Thursday, October 02, 2014

$20,000: Singapore Airlines pilot fined over Canterbury crash

A Singapore Airlines pilot has been ordered to pay $20,000 in emotional harm payments to two of his colleagues injured in a serious road crash in Canterbury last week. 

Benjamin Yonghao Wu, 32, was also disqualified from driving for 18 months after admitting two charges of reckless driving causing injury.

The foreign driver had rented a vehicle and was partway through a Lord of the Rings road trip with four colleagues last week when he ran a stop sign on the outskirts of Christchurch, at the intersection of Weedons Ross Rd and Maddisons Rd.

The Toyota ran directly into the path of a 4WD towing a horse float, which had been obscured from view by a shelterbelt and had no option but to plough into the side of the car at around 80km/h.

Two of the Singapore Airlines staff received serious injuries and had to be cut from the vehicle before being rushed into emergency surgery.

Chief steward Chew Weng Wai suffered significant brain injuries and internal bleeding, while steward Vanessa Leonara Savio Coehlo fractured her arm and shattered her pelvis, also injuring her spleen and bladder.

The two other passengers were unhurt and have since returned home.

Appearing before the Christchurch District Court for sentencing today, Wu stood with his head bowed and nodded periodically as Judge Stephen O'Driscoll imposed the penalty.

Wu's lawyer, Kerry Cook, told of the court of his client's "incredible remorse", saying he had apologized to the victims and their families for the "tragic unintended consequences".

The pilot was unfamiliar with the roads and saw the stop sign too late, he said. In a split second, he decided not to brake heavily to avoid discomfort for his passengers, and entered the intersection.

"This is an unintentional error at the lower end with unforeseen and significant consequences," Mr Cook said. "He is significantly upset and distraught at the harm [he has caused]."

Mr Cook said Wu had already paid $15,000 into the court's trust account for reparations, having taken out a loan to help the victims as much as he could. He had also admitted his wrongdoing at an early stage, admitting his guilt to emergency services as he helped others at the scene.

Judge O'Driscoll said both victims had months of rehabilitation ahead and would bear scars "for a long time".

"You were not concentrating on the road signs and it was a lapse of concentration on your part that has consequences for those in your car," he said.

"Whatever the reason [for the lapse], you did not keep the high degree of vigilance that is necessary for all motorists on our roads.

"You failed to obey a simple road rule and that is to stop at a compulsory stop."

Mr Cook confirmed Wu would be pay the remaining $5000 reparation as soon possible, on top of the $15000 already paid into the court trust.

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Benjamin Yonghao Wu (3 News)

The New Zealand police have filed charges against a 32-year-old man over the car crash on Wednesday that left two Singapore Airlines (SIA) crew members seriously injured.

The suspect is believed to be a first officer with the airline. He will appear in the Christchurch District Court today, where he will be officially charged with two counts of ''reckless driving causing injury''.

"If convicted, he could be fined up to NZ$20,000 (S$20,020) and jailed a maximum of five years," said a New Zealand Canterbury police spokesman, adding that he could also be disqualified from driving in the country for a year.

The suspect was driving a Toyota car with four other SIA crew members near the town of Rolleston when it crashed into a four-wheel-drive towing a horse trailer at a cross-junction.

Two of the SIA staff, the New Zealand driver and the horse were not injured. The SIA crew members who were not hurt have since returned home, according to the New Zealand police.

But chief steward Chew Weng Wai remains in critical condition, while stewardess Vanessa Coehlo is in stable condition following surgery. Both are still in Christchurch Public Hospital.

All five SIA staff were part of the crew on Flight SQ297 that arrived in Christchurch from Singapore on Tuesday morning.

When contacted, SIA declined to comment further on its staff, citing its privacy policy.

"Our priority has not changed, which is to provide our staff and their families the highest standard of care and assistance," said an airline spokesman.

The New Zealand police are still investigating the cause of the crash.

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The New Zealand police have filed charges against a 32-year-old man over the car crash on Wednesday that left two Singapore Airlines (SIA) crew members seriously injured. 

A Singapore Airlines pilot has admitted causing a high-speed crash that has left a colleague fighting for his life in hospital.

Benjamin Yonghao Wu, 32, has been charged with two counts of reckless driving causing injury after a crash with a 4WD towing a horse float at the intersection of Weedons Ross Rd and Maddisons Rd, near Rolleston, south of Christchurch on Wednesday.

The car's occupants were a group of five Singapore Airlines crew members.

Singapore Airlines chief steward Chew Weng Wai is today still in a critical condition with brain injuries in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) at Christchurch Hospital, a District Health Board spokeswoman confirmed to APNZ.

Stewardess Vanessa Leonara Savio Coehlo is in a stable condition in a general ward following surgery.

Two passengers were unhurt and have "returned home", police say.

A Singapore Airlines spokesman said today: "Our priority has not changed, which is to provide our staff and their families the highest standard of care and assistance. However, due to our privacy policy, we are unable to disclose any further details about our staff."

At Christchurch District Court today, Wu, of Singapore, appeared in the dock to plead guilty to both reckless driving causing injury charges.

Defence counsel Kerry Cook asked for sentencing to proceed today.

He said the airline had flown over the victims' families, but not the family of Wu who has been left "isolated and under stress".

He is staying at a city hotel and with "a significant amount of effort" he has brought $15,000 into New Zealand which he hopes will be offered as emotional harm compensation to the "split between the two [victims] as the court sees fit".

Police however asked for a delay in sentencing to find out the exact conditions of the two victims. Police prosecutor sergeant Glenn Pascoe said one victim "might still pass away".

Police also wanted more time to get more information from the family of victims before sentence.

Judge Jane McMeeken adjourned the case until Monday, "with a view to sentencing on that date", but warned it still might not happen on that day.

Police have Wu's passport, and he was bailed on the condition he would not drive a motor vehicle and not travel outside Christchurch.

A Singapore Airlines spokeswoman said: "Our immediate concern is for the welfare of our staff and we shall accord them and their families the highest standard of care and assistance, which is practicable."

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Searchers find nothing of reported downed plane in Utah County

Provo police, Utah County sheriff’s deputies and search and rescue workers were dispatched to scour the area of Cascade Mountain Thursday morning to investigate a report of a possible plane crash.

However, Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said that it appeared the report — a 911 call from a citizen who spotted an aircraft and then possible smoke soon after — was mistaken.

As of 10:30 a.m., no trace of wreckage of a plane had been found by search planes and ground crews in the Rock Canyon area, just to the east of Provo. Soon thereafter, the search was officially suspended.

Cannon said that deputies had accounted for planes known to be in the area at the time of the call.

He said it was not uncommon for reports to come in of an aircraft in trouble, only for authorities to learn later what was thought to be a fire or crash was actually misinterpreted morning sun glare and clouds.

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Pointing laser at chopper earns 2 years in prison

AUSTIN, Texas — Federal authorities say a 25-year-old Austin man has been sentenced to two years in prison for pointing a hand-held laser at a police helicopter.

Gabriel Soza Ruedas Jr. was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in July.

Federal law bars aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. Authorities say the effect of a laser pointer's light inside a chopper's cockpit is like a disco ball and can be disorienting and distracting.

Prosecutors say Ruedas used a laser strong enough to reflect inside the cockpit, causing the pilot to turn his head and avert his eyes. The chopper crew helped Austin police locate Ruedas, who was found with the laser pointer in his pocket.

