Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Business owner satisfied with airport authority relationship: Greater Cumberland Regional (KCBE), Maryland

 To the Editor: Cumberland Times-News

I am writing to express my gratitude to the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority. As an aviation business operating on the airport, I have been immensely pleased with their professionalism.

I have owned numerous aviation based businesses, on multiple airports, in multiple states, and the Cumberland Regional Airport is by far the best managed airport that I have worked with.

 When I contacted Airport Manager Ryan Shaffer regarding the possibility of operation in Cumberland, I was incredibly impressed by the efficiency of the airport and willingness to support new businesses.

 When I have approached other airport authorities and managers regarding the operation of a new business, it has often taken them several months to accomplish what the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority achieved in two days. I have now been in business for over a year, and I am continually impressed by the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority’s degree of competency.

Furthermore, Ryan Shaffer is always quick to respond to any question or concern that I may have, and the degree to which the airport is maintained is highly impressive.

 Neil Porter

 Owner/manager, Skydive Deep Creek

 Mount Savage

Opinion:   http://www.times-news.com/opinion

San Jose police: We regret secrecy about drone

San Jose police officials said Tuesday that they "should have done a better job of communicating" with the public about the department's recent purchase of a drone that hasn't yet taken to the skies.

Officials released a statement a week after they came under fire from civil rights activists for not informing the public of the device either before or after its purchase in January.

On Tuesday, the department said it will create a community outreach plan before deploying the unmanned aircraft system.

San Jose police bought the drone for just under $7,000 in federal grant money to help the bomb squad assess threats and inspect explosives, officials said.

However, eight months later, the department has not developed guidelines for the use of its Century NEO 660 V2 hexacopter, and officials haven't applied for Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly the drone.

The purchase was approved by the City Council with no public debate and was not publicized until Vice's Motherboard and MuckRock obtained public records on the drone.

In its statement, the Police Department issued a mea culpa of sorts.

"In hindsight, SJPD should have done a better job of communicating the purpose and acquisition of the (drone) to our community," officials said. "The community should have the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, and express their concerns before we move forward with this project."

Police will develop an outreach plan, but Officer Albert Morales, a department spokesman, said the department is "still working on a timeline and details." He said police will not deploy the device until they do outreach, develop a policy for drone use and get federal approval.

Civil rights activists have long opposed law enforcement-run drones, saying they may be abused and used for unauthorized surveillance. According to the FAA, about 80 law enforcement agencies were operating drones in 2013.

Opposition has been strong enough in the Bay Area to prevent the sheriff's offices in Alameda and San Mateo counties from acquiring drones.

In the San Jose police statement, department officials acknowledged that they might use the drone for more than just assisting bomb technicians.

"Another possible use would be for situations that threaten public safety," the statement reads. "These could include dangers such as active shooters, hostage-taking, or other such tactical situations where lives might be in immediate danger."

That troubled Nicole Ozer, an attorney who heads the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Civil Liberties Project.

"The City Council had been told it was approving a drone for hazardous material," she said. "Now, in this statement, the SJPD says it wants to use it for any situation that will threaten public safety. As you can imagine, that can be very broad scenarios."

Ozer said the drone was "only approved because community members were kept in the dark. There hasn't been any public debate about whether there should be drone use at all."

The San Jose police force is the first in the Bay Area to acquire a drone. But because it was funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative, 13 other bomb squads in the region may be allowed to use it as well.

Story and Comments:  http://www.sfgate.com

Congressman LoBiondo kicks off 2014 FAA Worldwide Airport Technology Transfer Conference

GALLOWAY TWP. -  The 2014 FAA Worldwide Airport Technology Transfer Conference kicked off in Galloway Township, Tuesday.Congressman Frank LoBiondo, the chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee gave the opening remarks Tuesday morning at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.

The conference provides a unique opportunity for airport operators, contractors, engineers, and researchers to interact and exchange information when it comes to airport safety and pavement technology.

"So when we look at our aviation, you can just let your mind wander a little about all the different stakeholders that make up this system, which is incredibly important worldwide and especially here," said LoBiondo in his speech.

