Saturday, June 21, 2014

Loehle 5151 Mustang, N518BC: Fatal accident occurred June 21, 2014 in Livermore, California

Aviation Accident Final Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items   -   National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary -   National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigating Flight Standards District Office: FAA Oakland FSDO-27 

Jerry L. Parker:

NTSB Identification: WPR14FA258
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 21, 2014 in Livermore, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/25/2016
Aircraft: PARKER LOEHLE MUSTANG T5151, registration: N518BC
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 private pilot was conducting a local personal flight. One witness reported that the airplane departed the airport and that, when it was about 2 miles from the airport, it pitched up, banked left, and then flew straight down. Another witness stated that the airplane was trailing smoke and appeared to be on fire and that the airplane banked left and right, pitched up, and then pitched straight down. The airplane subsequently impacted terrain, which ignited a grass fire. Postaccident examination of the wreckage found no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. A year before the accident, the pilot was involved in a hard landing following a loss of engine power in the accident airplane. Review of recent correspondence between the pilot and the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that the pilot had removed fuel filters on the airplane that had resulted in the loss of power at certain altitudes and installed an electric fuel pump in addition to replacing all of the polyurethane tubing that supplied fuel to the engine. Maintenance records revealed no entries pertaining to the fuel system. Due to impact damage and postimpact fire damage, the source of the in-flight fire could not be determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
An in-flight fire of unknown origin for reasons that could not be determined because of impact damage and postimpact fire damage. 


On June 21, 2014 about 1700 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur built Loehle Mustang 5151, N518BC, was destroyed when it impacted terrain about two miles from the Livermore Municipal Airport (LVK), Livermore, California. The private pilot was the sole occupant and was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The local flight originated from LVK at 1653.

According to a controller at the LVK air traffic control tower (ATCT), the airplane just departed LVK and was about 2 miles northeast as it pitched up sharply, banked to the left and flew straight down before impacting the ground. Another controller at the LVK ATCT stated the airplane was trailing smoke then was on fire. The airplane banked left and right and abruptly pitched up while trailing smoke. The airplane then nosed over and flew straight down towards the ground. Both witnesses recalled something departing the airplane while in the descent and realized it may had been the pilot jumping from the airplane.

A security camera located about a 1/2 mile to the southwest of the accident location recorded the airplane in flight seconds prior to impacting the ground. The recording captured the airplane in a steep nose dive while trailing smoke. The airplane impacted the ground followed by a large explosion.


A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the 63-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in January 15, 2013, with no limitations stated.

Review of the pilot's logbook indicated a total flight experience of 830 flight hours. Further review revealed that the pilot flew the accident airplane four times in the previous three weeks prior to the accident.


The accident airplane, a 2013 Loehle 5151 Mustang, serial number 5151-10873332, was a low-wing, retractable conventional gear, single-passenger, experimental amateur-built airplane, made primarily of wood construction. The airplane was powered by a 64 horsepower Rotax 582 UL DCDI engine, serial number 5305705, and equipped with a 4-bladed Warp Drive Carbon Fiber propeller. According to the airplane logbooks, the last annual inspection was complied with on March 30, 2014, with a total time of 22 hours.

According to email communication with the FAA, dated June 8, 2014, the pilot stated that he had removed fuel filters on the airplane that was resulting in the loss of power at certain altitudes. He also reported he installed an electric fuel pump for an auxiliary pump and fuel pressure gauge. He concluded in the email that he replaced all of the polyurethane tubing that was supplying fuel to the engine.

Further review of the airplane's maintenance logbooks revealed no logbook entries regarding the fuel system had been entered.


A review of recorded data from the LVK automated weather observation station, located 3 miles southwest of the accident site, revealed at 1453, wind was from 200 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 23 degrees Celsius, dew point 7 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.88 inches of mercury.


LVK was equipped with two parallel runways, designated 7/25 R and L. Runway 7L/25R measured about 5,253 by 100 feet, and runway 7R/25L measured about 2,699 by 75 feet. The two runway centerlines were separated by about 500 feet, and the threshold of runway 26L was staggered about 1,300 feet west of the 25R threshold, and the threshold of runway 7L was staggered about 1,300 feet west of the 7R threshold. LVK is at an elevation of 400 feet msl.


A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector documented and photographed the accident site. The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was with the ground on north facing sloped terrain. Impact marks consistent with the airplane colliding with the terrain in a nose down attitude and wings level. All flight controls, wings and fuselage were highly fragmented throughout the debris path. The debris path was approximately 330 feet in length and oriented along a 358 degree magnetic heading. About 10 acres of land was burned. The pilot was found to the east of the debris path about 420 feet from the FIPC.

Airframe Examination

Examination of the recovered wreckage was conducted on July 2, 2014, at the facilities of Plain Parts, Pleasant Grove, California, by representatives from Rotax Aircraft Engines, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with the oversight by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC). The examination did not reveal any evidence of any preexisting mechanical malfunction which would have precluded normal operation.

Examination of the recovered airframe revealed extensive impact damage. The fuselage and wings are of wood structure and no large sections were present. The ailerons, rudder or elevators were not found intact during the examination. Numerous wing spar hardware was found in the main wreckage and only small portions of the wood spar material was found that was thermally damaged and partially attached to the hardware.

The instrument panel separated into two sections with numerous instruments displaced. The instruments had thermal and impact damage and their indications were not legible.

Control cable continuity was established from the cabin control stick to the rudder horn. The elevator push-pull control tube was separated from the control stick and elevator attachment and had impact damage. The aileron control cables were intact to the aileron attachment hardware. The aileron interconnect cable was separated and exhibited signatures consistent with tension overload at the separation.

The seat belt assembly hardware was found and only small portions of melted webbing remained attached. The main buckle was not attached and the lever handle was in the stowed position and bent to one side.

The 12-gallon fuel tank, associated lines and inline filters were not found during the examination. The header tank pickup tube was found intact and the screen was clear and undamaged. A marine type fuel cap assembly was found and the cap was closed and secure. The o-ring seal on the cap was intact and undamaged.

Engine Examination

Examination of the Rotax 582UL engine revealed that it was partially separated from the engine mount structure. The engine and a section of the fire wall remained partially attached and both had impact damage.

The exhaust muffler assembly separated from the engine and had crush damage. The 90-degree exhaust connection tube from the Y-pipe to the muffler had deformation on the outside bend, closing off about 50 percent of the tube. The exhaust Y-pipe remained attached to the engine and showed signs of modification (shortened).