The incident prompted air traffic controllers to issue a warning to all pilots in the area.


Martha's Vineyard Airport (KMVY), County Rift Escalates in Court

A hearing is set for next week in Dukes County superior court in the intensifying legal dispute between the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission and Dukes County Commission.

On Wednesday, the Hon. Richard Chin, an associate justice of the superior court, will hear a motion to amend an existing complaint brought by the airport commission, which now wants to bar the county commission from expanding the board by adding two new members.

The two commissions have sparred on and off for years about who ultimately controls the airport, which is financially independent but owned by the county. The county appoints the airport commission.

Last week the county commission, which has been in the throes of a reappointment process involving the airport, decided to expand the airport commission from seven to nine members. Less than 24 hours later, the airport commission was in superior court seeking to block the move.

The original case was filed early this year after the county voted to appoint the county manager to the airport commission as a nonvoting member.

The airport commission took the county to court and won a first round in August when Judge Chin granted a preliminary injunction allowing the county manager to be excluded from sitting on the commission.

In the latest motion to amend the complaint, attorneys for the airport claim the vote to expand the size of the commission was done without obtaining required approval by the state Department of Transportation, and constitutes an “action to reorganize” the airport commission in violation of grant assurances.

“Moreover, in the context of the county defendants years-long campaign to obstruct and interfere with the airport, by any means, this expansion is plainly yet another attempt by the county commission to interfere unlawfully with the autonomy of the MVAC and its authority over the airport,” wrote airport counsel David Mackey in the filing last week.

Meanwhile, meetings of the airport commission appear to be in a holding pattern while the matter in court is decided.

A regular meeting scheduled for last Friday was cancelled for lack of a quorum, said Constance Teixeira, chairman of the commission. A make-up meeting has not been scheduled.

“Nothing is going to happen until next Thursday,” Mrs. Teixeira said, referring to the day after the scheduled court hearing.

She said for now, the next meeting of the airport commission is set for Oct. 24.

Airport manager Sean Flynn said as the executor of the board he would suggest that they wait for a decision before meeting as a full board.

“I would suggest they don’t meet until there is some clarity from a legal authority as to what the makeup of the commission is,” he said.

Tensions between the two government bodies have been exacerbated by workplace disputes at the airport, including a lawsuit filed by a former employee who claims she was wrongfully dismissed after voicing concerns about her boss, Mr. Flynn.

Judge Chin will also hear arguments on that issue next week as a separate matter in court.

Hearings on all the pending matters involving the airport commission are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Wednesday in the Edgartown courthouse.

In another procedural airport matter, an assistant state attorney general has ruled that the airport commission violated the open meeting law on two separate occasions. The commission failed to properly post a notice for a meeting in late January, and did not provide enough detail on a notice for a subsequent meeting, held to correct the previous misstep, Assistant Attorney General Hanne Rush said in a decision issued in August.

The assistant attorney general also found that in failing to disseminate postings about its meetings to all the towns that it serves, the airport commission has not complied with the law.

To comply, meeting notices are now posted on the airport website (

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Family of man who died in fall down Tampa International Airport (KTPA) elevator shaft sues

TAMPA — The family of a Pennsylvania man who died last year after falling down a parking garage elevator shaft at Tampa International Airport has filed a wrongful death suit against the elevator company and the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

Chad Wolfe, a 31-year-old mechanic from West Newton, Pa., was last seen alive around 1 a.m. on March 15, 2013, when airport officials said he was seen entering Elevator 21 on the terminal's third floor. He took the elevator to the seventh floor parking garage, officials said, where his carry-on bags and cellphone were later found.

An airport employee later reported finding the elevator with broken glass inside, stuck on the first level. Then at 10:45 a.m., officials said, Wolfe's body was found on top of the elevator car.

The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office also determined that Wolfe was intoxicated when he died. His blood-alcohol level was 0.17, according to the autopsy report. The legal limit in Florida is 0.08 percent.

Airport police said bottles of vodka and the antianxiety medication alprazolam were found in Wolfe's pockets, and the autopsy report said the drug was also found in his system. The Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death an accident.

An airport police report later said that "it appears (Wolfe) forced open (the) elevator door to gain entry into the elevator shaft."

But the lawsuit filed Sept. 26 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court said Wolfe died because "the elevator malfunctioned causing his death," which was the result of "negligence" by the Aviation Authority, which oversees TIA, and the company that built and maintained the elevator, Schindler Elevator Corp.

The company also "breached its duty" by "failing to properly inspect, maintain and repair the elevator at Tampa International Airport, whose defects and improper maintenance ultimately caused the death of Chad Wolfe."

"Schindler regrets whenever anyone is injured in connection with equipment it maintains," the company said in a statement. "It has fully cooperated with the local police and state inspection authorities in their respective investigations into this unfortunate incident since it occurred — over eighteen months ago — on March 15, 2013. Schindler will vigorously defend itself and strongly denies the claims made in this lawsuit, which has just been filed."

Airport spokesman Emily Nipps declined to comment Thursday about the lawsuit. She said the elevators were last inspected in August and found to be safe.

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Complacency, amateur rules contributed to fatal glider collision, coroner finds

A host of factors: Andrew Ahern, who died in a glider collision last year.

The mid-air collision between two gliders that claimed the life of a Sydney father occurred at a flying club whose members were "complacent, overconfident and seemingly confused by their own "fairly amateur rules and traditions", a coroner has found.

Andrew Ahern, a 50-year-old former Qantas flight simulation instructor from Mosman, died on April 27 last year when his glider and another collided immediately after take-off at the Southern Tablelands Gliding Club.

"The glider he was launching crashed, nosediving into the ground from about 30 metres, after another glider which was coming in to land, collided with [it] and irretrievably damaged the tail," acting Coroner Mary Jerram said in her findings on Thursday.

Ms Jerram found that a host of factors had contributed to the crash, including the fact that the two gliders were taking off and landing from the same runway because the grass on the club's second runway had been allowed to grow too long.

At the crucial take-off point on this runway a row of pine trees obscured the view for those on the ground of any aircraft that were coming in to land.

The NSW Coroner's Court heard contradictory evidence about whether those on the ground had made a thorough check of the sky before giving Mr Ahern and his co-pilot Lindsay Gamble the all-clear to take off, particularly the "wingman" on the day in question.

Further exacerbating the situation was apparent confusion among the members of the club about who was responsible for the different tasks involved in take-off and landing, and who, ultimately, was in charge of the entire activity.

"Time and time again I heard evidence of confusion about ultimate responsibility," Ms Jerram said in her findings. "Surely when anything becomes the responsibility of all it is in fact the responsibility of none."

Adding to the confusion surrounding the incident were the haphazard rules about the use of on-board radios among Australian glider users.

While radios are not compulsory, pilots who have them are required to use them when taking off and landing. But those on the ground are not required to respond to these calls and they often go unacknowledged.

There was evidence that the radio in Mr Ahern's plane was not working properly.

There was also confusion and differences of opinion about the role of co-pilot Lindsay Gamble.

A report by the Gliding Federation of Australia found that Mr Gamble, as the club's designated "pilot in command", was in charge of the operation.

"No individual can be blamed for any specific failure or act leading to the collision," Ms Jerram said.

"Nevertheless, perhaps they had become over-confident, complacent and reluctant to face the technological changes in the world which mock an old sport based on the winds and silence.