The annual conference is sponsored by the FAA at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Story and Video:  http://www.nbc40.net


VIDEO: Charter planes make their way into Virginia Senate race

Virginia's Republican candidate for Senate, Ed Gillespie, has released a new ad hitting Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., for his use of private planes.

A recent USA Today article released last week thrust charter planes into some campaigns, including Virginia's Senate race. It was revealed that Warner used a charter plane for a recent trip to Southwest Virginia that cost taxpayers $8,500. By comparison, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. took a similar trip to that part of the state, but drove by car. His travel expenses were less than $700.  

Since taking office in 2009 Warner has taken 32 charter flights for a total cost of $150,000, but his camp has argued the planes are necessary for the amount of trips he takes to the Commonwealth. Warner attended 150 official events in Virginia in 2013. 

Video here: http://washingtonexaminer.com/video

Fear of the deadly virus Ebola and instability around the world push demand for charter flights ‘off the charts’

Fear of Ebola and global instability have helped boost interest in corporate jet travel.

While the risk of contracting the deadly virus is low, a private jet operator in the United States says the number of calls for international charter flights had been "off the charts" during the past week.

In New Zealand, a company that provides services for private jets from around the world said there had been a steady run of usual customers to this region but there were signs that health and security concerns had boosted interest overseas.

"I understand in Europe and the United States people have decided to take charter flights - those numbers are up," said Air Center One chief executive Rob Leach.

"I think the perception is that people might find it a bit safer in a private jet than being in a queue with everyone else.

"I think the other thing is that people are sick of the security checks they've got to get through.

"There's a paranoia in the US that has got to epidemic levels but at least [on a charter flight] you know who is on the plane with you."

Airstream Jets has offices in Australia, Canada and the United States and Francesca Termini, a charter co-ordinator, said the increased interest in its service was from customers who had never chartered aircraft before as a result of recent events such as the Ebola incident in Lagos and geopolitical instability in other regions.

Leach said a charter flight on a Gulfstream jet cost about US$10,000 ($11,740) an hour and could carry up to 14 passengers.

At the weekend Emirates became the first scheduled carrier to suspend flights in West Africa, cutting flights to Guinea in a bid to prevent the further spread of Ebola. It said safety of passengers and crew would not be compromised.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it was working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) with respect to potential implications for air connectivity.

Late last week WHO said the risk of a tourist or business visitor becoming infected with Ebola virus during a visit to the affected areas and developing the disease after returning was extremely low, even if the visit included travel to the local areas from which primary cases have been reported.

Transmission required direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely exposures for the average traveller, the organisation said.

IATA said the air transport industry had dealt with several outbreaks of communicable diseases recently. The global response to communicable diseases is governed by the WHO's international health regulations.

It said: "IATA will continue to monitor developments closely in the Ebola outbreak in close co-ordination with the WHO and ICAO."

Corporate market takes off as customers return

Before the worsening Ebola outbreak and concerns about civilian aircraft being downed by rockets, the private jet market was recovering from its global financial crisis trough.

General Dynamics, maker of Gulfstream jets, said corporate customers were back and wealth creation was bringing out shoppers for private jets. The president of jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney said deliveries for private planes were growing after hitting a low in 2011.

Improvements in the top part of the business - jets costing US$26 million ($30.5 million) or more - had driven the market's recovery, he said. Total business jet deliveries were valued at US$20.9 billion last year, compared with a peak of US$24.7 billion in 2008.

-- Source:   http://www.nzherald.co.nz

Air India plane grounded in Delhi as rats run riot, sent for fumigation

NEW DELHI: An Air India aircraft had to be grounded on Monday evening due to the presence of a large number of unwelcome guests who posed a serious threat to the plane — scores of rats.

Rats were observed when the Airbus A-321, flying as AI 021, landed at IGI airport from Kolkata. The crew observed many rats running around in the rear half of the aircraft cabin. As soon as all the passengers alighted, the aircraft was taken out of service. Instead of being prepared for the next flight, this bigger version of the A-320 family of planes was taken to a remote bay for fumigation by central warehousing corporation personnel to eliminate all the rats on board.

