Monday, June 23, 2014

Federal Aviation Administration Targets Reckless Hobbyists in First Rules for Drones

To corral a surge in incidents of reckless, recreational drone use, the U.S. government barred flights of small unmanned aircraft near airports and crowds.

People who want to fly drones as hobbyists should take lessons on safe operation and keep the aircraft within their line of sight, according to a Federal Aviation Administration notice released today. The limits apply to recreational drones weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms).

While the action doesn’t set rules for commercial drone flights, it marks the first attempt to codify restrictions for a burgeoning category of aircraft that the FAA has had difficulty policing. It was important to clarify what type of drone use the FAA considers dangerous, said Rebecca Byers MacPherson, the agency’s former assistant chief counsel for regulations.

“That is a big first step in terms of drawing clear jurisdictional lines for the use of the aircraft and the FAA’s ability to regulate,” MacPherson, who is now a lawyer in Washington at Jones Day LP, said in an interview.

The change is a result of “recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people,” the agency said in a news release. The FAA is seizing on language in a 2012 law regarding hobbyists and unmanned aircraft.

The rules are set for publication in the U.S. Federal Register and take effect immediately, according to the agency.

Flying Safely 

As multiple-rotor copters and other drones have fallen in price, their use has grown rapidly. Websites such as contain scores of videos shot from drones flying over parks or urban areas that would violate the FAA’s rules.

“We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby, but to enjoy it safely,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in the news release.

Recreational drones should weigh less than 55 pounds and shouldn’t be flown within five miles (8 kilometers) of an airport without notifying air-traffic controllers, the FAA said.

The FAA also plans to work with local law enforcement agencies and its own safety inspectors to better understand the rules and enforce them, the agency said in the release.

“We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in the release. 

Model Academy

 Unmanned aircraft larger than 55 pounds may be flown if they are certified as safe by a modeling club, the FAA said in a pamphlet on its new standards.

It also said model planes and helicopters should be flown at areas set aside by such clubs. These flying sites typically require members to have insurance and training.

The FAA’s standards closely follow those by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the largest group representing such hobbyists in the U.S. The group’s safety code says pilots shouldn’t fly unmanned aircraft over “unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures.” 

The agency’s first attempt at enforcing rules against a drone operator was overturned March 6 by a judge who said the agency didn’t have legal authority over small unmanned aircraft. The FAA appealed the decision before the National Transportation Safety Board, which decides appeals of its enforcement actions.

The case against Swiss citizen Raphael Pirker may not be directly effected by the FAA’s latest rule. The agency charged he was being paid, which means it wasn’t a hobby flight. 


General aviation industry pursues safety: Your Say

USA TODAY's investigative report "Unfit for flight" found repeated instances in which small-aircraft crashes were caused by defects and dangerous designs. Letters to the editor: 

Your investigative report "Unfit for flight" presents a greatly distorted view of general aviation. The story cites 44,407 general aviation deaths in 50 years, and the claim of "carnage" and a "massive and growing death toll."
The report declines to note that more than half of those deaths happened more than 30 years ago. In fact, National Transportation Safety Board figures show that there has actually been a 75% decrease in fatalities from 1973 to today. In 2012 alone, general aviation aircraft flew nearly 25 million flight hours. General aviation — and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association — have been aggressive in pressing the FAA to make it easier and more affordable for new technology and safety equipment to be installed in the existing fleet of general aviation aircraft.

The results can be seen in a safety record that has greatly improved over time, which your articles simply ignored. USA TODAY's snapshots of court cases and inflammatory headlines frankly do nothing to improve aviation safety. They only distort the true picture.

Mark Baker, president, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Frederick, Md.

In light of my previous negative experience working in industries affected by regulatory agencies, I have been following your series "Unfit for flight" intently. These agencies, overwhelmingly stuffed with executives and cronies from the very industries being regulated, are really there to promote their industry, not to protect the public.

There is some weight to the argument that these corporate insiders' technical expertise is needed to make wise regulatory decisions. However, wouldn't it be better to have these agencies staffed by representatives of the public they serve, with only a few subject-matter experts from the industry being regulated? Perhaps such a solution is too "populistic" for today's age of corporate bullyhood.

Vernon M. Kerr; Ellicott City, Md.

I love USA TODAY for your exposés. The "Unfit for flight" series was one of your best. It was a real eye-opener on an issue that I wasn't aware of at all. I'll be more cautious about private flying from now on. Thank you.

Bob Bowser; Flagstaff, Ariz.

Comments from Facebook are edited for clarity and grammar:

As a former military pilot, I was stunned by the ignorance of this so-called investigative piece. Often, the primary cause of aircraft accidents is not the aircraft but the pilot. Many private pilots have barely enough flight time to do little more than fly around in a pattern. Any unusual situation occurs, and they are in trouble.

— Robert Newman

The problem is that too many in aviation are too focused on the money. They fail to do their jobs and don't pursue maximum aviation safety.

— Jeffrey Lewis

This report was well-researched and interesting. I investigated accidents for over 32 years as an FAA inspector. Many times, no government investigator looked at the wreckage and took only the information provided by the person involved in the accident, and the NTSB determined the cause.

— Larry Williams

Comparing general aviation safety records with those of airlines is flawed and disingenuous. The rules governing the two are different.

— Brian Thomas

How about letting the people who are educated on aviation do their jobs? USA TODAY should focus instead on the fact that we're more likely to die on the drive to the airport than on a flight.

— Eric Wilkins


Small plane makers not usually at fault in crashes: Local pilots

After Scott Burns died in a 2003 plane crash in Livingston County, his brother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against several people and businesses connected to the accident, including airplane maker Piper Aircraft.

The suit cited possible cracks in the Piper Cherokee’s rudder bar assembly as one of several potential causes of the crash. In the end, Scott’s brother, Lance, dropped the lawsuit as more facts emerged, including a federal report that found a flight instructor’s error probably caused the plane to crash in the town of Conesus.

“Ultimately, there was nothing to sue anybody about. It happened,” Lance Burns said. “As much as I and my nieces were very upset and my sister-in-law was very upset, it’s an accident.”

A USA TODAY investigation found that while federal investigators frequently cite pilot errors as the causes of small plane and helicopter crashes like the one that killed Scott Burns and two others, defective parts and poor designs may be to blame more often than acknowledged.

Civil court judges and juries have ordered major manufacturers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for fatal crashes in which they were found to be liable, and aircraft makers also have paid out large sums in settlements, the investigation found.

Examples in the Rochester area, however, are scarce. Several local pilots and flight instructors said part failures are more often a result of poor maintenance, rather than any systemic defects, and that pilots are heavily trained to spot problems before takeoff.

“They go to great lengths to make things safe in aircraft design,” said Hadrian Dailey, a Chili resident who works as an aircraft mechanic for a charter flight company in Buffalo and also owns his own plane.

Burns maintained this week that the facts in his brother’s case show that pilot error caused the crash.

Scott Burns, who was from Sparta, Livingston County, died along with Shaun Bohrer of Greece and Bruce Kenyon of Wayland. The National Transportation Safety Board found that the crash was likely the result of an instructor’s “failure to maintain adequate airspeed which resulted in an inadvertent spin.”

In a separate case, former Gates residents Michael Robinson and his wife, Wendy, also filed a lawsuit in 2002 against Textron Lycoming, a company that made the engine in a Mooney M20E plane involved in a crash in Prattsburgh, Steuben County, in 1999.

According to the lawsuit and federal investigation, Michael Robinson was piloting the aircraft from Elmira to Brockport when a propeller blade broke off in midair.

Robinson, who now lives in Florida, said that he broke his back while making an emergency landing. He now walks with a cane.

“When it first happened, I was in a wheelchair, never to get out of it again,” he said. “I owe my surgeon a great debt of gratitude, I think.”

Federal investigators found that “intergranular corrosion,” not pilot error or lack of maintenance, probably caused the propeller to break.