"The entire procedure depended on fairly amateur rules and traditions which were subject to human error at any time."

But Mr Ahern's wife, Dr Catherine Brassill, said an independent audit was needed.

"Within six years [of the accident] there had been three accidents occasioning two fatalities and two other people seriously injured," Dr Brassill said.

"CASA [the Civial Aviation Safety Authority] did nothing and GFA [Gliding Federation Australia] did nothing."

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Ohio: Good-paying jobs and economic development focus of new statewide push expanding aerospace and aviation industries

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Ohio's place in aviation and aerospace history is indisputable, from the Wright Brothers to the 25 astronauts who hail from the state.

Unknown to many, but perhaps just as significant, is how Ohio has used that history as a springboard to create viable aerospace and aviation industries that only a handful of states can rival.

Being on the short list of states with the largest aerospace and aviation industries is no longer good enough for Ohio. A new statewide push aims to improve Ohio's ranking.

"There is no reason Ohio shouldn't be at the front of that list," said state Rep. Rick Perales, who came up with the idea for the committee spearheading this push.

The newly formed Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee is part of the state legislature. The committee will consist of 21 members, including state senators and state representatives, but also 14 experts from the aerospace and aviation industries, academia and the military. The committee is believed to be the first-ever attempt to create a unified statewide strategy aimed at having these industries increase economic development and job growth. Until now, this had only been done at the local and regional level.

"When I got to the state house two years ago, I observed there wasn't a state-focused effort for the aviation and aerospace industries," said Perales, Republican of Beavercreek, near Dayton. "With our legacy and our resources: the universities, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, NASA Glenn Research Center and our extensive aerospace and aviation industries, I thought that we could do much better. We weren't bringing our A game."

Much of Ohio's aerospace and aviation sectors are clustered in two regions. One is here in Northeast Ohio, where NASA Glenn is a focal point. The other is in Southwest Ohio, including the Dayton area, where Wright-Patterson drives much of the activity.

In September, Perales gave an executive briefing about the committee, formed under House Bill 292, at the Ohio Aerospace Institute, located next to NASA Glenn and near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The OAI is a nonprofit research institute focused on growing the aerospace industry in Ohio.

Michael Heil, president and CEO of the nonprofit, believes the committee will create "a united front" that will enhance economic development and job creation.

"I have seen some measures showing that Ohio is the fifth or sixth biggest state in aerospace nationally," he said. "I think there is a strong potential of us moving up to No. 3 or even to No. 2.

"When we hear about aerospace companies putting major investments and assembly plants in Alabama, South Carolina and other states, I think there is a real opportunity for us to get those kinds of facilities here in the State of Ohio," Heil said.

Perales said there are two important points about the drive to make Ohio stronger in aerospace and aviation. The first is that these are growing industries. Because of steady - and often increasing demand -- he believes Ohio will have little problem attracting more business, especially in the areas of wide-body jets, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and aerospace medicine, which focuses on preventing the negative impacts that air and space travel have on the body.

The second important point is the good-paying jobs aviation and aerospace can create in areas as wide-ranging as manufacturing and research and development, Perales said. Just as diverse is the range of educational requirements for the workforce needed to fill these jobs - from those holding advanced degrees to graduates of certificate programs, often requiring no more than a year of training beyond high school.

"You are going to have the aerospace engineers, but you are also going to need the welders and people on the manufacturing floor," he said. "You are talking about the full-spectrum of jobs. Not just the $100,000-plus rocket scientists, but the $40,000 to $60,000 jobs that require certificates."

Ohio already a leader

The aerospace and aviation industries in Ohio already employ more than 100,000 full-time workers, representing 17 percent of the total U.S. employment in those industries, Perales said.

He said on an annual basis Ohio's aerospace and aviation industries:

  •  Invest $9 billion in research and development
  • Do $5 billion in exports, ranking the state in the top 10 nationally
  • Are a $14 billion supplier to Boeing and Airbus
"When you look at the civil aviation market alone for large-body transport jets, Ohio is the largest supplier (nationally) to Airbus and Boeing," said Glenn Richardson, managing director of JobsOhio, the private, non-profit corporation focused on job creation.

He said the state should emphasis expanding its share of this market as well as that of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Having the committee will help in these efforts, he said.

"Having a means to collect opinion, put together a statewide coalition to address these issues, and address them up and down the chain -- from the local level all the way up to the federal level -- adds an exciting aspect to what we're trying to do."

Collaboration works

Focusing on a statewide strategy based on collaboration can only be a winner, say those who have seen the effectiveness of collaborative efforts on a much smaller level.

Patrick Golembiewski, founder and CEO of V2 Technology, an IT consulting firm in Northfield Center, said joining with two other companies was key to winning a five-year, $110 million contract from NASA Glenn. For the contract, V2 Technology partnered with Peerless Technologies Corp in Fairborn, Ohio and DB Consulting in Silver Spring, Maryland.

When Golembiewski heard Perales give a presentation earlier this year about the committee, and the need for Ohio to engage in a statewide push to increase the chances of winning business, he approached the state legislator after his talk.

"I went up to him, and said, 'We did exactly that. We're your poster child,'" he said.

Golembiewski is hoping his company will be part of the committee.

"My feeling is that you need small business representation," he said. "From my perspective, the small businesses are more of the idea generators."

V2 Technology now has more than 30 employees, and Golembiewski is hoping to grow the company to 300 employees in five to seven years. He said his company, as well as Ohio's aerospace and aviation industries, can grow by embracing similar principles.

"You're always stronger when you're teamed-up, as opposed to having all these individual silos," he said.

Roderick Munn, managing partner of Aerospace Enterprises, Inc. in Westlake, agrees collaboration is key to winning business. Like Golembiewski, he attended Perales' Cleveland area briefing in September.

Munn believes the committee is an idea whose time has come. He said among the reasons companies are now more open to abandoning a separate silos philosophy to adopting one focused on joint efforts, is that technological advancements have accelerated in recent years, increasing the potential for economic opportunity. Munn said in aviation this has included the move to digital technologies and satellite-based systems.

Evolving technologies have also blurred the lines between the scientific and technical disciplines that are a basis of the aerospace and aviation industries making more people open to collaboration, Munn said.

"What we had known as physics was one thing," he said. "Electronics was something else. Mechanics was another. Electricity was something else, etc. The truth of the matter now is there is integration. There is consolidation going on across those heretofore silos; so that mechanics, electronics, electricity physics, etc. are becoming sides of the same thing rather than different things.

"That means we don't have experts," Munn said. "We don't have individuals, who have developed great expertise in these new technologies and new approaches, because we are on the leading edge, or beginning, of new designs and development of a variety of disciplines that will impact these industries. In the end, Ohio has as much - or a better opportunity - to help lead that way, as opposed to following."

He offered one of his father's favorite sayings to help the committee in reaching its goals.

"There is only one way to lead, and that is to do it,"

What's next?

Perales, who is chairman of the committee, is ready to get the committee started on its mission. Most of the state legislators have been named, including state Rep. Nan Baker, Republican of Westlake. He hopes to have the rest of the committee named by November.

Industry reaction to the committee has been good, so far, Perales said.

For example, NASA Glenn Director James Free said his organization intends to help the committee in carrying out its mission.