Once even a single rat is observed on an aircraft, the plane has to be fumigated. "Rats on board an aircraft can lead to a catastrophe if they start chewing up electric wires of a fly by wire plane. If that happens, pilots will have no control on any system on board leading to a disaster," a senior commander said. What usually prevents such a situation is that passengers inadvertently drop a lot of food on the cabin floor, which keeps rats busy.

The most common way for rats to get on board an aircraft is through catering vans. "This is a universal phenomenon. Rats follow the large storage cases in which food trays are kept. The catering vans are like a home for them as food keeps getting dropped. Rats get on the high lifts that take those storage cases to aircraft and then remain there. This happens across the world," said an official.

Monday's incident, however, has led to concern in airlines as a large number of rats were present in the aircraft. "In-flight caterers must take all precautions in keeping their vans rat-free. All airlines will take up this issue with them," said the official.

The "rat flight" was not the only grounding AI faced on Monday. One of its oldest A-320s was released under minimum equipment list (which means a flight operates with a certain piece of equipment not functional and that has to be replaced within a certain timeframe) from Delhi to Dammam. The aircraft took off but it had to return as the snag persisted. The old generation A-320s are riddled with problems and AI is planning to replace them with brand new A-320s with all economy seating.

-- Source:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Student helps land improvements at Morrisville-Stowe State Airport ( KMVL), Vermont

MORRISVILLE, Vt. -   It's time for takeoff once again at the Morrisville-Stowe Airport.

"And we're in the air," Pilot Harrison Barr said.

We took to the air in a Cirrus SR22 to give us a bird's-eye view of the newly renovated airport. Flying us around-- a 19-year-old business student from the University of Vermont. He's been flying for four years and he's already piloting one of the most expensive personal planes.

"This is the most advanced general aviation airplane ever built," Barr said.

It was Barr's interest in flying that kicked off a chain of events eventually leading to the airport's renovation.

"I showed up at the airport here, not knowing anyone, with just an interest to start flying," he said.

Hoping to spread his wings, Barr told his dad about his dream. The problem-- the Morrisville airport had no flight school and a runway filled with holes.

"The runway had grass growing out of it. It had pebbles coming out of it. It had uneven surfaces. It had holes," said David Mendal, a flight instructor.

And so a deal was made between Harrison and his dad: "I build the airport. He teaches me how to fly," Russ Barr said.

Russ Barr called Vermont Aviation and his ideas made it all the way back to Montpelier, where Gov. Peter Shumlin got onboard with his plan. Russ Barr and his company, Stowe Aviation, have now leased the airport from the state for 30 years. They'll take over all day-to-day operations.

The airport closed in April, but Tuesday a ribbon-cutting celebrated the airport's reopening and first round of renovations, including new lighting, a new terminal, a longer runway and new taxiways. It's a $20 million investment through the FAA and Stowe Aviation.

"Aviation is a huge part of the infrastructure we need to invest in," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Stowe Aviation has future plans to continue renovations and build a flight school.

"I'm dreaming big," Harrison Barr said.

He's already realized several big dreams. He's the only UVM student to ever fly himself from Stowe to Burlington for his first day of classes. And what he loves about flying may surprise you.

"I love the thrill of aviation, just the sheer risk," he said.

I thought I'd heard him wrong.

Harrison Barr explained, " I like the idea that you lose your engine, very unlikely situation. What are you going to do? Where are you going to land?"

But his family-- they've got no worries at all.

"You have to spend time with him and realize, I should have been that mature at 18 and 19 years old," Russ Barr said.

The next wave of renovations at the airport will take 18 months, but the airport will stay open in the meantime.

- Source:  http://www.wcax.com

Port of Seattle moves forward on nearly $1 billion in Sea-Tac Airport (KSEA) improvements

Since the completion of Sea-Tac’s rental car terminal in 2012, the airport and its customers have enjoyed a rare respite from the major expansion and remodeling that seem to be a way of life at busy airports.

