Saturday, June 07, 2014

A Marine's metamorphosis: Dan Cain's mililtary career began with a tour of Vietnam as a ground grunt and later evolved to flight school and and a long stint as an aviator on aircraft carriers

Like many combat veterans, Dan Cain would rather talk about the deeds of others than his own. 

"Speaking of myself and my accomplishments are not what I like to do. Never have," said Cain, who has a Purple Heart from his Marine Corps infantry tour of duty in Vietnam and a chestful of other medals from his later, longer stint as a Naval aviator over a span of three wars.

"I'm not a hero. But if you like to think of me that way, OK," Cain said in a recent interview.

Cain is among the veterans who have been invited to address Pensacola's "Heroes Among Us" speakers series. His appearance kicked off the second summer of the monthly events on May 30.

His modesty underscores a common strain that runs through the sizable ranks of decorated armed forces alumni in Pensacola, where you can hardly walk along Palafox Street on a busy night and not be in the company of someone who bled for this nation.

"There are so many. The Heroes Among Us series can only scratch the surface of the sacrifices that have been made by veterans in this area," said Dan Lindemann, a veteran Marine Corps aviator.

Cain spoke self-deprecatingly and with a sense of humor when he addressed an audience of 100 or so gathered at Veterans Memorial Park on a rainy Friday night. He talked about being disciplined by a drill sergeant at Parris Island who warned recruits to duck when they saw him coming because he planned to straighten them out with his fists.

"You better be bobbing and weaving," Cain recalled the DI saying.

"Those were different times, a different Marine Corps," he said.

Military regulations and protocol are much more protective these days of how military recruits are treated. Cain can laugh about the drill sergeants now, but not about the response of the civilian public upon his return from Vietnam in 1967.

"I certainly felt the stigma. When I came back there were definitely the protests going on. I'm truly one of those who got spit upon and yelled at," he recalled.

An enlisted man in the Marine Corps, Cain left the service and went to college, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology from the University of West Florida in June 1974. The next month, he entered the Navy's Aviation Officer Candidate School at Pensacola Naval Air Station, where he received a commission as an ensign in November 1974.

In 1975 Cain won the gold wings of a Naval flight officer, usually the bombardier, navigator or radar intercept specialist who backs up the pilot on two-seater aircraft. That began a long aviation career that included numerous aircraft carrier cruises and more than 1,400 landings on those ships. Many of those sorties were in F-14 Tomcat attack jets.

Cain eventually recorded more than 4,200 hours of flying in F-14s, which won him the nickname "Mr. Tomcat."

Besides the Purple Heart, his decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Combat Action Ribbon with a gold star and a Good Conduct Medal with the Marine Corps.

"That last one I might not have really deserved," joked Cain, whose stories of life as a grunt include "borrowing" a Jeep for a night of recreation.

These days, since retiring with in 2004 after 36 years in uniform, Cain resides with his wife of 36 years, Kathy, on their farm in Molino.

He occasionally accepts speaking engagements, but laments that he doesn't seem to get as many invitations from public schools as he used to. Like many observers of today's military, he feels that much of the public has lost connection with the armed forces, which he sees as a flaw in society.

Andrew Bacevich describes the broken link in his popular book, "Breach of Trust," in which the Boston University history professor writes that America's civilian population is missing an important part of its cultural heritage by relating to the military as little more than flyovers at sports events, parades and casualty statistics.

"There's a lot of, 'Thank you for your service,' but much of it is lip service," said Cain. He yearns for a return to some form of the draft, perhaps not entirely for military duty but also for a stint in community service.

"Most of today's youth don't have the close relationship with their country that past generations had. It's part of their citizenship that's just gone," Cain said.

Children who used to attend his talks at schools "would ask also sorts of questions. I would take my flight gear and they would ask about becoming pilots. I'm an old guy now and they don't want to hear old guys talk," said the 68-year-old.

But to the Pensacola area faithful who attended Heroes Among Us, Cain is a civic treasure. "He's the real deal. He's done it all," said Ed Rouse, a Marine veteran who leads in the volunteer effort for the speaker series.

But Cain kept veering away from discussing himself at his Veterans Memorial Park appearance. He dedicated much of his talk to long-time friend, Robert Flynn, a retired Navy commander whose A-6 Intruder was shot down in Vietnam, after which he spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war.

Flynn, who retired in Pensacola, died in May at the age of 76.

Cain choked up as he spoke of his admiration for Flynn: "Now, there was a hero."

The real deals are forever giving credit to someone else.

Story and video:

Aviation Exhibit Opens at Winter Haven's Gilbert Airport (KGIF), Winter Haven, Florida

WINTER HAVEN | How many ways are there to view the world of flight?

At least 76. That's the number of entries submitted to the aviation art exhibit sponsored by the Ridge Art Association, which opened Thursday at the Winter Haven airport terminal.

Of the 76 entries, 48 were selected for the yearlong show, which closes May 8.

Photographs, digital images, paintings and sculptures represented the human fascination with taking to the skies, and Judge Holly Scoggins, an art professor at Polk State College, said she had a difficult task choosing just a few for the final cut. In all, 30 artists submitted work.

Scoggins has a master's degree in fine arts from the New York Academy of Art, and has studied in Germany and Italy as well as at the Savannah College of Art and Design. In Scoggins' critiques, delivered as each winning piece was announced May 31, she detailed the reasons for her selections.

Honorable mention "Thank you Mr. Weeks, #2," by Joe Lewis, was an homage to Kermit Weeks, founder of Auburndale's Fantasy of Flight attraction. The photograph, digitally enhanced, highlights several aviation and patriotic icons, including a large star, off-center in the left-hand corner.

"I tend to be hard on digitally manipulated pieces, since I know how most of it is done, but this one is outstanding," Scoggins said. "It's very graphic, very powerful and is multi-functional. It could be hung in a number of settings. Good movement, simple colors."

Another honorable mention was "Air Traffic Control," by Sebring artist Jean Cormier; a piece that brought chuckles from the group. Scoggins said that reaction was what made the painting a winner.

"It's playful and funny. The first thing you did was laugh," Scoggins said of the depiction of a white puppy gazing at paper airplanes flying about — no doubt ready to chase them. Scoggins noted that the artist had effectively used three colors for the composition – blue, white and black. "The texture weight and colors used were appropriate to the subject. It's playful and has movement," she said.

There were lots of "firsts" in this show. Two of the winners, Kim Phelan and Courtnee Denney entered the aviation show for the first time this year, and Ilene Phelan scored her first Best of Show with her clay sculpture, "Pilot's Perspective." The clay pegs in varying heights represented a city-scape from the air.

"There are endless possibilities about how this could be interpreted," Scoggins said, "and this was the only piece I saw that represented the pilot's perspective."

Art is a family affair for Phelan's family, with daughter Kim placing third for her photo "Yellowtail," a blue and yellow composition that Scoggins said made it appear the plane could be going in two directions, "Almost a nosedive." Phelan said she took the photo from the ground, from behind the plane, and the image was actually of the tail. She is a volunteer photographer for Sun 'n Fun, and took this photo on the Sun 'n Fun grounds.

Denney, who received an Award of Excellence, was a first-time exhibitor, and her mysterious representation of a steel vintage airplane nose was in black and white photography.

"The plane in this photo is personified," Scoggins said. "It is taking something simple and giving it a new perspective."

The photo had somewhat of a sinister air to it. Denney said, "To me, it looks like a gas mask." Scoggins noted that amid the romance and fascination with flying, this photo represents the peril that some planes have encountered.

Denney said she entered the aviation show in honor of her grandfather, Sharkey Baz, who was there with several family members. He was formerly a pilot for Citrus World, Denney said.

"I wanted to show him that even in hard times, we were there for each other," she said. "He has been a big motivator for me."

WHAT: Aviation exhibition, sponsored by the Ridge Art Association.
WHEN: Runs through May 8. Can be viewed any time.
LOCATION: Main terminal, Winter Haven Municipal Airport, 2073 U.S. 92 W., Winter Haven.
CONTACT: Airport, 863-298-4551, Ridge Art Association, 863-291-5661 or


BEST OF SHOW: Ilene Phelan, Lakeland, "Pilot's Perspective," sculpture.
SECOND PLACE: Don Stone, Winter Haven, "The Night the Hindenburg Flew Over Stage Harbor Light," painting.
THIRD PLACE: Kim Phelan, Lakeland, "Yellowtail," photo.
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE: Preston Stafford, Lakeland, "Motor Up," photo.
AWARDS OF EXCELLENCE: Glen Leung, Philadelphia, Pa., "Hovering," watercolor; Courtnee Denney, Winter Haven, "Lustrous Peril," photo.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tia Rigsby, Lakeland, "Two Planes," mixed media; Dana Daydodge, Haines City, "Admiring the Plane," watercolor; Joe Lewis, Winter Haven, "Thank you Mr. Weeks #2," photography; Jean Cormier, Sebring, "Air Traffic Control," acrylic.