"We at NASA Glenn Research Center look forward to contributing to the committee's strategic planning efforts, and the expanded opportunities for collaborative R&D and technology transfer partnerships that will result from the committee's emphasis on greater statewide communication and resource sharing," Free said in an email.  "The committee's diverse membership will provide an excellent forum for developing a cohesive, statewide strategy to grow the aerospace and aviation industry and the number of new high-tech, high-wage jobs in the state.

"I congratulate Rep. Perales on his efforts to stand up this new committee," he wrote.

Perales said, even when the committee was but an idea, he got positive feedback about it when mentioning what he wanted to do to those in the industry.

"As I went around the state, and talked to firms and organizations, like NASA, NetJets, Parker Hannifin and GE, everybody was on board," he said. "They felt like this type of committee was long overdue -- a no brainer."

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Lack of Ebola Screening at United States Airports Draws Scrutiny

Airline passengers arriving in the U.S. from the West African nations gripped by an outbreak of Ebola are being handed a fact sheet about the deadly disease.

What they don’t get are detailed questions from federal agents to determine if they had contact with an Ebola victim or specific screening to see if they have a high fever or other signs of the disease.

After a Liberian man arrived in Dallas and became the first confirmed Ebola case in the U.S., lawmakers are urging more aggressive action and some said they would convene hearings. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman renewed a call for the U.S. to check travelers for Ebola symptoms, pressing Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The time for action has come and gone and the CDC has yet to answer why they are resisting this next commonsense step that is long overdue,” Portman said today in a statement.

About 100 people in Dallas are being monitored for symptoms of Ebola after having contact with patient Thomas Eric Duncan or others Duncan met. Duncan arrived in Dallas from Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, after passing through Brussels, Washington’s Dulles International Airport.

Hearings Sought

In a letter yesterday, congressional Democrats led by California’s Henry Waxman, said lawmakers should hold a hearing to examine, among other things, whether U.S. officials are “adequately screening travelers to and from Africa to prevent importation of additional cases into the United States.”

Jason McDonald, a spokesman at the CDC, said the agency has no intention of raising screening process at U.S. airports from passive to active.

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz today asked the Federal Aviation Administration to describe what training is being provided to airlines and their crews to identify symptoms of the disease.

“Does the FAA intend to take any steps to limit or suspend air travel to countries that have experienced a significant Ebola outbreak?” he asked.

The FAA is monitoring the situation, according to an e-mail from the agency. Transportation Department regulations let airlines deny boarding to passengers with contagious diseases that may spread during flight, according to the CDC website.

Taxi Ride

Duncan, who the New York Times reported had shared a taxi with an Ebola patient before his departure, didn’t show any symptoms, and so wasn’t deemed contagious, according to the CDC. Early signs of the disease are a fever and flu-like symptoms.

Passengers leaving Monrovia on international flights must wash their hands twice with chlorinated water before boarding, get their temperatures taken at a security gate and fill out a form indicating if they had contact with someone who had the disease. Duncan failed to disclose that he had had that contact, according to the Liberian government, which said on a Twitter account that it will charge him with making a false declaration.

“Individuals don’t know what their exposures may have been. Not all individuals fully disclose what their exposure may have been,” Frieden said today in a teleconference with reporters. “We can’t make the risk zero until the outbreak is controlled. What we can do is minimize that risk.”

The CDC has worked with governments in West Africa so that “100 percent of the individuals getting on planes are screened for fever before they get on a plane,” Frieden said yesterday.

‘Few Signs’

The current outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has infected 7,718 people and killed 3,338, the World Health Organization said. “There are few signs yet that the Ebola virus disease epidemic in West Africa is being brought under control,” the WHO said in a report yesterday.

Duncan and others arriving in the U.S. from nations with Ebola cases aren’t given any special screening by U.S. border or customs agents. As of yesterday, agents are handing out cards that describe the disease’s symptoms and time line. It has a second section the person can give to a doctor.

“The patient giving you this card was recently in a country experiencing an outbreak of Ebola and may have signs and symptoms consistent with Ebola,” the card says. “However, other more common infectious diseases should also be considered in the differential diagnosis.”

Isolated Travelers

Agents also observe all travelers for “overt signs of illness,” said Jennifer Evanitsky, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Those that show signs are sent to an airport CDC official for review.

“The traveler would be isolated from the traveling public while the CDC and local public health authorities conduct an evaluation,” according to a Customs statement.

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United Services Automobile Association Seeks Federal Aviation Administration Approval to Use Drones at Disaster Sites

United Services Automobile Association, the provider of insurance to military families, is seeking permission to use unmanned drone aircraft to survey damage at disaster sites.

USAA requested permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to test-fly 5-pound (2-kilogram) drones in a rural area near its San Antonio headquarters, according to an e-mailed statement from the company today. The firm said it could use drones to examine damage and evaluate claims before sending employees.

“We want to see how tech can better serve our members during catastrophes,” Kathleen Swain, a USAA property and casualty staff underwriter and licensed pilot, said in an interview. “It’s a better and more efficient way to do so.”

Federal regulations permit individuals to fly drones for personal use under certain guidelines, which include staying away from crowds. Commercial use of the aircraft is restricted by the FAA.

USAA said it’s the first insurer to file for an FAA exemption to use drones. The agency has said that more than 40 other companies including Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s BNSF railroad have sought permission to use drones for commercial ventures.

The FAA granted six movie and television companies waivers in September to use drones for filming. Earlier approvals for commercial flights had been granted for Alaskan oil operations.

The USAA application hasn’t been posted publicly by the FAA at the website. A call for comment to the agency wasn’t immediately returned. 

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Wellington Municipal Airport (KEGT) getting ready for runway addition

The Wellington Airport is going through some major renovations that will extend the runway by 1,000 feet in the next year to 18 months. 

They received an FAA grant in 2013 to update the runway safety area, which will raise the airport from a C2 to a B2 classification.

That will give the runway more size and make the local facility eligible for pavement extension.

The runway is now 4,200 feet long, and after the extension goes in next year, it will be 5,200 feet.

That will allow the airport to service larger jets and planes of various types.

The local airport gets a lot of people passing through. Director Patrick Hamlin said the Wellington airport is “essentially a gas station for airplanes.”

They offer lower prices than many airports for fuel, so that is a consideration when you are loading 600-800 gallons of fuel in an aircraft.

Hamlin said celebrities also like to use smaller airports to fill up because they can do so without getting a lot of attention.

 Actors, NASCAR personalities and musicians are just some of the people who have stopped at the airport to get their private jet fueled.

Steven Tyler, of Aerosmith, is just one that has passed through, Hamlin said.

Crop duster operations also use the Wellington airport.

A company from Pond Creek, Okla., wants to build a building here and house its operation at the airport. They have a deal worked out with the city, and they are currently going through state requirements.

“If it were just a hangar, it would not be an issue. Since it is a business, there are a lot of state rules involved,” he said.

Another crop dusting operation out of Anthony also uses the Wellington Airport often.

Hamlin has been at the Airport for almost seven years.

 They were still doing an air festival then. They stopped when the economy went bad and the idea has not been resurrected. Airshows cost a lot to put on.

But the Kansas Aviation Association did put on the statewide tour last week,  Hamlin flew the entire route.

Hamlin is a certified flight instructor. He teaches on weekends and evenings to help people get their pilots license. He currently has four students, three from Wellington and one from Amarillo, Texas, is a person who works for the railroad.

 The day to day operation involves running the fuel facility.

The airport is “uncontrolled,” meaning there is not a control tower. Pilots use radio communication to confirm landing, and then land by sight.