Don’t expect that quiet period to last much longer. The Port of Seattle Commission on Tuesday took positive action on a handful of proposals Tuesday that could ultimately result in close to $1 billion in new construction and rebuilding activity at the airport lasting until the end of this decade.

Those construction projects will result in creation of a new international arrivals complex, the building of a bridge between the South Satellite Terminal and the international facility, the remodeling and updating of the South Satellite, the expansion and renovation of the airport’s North Satellite Terminal, the reconstruction of the airport’s center runway, the reinforcement of the tunnel beneath the airport’s arrival drive and the electrical updating of the Main Terminal.

The projects’ costs will be paid by the airport’s airline tenants.

The most significant activity will be centered on the two airport satellite terminals north and south of the main terminal that have not seen significant updating and remodeling since they were opened in 1971 and 1973.

Those two satellite facilities are the Sea-Tac homes for two airlines battling for supremacy at the airport, hometown Alaska Airlines and Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines. Alaska enjoys more than a 50 percent of the market share at Sea-Tac. Delta is building Sea-Tac into its West Coast international hub while adding dozens of domestic flights to feed those international nonstops.

Alaska and the port are redesigning and expanding the airport’s North Satellite Terminal to become the signature axis of Alaska’s airline network. That terminal along with the airport’s C Concourse will ultimately serve Alaska flights.

The port’s “Northstar Project” would reconfigure and expand the gates at the North Satellite to create a total of 20 gates, up from the current 12 gates.

The port commission at its Tuesday meeting authorized the expansion of the terminal to the northwest adding five gates. That $191-million addition raises the price of the total Northstar Project to an estimated $406 million.

The terminal will continue to operate during the expansion and remodeling project. Construction on the terminal could begin in the fall of 2015 with completion in the summer of 2019

The project will create additional escalator and elevator access from the airport subway to the terminal, change the layout and aesthetics of the terminal to meet 21st century standards and create a new clubroom for Alaska’s elite frequent fliers. The port and Alaska are also studying whether to create gates to allow Alaska’s planes to load and unload from both the front and rear doors.

At the airport’s opposite end, the port plans to spend more than $5 million for a quick update of the South Satellite Terminal’s interior. That renovation would install new carpets, create new airline gate podiums, install new water fountains, update the terminal’s signage and repaint the interior to give the terminal an updated and unified appearance.

The larger project at the South Satellite, whose major occupant is Delta, will be to build a new international arrivals facility south and east of the present A Concourse. A new overhead bridge will allow arriving international passengers to move from the South Satellite to the new arrival facility for customs and immigration clearance.

That new facility is necessary because of the proliferation of international flights at Sea-Tac. Many of those flights now arrive during a tight window of time just before and after noon, overcrowding the present arrival facilities built in the early ’70s.

In recent years Delta and foreign airlines have added flights from Sea-Tac to Frankfurt, Paris, London and Amsterdam in Europe, to Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul in Asia and to Iceland and Dubai.

The new international arrivals facility will allow international passengers to arrive at South Satellite gates as they do now but also at gates in the A Concourse.

Design work on that project is just beginning and the final prices for the international facility aren’t nailed down. Preliminary cost estimates say the facility will cost $316 million, but port executives expect the final estimates could escalate by up to $100 million bringing facility construction cost to more than $400 million. Construction could begin in the third quarter of 2015 with completion in the last quarter of 2018.

When the international facility is done, the port likely will embark on a more substantial renovation of the South Satellite.

While intensive planning is moving forward on the North and South satellite facilities, the port also is embarking on major maintenance projects. The commission Tuesday authorized further work to replace 28 deteriorated concrete panels in the airport’s center runway and near the North Satellite. Those patchwork replacements have been going on for two years. That work will cost $969,000.

Those repairs will buy the port time before it has to replace that runway completely. The port plans to shut down the center runway in 2016, dig out the existing pavement and replace it. The airport’s other two runways are relatively new.