Helicopter needed for flight training

Law Enforcement Officer seeking the purchase of a helicopter for flight training hours. Expensive rental rates are too cost prohibitive on a police officer's salary. 

Read more here: 

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I am police officer who has always had a dream and a passion for flying.  I have had the ability to recently save enough money to pay for my private rotorcraft license which cost approximately $18,000. While this training only provides minimal flight hours (40 hours per FAA requirements), most helicopter flight positions require 1500+ flight hours. The cost to rent a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter is in excess of $1,000 per hour. As you can see, this rental rate is impossible to achieve on a police officer's salary of approximately $50,000 a year. However, a brand new Robinson R22 Beta II helicopter is roughly $275,000, which provides up to 2200 hours before overhaul maintenance is required. I am seeking donations to assist in the purchase of a Robinson R22 Beta II to be used for flight training purposes. This would allow me to build valuable flight hours to gain an aerial law enforcement pilot position to further protect the public. This helicopter would also allow me to gain further rotorcraft ratings (Commercial, Instrument, and Flight Instructor) saving me an additional estimated $60,000 in flight training costs. Any ability to help me in achieving this goal is greatly appreciated.  

Former Blue Angels commander surprised by behavior

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota native and former commander of the Navy Blue Angels says he doesn't believe that the inappropriate behavior outlined in a recent investigation is part of the group's culture. 

The report showed that pilots led at the time by Capt. Gregory McWherter had explicit pornography, including photos of naked women, in aircraft cockpits. The Navy probe also found “sexually charged, raunchy, and homophobic humor” on maps and itineraries.

Gil Rud, a Portland, N.D., native, was commander of the Blue Angels in the 1980s. He said he believes the conduct is “just some bad behavior by a few individuals” in one instance. He said the findings will make the team better.

Rud headed up the Blue Angels between 1986 and 1988. 


Allegiant Air McDonnell Douglas MD-83, Flight G4-736: Portsmouth International Airport at Pease (KPSM), New Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. —An Allegiant Air flight from Sanford to Bangor, Maine, had to make an emergency landing at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease Saturday morning. 

The pilot was alerted to low fuel pressure in one engine on flight 736, according to an airline spokesperson. The crew decided to get on the ground as quickly as possible and made the safe landing in Portsmouth at 10:20 a.m.

There were 144 passengers on board and no injuries were reported.

A new plane was requested for the final leg of the flight and it was set to depart at 5:25 p.m.

 One passenger said he was frustrated that it took hours to resume the trip.

"Initially, no one could leave because we're on an Air Force base. And the place was shut down. So we were sort of locked into this small area where you couldn't go outside, or you couldn't call a cab or get away from the situation," Michael Nicholas said.

Passengers were fed lunch and given a $100 voucher toward a future flight.

PORTSMOUTH — An Allegiant aircraft with 150 passengers aboard made an emergency landing at the Portsmouth International Airport around 11 a.m. Saturday.

Airport Manager Bill Hopper said the plane was en route from Sanford, Fla., to Bangor, Maine, when it experienced engine trouble. The plane landed safely at Pease International Tradeport and passengers disembarked to wait for another plane from Sanford to bring them to Bangor.

No injuries were reported.

Young Eagles take a flight of a lifetime: Queensbury, Warren County, New York

QUEENSBURY — Ten year old Tanner Barger of Greenfield Center sat in the cockpit of Doug Sterling’s Cherokee airplane. Wearing headphones and listening intently to Sterling’s instructions, Barger smiled from the window as they began taxiing down the runway.

 Barger was one of numerous young enthusiasts taking part in the Young Eagles Program on Saturday at Warren County airport.

Participants begin with a 15 minute ground school, where instructor and pilot Tony Romanazzi explains the basics of flying. They then team up with a pilot, who walks them through a basic pre-flight check of the aircraft, and then take a 10 to 15 minute plane ride. Depending on the degree of participation desired by the young pilot, they have the chance to put their hands on the controls and help guide the plane.

“The ground school is to educate the kids about the airplane,” said Bill Scheidigger, vice president of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 353 of Glens Falls, sponsors of the program.

“Tony teaches the kids about all the different control surfaces, what keeps a plane in the air, the principles of flying and so forth, before they get in the plane. We don’t want to just give them a ride.

Normally we don’t want the parents to go with the kids, because it’s meant to be a kid experience, but exceptions can be made for participants who may have medical issues,” he said.

The Experimental Aircraft Association is an international aviation organization with chapters in all 50 states and many countries. Their interests lie in a wide variety of aircraft and sharing their enthusiasm for aviation with others. Local chapters serve their communities by cultivating interest in the sport through programs like the Young Eagles.

Developed in 1992, the Young Eagles Program is manned by volunteer pilots and members of EEA’s Glens Falls Chapter 353 and Johnstown Chapter 602. Cessnas and Cherokees are the most common small airplanes used for the program.

Cameron Grover, 10, of Queensbury, took his first ride in a small aircraft in pilot Mike Shearer’s restored two seat 1939 Aeronca 65C.

“We started out by Cameron learning what movements make the picture change,” said Shearer, meaning the angle and trajectory of the airplane. “And then he flew the airplane from over Glen Lake, all the way back here, made a left hand turn to downwind, flew it right down to base, and then I took it back because I figured I’d better land it.”

When they took off, Grover exclaimed, “Boy, this is nothing like a commercial jet!” When asked if he was interested in learning how to be a pilot, he said, ‘Yeah, of course! I liked it.”

Jewel Ingraham, 11, of Glens Falls, was flying for the second time through the program. “I had fun the last time,” Jewel said. “The best part is going up in the air.”

“At first, she was scared,” said Jewel’s father, Rodney Ingraham, about her initial flight last year. “Then the pilot actually let her hold the controls, and she was fine after that.”

“She’s been wanting to go again,” said her mother Bonnie Ingraham.

“We live to do this,” said Scheidigger. “When the kids complete their flight and get out of the plane, they’re grinning ear to ear.”

The program continues from 9 a.m through 2 p.m. Sunday and is for children ages 8 to 17. It is open to the public and free of charge. 


Why no female Blue Angels pilots? In "boys club" atmosphere, pilots choose who joins; Navy now reviewing process

Even though Navy women have been flying fighter jets since 1994, no female has ever been chosen for the premiere job in naval aviation: Blue Angels performance pilot.

The issue was at the heart of an insider complaint that brought down a Coronado-based former Blue Angels leader last week over sexual harassment and may lead to reform in how the elite air-show unit chooses its members.

The scandal revealed a “boys club” atmosphere, where raunchy photos, sexual innuendo and even a huge penis painting were tolerated, and entry to the team is based in part on whether current members think you will fit in.

In fact, applying to the team is called “rushing,” like at college fraternities.

The sexual harassment that Navy investigators found raises the question of whether applicants who don’t subscribe to the boys-will-be-boys tone will succeed in the squadron.

The investigation, led by an admiral, ultimately determined there was “no substantial evidence” of gender discrimination in pilot choice.

Yet subjectivities in the selection process — such as the “rushing” — led the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s commander to write that “because quantitative pilot skill is not the exclusive basis for selecting Blue Angels pilots (disposition and personality ‘fit’ are also considered), the selection process is still vulnerable to gender discrimination.”

Capt. Greg McWherter, a two-time leader and No. 1 Blue Angels pilot, was reprimanded last week for allowing, and even contributing to, a toxic work environment on the team from 2011-12.

The Navy investigation was spurred by a complaint to the service’s inspector general in March. The complainant was a woman whose name has not been released, though her knowledge of the Blue Angels’ inner workings implies that she was on or close to the team.

She alleged not only gender discrimination in pilot choice but also widespread misbehavior. The latter claim was substantiated by the Navy and detailed in a report released last week.

Examples include explicit pornography and sexually suggestive images in airplane cockpits and in internal squadron electronic message traffic.

In the squadron’s winter home of El Centro, the image of male genitalia — painted in Blue Angels blue and gold on the roof of a team trailer — was so large that it was visible in Google Maps satellite imagery.

Other examples:

•Blue Angels videographers would take crowd footage at air shows that lingered on close-ups of women. When pilots reviewed the video together, McWherter included, they would hoot and comment on the women’s body parts.

