Friday, November 21, 2014

Future of helicopter tourism over Hudson River uncertain as group, pols push for ban

Helicopter tourism along the Hudson River isn't going away, at least not yet.

Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sat down with members of a New York and New Jersey delegation advocating for residents who want to ban helicopter tours in New York and on the Hudson River.

In attendance were U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, both of New York, as well as representatives from the offices of Sen. Robert Menendez and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires.

Robert Gottheim, the district director for Nadler, said that de Blasio heard their argument and understands that they want a ban on helicopter tours. However, there is no timetable for a resolution and the anti-helicopter group is in "wait and see" mode, Gottheim added.

For Stop the Chop co-founder and Hoboken resident Brian Wagner, that isn't good enough.

"de Blasio keeps digging himself in a deeper hole. It's that kind of lackadaisical attitude that is bringing this thing to a head," said Wagner, whose group contends the helicopters raise quality of life and safety concerns. "He's apparently been dubbed the chronically tardy mayor because he is afraid of making a decision, just like with the horseless carriage industry. His main concern is loss of jobs."

Wagner says de Blasio has the authority to terminate the city's contract with Saker Aviation -- the owner of the helicopter tour companies that operate out of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport -- at any time because the property is owned by the city.

Ian Fried, a spokesman for the New York City Economic Development Corporation released a statement on behalf of de Blasio's office in which he said the city is evaluating the issue and working with elected officials and community groups to find the right solution.

Fried pointed to statistics that contend there has been an 80 percent drop in complaints within the city's purview regarding helicopters since it implemented the Helicopter Sightseeing Plan in 2010. He said 86 percent of noise complaints received across New York City were regarding helicopters outside of the city's purview, including emergency services, news, charter and other kinds of flights.

Wagner says the number of complaints filed is diminished due to the fact that New Jersey residents cannot file complaints on the New York help line. Meanwhile, Wagner says on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, choppers fly at a lowered height of 900 feet due to FAA regulations.

"People will say when you move along the waterfront you know it's urban," said Wagner. "But while most sounds go away, those mechanical buzzards go all day, all the time."

Delia von Neuschtaz, who co-founded Stop the Chop with Wagner, lives in Battery Park City, roughly five minutes from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport and claims that on a clear day a helicopter passes by every two minutes.

"It's like living in the opening sequence of M.A.S.H. day in and day out."

According to von Neuschatz, the helicopter tour industry has little to no impact on the New York City economy. She added that the roughly 300 jobs the industry creates are in New Jersey, as the helicopter companies store all their choppers in a Kearny facility.

Helicopters Matter, a coalition comprised of helicopter industry players advocating against helicopter air traffic regulation, find the claims of Stop the Chop to be unfounded. The group states that only 13 complaints were filed against New York City helicopter traffic this summer, which they perceive to be a low number.

"As a military veteran and pilot for over two decades, this job allows
me -- and hundreds of others like me -- to provide for our families," said Patrick Day, Helicopters Matter spokesman and pilot. "Beyond our own jobs, air tours generate tens of millions of dollars for the Tri-state area, monies that go towards myriad public services that benefit millions of residents, including those along the Hudson River."

This summer, a number of Hudson County mayors joined Menendez on the Hoboken waterfront in support of a ban on helicopter tourism. Sires too has long championed a ban on tourist helicopters.

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

Government questions fraud judgment against CEO seeking daily Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport (KYNG) flights

WASHINGTON -

The U.S. Department of Transportation wants answers to some questions before deciding if it will give a stamp of approval to an airline that has applied to provide daily flights between Youngstown Warren Regional Airport and O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

A letter from Lauralyn Remo, Chief of the DOT'S Air Carrier Fitness Division, asks the legal counsel for Aerodynamics Incorporated for information and an update on the status of a civil lawsuit filed last year in federal court against ADI CEO Scott Beale.

A jury found in favor of one of Beale's former business partners who claimed he was defrauded by Beale. The jury awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $500,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $100,000.

In October, the judge hearing the case threw out a request by Beale to throw out the judgment as excessive.

DOT is asking ADI for a copy of the original complaint filed in the case, as well as the judgment and the status of the case.

Chief Remo points out in her letter that this is a second attempt by the DOT to obtain information on Beale's legal case.

The letter from DOT notes that the documents requested pertain directly to the compliance disposition of one of ADI's key personnel.

The government has an obligation to determine if the company has access to resources sufficient to begin operations without posing a risk to consumers.

The letter from DOT also asks for citizenship information for ADI's Chief Inspector Robert Anderson, Chief Pilot R.K. Smithley, and Director of Maintenance Matthew Moreau.

The DOT also asks for the status of an FAA investigation simply identified with the number 2015SO65002.

ADI has fifteen days to respond to the request from DOT.

The public is permitted to file comments on ADI's application for service. According to the online federal database, two comments have been filed, but only one can be accessed by the public.

The anonymous posting claims it was submitted on behalf of “various interested entities,” and questions the financial stability of Aerodynamics Incorporated. The unknown author claims that the agreement between ADI and the airport will place consumers at risk.

The air carrier pointed out in a previous filing that it is assured a 5% profit margin on the Youngstown Warren Regional Airport service under a $1.2 million revenue guarantee provided by the airport, the Western Reserve Port Authority, Mahoning County, Trumbull County, various private sector corporations and YNGAir Partners, a nonprofit organization providing community based support for the airport.

ADI summed up the guarantee by asserting, “Such assurance is unheard of in the context of certificate applications, which ordinarily involve a significant commercial risk on the part of the applicant. By virtue of the revenue guarantee, ADI's initial pattern of scheduled service will be essentially risk-free.”

Local airport officials have expressed confidence that ADI will pass DOT inspection, and predict that flights could begin in March.

- Source:  http://www.wfmj.com

Drone Nearly Collides With Medical Helicopter: Schuylkill County Joe Zerbey Airport (KZER), Pottsville, Pennsylvania

Foster Township, Schuylkill County -- A Life Flight helicopter pilot avoided a catastrophe, when a drone nearly collided with the chopper as it flew above the Schuylkill County Joe Zerbey Airport.

A spokesperson for Geisinger Health System said no patients were on board when it happened, but the incident is drawing attention to the safety of drones.

Lee DeAngelis is a drone enthusiast from Lackawanna County. The pilot involved in this close encounter reached out to him about proper drone protocol.

DeAngelis said as the price drops, the number of drones will only go up, and one disaster could ruin the hobby for those who fly the aircraft responsibly.

He said he self-regulates his flights, staying away from airports and getting permission from authorities.

DeAngelis has three quick tips for anyone thinking about investing in the new technology: read the manuals, know the rules, and use common sense.


Story:   http://www.pahomepage.com

American Airlines unit to transfer 50 regional aircraft, cut jobs

(Reuters) - American Airlines Group Inc  subsidiary Envoy Air plans to transfer at least 50 Embraer 145  aircraft to other regional carriers beginning in early 2015 in a move that will lead to job cuts, according to an internal letter reviewed by Reuters.

American said it decided to transfer the aircraft because the number of pilots at Envoy has dwindled in recent months. The move is the latest setback for the regional carrier since it announced about 50 other job cuts last month.

"Given the number of Envoy pilots flowing through to American each month or leaving due to normal attrition, Envoy will not have the pilots we need to fly our 2015 schedule," Kenji Hashimoto, American's senior vice president of regional carriers, said in the letter.

"Without a cost-effective pilot agreement in place, Envoy will not secure new jets and faces challenges in recruiting new pilots without the promise of a renewed fleet," he added.

Envoy pilots rejected a labor contract in March.