Meanwhile, the commission also approved a $27.9 million project that will shore up supports beneath the airport’s arrival drive to meet earthquake standards. Those supports surround a below-ground service road that allows commercial vehicle access to the airport’s underbelly.

Another update project receiving the commission’s approval was a $20.7 million project to update the low voltage electricity distribution system in the Main Terminal which hasn’t been updated in some parts of the terminal for decades.

-- Source: http://www.thenewstribune.com

Water landings are routine events at David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport (KDWH): Spring facility is only land-locked water runway in Texas and just one of only five water runways in the U.S.

Terry Sonday makes a final check before taking off in his plane.

Takeoffs and landings are an everyday occurrence at airports all over the world, but it's less common to see aircraft taking off or landing on water.

And it becomes even less common to see water landings on general aviation airports that are landlocked.

However, seaplanes do have that option at David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport, but it takes a special touch.

"It's definitely different in the fact that your airplane is now like a speed boat (when it lands on water)," said Terry Sonday, a licensed pilot with more than 40 years experience. "It takes a little more control because the plane will wobble around in the water a little bit."

Sonday, who also trains seaplane pilots, has been licensed to fly seaplanes for 20 years, said landing a small aircraft on a runway does take practice, but landing on water takes a bit more anticipation of what the aircraft may do when it touches the water.

"On the runway you can just step on the brakes and straighten things out, but on the water, the plane slides from left to right so it can make it a little more challenging, but it's a lot of fun."

Amy Mounger, human resource manager at Hooks airport, said the water runway is used by Sonday more than any other pilot.

Mounger said the water runway is also significantly shorter that the concrete and asphalt runways at Hooks, which are 7,009 feet and 3,987 feet long.

"The length of the (water runway) is actually 2,530 feet," she said. "Relatively small aircraft are landing on this, so they don't need as much runway."

The water runway has been a part of the airport landscape since the late 1960s.

Roger Schmidt, the maintenance manager at Hooks airport, used to hang around at the airport when his father worked there for Charles Hooks.

He remembers when construction on what he called "the sealane" was completed.

"I remember as a boy seeing it as they were digging it," Schmidt said. "The southern portion was very deep at that time. Also there was a company here that sold the Lake Amphibious aircraft and they used the sealane to demo their aircraft."

While these types of runways are not unheard of, they are hard to find, especially in a city the size of Houston.

In fact, the water runway at Hooks is the only land-based runway in Texas, and one of five land-locked water runways in the United States.

However, water runways are widely used in sealanes in Alaska, and further south in Louisiana, California and Florida, Sonday said,

Although the unique runway is a fixture at the airport today, it didn't exist 50 years ago when Charles Hooks started landing his personal plane on a grassy field in 1963.

His hobby eventually evolved into a business and a public airstrip, and the airport, then known as Houston Northwest Airport, was opened.

Not long after the airport opened, Charles' son, David, was killed with three others in a small airplane crash.

The airport was soon renamed in his memory.

In the late 1980s, Hooks sold the airport to the Gill family, and it has grown significantly larger since then, to include a second runway, services for jets and helicopters, an FAA control tower, a privately owned diner and of course, the water runway.

Sonday said anyone with a pilot's license cannot just decided to fly a seaplane, and it in fact would require training in both types of aircraft.

"It's a little bit different," he said. "It's like an automobile. Most people get their drivers license in a car, and moved up to a pick-up or a (semi-truck). You typically learn to fly in a Cessna or a Piper Cub, and then after about 50 hours of training and practice you go and … get a pilot's license. Then after that, you could go and get a seaplane rating."

A seaplane rating, Sonday says, assumes the person has flying experience, so an instructor can teach the pilot the differences in both aircraft.

"It typically takes about five hours of transition training to fly a seaplane," he said.

While Hooks is one of the few land-locked airports with a water runway, there are plenty of water landing areas in the Houston area, such as Galveston Bay and Lake Conroe.

Of course, there are challenges associated with water landings, particularly on rivers where there are sand bars or floating debris, such as logs.

