passing of Alana," an obituary for Shamrock said. "Born in Calgary, Alberta and a current resident of Newmarket, Ontario, Alana was passionate about skydiving, knitting, scrapbooking, travelling, music and patient advocacy."

According to Adam Mabee, the chief instructor at the Parachute School of Toronto, Shamrock was a regular at the school for the past seven years. She had logged more than 250 jumps.

A visitation service was held on Wednesday at the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home in Waterloo, Ont. Visitations will continue on Thursday at the Chapel of Williamsburg Cemetery in Kitchener, Ont.

Mourners at the scene Sunday, May 18, 2014, the day after a woman was killed in a skydiving incident near Keswick.  

The woman was experienced, says instructor at Parachute School of Toronto, which has now lost two skydivers in a year.

The death of a “relatively experienced” female skydiver Saturday evening has rattled instructors at the Parachute School of Toronto.

The woman, 29, was a licensed skydiver with over 250 jumps, according to Adam Mabee, chief instructor at the school.

“She was certainly well past the point where she needed to work with an instructor on a regular basis,” Mabee told the Star. “She was licensed to supervise herself from start to finish, on any given jump.”

The woman jumped with one other person, a male, on Saturday evening. Both skydivers exited the plane at 5,500 feet, and each had their own parachute.

How the routine jump turned fatal is not immediately clear.

“At this point we don’t have a whole lot of details,” said Mabee. “We know she had a malfunction on the main parachute, and she went through her emergency procedures to get her reserve (parachute) out instead.”

The reserve parachute appears to have been activated too low to the ground, says Mabee.

York Regional Police received a call regarding the skydiving accident around 7:40 p.m. Saturday evening. The victim was found on Old Homestead Rd., near Baldwin airport.

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene, according to EMS.

The accident has been rattling, says Mabee.

“She was liked by everyone around,” he said of the victim, his voice breaking. “But it is what it is. This is certainly very rare.”

The Parachute School of Toronto is at Baldwin Airport, south of Lake Simcoe. The school is affiliated with the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association, according to the website.

The website also advertises that the school has “trained over 49,000 first time jumpers and provided more than 210,000 jumps.”

Bill Bryan is a flight instructor at Baldwin Airport. He was in his office when the woman and her boyfriend arrived Saturday evening in their car.

“We just kind of waved and smiled as they went by because they usually say hi,” said Bryan. “I thought nothing of it until I heard she had the accident. You think, ‘it’s not real, it couldn’t have happened’.”

Bryan returned to the school Sunday morning.

“It was quiet, and everyone was just sitting around - you could see they were crying,” he said. “She will be missed.”

The victim seemed to be a cautious type of person, says Bryan.

“There are people who push the envelope, but I didn’t know her as that kind of person,” he said. “My belief is that something just went terribly wrong.”

This is the school’s second fatality in less than a year. In July 2013 Etobicoke man Igor Zaitsev, 42, died after a jump went wrong.

Zaitsev was an advanced student who had completed a five-hour training class at the school. He crashed into the yard of a house on Smith Blvd., near Highway 48, after jumping solo from a Parachute School of Toronto plane that took off from nearby Baldwin Airport.

Although conscious when he landed, he was taken to hospital with serious injuries and later pronounced dead.

After Zaitsev’s death, the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association (CSPA) said that only one to two people die each year from skydiving accidents, citing stats since 1996. Skydivers have been performing more than 100,000 jumps a year, according to the CPSA.

Mabee thinks that across the sport, more accidents happen to experienced jumpers — but not in all cases.

“It’s hard to make a broad generalization on why parachute accidents occur,” he said. “There are many different causes of accidents during the sport. There’s nothing that is really typical.”

The police have brought in experts from the Canadian Forces to help with the ensuing investigation. The experts will examine the parachute equipment to try and determine exactly what went wrong.

Looking forward, Mabee expects the school to continue operating as normal.

“The investigation is now largely out of our hands,” he said. “We certainly have taken the day off today, but I expect to back in operation again shortly.”

As for Bryan, he wishes he could rewind the day of the accident - and erase it.

“I think that’s how we all feel,” he said. “Did this really happen? Can we start over again?”