“There was a defect in the (propeller) from day one,” Robinson said.

He said the case was resolved behind closed doors and he could not discuss the outcome.

Local pilots and instructors said such incidents are rare and not evidence of widespread defects.

Dailey said manufacturers issue service bulletins when they uncover problems. The Federal Aviation Administration also requires plane owners to address certain safety deficiencies when they are identified in order to continue flying.

Most small plane designs were well-developed decades ago, Dailey said. “Systems on aircraft are both redundant and simple, and that’s to make reliability,” he said.

Todd Cameron, group commander of the Civil Air Patrol in Rochester and a volunteer with a local FAA Safety Team, said pilots are trained to be responsible for ensuring safety. That includes detecting any mechanical problems or flaws before they leave the ground. If a mechanical problem occurs, pilots are trained to address them, he said.

“What we spend a lot of time on in the aviation industry is that a mechanical failure doesn’t have to and shouldn’t impact the safety of the crew and the passengers,” said Cameron, who also is a flight instructor.

After hearing a list of problems cited by critics of plane manufacturers, Dan Robinson, treasurer of the Greater Rochester International Airport-based Artisan Aviation Flying Club, said many are likely caused by a lack of maintenance or are known problems.

“Those are known things,” he said. “They’re not that new.”

Story and photo:

Aviation company looks to expand at Peter Prince Field Airport (2R4)

 MILTON — One of the fixed-base operators at the Peter Prince Airport has requested an amendment to their lease with Santa Rosa County to give them additional land for an expansion.

Peter Prince Aviation Center has requested six additional acres be added to its lease at the Peter Prince Airport. Santa Rosa County Commissioners discussed the lease amendment Monday morning and is expected to vote on the change at Thursday’s meeting.

“Things have really taken off at our airport,” said Commissioner Bob Cole. “I’d like to see this move forward.”

Peter Prince Aviation Center, which opened in 2012, offers aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, aircraft rentals and aviation fuel.

Archie Collum, senior partner for Peter Prince Aviation Center, sent a letter to the county requesting the additional land.

In the letter, Collum states that more than 60 percent of the Peter Prince Aviation Center’s leased area can now not be development on because of new state and local development requirements.

Collum wrote that the aviation center operates more than 20 aircraft between their Peter Prince operation and their Alabama location. Their future projections estimate they will need 30 to 40 aircraft for flight training and rental in the next 18 to 24 months.

Additional space will be needed for the flight school’s classrooms and managerial offices.

Story and photo:

Quad-City lawmakers: Quinn will sign bill including air service boost

Quad-City area lawmakers said Monday that they are convinced Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will sign legislation providing a state subsidy for air service between the Quad-Cities and Washington, D.C.

Quinn was in Moline on Saturday, when he signed a bill to make it easier for local governments to borrow money for the purchase of firefighting vehicles. But the air service language, which is part of a budget bill, still awaits his signature. Area lawmakers, though, say it's just a matter of time.

"The governor will be back to sign the bill," Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said Monday.

Reps. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, and Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, both said they also are confident the governor will sign the legislation.

A spokesman for the governor was noncommittal.

"The governor’s reviewing that and other budget bills and is expected to act before the fiscal year ends," Dave Blanchette said.

The Illinois fiscal year ends June 30.

There had been some indications Quinn might sign the bill into law while here Saturday, but that did not happen. The bill to expand borrowing for firefighting vehicles allows local governments to get low- and no-interest loans for up to $350,000 through a state program. The cap previously was set at $250,000.

As for air service, getting a flight from the Quad-City International Airport to Washington, D.C., has been a priority of area leaders for years.

Area leaders have said they are working with an airline but have not identified it. But one lawmaker indicated that landing an airline is a good possibility.

"As of right now, we have an airline that has expressed an extreme amount of interest," Smiddy said.

The legislation awaiting Quinn's signature would allow a $1.5 million annual subsidy over three years.

The subsidy would come through the I-FLY program. In 2007, the program paid for a subsidized flight linking Marion, Decatur and Quincy, Ill., with Midway Airport in Chicago. But service by Mesa Airlines for those downstate communities lasted only six months.

Springfield also had subsidized service to Washington, D.C., but it ended when the subsidy expired.

Area lawmakers say they hope that, after three years, a Quad-Cities-to-Washington, D.C., flight would be self-sustaining.

Story and photos:

JetBlue to start new KRSW to Washington nonstop

JetBlue Airways will start new daily nonstop service between Southwest Florida International Airport and Washington Reagan National Airport this winter.

The first flight is scheduled for Dec. 18.

For JetBlue Airways, it is one of two new daily nonstop winter routes from the Washington airport; the other is to and from West Palm Beach.

JetBlue also is boosting its existing service between the nation’s capital and Tampa; a second daily flight is starting July 2.

The airline is offering special introductory fares along with the announcements.

“JetBlue’s first flight from Reagan National was only four years ago, but since then ... we have quickly grown to offer customers 24 daily flights,” said Rob Land, a JetBlue official, in a statement.


Vietnam suspends crew after jet lands at wrong airport

Vietnam's aviation authority has suspended the crew of a plane operated by budget airline VietJet Air after a flight bound for the tourist hub of Da Lat landed at another airport more than 100 kilometres away.

HANOI: Vietnam's aviation authority has suspended the crew of a plane operated by budget airline VietJet Air after a flight bound for the tourist hub of Da Lat landed at another airport more than 100 kilometres away.

The scheduled flight VJ 8575 carrying 200 passengers landed at Cam Ranh airport near the coastal city of Nha Trang -- another popular tourist destination -- on Thursday night, instead of the Central Highlands town of Da Lat around 130 kilometres (80 miles) to the southwest.

The incident occurred "because of the flight coordinators and crew members of VietJet Air, who did not correctly follow flight procedures", said the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) in an online statement.

The body said it decided "to temporarily suspend the licences" of the crew as well as other staff involved while an investigation was under way. It did not specify how many employees of the airline or airports involved had been suspended.

The CAAV also said that "appropriate measures" towards the airline would be taken at a later stage.

Passengers on the misdirected plane were transferred to another VietJet Air flight later on Thursday.

VietJet Air was not immediately available for comment.

The low-cost carrier, Vietnam's first private airline which launched in 2011, currently serves 11 cities in Vietnam plus Bangkok and Singapore.

It has already cornered around 25 percent of the domestic market -- taking customers from Vietnam Airlines and low-cost carrier Jetstar, according to state media.

The airline shot to prominence locally when it was fined for staging a racy in-flight bikini dance in 2012 to celebrate the launch of flights to Nha Trang.


Hot Air Balloon Makes Emergency Landing in Middle of Road in Northampton - UK

A hot air balloon caused mayhem when it landed in the middle of a road in Northampton.

Pilot Matt Rate had to act quickly and do an emergency landing when the wind suddenly dropped, leaving him and two passengers "hanging in mid-air".

"I told the two passengers 'it is going to be tricky' and to trust me. I think people were a bit shocked that I got the balloon down into such a tight shape," Rate told the BBC.

Luckily, no one was injured in the forced landing on Friday evening. Rate said the main obstacles while landing the balloon in Hilldrop Road were people's homes and a lamp-post.

"The only control you have is up and down," he said.

"In a way this was the same as any other landing. You have to compose yourself and not damage anything - you have to have that heightened awareness and be completely on the ball."

Rate, who started ballooning when he was 10, was able to notify his ground team, who cordoned off an area of the road to traffic before the landing,

Police were also alerted around 9pm by members of the public who saw the balloon come down.

A spokesman said: "Officers attended and it was established there had been no accident.

"The balloon had just landed in an unexpected spot."

Residents of the street where it landed helped the pilot fold up the balloon.

Story and photo gallery:

Mitsubishi Aircraft seeking new order for commercial jet by year-end

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. is aiming to secure its first new order in more than 18 months by year-end for its still-in-development commercial jet.

"We'll probably be able to get new orders within the year," Mitsubishi Aircraft President Teruaki Kawai said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.

