Monday, November 03, 2014

Pitkin County hires Los Angeles official as the new airport director • Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (KASE), Colorado

John Kinney, an aviation management veteran with 28 years of experience in Arizona, Colorado and California, will serve as the next Aspen-Pitkin County Airport director, county officials announced Monday.

Kinney, 54, will succeed Jim Elwood, who announced his resignation in August to take a job at Jackson Hole Airport after 13 years in Aspen. Currently serving as director of emergency management for Los Angeles World Airports, Kinney is expected to start Dec. 15 at an annual salary of $140,000.

County Manager Jon Peacock, who came to the decision after fielding input from various stakeholders over a number of weeks, said Kinney’s nearly three decades of experience, as well as his ability to interact with the community, stood out during the hiring process.

“I think it’s really about experience with communities that share a concern for environmental qualities, whether it be noise, air quality, impacts on aviation to resort-based communities balanced with how important it is to have robust air service available,” Peacock said of Kinney, who served in various roles at Scottsdale Airport, Long Beach Airport and Denver International Airport before his tenure at Los Angeles International Airport.

Peacock said redevelopment plans at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport scheduled between 2017 and 2022 weighed heavily on the hiring. He added that the proposed terminal improvements, relocated/widened runway and the addition of a second fixed-base operator for private jets will “define the future of commercial air service” in Aspen. He expressed confidence that Kinney will be able to engage the community and reach compromise using his experience and relationships he’s cultivated at other airports.

In an interview Monday, Kinney said the most challenging aspect of the estimated $121 million to $132 million project will be balancing community needs with safety, security and development needs at the airport. He said that adjusting Aspen’s runway to meet federal standards to accommodate larger planes will have a ripple effect.

“You just want to make sure that those don’t take place at any one group’s expense,” Kinney said. “You’ve got to find that happy medium. ... Not a lot of airports take that approach, which Pitkin County has and very visibly has put that stake in the ground of, ‘We want community involvement, we value it, we’re going to listen, and we want you folks to help us shape the direction of the airport.’”

A San Diego, California native, Kinney beat out two other candidates for the job: 33-year-old Brian Grefe, Aspen’s assistant director of aviation, and 59-year-old Roy Williams, former director of airports in New Orleans and Salt Lake City. Peacock said Grefe plans to remain in his position and “has a bright future.” Peacock also addressed Williams’ termination in 2006 from Salt Lake City International Airport, saying there were no deal-breakers in the decision process.

“Obviously we had vetted that to a certain degree before bringing the candidates in,” he said.

While Kinney described Denver and Los Angeles as an apples-to-oranges comparison to Aspen, he said he’s learned that “big does not always mean best.” He’s looking forward to the heightened level of engagement and intimacy at a smaller airport.

“It’s been a great 10 years learning at big airports, but I’m very interested in getting into a more diverse agenda day in and day out,” he said, likening Aspen to Scottsdale, where he said community involvement was a high priority.

Kinney said he has watched footage of the private jet that crashed on Aspen’s runway in January, killing a co-pilot and injuring two others. Citing his experience overseeing safety at a major airport, he said that aspect has to be priority No. 1.

“Safety just has to be the No. 1 priority for the people working at the airport, for the people coming to utilize the airport, for the aircraft, the pilots, the flight crews, everyone,” he said. “Safety is always the priority, and it really can’t be second to any other category.”

Noting that his wife is a third generation native of Colorado with ties to Denver and Aspen, Kinney said the decision to accept the job was “a quality of life issue.”

“It’s coming back to where your family is and just to a place in the valley that is incredibly special, filled with unsurpassed levels of skiing and fly fishing and horseback riding and any other outdoor activity you choose to list,” he said.

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Recovering a stuck aircraft: Not an easy job • Thai Airways Airbus A330-300, HS-TEG, Flight TG-47

It is not a simple job to recover a big Airbus that has slid off the runway, especially one with a damaged front landing gear. 

Here's how it was done after the recent accident at Khon Kaen airport.

Last Monday evening at about 8pm THAI Airways Flight TG047 was preparing for takeoff at Khon Kaen airport for a trip to Bangkok.

Since there are no taxiways at the airport, the Airbus A330 was driven to the end of the runway where it began a routine U-turn.

For reasons still unclear, the turn was not completed successfully and the nose wheel and landing gear on one side of the aircraft ended up stuck in the soft ground next to the runway.

It is not a simple job to get such a huge aircraft back on the runway, especially with a damaged front landing gear whose tire had to be changed.

Officials immediately closed the airport and a team of technicians from Thai Airways International and soldiers from Nam Phong Air Squadron 237 went to work.

To reduce the weight of the plane, its fuel was removed. 

Soil was also removed from around the landing gear and the aircraft was lifted using two sets of inflated air cushions, allowing the tire change to take place.

The job was finished at about 2:50am Wednesday morning. 

The airport closure affected 11 flights and about 3,500 passengers who were forced to use the Udon Thani airport instead.

Story contains information from the Bangkok Post and the Thailand National News Bureau.

With no taxiways at Khon Kaen airport, aircraft returning to Bangkok needed to make a U-turn at the end of the runway. This one was not successful. 
Photos by Pattanapong Hirunard.

Stuck! The tire of the front landing gear had to be replaced before the plane was moved back on the runway. But how?

Fuel was removed from the aircraft to make it lighter.

Air Force personnel remove soil from around the landing gear.

Air cushions were inflated at the back and front to lift the aircraft.

Thai Airways' Flight TG47, scheduled to fly from Khon Kaen to Bangkok, skidded off the runway before it took off shortly after 8 pm Monday.

No injuries were reported.

The accident prompted Nok Air's flight from Bangkok to Khon Kaen to be unable to land and it had to land at the Udon Thani airport instead.

Nok Air's passengers, who were scheduled to leave Khon Kane for Bangkok at 8:50 pm, were transferred to Udon Thani to catch their flight there.

Thai Airways offered its passengers, who did not want to return to Bangkok right away, to stay at the Pullman Khon Kaen Hotel pending the clearing of the runway and fixing of the plane.

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Man who drove plane to pub charged with 'endangering life'

A Newman man is set to face a charge of endangering life, health or safety, later this month after allegedly taxiing an airplane with no wings and no steering wheel to the local pub.

The 37-year-old man was charged on Monday night after allegedly taking the propeller driven Beechcraft two-seater aircraft through Newman to the Purple Pub on Friday October 31 at 2.10pm, Sam Dinnison said.

Police allege the man had purchased the aircraft from a man on the other side of town and was taking it home before deciding to stop in at the pub.

An examination of the plane revealed the fuel line, hanging from the side of the aircraft, was attached to a jerry can in the cabin enabling the plane to run, and when the man stopped at the pub he left the ignition on.