He can coordinate landings with the radio. He said he has had as many as 12 planes waiting to land before.

 Recently a pilot set a state record with a glider with a trip that started in Wellington. The glider was towed into the sky by another plane, to a high elevation, and then let go. The glider made it all the way to Louisiana, which set a state record for Kansas.

Hamlin also helps some with economic development. If he sees a company is looking for a new location, he may contact them to see if there is a good fit.

Story and Photos:

Health issues raised over playing fields next to runway

READY TO MOVE OUT: Janice Pangman, whose home abuts the site for the new Winslow Park playing fields between her and the Green Airport runway, is fed up with airport noise and fumes and would welcome RIAC acquisition of her property.

Now that construction is nearing the halfway point on softball and soccer fields to replace those at Winslow Park people living in the neighborhood are begging the Rhode Island Airport Corporation not to let children play there.

In fact, Wilbur Avenue resident Albert Gaudet predicted, if RIAC moves ahead with the fields, “the parents are going to boycott the park” because of jet exhaust fumes.

Neither the playing fields nor how clearing the area of trees has affected the neighborhood was the designated topic of Tuesday evening’s RIAC workshop at the Buttonwoods Community Center. Rather, as explained at the outset, the purpose of the session was to discuss the eventual placement of the air quality monitoring station that was shut down and temporarily relocated from the site of the fields.

And while there appeared consensus the station should be returned to close to where it had been, if anything to measure the level of pollutants children could be exposed to, it was the overall impact of the airport to the neighborhood that was the focus of complaints.

“I want out,” said Janice Pangman whose home on Rowe Avenue abuts the site of the future Winslow Park. “Please, you bought the other part of the neighborhood out, it’s our turn now.”

Several in the audience of 45 chanted “Buy us” to echo her plea.

Before holding up a yellow blanket that was discolored after she had used it to shut of air flow from upstairs rooms, Pangman said, “Putting children there [at the future fields] is a big mistake.”

Pangman said the blanket, even though it was inside her home, is proof of the polluted air children would be subjected to. Pangman complained of burning eyes and throat because of the increased level of jet fumes since trees were removed to build the fields.

RIAC counsel Peter Frazier reasoned that the current fields off Main Avenue are in line to the runway, putting players under the planes and in the runway protection zone.

“Being on the side of the runway is superior,” he said.

No one at the meeting bought it.

Asked yesterday about the health and safety of locating the fields next the runway, Mayor Scott Avedisian was comfortable with the site, pointing out that the Departments of Environmental Management and Health had reviewed it.

“I think Kelly [Fredericks] is working on that,” he said, referring to a buffer to the fields and the neighborhood. “He’s looking at the options.”

Reached yesterday, Fredericks said, “We are looking to see if there are some buffer things we can do to at least reduce the fume and the noise issue.”

Fredericks also said there would be additional meetings to solicit the input of neighbors as construction projects proceed.

The existing Winslow Park is in the path of a runway extension that will also require the relocation of Main Avenue. As part of the agreement, under which the City Council dropped legal action against the longer runway, RIAC agreed to relocate the fields.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who was at the meeting, came under attack for favoring the location for the fields.

“They [RIAC] didn’t care 20 and 30 years ago and they don’t care now,” charged Roy Dempsey of Governor Francis Farms. “Who put this ball field next to the runway?” he asked rhetorically. “She’s the one who put those ball fields there.”

Rob Cote said the decision to relocate the fields next to the runway “speaks to the lack of knowledge of our public officials…you’re going to put kids playing next to jets.”

Vella-Wilkinson responded that her preferred site was the Knight Campus of CCRI, but members of the Board of Governors for Higher Education rejected it. She said a portion of Bend Field had been considered for the two soccer leagues, but an agreement could not be reached between them as to which would have control. A third option, which she said she refused to consider, was not to have the leagues play.

“My vote was with CCRI and I fought it all the way up to the governor,” she said.

In the end, with no other alternative, she pointed out, the council endorsed the site for the fields by 9-0. In a call yesterday, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur recalled, in approving the airport agreement, the council placed a number of requirements on RIAC.

“This was not rubber stamped,” he said.

Under the current schedule, the fields are to be ready for play by next July.

It was the nearly complete removal of all the trees that provoked the most complaints.

“Did anyone think of the effect of taking down all those trees?” asked Rowe Avenue resident Christopher Ougheltree, looking to RIAC representatives, who remained silent. “There’s no buffer there anymore. It seems like you don’t consider the neighbors…we’re an after-thought.”

He complained of the increased level of noise and fumes, as did others.

As for relocating the air quality monitor, Frazier said RIAC had not followed the provision as provided by the law but it was an emergency situation because of the construction.

“RIAC’s lack of planning is not our emergency,” countered Michael Zarum.

Zarum, who closely follows airport developments, said air quality readings meet federal standards because those standards fail to consider ultra-fine particulates that, up to fairly recently, couldn’t be accurately measured.

“They [the readings] don’t breach the federal standard because it’s not the right standard,” he said.

Zarum said the area RIAC cleared of homes some years ago should have been left as open space.

“RIAC knew this was coming and they failed,” he said.

The issue was also raised whether the neighborhood abutting the current Winslow Park would see a similar leveling of trees, which serve as a buffer. Fredericks said yesterday, with the runway extension of 1,534 feet, RIAC would need to extend the runway protection zone, requiring the removal of a significant number of trees.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Rep. Joseph McNamara reported that the Warwick delegation to the General Assembly favors extending the law requiring RIAC to conduct air quality monitoring. The law has a sunset provision that takes effect next year, although under the agreement with the city RIAC must conduct two additional years of testing. Currently, RIAC has four monitoring stations around the airport. Rep. Eileen Naughton is introducing the extension that was endorsed earlier in the day by Mayor Avedisian, Ward 1 Councilman Steve Colantuono and Vella-Wilkinson.

Responding to complaints of dust related to the field construction, Kelly Fredericks, RIAC president and CEO, said measures are being taken to help neighbors.

“Let us know what the issue is,” he said.

RIAC personnel also said that steps are being taken to reduce “the shaking” of homes caused by compacting equipment.

Story, Photos and Comments:

Officials concerned with safety of Albert Whitted Airport (KSPG), St. Petersburg, Florida


St. Petersburg, Florida -- Two plane crashes in the past month around Albert Whitted Airport have council members raising concerns about the safety of the small field in the heart of downtown.

City leaders say the crashes have been too close for comfort, and is why council members want to take a hard look at the crash data in the past five years to see if something more can be done before disaster strikes. Council members want to protect the people using the airport and the people enjoying the developing downtown.

A plane crash in the busy Vinoy Park in September nearly missed families and nearby condos. The plane had been approaching Albert Whitted.

Two weeks earlier, a banner plane took off from the waterfront airfield and plummeted into the bay killing the pilot.

Records from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association show there have been 42 crashes surrounding the city-owned airport since 1984, not including the most recent accident.

RELATED:Pilots association info on Albert Whitted

The council wants a committee to analyze the crashes to see if there are any common factors, like the age of the pilot or plane, that can improve safety.

"There have been a number of accidents recently and as we continue building around the airport our margin for safety is reduced," says council member Karl Nurse. "When you look at it, you'll see the largest number of issues have really been related to the advertising planes. The most recent crash is sort of an illustration of the problem you have, somebody who was a 70-year-old immature pilot, who had never flown here before, who ran out of gas. I'm not sure how you regulate that you have to be confident and not run out of gas."