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Jumper who died was experienced, school president said

 The president of a parachuting company in Georgina said a woman’s death Saturday has left the company and a male jumper she was diving alongside, badly shaken up.

Adam Mabee of the Parachute School of Toronto at Baldwin Airport, said no one will be jumping at the facility today considering what occurred May 17 in the evening, when an experienced and well-known diver plunged to her death.

She died as a result of impact, Mr. Mabee said.

This is the second death in two years at the facility, located south of Lake Simcoe on Hwy. 48.

“Anytime anything happens, it’s difficult for sure,” he said. “Our facility is a very tight-knit community. She’s a regular jumper here. We’re sitting today out.”

Although he refused to discuss the woman’s name or town of origin, as next of kin may not yet be aware, Mr. Mabee said she was a licenced jumper who would have packed her own parachute and has jumped more than 100 times.

Mr. Mabee added that York Regional Police are investigating and said one officer told him someone from the Canadian Armed Forces may look into the incident.

Mr. Mabee also mentioned the fatal jump was one from 5,500 feet.

He would not say if the pair were in a relationship.

Last year in mid-July, a man in his mid-40s fell to his death at the same facility FTER landing in a man’s back yard.

In August 2002, a man whose jump was scheduled by the school plunged to his death after problems with his chute.

On its website, the Parachute school explains it has trained “55,353 first-time jumpers and counting.”

 TORONTO - A woman plunged to her death in a skydiving accident in Georgina, near Lake Simcoe, Saturday evening.

The incident happened around 7:40 p.m. on Old Homestead Rd. near Hwy. 48, York Regional Police said.

"I can confirm an accident led to fatal injuries to a female skydiver," Insp. Stu Betts said.

Officers at the scene, about 80 km north of Toronto, did not immediately confirm the woman's age.

Betts said the Parachute School of Toronto Ltd. was the only skydiving outfit operating out of nearby Baldwin Airport.

A person who answered the phone at the business said they could not provide comment and would not confirm the fatal accident was linked to the school.

The school has been linked to two fatal jumps in the past.

Last July, 48-year-old Igor Zaitsev, an advanced parachute student whose jump was arranged by the Parachute School of Toronto, sustained fatal injuries when he landed in a yard near Hwy. 48 and Smith Blvd.

In August 2002, Gareth Rodgers, 38, was on his fifth jump with the school when his main and reserve chutes failed to open. He fell nearly 1,000 metres to his death.

On its website, the Parachute School of Toronto says it has trained “56,515 first-time jumpers and counting.”

GEORGINA, ONT. – York Region Police say a skydiver is dead after an accident near Baldwin Airport in the Town of Georgina, north of Toronto.

The Parachute School of Toronto operates operating out of Baldwin Airport.

Last year, an advanced skydiving student died following a hard landing at the airport.

Saturday night, a spokesman for the school said they had no comment about the accident.

The skydiver’s identity has not been released.

A person has died in a skydiving accident in Georgina near Lake Simcoe, York regional police say.  

The incident happened at Highway 48 and Old Homestead Road near Baldwin Airport on Saturday evening.

The victim’s gender and identity haven’t been disclosed. But the victim is believed to be 29 years old.

Adam Mabee, the owner of the Parachute School of Toronto Ltd., which operates from Baldwin Airport, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

York Regional Police are investigating a fatal parachute accident in Georgina, Ont. Saturday night.

The accident occurred on Old Homestead Road near Baldwin Airport, police say.

No description of the victim has been provided and police say the events that led up to the incident are not clear at this time.

The accident occurred near the Parachute School of Toronto.

More to come.

Part of a parachute is snagged on a tree near Baldwin Airport in the Town of Georgina.

Preceptor Ultra Pup, N1171Q: Accident occurred May 17, 2014 in Mabel, Minnesota

NTSB Identification: CEN14LA244 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 17, 2014 in Mabel, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/19/2014
Aircraft: CRAWFORD PRECEPTOR ULTRA PUP, registration: N1171Q
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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

The pilot had recently purchased an airplane and was ferrying it to his home airport. During the first leg of the trip, he reported that the engine’s rpm decreased two or three times from 3,200 to 2,800 rpm. The engine regained power shortly after the pilot applied carburetor heat. Shortly after departure on the second leg of the trip, the pilot felt a vibration in the engine, so he applied carburetor heat; however, the engine lost power and the airplane collided with trees in a wooded area. An examination of the engine did not reveal a reason for the power loss. A review of the carburetor icing probability chart indicated that the airplane was operating in an area that was associated with a risk of carburetor icing at glide power settings and light carburetor icing at cruise power. Because the airplane was being operated in an area of potential carburetor icing, and no anomalies could be found during postaccident testing, the engine likely lost power due to carburetor icing. However, the investigation was not able to determine that earlier application of carburetor heat would have prevented the loss of power.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The loss of engine power as a result of carburetor icing. 