The aircraft manufacturer, established in 2008 as a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., has not received any fresh orders for its Mitsubishi Regional Jet, Japan's first small commercial jet, since December 2012.

The jet maker last year postponed the plane's delivery schedule for the third time to the April-June quarter of 2017. The aircraft was initially scheduled to be delivered in 2013.

The Nagoya-based company has received orders for 325 MRJs so far, compared with the goal of over 1,000 that the company has set for the next two decades.

The situation "will change once (the jet) starts flying," the president said, referring to the first flight test scheduled in 2015.

Faced with tough competition from Brazil's Embraer S.A. and Canada's Bombardier Inc. as well as Chinese and Russian jet makers, Mitsubishi Aircraft is looking to win customers with the plane's fuel efficiency, which the company claims will be 20 percent better than comparable aircraft.

The aircraft will come in two configurations of 76 and 88 seats. Japan's biggest carrier All Nippon Airways Co. is scheduled to receive the first plane.


Boeing IB75A Stearman, N450JW: Accident occurred June 22, 2013 in Dayton, Ohio

NTSB Identification: CEN13FA274
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 22, 2013 in Dayton, OH
Aircraft: BOEING-STEARMAN IB75A, registration: N450JW
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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


On June 22, 2013, at 1247 eastern daylight time, a Boeing IB75A, N450JW, impacted terrain at the Dayton International Airport (KDAY), Dayton, Ohio. The commercial pilot and wing walker were both fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by Jane Wicker Airshows under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an airshow performance. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan. The local flight originated from KDAY about 1235.

The flight was performing for the 2013 Vectren Dayton Air Show, which was located at KDAY. The performance was the fourth act scheduled on June 22. Video and photos submitted by spectators, who witnessed the accident, captured the airplane during the performance. The evidence showed the airplane completed a left "tear drop" style turn as the wing walker positioned herself on the lower left wing. The airplane then rolled left to fly inverted. While flying from the southwest to the northeast in front of the spectators, the airplane's nose pitched slightly above the horizon. The airplane then abruptly rolled to the right and impacted terrain in a left wing low attitude. A post impact fire ensued and consumed a majority of the right wing and forward portion of the fuselage.

Statements gathered by the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicated that the pilot and wing walker had practiced the performance the day prior to the accident. Following the practice, neither the pilot nor the pilot-rated wing walker, reported any mechanical anomalies with the airplane to the air show crew.



The pilot, age 64, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane single engine sea, and glider. On August 30, 2012, he was issued a second class medical certificate with the restriction that he must wear corrective lenses. The pilot reported his use of Lisinopril and Triamterene to control hypertension with no reported side effects. On September 16, 2012, the pilot was issued a statement of acrobatic competency. He was authorized to perform solo aerobatics, fly wing walker maneuvers, and "circle the jumper." His altitude limitation was level 1 restricted and he was authorized to perform these events in all variants of the Extra 300, Boeing Stearman, and Pitts Special. A review of the pilot's log book revealed that the pilot had 1,190 hours, 95 hours in make and model, and about 11 hours in N450JW. The pilot did not log any flights from October 20, 2012, until April 13, 2013, which could be attributed to the air show off season. From April 13, 2013, he logged 16 hours of total time, 4.5 hours in make and model and about 1.5 hours in N450JW. The last airshow that the pilot performed with the accident wing walker was August 21, 2012.

The pilot practiced the aerial routine the day prior without incident. Members of the airshow crew ate dinner with the pilot the night prior, between 1900-2100. The pilot consumed about 1.5 beers with his meal. The pilot and crew went back to their hotel. They met the following morning from 0745-0830 the crew ate breakfast and the pilot ate a bagel with cream cheese. At 1100 the pilot ate lunch. Throughout the day the crew recalled that the pilot stayed out of the sun and was drinking water. Prior to flight, the pilot sat in an air conditioned truck for at least 10 minutes. Interactions with him where uneventful and his behavior was described as normal.

Wing walker

The wing walker, age 45, held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. The wing walker had about 6 years of experience and had been performing the planned routine for the previous 3 years. The wing walker was also the owner of the accident airplane.


The Boeing-Stearman IB75A, serial number 75-789 was manufactured in 1941 as a model A75N1. In 1950, modifications were made to the airplane and the model type changed to IB75A. A 450-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 fuel-injected engine drove a two bladed, metal, Hamilton Standard 2D30 propeller. On December 8, 2009, the pilot purchased the airplane and on May 3, 2010, the airplane was registered with the FAA under the experimental exhibition category. On September 26, 2011, the airplane was last registered under the restricted category for the purpose of wing walking. The airplane was modified with an inverted fuel and oil system, and a four aileron system.

A combined 100 hour and annual inspection were accomplished on April 23, 2013, at a tachometer time of 260.7 hours, and 597.5 hours since the engine's last major overhaul.


Weather at the time of the accident was wind from 220 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 9 miles, a broken ceiling at 3,500 feet, temperature 86° Fahrenheit (F), dew point 72° F, and a barometric pressure of 30.18 inches of mercury.


The air show airspace was orientated along runway 6L/24R. The scheduled wing walking performance was flown by the accident pilot with events being performed by the wing walker. The designated airshow area was 12,000 feet long and 2,700 feet wide. The accident airplane was assigned to the Category III performance area which provided a 500 foot airspace buffer between the performance and the spectators. The wreckage came to rest over 500 feet from the fence line of the spectator area within the assigned performance area. A document depicting the airshow's layout is included in this report's docket.

The airport's elevation is 1,009 feet. Utilizing the barometric pressure, the pilot would have set about 29.09, in order to achieve "QFE" or a reading of 0 feet on the airplane's altimeter.


The crash site was a grass area south of the intersection of taxiway R and taxiway Z. The debris field followed a 050° heading and was about 145 feet long. The first ground scars were two parallel scars consistent with the left wing's impact. About 40 feet from the beginning of the ground scars was the impact crater. The crater was 11 feet long, 6 feet wide, and at least 13 inches deep. The main wreckage came to rest 105 feet from the impact crater.

A postaccident examination of the airplane was conducted by the NTSB and FAA. Rudder and elevator control continuity was established from the rudder to the aft seat rudder pedals and the elevator to the control stick. The ailerons controls were broken and torn in multiple locations. The breaks and tear patterns were identified on each opposite surface. Thermal damage was sustained to the right aileron's connecting rod from the inboard connector to the outboard hinge. However, each of the rod ends remained attached and secured in their respective hinges.

The cockpit instrumentation sustained minor damage. The following readings, in part, displayed:
Altimeter: 300 feet
Kollmans window: 29.09
Manifold pressure: 30 inches
Tachometer hour: 284.9

The two metal propeller blades were labelled A and B for documentation purposes only. Blade A displayed leading edge polishing, nick and gouges, and chord wise scratches. From the blade's mid-span to the blade tip, the blade was curled rearward. Blade B displayed leading edge polishing, nicks and gouges, and chordwise scratches. The blade displayed an S-bend along its entire length. Cylinders number 2, 3, and 4 were found separated from the engine. No preimpact anomalies were detected with the airframe or engine.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Montgomery County Coroner's Office. The coroner ruled the cause of death as the result of multiple trauma. The manner of death was ruled an accident.

Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Testing was negative for presence of carbon monoxide and ethanol. Triamterene was detected in urine and blood. The pilot's use of triamterene was previously reported to the FAA.


Accident sequence

Several videos and photographs were taken of the accident sequence by the airshow spectators. The description of the deflection of the flight controls are described using the airplane's upright orientation and the direction is not reversed when describing the flight control position when the airplane is inverted.