•Event schedules and maps contained sexual innuendo and homophobic commentary that officers “sanitized” before distributing to enlisted members or the public.

•Photos of one officer’s girlfriends, sometimes nude, frequently would be passed around the group. McWherter would request that the photos keep coming, if they had stopped.

McWherter has repeatedly declined to comment on the investigation.

Some past team members, including at least two women, have publicly backed him in recent days. And comments on social media have questioned the complainant’s motive in coming forward nearly a year and a half after McWherter left the squadron.

A Facebook page called Support Boss Greg McWherter had more than 5,050 likes by Saturday afternoon.

On that page, a woman identifying herself as Alicia Parks, a former Blue Angels enlisted crew chief, wrote: “I can fully, (heartily) say that Boss McWherter is the best naval officer I have ever met. He modeled the very pride and professionalism that he expected from his fellow team members.”

But the issue of why women have never served as Blue Angels pilots has clearly been on the minds of team members in recent years.

When asked by a news reporter off-camera, one male Blue Angels officer allegedly laughed and commented that no females fly the team’s blue-and-gold F/A-18s because “women want to have babies,” according to the Navy investigation.

Meanwhile, the team doctor prepared a 2010 brief to respond to questions about whether women possess the required strength to fly F-18 jets during the 35- to 45-minute performances. His answer: They do. It requires only enough strength to keep constant tension on the stick with 40 pounds of resistance.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet commander has ordered a 90-day review of the process for choosing Blue Angels performers. The Navy’s Coronado-based “Air Boss,” Vice Adm. David Buss, is in charge of it.

“I am reviewing a number of processes, including the Blue Angels’ officer application and selection process, in light of the recent investigation,” Buss said last week in a statement to U-T San Diego. “We will continue to maintain the highest of standards to provide opportunity and professional development for all qualified Navy personnel.”

At present, hopeful candidates are encouraged to “rush” the team by attending two air shows and socializing with the current pilots.

Navy and Marine Corps aviators get their foot in the door with a resume that includes at least 1,250 flight hours and demonstrated ability to land on aircraft carriers.

In the end, though, it’s a vote of the current Blue Angels officers that determines who will join their ranks.

The admiral who investigated the discrimination complaint suggested that the squadron set up a more formal detailing scenario — the process by which Navy sailors and officers typically get their next assignments.

San Diego State business ethics lecturer Wendy Patrick said that allowing a group to choose its future members is not a good way to achieve diversity, or even decisions based totally on merit.

“Homogenous groups tend to remain homogenous. That's what the research shows,” Patrick said. “We like people like ourselves. That's a basic human proposition that cuts across the board.”

Several women have served on the team in support roles.

In 2010, Carlsbad native Lt. Cmdr. Amy Redditt Tomlinson, a naval flight officer, was the first woman to serve in one of the team’s coveted “numbered” slots. As Blue Angels No. 8, she served as events coordinator and did not perform.

Ramona native and Julian High School graduate Lt. j.g. Amber Lynn Daniel is currently on the team as public affairs officer.

Women also serve as enlisted crew members.

But it’s the performing members of the team — who fly the spectacular wing-to-wing passes and screaming diamond rolls — who get the majority of the limelight.

Behind the scenes, Navy officials point to what one called the tyranny of small numbers.

Less than one in 10 Navy pilots are women. And of all aviation sectors, the smallest percentage of women fly fighter jets.

Of the Navy’s 2,228 fighter pilots, 62 are women, or 2.8 percent.

The largest percentage is in helicopters, at 8.8 percent.

One potential reason for the disparity is that fighter-jet jobs are the most recent category to open to women. Then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin wrote the 1993 memo that rescinded the ban on women flying in combat.

Female officers got their first shot at the cockpit in 1973, when the first four Navy women reported to flight school. But for the next two decades, they would fly only in support roles.

The tyranny of small numbers has not had the same effect on the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds flying team, the sibling unit of the Blue Angels. In an Air Force with 13,805 pilots, women account for 771 of those slots, or just over 5 percent.

The first female jet pilot reported to the Thunderbirds unit in 2005. Since then, at least two other female fighter pilots have performed on that squadron.

One difference between the Air Force and Navy is the nature of sea duty – and that’s what the Blue Angels officer’s “want to have babies” comment was likely about.

Naval pilots are generally 22 years old when entering flight school from college. Two years later they graduate and head into their first squadron for a three-year stint, according to people familiar with the typical progression.

At that point, usually around age 27, they get their first shore-based tour. For women, that may be the best career window for getting pregnant. Following shore duty, a pilot usually faces two more tours with deployments at sea.

A slot on the Blue Angels as shore duty would mean constant travel to air shows around the country. And a pregnancy while on the team might ground a pilot for at least some of nine months.

Despite the sophomoric antics uncovered among the Blue Angels, investigators said in the new report that many of the team’s pilots said they welcomed the possibility of a woman joining them.

However, they said the first female would have to be the “right one,” according to the investigative report, because of the intense scrutiny she would get from the public.


Nebraska Fly-In Lands Dozens of Planes, Thousands of People in York

York, NE - An increase in air and foot traffic at the York Municipal Airport on Saturday was thanks to an annual gathering of pilots, planes, and aviation lovers known as the Nebraska State Fly-In.

When Jessy Panzer isn’t doing air acrobatics in her Pitts S1S, she’s letting air enthusiasts get closer to planes and pilots like herself than they may have ever been before.

“Totally different than going to the airlines and getting on an airliner, especially at these little hometown air shows, you know all the people flying and so it’s just that much more compelling and dynamic to watch,” says Panzer.

A free air show in the afternoon drew thousands to the airport.  Air show announcer Howard Nitzel says the stunt pilots performing simply love flying.

“They fly Leer jets and what have you during the week as a business or a job, this is kind of their way of getting out on the weekend, letting their hair down,” he says.

Pilots and performers say it’s a small, but tight knit industry.

“Even a lot of people today that’s are flying the airplanes they have, I don’t see them very often, so I got to meet with them again today and that was really great,” says Lee Baney, a member of the Lincoln Parachute Club, which was scheduled to skydive, but couldn’t because of cloudy weather.

The Fly-In has volunteer pilots who take kids and adults for rides in private planes.  For many it’s their first such flight, and Nitzel says they want the event to be personal, in hopes it recruits more people to join them in the air.

“Every person has a little fascination with flying in the back of their mind and if we can, in these young people, plant that seed and make it grow, maybe they’ll be pilots when they grow up,” he says.

“You get to inspire people, that’s the main thing, and it just happens to be doing exactly what I love and what inspires me,” says Panzer.

This was the 22nd Nebraska State Fly-In and is held at a different location each year.  York last hosted it in 2003.


Macon-Bibb asks judge to rule that Macon Downtown Airport (KMAC) improvements aren’t required

A Beechcraft 400 Beechjet is barely visible in the woods and brush after it skidded off a Macon Downtown Airport runway in 2012.

Macon-Bibb County lawyers have asked a judge to rule that the Macon Downtown Airport isn’t required to have certain improvements and doesn’t operate negligently without them.

In 2012, a million-dollar jet owned by Dewberry Air hydroplaned and skidded down the runway there, crossed Ocmulgee East Boulevard and crashed into trees. The plane was insured by Old Republic Insurance Co.

The company filed a lawsuit in 2013 accusing the city of negligence and claiming the airport runway was about 200 feet shorter than advertised.

The lawsuit was later dismissed, but John Hoff, a lawyer representing Macon-Bibb County, said the insurance company has said it plans to refile the suit in Fulton County.

By filing a request for declaratory judgment Wednesday, Macon-Bibb County is trying to pre-empt the re-filing and have a local judge decide whether Macon-Bibb County is obligated to perform runway grading improvements and install a runway safety overrun area, as the insurance company has contended.

“I want to show that there is an absence of any duty requiring that anything other, better or different be done,” said Hoff, a Chicago attorney and retired Air Force colonel who specializes in aviation cases. “The Macon Airport is a safe airport. It met all the requirements and criteria either by statute or by contract.”

The airport improvements are discretionary, he said.

Attempts to reach an attorney representing Old Republic Insurance Co. were unsuccessful Friday.

The complaint, which doesn’t seek any monetary damages, also names Dewberry Air as a defendant.

Hoff said the Macon Downtown Airport doesn’t have a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control tower. It’s up to a pilot to determine whether it’s safe to land.

“There was no duty owed to the pilot of this airplane to groove the runways,” he said.

The pilot, who should have known about rain at the Macon Downtown Airport, could have chosen to land at the nearby Middle Georgia Regional Airport, which has a grooved runway, Hoff said.