While baggage handlers, ticket and gate agents will keep their jobs, Envoy will likely fire some maintenance workers, according to a spokesperson at American who asked not to be named. It was not immediately clear how the news would impact flight attendants.

One of American's other regional subsidiaries, Piedmont Airlines, will receive at least 20 of the transferred aircraft. Trans States Airlines and a second contractor yet to be announced will receive the remaining jets, the letter said.

- Source:  http://www.reuters.com

Turboprop planes at San Luis County Regional Airport (KSBP) to be replaced with jets

SkyWest Airlines, which operates daily flights out of San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, is removing all of its turboprop aircraft from service and replacing them with regional jets.

Skywest Inc. aims to "improve SkyWest's overall efficiency and long-term profitability," according to a statement released by the Utah-based company. As well, the company noted that retirement of the 30-seat Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia fleet is due in part to "increased costs and challenges associated with new (FAA) FAR117 flight and duty rules." The rules, implemented in January 2014, were established to give commercial pilots more rest between flights in an effort to combat fatigue.

"The way the aircraft and the crews are scheduled, the costs have increased," said Marissa Snow, spokeswoman for SkyWest. "And there are maintenance costs as these aircraft age. There is definitely an evolution toward larger aircraft."

The transition to 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 jets is expected to be complete by May 2015.

It's not yet known how Skywest's decision will impact service at the San Luis Obispo airport. However, SkyWest plans to work closely with airport administration "on fleet availability and what that may mean for San Luis Obispo specifically in terms of jet service potential," Snow said.

SkyWest, which currently operates 44 turboprop aircraft, has six flights daily to Los Angeles and five to San Francisco out of the San Luis Obispo airport. SkyWest Airlines operates as United Express, Delta Connection, American Eagle and US Airways Express under contractual agreements with their respective airlines. It also operates flights for Alaska Airlines.

SkyWest serves markets in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean and has a fleet of about 751 regional aircraft.

"We've been in SLO since 1986, and we have a strong partnership with the community," Snow said. "We're just evaluating fleet availability right now."

Kevin Bumen, general manager of the San Luis Obispo airport, said more information should be available from SkyWest in the next few weeks. But he sees the larger planes as a passenger enhancement.

"It's a big event for the airport," he said. "It's the first time we'll have all-jet air service here. … It’s a significant step for the airport and the airlines.”

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

Hot air balloon wraps itself around light pole at Aranda oval

A hot air balloon wrapped itself around a light pole at Aranda Playing Fields while landing, causing minor damage to the balloon but left 16 passengers and its pilot uninjured.

ACT firefighters had to come and cut down the balloon which had been finishing its journey when an unexpected gust of wind blew it into the pole.

Pilot Richard Gillespie said the journey had originally taken off from Kings Park, near the National Carillon, and had enjoyed a beautiful day before coming into land at Aranda.

"Unfortunately just as we touched down on the ground, the balloon slightly turned right and gift wrapped the light pole, so it just snagged the side of the balloon as we were coming into land," he said.

"We were on the ground as it snagged, so there were no injuries, no passengers were hurt or anything, but unfortunately it has damaged the balloon a little bit."

Mr Gillespie said ACT firefighters had used a nine-metre ladder to climb up the light pole and cut one the balloon's straps which had become tangled around the pole.

"I've seen it happen before," he said.

"It's pretty rare but I have seen balloons snag things. It doesn't happen regularly at all but it's something that can happen."

Mr Gillespie said he had been flying balloons for about 20 years, seven of those in Canberra, and nothing like this had ever happened before.

"I've probably flown over Canberra probably 2000 times I guess, something like that," he said.

Mr Gillespie said, despite the odd landing, all the passengers left happy and satisfied.

"It sort of made for an exciting ending to their flight," he said.

- Source:  http://www.canberratimes.com.au


Embraer EMB-500 Phenom 100, JetSuite, N584JS: Accident occurred November 21, 2014 in Sugarland, Texas

http://registry.faa.gov/N584JS

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Houston FSDO-09

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA057
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 21, 2014 in Sugarland, TX
Aircraft: EMBRAER-EMPRESA BRASILEIRA DE EMB-500, registration: N584JS
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

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 have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On November 21, 2014, about 1010 Central Standard Time, an Embraer Phenom EMB-500 airplane, N584JS, over ran the runway after landing at the Sugar Land Regional Airport (SGR), Houston, Texas. The airline transport rated pilots were not injured and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was operated by Superior Air Charter, LLC, Irvine, California, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a positioning flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from the William P Hobby airport (HOU), Houston, Texas.

According to the crewmembers, the purpose of the flight was to reposition the airplane from HOU to SGR. After departing HOU the flight received vectors from air traffic control, who also told the pilots to expect the ILS 35 approach at SGR. The first officer reported that the SGR tower controller cleared the flight to land and that there was no standing water on the runway. During the approach, the first officer noted that there was a tailwind of 15 knots that decreased to 9 knots on touch down.

After landing, the captain, who was flying the airplane, applied the brakes which were unresponsive. She then pulled the emergency brakes twice, but the airplane continued past the end of the runway and onto a grassy area. The airplane then crossed a service road and came to rest in a drainage ditch. The airplane's empennage section was partially submerged by water and the airplane faced the opposite direction of travel.  


The airplane was recovered for further examination.




Two pilots of a small corporate jet walked away after their plane skidded off the runway and ended up in a creek.

The aircraft, an Embrarer Phenom, landed at Sugar Land Regional Airport at 10:13 a.m, but then had trouble stopping, according to spokesperson Patricia Pollicoff.

As the runway was ending, Pollicoff said the pilot attempted to make a U-turn to keep the plane on the pavement. But it slid tail-end first off the runway and into nearby Oyster Creek.

Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the incident.

Local pilots immediately had their own questions about what happened, like why the plane landed with a tailwind given the wet runway conditions.

"We always try to land into the wind," said pilot Mark Lasch.

"The fact that he landed with the wind, you need much more braking distance because you're coming in much hotter, much faster, so I'm sure that had something to do with it," Lasch said.

It isn't the first Embraer corporate jet to skid off a rain-soaked runway. Another aircraft slid into the grass at the end of a Conroe Regional Airport runway in September.

Sources close to the investigation told KHOU 11 News that investigators will be looking into the braking ability of these types of aircraft in light of the two incidents.

Pilot instructor Eric Newman said wet runways are always a concern for aircraft with wheel-braking systems, rather than reverse-engine thrusters.

"Usually on a wet runway we like to multiply the distance by two to make sure we have enough runway to land," Newman said.

"If the book says it's going to take 2500 feet to stop we'll say we're going to need 5,000 feet to stop on a wet runway," Newman said.

Pollicoff said the pilot and co-pilot walked away after the landing with no injuries. According to FlightAware, the aircraft was coming from Hobby Airport and landed in Sugarland reportedly to pick up a passenger.

As of press time, the Embraer Phenom jet was still stuck in the creek, with no word on how long it would take to pull out and haul away.

The owner, a firm out of Utah, will have to pay for the removal according to an FAA spokesperson.

- Story and Video:  http://www.khou.com


SUGAR LAND, Texas - A small plane skidded off the runway while trying to land at Sugar Land Municipal Airport, police said. 

 Sugar Land police said the plane slid off the end of the runway and spun around backwards, landing tail end-first into a creek.

The plane had taken off from Hobby airport in Houston.   Police say the woman flying the plane and her passenger who is also a pilot were not hurt in the accident.

Firefighters from the Sugar Land fire department responded along with Sugar Land police. Spokesperson Doug Adolph says there were no hazardous spills, but booms were placed in the creek as a precautionary measure.

At around 1:50 p.m. the runway was reopened and the plane was removed.

The FAA and NTSB will conduct an investigation to see what caused the accident.