On May 17, 2014, about 1345 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Crawford Preceptor Ultra Pup airplane, N1171Q, impacted trees and terrain after experiencing a loss of engine power near Mabel, Minnesota. The pilot, sole occupant, received minor injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to 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 ferry flight, which operated without a flight plan. The flight originated from the Houston County Airport (KCHU), Caledonia, Minnesota.

The pilot, who had recently purchased the airplane, reported that the cross-country flight started from Alexander Field South Wood County Airport (KISW), Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, with full fuel tanks. The pilot added that during the first leg of the flight he experienced what he thought was carburetor icing 2-3 times. During those occasions, the engine ran rough and the rpm would decrease from 3,200 to 2,800. After 20-30 seconds of applying carburetor heat the engine appeared to recover. 

The pilot stopped at CHU to refuel and added 9.9 gallons of 100 low lead aviation gasoline before continuing his flight home. About 12 miles from CHU, the pilot felt a vibration or flutter from the engine and elected to return to CHU. He applied carburetor heat; however, the engine lost power and the airplane collided with trees in a wooded area. 

An examination of the airplane revealed substantial damage to the fuselage and both left and right wings. A visual inspection of the engine did not reveal a reason for the loss of power. Additionally, fuel was available in the airplane and free of contaminants. 

At 0854, the automated weather station at KISW recorded wind from 280 degrees at 9 knots, temperature 51 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 31 degrees Fahrenheit, visibility 10 miles, a clear sky, and an altimeter setting of 30.05 inches of Mercury. At 1054, the station recorded a temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit and a dew point of 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

At 1053, the automated weather station at La Crosse, Wisconsin (KLSE), located about 20 miles northeast of KCHU recorded wind from 250 degrees at 7 knots, temperature 59 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 30 degrees Fahrenheit, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 8,500 feet and an altimeter setting of 30.07 inches of Mercury. At 1354, the station recorded a temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit and a dew point of 27 degrees Fahrenheit.

The carburetor icing probability chart included in Federal Aviation Administration Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin No. CE-09-35, Carburetor Icing Prevention, indicated that the airplane was operating in an area that was associated with a serious risk of carburetor ice accumulation at glide power settings and a risk for light carburetor icing at cruise power.

NTSB Identification: CEN14LA244
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 17, 2014 in Mabel, MN
Aircraft: CRAWFORD KIRBY L PRECEPTOR ULTRA PUP, registration: N1171Q
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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 May 17, 2014, about 1500 central daylight time, a homebuilt Preceptor Ultra Pup airplane, N1171Q, impacted trees after experiencing a loss of engine power near Mabel, Minnesota. The pilot, sole occupant, received minor injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to 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, which operated without a flight plan. The flight originated from the Houston County Airport (KCHU), Caledonia, Minnesota.

The pilot reported to the responding Federal Aviation Administration inspector, that he had stopped at CHU to refuel and was continuing his flight home, with the recently purchased airplane. The pilot added that he thought the engine was getting carburetor ice; the application of carburetor heat did not restore engine power. The pilot selected an area for the forced landing; however, the airplane collided with trees in a wooded area. An examination of the airplane revealed substantial damage to the fuselage and both left and right wings. A visual inspection of the engine did not reveal a reason for the loss of power. Additionally, fuel was available and free of contaminants.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

Polio vaccination: Benazir Bhutto International Airport management fails to activate immunization counter

ISLAMABAD:  The airport management has failed to activate the 24/7 polio vaccination counter at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) to give immunization doses to passengers traveling out of the country.

Airport Manager Mohammad Ayaz Jadoon said that although they have received polio vaccines from the health ministry, they were vaccinating
and issuing certificates to only those passengers intending to leave the country urgently.