It's been a decades-old debate, whether the downtown waterfront airport is the right location for the airport.

RESEARCH:FAA accident database

The FAA has fought to keep it open. Voters decided to save it in 2003.

"I do think the airport is there because an overwhelming majority of the public want to see it there. It's my responsibility as an elected city official to make sure it's being run in a safe way," says council member Darden Rice. "We've had some elderly pilots involved in some pretty serious accidents. We've also had two accidents involving teenagers. I also want us to get a better picture to determine if there's any patterns, and if those patterns tell us anything."

Right now, the council wants to do this safety study before deciding how it fits into the city's waterfront master plan.

RELATED: Crashes raise safety concerns 

- Source:

Paint could have prevented mid-air collision - coroner: Cessna 152 II, Air Manawatu Ltd., ZK-TOD

High-visibility paint could have prevented a mid-air collision in which two women were killed, a coroner says.

Flight instructor Jessica Rose Neeson and flight student Patricia Smallman were killed in the incident near Feilding Aerodrome in July 2010.

The other plane's pilot, Manoj Kumar Kadam, made a controlled crash landing and survived. Both aircraft were Cessna 152s.

Coroner Tim Scott released his findings into the tragedy today and despite making no recommendations, highlighted a number of possible reasons for the accident.

On July 26, a sunny day with blue skies and a few high clouds, both planes were flying in uncontrolled airspace.

They operated under visual flight rules, restricted to flying to 1500ft (457m) above sea level, above which was controlled airspace.

Mr Kadam took off from Feilding and climbed towards 1500ft. About the same time, Ms Smallman began returning to the airfield from a similar height.

At 3.27pm, at about 1300ft, the planes collided.

Coroner Scott said if Mr Kadam had been restricted to climbing to a lower ceiling, say 1100ft, the crash would have been avoided.

He said it was problematic that civil aviation rules had limited the maximum height allowed at Feilding for the Cessnas to 1500ft, and if the women were allowed higher, there likely would have been no crash.

He said for reasons unexplained, but possibly due to distraction, it was "obvious" none of the three people in the air heard or appreciated the full significance of radio communications, which if correctly interpreted, would have revealed how close they were before the crash.

Coroner Scott said if both planes had high-visibility paint, the crash could have been avoided.

"No one saw the other aircraft and therefore the other aircraft was not avoided." Alternatively, he said if the women saw Mr Kadam's plane, they saw it too late.

Coroner Scott said it was sensible for people re-painting aircraft to now consider using high-visibility paint.

The findings noted that Mr Kadam had rescheduled his flight on the day. This was allowed, and both parties had some idea of the change in timing, but the coroner called the consequences catastrophic.

"Tragically had Manoj kept to his original schedule, the times would have been significantly different and almost certainly the collision would not have happened."

Coroner Scott said he need not make recommendations, as Feilding Aerodrome had already changed rules about flight paths and separation distances between planes.

It also had a new automated system updated regularly with information about wind and weather conditions.

This was the second coronial hearing into the crash. The first, in 2011, was held to record Mr Kadam's evidence before he left New Zealand.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission also investigated the crash, publishing a report in February 2013. Its findings informed part of Coroner Scott's decision.

Mrs Smallman, who had retired before becoming a flight student, was 64. Jessica Neeson was 27.

- Source:

Surf Air gets some noise from local residents: Atherton, California

Despite the fact that neighbors and local elected officials have been working for a year with representatives of Surf Air and the San Carlos airport on ways to reduce the noise impact on local residents, the turnout of more than 150 people at a public meeting in Atherton on Sept. 30 showed that many still perceive a problem.

The meeting was also attended by every member of the Atherton City Council and its city manager as well as all the candidates running for Atherton council seats in November. San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum also attended and promised to immediately get more involved.

The meeting's organizers urged even regional involvement, however.

"This isn't an Atherton problem," said Atherton resident David Fleck, who has been active in the meetings with Surf Air for the past year. "This is a problem that spans multiple cities," he said, and even multiple counties. "We have representatives that are willing to step up and represent us," in Atherton, he said. "You should be asking your elected officials where they stand on this situation."

Supervisor Slocum said he had attended a meeting of the working group that has been meeting with airport and airline officials earlier in the day. "I left that meeting...somewhat encouraged over what has happened in the past," he said.

He promised to call the mayors of Menlo Park and Redwood City and the rest of the Board of Supervisors, "and try to get them involved," as well as to get in touch with management of the San Carlos Airport.

Some of the speakers emphasized the need for regional cooperation to solve the problem. Richard Brand came from Palo Alto to the meeting. "This is a regional problem and not just a local problem," said Mr. Brand, who works from his home. "This turbo prop plane is a very noisy plane."

Mr. Brand said other communities have managed to control airplane noise. "The government will change - we just have to push," he said. "We've got to go and get regional pressure on this."

Mr. Fleck noted that of the more than 500 people who had signed an online petition asking Surf Air and the San Carlos Airport to address the noise by Sept. 30 there were 285 from Menlo Park, 112 from Atherton, 57 from Palo Alto and 31 from Redwood City.

The meeting was the second large public gathering held on the issue of Surf Air's affect on local residents. In December, a similar gathering attracted approximately 100 people, many of whom brought up similar issues. Both were sponsored by the town of Atherton.

Surf Air is a start-up airline whose passengers pay one monthly price for unlimited flights on small passenger planes. In early August the airline announced that it has new funding and has ordered 15 more eight-passenger planes to add to the three it has been flying. The airline said it plans to expand its destinations and might order as many as 50 more planes in addition to the 15.

Residents said the airline's noise impact is not the same as that of other planes flying over their homes.

Britt von Thaden, who lives on Berkeley Avenue in Menlo Park, said he lives under the flight paths of several airlines, but the Surf Air flights have more impact. "It's the frequency that caught my attention," he said. "There's a lot of traffic anyway."

Sheri Shenk lives on Virginia Lane in Atherton directly under the Surf Air flight path, she said. "The first time one flew over my house I thought I was being invaded," she said, adding that the flights shake her home. "It's changed our quality of life significantly," she said.

Recently, Ms. Shenk said, she and her family were eating dinner outdoors when a Surf Air flight passed over. "My grandchildren started to run for the house and ended up screaming when it went over the back yard," she said. "I call it the blue-bellied beast. I love start-ups and I love charter flights, but this is really awful."

Many of those who spoke work from their homes. Nick Peters of North Fair Oaks said he runs a recording studio from his home. "It has damaged my business immensely," he said.

Carolyn Clebsch, who has lived in North Fair Oaks for 15 years, said she also works at home and the noise has also impacted her work. "My business is teaching meditation and working with people who are dying," she said.

Debjani Sen from San Francisco has another perspective. Her husband works in Santa Barbara, and Surf Air has allowed him to come home every night instead of only on weekends. "That's made a huge improvement in our lives," she said. "I hope you can work out a solution with Surf Air. Just place yourself in my shoes."

Jeff Potter, a former Frontier Airlines CEO who became Surf Air CEO in late February, said the airline is committed to working collaboratively with the community. "We have a situation here that's negatively affecting your lives," he acknowledged. He said the airline is going to test using a new propeller that may be quieter. They also are hoping that pressure from local officials might open up Moffett Field to commercial flights such as Surf Air's. "We would love to be there," he said.

"We can affect change," he said.