Story and Comments:  http://www.click2houston.com

People Express fees still unpaid; Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (KPHF) officials mull next step

People Express has not yet paid the roughly $100,000 in passenger facility charges it owes Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport.

The Peninsula Airport Commission has not yet decided what action to take regarding the unpaid fees, but airport executive director Ken Spirito hopes to have a decision by the end of the year, he said.

"We have gotten no communication from (People Express officials) and they have not paid anything," Spirito said Friday.

The commission met in closed session for more than an hour Friday, mostly to seek legal advice. It has not yet come to a decision on legal action, nor whether to cancel its subsidy agreement with People Express, Spirito said.

The commission agreed to subsidize People Express flights to Newark, N.J. and Boston by covering some of the operating costs of Vision Airlines, which operated the service for People Express. The airline suspended service Sept. 26 when the second of its two planes went out of service.

The money the airline owes the airport has already been collected from passengers and is supposed to be given to the airport to help finance construction and improvements, Spirito told the Daily Press earlier this month.

The commission gave People Express notice to leave the airport terminal Nov. 10.


- Source:  http://www.dailypress.com

Man drives onto runway, leaving passenger plane circling and running out of fuel

A KLM passenger flight that was due to land was left with just seven minutes to find a different airfield or risk running out of fuel  

A car thief who ploughed through a fence and on to an airport runway, forcing a passenger plane to circle above as its fuel levels ran low, has been jailed.

Matthew Dobson was sentenced to three years and eight months at Grimsby Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to burglary, driving offenses and a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft.

The court heard how his "bizarre" crime spree began in August, when he stole the keys to a Renault Clio from a house in Grimsby and drove off, leaving the car's owner locked in her property.

He then led police on a high-speed chase through peak-hour traffic towards Humberside Airport, where he crashed through mesh fencing and on to the runway.

A KLM passenger flight that was due to land was forced to circle 20 miles from the airport.

It was eventually allowed to land at Humberside with just seven minutes left before it would have had to divert to another airport.

The airport was put on high alert, implementing the same protocol as a terrorist attack, and was forced to stop all aircraft taking off and landing there on August 5 this year.

Back on the ground, Dobson, 40, from Grimsby, drove down the main runway at speeds of about 80mph before coming to rest in a field.

There he abandoned the car and lay in the grass in a bid to hide himself, prosecutors said. When challenged, Dobson claimed to be a farmer.

Dobson was high on amphetamine when he stole the car from Marilyn Todd, 62, of Grimsby, in the early hours of the morning, the court heard

Police spotted Dobson and chased him through the town, but lost him.

He was next spotted by security officer Amanda Downing at a checkpoint near where aircraft are boarded, loaded and refuelled.

He was repeatedly sounding the car's horn and shouting to be let through.

Jeremy Evans, prosecuting, said: “He was described as agitated and at first the security officer believed he could have been the owner of a dog that had been observed on the airfield earlier that morning.

“The defendant was told he was not allowed access but before he could be engaged in further conversation he began reversing the vehicle.

“Amanda Downing believed the defendant was about to turn his vehicle around, however, she heard the revving of the engine and saw that he was driving towards the gatehouse.

“The defendant had proceeded to drive through the metal mesh fencing at the side of the gatehouse and onto the apron before accessing the runway.”

He was then seen hurtling towards the runway and the alarm was raised by air traffic control.

Dobson drove the car at 60mph, with his hazard lights flashing, across the apron and towards an offshore helicopter that was taking off.

The helicopter, which was carrying 11 passengers, was 30 feet from the ground, with its nose pointing downwards, preparing to accelerate forwards.

Dobson drove the car underneath the helicopter, which was traveling in the same direction.

He then sped down the full length of the runway, before driving off the end, crashing through a fence, hitting a bank and flying through the air. The car came to a rest in a field.

Mr Evans said: “The defendant drove the vehicle at approximately 80mph along the main runway.

“He continued to drive off the runway and the vehicle left the ground before coming to a rest in a field.

“The defendant ran from the vehicle and was later found lying down in the grass in a futile attempt to conceal himself.

"(He) initially denied any knowledge of the presence of a car and stated he was a farmer.

“He appeared agitated and under the influence of intoxicant.”

Katya Saudek, defending, described it as an "unusual and bizarre" case which happened after his life "spiraled out of control".

Sentencing Dobson, Recorder Andrew Dallas said: "In short, you caused a highly dangerous situation which could have been catastrophic in a number of different ways."

- Source:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk


 
 Matthew Dobson was jailed for three years and eight months at Grimsby Crown Court today after pleading guilty to burglary, driving offenses and a charge of recklessly endangering an aircraft.

Vans RV-4, N639JH: Accident occurred November 21, 2014 at Mid Valley Airpark (E98), Los Lunas, New Mexico

NTSB Identification: CEN15CA058
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 21, 2014 in Los Lunas, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/12/2015
Aircraft: MCCRARY BOBBY C JR RV 4, registration: N639JH
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Uninjured.

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

The pilot reported the approach and landing were normal, and he used right rudder to compensate for a left crosswind. During the landing roll the pilot's left foot slid off the rudder pedal and the airplane began to veer to the right. When he moved his foot back on the rudder pedal, he inadvertently applied the left brake. The pilot added right rudder to compensate; however, the airplane traveled off the left side of the runway. The pilot added power in an attempt to avoid a ditch alongside the runway, but the airplane contacted the ditch and nosed over resulting in substantial damage to the fuselage and wings. The pilot reported that there were no mechanical failures/malfunctions of the airplane.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot inadvertently applied the left brake during the landing roll which resulted in a loss of directional control and subsequent impact with terrain.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Albuquerque FSDO-01

http://registry.faa.gov/N639JH

LOS LUNAS — Authorities say one person was injured after a small plane flipped over while landing at the Mid Valley Airpark in Los Lunas. 

New Mexico State Police say the right tire of the fixed wing plane gave way while the pilot was landing the single-engine aircraft Friday morning.

They say that caused the plane to leave the runway and it ran into an irrigation ditch before flipping onto its roof.

Police say the woman passenger was taken to a hospital with undisclosed injuries, but man piloting the plane wasn’t injured.

The names of the pilot and passenger weren’t immediately released.

Story:  http://www.abqjournal.com

LOS LUNAS -- A single-engine plane crashed while landing at the Mid Valley Airpark in Los Lunas Friday morning, injuring one passenger, New Mexico State Police confirmed.

According to Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez, the right tire of the fixed-wing aircraft gave way while the pilot was landing, causing the plane to leave the runway, collide with an irrigation ditch and flip over onto its roof.

State police said the plane was occupied by a male pilot and a female passenger. The passenger was injured and taken to the hospital, according to Gutierrez.

Story:  http://www.kob.com





Piper PA-24-250 Comanche, N7428P: Fatal accident occurred November 21, 2014 in Garberville, California

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA045
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 21, 2014 in Garberville, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/23/2016
Aircraft: PIPER PA 24-250, registration: N7428P
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

The private pilot was conducting a routine cross-country flight to the destination airport. The pilot had conducted this same flight once a month for the previous 5 years to serve as a community rural doctor. Numerous witnesses reported observing the airplane maneuvering toward the airport at a very low altitude just below the cloud layer. Several witnesses near the accident site stated that they did not hear any engine noise. The airplane impacted a tree about 2,260 ft short of the approach end of the runway and came to rest in a river, partially resting on a gravel/sand embankment. Following the accident, the water level quickly rose, nearly submerging the entire airframe. Although a postaccident examination revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures, the extent of the damage sustained during the collision and the water immersion precluded a detailed determination of the engine and fuel system preimpact condition, settings, and functionality. One of the three propeller blades was bent aft about 80 degrees near the blade root, but the other two blades were undamaged. Based on this minimal damage and the witnesses’ accounts of not hearing engine noise, it is likely that the engine experienced a loss of power while the pilot was on approach to the airport. 