"Landing in the canals and bayous in Louisiana can also be pretty challenging," he said.

Splash landing

There are only five land-locked airports in the lower 48 states that also have water runways. Here's where those airports are located:

David Wayne Hooks Airport: Spring, Texas

Acadiana Regional Airport: New Iberia, La.

Folsom Lake Airport: Folsom, Calif.

Cooper Airport: Hartford, Maine

Felts Airport: Spokane, Wash.

Story and Photo Gallery:  http://www.chron.com

Pitt-Greenville Airport (KPGV) could soon house corporate hangar - plane valued at $39 million

Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

GREENVILLE, N.C. - The Pitt-Greenville Airport is on its way to being the first in the east to house a corporate hangar. 

The Pitt County commission approved funding it, which would allow the airport to build it. It'll cost $2 million.   

The airport's executive director Jerry Vickers says a business is set to enter a long-term lease for the hangar, which will house a plane valued at $39 million. They're not releasing the name of the business.

Vickers says corporate hangars are in short supply and the positives of having one for the community are endless.

"If the city and county are getting a half million dollars of revenue, that reduces the pressure on local government to raise taxes or charge fees," explained Jerry Vickers, airport Exec. Director.

The hangar will sit on a 5 acre property near the airport's entrance.

It's a joint venture with the city, so Greenville must approve the project.

-- Source:  http://www.wnct.com

Rep. Todd Rokita: Helping General Aviation Take-Off

General Aviation is a homegrown American industry that is responsible for 1.2 million jobs and pumps more than $150 billion into our nation’s economy. But it’s also an industry that could do much more to create jobs, boost our economy, and contribute to our national transportation system.  Instead, General Aviation is being held back by an antiquated regulatory system that is painfully unresponsive and out of touch.

Outdated FAA regulations have contributed to a dramatic reduction in the number of aviators, and a corresponding increase in the cost of flying.  Furthermore, the costs that prevent aviators from flying have led to a dramatic drop in the number of aircraft being produced. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) reports that that production of single-engine planes plunged from 14,000 in 1977 to fewer than 700 in 2010—and that’s a drop that translates to thousands of lost jobs.  Those jobs have been lost, in large part, because of a bureaucracy that rarely serves the public, whatever the intention.  We have already taken action and scored a win in providing relief to general aviation when Representative Mike Pompeo’s “Small Airplane Revitalization Act,” a bill I coauthored and helped to lead passage of in 2013.

Read more here:  http://rokita.house.gov/editorial

Unmanned aircraft offer ag potential; Illegal for business, commercial use

Advances in unmanned aircraft systems combined with next generation sensors will contribute to the challenge of feeding our future world in a sustainable manner, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineer says.

However, while unmanned aircraft systems will have quite an impact in agriculture’s future, it currently is illegal to operate one of these aircraft for commercial or business use, said Wayne Woldt, engineer in Biological Systems Engineering.

Farmers and crop scouts may find using unmanned aircraft outfitted with advanced imaging sensors beneficial in locating problem areas in fields, such as weeds, water stress, insect stress and crop stress, and in fact, it is expected agriculture will account for an 80 percent share of the emerging unmanned aircraft market, Woldt said.

“The view you can get of a field or livestock operation is unparalleled, without cost of going up in an airplane, and the view is very helpful in understanding your production system,” Woldt said.

But the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources engineer cautions it currently is illegal to operate an unmanned aircraft for commercial or business use, which would include agriculture.

The aircraft can be flown for hobby use, which is defined very narrowly.  And if an unmanned aircraft is flown for hobby, or private use, the individual needs to be very careful for low flying aircraft such as agricultural spray pilots, pipeline inspectors, photographers, and other aircraft that are flying low for a specific reason. A collision of an unmanned aircraft with an airplane could be very expensive, and perhaps even deadly.

The FAA is working on regulations for small, unmanned aircraft, which are 55 pounds or less. These regulations should be drafted this fall, and this will lay the groundwork for business and commercial use of unmanned aircraft, including use in agriculture.