The accident maneuver began with the pilot climbing up and away from the crowd in order to allow the wing walker to position herself under the right lower wing. During the maneuver, the airplane is turned and aligned parallel to and behind the Category III show line. The accident sequence climb out was gradual as the airplane completed the teardrop maneuver and turned to position along the show line. At 8 seconds prior to impact, the airplane pitched nose up and began a left roll. As the airplane rolled left through 45°, the pilot applied right rudder and the rudder would remain deflected right throughout the accident sequence. At 6 seconds prior to impact, the airplane rolled through 90°, the airplane's elevator is near neutral with a slight deflection downward toward the "nose-down" position, and the rudder deflected right. The airplane did not reach a completely inverted positions and stops turning about 150°. At 2 seconds prior to impact and nearly inverted, the ailerons deflect to command a right roll and the elevator deflects upward, trailing edge up relative to the fuselage. The airplane pitched toward the ground and begins a descending right roll. The control inputs continued as the airplane collided with terrain.

Video study

A study of videos submitted to the NTSB was conducted in order to better under the airplane's flight parameters prior to the accident. Of the numerous videos submitted, five were selected for the study based on their location, duration, and image quality. The accident maneuver began with the airplane flying away from the crowd to the west in a climbing teardrop turn to align itself with show line parallel to runway 6L. As the airplane turned toward the crowd it began descending. The wing walker was hanging inverted by her legs from the leading edge of the lower left wing. About 9 seconds prior to the accident the airplane pitched up and rolled left. The airplane passed through 90° of roll about 6 seconds prior to the accident; a still image captured the airplane with a slightly trailing edge down elevator position. The airplane continued its roll until it was nearly inverted, but stopped at 156°or 24° short of fully inverted flight. The wing walker remained seated on the leading edge of the lower right wing. About 1.86 seconds prior to the accident, an extracted frame from a video showed the elevator was in a neutral position and the rudder was deflected trailing edge right. The airplane's flightpath prior to the right roll was toward hangers and in the proximity of a parked Boeing 757. About 1.40 seconds prior to the accident with the airplane still nearly inverted, the elevator deflected trailing edge up with the rudder still deflected trailing edge right. The airplane then pitched toward the ground at an estimated rate of 55° per second. About 0.10 second later, the aileron on the lower left wing was deflected trailing edge down and the airplane rolled to the right as it pitched toward the ground. The positions of the other ailerons were not visible in the frame. During the final 2 seconds, the airplane's groundspeed reduced from about 106 knots to 84 knots.

Airspeed Calculations

The video study indicated that the ground speed during the final maneuver slowed from 106 knots to 84 knots. Correcting for the prevailing wind, the true airspeed decreased from about 96 to 74 knots and the calibrated airspeed decreased from about 92 knots to 71 knots (106 mph to 82 mph). Of note, the maneuver's target airspeed is reported to be 110 mph.


Planned "On Top of the World" maneuver

The wing walker's ex-husband was one of her regular pilots and was very familiar with the accident routine. He estimated that he flew the maneuver with the wing walker between 300-350 times. He stated the accident maneuver flown follows a maneuver where the wing walker is suspended by her ankles at the end strut. At the end of the pass she repositions herself on the wing for the next maneuver. The pilot flies a 270° re-positioning turn. The re-positioning turn has two purposes: position to perform in front of the crowd's field of view and gain altitude to aid in picking up speed for the maneuver's entry. During the turn the airspeed is reduced between 70-80 mph indicated airspeed to reduce the airflow against her body as she moves along the wings. After completing the turn and the wing walker sitting in position, the pilot notifies the wing walker that he is beginning the maneuver. The pilot adds engine power, dives the airplane down, and the wing walker extends her body beneath the wing. The airplane's is dived to reach a minimum of 100 mph before the pilot pitches the nose of the airplane between 25-30° nose high and rolls inverted. The airplane should stabilize inverted, wings level at 110 mph and 150 feet AGL. Engine power is reduced to about 1/3 throttle setting, which maintains the 110 mph and allows a margin of power sufficient to climb inverted if needed. To exit the maneuver, the pilot pushes the stick forward to get the airplane's nose above the horizon and the airplane is rolled to the left. The left roll ensures that the wing walker's body remains in a positive G condition, and therefore in contact with the wing throughout the maneuver.

Review of the accident maneuver

The ex-husband/regular pilot was not in attendance at the airshow, and was provided video to review the accident sequence. When asked about to review the maneuver flown on the day of the accident, he stated that he has never seen the accident pilot fly that way and had never seen the planned maneuver flown in that manner. He described the re-position turn as shallow with little climb. In addition, the airplane didn't appear to gain much airspeed. When repositioned for the maneuver, the airplane was not dived at a steep angle to gain airspeed and the wing walker began extending later than normal. The airplane pitch up was lower than normal and as the pilot rolled towards the inverted position, the airplane never got inverted. The airplane's roll toward inverted was stopped short of expected and appeared to stop with bank taking the airplane towards the crowd line. The airplane seems to have a predominant sink rate throughout the maneuver and the pilot likely pushed forward stick to arrest the sink rate, but this would have altered the flight path more towards the crowd line. During the maneuver, there was a moment when the regular pilot perceived that the airplane's descent was arrested and the airplane was tracked level. He described this condition as key to an aerobatic pilot since the airplane is in a stable condition. To exit the inverted maneuver, a pilot should apply power and either perform a climb away from the ground, or allow for enough energy for a coordinate turn. He described the pilot's next action as a reversed right turn which appeared to be a quick, "knee-jerk" reaction. He theorized that the pilot may have been "spooked" perhaps by a potential collision conflict with a parked airplane on the ramp or other obstruction. The pilot rolled right and pulled back on the stick to perform a "dish out" maneuver, but performed this maneuver into the ground.

Perceived collision potential

On the day of the accident, there was a parked Boeing 757-200 on runway 36/18 adjacent to the intersection of taxiway C and taxiway V, over 700 feet behind the spectator line. The height to the top of the fuselage is 20 feet, 7 inches and the height to the top of the vertical stabilizer is 44 feet, 6 inches. The 757 was parked about 0.3 miles east-southeast of the accident site. In addition, about a 1/2 east-southeast to south of the accident site, there were several aircraft hangers and buildings ranging in heights from 35-50 feet.

Crew prebrief

During the morning prebrief, a crew member overheard the wing walker talking with the pilot. She commented that the pilot did not reduce power enough prior to her getting into positions around the wings. The crew member commented that the pilot listened closely and appeared to be deep in thought after the conversation.

Emergency Response

Due to a prior accident in 2007, aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) vehicles were prepositioned for a quick response to an emergency. On the day of the accident, two ARFF vehicles were prepositioned, one at taxiway M near the terminal apron (vehicle 22) and one at the intersection of taxiway V and C (vehicle 23). About 1 minutes and 5 seconds after the accident, vehicle 23 arrived on scene and began firefighting efforts. The main fire was extinguished within 20 seconds. Vehicle 22 arrived on scene 1.5 minutes later to provide assistance.

 DAYTON (AP) —There will be more firefighting equipment at this weekend's Dayton Air Show, a year after a pilot and wing-walker died in a fiery crash.

The Dayton Daily News reports that a third fire truck will be added to two smaller trucks traditionally stationed at the annual show.

Bruce Bales, fire rescue chief at Dayton International Airport, said it's meant to ease performers' concerns, after questions were raised about emergency response times at a fatal crash and fire that killed a stunt pilot May 4 at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will have six firefighters there with a fire truck and crash rescue truck because the Navy's Blue Angels are performing. 

Federal safety investigators haven't released a final report on last year's Dayton crash that killed wing-walker Jane Wicker and pilot Charlie Schwenker as they performed in front of the crowd.

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NTSB Identification: WPR14FA182 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, May 04, 2014 in Fairfield, CA
Aircraft: BOEING E75, registration: N68828
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 May 4, 2014, about 1359 Pacific daylight time, a Boeing E75 Stearman, N68828, was destroyed when it impacted runway 21R during an aerial demonstration flight at Travis Air Force Base (SUU), Fairfield, California. The commercial pilot/owner received fatal injuries. The exhibition flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight.