“Not all passengers flying abroad are being vaccinated at the airport,” he said.

Jadoon said the federal government has announced vaccination will be mandatory from June 1, and the polio counter will be activated 24 hours-a-day from that date onwards.

“The airport management doesn’t have the capacity to vaccinate every single passenger before departure. It is better they get themselves vaccinated from hospitals,” he said.

He said that every day, over 4,000 people travel abroad, and if all of the passengers started getting vaccines at the airport, this will cause two-to-three-hour delays in flight departures.

Meanwhile, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Vice Chancellor Prof Javed Akram claimed that the day the news about the travel restrictions was announced, some passengers were offloaded from their flights.

“They came to Pims and requested vaccination against and certificates,” he claimed.

Jadoon denied the claim, saying no passengers have been offloaded.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2014.

Dream touches new generation: Necedah Airport (KDAF), Wisconsin

The aviation dreams of two brothers are alive and well at the Necedah airport. Flying since they were in their teens, the brothers, now in their 60s, are sharing their aircraft fascination with a new generation. 

The two give Necedah school children a chance to experience something they never had — a chance to see airplanes up close in their elementary years.

“When I was a kid, the only time we saw an airplane was when it went over, so it was kind of an oddity,” said Jack Jasinski, who runs the Necedah airport with his brother Jake.

Combined, the brothers have nearly a century of experience in aviation. Jake, who spent decades as a corporate pilot flying business jets, also has been a flight instructor. A plaque at the airport’s office shack bears the names of hundreds of pilots who trained under Jake.

Jack too has had a pilot’s license for decades; he served with the 101st Airborne in the Vietnam War. But he spent much of his life as a railroader with the old Chicago and North Western railroad. He was one of the last people to work on the trains that passed though Wisconsin before the lines that run from Reedsburg and Elroy were dismantled and abandoned. Eventually, those lines became the cross-state bicycle and snowmobile trails that span the heart of the state.

The brothers’ flying lives are in the world of general aviation, where small propeller planes use small airfields such as Necedah’s village-owned strip. The strip has 2,721 feet of asphalt, long enough to handle the single-engine planes that are the heart of private flying.

The airfield was carved out of 93 acres of woods north of downtown Necedah; it began as a military operation. The only reminder of those days is a stone with a barely readable military insignia in faded and flecked paint.

The Necedah school children who visited the airport this past week took a close look at a Piper Cherokee, a low-wing, single-engine airplane that’s been one of the most popular in history. More than 32,000 have been manufactured since 1960.

The children were given a chance to briefly sit in the airplane and learn how the controls work. It was an opportunity for them to experience something that many who have lived a long aviation life never had when they were young.

“I didn’t think about starting flying until I was in my late twenties,” said Gary Williams, now 67 and one of the instructors for the Jasinski’s Country Flying Education.

As school kids climbed in and out of the Cherokee, they stood under a reminder of an earlier era of flying. Hanging from the hangar’s ceiling is the tube frame of a Piper Super Cruiser, a 1940s airplane. It was designed in an era when airplanes were commonly covered with fabric rather than metal skins.

That frame could still be restored to flying condition. It’s one of Jack Jasinski’s collection of equipment; it’s only waiting for a buyer to take it back into the air.

Story and photo gallery:

Necedah flying brothers Jake Jasinski (left) and Jack Jasinski keep their dreams alive.

Dozens of emergency responders participate in plane crash drill at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (KAVP), , Pennsylvania

PITTSTON TWP. — Arriving on-scene 40 seconds apart, two quick-response firefighting units began blasting streams of water over flames rising from what appeared to be fuel spills on a section of tarmac at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport this morning.

About 20 people were lying nearby in a grassy field at the end of a runway, and 10 more were inside the shell of what looked like a small passenger jet.

But what appeared to be a plane crash disaster was actually a Live Major Aircraft Accident Response Exercise — a drill that the Federal Aviation Administration requires at every commercial airport every three years, according to Eric McKitish, director of marketing and communications at the airport.

“In addition to being used to continually educate our own ARFF (Airport Rescue and Fire Fighter) personnel, this course gives us an opportunity to allow our mutual aid fire personnel to work with our ARFF staff on an actual aircraft simulator,” said George Bieber, airport director of Public Safety.