The man does not hold a pilot's license, and roads were busy with other vehicles and pedestrians at the time.

He will appear in Newman Magistrates Court, facing the charge of endangering life, health or safety, on November 18.



Cessna T210M Turbo Centurion, N1593M: Accident occurred November 02, 2014 in Jackson, Oregon

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA032 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, November 02, 2014 in Jacksonville, OR
Aircraft: CESSNA T210M, registration: N1593M
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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

On November 2, 2014, about 1456 Pacific standard time, a Cessna T210M, N1593M, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power near Jacksonville, Oregon. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The cross-country flight originated from Grants Pass, Oregon, with an intended destination of Long Beach, California.

The pilot reported that during cruise flight at an altitude of about 12,000 feet mean sea level, the engine began to run rough and oil began covering the windshield. The pilot immediately diverted to Medford, Oregon and shortly after, the engine lost power. The pilot initiated a forced landing in an open field and during the landing roll, the right wing struck the ground and the airplane nosed over.

Examination of the airplane by local law enforcement revealed that the right wing, at the flap aileron junction, was bent downward about 45 degrees. Oil was observed on the windshield and surrounding fuselage area. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Portland FSDO-09

RUCH — A Grants Pass man walked away unscathed after flipping his plane during a forced landing in a field near Cantrall Buckley Park on Sunday afternoon.

James H. Nance was piloting a single-engine Cessna T210M through clear skies en route to Southern California from the Grants Pass Airport when he encountered mechanical issues shortly after crossing into Siskiyou County. 

Nance turned his airplane back, radioed the Medford airport tower about his engine difficulties, and decided to put down roughly 15 to 20 miles from where he took off.

As the white aircraft with yellow and red striping descended into the Applegate Valley, local firefighters spotted the plane.

Applegate Fire District Capt. Greg Gilbert was on the deck behind the station when he saw the stricken plane.

"At first we thought it was crop dusting because there was so much white smoke pouring out," Gilbert said. "We saw it flip and we were on the road before we even got the (dispatch) tones."

Nance, 57, who was headed to Long Beach, Calif., found a relatively flat but muddy hay field not far from the entrance to Cantrall Buckley County Park off Hamilton Road.

Gilbert said the call came in at 2:57 p.m. and his rig was on the scene one minute later.

"He came in pretty hot, and had to put on the brakes," Gilbert said. "As he braked, he found a pothole and flipped."

The pilot was alone, uninjured, emerged from the plane without help, and declined ambulance transport.

"You never know with smaller aircraft," Gilbert said. "I've been to other landings like this where it didn't turn out so well. The good thing was that he was trying to land at a flatter angle instead of a nose dive."

Gilbert suggested the six-seat Cessna, built in 1977, would stay put until Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and insurance inspectors had surveyed the scene.

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Gulfstream IV, HZ-103: Australia-bound plane stopped in Indonesia

A private jet en route to Australia has reportedly been intercepted after violating Indonesia's airspace.

The ABC says two fighter planes forced the Gulfstream jet to land in Indonesia on Monday.

It was carrying seven passengers and six crew, who are now being questioned by Indonesian authorities, according to an airforce spokesman.

The aircraft is believed to have been traveling from Saudi Arabia to Darwin, and had made a refueling stop in Singapore before taking off again and entering Indonesian airspace without clearance.

The incident comes two weeks after an Australian light plane flew into Indonesian airspace without the correct documentation. During that incident, fighter jet weapons were "locked on" the plane when it declined to land for several hours. The two Australian pilots were required to pay a $6000 fine.

Violations of Indonesian airspace can carry a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.

Comment is being sought from Indonesian and Australian authorities.

- Source: - 2 Pesawat Sukhoi TNI AU menyergap pesawat jet pribadi dengan operator Saudi Arabian Airlines. Pesawat jenis Gulfstream IV dengan no HZ-103 ini berangkat dari Singapura menuju Darwin Australia sebelum menuju tujuan akhir Brisbane.

Pukul 12.40 wita Komandan Skadron Udara 11 mendapat ada laporan sasaran pesawat black flight dari Singapura menuju Darwin, yang posisinya mendekati Banjarmasin.

"Selanjutnya dengan cepat 2 pesawat Sukhoi Su-30 MK2 dengan call sign 'Thunder Flight' disiapkan dengan bahan bakar penuh dan amunisi lengkap, termasuk rudal udara ke udara canggih R-73 Archer untuk menyergap sasaran," kata Kadispen TNI AU Marsekal Pertama Hadi Tjahjanto, Senin (3/11).

Thunder Flight terdiri dari 2 Su-30 yang dipiloti oleh Vincent-Wanda dan Tamboto-Ali tak butuh waktu lama melaksanakan Scramble dan take off tepat saat pesawat asing melintas meninggalkan wilayah udara Kalimantan menuju selatan Makasar. 

Pada pukul 12.12 WIB kedua pesawat Sukhoi sudah tinggal landas untuk mengejar pesawat target yang sudah ke arah Timur dari Makassar. Saat itu posisi pesawat target 200 km selatan Makassar dengan kecepatan 0.80 M (864 kmpj) dengan ketinggian 41 ribu kaki.

Pesawat Gulfstream yang terbang tinggi pada ketinggian 41 ribu kaki nampaknya tahu jika dikejar dan meningkatkan kecepatan semula dari kecepatan jelajah 0.74 Mach (700 kmpj) menjadi 0.85 Mach (920 kmpj).

Namun Sukhoi mengejar dengan kecepatan suara yaitu antara 1.3-1.55 Mach (1400- 1700 kmpj). Thunder Flight melaksanakan pengejaran sampai melewati Eltari, Kupang dan berhasil mendekati pesawat tersebut dan dapat melaksanakan komunikasi dengan radio di sekitar 85 Nm atau 150 km dari Kupang serta sudah mendekati perbatasan wilayah udara Timor Leste.

Crew pesawat Gulfstream IV cukup komunikatif saat diperintahkan oleh Thunder Flight untuk berbelok ke kanan menuju Lanud Eltari Kupang.

"Didekati dengan kecepatan suara dan senjata rudal R-73 Archer yang sangat canggih tidak ada pilihan bagi Gulfstream IV ini selain menuruti perintah untuk mendarat di Kupang. Akhirnya pukul 13.25 WIB pesawat Gulfstream IV yang diketahui dari Saudi Arabia tersebut landing di Lanud Eltari menyusul pada pukul 13.32 WIB kedua pesawat Su-30 MK2 juga landing di sana," kata Hadi.