Fuel was found in the fuel lines forward of the firewall; therefore, it is unlikely that fuel exhaustion or starvation occurred. The fuel mixture cable was found disconnected from the mixture arm on the carburetor. Given the minimal damage to the mixture arm and that it was not spring-loaded to any position, it is possible that the cable became disconnected in flight and adversely affected the engine operation. However, there was insufficient evidence to determine when the cable became disconnected or whether or when it affected the engine operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined due to extensive damage sustained during the collision and postaccident water immersion. 

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On November 21, 2014, about 1000 Pacific standard time, a Piper Aircraft PA-24-250 Comanche, N7428P, collided with a tree while on approach to the Garberville Airport, Garberville, California. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The personal flight originated from Cameron Airpark, Cameron Park, California, with a planned destination of Garberville. Unknown meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The purpose of the flight was for the pilot to make the routine 155-nautical-mile (nm) cross-country trip to Garberville, where he would stay for a week duration and serve as the communities' Emergency Room (ER) doctor and the hospital's Medical Director. The pilot would make this trip about once per month and would telephone hospital staff to pick him up after he landed.

There were numerous witnesses who observed the airplane maneuvering toward the airport at a very low altitude just below the cloud layer. Most witnesses estimated the airplane was about 100-200 feet above the tree tops. One witness, located on a hill about 1.5 nm southwest of the airport, stated that the airplane was lower than normal and the engine did not sound as if it was producing full power (quieter than normal). Witnesses closer to the accident site noted that the airplane was not emitting any noise. The witness who was the closest to the impact stated that he heard a loud sound of a tree crashing and ran outside his house. He observed the airplane rotate about a tree and cartwheel into the river below.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

A review of the airmen records maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) disclosed that the pilot, age 59, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and instrument ratings. The pilot's most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on February 20, 2014 with no limitations.

The pilot's personal flight records were not recovered. On his last application for a medical certificate, the pilot reported a total flight time of 2,115 hours, of which 45 were accumulated in the 6 months prior.

The pilot worked as a doctor in the Garberville community for one week a month as part of a rural medicine program. During his stay, he would live in a house furnished for the rotating doctor staff that was located across from the hospital. Almost every month he would fly his airplane into the Garberville airport between 1000 and 1100 and only had to drive two trips in about five years due to inclement weather.

A friend of the pilot reported that she had flown into Garberville with him in the accident airplane. She stated he would fly into any type of weather and when the clouds occluded the airport, the pilot would circle over the area until it would clear up or he would find a hole in the clouds and drop under the layer. When flying into Garberville, he would usually use a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) unit.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The Piper Aircraft PA-24-250 Comanche, serial number (s/n) 24-2616, was manufactured in 1961 and purchased by the pilot in 2012. The low-wing airplane was equipped with four seats, retractable tricycle landing gear, and traditional flight control surfaces. The airplane was equipped with a Lycoming O-540-A1D5, s/n L-5661-40, and, according to the manufacturer, is rated at 250 shaft horse power (SHP). The tachometer at the accident indicated that the airplane had a total time in service of 4,932.86 hours.

Maintenance information was recovered from the pilot's preferred maintenance facility and from his paperwork. The most recent annual inspection of the airframe and engine was recorded as being performed in December 2013, at a total time of 4,832.7 hours. The most recent airframe maintenance recorded was for servicing and repair of the landing gear in September 2013. The most recent engine maintenance recorded was the pilot record of his changing the oil on June 28, 2014 at 4,893.1 hours.

No records could be found of the pilot's fueling history and therefore it could not be established as to when the pilot last refueled or the quantity of fuel onboard at the time of the accident.

A friend of the pilot recalled that sometimes when they were flying together the engine would temporarily quit. The pilot would usually fly one fuel tank completely dry and then switch the fuel tanks when the engine began sputtering. He had had prior problems with the fuel pump and according to the maintenance records, the pump was removed and replaced in September 2012.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A routine aviation weather report (METAR) was generated by an Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) in Fortuna, California, located about 35 miles from Garberville on a heading of about 330 degrees. The 0955 METAR from that station included wind from 120 degrees at 15 knots; a scattered layer of clouds at 3,600 and 4,200; a broken layer of clouds at 5,000; with 9 miles visibility. It recorded the temperature at 52 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 50 degrees Fahrenheit and an altimeter setting of 30.03 inHg.

Witnesses in Garberville reported that there was a low cloud layer at the time of the accident and there was a light rain drizzle.

COMMUNICATIONS

No records were located of the pilot, or a pilot using the airplane's registration number, contacting any Air Traffic Control tower, or Common Traffic Advisory Frequency, during the duration of the flight.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

The Airport/ Facility Directory (AFD), indicated that the Garberville Airport (O16) runway 36 was about 2,780 feet long and 75 feet wide. The runway surface was composed of asphalt. The airport elevation was 550 feet msl. The uncontrolled airport did not have any published instrument approaches. In the remarks section of the AFD was a note "25 ft. trees, 200 ft. from runway, 70 ft. right of centerline." There was 100LL avgas available at all times.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT

The accident site was located in the South Fork Eel River about 2,260 feet south of the approach end of runway 36 at Garberville. The airplane came to rest in the water, partially resting on a gravel/sand embankment. The left wing was separated and entangled in vegetation/debris on the south side of the river. Following the accident, the water level quickly rose, nearly submerging the entire airframe. The first identified point of contact consisted of a tree that contained a large gouge on its south-facing trunk. That gouge was located about 60 to 70 feet above ground level (agl), and about 20 feet below the top of the tree. Numerous branches, and several pieces of airplane debris, were located immediately beneath the tree, consistent with the left wing colliding with the trees prior to descending into the river. A complete pictorial of the wreckage location and surrounding terrain is contained in the public docket for this accident.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The County of Humboldt Coroner completed an autopsy of the pilot. The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) performed toxicological screenings on the pilot. According to CAMI's report (#201400266001) the toxicological findings were negative for carbon monoxide and tested drugs.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The airplane was examined both after being removed from the river and staged at the airport and then at a later date at a recovery facility. A detailed analysis of the engine and fuel system control continuity was not possible due to the extent of the damage sustained during the collision and the water submersion.

Airframe

The right wing was separated for recovery purposes and contained crush damage to the leading edge. The fuel tank on the outboard right wing was found full of fluid consistent with the odor and appearance of avgas. The right flap remained attached and was physically in the retracted position. About six feet outboard from the wing root, the right wing exhibited aft crush damage, and debris was embedded in the wrinkled skin. The wing tip was absent. The left wing was carried downstream and the fuel tanks were breached.

The rudder and vertical stabilizer remained intact. The right horizontal stabilizer sustained crush damage to the tip. The left horizontal stabilizer and attached elevator were creased in a slight downward V-shape. The left horizontal stabilizer tip was absent.

The nose gear appeared retracted and the right main landing gear remained retracted in the wheel well. The landing gear position knob in the cockpit was in the down and locked selection.

Engine

The engine remained attached to the airframe and mounts, with buckling observed on the firewall. An external visual examination of the engine revealed no evidence of pre impact catastrophic mechanical malfunction or fire. Damage was noted on the No. 1 rocker box cover, where crush deformation was observed.

Investigators removed the upper spark plugs of all cylinders and three lower (the lower Nos. 4 and 6 were not able to be removed due to oil filling the cylinders and potential leakage). According to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug AV-27 Chart, the spark plug signatures corresponded to normal engine operation although numerous plugs were coated with oil.