He likened landing on a grooved runway to having new tires on a wet road. Landing on a runway without grooves is like driving with bald tires, Hoff said.


Beechcraft 400 Beechjet, Dewberry Air LLC, N428JD: Accident occurred September 18, 2012 in Macon, Georgia /N428JD

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA567 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, September 18, 2012 in Macon, GA
Aircraft: BEECH 400, registration: N428JD
Injuries: 2 Minor,1 Uninjured.

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 September 18, 2012, about 1003 eastern daylight time (EDT), a Beech 400, N428JD, was substantially damaged when it overran runway 28 during landing at Macon Downtown Airport (MAC), Macon, Georgia. The airplane departed from Charleston Air Force Base/International Airport (CHS), Charleston, South Carolina, about 0930. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. Both Airline Transport Pilots (ATP) and one passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane was owned by Dewberry, LLC and operated by The Aviation Department. The corporate flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91.

Costa Rica: Tamarindo airport to reopen, but questions linger

Tamarindo Airport’s ailing runway.

TAMARINDO, Guanacaste – Two weeks ago, Tamarindo Airport was shut down by Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation Authority due to runway safety concerns. Now the company that owns the land – Hotel Diria Beach Resort Group – has stated that it will “continue with its aeronautical operation once everything is resolved.”

“Everything” includes working with consultants and construction companies to come up with quotes and alternatives solutions for repairing and reopening the runway, according to Diria Director Manuel Rockbrand.

The comments came after two weeks of radio silence from the Diria following the airport shutdown, which caused local residents and business owners to fear they were losing their airport for good. Without it, the town’s tourism-drive economy would take a hit, residents said.

While the Diria’s recent statements cleared up some of the misconceptions and put minds at ease, important questions about the airport’s future remain.

The Tamarindo Airstrip lies on a large piece of the Diria’s privately owned land; land which is home to a driving range and may become a full-scale golf course. With signs, billboards and the recent completion of a model home advertising a future residential golf community, it’s no secret that the Diria has plans for the area.

According to a statement made by Civil Aviation at a recent meeting, its authorities first began sending safety reports to the Diria in 2009, informing the administration the runway needed attention. Five years passed and more memos were sent, but no one from the Diria responded.

So when the airport was temporarily shut down, some local residents feared the worst. One of them was Guido Scheidt, a pilot and area resident whose company, Auto Gyro America, has flown scenic gyrocopter flights from the Tamarindo Airport for over five years. He organized community fundraising to fix the runway, but once he heard the Diria’s statements, Scheidt admits the effort may have been premature.

“The Diria said they are not looking for help,” he said. “They don’t need financial help to rebuild the runway.”

Diria representatives told the group they remained silent until now because they had been negotiating with construction companies and contractors to determine a budget for runway repairs.

When it comes to Diria’s long-term plans for the airport, Rockbrand and other Diria representatives have declined to comment.

The uncertainty over the airport’s future has created frustration for Tamarindo businesses – particularly three real estate conglomerates reportedly interested in donating land for a new public airport. Those projects include Reserva Conchal in Flamingo, Hacienda Pinilla in Avellanas and a group in Tempate.

Once a location is chosen, the project could take up to three years to complete. Business owners say they are eager to get started and disappointed with lack of information coming out of the Diria. For a new runway to succeed in this region, it would rely on the service of regional airlines Sansa and Nature Air – both of which seem unlikely to add a new route so close to Tamarindo’s airstrip, should it remain open.

As for an exact date for the reopening of the airport, Rockbrand didn’t know. But the public can expect an announcement soon, he said.


Air Force reviews California Civil Air Patrol's skills

CONCORD -- The U.S. Air Force calls upon its Civil Air Patrol volunteer auxiliary to photograph disaster damage, rescue plane crash victims and even search for marijuana fields.

They're like unpaid professionals who take on heavy tasks, which is why the Air Force has them undergo simulated missions every year.

At Concord's Buchanan Field, about 50 volunteers with the California Wing from across the state demonstrated their proficiency on Saturday on the second and final day of training.

On Friday, aircrews, ground teams and base support collaborated on three tasks. Pilots flew four-seater Cessna 182s to Hollister to practice for a search involving the disappearance in San Benito County of a plane carrying five people from San Diego to Oregon.

Others flew to Stinson Beach and Santa Cruz to photograph the shoreline as if a tsunami were rolling in after an magnitude-8.7 earthquake in Fiji. Other crews flew out to photograph Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and the Antioch Bridge as if an earthquake around Mono Lake had triggered other faults.

"These are all the types of emergencies that we could be called (for)," said Juan Tinnirello, a spokesman and lieutenant colonel with the Civil Air Patrol. "The Air Force keeps throwing different scenarios at us to see how we react. They're like real missions."

At the end of the training, the Air Force will assess the unit's performance, discussing strengths and areas of improvement. Next year, officials will grade the volunteer team.

"They give us like an A, B, C letter grade. The Air Force wants to know that their resources are managed well, that the CAP is staying trained. It's an inspection," Incident Cmdr. Dana McLaughlin said. "They're really trying to throw the kitchen sink at us and stress our skills."

McLaughlin's day job is at Apple. But she has been with the Civil Air Patrol since her first mission when she was 16 -- working the radios to help search for two rescuers whose plane went down.

Apart from emergency services, the Civil Air Patrol trains cadets and has an aerospace program. Twelve-year-old Alex Gallad, of Tracy, helped his 15-year-old brother, Anthony, and other cadets keep the base secure, verifying authorized personnel.

"I loved planes when I was little, and after watching my brother doing CAP, I decided to join," Alex said.

The cadet program feeds into the Air Force Academy. Although Anthony is still debating whether he would rather join the Air Force or the Marines, 15-year-old Bryce Udd, of Walnut Creek, says he hopes his volunteer work will help him gain admission.

"We learn a lot of lifelong skills like leadership and how to fly," Bryce said.

The California team is one of the best, said Air Force Maj. Dave Reichert.

"We're just making sure they're doing the job they say they're doing," he said. "It just validates what we already know about the California Wing: They're outstanding."


Lancair IV Propjet, A O Engineering Inc, N86NW: Fatal accident occurred June 07, 2014 in Duluth, Saint Louis County, Minnesota

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Final Report:

National Transportation Safety Board  -  Docket And Docket Items:

National Transportation Safety Board  -  Aviation Accident Data Summary:
NTSB Identification: CEN14FA278 

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 07, 2014 in Duluth, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/19/2015
Aircraft: HERMANN BJORN LANCAIR IV, registration: N86NW
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 pilot/owner was ferrying the airplane from the United States to Europe, and he had installed an auxiliary fuel bladder in place of the rear seat. Before takeoff, the airplane's fuel tanks were topped off, and 60 gallons of fuel were added to the auxiliary fuel bladder. The estimated weight of the airplane during takeoff was about 509 lbs over its maximum gross weight. The estimated center of gravity (CG) of the airplane was 93.2, which was near the aft limit of the CG range. 

The flight departed in marginal visual flight rules conditions and, soon after takeoff, climbed into instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions while passing through 1,000 ft above ground level. Air traffic control (ATC) cleared the pilot to fly a northeasterly heading and climb to 12,000 ft, but the pilot did not acknowledge the instruction, and radar track data indicated that the airplane turned right within 1 minute after departure. ATC instructed the pilot to turn back on course, and the pilot complied. The airplane continued on course for about 1.5 minutes, but then it turned right again while still in a climb. ATC instructed the pilot to turn back on course, but the pilot did not respond. The airplane continued to turn right, reached a maximum altitude of about 6,600 ft, and then entered a steep, descending right turn. ATC instructed the pilot to climb immediately, but there was no response, and the airplane continued the steep descending turn and impacted a lake about 5 minutes after departure. 

A comparison of the radar track data with the flight data recovered from the airplane's primary flight display (PFD) and multifunction display revealed discrepancies between the two data sources regarding airspeed, bank angle, heading, wind speed, and wind direction, indicating that erroneous information was being displayed on the PFD during the flight. Specifically, the flight data indicated periods of straight and level flight when the radar track data indicated the airplane was banking and changing heading. The erroneous information would have made it difficult for the pilot to control the airplane and navigate effectively in IFR conditions. The reason for the erroneous flight data could not be determined. 

The pilot's toxicology report indicated 0.146 ug/ml diphenhydramine (a sedating antihistamine) in cavity blood, which was above the therapeutic range of 0.0250 to 0.1120 ug/ml. Although diphenhydramine undergoes postmortem redistribution, the postmortem level detected suggests that the pilot likely had impairing levels of diphenhydramine in his system at the time of the accident. To maintain control of the airplane, the pilot would have needed to recognize that the PFD display was faulty and use the information from the standby attitude indicator, turn and bank indicator, and magnetic compass. However, it is likely that diphenhydramine, which impairs cognitive and psychomotor performance, diminished the pilot's ability to recognize and manage the erroneous PFD indications. 