The pilot was one of several civilian aerial demonstration pilots who performed at the two-day SUU "Thunder Over Solano" open house, which included both static (ground) and aerial (flight) displays. According to United States Air Force (USAF) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information, Friday May 2 was the practice day, while the public event took place on Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and 4. The pilot flew two flight demonstration airplanes at the event, a North American P-51, and the accident airplane. All his flights preceding the accident flight were uneventful.

The accident occurred during a "ribbon-cut maneuver," whereby a ribbon was suspended transversely across the runway, between two poles held by ground crew personnel, and situated about 20 feet above the runway. The planned maneuver consisted of a total of three passes. The first two passes were to be conducted with the airplane upright, and were not planned to contact the ribbon. The final pass was to be conducted inverted, and the airplane would cut the ribbon with its vertical stabilizer. The first two passes were successful, but on the third (inverted, ribbon-cut) pass, the airplane was too high, and did not cut the ribbon. The pilot came around for a fourth pass, and rolled the airplane inverted after aligning with the runway. The airplane contacted the runway prior to reaching the ribbon, slid inverted between the ground crew personnel holding the poles, and came to a stop a few hundred feet beyond them.

Ground scars consisted of rudder/ vertical stabilizer ("tail") and upper wing contact (metal and wood scrapes, and paint transfer) with the runway, as well as propeller "slash marks" approximately perpendicular to the direction of travel. Review of image and ground scar data indicated that the airplane first contacted the runway with its right wing, followed by the tail, the left wing, and then the propeller.

The upper outboard right wing initial scar was followed about 7 feet later by the tail strike, and then a few feet later by the upper left wing. The initial tail strike was located about 45 feet right (northeast) of the runway centerline, about 380 feet beyond the runway threshold. The initial direction of travel was aligned approximately 5 degrees to the right (divergent from) the runway axis. The propeller slash marks began about 100 feet beyond the initial tail strike, and continued to the final resting location of the airplane. The slash marks described an arc, which curved to the left, and which resulted in the airplane coming to rest near the left (southwest) edge of the runway, on a magnetic heading of about 140 degrees. The airplane slid a total distance of about 740 feet.

Review of still and moving images indicated that fire became visible just before the airplane came to a stop, and that the fire patterns were consistent with a pool fire of spilled fuel. Within about 50 seconds, the fire encompassed most of the right (downwind) side of the airplane. USAF rescue and firefighting vehicles and personnel arrived at the airplane about 3 to 4 minutes after the accident, and extinguished the fire.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information indicated that the airplane was manufactured in 1944, and was first registered to the pilot in 1982. The airplane was equipped with a Pratt & Whitney R-985 series engine. The fuselage and empennage consisted of a synthetic-fabric covered steel tube structure, while the wings were primarily wood structure covered with the same type of fabric. The 47-gallon fuel tank was mounted in the center section of the upper wing, just forward of the cockpit.

The cockpit was enclosed by a canopy, which consisted of a metal frame and plastic transparencies. The longitudinal section of the canopy consisted of one fixed section (right side) and two movable sections (top and left side). The top section was longitudinally hinged to the fixed right section and the movable left section, and the forward and aft bottom corners of the left section rode in transverse tracks at the forward and aft ends of the cockpit. That design allowed cockpit entry and egress by operating the top and left canopy sections in a manner similar to a bi-fold door; which required clearance above the canopy for the canopy to be opened.

Preliminary examination of the wreckage indicated that most of the fabric covering on the fuselage was damaged or consumed by fire. The right wing and cockpit furnishings were almost completely consumed by fire, as were some of the aluminum flight control tubes. The left wing and rudder /vertical stabilizer sustained impact deformation, but the cockpit occupiable volume was not compromised by deformation of any surrounding structure.

According to FAA information, the pilot held single- and multi-engine airplane, and instrument airplane ratings, and was authorized to fly several experimental airplanes. His most recent FAA second class medical certificate was issued in June 2013.

The SUU 1358 automated weather observation included wind from 240 degrees at 15 knots gusting to 21, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 18,000 feet, temperature 22 degrees C, dew point 12 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.99 inches of mercury. 

NTSB Identification: CEN13FA274 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 22, 2013 in Dayton, OH
Aircraft: BOEING-STEARMAN IB75A, registration: N450JW
Injuries: 2 Fatal,2 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators 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 22, 2013, about 1245 eastern daylight time, a Boeing-Stearman IB75A airplane, N450JW, impacted terrain at Dayton International Airport (KDAY), Dayton, Ohio. The commercial pilot and wing walker were both fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to a private citizen and operated by Jane Wicker Airshows under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan. The local flight was performing for the 2013 Vectren Dayton Air Show at KDAY and departed KDAY about 1235.

The air show airspace was orientated along runway 6L/24R. The performance was the fourth act scheduled on June 22.

Video and photos submitted by spectators captured the airplane during the performance and accident. A review of the photography showed the airplane completed a left “tear drop” style turn, positioning to cross in front of the spectators from the left. The wing walker had positioned herself on the bottom side of the lower left wing. As the airplane approached the crowd, it rolled upside down. While flying inverted from the southeast to the northwest in front of the spectators, the airplane’s nose pitched slightly above the horizon. The airplane abruptly rolled to the right and impacted terrain in a descending left-wing-low attitude. A postimpact fire ensued and consumed a majority of the right wing and forward portion of the fuselage.

The accident site was a grass area south of the intersection of taxiway R and taxiway Z. The debris field followed a 050 degree heading and was about 145 feet long. The first ground scars were two parallel scars, consistent with the left wing’s impact. The impact crater, which was 11 feet long, 6 feet wide, and at least 13 inches deep, was located about 40 feet from the beginning of the ground scars. The main wreckage came to rest 105 feet from the impact crater. All flight controls were accounted for at the accident site. The wreckage was documented and transported to a secure location for further examination.

Initial statements gathered by the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration indicated that the pilot and wing walker had practiced the performance the day before the accident. Following the practice, neither the pilot nor the pilot-rated wing walker, reported any mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane.

At the time of the accident, wind was recorded from 220 degrees at 10 knots, visibility at 9 miles, a broken ceiling at 3,500 feet, temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point of 72 F, and barometric pressure of 30.18 inches of mercury.

Air force hiring foreign pilots to fly front-line jets: Royal Canadian Air Force cites a “labor shortage” for why it has hired former military pilots from overseas to fly transport jets and patrol aircraft

OTTAWA—Canada’s air force has been hiring foreign pilots to fly its front-line transport aircraft, maritime patrol planes and fighter jets, citing an inability to recruit Canadians to fill seats in the military cockpits.

As debate rages about temporary foreign workers allowed into Canada to fill jobs in sectors like the service industry, it turns out that the Canadian Armed Forces has also gone abroad to fill its own labor needs.

Citing a “labor shortage,” the military has been recruiting pilots from foreign countries — notably the French and British air forces — to work in Canada and train Canadian pilots but also fly on operational missions around the globe.

The foreign fliers are being pressed to fly many of the aircraft in the air force fleet, including the CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft, the C-130 Hercules and CC-177 Globemaster transport jets.

The transport pilots are being hired for “pilot training as well as global strategic and tactical air transport.”

The labor market opinions that were prepared by the Defense Department in order to proceed with the foreign hires outline the needs of the air force.

A Royal Air Force pilot from the United Kingdom with experience in anti-submarine warfare and long-range sovereignty patrol missions was sought to fly the CP-140 Aurora.

“With minimal training he will be employed as a CP 140 Aurora aircraft commander where his experience will be used to help train new RCAF long range patrol crews,” read the labor market opinion.

Another RAF pilot with experience on the CC-177 Globemaster — a transport aircraft also flown by Canada’s military — was brought on-board as an instructor.

A pilot from the Hungarian Air Force was hired as an instructor to train student pilots in the Canadian Air Force.

Other pilots experienced in air-to-air refuelling operations were sought from the Royal Air Force to fly the CC-150 Polaris jet, which is used as both a transport and a refueller.