Mechanical continuity was established throughout the rotating group, valve train, and accessory section during hand rotation of the crankshaft. "Thumb" compression was observed in proper order on four of the six cylinders. A subsequent borescope examination of cylinders Nos. 3 and 5, the cylinders that did not yield thumb compressions, revealed post impact foreign debris had been trapped under the valve seats. Additionally, the combustion chamber of each cylinder was examined through the spark plug holes utilizing a lighted borescope. The combustion chambers remained mechanically undamaged, and there was no evidence of foreign object ingestion (pre-impact) or detonation. The valves were intact and undamaged. There was no evidence of valve to piston face contact observed.

The three-bladed constant speed propeller remained attached at the crankshaft flange. The spinner was attached to the propeller and crushed aft. The propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub. One of the three propeller blades was bent aft about 80 degrees near the blade root. The remaining blades were undamaged, consistent with the engine producing little if any power at the time of impact. The propeller governor was securely attached at the mounting pad with the pitch control rod securely attached at the control arm. The governor was removed for examination. The drive was intact and free to rotate by hand.

Fuel System

The cockpit fuel selector handle was positioned on the left main (30 gal) tank. The fuel selector valve could not be accessed due to the damage sustained to the cockpit. The right outboard tank (15 gal right aux) was full with a fluid consistent with smell and appearance of avgas; the right inboard fuel tank was filled with silt and mud. The gascolator had been submerged in river water. Disassembly of the bowl revealed that there were several ounces of fluid consistent with smell an appearance of avgas. Some water and mud residue was also found in the bowl. The filter screen was found free of contamination.

Investigators removed the fuel line from the electric fuel pump to the gascolator, and a fluid consistent with smell and appearance of avgas dribbled out of the line. The line from the mechanical pump to the carburetor contained a similar liquid. The carburetor sustained crush damage and was broken open, having come loose from the engine. The carburetor bowl was breeched and empty. The carburetor heat and throttle cables remained attached to their respective arms on the carburetor and continuity to the cockpit could not be established due to the compromised airframe. The mixture cable was detached from the intact mixture-arm on the carburetor; the hardware could not be located. According to Lycoming, the carburetor is not equipped with a spring-loaded mixture arm. Therefore the arm would stay positioned wherever the linkage became detached, but would be able to vibrate into any position.

There was no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures found during the examination.

http://registry.faa.gov/N7428P

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA045 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 21, 2014 in Garberville, CA
Aircraft: PIPER PA 24-250, registration: N7428P
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

On November 21, 2014, about 1000 Pacific standard time, a Piper Aircraft PA-24-250 Comanche, N7428P, experienced a loss of power and collided with a tree while on approach to the Garberville Airport, Garberville, California. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to, and being operated by, the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The personal flight originated from Cameron Airpark, Cameron Park, California, with a planned destination of Garberville. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The purpose of the flight was for the pilot to make the routine 155-nautical-mile (nm) cross-country trip to Garberville, where he would stay for a week's duration and serve as the communities' Emergency Room (ER) doctor and the hospital's Medical Director. The pilot would make this trip about once per month and would telephone hospital staff to pick him up after he landed (usually between 1000 to 1100).

There were numerous witnesses that observed the airplane maneuvering toward the airport at a very low altitude just below the cloud layer. Most witnesses estimated the airplane was about 100-200 feet above the tree tops. One witness, located on a hill about 1.5 nm southwest of the airport, stated that the airplane was lower than normal and the engine did not sound if it was producing full power (quitter than normal). Witnesses closer to the accident site noted that the airplane was not emitting any noise. The witness that was the closest to the impact stated that he heard a loud sound of a tree crashing and ran outside his house. He observed the airplane rotate about a tree and cartwheel into the river below.

The accident site was located in the South Fork Eel River about 2,260 feet south of the approach end of runway 36 at Garberville. The airplane came to rest in the water partially resting on a gravel/sand embankment. The left wing was separated and entangled in debris on the south side of the river. Following the accident, the water level quickly rose, nearly submerging the entire airframe. The first identified point of contact consisted of a tree that contained a large gouge on the south-facing trunk area located about 60 to 70 feet above ground level (agl), which equated to about 20 feet below the top of the tree. Numerous branches and several pieces of airplane debris were located immediately below the tree, consistent with the left wing colliding with the trees prior to descending into the river.

The wreckage is being retained for further examination.


Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA Oakland FSDO-27

 Any witnesses should email witness@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov.


 
Dr. Douglas Pleatman









Plane Wreckage Lifted From Eel River; Dr. Doug Pleatman Remembered 

The victim in Friday’s crash, 59-year-old Dr. Douglas Pleatman, has been the subject of several profiles by media outlets closer to his primary home. According to the below report produced by ABC News10 out of Sacramento, Pleatman made a monthly aerial commute from his home in El Dorado County to work in the ER at Garberville’s Jerold Phelps Community Hospital. It is also noted that Friday’s was Pleatman’s second plane crash.

The brief bio below comes from the website of the Urgent Care Center of Folsom where Pleatman also worked as an ER doc:

Douglas Pleatman, MD graduated with honors from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He is board certified in both Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine. Having worked in both specialties he feels that Urgent Care is a great combination of both disciplines.

Dr. Pleatman is an instrument-rated private pilot, flies a Piper Comanche and is a member of the Sheriff’s Air Squadron. He is also a national champion skydiver and a former member of a professional air show team. He has been scuba diving in the South Pacific, Asia, the Caribbean and enjoys travel.

http://lostcoastoutpost.com

http://registry.faa.gov/N7428P

Friday’s small plane crash in rural Humboldt County killed an emergency room physician who was commuting to work from his home in El Dorado County.

 Douglas Todd Pleatman, 59, of Cameron Park was the pilot and sole occupant of the plane that crashed into the South Fork of the Eel River near Garberville, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office said in a news release.

Pleatman was the chief emergency room doctor at Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville, the agencies said. Garberville is a community of about 900 residents along Highway 101.

Pleatman regularly commuted to his job there by airplane, the agencies said.

He lived in Cameron Park, a community in El Dorado County near Highway 50 where some residents are airplane commuters.

Public records show Pleatman lived in Cameron Airpark Estates, a community adjacent to an airport where wide streets double as taxiways and oversized garages serve as airplane hangars.

No one answered the phone at Pleatman’s house Saturday. A neighbor reached by the Bee declined to comment.

Humboldt County officials did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

State medical-license records show Pleatman also worked at the Urgent Care Center of Folsom.

The center’s website features a photograph of Pleatman, a trim man with gray hair and mustache, along with a brief biography.

“Dr. Pleatman is an instrument-rated private pilot, flies a Piper Comanche and is a member of the Sheriff’s Air Squadron,” it says. “He is also a national champion skydiver and a former member of a professional air show team.”

A Piper PA-24-250, made in 1961 and commonly known as a Comanche, was registered to Pleatman, at an address in Central Point, Ore., in 2012.

A Eureka newspaper, the Times-Standard, shows a photo of the partially submerged, red-and-white plane in the Eel River and quotes local law enforcement officials as saying it would remain there until federal investigators arrive.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, the sheriff’s office said in its statement.

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




Dr. Pleatman got his pilot's license in 1991. "I didn't know that I was going to do much with it, except that it seemed like fun," he said. "I didn't know it would morph into anything other than a $100 hamburger with friends on weekends. I never thought I'd be flying to work, ever."

It takes him 80-90 minutes to fly from his home to Garberville, and he has only had to drive rather than fly because of weather once in the three-and-a-half years he's worked here. 