The pilot's failure to acknowledge the clearance to turn to the northeast and climb to 12,000 feet only a few seconds after he initiated contact with ATC suggests that his attention was diverted for some reason about that time. The pilot verbally acknowledged and responded to a subsequent call to return to course. However, after about 1.5 minutes the airplane again deviated from course and entered a steep descending turn, most likely due to the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation as a result of the erroneous heading and bank angle information on the PFD and his ineffective use of standby flight instruments in restricted visibility conditions. The airplane's aft CG and over gross weight condition would have reduced the airplane's longitudinal stability, and this likely also contributed to the loss of control. 

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain airplane control while operating in instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions, which was due to spatial disorientation resulting from erroneous heading and bank angle information shown on the primary flight display. Contributing to the accident were the pilot's impairment due to diphenhydramine and his improper decision to operate in IFR conditions with the airplane over gross weight and at an aft center of gravity. 


On June 7, 2014, about 1121 central daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built, Hermann Bjorn Lancair IV, N86NW, was destroyed when it impacted Lake Superior after departing from the Duluth International Airport (DLH), Duluth, Minnesota. The pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to A.O. Engineering Inc. and operated by the pilot under the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The airplane departed DLH about 1116, and was en route to Goose Bay (YYR), Newfoundland, Canada.

The DLH air traffic control (ATC) transcript of the recorded radio conversations between ATC and the pilot indicated that the tower controller cleared the airplane to depart runway 9 and climb to 6,000 ft on a heading of 060 degrees. At 1117:24, the pilot contacted departure control. Departure control instructed the pilot to turn left and fly direct to Thunder Bay (YQT), and climb and maintain 12,000 ft. The pilot did not acknowledge this instruction. At 1117:25, the radar track data indicated the airplane was heading northeast at 4,467 ft at an airspeed of 131kts.

At 1118:00, departure control stated, "November 86 November Whiskey turn left fly heading 030 please." The pilot responded, "November Whisky left turn. Sorry about that." At 1118:03, the radar track data indicated the airplane was heading to the southeast at 4,689 ft at an airspeed of 167 kts.

At 1118:31, departure control stated, "And, ah Lancair 6 November Whiskey, it will be direct Yankee Quebec Tango present position. Direct present position." The pilot responded, "Present position direct Yankee Quebec Tango." There were no further recorded radio transmissions from the pilot. At 1118:31, the radar track data indicated that the airplane was heading to the northeast at 5,011 ft at 152 kts. The airplane continued on a northeasterly heading until 1119:46 when it started to turn right to a southeasterly heading.

At 1120:14, the airplane was heading to the south, southeast at 6,050 ft at 161 kts. At 1120:17, departure control stated, "November 86 November Whiskey, I still show you, ah, heading southeast bound. Verify you're direct to Yankee Quebec Tango."

At 1120:33, the airplane was heading to the south at 6,350 ft at 118 kts. At 1120:34, departure control stated, "November 86 November Whiskey, it appears you're heading southbound now. Ah, verify you're direct to Yankee Quebec Tango please."

At 1120:52, the airplane's last radar return was recorded. It indicated that the airplane was heading southbound at 2,400 ft at 201 kts.

At 1120:56, departure control stated, "November 86 November Whiskey, ah. Low altitude alert. Check your altitude. Immediately climb and maintain three thousand, immediately."

At 1121:05, departure control stated, "(unintelligible) 86 November Whiskey, climb. Altitude. Immediately maintain six, ah, maintain three thousand, three thousand."

The airplane impacted Lake Superior about 1 mile offshore from Brighton Beach, in Duluth, Minnesota. The airplane wreckage was located in 137 ft of water. The body of the pilot was retrieved from the wreckage on June 9, 2014.


The pilot was a 47 year-old German citizen who held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial pilot certificate with single-engine land, multi-engine land, single-engine sea, and instrument airplane ratings. He held a third class medical certificate dated October 16, 2013, with the limitation for corrective lenses. The pilot's flight logbook was not obtained during the investigation. During his medical examination in October 16, 2013, the pilot reported that his total flight time was 2,500 hours. He had an estimated 22 hours of flight time in the accident airplane.

A witness who knew the pilot for 15 years reported that the pilot was an accomplished general aviation pilot with about 3,000 flight hours. He reported that the accident pilot had purchased a Mooney M20F in 1998 and had made several overseas flights in it, including trips across the South Atlantic and North Atlantic routes.

Aircraft records indicated that the accident pilot purchased the airplane on November 4, 2013. Witnesses who lived in Bend, Oregon, where the airplane was kept in a hangar, reported that the accident pilot received about 3 – 4 hours of airplane ground instruction after he purchased the airplane. It was not determined if the pilot received any dual flight instruction in the airplane. Witness statements and fuel receipts indicated that the accident pilot flew the airplane in December, January, February, and June, including a round trip flight from Bend, Oregon, to Las Vegas, Nevada.

On June 6, 2014, the day before the accident flight, the pilot flew the airplane from Bend, Oregon, to DLH. The time en route was about 4 hours and 32 minutes. The pilot planned to fly to YYR on the day of the accident. Flight planning documents indicated that the pilot planned to fly to Baden Airpark (EDSB) in Rheinmunster, Germany.


The airplane was an experimental, amateur-built, Hermann Bjorn Lancair IV, serial number LIV-552, manufactured in 2005. The airplane was powered by a 750 shaft-horsepower Walter turbo-prop engine manufactured in 1992. The engine was subsequently rebuilt and reconfigured as a Walter XM601E-Prototype with a new serial number of 921012EX in 2003 identifying it as being manufactured specifically for the Lancair installation. The propeller was an Avia propeller which had a steel hub with three aluminum blades. The last conditional maintenance inspection was conducted on September 20, 2013, with a total airframe time of 666.3 hours.

The airplane was equipped with two Chelton CFR Sierra-SV Synthetic Vision Integrated Display Units (IDUs) used for primary flight display (PFD) and multifunction display (MFD), an Avidyne FlightMax Entegra MFD, and Garmin 530 and Garmin 430 radio and nav/com units. In addition, the airplane was equipped with standby flight instruments which included an airspeed indicator, attitude indicator, altimeter, and turn and bank indicator located in the center of the instrument panel.

The accident pilot installed a rubber auxiliary fuel bladder in the back seat of the airplane. The accident pilot sent an email dated March 17, 2014, that he expected that a new bladder tank from TurtlePac should arrive at the hangar where the airplane was kept. It's uncertain when the pilot installed the fuel bladder, but it was observed in the airplane prior to the accident. The lineman at the fixed base operator at DLH reported that the black colored fuel bladder located in the back seat was filled with 60 gallons of fuel on the morning of June 7, 2014. Both wing fuel tanks were also topped off. The fuel receipt showed that a total of 136 gallons of fuel was added to the airplane before the accident flight.

Witnesses and the pilot's emails indicated that the pilot was having autopilot problems with the airplane. The pilot wrote an email dated June 6, 2014, to the hangar owner in Bend, Oregon, which stated, "I am in town since Thursday and working on the plane. One problem solved, the next showing up. Right now the autopilot tries to kill me. Flying straight and level high speed my electric trim buddy pushes or pulls all of a sudden. Very bad feeling, even worse that the auto-trim is on his side. I will meet RDD in Redmond early in the morning, begging for help."

The owner of RDD (an aviation maintenance facility) in Redmond, Oregon, stated that he received a phone call from the pilot concerning the problems he was having with the autopilot. The accident pilot flew the airplane to Redmond about 0730 on June 6, 2014. The pilot indicated that the airplane was experiencing violent pitch ups. RDD diagnosed the problem as an auto-trim reverse sensing which caused the nose to trim up or down which was backward from what was required. The fix took less than 20 minutes. All that was required was to flip a switch on the auto-trim module. After the work was completed, the accident pilot flew back to Bend, Oregon. The pilot did not tell the owner of RDD that he was going to fly to DLH on the same day. The owner of RDD stated that he received a text message from the accident pilot later that night that stated that the autopilot was working much better.

The accident pilot wrote an email dated June 6, 2014, at 7:00 PM to the hangar owner in Bend, Oregon, which stated, "I took a chance today to start the ferry flight. Right now I am in Duluth, MN. Tomorrow aiming for Goose Bay. I have still my back seat in your hangar. Probably will fly next spring or I find another way to pick it up asap."