The forward side of the engine had impact damage. The ignition system had thermal damage and was mostly consumed by fire. The power takeoff (PTO) cylinder had impact damage revealing the connecting rod, piston and internal surfaces. The cylinder head assembly was removed and the combustion areas were covered in a light coating of oil. The MAG (magneto side) cylinder overhead combustion area had small impact marks. The throttle and choke control quadrant remained attached to the engine by the control cables. The throttle lever was found in the mid-range position and the choke handle was in the off position. The starter separated from the engine and had impact damage. The engine driven fuel pump separated from the engine and had thermal damage.

The radiator had impact damage and associated lines were destroyed by fire.

The top spark plugs were removed and the electrode areas had dark sooty deposits. The electrodes exhibited no wear signatures.

The propeller assembly separated from the engine and all four blades separated near the hub. The composite blades had delamination and rotational markings at the tips. The spinner was not located during the examination.


The Alameda County Sheriff's Office conducted an autopsy on the pilot on June 24, 2014. According to the report the medical examiner determined that the cause of death was "acute blunt and thermal trauma."

The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot. According to CAMI's report, no drugs of abuse were detected.


On August 18, 2013, the pilot landed hard after reporting a loss of power after take-off. The pilot was flying the accident airplane during its maiden test flight. The pilot terminated the flight with about 4,000 feet of runway remaining, landed hard, which resulted in the damage of the main landing gear and propeller.

NTSB Identification: WPR14FA258 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 21, 2014 in Livermore, CA
Aircraft: PARKER LOEHLE MUSTANG T5151, registration: N518BC
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On June 21, 2014 about 1700 Pacific daylight time, an experimental Loehle Mustang T5151, N518BC, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain about two miles from the Livermore Municipal Airport (LVK), Livermore, California. The pilot was the sole occupant and was fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The flight originated from LVK at 1653.

According to witnesses, the airplane was about 1,000 feet above ground level when it abruptly pitched up while trailing smoke. The airplane then nosed over and spiraled towards the ground. Fire and smoke was seen trailing the airplane prior to impacting terrain.

The airplane has been recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Jerry Parker 

LIVERMORE, Calif. —  The pilot who jumped to his death from his burning plane after take-off from the Livermore Airport Saturday is being remembered as a skilled aviator and mechanic.

The Alameda County Coroner confirmed his identity as 63-year-old Jerry Parker of Livermore. His body was found about 300 feet from the wreckage of his experimental "kit" plane.

"Everybody loved him, he made friends everywhere he went," said Parker's friend of twenty years, Tom Gorman, "it's just shocking to me, that it was engine failure because I can't imagine him missing anything."

On YouTube, videos Parker posted show take-offs and landings in the plane he'd spent four years building. He told friends his test flights were going well.

"He's been flying the past few weeks, over the house, around Livermore, and was saying the plane is about ready," noted Gorman, "he was thinking of taking it down south to visit his daughter."

But on Saturday around 5 p.m., just a few minutes into another flight, Parker's plane caught fire over the Livermore hills. Trapped in a burning cockpit, he freed himself and fell more than a thousand feet to his death.

"Jerry basically lived at the airport, he was a classic airport bum," Rich Perkins told KTVU.

Perkins was Parker's friend, and his boss, who hired him as an airplane mechanic because he was so skilled, so meticulous.

On an aerobatic flight, he says, Parker would have been required to wear a parachute, but not on a routine flight.

"We'll never know how much time Jerry had or what was going through his mind," said Perkins somberly, "We're just not going to know, how severe that fire was."

Perkins says people often doubt the reliability of "experimental" or "kit" planes after such an accident. In fact, he says, they meet same standards, and undergo the same rigorous FAA inspections, as factory-produced planes.

"These airplanes typically don't exhibit any real problems," explained Perkins. "The accident rate on these kit airplanes is generally no greater than you would find on a certified airplane."

When in trouble, the kit plane's light weight and maneuverability should enable them to glide to the ground. But fire changes everything.

"It sounds like he took off and minutes later it just caught fire," said friend Gorman, "and then he had the most horrific choice I've ever heard of."

Ironically, added Gorman, Parker loved to free fall, and sought out the bungee jump ride at the fair, which drops riders one hundred feet.

"So if that was his choice, between a fire and a free fall, he would choose free fall," lamented Gorman.

Jerry Parker was a mechanical engineer by profession, and a Vietnam combat veteran. He spent more than a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a military contractor, and returned to the Bay Area a few years ago, with the kit plane he bought overseas.

His friend Tom Gorman notes Parker survived many dangerous experiences in the Middle East.

"He's been shot at more times than anybody should be shot at. And it was his recreational activity that finally killed him."

The NTSB is investigating the accident.



LIVERMORE -- An Air Force veteran who died over the weekend after his plane caught fire and crashed into a field near a freeway had built the aircraft, his employer said Monday.

Jerry Parker, 63, of Livermore, jumped from his replica P-51 Mustang after it caught fire during takeoff from Livermore Airport, about 5 p.m. Saturday. He fell 1,000 feet and died instantly, authorities said.

"I flew with him several times, and he was extremely skilled as a pilot," said Rich Perkins, the owner of Attitude Aviation in Livermore. Parker, a veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force, worked as a mechanic for the company.

Perkins said Monday that Parker, who was a Vietnam veteran, had recently been in Iraq and Afghanistan but wanted to get out of those dangerous locales and back to a stable lifestyle at home.

The replica of a P-51 Mustang was a "kit plane," according to Perkins, one that is assembled by its owner. The Federal Aviation Administration must approve such aircraft for flight and had done so with the plane that Parker was flying, Perkins said.

"It's basically a great big model airplane," Perkins said. "They're built to higher standards than certified airplanes. My concern is that people will think this was just some crazy person trying to build an airplane and then flying it. Nothing could be further from truth. This was an excellent pilot and mechanic."

Witnesses told sheriff's deputies that Parker jumped from the aircraft without a parachute after the plane caught fire during takeoff from Livermore airport. The tower reported that the plane was in trouble, then reported flames.

Fire crews quickly contained a blaze that was sparked by the crash, keeping it to 1.5 acres of vegetation, Alameda County Fire spokeswoman Aisha Knowles said.

When he fell, Parker landed about 300 yards from the plane, officials said, and died on impact. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which left the aircraft demolished.

"Unfortunately in flying, once in a while the wrong thing goes wrong at the wrong time, and you have a crash," Perkins said. "Every pilot knows that going in."

Fire crews contained the fire quickly, and nobody else was injured, Knowles said. Cal Fire, Livermore-Pleasanton Fire and Camp Parks all assisted with the response.