Pemeriksaan dan penyidikan oleh personel TNI AU serta PPNS Perhubungan Udara akan dilaksanakan sesuai amanat UU Penerbangan tentang tindakan hukum pada pesawat pelanggar wilayah udara Indonesia.

Navy makes history with first F-35C landing aboard an aircraft carrier

San Diego, Ca. – Today the Navy reached an important milestone after successfully landeding an F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego. 

 Navy test pilot Cmdr. Tony Wilson landed an F-35C test aircraft at 12:18 p.m. aboard the USS Nimitz’s flight deck.

The arrested landing is part of an the first at-sea Developmental Testing I (DT-I) for the F-35C, which is expected to last two weeks.

“Today is a landmark event in the development of the F-35C,” said Wilson, a Navy test pilot with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23. “It is the culmination of many years of hard work by a talented team of thousands. I’m very excited to see America’s newest aircraft on the flight deck of her oldest aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz.”

Vice Adm. David H. Buss was aboard Nimitz to witness the milestone event.

“What a historic day today is for Naval Aviation. With the first traps and catapult launches of the F-35C Lightning II aboard an aircraft carrier, we begin the integration of the next generation of warfighting capability into our carrier-based air wings,” said Buss. “This important milestone is yet another indicator of Naval Aviation’s ongoing evolution to meet future threats and remain central to our future Navy and National Defense Strategy.”

DT-I is the first of three at-sea test phases planned for the F-35C. During DT-I two F-35C test aircraft from Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Patuxent River, Maryland will perform a variety of operational maneuvers, including various catapult takeoffs and arrested landings. Operations will also encompass general maintenance and fit tests for the aircraft and support equipment, as well as simulated maintenance operations.

“Our F-35 integrated test team has done an amazing job preparing for today. This will be one landing out of thousands more that will happen over the next few decades,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “For months, we’ve been working with the Nimitz crew, Naval Air Forces, and our industry partners, Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney, as well as their suppliers, to prepare and train for this event. We plan on learning a lot during this developmental test and will use that knowledge to make the naval variant of the F-35 an even more effective weapons platform.”

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What caused the F-35 engine fires and how's it getting fixed?

If you've heard a whole lot about the F-35 engine fires but are a little unclear on what happened, the head of the program did a pretty good job of explaining the cause and the planned fixes.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, who heads the F-35 program, said the engine failure and subsequent fire that halted testing of the F-35 were the result of micro fractures in one of the three-stage fan sections that compress air before it enters the engine, reported the Pentagon's news agency Friday. These sections are lined with a polyimide material designed to rub against fan blades to reduce pressure loss.

The investigation into the F-35 engine fire that temporarily caused the fleet of fighter planes to be grounded this summer found the third fan rubbed well above tolerance during maneuvers several weeks before the failure, causing the blades to heat to about 1,900 degrees — 900 more than ever expected, Bogdan said. This led to tiny fractures in the titanium part of the rotor, which grew over the next few weeks of flying before finally failing.

The result? The rotor separated from the airplane. And as pieces of the engine flew out through the fuel tank, the fire ignited.

The F-35 is made by Lockheed's Fort Worth-based Lockheed Martin Aeronautics unit at the company's massive facility there.

Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney came up with two short-term fixes that will keep the planes in the sky until a permanent solution comes. For the first, a new engine is worked to "burn in" the rubbing in a controlled environment. That process has already been used on four test airplanes.

The second fix involves a change to the manufacturing process of the engine, eliminating the rubbing on the polyimide lining completely by "pre-trenching" the lining. That worked great, Bogdan said, but the process of replacing the engine takes about a week. That makes the alternative burn-in approach essential for getting planes in the air in the meantime.

Long term, Pratt & Whitney is mulling a few options in addition to the pre-trenching approach, from changing the polyimide material to one that can handle more heat, to treating the tips of the titanium fan blades to withstand more heat, to some combination of the options.

Bogdan estimated it won't be until near the end of 2015 before engines are coming off the production line with the chosen solution. Once that happens, he added, any engines that are not in airplanes yet will be retrofitted.

Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. hasn't been hurt too much by the testing delays. Bruce Tanner noted during a media call to discuss third quarter earnings that despite being grounded for a month and a half, the F-35 was still close to meeting its delivery goals.

As for Pratt and Whitney, sure, the company will have to swallow the costs for the fixes. But as Reuters reported last week, it also announced it had won a contract to build an eighth batch of 48 engines for the F-35, bringing the total value of the deal to $1.05 billion.

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Loss making Air India to shell $50000 for extending flight hours of an old plane

The loss making national carrier Air India has to shell out another $50000 as the airline asked for the extension of flight hours of Airbus A-320-231 by 1000 flight hours from the permitted 60000 flight hours. The Director General of Civil Aviation approved the extension in October this year.

However, according to sources Air India scrapped a plane last year, which had just completed 45,000 flight hours and could have been operated further. The aircraft would have been utilized without the need for seeking permission for another 15000 hours at least.

"The problem is nobody cares about the bad financial and administrative health of the airline. It must be investigated as why is the cash starved airline ready to pay at least $50000 for this extension," said an Air India insider.

When contacted Air India's executive director for public relations, Anil Mehta referred the query to another airline official, who did not respond to dna's queries regarding the matter.

DGCA in its letter on October 7 granted the permission for extension, while referring to the two request letters from Air India on September 2 and September 19.

"Approval of the competent authority is hereby conveyed to the proposal for the grant of extension of Design Service Goal by 1000 Hrs, beyond 60000FH for operating Airbus A-320-231 aircraft VT-EPH...belonging to Air India," read the DGCA signed by the deputy director of Airworthiness, Arvind Mohan.

DGCA has further asked the airline to report any abnormality to them during this period. Also the airline has to submit a report regarding the safe flight of the aircraft after every100 hours.

Earlier in August, two unions of the All India Service Engineering Association and Air India Employees' Union had approached prime minister Narendra Modi seeking CBI probe in to the losses airlines incurs. Another allegation against the airline was leveled by Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) in October this year claiming that the airline is getting grounded aircraft insured at a cost of $6 million in a year for last three years.

The national carries is currently under huge debt and is surviving on the Rs 30,000crore government bailout.

The union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathy Raju recently stated that the ministry would ask the national carrier to explain its financial decisions, which according to him do not make any commercial sense. Raju was referring to the sale of eight brand new Boeing 777-LRs by Air India at a throwaway price.

The government is soon coming out with the new civil aviation policy and is currently formulating the policy and holding consultations with different stake holders.

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Man accused of attempting to open door midflight released to mother's custody

OMAHA, Neb. —The 23-year-old man who is accused of trying to open a door on a California-bound plane has entered a plea of not guilty.

Joshua Carl Lee Suggs faces a count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew in connection with the April 13 incident, which forced an emergency landing at Eppley Airfield in Omaha.