The group of residents who have been working with Surf Air, who call themselves, CalmTheSkies, will next meet on Oct. 14, at 6 p.m. in Atherton's Council Chambers, 94 Ashfield Road.

"We need not just ideas," said David Fleck. "We need people willing to execute those ideas."

Story and Comments:

Troutdale Airport (KTTD) needs updated flight plan: Editorial Agenda 2014

As the Port of Portland tries to navigate its future, few of its holdings offer as many potential routes as the Troutdale Airport. The facility has seen its importance as a transportation venue erode as the number of recreational pilots has declined and Hillsboro Airport, in the heart of the Silicon Forest, has emerged as the region's top choice for private corporate travel. At the same time, the property the airport occupies grows in value as the inventory of industrial land in the metro area shrinks.

An advisory committee is nine months into a two-year process of updating the airport's master plan to determine in what role, or roles, it can best serve the community. The committee and the Port have an opportunity to transform an underutilized property into an economic asset.
If the Port ultimately decides on a new course for Troutdale Airport, it won't be the first time owners of the property have changed its mission. The first known flights on the parcel near the Columbia River took place in the early 1920s on a private air strip that was part of a ranch. The Port bought the property in 1942, and it served as an emergency landing field and was used for minor military training activities during World War II. For a while, the facility was used as a backup to Portland International Airport for commercial flights.

More recently, Troutdale has served as a base for U.S. Forest Service fire-fighting flights and a home for recreational and business aircraft. It also hosts flight-training and helicopter operations. The task force will have to determine whether any of those activities are sufficient to sustain the airport, which has operated at a loss for years, and, if not, what other options exist.

This much is clear. The airport sits on 278 acres nestled between the Columbia River and Interstate 84 in a part of the metro area that has been eclipsed economically by Portland and the thriving Washington County employment corridor. The airport facilities are in good condition overall, said project manager Steve Schreiber, who is overseeing the master plan update. And, for the most part, the surrounding community embraces the airport, which is well-situated in an industrial area near an interstate, Schreiber said.

Significant research remains to be done before the advisory committee determines its options, much less narrows them down. But the committee should prioritize choices that would, at worst, break even financially and either directly or indirectly create jobs. Industrial land is too scarce and the need for economic opportunity too dire to let this opportunity pass without strongly considering uses in addition to aviation.

The more successful Hillsboro Airport provides an example of a mixed-use operation. A small retail center and a hotel are on Port-owned property near the airport, complementing corporate aviation operations.

Lacking Hillsboro's corporate clientele, the Troutdale Airport probably needs a different mix. The location already is industrial in character. The nearby Troutdale-Reynolds Industrial Park, purchased from Reynolds Aluminum in 2007 and anchored by a FedEx Ground distribution hub, is one of the biggest recent successes for both the Port and the Troutdale area. The Port also owns the Gresham Vista Business Park on land it purchased from LSI Corp. in 2011. The two industrial parks have a combined 23 available lots and 558 acres, though the Port is in active negotiations involving tenants for two of the lots.

The Port is well-positioned to be a catalyst for economic growth in eastern Multnomah County. Finding a way to maximize the value of Troutdale Airport is an important part of that process.

 --The Oregonian editorial board

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JetBlue sued after passengers say turbulence caused injuries: New Hampshire residents say plane dropped without warning (with video)

MANCHESTER, N.H. —Two New Hampshire residents are suing JetBlue, claiming that severe turbulence during a flight left them with permanent physical injuries.

In their lawsuits, Deborah and Scott Simmons claim the airline failed to take proper precautions and neglected to alert passengers to the rough weather ahead.

The two were about an hour into a flight from San Juan to Boston on Oct. 2, 2011, when, according to the lawsuits, the plane dropped suddenly without any warning to the passengers.

The lawsuits claim in part that JetBlue failed to heed warnings from federal agencies about the prevailing atmospheric conditions.

Deborah Simmons said her hot coffee spilled on her legs, resulting in first-degree burns on her right leg. She also said in her lawsuit that she suffered injuries to her head, neck and back, and now suffers from PTSD.

The claims made by Scott Simmons are similar, except that he was not burned by coffee and does not claim to suffer from PTSD.

The lawsuits are seeking unspecified damages, and the airline has until December to reply.

Story,  Video and Comments:

Dale Alexander, avid flier, remembered as 'one of kindest men that anybody has ever known'

Dale Alexander

RICHLAND, MI — Dale Alexander loved to travel in an aircraft he built. He also loved helping friends and family any way he could.

"He could build anything, he could fix anything," said Alexander's wife, Michelle. "He loved to fly and bicycle ride and play golf and read. He was always reading to keep up on everything whether it was politics or airplane stuff."

Alexander, 68, of Richland, died Saturday after he was struck by a vehicle while riding his bicycle near Fort Custer.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Alexander served in the Navy from 1969 to 1971 as a parachute rigger in Meridian, Miss.  He then studied at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida for two years before coming to Michigan where he accepted a job as a pilot in Greenville, his wife said.

In 1976, Alexander accepted a job as a pilot with Sunstrand in Dowagiac where he met his wife, who worked as a flight scheduler.

They got married in 1980, the same year Dale Alexander accepted a job with the aviation division of the Kellogg Co. in Battle Creek, his wife said.

"Dale was such a conscientious person about his work," she said. "He started at Kellogg's in June (1980) and we did not get married until Dec. 24 because he wouldn't ask his boss for a day off."

While at Kellogg, Alexander was the first pilot to travel internationally as Kellogg expanded into international markets, his wife said.

"He was the first one to go with the chief pilot on an international trip to Mexico," Michelle Alexander said. "That was the start of their international travels."

While traveling the world as a pilot at Kellogg Aviation, Dale started building his own airplane, a two-place Van's Aircraft RV-4, in the basement of their home in Battle Creek, his wife said.

"He finished our plane in 1991," she said. "When we turned 50, in 1996, we decided to go to Alaska in the RV-4. It was pretty amazing."
The trip was unique, his wife said, because they wore out and had to replace three of the aircraft's propellers at various points along the journey.
Dale Alexander and his wife, Michelle, in front of the Van's Aircraft RV-4 that Dale finished building in 1991.

While traveling across Michigan and the United States with family and friends, Dale Alexander was always working on aviation-related projects with his friends in addition to home improvement projects, his wife said.

"After he built our plane, he helped our friend over in Schoolcraft build his plane," she said. "We had another friend in Battle Creek and helped build his plane. Both of them told him they would have quit if it wouldn't have been for him. If somebody needed something, he'd be there to help them.

"He finished our basement and we have the most beautiful theater. He remodeled our kitchen. What was a carport he turned into a family room. Everything he did was excellent. There was no flaws with anything he ever did in his life."

In addition to flying every chance he got, Dale Alexander loved riding his bike.

"He's been riding his bicycle for 20 years," his wife said. "He would ride from our house over to the Kellogg hangar and back. He would ride 23 miles in two hours."

Visitation will be held at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 6 at the Baxter Funeral & Cremation Service, 375 W. Dickman Road, followed by a memorial service at 11:30 a.m. officiated by Father Brian Coleman.

Internment will take place at Fort Custer National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes may be made to the Air Zoo.

Story,  Photos and Comments:

For Crop-Dusters, a Hidden Danger in the Fields (With Video)


October 2, 2014  

CRESTON, Iowa — Van Lucas flew F-16 fighter jets over Iraq and Afghanistan for the Air National Guard, but the idea of returning to Iowa to fly low-powered crop-dusters a few feet off the ground felt like a new level of danger. 