Story and photo:

A pilot has died, as an experimental plane he was flying crashed and sparked a brush fire in a field in Alameda County near Livermore Saturday afternoon, a fire battalion chief said. 

 According to Federal Aviation Administration official Allen Kenitzer, the small aircraft, described as an experimental Loehle Mustang, crashed in a field about 2 to 3 miles northeast of Livermore near I-580 shortly after departing from Livermore Municipal Airport.

The crash was reported near North Livermore Avenue just north of Interstate Highway 580 shortly before 5 p.m., Alameda County fire Battalion Chief John Walsh said.

When emergency crews arrived at the wreckage, the pilot, who was the only person on board, was declared deceased at the scene, according to the fire battalion chief.

J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department said the pilot was killed instantly.

"At some point, he got out of the plane, and we don’t know whether he jumped or was thrown out of the plane, but he was not in the plane when it crashed," he said. "His body was found 300 yards away.”

The crash sparked a brush fire that reached about 1.5 acres, before it was contained at 5:17 p.m., Walsh said.

A Loehle Mustang is a type of plane typically constructed from a kit and includes a wood fuselage and a fabric cover. Deputies said all that is left of the plane is a motor and some small parts.

The cause of the plane crash remains under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The identity of the pilot has not been released, and no other injuries have been reported.

Story and video:

What's left of a experimental kitplane lies in a field off North Livermore Avenue, half a mile from 580. The pilot was found dead about 300 feet away Saturday.

Sergeant JD Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department told KTVU the pilot's troubles started shortly after taking off from the airport in Livermore airport around 5 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses said the plane looked like it was on fire.

"At some point the pilot either jumped out of the plane or was forced out of the plane just prior to it crashing on the hillside," Nelson said.

Nelson says looking at the wreckage, it's his belief the pilot would not have survived the crash and as terrifying as it must have been, getting out of the burning plane was the pilot's best option.

"The pilot was killed instantly when he landed in the field about 300 feet from where the plane ultimately landed," he said.

Aviation sources told KTVU the plane that crashed was a kitplane, a 3/4 replica of a World War II fighter plane. However, instead of metal, the replica's frame is made of wood and the skin made of fabric. Sheriff's investigators said that was consistent with what they found among the debris.

The fiery crash also sparked a brush fire that spread an acre and a half before Alameda County fire crews arrived on scene to put it out.

The FAA is investigating the cause of the fire in the plane and resulting crash. The pilot has not been identified.

Story and video:

NTSB Identification: WPR13CA379
Accident occurred Sunday, August 18, 2013 in Livermore, CA
Aircraft: LOEHLE 5151, registration: N518BC

NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

LIVERMORE -- The male pilot of an experimental plane was killed in a crash early Saturday evening near Interstate 580 that touched off a brush fire, according to emergency responders.

The crash, which destroyed the plane, occurred just before 5 p.m. in a field off North Livermore Road. Alameda County sheriff's spokesman J.D. Nelson said the identity of the pilot would not be released until the coroner's investigation was complete.

Witnesses saw the pilot jumping from the aircraft, which Nelson described as a "kit plane," without a parachute after the plane caught on fire after taking off from Livermore airport and heading north. The tower reported it saw the plane in trouble, then saw flames.

The pilot fell about 1,000 feet and landed about 300 yards from the plane, he said. He was killed instantly on impact.

"Nobody ever survives that," Nelson said.

Firefighters quickly contained the blaze, which scorched about 1.5 acres, said Aisha Knowles, spokeswoman for the Alameda County Fire Department. No one else was injured, she said.

Cal Fire, the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and Camp Parks all assisted in the response, Knowles said. The area about half-mile north of westbound Interstate 580 near North Livermore Avenue includes rolling hills and ranch land with a few residences nearby.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the accident, which left little remaining of the plane, Nelson said.

"It's completely demolished," he said. "There's airplane parts and that's it."

Story and photos:

Officials declare reports of plane crash 'unfounded': Whitewater Township, Hamilton County, Ohio

Officials determined Sunday morning that the report of a plane crash in Whitewater Township that had crews searching late into the night was "unfounded."  

A witness called emergency dispatchers around 8 p.m. Saturday to report what they thought was a plane crash in the 6000 block of Kilby Road. The witness reported seeing the aircraft dive toward the ground then observed a plume of smoke, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Emergency crews from several jurisdictions responded and searched as darkness fell, but were unable to find anything. Several units reported seeing smoke but later confirmed it to be campfires.

There was no indication from local airports of any distress signals or missing flights, authorities say.

The University of Cincinnati Medical Center AirCare helicopter was called to scene to search for wreckage just before 10 p.m., and found a light source that ended up being nothing significant.

The search was terminated for the night around 11 p.m. and picked back up Sunday morning at about 8:30. Officials said they hoped light could aid in the search.

But Sunday morning's search only lasted about an hour before officials from the sheriff's office and Whitewater Township determined the reports about the incident were "unfounded," according to a news release from the sheriff's office.



WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has called off the search for a plane that reportedly crashed in Whitewater Township Saturday, calling the search 'unfounded'.

A witness called police Saturday evening and reported seeing a small aircraft dive toward the ground. The witness also said they saw smoke in the area.

Listen to the 911 call.

Fire and rescue crews searched an area near Kilby Road on Saturday and Sunday morning but did not find any wreckage. They did find a fire but it ended up being a campfire.

The University of Cincinnati Hospital Air Care helicopter also conducted a search but did not find anything.

Officials told FOX19's Ben Katko that they think the witness saw a large model plane, not a passenger plane.

"We don't believe there was a real aircraft that went down," said Maj. Mike Horton with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. "We believe that there was a group of people over on Lawrenceburg flying toy airplanes.  Some of those were rather large.  I think from the viewing area, where our witness or our caller saw the plane, she probably saw what she saw.  But, it was a toy airplane."

r Township is in far western Hamilton County near Indiana.

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Authorities say report of Ohio plane down unfounded, no wreckage found 
CINCINNATI — Authorities have determined the report of a possibly downed small plane around Whitewater Township in southwestern Ohio was unfounded, after hours of searching.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says deputies were sent to the township about 22 miles northwest of Cincinnati shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday after someone reported possibly seeing a two-seater aircraft dive toward the ground and then a plume of smoke.

Deputies and Whitewater Township fire and emergency crews searched by foot and by vehicles. The University of Cincinnati Hospital Air Care helicopter also participated.

The search was called off for the night around 11 p.m. and resumed around 8:30 Sunday morning.

By 10 a.m., authorities had found no wreckage. They also say no airport had reported any distress signals or missing flights.


WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) -   Crews in Whitewater Township are still searching for a possible airplane that went down near Kilby Road on Saturday.

Someone called authorities saying they witnessed a plane go down and then saw smoke. They reported seeing a small, possibly two-seater plane flying in the area.

Fire and rescue crews were on the scene for several hours but did not find any plane wreckage. They did find a fire but it ended up being a campfire.

The University of Cincinnati Hospital Air Care helicopter also conducted a search but did not find a crash site.

There has been no indication of any missing flights or distress signals in the area.

Whitewater Township is in far western Hamilton County near Indiana.


WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP —Emergency crews responded Saturday to reports of a small plane that crashed in Whitewater Township.

A witness said she saw a plane go down in the 6800 block of Kilby Road.

According to the 911 call, the woman reported seeing smoke coming from a field.

WLWT News 5's Tammy Mutasa said there were five fire departments as well as AirCare on scene searching for the plane.

The departments involved in the search included Greendale, Whitewater Township and Lawrenceburg, among others.

First responders said there were some camp fires in the area that may have supplied the smoke that the caller said she saw.

Emergency crews canceled the search for the wreckage Saturday evening and resumed the search on Sunday morning.


WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Crews will continue searching fields in Whitewater Township Sunday after several "reliable reports" claimed a small plane was seen going down Saturday night.

Authorities said they began receiving calls at 8 p.m. Saturday about a small, "possibly two-seater aircraft" crashing in a field in the 6800 block of Kilby Road, near Lawrenceburg Road.

At least one person who called 911 said they saw smoke coming from a field, according to county dispatch.

While the crash was never formally confirmed, multiple law enforcement and fire agencies participated in a search of the area throughout Saturday evening. Authorities also brought in a helicopter to use "night vision" technology to scan for possible wreckage.

The search was called off for the night at 11 p.m. Saturday, but crews planned to continue their investigation Sunday morning.

Officials said there was no indication from local airports of any distress signals or missing flights.

WCPO will update this story when more information is available.

WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP —Emergency crews responded Saturday to reports of a small plane that crashed in Whitewater Township. 

A witness said she saw a plane go down in the 6800 block of Kilby Road.

According to the 911 call, the woman reported seeing smoke coming from a field.

WLWT News 5's Tammy Mutasa said there were five fire departments as well as AirCare on scene searching for the plane.

The departments involved in the search included Greendale, Whitewater Township and Lawrenceburg, among others.

First responders said there were some camp fires in the area that may have supplied the smoke that the caller said she saw.

Emergency crews canceled the search for the wreckage Saturday evening and resumed the search on Sunday morning.


Walter "Bud" Ledgerwood: Octogenarian continues to take to the skies

LAPORTE - Walter "Bud" Ledgerwood is still flying high at age 85.

Sitting behind the controls of his 1946 single engine Aeronca Chief is like being with a dear friend, he said, and traveling above the clouds feels like being in the presence of God.

"It keeps me alive. It keeps me young. It keeps me active and I meet great people," said Ledgerwood, a Union Mills resident who flies out of the LaPorte Municipal Airport.

Ledgerwood was about 10 when he caught the aviation bug growing up in central Indiana. He was fascinated by military planes making practice runs overhead as the country was about to enter World War II.

When he turned 18, he got his license to fly at Weir Cook Municipal Airport, now known as Indianapolis International Airport, in a small plane that's now on display at an aviation museum in Cincinnati.

He's owned several planes over the years, including a single engine 1964 Cherokee 140 that he still occasionally flies, but the 1946 Aeronica Chief that he purchased for a mere $1,250 in 1970 is his favorite.

He's attached to the Aeronica Chief because it was modeled after the planes used for combat training and has similarities to the aircraft of pilots who preceded him.

"It's a first class history lesson," Ledgerwood said. His message to young people who might be interested in learning how to fly is to go for it.

"You can relive what your great grandaddies did. You can fly the plane that your grandfather and father flew," he said.

Ledgerwood now mans the controls for only about 30 to 40 minutes at a time. But in his heyday, he flew to places like Kitty Hawk, N.C.,  where Orville and Wilbur Wright took the first plane off the ground in 1903.

He's also flown as far as Canada and Florida and often, during his long journeys, he'd fly in a convoy with other pilots who all would camp together underneath the wings of their planes.

One of his fondest memories is flying to the airshow in Oshkosh, Wisc. He still goes there, but now it's from behind the wheel of a recreational vehicle.

He has no plans to stop flying, but might slow down if his grandson takes it up and allows him to tag along on short trips.

He has no ambition, whatsoever, to distance himself from the airport where can he's found daily looking over and tinkering with his planes or engaging in small talk with other pilots and basking in the atmosphere.

"It's enjoyable and it's a full-time passion," said Ledgerwood, who moved to LaPorte in 1969 with his wife of 60 years, Patricia, and their three children. He now has nine grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren.

Ledgerwood owned a display advertising business for 32 years and retired as manager of the LaPorte airport.

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Hundreds Learn About Aircraft During Family Aviation Day: Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport (KBWG), Kentucky

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Interested in aviation?

Then Saturday was the day to be at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport.

Several planes were on display for people to see and learn about at the airport.

Collectible items were for sale, and there were even plane rides for the kids.

It was the second year for Family Aviation Day and hundreds stopped by.

"Just a love of aviation. Just want to expand aviation to more people to just make them aware how wonderful of an asset it is to the community," said Doug Miller, chapter president of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

He said while Family Aviation Day will be over, you can still catch a ride on the special 1929 Ford Tri-Motor plane at the airport Sunday until 5:00 p.m. for $75.


Schumer, Bishop: Federal Aviation Administration Has Agreed To Renew Successful and Groundbreaking Over-the-Water North Shore Helicopter Route For Two Years

Long Island, NY - June 21st, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop announced that the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta have agreed to renew the groundbreaking and successful North Shore over-the-water helicopter route that was set to expire in August. The representatives said that this two-year extension of the successful route is a critical step towards making the rule permanent and to expanding it to provide further relief, and they applauded the FAA’s decision. Schumer and Bishop have long advocated for a comprehensive over-the-water helicopter route and after years of back and forth, the DOT finalized a rule in 2012 requiring helicopter operators along Long Island’s northern shoreline, between the VPLYD waypoint in Huntington and Riverhead, to fly over the Long Island Sound.