The airport rented a 50-foot-long Mobile Aircraft Fire Training Simulator from Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan, that produces synthetic smoke and propane-fueled flames both from the simulator and from metal tubes placed on the ground nearby to simulate fuel spills.

Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Barrasse provided the “crash victims” from his drug and alcohol treatment court.

“It’s pretty cool. They told me to moan a little bit. I have organs protruding out of me,” said 27-year-old Tara Ancherani, of Scranton, who participated as part of her required community service.

Make-up and fake organs were applied to Ancherani and the other volunteer victims to simulate injuries before the exercise began. Laminated papers hung from their necks listing their characters’ ages, conditions and apparent injuries to help train personnel performing triage.

Scores of firefighters and ambulance crews from area companies that participated were dispatched from their stations by Luzerne and Lackawanna counties’ communication centers.

Firefighters carried the volunteer victims on backboards from the crash scene to a triage area. About 20 of them were transported to a hospital.

Assistant Airport Director Michael Conner even held a mock press conference for members of the media who attended the exercise.

Avoca Fire Capt. Mike Lampman, who has participated in seven or eight such exercises in his career, said the coordination of “accounting for victims, triaging them and getting them out of the hot zone to the EMS area” went well. “The flow of information went well between the command officers and the field units.”

Lampman said the exercise was a good experience for volunteer firefighters who never participated in an airport disaster drill before.

“You talk about mass casualty … and how it’s different from a single-car accident. … Moving 15 or 20 victims who can’t move themselves, three or four guys needed each to package them and carry them probably 700, 800 yards, and do that multiple times, you get to see not just what the resource needs are, but how physically intensive it can,” he said.

Airport Director Barry Centini was “very pleased with the response, the way that the medical people here and the EMS handled our patients and some of the fatalities.”

Centini said a couple more ambulances would have been needed if the crash were real. “But, again, it’s a drill. It’s on a Saturday. I think if the real thing ever happened, God forbid it does, we would have a bigger response from the community. But all in all, pretty good.”

Story and photo gallery:

Aviation buffs share their love of flying: St. Clair County International Airport (KPHN), Port Huron, Michigan


Ivan Smith recalls watching World War II fighters and other airplanes soar above the small dairy farm in Webberville where he grew up and longing to dance “the skies on laughter-silvered wings.” 

As a senior in college, the Port Huron Township man said, “I took an airplane ride, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Smith and other members of Blue Water Chapter 979 of the Experimental Aircraft Association were sharing their passion for aviation on Saturday at the St. Clair County International Airport in Kimball Township. They were giving free flying lessons and rides to anyone who signed up for a $25 one-year membership in the organization.

Brittany Johnson, 19, of Richmond, took her first lesson from flight instructor Skipper Steffens, of Casco Township.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was fun.”

Her two younger sisters, Emily, 8, and Alyssa, 10, watched from the ground with their mom, Ernestine, as Brittany soared above the trees.

“She’s going to be so excited,” Ernestine Johnson said. “It’s going to make her year, that’s for sure.”

Smith said the purpose of Learn to Fly Day, and a similar program called Young Eagles for ages 8 to 17, is to introduce people to aviation.

Aviation boomed after World War II, but that generation is aging, Smith said, and fewer people are following in those footsteps.

“There’s a number of reasons for it,” he said. “One, I think, it’s expensive.

“Two, there’s so many other things people can do to occupy themselves.”

John Neil, of Port Huron Township, is learning to fly after years spent piloting radio-controlled model aircraft.

“I love aviation,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, and this is a step up from my radio-controlled planes.

“It’s exhilarating. There’s something about being up in the air.”

Story, photo and video:

Albuquerque International Sunport Airport (KABQ), Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sunport: Coffee pot caused smoke in cockpit of plane

An American Airlines flight headed to the Albuquerque Sunport landed safely after smoke was reported in the cockpit on Saturday.

The flight landed just before 2 p.m. at the Sunport east gate. Albuquerque fire crews quickly responded to the scene.

Sunport spokesman Daniel Jiron said a coffee pot left on near the cockpit was the source of the smoke.

The plane left for Dallas around 4:20 p.m.