“The FAA takes great pride in the safety of the air space over the U.S., with it being one of the safest in the word,” Woldt said. “The FAA is looking to make it legal to fly these unmanned aircraft for farming purposes. So stay tuned, and commercial use of unmanned aircraft will soon be incorporated into the national air space.”

Until then, it is important that these unmanned aircraft remain grounded, and not used for business or commercial purposes.

If they are used, one must have an FAA issued certificate of authorization, which is only available to aircraft owned by the state, for research, and other civil aviation purposes such as emergency response.

Woldt is just getting his NU-AIRE research and education program underway at IANR, with additional information at http://nuaire.unl.edu.

- Source:   http://rapidcityjournal.com

Pilot’s family hire engineering expert for Clutha crash probe: Eurocopter EC135 T2+, G-SPAO

A veteran air accident investigator who led the probe into the Mull of Kintyre helicopter crash has been hired by lawyers involved in the Clutha disaster.

Tony Cable, a former senior investigator at the Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) has been engaged by the legal team representing the family of pilot David Traill.

Mr Traill was one of 10 people killed when the Police Scotland helicopter he was piloting plunged into the Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow on the night of November 30 last year.

Two police constables on board and seven people on the ground also died. An AAIB investigation is still ongoing.

In three decades at the AAIB, Mr Cable worked on investigations into the Lockerbie bombing and the Paris Concorde crash.

He also headed the initial air accident inquiry into the RAF Chinook crash on Mull of Kintyre in 1994.

The tragedy claimed the lives of all 29 on board, including 25 of the UK's most senior intelligence experts, and sparked a bitter 17-year legal battle by the pilots' widows to overturn the 1995 verdict of "gross negligence" by an RAF board of inquiry.

It subsequently emerged that the Ministry of Defence had been warned nine months before the crash that the Chinook's onboard software system, Fadec, was "positively dangerous". In 2011, a review of the case found the pilots should never have been blamed.

Mr Cable was critical of the MoD for withholding key information from investigators.

Since leaving the AAIB he has set up his own consultancy, AFTA Ltd, in Guildford, which specializes in "gathering and reviewing available evidence" on air crashes, particularly in relation to engineering failures.

Aviation consultant Chris Yates said Mr Cable was respected as an "extremely shrewd investigator" and "extremely knowledgeable about his subject matters".

He added: "Without a doubt the expertise that he has gathered over very many years is crucial to their side of the investigation. That's probably the primary reason why they've chosen Tony Cable to assist."

An investigation by the AAIB is still ongoing but has raised significant questions over the cause of the tragedy.

The AAIB's most recent update in February stated the aircraft's engines had "flamed out" as a result of fuel starvation, but the key mystery has been why this occurred with 76kg of fuel left in the main tank.

Experts have suggested the situation points to possible human error as vital transfer pumps - controlled manually by switches in the cockpit - were turned off when they should have been on throughout the flight.

As a result, fuel could not ­transfer from the main tank into the supply tanks which in turn power the engines. As a result it is feared Mr Traill could be blamed.

The aircraft, a Eurocopter EC135, was also fitted with a Fadec system. The system monitors and controls the function of the engines to ensure they operate at "maximum efficiency".

Pilots cannot manually override Fadec if it malfunctions. If Fadec fails, the engines fail. However, investigators have found nothing to indicate a software glitch on the Clutha helicopter.

Under the strict liability laws governing aviation, Bond - which operates helicopters for the police and ambulance service - is automatically liable for compensation, regardless of the outcome of the AAIB probe or a likely Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) in future.

The decision by the Traill ­family's lawyers to recruit Mr Cable could suggest that they are anticipating an FAI and the likelihood of having to argue against human error in favour of mechanical failure.

But Mr Yates said it would be wrong to second-guess the AAIB's probe.

He said: "I don't think it [hiring Mr Cable] gives us any clues as to the direction of the AAIB investigation at all.

"I think it probably serves the purpose of having all the ducks in a row, so to speak - making sure that any aspect is covered."

Mr Cable said he was unable to comment.

-- Source:   http://www.heraldscotland.com