Schumer and Bishop said that this is an important first step, and they will also continue to push for the FAA regulations be expanded to require that helicopters follow a total water route and go past Orient Point and Shelter Island when landing at South Fork airports. There are also a few problem areas in Nassau County that must be addressed, especially in the Town of North Hempstead. Schumer said that the route should be extended so that helicopters fly almost entirely over the water from Manhattan to Eastern Long Island, including in Northeast Queens. The representatives also pledged to continue their effort to establish a complimentary South Shore route.

“Luckily for Long Island residents, the beginning of August will not also mean the return of onerous helicopter noise that once interrupted dinners, disrupted people enjoying their backyards and had an effect on quality of life and on property values. The FAA’s and DOT’s decision to extend the successful over-the-water North Shore Route before it expired is a smart one, and I applaud their decision. Congressman Bishop and I will continue to fight for this rule’s permanence, and for this over-the-water route to be expanded, creating a total water route,” said Schumer.

"I am pleased the FAA has announced its intention to extend the north shore route in order to protect Suffolk County residents from helicopter noise as Senator Schumer and I have advocated," said Congressman Bishop. "I thank the FAA for acting to protect homeowners, and it is my sincere hope that FAA will continue to review ways to minimize the reach of noise pollution."

For nearly a decade, Schumer’s and Bishop’s offices have been inundated with constituents’ complaints about deafening helicopter noise. Schumer and Bishop have long advocated for solutions that would curb low-flying helicopters on Long Island. Since first being contacted about noise from low-flying helicopters on Long Island, Schumer and Bishop have worked with officials from the FAA, New York metropolitan area helicopter operators, and airport managers from Nassau and Suffolk Counties to establish solutions to eradicate onerous helicopter noise. While the parties originally agreed to voluntary regulations, the recommendations were largely ignored by the industry. The problem intensified and residents continued to suffer regular deafening, foundation-rattling flyovers.

Concerned with the industry’s and FAA’s implementation of those voluntary regulations, Schumer introduced and passed legislation in February 2011 that was included in the Senate version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill. Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the Senate Majority fought hard to include the Schumer legislation in the conference report, but were blocked by the Republican-led House, at the industry’s behest.

In 2012, Schumer and Bishop successfully pushed the Department of Transportation to finalize and publish regulations that mandate over-water routes for helicopters flying on the North Shore. The “North Shore Route” states that, unless otherwise authorized, each helicopter operating along Long Island’s northern shoreline between the VPLYD waypoint in Huntington and Orient Point must fly one mile off the north shore for the purpose of noise abatement in residential areas. Pilots may deviate from these requirements when required for safety, weather conditions or transitioning to or from a destination or point of landing. If pilots don’t follow the rules, they can be subject to monetary penalties or have license revoked. That pilot rule was instituted in 2012 and was set to expire on August 6, 2014. It has now been extended an additional 2 years.

The North Shore Route has been very successful and has lessened the impact of seasonal helicopter traffic on a number of Long Island communities.  The route requires helicopters to fly one mile from the shore over the Long Island Sound while traveling along the North Shore of Suffolk County. Bishop and Schumer noted that as the route currently stands, there remains an issue with the North Shore Route when helicopters cross land on the North Fork in order to land at South Fork airports. Schumer and Bishop will continue to urge the FAA to require helicopters continue over water and go around Orient Point to address this concern, and to explore common sense ways to expand the over-water routes.


Bismarck Municipal Airport (KBIS) awarded $3M federal grant

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Bismarck Municipal Airport is getting yet another grant.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding the airport a $3 million grant that will be used to drain nearby wetlands to prevent waterfowl from flying into flight paths.

U.S. Sens. John Hoven and Heidi Heitkamp announced the grant on Friday.

The senators announced an additional $1.5 million Federal Aviation Authority grant to rehabilitate the airport's runway on June 16.

In April Sens. Heitkamp and Hoeven hosted Federal Aviation Administration head Michael Huerta in North Dakota to make the case for more federal funds for North Dakota airports. A number of the state's airports have struggled to keep up with recent rapid population growth.

North Dakota airports have secured around $25 million in federal grants since Huerta's visit.


Monroe Community College hosts mock, active shooter drill

Afternoon classes were canceled at Monroe Community College on Friday. MCC’s Brighton campus was transformed into a training exercise for emergency first responders.

School officials held a mock, active shooter drill to make sure the college, law enforcement and emergency officials are prepared to respond in a similar case.

Multiple agencies responded on land and in the air, including SWAT teams, a bomb squad, FBI and the State Police Aviation Unit.

Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson says the goal is to be prepared for any situation.

“First response agencies strive for emergency preparedness and tactical readiness. We plan for the worst and train in a real-world environment to respond to a variety of situations. We hope and pray that we’ll never have to use our skills,” said Henderson.

Officials say the training exercise took two years to plan.

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Young Eagles Day Returns to Morgantown Municipal Airport (KMGW), West Virginia


Young Eagles Day returned to the Morgantown Municipal Airport on Saturday. Kids from the ages of eight to 17 were invited to take a free plane ride around the city of Morgantown.

Each ride lasted 20 minutes and went approximately 2,500 feet in the air. Not only does this event give children the opportunity to experience a plane ride, but it also sparks their desire to learn more about aviation in general.

"It's encouraging their advancement in aviation, trying to get a career in aviation, thinking about being a pilot, air traffic controller, and aircraft mechanic" said Richard Judy, president of Morgantown Pilots Association.

Kid's received pre-flight training by learning the in's and out's from a 1966 Cessna 150F. More airline pilots begin training with this type of plane than any other.

Riders were able to see sites like the WVU Coliseum, Mountaineer Field, and the Monongahela River from a different point of view.

Branden Purdum took part in this event for the very first time. He said the most surprising component of the ride was how smooth both the take off and landing went.

"It felt very comfortable without having to stand and look around. You just could see it from all above, and you didn't have to move your head" said Purdum.

This was the 10th year for Young Eagles Day and those in charge said the best part is always seeing the smiles on the kids faces after they get off the plane.

"A lot of the kids will come up, and they'll be really nervous and they're not sure about going up in this thing with wings. When they get back they just bounce off the airplane and they're like can I go again, can I go again?" said Judy.

There is expected to be a growing need for airplane pilots and mechanics in the coming years.

"Probably five years from now there's going to be a severe shortage of aircraft pilots and aircraft mechanics. All of the guys who came back from Vietnam, are going to start to retire out," Judy said.

The goal is that events like this will encourage more kids to study aviation in the future. Over the past 10 years, this program has allowed 2,500 kids to take a ride around the Morgantown area. Organizers hope the event will continue to grow in the coming years.


Hope Air helping to fly Canadians to healthcare

A  Canadian charity is making it easier for residents in smaller communities to fly to areas with more healthcare benefits.