Story and photo gallery:

3rd Annual Plainville Wings & Wheels Fly-in & Car Show: Robertson Field Airport (4B8), Plainville, Connecticut

Saturday, June 7th - 11am - 7pm

GE Aviation rallies for Growler jet funding

HOOKSETT — The Growler jet made it to the number one slot on the U.S. Navy’s Wish List — known in Washington, D.C., budget parlance as an “unfunded priority” — and Boeing has pushed forward with a nationwide campaign to rally employees and politicians to get the $1.32 billion in federal funds needed next year for 22 more of them.

On Friday, about 500 employees of GE Aviation wore black T-shirts with “Growler Hornet” in gold and white lettering atop an “18,” courtesy of Boeing and gathered under an enormous white tent to munch on barbecue chicken and ribs. Earlier, employees had the opportunity to try out a flight simulator for the Growler, which was trucked in for the rally.

It was the seventh stop on Boeing’s nationwide campaign to fund the EA-18, as the Growler is formerly known for electronic attack aircraft.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen went table to table during the rally greeting employees, after which she took to the podium to assure them there was bipartisan support for the Growler, the Boeing-made fighter jet that company officials say jams enemy radar so other U.S. planes can attack undetected.

She said Congress has rolled back some of the automatic budget cuts that were to take place because of sequestration, but she feared if Congress did not find ways to work together and eliminate the automatic cuts, the country’s industrial production will be adversely affected.

Shaheen said she would be working on the Growler funding with bipartisan support, and hoped it would make it into the budget for FY 2015.

“The work you do makes such a huge difference,” she told the employees.

Representatives of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter also attended, as they read letters from both, stating that they too supported the funding.

Michael K. Gibbons, Boeing vice president of the F/A-19 and EA-18 Programs for Boeing Military Aircraft, came in from Washington to address workers and answer media questions. He said the Growler is the only aircraft that not only can be used on aircraft carriers, but supports every other branch of the military.

The U.S. Navy already has 138 on order, but now wants an additional 22, at a cost of $60 million apiece.

GE Aviation, which has been in Hooksett since 1968 and has grown from 50 to about 750 employees, makes parts for the engines, which are manufactured in Lynn, Mass.

“The Hooksett team has been vital to the success of the engine,” said Alan DiLibero, GE Aviation vice president of the Lynn Turbofan/Turbojet Department.

He said GE Aviation has made 1,400 F414 engines and has delivered each on time. “That’s truly an impressive performance,” he said.

After the rally, Shaheen tried out the flight simulator. Guided by John Keeven, manager of Boeing Flight Simulation Naval Programs, the senator soared into the sky but, when it was time to land, she was too high and overshot the runway.

Keeven pushed a reset button and the senator was soaring once again, whereby on her second try she lined the Growler up perfectly, landing the jet without a hitch.

“Nicely done,” Keeven told her.

Story and photo:

Boeing executive Mike Gibbons speaks during the GE Aviation Hooksett Rally for the Boeing F/A-18 program in Hooksett on Friday.

Bill Hand: Otto the deadly helicopter

By Bill Hand, Sun Journal Staff
Published: Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 17:49 PM.

I was recently given an opportunity to go for a ride with some of the pilots of the older aircraft, a day prior to the Cherry Point Air Show. I made it back to the paper but, I’ll tell you, if I were a cat I’d be shy about three lives.

Before they took us out on the tarmac to hop our rides, we had to sign the traditional accident waivers. Airplanes can be dangerous, it told you. Climb into an airplane, you might just die. Well, I didn’t need a legal waiver to tell me that. There is not a law in nature that says a steel tube with propellers and a pair of wings should be able to stay in the air.

At the end of the waiver it read, “Executed this ___ day of ___, 2014.”

Nice touch of irony there, leathernecks.

I was assigned to ride Otto.

Now, Otto is a helicopter. Or at least, it wants to be. Roger Bius, the pilot, described Otto as a flying version of the Keystone Kops. Its job is to hop and skip, dive and tumble, and do such awe inspiring acts as playing in the air with a 70-pound yoyo.

I need to describe this helicopter to you. It is a little more Barnum and Bailey than Keystone and Kop: It was brought in on a trailer and I swear, I was waiting for a herd of clowns to come climbing out.