Read more here: http://www.redwoodtimes.com 



 Coroner: Plane crash victim was chief ER doctor at Garberville hospital

The following is a press release issued by the Humboldt County Coroner's Office:

The Humboldt County Coroner's Office along with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and the Southern Humboldt Tactical Rescue Team recovered the body from the aircraft that crashed in the South Fork of the Eel River on Sprowel Creek Road in Garberville on Friday afternoon.

The pilot and sole occupant of the plane was identified as 59-year-old Dr. Douglas Todd Pleatman. 


Dr. Pleatman is a resident of Cameron Park, CA.

Dr. Pleatman is the Chief Emergency Room Doctor at Phelps Hospital in Garberville.


Dr. Pleatman commutes to the hospital by plane on a regular basis. 

The accident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.

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


A single-engine airplane apparently lost power and crashed into the South Fork Eel River near Kimtu west of Garberville, at about 10:15 a.m. today. Emergency personnel at the scene reported that the single occupant, an older white man, was deceased. 

 Witnesses in the Kimtu area reported seeing the plane circling above the area but heard no sounds of the engine. Chester Clark, a resident of Kimtu, said that the wing of the plane hit a tree and sheared off, causing the plane to cartwheel down and smash into the river.

Redway Fire, Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and Cal Fire all responded to the scene.

The FAA was notified and were responding.

Earlier story:

A plane with one occupant crashed in Garberville a little after 10 a.m. today.

The single-engine Piper PA24 crashed for unknown reasons in rainy and foggy conditions near the west end of Camp Kimtu Road in Garberville around 10:20 a.m., according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office is responding and California Highway Patrol has several units on the scene setting up perimeter security, according to CHP Officer Patrick Bourassa.

Story:  http://www.times-standard.com

UPDATE, 11:27 a.m.: LoCO correspondent Emily Hobelmann is at the scene of the crash. According to Sheriff’s Office deputy Moore, sometime around 10:20 a.m. the single-engine Piper PA24 hit a tree and lost a wing before crashing. The plane’s only occupant has died.

It is believed that FAA officials may not be able to make it to the site until tomorrow. It is expected that the river’s level will have risen two feet by that time.

A nearby resident, Chester Clark, said he heard the plane hit the tree then looked out his window to see the plane cartwheel down to the ground.

Original Post: A credible call in to LoCO‘s sister radio station KWPT The Point indicates that a plane has crashed near Sprowl Creek in SoHum.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office public information officer is apparently not in today, so we have very few details at this time but should know more soon.

Story and Comments:  http://lostcoastoutpost.com



















Piper PA-28-181 Archer, N2204Q, Rocky Mountain Flight School: Accident occurred November 20, 2014 in Strasburg, Colorado

G & M AIRCRAFT INC: http://registry.faa.gov/N2204Q

NTSB Identification: CEN15CA055
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, November 20, 2014 in Strasburg, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/11/2015
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-181, registration: N2204Q
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

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

The pilot reported that the airplane was operated on a visual flight rules night flight. He estimated that the airplane had about 30 to 32 gallons of fuel prior to departure from the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (BJC), Denver, Colorado, about 1825 mst. During the flight, intermittent electrical issues were experienced including static in the headsets, flickering instrument panel lights and a fluctuating ammeter gauge. Attempts were made to alleviate the electrical issues to no avail. A touch and go landing was made at the Kit Carson Airport (ITR), Burlington, Colorado, and a decision was made to shorten the flight and return to the departure airport. The pilot reported that the fuel gauges indicated that the airplane had about 8 gallons remaining in each fuel tank about his time. After 20 minutes had elapsed from the departure from ITR, the fuel gauges showed empty. About 2035 mst, the engine stopped producing power and the pilot switched to the opposite fuel tank. The engine restarted and the flight continued for about 4 to 5 more minutes when the engine again stopped producing power. During the forced landing attempt the airplane struck wires and subsequently impacted the ground. The pilot and the flight instructor stated that the airplane's fuel load prior to departure should have been sufficient for a flight of about 3 hours. The total duration of the accident flight was about 2.25 hours. Examination of the airplane subsequent to the accident revealed no fuel remaining in either wing tank. There was no evidence of a fuel spill and no preimpact anomalies were found with respect to the airplane's fuel system. The pilot reported that the accident could have been prevented by ordering more fuel prior to departure or obtaining fuel at ITR. Based on the available information, it is likely that the airplane's fuel supply was exhausted resulting in a complete loss of engine power. It is also possible that the observed fuel gauge reading were innacurate given the electrical problems encountered during the flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The exhaustion of the fuel supply resulting in a complete loss of engine power.

The pilot reported that the airplane was operated on a visual flight rules night flight. He estimated that the airplane had about 30 to 32 gallons of fuel prior to departure from the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (BJC), Denver, Colorado, about 1825 mst . During the flight, intermittent electrical issues were experienced including static in the headsets, flickering instrument panel lights and a fluctuating ammeter gauge. Attempts were made to alleviate the electrical issues to no avail. A touch and go landing was made at the Kit Carson Airport (ITR), Burlington, Colorado, and a decision was made to shorten the flight and return to the departure airport. The pilot reported that the fuel gauges indicated that the airplane had about 8 gallons remaining in each fuel tank about his time. After 20 minutes had elapsed from the departure from ITR, the fuel gauges showed empty. About 2035 mst, the engine stopped producing power and the pilot switched to the opposite fuel tank. The engine restarted and the flight continued for about 4 to 5 more minutes when the engine again stopped producing power. During the forced landing attempt the airplane struck wires and subsequently impacted the ground. The pilot and the flight instructor stated that the airplane's fuel load prior to departure should have been sufficient for a flight of about 3 hours. The total duration of the accident flight was about 2.25 hours. Examination of the airplane subsequent to the accident revealed no fuel remaining in either wing tank. There was no evidence of a fuel spill and no preimpact anomalies were found with respect to the airplane's fuel system. The pilot reported that the accident could have been prevented by ordering more fuel prior to departure or obtaining fuel at ITR. The airplane was equipped with electrically powered fuel level gauges and electrical fuel level sending units. Federal Aviation Administration regulations for visual flights during night conditions require carriage of sufficient fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and an additional 45 minutes. Based on the available information, it is likely that the airplane's fuel supply was exhausted resulting in a complete loss of engine power. It is also possible that the observed fuel gauge readings during the flight were innacurate given the electrical problems encountered during the flight.

Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA Denver FSDO-03

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — Two people were were taken to a hospital after the plane they were in flipped upside down in a field while trying to make an emergency landing Thursday night.

The Adams County Sheriff’s Office said the pilot reported the plane had engine failure about 8:40 p.m.

The pilot tried to land on a roadway at 38th Avenue and Headline Road northeast of Strasburg, about 12 miles east of Front Range Airport.

The single-engine plane hit some power lines and as the plane touched down, it flipped upside down, stopping in a field.

The pilot and a passenger were taken to a hospital as a precaution, but neither reported any injuries, the sheriff’s office said.

The Federal Aviation Administration will begin an investigation Friday.

Several roads in the area are closed because of the downed power lines and there are some localized power outages.

Crews were working to restore the power, and the roads will remain closed until the repairs are made sometime mid- to late Friday morning.