Kim Schaefer doesn't know what happened after she dropped her son off at Chicago's Midway Airport the morning of April 13.

“I was so fearful over Josh's fear of thunder and lightning and storms. He's had that all his life that I actually went online to track that flight and saw that it had landed in Omaha,” Schaefer said.

Authorities from Eppley Airfield arrested Suggs after he allegedly tried to open the door during flight.

“My child would never do what they're accusing him of in his right mind, and I'm worried about him,” Schaefer said.

In federal court Thursday, Suggs' attorney, James Martin Davis, said his client is on suicide watch and again requested a mental evaluation for him.

"The weather was very bad and the plane was bouncing up and down -- that coupled with his mental state -- and then he somehow was thinking about the Malaysian aircraft and these things came together," Davis said.

Davis said Suggs' mental status has deteriorated over the past few months, based on information from Suggs' mother.

Suggs is expected to undergo a competency evaluation sometime in the next 30 days.

Story and Video:

Incident occurred November 03, 2014 at Pensacola International Airport (KPNS), Florida

Update 4:30 p.m.:

The single-engine aircraft that had an issue with its landing gear today at the Pensacola International Airport has been cleared and the airport has returned to normal operations.

Update 4:20 p.m.:

The Pensacola Airport is still closed to air traffic at this time. We will continue to monitor this story.

Update 3:14 p.m.:

City of Pensacola Chief Operations Officer Tamara Fountain said that there is no time estimate yet on when the aircraft will be removed.

"We are in the process of removing the airplane from the intersection of the runway, and that is an operation protocol," Fountain said. "As soon as we have confirmation that it's been removed, we will let you know."

Fountain said that the airport will continue to be closed for operations until the aircraft is removed from the runway.

"Though there are no injuries, no fire, it is standard protocol to call an Alert III for this kind of situation," she said.

Original story:

A small single-engine aircraft had an issue with its landing gear today at the Pensacola International Airport.

The aircraft experienced collapsed landing gear and came to a stop at the intersection of the runways. It is classified as an Alert III (actual accident), with no injuries, no fire, or threat of fire.

Since the aircraft is at the intersection of the runways, the airport will be closed for operations until aircraft is able to be moved.

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Plane with mechanical issue diverted to Boston: International flight took off from New Jersey

BOSTON —A plane from New Jersey that was headed to Paris diverted to Boston early Monday morning.

The "Open Skies" flight operated by British Airways took off from Newark Liberty International Airport had just passed Nova Scotia when the plane suffered a mechanical issue.

State police said the flight returned out of an abundance of caution.

"Safety is always our top priority and, following a suspected technical problem, the Captain decided to divert as a precaution," the company said in a statement.

Passengers were rebooked on other flights. There were no injuries.

Story and comments:

Cessna 421C Golden Eagle, N6834C: Incident occurred at Fort Madison Municipal Airport (KFSW), Iowa

Nobody was injured but all seven people on board the twin engine plane, pictured above, were frightened when the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing at the airport in Fort Madison.

According to Fort Madison Police Chief Bruce Niggemeyer, one engine of the plane went out so the Fort Madison Fire Department stood by during the landing.

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Calizo LLC:

Andy Millin: Man builds Velocity XL in bedroom



PLAINWELL, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A man from Plainwell recently won a prestigious aviation award, after spending 12 years building an airplane in his bedroom.

"Too often when one hears a news item regarding general aviation, unfortunately it involves a crash of some sort," local pilot Andy Millin wrote in an email to NewsChannel 3. "I'm writing in the hope of giving another story, a happy story."
On Millin's coffeetable in Plainwell sits a Bronze Lindbergh Award.
Earning one is as rare and esteemed as winning an Olympic gold medal, according to the Experimental Aircraft Association.

"You can knock me over with a feather," Millin says. "Just complete surprise."

Andy Millin is an average family man: has two kids, owns a small business and just so happened to build an airplane... in his house.

"Oh, you're the house with the airplane in it!" laughs Andy's wife Theresa. "Yup!"

The project really started with Theresa on Andy's birthday back in 1995.

Knowing he had a secret love for aviation, she surprised him with a ride on a B-17. 

That day, a new dream took flight. 

Andy, who wasn't even a pilot at the time, decided he wanted to build a plane. 

"A project that size is like eating an elephant," Andy explains. "It's one bite at a time."
Luckily, he didn't dig in alone. 

A local pilot wanted to help.

"We basically struck a friendship right there and from that day on, it's been best friends, so to speak," says pilot Carlos Fernandez.

First order of business?  The pair needed to build a workshop so they could build the plane.

"With the understanding that when it was done it would become our master bedroom!" says Theresa.
Then Andy and Carlos buckled down into a project that would take them 11 years.

"We started with the wings, then moved on to the fuselage," Andy explains.

Carlos adds, "We were essentially two people doing the work of three."

"We didn't have piles of cash sitting around, you know?" Theresa notes. "We'd have to say, 'Okay, this is what we have to save for.'"

Andy says they built everything from scratch, including the plane's engine.

"We kept pinching ourselves saying, 'We get to do this!'" Carlos recalls.
Finally, on Andy's birthday in 2011, they rolled the Velocity XL aircraft out of Andy's house.

"I darn near cried," he recalls. "This whole thing has been kind of like a fairytale story for us. Now we have our magic carpet and we can travel the world. There are times I'll be flying around and it'll almost bring a tear to my eye. I built this! I can't believe it."
Neither could the EAA judges in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

They awarded him a Bronze Lindy in 2012, the top award in the world for people who build aircraft.

The Millins hope their happy ending is actually just the beginning.

"When you see somebody doing something who is an average person, you set off a chain reaction," Andy says. "And isn't that a wonderful thing?"
Andy and Carlos say they couldn't have completed the intensive project without the support of the Experimental Aircraft Association, specifically Chapter 221.

Andy documented every step of the entire 12-year journey on his blog, which you can check out here:

NewsChannel 3 is still looking for extraordinary people to feature as part of this "In the Spotlight" series.

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Obama has to switch planes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Things aren't going great for President Obama right now -- even Air Force One is breaking down on him.

The president and his entourage had to change planes in Philadelphia before returning home on Sunday night because of a mechanical issue.

"We have transferred to a backup airplane due to a minor mechanical problem with one of the aircraft's flaps," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. "This switch to a backup C-32 will not affect our schedule."

Any plane carrying the president is automatically dubbed Air Force One. Obama returned to Washington on Sunday night without incident.

Obama attended campaign rallies in Bridgeport, Conn., as well as Philadelphia on Sunday, two days before elections that could lead to a Republican-run Senate.