Three of us — a Marine, a Guy Who Wasn’t A Marine, and I — stood to catch the pre-flight lecture. He explained the ride he would give: climbing high into the air at 70 degrees then dropping suddenly — “Like a roller coaster!” is how he described it. Then we would climb at 90 degrees and drop. Then we would pop high into the air, spin on our axis, and plummet like an elevator: maybe the one in “Omen II” where at the bottom of its fall the cables came through and chopped the doctor in half.

As I listened, I gave Otto a close look-over and wondered if I should have prepared for this flight by going down to the local grocery store and putting a quarter in the slot of the helicopter they had. After all, they were about the same size.

This truncated chopper was a wonder: small enough to store in a basic living room and reminding me strangely of a bath toy, it consisted of a cockpit about five feet across, mounted on top of a souped-up lawn mower engine. All this was attached to a few tubes of pipe and a pair of rotors.

The doors, at least, weren’t flimsy.

In fact, they weren’t there. It had none.

Once aboard I was buckled in. I noticed that, inside our little bubble, the pilot and I were seated seven millimeters from each other. Maybe closer. If either of us hiccupped, we would knock the other out of the helicopter. The lack of A door was located immediately to my right: Immediate, as in, “Come to me immediately and I mean ten minutes ago.” If I let my hand dangle off the seat, it was outside the craft.

Now, let me tell you, I have no deep love affair with heights or aircraft that defy the laws of nature by actually going into the air. Further, I knew from our preflight that this helicopter had started life with the San Antonio Police. And I’ve seen enough movies to know what happens to police helicopters: they’re always being blown up by super villains, terrorists, thugs and unexpected flying hummingbirds.

Mr. Bius assured me the seat belt would hold me in place. My brain said, “No problem. Got that.” My heart, however, took a moment from scaling my throat to scream, “Are you crazy? There’s no door on this thing, and it ought to be floating around in some five-year-old’s bubble bath!”

We went up and it only took me a moment to find my courage and announce that, no way above God’s green earth was Mr. Bius going to be doing any stunt flying with me in there.

Instead we went for a smooth little ride at 500 feet, across trees where I could look down and see the little pin prick that was our shadow skirting over really shallow water and trees. We would make frequent turns in the air, banking always in my direction I think, so that the only thing keeping me from falling out was a strap 1/16th inch thick, two inches wide, and held together with a fastener that I could accidentally undo by looking at it.

He probably thought it strange that I kept climbing into his lap in those moments.

In any case, we eventually landed from my tame and harrowing flight and my pilot, before I exited (which I could do by shifting ¼ inch to my right) smiled gamely and said, “Don’t worry about it. Roller coasters aren’t for everyone.”

Hey, I like roller coasters.

I just like them to be on tracks that are connected to the ground.

Story and photo:

Otto the helicopter rises from the field at Cherry Point, carrying its prey.
 Photo by Bill Hand/Sun Journal Staff

Pilots make big bucks, right? Wrong! Many regional airline pilots survive on little more than the minimum wage

“The truth is we are like glorified bus drivers.” - Jason, regional airline pilot 

by Marion Halftermeyer

They wear polished black-leather shoes and navy blue suits. They bear three stripes on shoulder epaulets and wings pinned on their left breast pocket. Carry on bags in tow holding two or three more replicates of their outfit. Cap in hand or sitting proudly atop their heads.

Everybody stares at them, but as they stride by they barely notice.

Destination here, destination there. State to state. A hop, skip and jump across the country in four days and finally back home.

They are your regional airline pilots barely making a livable wage and Jason is one of them. Pilots are not allowed to speak to the media and identifying Jason by his full name would lead to reprimands by the airline he works for.

In his mid-twenties and now a first officer, Jason has a steady job. But, he’s only managing to carve out a mere existence. His financial situation is tight. While he earns about $2,300 a month, he only takes home, after taxes and deductions, around $1,400 to cover his living expenses.

That is actually on the high end of the starting salary spectrum at a regional airline, which is the rite of passage and stepping stone to being a captain at the major airlines where pay can climb up to $180,000. Most first year pilots earn only $1,300 to $1,600 per month before any taxes or deductions. Jason’s airline just happens to pay a bit more than some of the other regional carriers do.

Jason’s airport base is in New York City; it is the least wanted among regional airline pilots because of its high cost of living.