The airplane which seated four was made of primarily of composite materials and had a maximum gross weight of 3,800 pounds. The estimated weight and balance of the aircraft indicated that the aircraft takeoff weight on the accident flight was 4,309 lbs., which was 509 lbs. over the maximum gross weight of the aircraft. The estimated center of gravity (CG) of the aircraft was 93.2, which was within the CG range of the aircraft of flight stations 86.5 - 94.5.


At 1102, the surface weather observation at DLH was: wind 080 at 4 kts; 10 miles visibility; scattered clouds 700 feet; overcast ceiling 2,500 feet; temperature 12 degrees C; dew point 9 degrees C; altimeter 30.06 inches of mercury.

At 1122, the surface weather observation at DLH was: wind 140 at 9 kts; 10 miles visibility; scattered clouds 300 feet; broken ceiling 1,000 feet; overcast ceiling 2,700 feet; temperature 11 degrees C; dew point 10 degrees C; altimeter 30.06 inches of mercury; ceiling variable 700 feet to 1,100 feet.

At 1132, the surface weather observation at DLH was: wind 120 at 6 kts; 10 miles visibility; ceiling 300 feet broken; overcast 1,000 feet; temperature 11 degrees C; dew point 10 degrees C; altimeter 30.07 inches of mercury.

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) weather specialist reported that computer modeling of weather data indicated that clouds were likely from the surface through at least 32,000 feet above mean sea level (msl), with icing conditions likely starting at 10,000 feet msl and above at the time of the accident. The winds aloft from 3,000 to 6,000 feet were between 12 to 18 kts from the northeast.


The airplane wreckage was recovered from Lake Superior on June 23, 2014, and relocated to a St. Louis County maintenance facility located in Duluth, Minnesota, for examination. The wings, horizontal stabilizer, and much of the composite fuselage structure of the airplane were not recovered; as such, flight control continuity could not be verified. The engine, propeller, landing gear, cockpit instrument panel, instruments, cabin floor structure, seats, interior pieces, vertical stabilizer, rudder, and various aircraft parts were recovered and examined.

The engine was removed from the remaining airframe and a cursory inspection of the engine was performed. The engine and propeller were shipped to the GE Aviation Czech (GEAC) factory in Prague, Czech Republic, for examination. The propeller was transferred to the Avia factory facility in Prague, Czech Republic, for a teardown examination.

An Avidyne Flight Max Integra Multi-function display (MFD) and two Chelton IDUs were sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders division for examination.

The rudder bellcrank, the rudder spherical bearings, and a section of the lower rudder were sent to the NTSB Materials laboratory for examination.

The rudder trim was found in a right rudder trim position with about 1/2 inch deflection. The electric rudder servo motor was tested by using a 9-volt dc power source. It exhibited full travel when power was applied.


An autopsy of the pilot was conducted on June 10, 2014, at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Duluth, Minnesota. The "Cause of Death" was noted as the "result of multiple severe impact injuries." A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute. The results were negative for carbon monoxide and ethanol. The toxicological report indicated that 0.146 (ug/ml, ug/g) diphenhydramine was detected in the blood (cavity).

Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine used to treat allergies and as a sleep aid. It is available over the counter under various names including Benadryl and Unisom. Diphenhydramine carries the following warning: may impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks (e.g., driving, operating heavy machinery). The therapeutic range for the drug is 0.0250 to 0.1120 ug/ml.

The pilot's FAA medical certification examination did not identify any medical concerns or natural disease. His autopsy identified mild cardiomegaly with left ventricular enlargement and mild coronary atherosclerosis, but no evidence of heart muscle damage or other natural disease. Toxicology testing detected diphenhydramine in cavity blood at 0.146 ug/ml.


On August 19, 2014, the engine and propeller were examined under NTSB oversight in Prague, Czech Republic. The engine examination revealed that the power turbine was intact; however the hub was rotationally scored on both faces. The leading edges of all the blades were rotationally scored and bent aft. The gas generator turbine was intact and the blade tips were circumferentially scored with metal transfer evident on the convex sides of the tip, consistent with contact against the gas generator turbine shroud. Additionally, there were randomly distributed bright shiny flakes deposited on the convex side of some of the blades, which is consistent with a metal spray condition. The compressor rotor, consisting of two axial compressors and one centrifugal impeller was intact. The axial compressor blades were intact and the tips were circumferentially scored consistent with contact against their respective shroud elements. The impeller vanes were rotationally scored, consistent with contact against the impeller shroud. The compressor and impeller shrouds exhibited rotational scoring.

The propeller examination revealed that the Nos. 1 and 2 blades were bent aft at the mid-span to a bend angle of about 90 degrees, with no evidence of blade twisting. The No. 3 blade had a slight bend with no evidence of blade twisting deformation. The No. 1 piston guide was slightly dented at a location which indicated that the blade pitch at impact was 15 degrees, a low angle corresponding to the hydraulic low pitch stop. This, in turn, corresponded to a low power setting of the engine.

The NTSB Materials laboratory examined the rudder bellcrank, the rudder spherical bearings, and a section of the lower rudder and vertical stabilizer bulkhead. The examination revealed that the rudder bellcrank was comprised of a left arm and a right arm. On each arm, there were attachment points for a control cable input and a rod output. There were two holes in the vertical stabilizer bulkhead that allowed the rods to connect to the forward rudder spar via an attachment fitting. The right and left rods were fractured. Pieces of the right and left rods were attached to the rudder and a piece of the right rod was attached to the bellcrank. By contrast, there was no corresponding piece of the left rod attached to the bellcrank. A closer examination of the right rod fracture surfaces revealed that they did not match; indicating that the right rod had fractured in two or more locations and an intermediate section had been separated and was not recovered. An examination of the bellcrank revealed a deformation mark on the forward portion of the right arm in the vicinity of the bellcrank stop.

The left and right rod fracture surfaces were visually examined using a stereomicroscope. The fracture surface on the left rod piece attached to the rudder consisted of inclined slant fractures, and no apparent out-of-plane deformation, consistent with a tensile overstress fracture. The right rod had collapsed near each fracture. The initially circular tube cross sections had deformed by elongating in one direction and collapsing in the other direction. The rod end at the forward end of the right rod (attached to the bellcrank via a rod end bearing) was bent. The features were consistent with overload by compressive buckling.

The NTSB Vehicle Recorders laboratory examined the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra MFD removable compact flash card. While the compact flash card successfully read, it did not contain any recorded information. Avidyne confirmed that the Entegra does not record any information when installed in an experimental, turbine aircraft.

The NTSB Vehicle Records laboratory examined the accident pilot's Nokia C5 cell phone that was found in the airplane wreckage. The Nokia cell phone turned on, but the screen was damaged and no further recovery attempts were attempted.

Two Chelton IDUs were recovered from the accident aircraft and sent the NTSB Vehicle Records laboratory for examination. The units sustained minor impact and water damage. The units integrate multiple primary flight instruments including airspeed, altitude, electronic compass, turn rate, bank angle, pitch angle, vertical speed, and an optional slip/skid ball. They can also function as a navigation and engine display. They may integrate with external components, including a GPS/Air Data/AHRS. Units are typically installed in pairs, providing PFD and MFD capabilities.

The units are capable of recording a log of aircraft parameters at a rate of 1 sample per second to an internal PCMCIA card. The parameters recorded depend upon installation and include primary flight instrument data, GPS position data, AHRS data, and engine data.

The current log file "LOG00.DAT," was retrieved from the download of each Chelton IDU unit. The "LOG00.DAT" file from the unit with serial number 292 contained recorded data on June 7, 2014 between 16:00:16 universal coordinated time (UTC) and 16:20:53 UTC. The file recorded primary flight instrument data, GPS position data, AHRS data, and engine data. There were about 20 additional log files of prior flights, four of which were recorded on June 6, 2014. For the accident flight, 5 hours were subtracted from UTC to convert to CDT.

The data showed that the aircraft departed from KDLH, climbed towards Lake Superior with intermediate level offs, exhibited fluctuations in pitch, speed, and roll, and then descended rapidly and crashed into Lake Superior. The maximum altitude attained was 6,607 ft with an indicated airspeed (IAS) of 94 kts, which was the minimum recorded IAS after the initial departure climb. Thereafter, the IAS increased and the aircraft descended, reaching a maximum recorded IAS of 262 kts about 6 seconds before the end of the recording. 