In each case, the air force says it was forced to go abroad to hire personnel to fill a position it was “unable to fill through normal recruiting and training.”

However, the military says it is trying to recruit Canadians to serve as pilots.

“Canadians are regularly recruited as Pilots and will continue to be recruited and trained through the (Canadian Armed Forces) well established Officer and Pilot training programs,” reads one labor market opinion.

The air force has hired 24 former foreign military pilots since 2012, including 19 from the United Kingdom, two from Hungary, and one each from Germany, France and South Africa, said Maj. James Simiana.

“Those hires are complementary . . . to the hiring and training of Canadian pilots that is also taking place,” said Simiana, a spokesperson for the air force.

But Gilles Hudicourt, a pilot with Air Transat who obtained the labor market opinions, says the air force has gone abroad to find experienced pilots to avoid the cost of training Canadians.

“They pretend . . . that they’re actually going after some new skill,” Hudicourt told the Star. “They’re doing it to save on training money.”

Hudicourt has previously complained about the influx of foreign pilots allowed into Canada to work for charter airlines, like Sunwing, as well as helicopter companies, which he says takes away jobs from Canadians.

And he says that applies to the air force when it hires military pilots from abroad to fill empty seats in its cockpits.

He said the immigration rules are meant to permit organizations to hire abroad to fill a labor need “when there is no qualified Canadians to do the job,” Hudicourt said.

“You’re not allowed to do it to save money,” he said.

“They’re just taking these guys because they were already trained and it’s just going to be cheaper for national defense . . . it doesn’t seem right to me,” he said.

The air force says it takes about seven years — and $2.6 million — to train a pilot to fly the CF-18 fighter jet.

In background material provided to the Star, the air force concedes that cost is a big factor in hiring former military pilots since the experienced aviators require little training and can be put to work immediately, filling gaps that “could not otherwise be filled in the short to medium term.”

On Friday, Employment Minister Jason Kenney unveiled changes to the temporary foreign worker program to address concerns that it was driving down wages and leaving Canadians unemployed.

While the changes focus mostly on low-wage, low-skilled entry level jobs, Kenney’s overhaul does touch on the issue of foreign pilots.

No longer will airlines be allowed to make it a requirement that would-be pilots hold a type rating for a specific aircraft since the airline can provide that training.

As well, the airline will have to present a transition plan outlining its strategy to reduce its reliance on foreign pilots while increasing its complement of Canadian pilots.

“There was a consensus that there is no shortage of Canadian commercial pilots who could be trained to fly specific types of aircraft,” reads a briefing note.

It wasn’t clear whether the changes would affect the air force’s use of foreign pilots.

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Sea King replacements: $5.7B Cyclone maritime helicopters lack key safety requirement: Ottawa makes several concessions in deal to take delivery of Sikorsky helicopters starting next year

The Conservative government has agreed to accept new helicopters to replace Canada's 50-year-old fleet of Sea Kings even though they don't meet a key requirement recommended for marine helicopters by Canada's air safety investigator, CBC News has learned.
The government announced Wednesday it had finally signed a renegotiated contract with helicopter-maker Sikorsky for 28 new CH-148 Cyclone helicopters at a cost of $5.7 billion.

Now, CBC News has learned the details of what the government has agreed to forego in order to conclude a long-awaited new deal with Sikorsky, and it includes a formerly mandatory safety measure: a 30-minute run-dry standard for its main gear box.

The importance of the ability to fly for 30 minutes after a loss of lubrication in the main gear box was reinforced by an investigation into a deadly 2009 crash of a Sikorsky-built helicopter.

The gearbox is a kind of linkage between the helicopters engines and its rotor system. It's packed with lubricating oil that cools the gears and keeps power flowing to the rotors. If a helicopter loses oil in its main gearbox, the system will get too hot and either seize up or otherwise fail. That would lead to a loss of power in the rotor, forcing a helicopter from the sky.

A helicopter that meets the run-dry standard can continue flying for 30 minutes even if there's no oil in the main gear box — a critical feature for helicopters flying hundreds of kilometres out to sea.

"I am shocked, this is a very dangerous thing," said Jack Harris, the NDP's defence critic.

"This is a major safety requirement ... necessary for the safety of the aircraft operating in the maritime environment.

"This is a significant safety issue."

Mandatory requirement in original bids

Sikorsky has struggled for years against the allegation its main gearbox could not meet that 30-minute standard.

It was a mandatory requirement in the 2004 competition held to determine which helicopter would best serve Canada's interests.

Sikorsky won that competition, besting the AW 101, a helicopter that meets the 30-minute standard and flies search and rescue for the Canadian military today.

Critics suggest if Sikorsky could not meet that requirement, it ought not to have won the competition to replace Canada's Sea Kings in the first place.

"There are other helicopters that can meet that standard," Jack Harris said. "These guys signed a contract with this as a requirement. They said they could do it."

In an e-mail, Defence Department spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said the main gearbox on Canada's new Cyclones is designed to ensure the total loss of oil lubrication is "very remote."

"The Cyclone gear box lubrication system has many safety features, including a bypass valve than can be used to isolate the gearbox case from the oil cooler in the unlikely event of an external leak, to prevent further loss of transmission oil," Lemire said.

Since Canada first signed with Sikorsky in 2004, the American company has been over budget and years behind schedule.

Last year, the government even took the unprecedented step of announcing it might drop Sikorsky and began looking at other choppers. But a consultant's report suggested the government recognize Sikorsky was essentially developing a military helicopter for Canada and accept it might have to let some promised items slip.

The government accepted that advice and the announcement last week was the conclusion of a process that saw the government reveal its bottom line on its requirements and Sikorsky lay out realistic capabilities and timelines.

In the end, the Cyclone helicopters Canada will get will feature several trade-offs when compared to the helicopter the government ordered a decade ago.

Government makes concessions

The 30-minute run-dry capability is just one of seven concessions the government has made.

The others include:
  • The ability to secure the helicopter's ramp in various positions during flight. 
  • Crew comfort systems during extreme temperature operations. 
  • Unobstructed hand and foot holds for technicians to conduct maintenance. 
  • The ability to self start in very cold weather. 
  • Cockpit ergonomics factors. 
  • A system to automatically deploy personnel life rafts in emergency situations.
Lemire said the air force accepted those concessions because "there is no impact to overall operational capabilities and will not risk crew safety."

But it's hard to see how that's the case.

Sikorsky refers to Canada's Cyclone helicopters as H-92s. The H is used to identify the helicopter as a military aircraft. The H-92s are militarized and upgraded versions of Sikorsky's civilian S-92s.

When that lineage is understood, the lack of run-dry becomes more of a concern.

17 died in crash of Cougar S-92

In 2009, a Sikorsky-built Cougar Helicopter S-92 on the way from St. John's, N.L., to an offshore oil platform crashed into the sea when two titanium studs securing the main gearbox failed, causing a total loss of lubrication. All but one of the eighteen people aboard died.

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board investigation made several recommendations but it also highlighted the problem with the helicopter's failure to meet that 30-minute run-dry certification.

"We recommend that all Category A helicopters, including the S-92, should be able to fly for at least 30 minutes following a massive loss of main gearbox oil," TSB chair Wendy Tadros told reporters in 2011.

Military helicopters are subject to different operating standards than civilian choppers, but in this case the government says Canada's upgraded and militarized versions of the S-92 will meet civilian airworthiness regulations.

That American standard, called FAR Part 29, allows for Sikorsky's design to fly, as it provides for an alternative arrangement to a run-dry requirement that allegedly makes the total loss of lubrication "extremely remote."

It's that standard defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire says Canada is now relying on.

"Through extensive testing, proper operating procedures will be established to satisfy the required airworthiness regulations, including the civil run-dry requirement, to ensure the safety of the crew and aircraft," Lemire said.

Following Tadros' investigation of the Cougar crash, the TSB chair said that extremely remote standard was not good enough.