Hope Air launched its first Canadian online Business Aviation Registry this week encouraging businesses to register their corporate aircraft to provide public benefit flights to low income people who need to travel to healthcare.

In the past Hope Air had been restricted by the Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) to the size and type of aircraft which could be used for public benefit flights.

However Doug Keller-Hopson, the Executive Director of Hope Air tells 630 CHED’s Tencer and Grose that those restrictions were lifted in March, and that’s opened up their market to the business aviation sector.

“In early March of this year we had those restrictions all lifted for Hope Air, and we’re now able to engage and put people on a Trans Canada plane, Suncor, Enbridge just to name a few” says Keller-Hopson

For 27 years now Hope Air has been providing free flights for low income Canadians having provided 85,000 flights in that time.

Hope Air and its commercial airline partners and donors were able to provide 7,090 free flights last year to Canadians.  


New York legislature OKs tougher penalties for lasers pointed at aircraft; video shows blinding effects

ALBANY, N.Y. -- State lawmakers in New York have voted to outlaw the dangerous practice of pointing lasers at airplanes.

 The measure would make it a misdemeanor to shine a laser pointer at an aircraft. If the laser forced a pilot to significantly change course or otherwise disrupted the flight, the crime would be a felony. 

The Senate and Assembly passed the legislation this week before adjourning their six-month session.

It's already illegal under federal law to point a laser at a plane. The lasers are hazardous because they can easily disorient pilots.

Federal authorities report a big increase in the number of incidents, with nearly 100 occuring in the New York City area last year.

Supporters say matching state law with federal law will make it easier to prosecute offenders.

This TV news report highlights a recent video from a Seminole County Sheriff's helicopter shows a laser light being pointed at the pilot. One person was arrested.

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Accident occurred June 20, 2014 at Lookout Mountain, Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado

1  person killed in Golden hang glider accident.

KUSA - A man was killed in a hang gliding accident Friday afternoon.

The accident happened on Lookout Mountain according to the Golden Fire Department.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's office says the incident happened just below the "M" on Lookout Mountain. They're in the process of interviewing numerous witnesses.

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Georgia is prepared to be a player when the drone industry takes off

ATLANTA | Georgia universities and companies are revving their engines and prepared to soar the moment the Federal Aviation Administration approves the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles although other practical hurdles could be as significant.

That was the message from experts meeting last week in an international conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics meeting in Atlanta.

“The state is working on creating an environment that’s good for our companies so that when the FAA does pull the switch, we can pull out and start doing these commercially and that our companies here in the state will be ready, both with the product and the service companies and we’ll have people trained to fly and service those vehicles across the board,” said Steve Justice, executive director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace.

Even though commercial drone operation isn’t legal, there are already firms here flying the planes legally for research purposes. Area-I is a 6-year-old company in Kennesaw that partners with Middle Georgia State College and uses its academic exemption to test composite materials and airframe designs for NASA and the Department of Defense.

“We’re not just doing paper studies. We intend to take these on and fly them,” said Nick Alley, president of Area-I.

Other companies are doing engineering or at least investigating the concept for inspecting electrical-transmission wires, imagining crops and news coverage.

The FAA recognizes there are also firms illegally using the vehicles to photograph real estate, inspect roofs and such. In the last two years, airline pilots reported an average of one drone spotted in commercial air space per month, but that has risen six fold recently.

By 2018, the agency expects as many as 7,500 commercial drones operating and 30,000 by 2030.

The agency is drafting proposed regulations for release by year end to permit regular commercial operations. In the meantime, it allows commercial operation in Alaska and began to accept applications this month for expedited permission for special uses such as for movie production or smokestack inspections without having to stop operations as is the case for manned vehicles. And it has set aside six sights where testing is allowed without the lengthy process for special permits.

Alley wants FAA to allow flights in rural areas now. But Elizabeth Soltys, FAA’s program director over the six test sites, said even rural areas have power lines and people on the ground who expect the agency to safeguard their safety.

Getting investors and insurance are two other factors that could slow commercial application.

About one-third of the states have passed laws aimed at protecting the privacy of property owners on the ground from overhead snooping, with a similar bill introduced in Georgia this year.

“You can’t just assume that everybody is enthusiastic,” said Morgan Cloud, a law professor at Emory University. “Many people are terrified.”

The uncertainty about the eventual federal regulations, new state laws and how the courts will treat suits against drone operators are keeping major investors on the sidelines.

“It’s really hard to make a case for venture capital because we don’t know what the rules are going to be,” Justice said.


McMurray puts Cessna sponsored car on Sonoma Pole; Bowyer will start 25th

It’s clear there is something about qualifying at Sonoma that brings out the best out of Jamie McMurray.  On Saturday the Joplin, Missouri native won his second straight pole at the California road course and the first pole under the new knockout qualifying format, with a fast lap of 96.350 mph.

"This knockout qualifying is just an emotional rollercoaster," said McMurray, who's sponsor is Wichita based Cessna. "From not making the top 12 and having to go out and bump your way back in and then being on the pole, there's a lot of highs and lows that go along with it."

McMurray’s teammate Kyle Larson is also fast, the rookie will start third.

"We obviously have a couple really good cars at Chip Ganassi Racing," said Larson. "It would have been nice to get the pole, but Jamie was really fast. “

AJ Allmendinger who won two races on the road courses in the Nationwide series a year ago will start second, with Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch rounding out the top five.

Kansas native Clint Bowyer, who won at Sonoma in 2012, had a disappointing day of qualifying and will start 25th on Sunday.

“Well that wasn’t what we expected,” said Bowyer. “We were fast all day yesterday -- just didn't have enough grip and missed turn four.  We will just have to pass a few more cars tomorrow.”

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Seaplane plan takes off

Plans for a commuter seaplane to operate between Hobart and Launceston have been labelled a ``fantastic idea'' by Launceston's Mayor Albert Van Zetten and a city entrepreneur.

Tasmanian Air Adventures announced this week that it was looking to invest in a 12-seat float plane, aimed at providing a commuter service to regional areas in Tasmania.

It hopes to provide a service between Hobart's waterfront and Launceston's Seaport for $200 return, as well as other services to Strahan and World Heritage Areas in the South-West.

TAA director of operations Tim Robertson said the $1 million to $1.5 million project was still in its early stage, but could be operating by summer if there was enough support.

``If we get the numbers and get the appropriate amount of support, we could very well see a regular service [between Launceston and Hobart],'' Mr Robertson said.

He said a trip from Hobart to Launceston could take between 25 minutes and an hour, depending on routes.