Story, comments and photo:

Airport Workers to JetBlue, Broward County: Pay Us or Get Rid of Contractor

Earlier this year, JetBlue replaced the contractor that cleans its cabins at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

One of the workers who was displaced was evicted from her apartment, while another couldn't afford rent. Six others are still waiting for more than $10,000 in lost wages.

According to a spokesperson for the Union that protects these workers, all of the above could have been prevented if ReadyJet -- the Boston-based company that JetBlue replaced Superior Aircraft Services with -- followed a new Workers' Retention Policy passed by Broward County Commissioners in January.

The policy calls for a 45-day period of "continued employment when one airline contractor is replaced with another."

Seven of the eight employees affected have since been rehired but are still seeking weeks of missed pay; one, Sonia Welsh is finishing her 14th week of unemployment.

Julie Karant, a regional communications officer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), says that Broward County should now enforce its own law. She is asking county commissioners to pull ReadyJet's permit to operate in the airport.

"We're not daring. This is not a game. We want ReadyJet to follow the rules," Karant says. "These are substandard company practices and somebody should teach them a lesson...these are third-world conditions being imposed by the airline industry."

An invoice for the lost wages was hand-delivered by a crowd of union members on Thursday Oct. 30. It follows months of complaints filed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); the first one was on July 16. In a follow-up complaint on Aug. 26, the SEIU asked the County Aviation Director to pay the workers what ReadyJet owes them, and asked that Welsh be allowed to work.

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Ahead of Federal Aviation Administration audit, Directorate General of Civil Aviation takes 40 Jet Airways crew off duty

Ahead of the crucial air safety audit by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has stepped up its surveillance, reports Roudra Bhattacharya in New Delhi. On October 27th, the regulator took nearly 40 Jet Airways crew members off flying duty for failing a safety drill to test evacuation of passengers in case of an emergency, sources close to the development told FE.

This has led to a shortage of crew members on overseas flights. The development is significant since Jet Airways is one of the two domestic carriers connecting India and the US, the other being flag carrier Air India. In fact, the aircraft the safety check was performed on was the Airbus A330, frequently used for US-India flights by the full-service airline through its hub at Brussels.

“The DGCA drill was done as part of a re-certification procedure for the Air Operator’s Permit. This is being done for all airlines after the FAA pulled up the DGCA for lax implementation of the rules,” a source in the airline said. A second official confirmed the development. “The crew members were grounded pending inquiry as they did not follow the evacuation procedure which requires the first escape slide to be deployed 15 seconds after the command is given,” the official said. He added that the rest of the slides can be taken as a mock exercise.

A Jet Airways spokesperson said, “A DGCA certification drill was conducted on 27th October for the A330 aircraft where certain observations were made by the DGCA and airline has made a note and will accordingly carry out the required changes. Jet Airways would like to clarify that there were no suspensions. The crew will go through the drill again in the coming week.”

The latest instance of staff being grounded comes on the back of a series of compliance lapses by the airline over the past few months. In September, 131 pilots and members of the senior management were issued show cause notices by the aviation regulator for a major training lapse – a DGCA audit had found the pilots were flying without the mandatory Pilot Proficiency Checks – a biannual simulator training. Two of the pilots have since been suspended, and more action is expected against the rest.

Last month another violation came to light. Three pilots, one of whom is a lady, were found to be flying for several months without annual line check certificates in violation of the country’s Civil Aviation Requirements. In the line check, a pilot’s flying is monitored by a trainer sitting in the cockpit through a flight to ensure that all norms are followed, and any violations of this requirement can lead to grounding of the pilots.

Ever since FAA downgraded India’s air safety rating to Category 2 in January citing inadequate safety oversight of the DGCA, the latter has tightened its inspection processes. The regulator has been expanding its team of Flight Operation Inspectors, with a target of 75, by hiring pilots on market-linked salaries. The practice of pilots being sent on deputation by airlines has been done away with because the FAA had highlighted that there was a clear ‘conflict of interest’. With the DGCA addressing all of the FAA concerns and visiting the latter in August this year, an FAA team is now expected to visit this month for a fresh safety audit. The downgrade affected not only business sentiments, but prohibited any domestic airline from expanding flights to the US.

The Jet Airways scrip at the BSE closed 0.30% down to R232.25 on Friday.

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Whistleblowers' rights may hinge on Ladera man's case

Fired air marshal Robert MacLean believes the law protects whistleblowers like himself from retaliation, benefiting the public by exposing problems in government agencies. His fate is in the hands of the Supreme Court. PAUL RODRIGUEZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

On Tuesday, fired federal air marshal Robert MacLean’s long and tortured saga will lead him up the marble steps of America’s highest “temple of justice” – the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

He will pass between imposing Neoclassical columns, beneath the words “Equal Justice Under Law,” and into the chamber where nine black-robed justices will debate his fate.

Once and for all: Is MacLean a hero or a villain? Did he endanger the flying public, or protect it?

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to argue that MacLean is a villain, and a win for him would embolden federal employees to disclose sensitive security information willy-nilly and endanger public safety.

“Congress could not have intended the confidentiality of sensitive security information to depend so precariously on the idiosyncratic individual judgment of each of the TSA’s more than 60,000 employees,” it said in its brief to the Supremes.

MacLean’s lawyers, and a pile of friend-of-the-court briefs in his favor, argue just the opposite.

“The law protects whistleblowers like MacLean from ... retaliation so that Congress, and ultimately the public, can benefit from their willingness to bring to light serious problems that government agencies would prefer not to talk about,” says MacLean’s brief to the Supremes.

Might MacLean, of Ladera Ranch, prevail in this David v. Goliath battle?

It may all turn on three little words – “prohibited by law” – and at least one expert has gazed into his legal crystal ball and foresees a victory for MacLean.


MacLean was a nuclear weapons maintenance technician for the Air Force from 1988 to 1992. He joined the U.S. Border Patrol and worked for almost six years, until 9/11 happened; then he joined the swiftly expanding ranks of air marshals swept into service to make the skies safer. His was the first air marshal class to graduate after the 9/11 attacks, trained in investigative techniques, criminal terrorist behavior recognition, firearms proficiency, aircraft-specific tactics and close quarters self-defense measures.

All went smoothly until 2003, when MacLean received an alarming emergency alert from the Department of Homeland Security, detailing a “specific and imminent terrorist threat focused on long-distance flights – a more ambitious, broader-scale version of the 9/11 plot,” court briefs say. “Every air marshal, including MacLean, was given an unprecedented face-to-face briefing about the threat. MacLean and the other marshals were informed about special measures being implemented to thwart the attack and were told to be especially on their guard.”