"The 30-minute requirement is negated by the 'extremely remote' provision. Therefore, (the provision) needs to go. It's as simple as that."

The TSB urged U.S. regulators to amend the standard, pointing out other helicopter-makers were designing aircraft that could meet the 30-minute standard.

Qualification under that FAA regulation is what both the government of Canada and Sikorsky are relying on in order to get their deal done.

"Sikorsky and the Canadian government have agreed on all technical requirements for the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter," says Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson. "The gearbox meets all FAR Part 29 requirements by the FAA, including those related to loss of primary lubrication."

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Civil Aviation briefs Prime Minister about sector's problem

New Delhi : Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Saturday briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on crucial issues facing the aviation sector like building of airports at non-metro cities, slashing of taxes on jet fuel and turning around the ailing Air India.

A detailed presentation is understood to have been made on the issues which also included downgrade of India's safety ranking by US regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and review of the rule requiring an airline to have flown domestic for five years and having a 20-aircraft fleet, before it could be allowed to fly abroad.

The previous government was actively considering scrapping this rule on the grounds that an airline would have to first establish itself domestically before it could be allowed to fly abroad.

This issue would be crucial to start-up carriers like AirAsia India and Tata-SIA Airlines who would want to launch international flights as soon as they can.

Among other major issues raised were steps to encourage states to slash high sales tax rates on jet fuel, quick passage of the Civil Aviation Authority Bill giving the much- needed autonomy to the new aviation regulator and making India a hub of aircraft engineering facilities by helping Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) units.

It is believed that Air India's turnaround and financial restructuring plans and equity infusion in it was also in focus.

The national carrier is seeking infusion of Rs 8,000 crore this financial year - Rs 5,500 crore for 2014-15 and Rs 2,500 crore as the shortfall in committed equity infusion in 2013-14.

If this is granted, the airline would have already received a total of Rs 22,000 crore of the Rs 30,000 crore revival plan chalked out by UPA-II government.

On improving air connectivity in non-metro cities, Modi government has already made it clear that it would focus on construction of low-cost airports in such places to deepen the penetration of air connectivity.

Another major issue would be the stalled process of modernizing six airports, including those at Chennai and Kolkata, which were initiated and then halted by the previous government.

Development of 50 no-frill airports by the Airports Authority of India in several states and greenfield airports are slated for development in Navi Mumbai, Juhu, Goa, Kannur, Pune, Sriperumbudur, Bellary and Raigarh are also part of the unfinished tasks of the erstwhile UPA-II government.

The new government would also have to take urgent steps towards restoration of the top Category-I status of the country's safety mechanism, which was downgraded to Category- II by the US aviation regulator in January.

The downgrade of India's aviation safety mechanism to Category-II by the FAA, its implications and preparations being made to restore it to the top Category-I, also found considerable space in the presentation.

In January, the US aviation regulator had lowered India's ranking placing it among countries which do not meet the safety norms stipulated by the UN body - International Civil Aviation Authority.

- Source:

Yasmeen Muhammad Al-Maimani: Second Saudi woman gets pilot's license

JEDDAH – Yasmeen Muhammad Al-Maimani has become the second Saudi woman to obtain a commercial pilot license from the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA).

Hanadi Zakaria Al-Hindi was the first Saudi woman to become a commercial airline pilot, getting a license to fly within Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

Capt. Al-Maimani got the private pilot license in 2010 from Jordan.
“My dream is to fly an airplane in the Kingdom. I hope the Saudi Arabian Airlines gives me this chance now that I’ve been properly licensed by the GACA,” Al-Maimani said.

In 2010, Al-Maimani returned to the Kingdom and worked for Rabigh Wings Aviation Academy for a year. She got an offer later from Aerosim Flight Academy in US to be their ambassador to the Middle East. The academy also gave her a scholarship to study and obtain the auto commercial pilot license. She accepted the offer and traveled to Florida.

Later she returned to the Kingdom and worked for Nexus Company for flight operation services.

She passed the GACA examination.

Aviation industry is growing rapidly in the Middle East. With an expected delivery of 5,000 aircraft, in the coming years, many experts forecast a global shortage of pilots. Most of them believe that nearly twice as many pilots will be required in the next 15 years.

There are currently two flying academies in Saudi Arabia. Rabigh Wings Aviation Academy located in the Western Province in the northwest of Jeddah. It is close to the coast of Red Sea and minutes away from King Abdullah Economic city, and the Saudi Aviation Flight Academy (SAFA) located at the Thumamah Airport near King Khaled International Airport, Riyadh. Both academies provide training to their students and teach them to fly commercial airplanes, too.

The cost of obtaining a Commercial Pilot License (CPL) is approximately SR300,000. Some students believe that these fees are relatively higher than those of some flying academies abroad. However, training inside the Kingdom saves travel and accommodation costs apart from being close to trainees’ families and friends. For safety reasons major airlines require pilots to have at least flown 1500 to 2000 hours; they do not consider an applicant holding a Commercial Pilot License with only 300 hours of flying.

As soon as new pilots obtain their Commercial Pilot License they need to start building hours. This is usually done in a number of ways such as flying tourists around, doing air surveys for different organizations or becoming a flight instructor.

Pilots who have completed the stipulated required hours have more options, and major airlines feel comfortable in employing them.

So, with patience, persistence and determination, one can sit in the cockpit of an aircraft, which is by far the best office in the world.

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Helicopter tour business gets six-month extension to operate at Port Canaveral

Mark Grainger has received a six-month extension of his permit to operate helicopter tours of the Space Coast from Port Canaveral. But he's not totally in the clear yet to be a permanent tenant of the port.

Port management had recommended a 75-day permit extension for Grainger's business, Florida Biplanes & Helicopters. But the port's five elected commissioners unanimously decided instead to extend the permit for 180 days, despite issues raised by Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Walsh.

Grainger said he booked 75 helicopter tours from the port during his first month of operation — an average of 2.5 a day — and believes he can become a profitable operation, benefiting both his company and the port.

Grainger — who also operates his 4-year-old helicopter and biplane tour business from Merritt Island Airport and from Orlando Executive Airport — is hoping expanding to Port Canaveral will get more visibility for his business on the Space Coast.

He told port commissioners that he is using space in "an unimproved parking lot" that "is serving no other purpose right now."

Grainger said he pays $750 a month for use of the 1,600-square-foot area of the parking lot, plus $2 per flight.

But Walsh said the helicopter company is getting a good deal from its use of land next to the Victory Casino Cruises parking lot.

Walsh said Grainger could have to move elsewhere at the port if the port lands a higher-paying tenant for that site.

Walsh said it would set "a bad precedent" if Grainger's payments to the port are artificially low, compared with other businesses at the port.

Two supporters of Grainger's helicopter tour business addressed the Port Authority before the commission vote.

One of them, Dennis Thompson of Merritt Island, said he believes the helicopter tours are "a real asset to the whole mix of excursion options for the cruises and for the general public" visiting the port.

Port commissioners appeared sympathetic to Grainger's efforts to make a go of his business at the port.

Port Commissioner John "Hank" Evans said he believes Grainger "has potential of raising a lot of money for the port with his business" by attracting more visitors to the port.

Commissioner Bruce Deardoff suggested that, if Grainger gets a long-term lease to operate at the port, the terms might be at least partly tied to his passenger counts, much like currently is done with cruise lines.

Canaveral Port Authority Chairman Tom Weinberg said he hasn't received any complaints about noise from Grainger's helicopter tours — which had been a concern raised when Grainger got approval to operate from the port. Grainger had adjusted his helicopter tour flight path to minimize noise along the coast.

"I think it's time to fly," Weinberg said.


Mark Grainger, founder of Florida Biplanes & Helicopters, said he offers helicopter tours ranging in price from $39 per person for a ride lasting about 5 or 6 minutes to $229 for an hour-long tour. The flights operate between 9 a.m. and sunset.

His Robinson R-44 helicopters carry a pilot and three passengers, and have a cruising speed of up to 130 mph.