Although the city is expensive, for Jason, a New York City base is a stroke of luck. He can live at home with family in the New York City area and does not pay rent.

“I can’t afford to live any place else on my salary,” he says. Many others he works with do not have family in the New York City area. Instead, he says, they live at home in other states and commute to work by filling an empty seat on a flight, either the night before they start or the morning of.

With a steady job under his belt and a promising future, you would think Jason has it all. If all goes according to plan, Jason could be making the big bucks as a captain at a major airline in about 10 years. Although he is not exactly struggling to make ends meet, he has had to keep a sharp eye on his discretionary expenses. At times, in ways, you would not expect from someone who is employed.

Part of the reason for that is the economics of regional airlines.  “The average starting salary for a copilot at a regional airline is $1,600, you can’t live in New York City or any city for that matter on that wage,” says Tom Hoban, a first officer and communications chairman of the Allied Pilots Association. Pay in the airline industry is a complex formula based on how big the airplane is, longevity at the airline, and whether you are a first officer or a captain, according to Hoban.

Industry-wide regional airline pilots struggling on bottom-rung salaries often must use their days off to make extra cash.

The copilot involved in the 2009 Colgan Air flight crash in Buffalo, for example, reportedly worked a second job in a coffee shop to supplement her first year salary.

“A lot of people I know are substitute teaching,” Jason says. “People are doing second jobs, when those days are there mainly to get you rested, recuperated so you can safely and effectively operate a flight.”

Pilots should be well rested he says because “people’s lives are in your hands.” There are 50 to 75 passengers on each regional flight and Jason pilots four flights a day.

Typically, pilots fly a four-day trip every week with two to three days off. That means they work between 70 and 80 hours a month. They can spend up to 12 to 15 nights a month in a hotel room, miles away from home.

At the airport, when he wears his uniform, Jason says, people stare.

“If I’m sitting at a food court in an airport eating, for the 20 minutes I’m sitting here eating I’ll probably have 50 people staring at me,” he says, letting a smile slip by. There is admiration and kids come up to him to ask him questions about what it is like to be pilot.

“I’ll show them. I’ll talk to them, I’ll act like I love it,” he says and quickly adds, “Like I do love it.”

The admiration and awe he says, is somewhat uninformed. “I think they still think this is back, you know in the 60s, the time of Pan Am where pilots are paid $300,000 a year,” Jason says.

In reality, with the salary many first year pilots could “technically be qualified for food stamps and welfare,” he says. But he never tells anyone that, he would be fired if he did, he says.

“The truth is we are like glorified bus drivers,” Jason says.

What most people do not know is that, pilots only earn money for the time the plane is moving. Delays mean no pay—and way too often, Jason says, passengers look at pilots as if they’re to blame for the hours spent on the ground.

“If we show up at the airport and sit there for five hours for some sort of delay, we’re not getting paid,” he says.

Flying a plane is his dream, though. He was only six when he took his first flight on a family trip to Florida. “I was already in love with it,” he says, but it made his urge to become a pilot “that much stronger.”

So now, in his mid-twenties, he feels as if he has accomplished his life goal, and enjoys the rewards of seeing places he never would have thought he would visit. He has been to 39 states.

“Once in a while I look down and I’m like ‘Wow I’m actually flying an airplane,” he says. “Or ‘I’m actually going down a runway in a big jet at 150 miles an hour.”

But he hadn’t factored in the low pay and its effects on him. He spends his salary on repaying his student loans: about $300 a month. He graduated with $25,000 of debt, less than most in the business. Many other pilots who go to aviation school put their entire tuition into loans, acquiring up to $150,000 of debt.

The rest he uses on gas, car insurance, airport tolls and his cell phone bill. About 5 percent goes into his retirement fund and 10 percent into his savings.

Jason says you do not really know how hard it could be “until you are hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the training.”

He says he can no longer afford to splurge on his favorite pastime: attending Rangers or Mets games. A game—and all the food and drink that goes with it—costs around $140, about 10 percent of his monthly take-home pay.

“Now, I can save enough to go to one [game] a year,” he says.

Yet, he stays positive. “I am not going to become a billionaire anytime soon,” he says. “But hey at least I’m living out my life dream.”