So imagine MacLean’s alarm when, within 48 hours of the secret briefing, he got an unencrypted text message from the Transportation Security Administration scrapping all overnight missions and instructing air marshals to cancel hotel reservations immediately so the government could save money. The text message was not marked as sensitive information; it was not encrypted; and it was sent to MacLean’s unsecured cellphone, not to the secure personal digital assistant that the TSA had provided for transmission of “sensitive security information,” or “SSI” in bureaucracy-speak.

This, thought MacLean, was crazy. The 9/11 hijackers targeted long-distance flights because they could do the most damage. Pulling air marshals from such flights, precisely when there was warning of a possible attack, was gross mismanagement – and a “specific threat to public safety that could lead to catastrophic loss of life,” he’d later argue in court.

MacLean protested to his bosses, then to the Office of the Inspector General. “(H)e was ultimately advised to think about the ‘years left in [his] career’ and ‘just walk away,’” MacLean’s brief says. Finally, he sought out a journalist “with a history of responsible reporting” from MSNBC, and the story went national.

Fallout was fast and furious. Lawmakers – including Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry – decried the idea as foolish. Officials backtracked, overnight missions continued as per usual, and Sen. Barbara Boxer specifically thanked the anonymous air marshals who came forward and told the truth.


No one knew that MacLean was a source for that story for years. He continued working with an unblemished record. It wasn’t until 2006, when MacLean became vice president of the air marshals association and appeared, anonymously and in deep shadow, on a TV news program (the air marshals were tussling with the TSA over a 1960s-era dress code that screamed, “Federal air marshal! Aim here!”), that someone from TSA management recognized his voice.

MacLean was called in and asked about the TV appearance. He confirmed that it was, indeed, him. Then he was asked about any other contacts he might have had with the media. He volunteered that he had been in touch with that MSNBC reporter several years before.

Soon, the 2003 text about canceling overnight missions was retroactively labeled “sensitive security information.” And nearly three years after the MSNBC report, MacLean was fired for disclosing it to the media.

He fought, but judges ruled against him again and again. He was not protected by whistleblower laws, they said, because the information he disclosed was, by law, a secret.

His case became a darling of whistleblower-protection types. Friend-of-the-court briefs were filed on MacLean’s behalf, arguing that if the ruling against him was allowed to stand, it would chill the conviction of would-be whistleblowers across America.

Still, MacLean met defeat after defeat. Work was hard to come by. His finances went down the drain. Until April 2013.

In a stunning vindication, the U.S. Court of Appeals concluded that MacLean’s disclosure did not violate the law, and that he might indeed be entitled to whistleblower protections. Lower authorities were wrong when ruling that MacLean’s disclosure was “specifically prohibited by law”; in fact, there was no specific law prohibiting that sort of disclosure. It was simply TSA policy – an agency regulation – and bureaucratic policies and regulations do not hold the force of law.

Congress writes laws, the appeals court said. Agencies do not. And Congress did that on purpose, so that agencies could not issue sweeping “gag orders” to silence employees. Congress or the president must specify which secrets are protected by the force of law, not the agencies themselves.

“Mr. MacLean presented substantial evidence that he was not motivated by personal gain but by the desire to protect the public,” wrote Federal Circuit Judge Evan J. Wallach.

His former bosses at the Department of Homeland Security disagreed so strongly they asked the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately intervene.

The high court gets about 10,000 such requests a year. It agrees to take on about 80. This is one of them.


Thomas Campbell, dean of Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law School, has read through more than 100 pages of arguments made by both sides in this case. It will hang on “statutory interpretation, not heavy policy,” Campbell told us – and those three little words, “prohibited by law.”

“Normally, the word ‘law’ is taken to include federal statutes, federal agency regulations, and Executive Orders,” Campbell told us by email. “For instance, one can go to jail for willfully violating Internal Revenue Code regulations about what one owes in taxes.

“The Federal Circuit, however, held that ‘prohibited by law’ in this instance meant prohibited by statute. MacLean argues the Federal Circuit was right, because otherwise an agency could protect whatever it wanted from whistleblowers just by passing its own regulation.

“MacLean’s argument that the Department of Homeland Security’s view would gut the whistleblower statute’s purpose is not persuasive; to protect an item from disclosure, the federal agency would have to pass a specific regulation dealing with that item. That action would subject the federal agency to scrutiny in Congress and in the press.

“The Federal Circuit decided the case correctly. I suspect the Supreme Court will affirm this reading, though there might be as many as 4 votes the other way, since the Supreme Court did not have to take the case, they could have let the Federal Circuit opinion stand.”

As it takes only four justices to agree to review a case, Campbell suspects there may be four votes to reverse, but not necessarily four votes to reverse. Sometimes justices take a case to lend even stronger authority to the lower court’s decision, Campbell said.

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule before the end of this term in June.

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Korea Won’t Send Aerobatics Team to China Air Show • Black Eagles Were Scheduled to Be a Main Attraction

The Wall Street Journal
By Jeyup S. Kwaak

Nov. 3, 2014 5:32 a.m. ET

SEOUL—South Korea dropped a plan to send an aerobatics team to an air show in China less than two weeks before the event, after Washington raised concerns about exposing key U.S. fighter-jet technology.

The South Korean air force’s Black Eagles team, which consists of eight T-50 light combat aircraft, was scheduled to be a main attraction at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, the country’s main aviation trade show, in the southern coastal city of Zhuhai.

The event runs from Nov. 11 to Nov. 16. The organizers of the show and China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency had confirmed the Black Eagles’ attendance.

But on Thursday, the defense ministry in Seoul decided not to let the team attend, following objections raised during talks with the U.S. No official announcement was made but a defense ministry official confirmed the decision on Monday.

“The decision was agreed between the U.S. and South Korea because the T-50 jets include core U.S. technologies and so are subject to regulations regarding arms export and international arms trade,” said a South Korean Defense Ministry official who asked not to be named. The official declined to specify when the U.S.-South Korean talks were held.

A spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea said he had no immediate comment on the move, while media coordinators in Zhuhai for the air show said they didn’t know about the change.

A project funded by the South Korean government, the supersonic fighter T-50 jet is assembled by Korea Aerospace Industries, a local military aircraft and civilian airframe parts maker. It uses wings, in addition to flight control and avionics equipment, made by Lockheed Martin Corp.

Since early this year, Beijing and Seoul have publicly acknowledged discussing the Black Eagles’ participation in the biannual air show, which in recent years has featured performances from Russian and Pakistani teams.

As scheduled, a South Korean air force vice chief of staff will attend the show, which will have a promotional booth for the Black Eagles.

“South Korea is mindful of the importance of the South Korea-China military ties and we put our efforts to improving them,” the South Korean ministry official said.