``We're focusing on infrastructure we're building in Hobart at the moment,'' he said.

``But one of the great things about the seaplane is it doesn't need any infrastructure at the end.''

The only infrastructure it needs to land is a dock, which is already in place at Seaport's Home Point.

The dock was used regularly more than a decade ago when Terry Mulholland operated Tamar Seaplanes from 1997.

Launceston developer Errol Stewart, who is developing the $20 million silos hotel on North Bank, said the idea was fantastic.

``Whether it came into the silos or the Seaport, there'd be plenty of spots for it,'' he said.

``You're getting right into the heart of the city and the same with Hobart.

``If you go to a place like Vancouver in Canada, seaplanes come in and out like buses.

``You have to get people using it of course, but I think it's great.''

Alderman van Zetten welcomed the idea saying it would be great for business people to travel quickly between cities.

The project is an expansion on what TAA already does and is a way to open up remote areas of the state.

The company hopes to know more about costs and whether it can operate the service this summer, by September.


Erick Magno & Assoc Pa DRIFTER, N1694P: Accident occurred June 21, 2014 in Zephryhills, Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA14CA306
Accident occurred Saturday, June 21, 2014 in Zephryhills, FL
Aircraft: ERICK MAGNO & ASSOC PA DRIFTER, registration: N1694P

NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.


Pasco County, Florida -- Zephyrhills Fire Department responded to reports of a possible airplane crash at Skydive City in Zephyrhills on Saturday.

SkyDive City is a popular spot for skydiving.

Officials tell 10 News an ultralight plane crashed. No one was injured in the accident.

Pasco County Fire Rescue isn't saying how many people were on board.


Runway lights at Tulsa International Airport (KTUL) fail to come on, monitoring system being removed

Tulsa International Airport electricians are removing a new monitoring system after malfunctions stopped runway lights from turning on twice this week.

Crews installed a new system to automatically monitor lights at Tulsa International Airport and R.L. Jones Riverside Airport and tested the system during daytime hours early this week.

But the lights failed to turn on at dusk at about 9 p.m. Tuesday night, causing a one-hour delay in which three planes were diverted. Some planes were able to circle on Tuesday until the lights were repaired.

After a fix, the monitoring system was turned on again Thursday, but the lights failed to come on again. Thursday night’s delay was only about 10 minutes because the airport had an electrician on hand to monitor the situation, said airport spokesman Daniel Meier.

“We’re taking the monitoring system out for now,” he said. “It’s easier not to have it than to deal with the problems.”

The problem did not affect the lights at R.L. Jones Riverside Airport. Because of Thursday night’s delay, one plane was diverted to Wichita.

Meier said the airport staff is trying to find out what caused the monitoring system to malfunction and discussing what they might do about it.

Crews completed work earlier this month on a $55 million repair to the main runway and some related work. The project took three years to complete.

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Incident occurred June 21, 2014 in Tigerville, Greenville County, South Carolina

Firefighters rescue paraglider who crashed into tree


Firefighters say a paraglider was not hurt when his gliding wing crashed into a tree in the Tigerville area.

Tigerville firefighters said they were called to an address on Lindsey Bridge Road on Saturday after the paraglider crashed around 3:30 p.m.

The thrill seeker was stuck in branches more than 60 feet off the ground, according to firefighters.

Chief Russell Ledford said firefighters used ropes and a hauling system to lower the man safely to the ground.

Firefighters said the man only suffered a few minor scratches and did not need medical treatment.

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Quieter runways: Fewer planes taking off from Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (KLBB)

Airline boardings are up across the United States, but not at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport.

Recent data released by the United States Department of Transportation showed a 2 percent increase nationwide in scheduled service passengers in March 2014 compared to March 2013.

It also said U.S. airlines carried 174.6 million domestic and international passengers during the first three months of 2014, which was 1 percent more than the same period in 2013.

But the numbers don’t translate to Lubbock’s airport.

According to this month’s economic indicators, April’s airline boardings in Lubbock decreased by about 3 percent compared to the previous year. Year to date, boardings went down from a little more than 145,000 in 2013 to roughly 141,000 this year.

“Airline traffic really depends on your part of the country, your local community and what’s going on,” Kelly Campbell, executive director of the airport, said. “Air service is a strange thing. Demand is a strange thing.”

From an operational standpoint, Campbell said she isn’t too worried about the decrease in traffic. She said the airport budgets conservatively, and during her time at the airport she’s seen the number of users fluctuate frequently.

One of the reasons for the decrease, she went on to say, could be the changing industry — specifically, mergers.

Recent developments that affect Lubbock’s airport were Continental Airline’s merger with United Airlines, American Airlines’ merger with US Airways and Southwest Airlines acquiring AirTran. These expansions have caused changes in air travel throughout the country.

In April, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released data on the flight cuts during the mergers in the past several years. For midsize airports, the average percentage change of flights since 2007 has decreased by 23.9 percent. Total seats have decreased by almost 19 percent.

“I hope that it’s just part of the life cycle,” Campbell said of the decrease in travelers, “but there have been huge changes in the airline industry where you have several airlines merging.”

The Lubbock airport has about 19 flights per day, Campbell said, which is fewer than it had years ago.

But fewer flights hasn’t caused air travel to decrease nationwide.

Deborah O’Connor, the owner of Bell Travel Services, has been a travel specialist for more than 25 years.

O’Connor speculated the increases in ticket prices may be causing more travelers to drive to larger airports in order to book cheaper, more convenient flights.

“Most people in Lubbock know somebody in Dallas, so they’re willing to drive,” O’Connor said. “It used to be, several years ago, you’d only save like $50 if you drove to Dallas, so it wasn’t worth the drive or the gas. Now when you compare, a family of four may save $1,000, and $1,000 is worth the drive.”

Peter Abzug works in communications for Airlines Reporting Corp., an airline-owned company that provides data and services. Abzug gave A-J Media a travel study the company performed between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2013 and 2014.

The study found a 3.6 percent increase in domestic ticket prices and a 4.9 percent increase in ticket count in domestic trips.

Although there is no proof of causality between O’Connor’s claim and the study, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport did have a 16 percent increase in flight origins in the two years of the study.

O’Connor said she believes the numbers boil down to ticket prices and flight availability.

In airport destinations, ARC’s study showed the DFW airport had a 1.5 percent decrease in prices.

“That’s what I boil it down to,” she said. “We used to have so many flights out of here. And you can see it in the number of gates, too. Half of those gates aren’t even used. We had other airlines here, but not anymore.”