On the prior flight from Bend, Oregon, to Duluth, Minnesota, the day before the accident, the roll, heading, and course each oscillated about +/-10 degrees for about an hour in cruise flight. See the NTSB Vehicle Recorder Division's report "Electronic Devices" in the docket material associated with this investigation for further details. 

The NTSB's Vehicle Performance Division conducted an airplane performance study which described the accident airplane ground track, altitude, and speed, as well as the timing of select radio communication between ATC and N86NW, including estimates of airplane pitch, roll, and heading derived from radar, as well as airplane and engine data recovered from the Chelton IDUs. The study compared the data derived from radar and the Chelton IDU's log data. The Chelton log data is the data being displayed to the pilot on the PFD.

The study indicated that during two periods about 30 seconds in length during the accident flight (the first centered around 16:17:40 and the second at16:19:50) the radar-derived airspeed exceeded the airspeed recorded in the log file by 10 to 20 kts. During approximately the same time frame, the radar-derived bank angle exceeded the bank recorded in the log file by as much as 25 degrees (i.e., more right-wing-down). Additionally, the recorded log data bank angle is different than the heading shown by the radar data. During the first 30 second period centered at 16:17:40, the log data shows little or no bank, while the heading derived from radar data showed the airplane turning to the south/right.

The other notable difference in the comparison was between the heading derived from radar and that recorded in the log file. For nearly two minutes, early in the flight, the log file heading was 20 degrees to 25 degrees more airplane-nose-left than that estimated from radar. From 16:19:20 until the end of the data the log file heading was upwards of 45 degrees more airplane-nose-right than that estimated from radar.

The Chelton log files recorded the groundspeed, wind speed, and wind direction during the flight. During the climb to 6,600 ft msl, the wind speed varied between 5 and 88 kts. Wind direction in the log varied counterclockwise from 360 degrees to 203 degrees, and then back (clockwise) to 338 degrees. It then continued clockwise from 338 degrees to 247 degrees when the data ended. This represented over a 360 degree change in wind direction (i.e., 203 degrees clockwise to 247 degrees) in less than three minutes. See the NTSB Vehicle Performance Division's report "Airplane Performance Study" in the docket material associated with this investigation for further details.

The airplane was equipped with a Crossbow 500 Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) interfaced with the Chelton IDU. The Crossbow 500 is a nine-axis measurement system that combines linear accelerometers, rotational rate sensors, and magnetometers. It uses the angular rate sensors to integrate over the rotational motion and find the actual pitch, roll, and yaw angles. It uses the accelerometers to correct for rate sensor drift in the vertical angles (pitch and roll); and uses magnetometers to correct for rate sensor drift in the yaw angle. According to the manufacturer (MEMSIC, Inc.) the Crossbow 500 was manufactured as a TSO'd (technical standard order) device requiring proper installation and calibration procedures. The Crossbow 500 was located near the 208 bulkhead. The magnetometer (which senses the earth's magnetic lines of flux and converts it to a heading and provides the heading information to the AHRS) was located in the empennage near the horizontal stabilizer. A magnetometer is sensitive to magnetic interference and can be influenced by ferrous metals like AN bolts, control rod ends, any 4130 steel, seat belts, unshielded electrical wires, and antenna cables. There was no indication in the maintenance logbooks that the AHRS and magnetometer had been recalibrated after it had been initially calibrated during the manufacture of the airplane.

NTSB Identification: CEN14LA278
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 07, 2014 in Duluth, MN
Aircraft: HERMANN BJORN LANCAIR IV, registration: N86NW
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

On June 7, 2014, about 1123 central daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built Lancair IV, N86NW, was destroyed when it impacted Lake Superior after departing from the Duluth International Airport (KDLH), Duluth, Minnesota. The pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to A.O. Engineering Inc. and operated by the pilot under the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The airplane departed KDLH about 1115, and was en route to Goose Bay (CYYR), Newfoundland, Canada.

The airplane departed KDLH and was cleared direct to Thunder Bay (YQT) during the initial climb to altitude on a northeasterly heading. The airplane climbed to about 6,600 feet above mean sea level (msl), and appeared to be turning to the right on a more southbound course. The pilot was again cleared direct to YQT. The airplane continued to descend and radar contact was lost about 7 nautical miles (nm) east of KDLH at 2,500 feet msl. A low altitude alert was provided and the airplane was instructed to climb to 3,000 feet msl; however, there were no radio transmissions from the pilot. The airplane impacted Lake Superior about 1 nm offshore from Brighton Beach, in Duluth, Minnesota.

The airplane wreckage was located in 137 feet of water. The body of the pilot was retrieved from the wreckage on July 9, 2014.

At 1122, the surface weather observation at KDLH was: wind 140 at 9 knots; 10 miles visibility; scattered clouds 300 feet; broken ceiling 1,000 feet; overcast ceiling 2,700 feet; temperature 11 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 10 degrees C; altimeter 30.06 inches of mercury; ceiling variable 700 feet to 1,100 feet. 

FAA Minneapolis FSDO-15

Dan Goyen at McQuade safe harbor during the recovery of Alexander Georg Obersteg, whose Lancair IV Propjet plane crashed into Lake Superior.

The remains of a Lancair IV Propjet airplane was raised from Lake Superior in June 2014. 

A gurney bearing the body of the pilot killed on June 7, 2014 in a  plane crash in Lake Superior is wheeled to a waiting medical examiner's van at McQuade Small Craft Harbor June 9, 2014. Divers recovered the body from 137 feet of water earlier in the day, but were unable to recover the plane's wreckage as they had planned.

Search and retrieve: braving the waters of Superior

It’s a cloudy, cool day when divers Jay Hanson and Dan Goyen break the surface of Lake Superior. Dressed in layer upon layer of thermal clothing with traditional dry suits, they attempt to keep out the cold. Despite the insulating layers, the water starts to chill the divers to the bone after 30 minutes underwater at a depth of 140 feet. Anywhere between 36 and 38 degrees, the water isn’t freezing, but it’s close.

But they aren’t at the bottom of Superior for fun. They’re there to retrieve the body of Alexander Georg Obersteg, a pilot who crashed into Lake Superior June 7.

The duo took three minutes diving to the bottom and spent 35 minutes among the plane wreckage. They spent another 40 minutes doing various decompressions on their way back to the surface.

“Deeper dives require in-water decompressions where you can’t just come to surface,” said Hanson. “Depending how much time we spend on the bottom, we have to stop at different depths — 30, 20 and 10 feet — to allow nitrogen to leave body without getting decompression sickness.”

Hanson and Goyen were chosen for the retrieval mission based on their skill and comfort levels while diving to this potentially-dangerous depth.

Hanson, who owns Superior SCUBA Center in Duluth, found his passion for exploring underwater worlds at age 10. What started as daring leaps off the end of a dock, dressed in his uncle’s SCUBA gear, became a life-long passion for underwater exploration.

“It’s kind of my happy place,” said Hanson. “Most people prefer diving in warm, tropical water, but I prefer the Great Lakes and shipwreck hunting.”

Hanson has discovered a number of wrecks and has a passion for maritime history. “My most memorable dive was diving for the first time on Robert Wallace,” he said.

The Robert Wallace is a wooden iron ore carrier that sank in 1902 and was finally discovered in 2006. Divers had spent years searching for it. “To see something nobody has seen for 100 years or more was pretty incredible,” Hanson said.

The recovery of the pilot was a dive of difficulties. “In recovery or public safety, anything can go wrong and often does,” said Hanson. “Regardless of how tight the plan is, you can’t plan for every contingency; you have to react. The dives always seem to work out in the end. We thought we’d get the plane back, but you take what you can get and move forward from there.”

And when Lake Superior is added into the picture, success is never guaranteed.

“When you learn to dive in Lake Superior, you can dive anywhere,” said Goyen. “The lake has extremely harsh conditions.”

Because of his 14 year experience, Goyen was selected to be one of two divers to investigate the wreckage of the downed plane.

“Conditions were cold; the water was 36 degrees with an eight-foot visibility,” Goyen said. “Nearing the bottom of the lake, there was nearly zero visibility.”

Although Goyen has done similar work before and has done extensive training on body recovery, the initial reality was harsh.

“This was my very first underwater body recovery,” said Goyen. “I’ve been in shipwreck recoveries before where I didn’t think I was going to get out, but this dive was my most memorable.”

Goyen felt a sense of relief and solace after completing the dive, as it was a reminder of the uncertainty of life.

“I have seen remains in shipwrecks in the past,” Goyen said. “My primary concern is for the closure for the family. Mentally, I was prepared for it and it’s easier to deal with knowing you are helping out a family.”