Cirrus SR22, N122ES, Graeves Auto & Appliance Inc. and Robinson R44 Raven II, N7518Q, Advanced Helicopter Concepts, Inc: Accident occurred October 23, 2014 near Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), Maryland

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA025A 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 23, 2014 in Frederick, MD
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N122ES
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA025B
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 23, 2014 in Frederick, MD
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N7518Q
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

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

The private airplane pilot was conducting a personal cross-country flight, and the commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor were conducting a local instructional flight. A review of radar and voice communications revealed that the accident airplane pilot first contacted the nonradar-equipped tower when the airplane was 10 miles from the airport and that the local controller (LC) then acknowledged the pilot’s transmission and instructed him to contact the tower when he was 3 miles from the airport. At this time, the LC was also handling two helicopters in the traffic pattern, one airplane conducting practice instrument approaches to a runway that intersected the runway assigned to the accident airplane, another airplane inbound from the southeast, and a business jet with its instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance on request. About 1 minute after the accident airplane pilot first contacted the LC, the LC began handling the accident helicopter and cleared it for takeoff. One minute later, the controller issued the business jet pilot an IFR clearance. When the accident airplane was 3 miles from the airport, the pilot reported the airplane’s position to the controller, but the controller missed the call because she was preoccupied with the clearance read-back from the business jet pilot. About 1 minute later, the controller instructed the accident airplane pilot to enter the left downwind leg of the traffic pattern on a 45-degree angle and issued a landing clearance. She advised that there were three helicopters “below” the airplane in the traffic pattern, and the pilot replied that he had two of the helicopters in sight. Data downloaded from the airplane and witnesses on the ground and in the air indicated that, as the airplane entered the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, it flew through the accident helicopter’s rotor system at the approximate point where the helicopter would have turned left from the crosswind to the downwind leg. Because of a specific advisory transmitted on the tower radio frequency advising of traffic on the downwind, the pilot of each accident aircraft was or should have been aware of the other. A witness in the helicopter directly behind the accident helicopter had a similar field of view as the accident helicopter, and he reported that he acquired both accident aircraft in his scan before the collision. Given this statement and that the accident helicopter had two commercial pilots in the cockpit, the pilots should have had the situational awareness to understand the conflict potential based on the airplane’s position reports. Although the airplane was equipped with a traffic advisory system, its capabilities could have been limited by antenna/airframe obstruction or an inhibition of the audio alert by the airplane’s flap position.

The airplane’s data indicated that the collision occurred at an altitude of about 1,100 ft mean sea level (msl). The published traffic pattern altitude (TPA) for light airplanes was 1,300 ft msl. Although several different helicopter TPAs were depicted in locally produced pamphlets and posters and reportedly discussed at various airport meetings, there was no published TPA for helicopters in the airport/facility directory or in the tower’s standard operating procedures. According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aeronautical Information Manual, in the absence of a published TPA, the TPA for helicopters was 500 ft above ground level; therefore, the appropriate TPA for helicopters at the accident airport was about 800 ft msl. The lack of an official helicopter TPA, which was published after the accident, significantly reduced the potential for positive traffic conflict resolution. Review of the airport procedures, tower capabilities, and the controller’s actions revealed no specific departure from proper procedures. Because the tower was not equipped with radar equipment, all of the sequencing and obtaining of traffic information had to be done visually. This would have been especially difficult at the accident airport due to the local terrain and tree lines that extend above the pattern altitudes from the tower controllers’ view, which can cause aircraft to easily blend in with the background. Further, the controller spent a lengthy amount of time on the task of issuing the IFR clearance to the business jet while handling multiple aircraft in the traffic pattern. It is likely that the lack of radar equipment in the tower and the controller’s inadequate task management also significantly reduced the potential for positive traffic conflict resolution.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

The failure of the helicopter pilots and the airplane pilot to maintain an adequate visual lookout for known traffic in the traffic pattern, which resulted in a midair collision. Contributing to the accident were the airplane pilot's descent below the published airplane traffic pattern altitude (TPA) and the helicopter pilot’s climb above the proper helicopter TPA as prescribed in the Federal Aviation Administration's Aeronautical Information Manual for airports without published helicopter TPAs. Also contributing to the accident were the lack of a published helicopter TPA, the absence of radar equipment in the tower, and the controller’s inadequate task prioritization.

On October 23, 2014, about 1537 eastern daylight time, a Cirrus SR22 airplane, N122ES, operated by a private individual, and a Robinson R44 II helicopter, N7518Q, operated by Advanced Helicopter Concepts, collided in midair approximately 1 mile southwest of the Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), Frederick, Maryland. The airplane departed controlled flight after the collision, the ballistic parachute system was deployed, and the airplane landed nose-down in a thicket of low trees and brush. The helicopter also departed controlled flight, descended vertically, and was destroyed by impact forces at ground contact. The private pilot on board the airplane was not injured, and his passenger sustained a minor injury. The flight instructor, commercial pilot, and a passenger in the helicopter were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the airplane, which departed Cleveland, Tennessee, on a personal flight about 1247. No flight plan was filed for the helicopter, which departed FDK on an instructional flight about 1535. The flights were conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91.

Witnesses on the ground watched the aircraft approach each other at the same altitude and saw the collision. One witness said the helicopter appeared to be in a stationary hover as the airplane closed on it and the two collided. She said neither aircraft changed altitude as they approached each other.

A flight instructor for the helicopter operator in a company Robinson R22 helicopter followed the accident helicopter in the traffic pattern for landing abeam runway 30 in the infield sod at FDK. He said his helicopter had just completed the turn onto the crosswind leg of the traffic pattern when the accident helicopter came into his view to his front at about the point where it would turn to the downwind leg of the pattern. At the same time, the airplane appeared in his field of view as it "flew through the rotor system" of the helicopter.

Radar and voice communication information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as interviews conducted with air traffic controllers, revealed the following:

At 1534:10, the accident airplane first contacted the FDK tower and was about 10 miles west of the field at 3,000 feet. The local controller (LC) acknowledged the pilot's transmission and instructed him to report 3 miles west for a left downwind to runway 30. At 1534:31, the pilot of the accident airplane acknowledged and read back the controller's instructions.

At the time the accident airplane contacted the LC, other traffic being handled by the tower included two helicopters ( two company helicopters N2342U and N444PH) in the VFR traffic pattern, one airplane conducting practice instrument approaches to runway 23, another airplane inbound from the southeast, and a business jet (N612JD) with its IFR clearance on request.

At 1535:02, the LC then cleared the accident helicopter for take-off from alpha taxiway as requested and issued the current winds, and the call was acknowledged.

At 1536:02, the LC contacted the pilot of N612JD and advised she was ready to issue the airplane's instrument clearance. From 1536:06 to 1536:49 (43 seconds), the controller issued the clearance.

At 1536:49, the pilot of N612JD read back his clearance as required. Also at 1536:49, during the read back from N612JD, the pilot of the accident airplane reported on local frequency that he was 3 miles out on a 45-degree entry for runway 30, which the LC did not hear because she was listening to the read back from N612JD on ground control frequency.

At 1537:09, the LC transmitted to helicopter N444PH, "…four papa hotel option to the grass at your own risk use caution and on uh next go around stay at a thousand feet. I have traffic in the downwind."

At 1537:22, the LC instructed the accident airplane to report midfield left downwind for runway 30 and said "I have three helicopters below ya in the uh traffic pattern". At 1537:30, the pilot of the accident airplane acknowledged the request to report midfield downwind and stated he had two of the helicopters in sight. Immediately after that transmission, at 1537:34, the LC said "Alright uh two echo sierra, I have ya in sight runway three zero, maintain your altitude to…until turning base, cleared to land."

At 1537:41, cries were heard over the local frequency, and, at 1537:49, the pilot of a helicopter in the traffic pattern reported that an airplane and helicopter were both "down."

The pilot of the accident airplane was interviewed and provided written statements. His recollection of the flight was consistent with voice, radar, and aircraft data. The pilot stated that as he descended and slowed for the traffic pattern entry, he set the flaps to 50 percent.