Campbell said she expects airline boardings to pick up during the summer months, as more people travel for leisure.

Campbell was not sure if more people were traveling to Dallas, but she said ticket prices at Lubbock’s airport are no different than those at Midland and Amarillo.

“I like to point out to people that 19 flights a day is still good for a community our size when you look at the changes in the airline business,” she added. “There’s really four major airlines and we have service from three of them. So, it’s really hard to complain.”

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Privacy advocates concerned about Aberdeen Proving Ground blimps: Army planning three-year exercise; says aerostats will carry radar, not cameras

The Army is planning to launch a pair of blimps over Maryland this fall to watch the Eastern Seaboard for incoming cruise missiles.

It's what else they might be able to see from up there that worries privacy advocates.

The Army says the aerostats — blimps tethered to the ground in Harford and Baltimore counties — will carry technology capable of detecting, tracking and targeting cruise missiles and rockets up to 340 miles away. That means they can cover an area from North Carolina to the Canadian border.

The helium-filled aircraft, which have been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, are on their way to Aberdeen Proving Ground. Officials plan a three-year exercise to test the system's effectiveness in the National Capital Region.

"People have been using balloons for military purposes since the Civil War," said Maj. Beth Smith, a spokeswoman for U.S. Northern Command and NORAD. "There's a couple that are flying right now, we use them all the time, and they work great."

But the ACLU of Maryland, which has pushed the General Assembly for legislation to limit the deployment of drones in the state, is raising concern about the surveillance technology to be mounted on the aerostats — and whether it might be trained on private citizens.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, meanwhile, has sued the Army for details of the equipment and its capabilities.

"It's designed to be a system that can surveil a large area," said Ginger McCall, an attorney for the Washington-based center. "That would have profound implications for the way that people would choose to live their lives."

The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, comes to Maryland at a time of rising concern over government eavesdropping. The last year has brought a succession of revelations about the collection of telephone and email data by the National Security Agency, a Defense Department organization headquartered at Fort Meade.

The Army says the aerostats to be tested over Aberdeen Proving Ground will be outfitted only with radar, not cameras. Smith says the system will be "looking outward," for external threats.

"There's no intent to spy on any Americans with this," she said. "It's an exercise."

Privacy advocates note a demonstration last year by defense contractor Raytheon, which boasted in a news release that it had successfully equipped a JLENS aerostat with electro-optical infrared sensors, "enabling operators to watch [a] live feed of trucks, trains and cars from dozens of miles away."

As part of the demonstration, Raytheon reported, operators were able to observe actors placing a mock roadside bomb the Utah desert.

It's that kind of technology that concerns David Rocha, an attorney with the ACLU of Maryland.

"We don't really care about radar being aimed into the Atlantic Ocean to detect cruise missiles," Rocha said. "There's no privacy implications in cruise missiles. But they have said that this same technology can also detect vehicles on the ground, and that they're not ruling out mounting other surveillance technology on this platform. And that does raise huge concerns."

McCall warns of "mission creep."

"Often times a new technology that's very invasive will at first be proposed as a military technology," she said. "It will be rolled out often times in Middle East conflicts. So, for instance, the drones. Or some of the facial recognition technology. These things are first used in conflict zones.

"And then they begin to be used domestically. At first, they're usually couched as an anti-terrorism tool. And then there's mission creep from there, and it becomes a tool that's used for garden-variety law enforcement."

McCall says Americans expect to not be watched or tracked by the government in their everyday lives.

"They go to doctor's appointments. They might go to an abortion clinic, or a psychiatrist's office. They might go to a political protest," she said. "Your religious activity or associations — all of these things, people expect privacy in."

Rocha warned of the "movement of battlefield technology to the domestic sphere."

"What's appropriate in a battlefield is not appropriate here," he said. "Maryland is not a battlefield, and we are not the enemy."

Smith says she understands the advocates' questions.

"We recognize that people take these concerns seriously," she said. But the system "is designed to link in with existing infrastructures to better protect the nation. And it's an exercise to see how well it does that. … There's no hidden purpose."

Army officials have been trying to head off public concern about the exercise. Once launched, the aerostats — 243 feet long, bright white and nearly two miles up — will be obvious to motorists on Interstate 95. On a clear day, they'll be visible from downtown Baltimore.

Representatives of Aberdeen Proving Ground have been visiting the surrounding community to let neighbors know what's coming.

"We are certain this will generate phone calls and Internet and social media buzz," Kelly Luster, a spokesman for the Army installation, told the Harford County Council during a presentation this month. "I say this because the aerostats are quite large and they're visible for about 50 miles."

So far, however, the public has shown little interest. About 25 people attended a hearing in January on wetlands permits for the project; most were members of the military or its contractors. During the portion of the hearing set aside for public comments, no one spoke.

Spokespersons for Harford County, where Aberdeen Proving Ground is based, and for Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, in whose district the aerostats are to be deployed, say they have received no questions or complaints from the public.

"It is our understanding that the mission is to test new and much-needed surveillance equipment to protect us from air attacks as countries like Iran, China and Russia work to develop their own cruise missiles," said Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "And we'll be in regular contact with the Army to make sure that remains the case."

Ruppersberger and other officials have touted the economic benefits of the exercise for the region. Up to 150 workers, a mix of service members and civilians, are to begin arriving in August.

Officials plan to construct pads, buildings, utilities and parking for each of the aerostats, which are to be tethered four miles apart — one within the Edgewood area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, the other on Graces Quarters Road, southeast of the Hammerman Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park in Baltimore County.

Army officials say the aircraft can stay aloft for up to 30 days at a time, many times longer than helicopters or airplanes — and they're much cheaper to operate.

They are to be tethered to the earth with 10,000-foot Kevlar cables that contain power lines and fiber optics.The elevation extends the range of the radar.

"JLENS works for the same reason that you can see further when you are in a 10-story building then you can from the ground," said Smith, the NORAD spokeswoman.

The exercise is scheduled to start in October.

The aerostats are making their way to Maryland from Utah, where soldiers and civilians from Dugway Proving Ground have spent the last three years testing them in the Snake Valley.

The Citizens Education Project in Salt Lake City raised concerns about the use of drones as targets during the testing in Utah, the possibility of a crash or fire, and whether the project was the best use of public money.

It is not clear whether drones are to be used during the exercise at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Steve Erickson, the director of the Citizens Education Project, said there was no public outcry in Utah about privacy.

"This is quite a remote area where they were operating in," Erickson said. "It was out on military land in the Utah Test and Training Range. That's inaccessible to the general public.

"While you could see these two blimps from the freeway, there's no residences out there."

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