Goyen, who takes around 100 dives a year, was humbled by the experience, but still excited to follow his passion for underwater exploring. Hanson feels the same way, especially when he remembers other great dives with people like Goyen.

“We had a really good team, everyone worked well together, helped negate little problems and made things go more smoothly,” said Hanson. “It was a team effort, and I like to make sure everyone has their moment in the sun.”

The light started to shine into the eyes of the divers as they slowly swam back up to the surface. Cold water hugging their insulated suits, the men have finished their somber mission. Closure of the day, the body found, a sense of relief sets in. Although the mission wasn’t overly long, the memory of what they found and the impact of their actions will stay fresh and true forever.


DULUTH, Minn. -- The pilot who died when his airplane crashed into Lake Superior on Saturday has been identified as Alexander Georg Obersteg, 47, of Steinfeld, Germany. A St. Louis County medical examiner's report found that Obersteg died of injuries suffered in the crash and not as a result of a medical emergency prior to impact.

Obersteg is believed to have been the only occupant of the plane, which went down 1.2 miles off Brighton Beach on Saturday morning, according to a report from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office. He had taken off from Duluth International Airport after arriving from Bend, Ore., and is believed to have been headed to Goose Bay, Labrador, en route to the ultimate destination of his hometown in Germany.

The cause of the crash remains undetermined, and the Federal Aviation Administration continues to investigate.

Obersteg was flying a Lancair IV, a single-engine kit-built airplane.

The plane's wreckage, which came to rest in about 137 feet of water, has yet to be recovered, but authorities are making plans to retrieve the craft.

The identity of the pilot who died when his airplane crashed into Lake Superior on Saturday has been released. A St. Louis County medical examiner’s report found that pilot Alexander Georg Obersteg, 47, of Steinfeld, Germany, died of injuries sustained in the crash and not as a result of a medical emergency prior to impact.

Obersteg is believed to have been the only occupant of the plane which went down 1.2 miles off Brighton Beach at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 7, according to a report from the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office. He had taken off from Duluth International Airport and is believed to have been headed to Goose Bay, Labrador, en route to the ultimate destination of his hometown in Germany.

The cause of the crash still has not been determined, and the Federal Aviation Administration continues to investigate the fatal incident. Obersteg was behind the stick of a Lancair IV, a single-engine kit-built airplane when the accident occurred.

The wreckage of the plane, which came to rest in about 137 feet of water, has yet to be recovered, but authorities are laying plans to retrieve the craft.


Authorities have found the body of the pilot and wreckage of the plane that crashed into Lake Superior near Duluth on Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration identified the plane as a Lancair IV. 

A Lancair spokesperson said the owner may have been aware of maintenance issues with the plane. The Coast Guard and St. Louis County Rescue Squad searched through heavy fog on Saturday to find any remnants of the single-engine plane that crashed near Brighton Beach.

Authorities said they found debris from the plane floating about a mile offshore. The St. Louis County Rescue Squad used sonar equipment to locate the wreckage 140 feet below the surface according to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department.

“Then they dropped a remotely operated submersible vehicle onto the wreckage and they confirmed that there was human remains inside the aircraft,” Sergeant Neal Porter said.

He said the discovery came late Saturday night and the search was halted until Monday when specialized personnel can attempt to recover the body.

“We had to get some divers that can specifically dive to that depth,” Porter said.

An FAA spokesperson said the crashed plane was a Lancair IV and headed from Duluth to Goose Bay, a town in Canada.

Doug Meyer, director of sales and marketing for Lancair International, said that model is a kit plane that is typically built by amateur manufacturers.

Meyer said the plane that crashed near Duluth had been flown for years without issue, and it left Bend, Oregon on Friday.

“The current, and at the time new owner, I think is the third owner. The airplane was built, I don't know exactly, but it could have been 10 or 12 years ago,” Meyer said.

He believes the owner was a German man and an experienced pilot, but he said third party trainers refused to work with the owner due to maintenance issues with the plane.

“The subcontractors that were going to train him declined to do the training until that maintenance was completed. My information is the maintenance was not completed and the owner elected to fly the airplane home,” Meyer said.

An FAA spokesperson said a team of investigators is now in Duluth to continue searching for the cause of the crash but answers will have to wait until the wreckage can be removed from the depths of Lake Superior.

Officials with the Duluth Fire Department said the plane lost contact with the Duluth International Airport around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Crews in search boats found a log book from the plane in debris about a mile offshore from Brighton Beach, according to Assistant Fire Chief Erik Simonson.

According to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, pieces of the plane were found underwater and other personal belongings were found on the surface.

Rescue Squad Captain Jeff Johnson was on one of the rescue boats on Saturday, and he said dense fog hampered the search all afternoon.

“In the fog, it's very thick. Things have an optical illusion aspect. Things in the water appear different than they actually are so you have to go over and verify what you're actually seeing,” Johnson said.

He said crews tried to remain calm during the search.

“You've got to stay focused. You can't let your emotions run the game,” Johnson said.

The fog dissipated around 6 p.m. on Saturday allowing a Coast Guard helicopter to join the search until the wreckage was found using the sonar equipment.


The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office says a body has been found in a single-engine plane crash off of Brighton Beach.

Authorities said a single-engine plane crashed into Lake Superior near Duluth Saturday morning.

According to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, a body was found underwater just before 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Deputies said the water is so deep that they have to hold off on the recovery until they can bring in commercial divers. They said they are keeping the scene secure.

Officials with the Duluth Fire Department said the plane lost contact with the Duluth International Airport around 11:30 a.m. Crews in search boats found a log book from the plane in debris about a mile offshore from Brighton Beach, according to Assistant Fire Chief Erik Simonson.

According to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, pieces of the plane were found underwater and other personal belongings were found on the surface.

Authorities don't know what may have caused the crash and believe the pilot was the only occupant of the plane.

Rescue Squad Captain Jeff Johnson was on one of the rescue boats, and he said dense fog hampered the search all afternoon.

“In the fog, it's very thick. Things have an optical illusion aspect. Things in the water appear different than they actually are so you have to go over and verify what you're actually seeing,” Johnson said.

He said crews tried to remain calm during the search.

“You've got to stay focused. You can't let your emotions run the game,” Johnson said.

The fire department left the scene around 2:30 p.m. as the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department and the St. Louis County Rescue Squad took over. A Coast Guard helicopter joined the search in the evening as well.

CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard suspended its search late Saturday for the pilot of a single-engine aircraft that went down about 7 nautical miles east of Duluth, Minnesota, shortly after noon.

Coast Guard search efforts were suspended shortly after sunset after completing 10 separate search patterns, covering 35-square nautical miles.

A debris field approximately 250 yards in diameter was located early in the search, and included jet fuel and the pilot’s log book. The canopy, fuel bladder and tail section were also found.

The St. Louis County Fire Department also located what appeared to be the plane’s engine and propeller by using side-scan sonar and a remotely operated vehicle.

Shortly after midnight, EDT, Sunday, the St. Louis FD reported that they had discovered the aircraft fuselage in 135 feet of water, with the pilot inside.

Plans have been made for divers to recover the body.

Involved in the search were aircrews from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, aboard a Dolphin helicopter, and crews from Coast Guard Station Duluth aboard a 45-foot response boat and a 25-foot response boat. Crews from the St. Louis County FD and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also searched using surface vessels.

9th District Great Lakes
News Release
June 07, 2014
Ninth Coast Guard District
Contact: Ninth Coast Guard District External Affairs Office
Office: (216) 902-6020
Mobile: (216) 310-2608

Coast Guard, local agencies responding to downed single-engine aircraft near Duluth, Minn., in Lake Superior

CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard and local agencies are responding to a report of a downed single-engine aircraft with one person aboard, northeast of Duluth, Minnesota, in Lake Superior Saturday afternoon.

The name and hometown of the person is not being released and there is no Coast Guard imagery.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m., watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie received a report from personnel at the Duluth International Airport tower of a single engine white and maroon airplane spiraling down with a loss of communications approximately 7 nautical miles east of Duluth.

Sector Sector Sault Ste. Marie issued an urgent marine information broadcast that advises mariners of a situation, asks them to keep a sharp lookout, assist if able and report all sightings to the nearest Coast Guard unit. They also directed the launch of a rescue boat crew from Coast Guard Station Duluth aboard a 45-foot response boat.

An aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City aboard a Dolphin helicopter was also requested to launch.

Responders from local agencies have located a debris field approximately 250 yards in length which included the pilots log book and jet fuel.

The Coast Guard has established a safety zone around the area and pollution responders from Marine Safety Unit Duluth have been notified.

The Duluth Fire Department plans to deploy a remotely operated vehicle to assist in the search.