Grainger said that type of helicopter — also known as the Raven II — is fuel-efficient, comfortable and relatively quiet.

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The A380 Is Coming to America? Yes, Says a Guy Who Leases Them

Mark Lapidus has a bold prediction: Delta Air Lines will be the first U.S. carrier to fly Airbus‘s massive A380 superjumbo—even though Delta executives have repeatedly said they don’t want the plane.

Lapidus is the chief executive officer of aircraft leasing company Amedeo and so has a deep financial interest in making his rosy forecast come true: Dublin-based Amedeo, the only lessor of the A380, has four of the twin-deck jets arriving from Airbus in 2016, with 16 more in the following four years.

In the seven years it’s been flying, the big plane has failed to crack a U.S. fleet. U.S. carriers contend that the plane—which carries almost 600 people in the configuration Amedeo touts—is too big for their networks, which are structured around frequencies in major business markets and matching seat inventory tightly with demand, a strategy of engineering scarcity to maintain profits.

That’s worked: U.S. airlines are now the most profitable in the world. “They all have reasons to be ideologically against it, and that’s part of our challenge,” Lapidus says. “It will take time.” He’s ready to try, embarking on what Bloomberg News earlier this month called “a lonely crusade“ to find new customers in North America for the world’s largest commercial jet. Airbus has 324 orders for the A380, most going to Emirates, the largest buyer of the model.

The crux of Amedeo’s pitch to North American airlines is that they’ve ignored the potential the A380 offers to segment cabin space much more than they can on their current long-haul fleets. Many airlines reduced their premium cabin capacity during the financial downturn, but now they’re losing first- and business-class customers to rivals, a phenomenon called “spill.” Lapidus argues that if U.S. airlines such as Delta and American Airlines  improve their offerings, they’ll increasingly be able to win the class of global business travelers who want to fly only the best airlines. He says premium economy is a revenue windfall and Airbus’s behemoth is the most efficient way to offer it.

Lapidus thinks Delta is most likely to yield. It has a record of finding niches for aircraft models that its rivals have avoided, especially if the planes are older and can be purchased for cheap on the secondary market. He cites Delta’s decision to replace many of its 50-seat regional jets with larger, 110-seat Boeing 717s, which boosted the airline’s capacity without requiring a larger fleet. Compared with a regional jet, the Boeing 717 offers 120 percent more seats at only 60 percent greater cost, and is more spacious and passenger-friendly, Delta said (pdf). “Every logical stage [Delta] used in making that (717) decision is exactly the same thing I would have used in advocating the A380,” Lapidus says. “So if they apply the same metrics, it would make sense that they would follow that logic.”

So far, Delta has shown little interest. The airline requested proposals from Boeing and Airbus for as many as 50 wide-body jets to replace its four-engine Boeing 747s and a large fleet of older 767s. Delta isn’t exploring the A380 as part of the proposals it will peruse this summer; last week two Delta executives at separate events said the A380 doesn’t fit their needs. ”We see a lot of efficiencies … in twin-engine aircraft, which make up the bulk of our fleet, and the A380 just doesn’t fit into that scope,” Delta spokesman Michael Thomas said on June 20.

It’s worth wondering: Does it matter to Amedeo or Airbus if a U.S. airline flies the A380 when it has customers in the Middle East, Asia, and Australia? “It probably doesn’t, but part of this story is (about) changing perceptions,” Lapidus said in a telephone interview Friday night from his home near London’s Heathrow Airport. U.S. airline decisions can have an enormous influence on operators all over the world, he added.

Lapidus is hoping for a meeting in Atlanta to tout the A380; he thinks the big jet would best fit Delta’s existing Heathrow services, which it operates as a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic Airways. Delta owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic, which has orders for six A380s scheduled to begin arriving in 2018. It’s unclear if Virgin Atlantic still wants the planes, having deferred them several times. “I think Delta, for all of their rhetoric about four-engine planes … is going to look at it intelligently,” Lapidus says.


GE-AerCap’s $30 Billion Deal Adds Pressure on Boeing and Airbus: Merger of largest aircraft lessors could mean less-expensive planes for airlines already leaning on lessors for help during the pandemic

General Electric Co. agreed to combine its aircraft-leasing business with Ireland’s AerCap Holdings NV in a deal valued at more than $30 billion and seen pressuring jet prices and plane makers.

GE will get about $24 billion in cash and 46% ownership in the new merged company. It will transfer about $34 billion in net assets to AerCap along with more than 400 workers. The deal is expected to close in nine to 12 months.

Aircraft-leasing companies already account for half the world’s jetliner fleet, and a deal that would combine the two largest players is expected to have knock-on effects for airlines and the two dominant plane makers, Boeing Co.and Airbus SE.

The deal between AerCap and GE creates a leasing company with more than 2,000 planes and an additional 500 on order, renting to hundreds of carriers.

The creation of a new industry giant figures to do two things. It could mean airlines get better deals on planes, as a larger leasing company can wrangle lower prices from Airbus and Boeing. It could also intensify long-simmering competition between lessors and plane makers trying to secure orders from carriers as they look beyond the pandemic-driven travel downturn that has left thousands of planes parked.

“It’s going to be a buyer’s market for airlines,” said Eric Bernardini, a managing director at AlixPartners LLC, a consulting firm. “The lessors are going to be competing with the plane makers to place aircraft.”

Boeing declined to comment. The aircraft maker has previously said it works closely with lessors, which company executives said helped the industry by moving planes around to meet demand. Airbus said it maintained a good relationship with AerCap and Gecas and declined to comment on any potential transaction.

The aircraft-leasing industry developed in the 1970s, initially serving weaker airlines that couldn’t afford to buy planes themselves. Lessors order in bulk and secure cheaper funding, passing on some of the savings to airlines. Carriers rent planes, usually for five to 12 years, rather than buying them outright, keeping debt off their balance sheets.

The business has now gone mainstream. Delta Air Lines Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp. and Southwest Airlines Co. are among carriers selling planes they ordered themselves to leasing companies and renting them back. That relationship has made big aircraft-leasing companies a vital source of cash for airlines over the past tumultuous year. The jet sales raised billions of dollars, with the cash boost coming on top of lessors agreeing to defer some rent on existing planes.

“I believe that without us and the leasing community, the airline industry would be in far worse shape than it is today,” John Plueger, chief executive of Air Lease Corp.,  a big aircraft lessor, said on an investor call last week.

With more than 900 aircraft owned or managed for other investors, Gecas is surpassed only by AerCap in fleet size. It leases passenger aircraft made by Boeing and Airbus—many with GE-made engines—as well as regional jets and cargo planes to customers ranging from flagship airlines to startups. Gecas had $35.9 billion in assets as of Dec. 31.

AerCap has a market value of $7.5 billion and around 1,050 aircraft owned or managed as well as almost 300 on order. The company has experience in deal making, paying around $7.6 billion in 2014 to buy International Lease Finance Corp. from American International Group Inc.

Still, the aircraft-leasing market remains fragmented, likely lessening the chance of an antitrust challenge to a combination. A merged AerCap and Gecas entity would have around 7% of the global jetliner fleet and 4% of Airbus and Boeing orders, according to Jefferies.

The big leasing companies have concentrated their buying on the most popular planes, including the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX narrow-body jets most commonly used on domestic and shorter routes. Their fleets of wide-body jets used on international routes consist mainly of Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners. This concentration allows lessors to shuttle the planes between customers if demand drops in one region, even repossessing them if a carrier gets into trouble.

The leasing companies usually don’t want to buy the first planes off the production line, which can have teething problems, as well as the last, which often have trouble holding their value.

Shares in aircraft-leasing companies fell along with much of the market in the early days of the pandemic as airlines grounded planes and sought breaks on rent. But many of the major lessors’ stocks have recovered since as lockdowns ease and the outlook for travel starts to improve.

However, AerCap and Gecas have both taken write-downs on the value of some remaining older aircraft.