The U.S. has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, which depends heavily on Washington for protection against North Korean aggression.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Nov. 10 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

—Fanfan Wang in Shanghai contributed to this article. 

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New Chinese aircraft lands at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal

KATHMANDU, Nov 3: Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has brought another aircraft from China on Monday. 

An 18-seater Harbin aircraft of model no Y12e E landed at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 1:50 pm today.  

The twin engine turbo prop utility plane is provided by China to Nepal on grant as per an agreement to provide six aircraft on grant and concessional loan. The Harbin Y12e is part of the loan and grant agreement worth Rs 6.67 billion for the procurement of six aircraft -- two MA 60s and four 19-seater Harbin Y12-E. The MA 60 provided on grant has already been delivered and is flying in different domestic routes.

Though China Aviation Industry Corporation formally handed over the Y12e in July, NAC could not bring the plane as the manufacturer said it was unable to supply an English-speaking instructor pilot along with the plane.

The Chinese team along with instructor pilot is arriving in the aircraft. “Once the aircraft arrives, we will soon begin the procedure to obtain Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), a high ranking official of NAC had said.

NAC is planning to begin commercial operation through Harbin Y12e within the next 10 days if the test flights go well. The aircraft will be flying to the remote areas of western region.

The aircraft had already received the call sign 9N-AKS from CAAN. NAC has named the aircraft Koili.

Earlier China had sent an instructor pilot but as he could not speak and understand English, he was sent back so the plane delivery was delayed.

An NAC official requesting anonymity said, “We are hopeful there will be no hassles in documentation this time.”

NAC management had decided not to bring the aircraft without an English speaking instructor pilot as the aircraft without an instructor cannot be flown. As the NAC pilots do not have training to fly Chinese aircraft, Nepal had to depend on China for instructor pilot. Harbin Y12-E is a new type of aircraft for Nepal.

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Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo, N339SS, Scaled Composites: Accident occurred October 31, 2014 in Mojave, California


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Van Nuys FSDO-01 

In this undated photo released Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, by Scaled Composites, shows Michael Alsbury, who was killed while co-piloting the test flight of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. The surviving pilot was identified as Peter Siebold, 43. Siebold was to undergo surgery, on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, but there were no other details on his condition, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. Siebold also is a veteran of Scaled's spaceship test program. (AP Photo/Scaled Composites)

Nov. 3, 2014 2:37 AM EST

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal investigators say they have determined that a space tourism rocket broke apart in flight over California's Mojave Desert after a device to slow the experimental spaceship's descent deployed too soon.

National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Christopher Hart said that while no cause for Friday's crash Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has been determined, investigators found the "feathering" system — which rotates the tail to create drag — was activated before the craft reached the appropriate speed.

The system requires a two-step process to deploy. The co-pilot unlocked the system but Hart said the second step occurred "without being commanded."

"What we know is that after it was unlocked, the feathers moved into the deploy position and two seconds later we saw disintegration," Hart said.

The finding moves away from initial speculation that an explosion brought down the craft, but still doesn't fully explain why the disaster occurred.

The investigation is months from being completed and pilot error, mechanical failure, the design and whether there was pressure to continue testing are among many things being looked at, Hart said.

"We are not edging toward anything, we're not ruling anything out," Hart said. "We are looking at all these issues to determine the root cause of this accident."

The co-pilot Michael Alsbury, 39, was killed. Peter Siebold, 43, who piloted the mission, parachuted to the ground and is receiving treatments at a hospital for serious injuries.

Hart said investigators have not interviewed the pilot because of his medical condition.

Virgin Galactic — owned by billion Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS of Abu Dhabi — plans to fly passengers to altitudes more than 62 miles above Earth. The company sells seats on each prospective journey for $250,000.

Branson had hoped to begin flights next year but said Saturday that the project won't resume until the cause of the accident is determined and the problems fixed.

Hart said a review of footage from a camera mounted to the ceiling of the cockpit shows the co-pilot moving the feathering lever to the unlock position.

The feathering is a feature unique to the craft to help it slow as it re-enters the atmosphere. After being unlocked, a lever must be pulled to rotate the tail section toward a nearly vertical position to act as a rudder. After decelerating, the pilots reconfigure the tail section to its normal position so the craft can glide to Earth.

Hart said the feathers activated at Mach 1.0, the speed of sound or 760 mph. They shouldn't have deployed until the craft had at least reached a speed of Mach 1.4, or more than 1,000 mph.

SpaceShipTwo tore apart Friday about 11 seconds after it detached from the underside of its jet-powered mother ship and fired its rocket engine for the test flight. Initial speculation was that an explosion occurred but Hart said the fuel and oxidizer tanks and rocket engine were found and showed no sign of being burned or breached.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides issued a statement Sunday to tamp down conjecture about the cause of the crash.

"Now is not the time for speculation," he said. "Now is the time to focus on all those affected by this tragic accident and to work with the experts at the NTSB, to get to the bottom of what happened on that tragic day, and to learn from it so that we can move forward safely with this important mission."

SpaceShipTwo has been under development for years and, like all space projects, has suffered setbacks. In 2007, an explosion killed three people on the ground and critically injured three others during a ground test in the development of a rocket engine.

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Berlin Airport needs a runway and €3.2 billion

Airport bosses want another €3.2 billion to finish off Berlin's scandal-dogged attempt to build a new international airport, according to reports, because it is too small.

Bild am Sonntag reported that Berlin Airport CEO Hartmut Mehdorn wants the money to build a new runway and complete the project which was meant to open in 2012 and cost around €2 billion.

Despite spending €5.4 billion so far, the airport has been built too small. It will have a capacity of 27 million passengers a year. That compares with 90 million a year at London's Heathrow and 65 million at Frankfurt Airport.

The initial plan was to close Berlin's aging airports, Tegel and Schönefeld, when the new one opened. Between them Tegel and Schönefeld are already dealing with more than 26 million passengers a year and that number is growing.

That number would put the overbudget and long-delayed new transport hub at capacity as soon as it opens.

To address that, Mehdorn wants to build a third runway, Bild am Sonntag reported, saying it had seen documents detailing the latest airport costs.

Mehdorn wants to extend the main terminal building for €1.3 billion and build a third runway for €1 billion.

Other costs include €120 million for extending luggage facilities, €130 million for rebuilding the entrance hall and €20 million for a soundproof hangar to test aircraft engines.

Expanding the current runways and taxiways will cost another €430 million.

Less urgent extra costs in the documents include a 60-metre tall flag pole and a statue of Chancellor Willy Brandt, who the airport is named after, for €500,000 each.

The opposition Green Party reacted with anger to the list.  "Madness continues to reign at Berlin Airport," Oliver Krischer, deputy leader of the Greens said. "Whether and how the airport is ever to be operated economically, no one knows."