 “I said, ‘Show me every place that you can think of that a crop-duster has been killed or wrecked,’  ” recalled Mr. Lucas, 35, who has been flying crop-dusters for seven years. “And that’s what we did. I learned how to fly under wires. I learned about wires being in the tree lines.”

But in recent years, pilots like Mr. Lucas have encountered a new, rapidly proliferating threat camouflaged among the fields, one that has led to several deaths and, safety officials fear, could cause more.

They are thin metal towers, almost 200 feet high, that wind energy companies use to help gather data on the best places to put wind turbines.

Mr. Lucas first encountered one of the towers in 2009, as he was spraying fungicide at sundown near a mammoth wind project in Adair, Iowa. Suddenly one of the towers, anchored by a web of guy wires, appeared ahead of him.

“I just prayed and pulled. Pulled back on the stick and got out of there quick as I could, hoping I didn’t hit it,” Mr. Lucas said. “By the time I pulled up, the guy wires were right underneath the airplane.” 

 Towers like these — temporary meteorological evaluation towers, or METs — can be erected in a matter of hours, and at 198 feet, most barely skirt the 200-foot limit set by the Federal Aviation Administration requiring marking and lighting for safety.

At least five people, among them three crop-duster pilots, have died hitting the towers since 2003, including Stephen Allen, a 58-year-old pilot from Walnut Grove, Calif., with 26,000 hours of flying time. In 2011, he was surveying a field for seeding at 150 feet near the town of Oakley when his plane struck a tower, shearing off part of the left wing and sending his plane into a nose dive.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and concluded that Mr. Allen had failed to see the tower, which had no markings for visibility. Mr. Allen’s wife later sued the farmer who leased the land, the company that owned the tower and the tower’s manufacturer. Last month, she received $6.7 million in damages in a settlement.

In May, a special investigation by the board identified unmarked evaluation towers as a critical hazard to agricultural planes and other low-flying aircraft, and for the second time urged the F.A.A. to require markings and lighting to improve safety. The board also recommended that a public database be created, containing the GPS coordinates for all such towers — something pilots might refer to before working a field, as they do with beehives and organic farms.

While some companies have responded to safety concerns and now paint the towers aviation orange or attach colored balls to the guy wires, the industry in general has resisted recommendations for a public database.

“The MET tower is one of the first things you do when pursuing a project, so there are competitive reasons why you wouldn’t want someone to know where you’re putting that project,” said Tom Vinson, vice president for federal regulatory affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, which represents the industry.

Scott Schertz, whose crop-dusting business spans multiple wind farms in central Illinois, said, “The locations of these towers are nearly a trade secret, and at times are very difficult to get any confirmation as to where they’re at.”

Mr. Schertz was president of the National Agricultural Aviation Association in 2005, the year a seasoned agricultural pilot based in Texas died crashing into a MET. Over the years, Mr. Schertz has compiled his own database of over 400 METs, partly by calling around to wind energy companies and agencies that issue permits.

The F.A.A. is still evaluating the safety board’s recommendations, having issued voluntary guidelines to help make the towers more visible a few years ago. In the absence of a federal mandate, nearly a dozen states have passed laws requiring better markings. Even so, adding orange paint has not prevented planes from colliding with the towers.

On a clear day in 2013, near Balko, Okla., a crop-dusting pilot named Jason Martin, 34, was en route to spray herbicide on a field and flew straight into an orange MET. The impact tore off part of the right wing, and the plane disintegrated upon hitting the ground. A safety board investigation into Mr. Martin’s death concluded that he had not seen the tower because of sun glare.

In an email, Dahvi Wilson, a spokeswoman for Apex Wind Energy, which owned the tower involved in the accident, wrote that Apex applied stringent safety standards to more than 100 towers nationwide, regardless of local regulations. But the company does not register their whereabouts, she said, because most “are not tall enough to fall within the F.A.A.’s regulated airspace.”

“It’s very, very easy to overlook something, and that’s one of the big reasons that make this business so dangerous,” said Tim Crowell, a pilot working for Schertz Aerial in Illinois. He too had a close brush with a tower, in Nebraska last year.

“Flying is only about 10 percent of what we do,” Mr. Crowell said. “Flying is what you’re doing to get the job done, but there’s so much other stuff going on.”

So far this year, no crop-duster pilots have crashed into the towers. Meanwhile, at least seven have died colliding with more familiar obstacles, like power lines and trees.

“It almost sounds like we’re crying wolf when the problem isn’t that serious,” said Ken Degg of the National Agricultural Aviation Research and Education Foundation. “But if wind energy continues to grow at expected rates, there will be a lot more towers coming into play that aren’t required to be marked.”

In mid-August, Mr. Lucas flew to southern Minnesota to rescue a soybean farmer from an aphid outbreak. On his second day, while spraying insecticide near a wind farm, he was surprised to find three unmarked METs. The farmer, he said, had given him no warning they were there.

“The first one, I didn’t see it until I dove into the field,” Mr. Lucas said. “And I had just sprayed a field just to the north of it maybe 24 hours prior.”

With the crop-dusting season wrapping up, Mr. Lucas is starting another project: finding a way to safely use unmanned aerial systems, or drones, to scout for wind turbines and METs. If permitted by the F.A.A. for commercial use, drones could also create further hazards for crop-dusters.

KC McGinnis contributed reporting from Indianola, Iowa.

Story, video and photo:

2 in custody after bricks stolen from 9/11 memorial (with video)



Bremerton police said two people suspected of stealing bricks from a 9/11 memorial were taken into custody Wednesday afternoon.

Surveillance cameras were rolling as two people stole bricks from a 9/11 memorial in Bremerton Tuesday afternoon.

“We have no idea why,” said Bremerton police Detective Keith Sergent, who investigated the incident.

The video obtained by KIRO 7 shows the couple walking into the memorial area in Bremerton’s Evergreen Park around noon Tuesday, then prying the bricks from the ground.

“The female suspect was seen looking around and then suddenly she kneeled down and removed one of the bricks,” said Sergent. The woman is seen stuffing the brick into the male’s backpack before prying a second brick from the site.

The bricks are etched with the names of people and businesses who donated money to have them placed at the site to help fund the memorial.  Sergent said he was told donors paid around $150 per brick. Police have not determined whose name was on the bricks stolen by the couple.

The site, dedicated Sept. 11, 2013,  includes pieces of the iron support structure from the World Trade Center in New York that collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, after the two towers were hit by hijacked planes flown by terrorists. It also includes limestone from the Pentagon, which was also struck by a plane, and sand from Shanksville, Pennsylvania where one of the hijacked planes crashed into a field.

“It’s kind of a sacred place that you don’t mess with,” said Sergent.

KIRO 7 asked showed some Bremerton residents video of the thefts. All said they were disgusted that someone would vandalize and desecrate the memorial.

“I think that’s atrocious,” said Tonya McDonald, “I think they should find them and prosecute them.”

“It’s a special memorial for this country and it just should be treated as a crime and prosecuted as a crime,” said Jerome Evans.

A woman who only have her name as Melissa said, “That’s horrible, that’s weird. Why would they do that?”

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This surveillance image shows two suspects after they stole bricks from a 9/11 memorial Tuesday afternoon in Bremerton.