With huge cost overruns, corruption scandals and no opening date, the airport has long been a national embarrassment. 

An airport spokesman declined to comment on the reports.

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Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo, N339SS, Scaled Composites: Accident occurred October 31, 2014 in Mojave, California

FAA  Flight Standards District Office: FAA Van Nuys FSDO-01 

MOJAVE, Calif.—An improper pilot command preceded the violent in-flight breakup of Virgin Galactic LLC’s experimental rocket ship Friday, according to federal safety investigators probing the fatal accident.

In a press briefing Sunday night, the National Transportation Safety Board said the craft’s co-pilot prematurely deployed movable tail surfaces, which was followed seconds later by the disintegration of the 60-foot-long SpaceShip Two.

The co-pilot died in the accident, and the other pilot was severely injured.

During Sunday’s news conference, acting NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said investigators are still trying to understand reasons for the co-pilot’s actions. “We are a long way from finding cause,” he said.

But with images provided by half a dozen onboard video cameras—and large amounts of data streamed down to the ground before the accident—the safety board already has a good early indication of what transpired.

Mr. Hart said the propulsion system operated normally until the in-flight breakup, and the rocket motor and fuel tanks were found intact in the wreckage.

Without specifically identifying the co-pilot’s actions as the cause of the crash, Mr. Hart told reporters the safety board planned to examine pilot training, the company’s safety culture and whether there was undue pressure on senior officials to accelerate test flights.

The ship’s tail surfaces—called feathers—are designed to be deployed only after the rocket motor is finished burning, to allow the craft to glide to a safe landing. The feathers are supposed to activate only after two separate levers in the cockpit are moved.

But on Friday, Mr. Hart said, the tail surfaces deployed without the second lever being moved.

Investigators haven’t yet interviewed the surviving pilot, who is hospitalized, and it isn’t clear when doctors will give the green light for that to happen.

The safety board also is evaluating recordings of cockpit conversations on the accident flight, but Mr. Hart declined to discuss their contents.

One of the key issues still left unanswered by the board is whether Virgin Galactic, from the beginning, incorporated design safeguards to prevent this type of premature deployment of the feathers, or if protections failed to operate properly.

If it turns out that a structural failure is behind the crash, that could force Virgin Galactic to redesign large portions of the rocket ship—a potentially more arduous and time-consuming task for the company than altering the engine. In theory, it could affect the size of the craft and the number of passengers it can carry.

The disaster, coupled with the explosion earlier last week of an unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp. cargo rocket destined for the international space station, has set back the ambitious timetables embraced by space-tourism proponents and other commercial ventures seeking to get beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Some in the industry predict difficulties obtaining additional private-equity funding for startup ventures, while others worry about nagging propulsion problems and public confidence.

“Recent events bring home the reality that we’re in a very dangerous phase” of pursuing space activities relying on the private sector, said Howard McCurdy, a space history expert at American University. Launching rockets and vehicles “is always a very risky business,” he said, and no amount of ground tests “can duplicate the aerodynamic stresses and other conditions” of actual space flight.

Virgin Galactic had initially hoped to start commercial service by 2008, but persistent development and testing challenges have repeatedly pushed back the date. Before the accident, company officials were talking about inaugurating service by early 2015, with company founder Sir Richard Branson and members of his family slated to take the first ride. Now, the initial launch date is uncertain because the probe is likely to stretch for many months.

How much the fledgling industry is set back may depend on what investigators determine caused the two accidents. Some industry officials and analysts predict that Virgin Galactic’s fatal mishap may have a long-term residual impact as dramatic as the fallout from the 2003 in-flight breakup of the space shuttle Columbia, which killed all seven crew members.

“It’s clearly bad news for commercial space,” said one veteran industry official affiliated with another commercial space company. “But from the beginning, people recognized a fatal event on some spacecraft was inevitable.”

Late Sunday, Virgin Galactic said it wasn’t “in a position to comment on the incident itself or the test flight,” and directed all questions to the NTSB. The statement also said that safety considerations “guided every decision we have made over the past decade, and any suggestion to the contrary is categorically untrue.”

Earlier Sunday, George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive, defended the company’s safety procedures and indicated that the rocket motor on the craft that crashed was a derivative of a design that had been successfully tested on the ground and in the air for years.

“At the end of the day, safety of our system is paramount,” he said in an interview. “The engineers and the flight-test team have the final authority” to determine when and how experimental flights are conducted.

Virgin Galactic has pledged to cooperate fully with the probe, which also includes experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman Corp. unit that designed and is testing the Virgin crafts—SpaceShip Two and its carrier aircraft, dubbed WhiteKnight Two. The pilots on Friday’s test flight were Scaled Composites employees.

Mr. Whitesides, a former senior NASA official, is in charge of the roughly $500 million project intended to take passengers on suborbital flights for more than $200,000 each. He said last week’s test flight wasn’t rushed. “I strongly reject any assertion that something pushed us to fly when we weren’t ready,” he said.

SpaceShip Two’s fuel tanks and engine were recovered largely intact. The hybrid motor fueled by nitrous oxide and a plastic-based compound were found some 5 miles from where large sections of the tail first hit the ground. Sections of the fuselage, fuel tanks and cockpit were located some distance from the engine itself.

The condition and location of various pieces of the wreckage suggest there was no propulsion-system explosion before the craft started coming apart miles above California’s Mojave Desert, according to air-safety experts who have reviewed the images.

“It’s hard to figure how an engine explosion” could produce such a debris field, said John Cox, an industry consultant and former accident investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association.

The rocket ship was equipped with six onboard video cameras and many sensors feeding data to the ground. The flight also was followed by radar, and was filmed from the ground and by a plane flying close by.

SpaceShip Two’s rocket motor received considerable attention immediately after the accident. Industry officials and news reports concentrated on the fact that it was burning a new type of plastic-based fuel for the first time in flight.

The closely held company struggled through years of propulsion problems before switching to the redesigned engine and reformulated fuel in May. The previous engine, which burned a rubber-based fuel, produced unexpected vibrations and inadequate power to blast SpaceShip Two and its anticipated eight occupants 62 miles above the Earth.

The new engine-fuel combination was tested on the ground about a dozen times in the months leading up to Friday’s flight.

The Virgin Galactic team also had struggled with flight-control problems. In 2011, chief pilot David Mackay told The Wall Street Journal that during one unpowered test glide to Earth, the twin tails of SpaceShipTwo stalled and the craft descended more quickly than normal.

On Sunday, Mr. Whitesides said the 2011 incident was the only major flight-control problem Virgin Galactic encountered. He said engineers had fixed “the tail stall via a modification” to a control surface.