The pilot stated that, about the time the airplane entered the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, the tower controller issued a landing clearance, and, "out of nowhere…I saw a helicopter below me and to the left…" The pilot initiated an evasive maneuver, but he "heard a thump," and the airplane rolled right and nosed down. The pilot deployed the ballistic recovery system, and the airplane's descent was controlled by the parachute to ground contact.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The airplane pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014. He reported 959 total hours of flight experience, of which 804 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.

The flight instructor on board the helicopter held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014. Examination of his logbook revealed 832 total hours of flight experience, of which 116 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.

The helicopter pilot held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 29, 2013, and he reported 2,850 total hours of flight experience on that date. Excerpts of a pilot logbook for his helicopter time revealed 1,538 total hours of helicopter experience. A review of records revealed that he stopped flying as a helicopter tour pilot in 1994. During the years following, he logged five or fewer helicopter flights per year. Between 2004 and 2011, he logged one flight per year, none in 2011, and one in 2012. In 2014, he logged two flights in September, and two in October prior to the accident flight.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 2006. Its most recent annual inspection was completed June 13, 2014, at 1,289.8 total aircraft hours.

The helicopter was manufactured in 2004. Its most recent 100-hour inspection was completed October 2, 2014, at 1,758 total aircraft hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The 1553 weather observation at FDK included scattered clouds at 4,800 feet, 10 miles visibility, and wind from 330 degrees at 16 knots gusting to 21 knots.

The was 26 degrees above the horizon, and the sun angle was from 225 degrees.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL

The air traffic control (ATC) group was formed on October 23, 2014. The group consisted of the group chairman from operational factors and a representative from the FAA compliance services group.

The group reviewed radar data provided by the FAA from Potomac TRACON (PCT), ATC voice recordings, controller training and qualification records, facility logs, standard operating procedures (SOP), letters of agreement (LOA), controller work schedules, and other related documentation. Additionally, the group conducted interviews with the LC who provided services at the time of the accident and the off-duty controller who witnessed the accident and assisted with initial notifications and the after-action response. Tenant operators on the airport were interviewed, including the operator of the accident helicopter. The group also held discussions with the air traffic manager (ATM) at FDK.

When asked what the traffic pattern altitudes (TPAs) were at FDK, both controllers, as well as the ATM, stated that the altitudes were 900 feet mean sea level (msl) for helicopters, 1,300 feet msl for small fixed-wing airplanes, and 1,800 feet msl for large fixed-wing airplanes and twins. When asked the origin of these TPAs and where they were published, the LC stated that they were published in the SOP and airport/facility directory (AFD). The witnessing controller thought the helicopter TPA was published in the local noise abatement procedures, but not in the AFD, but that the fixed-wing TPAs were in both. The ATM stated that only the fixed-wing TPAs were published in the AFD and that the helicopter TPA had been inadvertently left out without them realizing. The ATM stated that helicopter TPA was agreed upon during meetings with tower personnel, airport management, and airport tenants prior to the tower's commissioning. The facility was unable to produce any documentation that these meetings were ever held, and they were also unable to produce any documentation of the 900-foot msl helicopter TPA they had mentioned. The only documentation that was found was from old, locally produced noise abatement procedures.

According to FAA Order 7210.3Y, minutes of the meeting were to be taken and distributed to "the appropriate Service Area" office and to each attendee. These minutes were neither recorded nor distributed.

In an interview, the helicopter operator was asked for a copy of his flight school's SOP. He stated there was none. The policies and procedures were made by him, and distributed by word of mouth in periodic meetings. During an initial discussion, the operator stated that the helicopter TPA was between 900 and 1,000 feet msl, and 1,200 feet msl for autorotations. When asked how he decided upon the TPA of 900 feet msl for his pilots and students. He said, "It just kind of morphed into that. The airplanes are at 1,300 feet msl, and we thought we should be below that. They never published that in the AFD, and I wish they would."

According to the chief pilot for the helicopter operator, a 14 CFR Part 141 application would soon be submitted and an SOP would be published concurrent with the application.

AERODROME INFORMATION

FDK was at an elevation of 306 feet and was tower controlled. The tower was an FAA contract tower and was not radar-equipped.

Runway 5/23 was 5,219 feet long and 100 feet wide, and was located along the east side of the field. Runway 12/30 was 3,600 feet long, 75 feet wide, and located on the north side of the field. The two runways intersected at the approach end of runways 23 and 30.

The published TPA in the AFD for single-engine and light-twin airplanes was 1,300 feet msl, and 1,800 feet msl for heavy multiengine and jet airplanes. The traffic pattern was a standard left-hand pattern.

There was no published traffic pattern or TPA for helicopters in the AFD at the time of the accident. According to the FAA's Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), in the absence of a published TPA for helicopters, the helicopter TPA was 500 feet agl, or about 800 feet msl at FDK.

A pamphlet produced by the City of Frederick, Maryland, depicted the airport traffic patterns and identified the helicopter TPA as 1,100 feet msl.

A poster of the pamphlet's depiction was posted around the airport, and it also identified the helicopter TPA as 1,100 feet msl.

The SOP for the contract operator of the tower had no TPAs published. However, when interviewed, the LC on duty at the time of the accident stated the TPA for helicopters was 900 feet per the SOP.

As a result of the investigation, the AFD was updated on January 8, 2015, with a recommended TPA for helicopters of 1,106 ft msl/800 feet agl.

Radar Data

Radar data for the flights was obtained by the FAA from several radar sites in the area surrounding FDK. Radar data recorded the flight track of the accident airplane until seconds before the accident; however, no data were recorded for the accident helicopter.

At the time of the accident, the floor of the Potomac TRACON radar coverage in the area surrounding FDK appeared to be about 1,200 feet msl. The helicopter never climbed into radar coverage, and the collision between the helicopter and the airplane occurred below the area of radar coverage.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The helicopter wreckage and its associated debris came to rest in a self-storage complex between two buildings, with parts and debris scattered in and around the complex. All major components were accounted for at the scene. The main wreckage came to rest largely upright, and the cockpit, cabin area, fuselage, tailboom, engine, transmission, with main and tail rotors attached. All components were significantly damaged and deformed by impact forces. The "blue" main rotor blade was fractured near its root, and the outboard 11 feet of main rotor spar was located 50 feet from the main wreckage with no honeycomb or blade skin afterbody material attached.

Control continuity could not be established due to numerous fractures in the system, but all fractures exhibited features consistent with overload.

The airplane came to rest nose down, in a dense thicket of brush and low trees, wedged between tree trunks, and held in that position. All major components were accounted for at the scene, except for the right wing flap, aileron, and right landing gear wheel and tire assembly which were located between the helicopter and airplane sites. Examination of the airplane revealed that the trailing edge of the right wing was impact-damaged, and that the flap and aileron hinges were significantly damaged and twisted, and the surrounding sheet metal displayed "saw-tooth" fractures, consistent with overload. The structural cable between the wing strut and the empennage was still attached at each end, but missing a 5-foot section in the middle. The two severed ends displayed features consistent with overload. The empennage displayed a vertical opening and parallel slash marks.

Examination of the cockpit revealed the flap switch handle was in the "50 percent" position; however, the flaps and the flap actuator were positioned consistent with a flaps-up position. Because power was applied to all systems throughout the flight and after ground contact, the flap position could not be determined prior to the collision.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Office the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland performed autopsies on the helicopter flight instructor and helicopter pilot. The autopsy reports listed the cause of death for each as "blunt impact injuries."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of the helicopter flight instructor and helicopter pilot. The tests for each were negative for the presence of carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

Avidyne Primary Flight Display (PFD) Description

The PFD unit from the accident airplane included a solid state Air Data and Attitude Heading Reference System (ADAHRS) and displayed aircraft parameter data including altitude, airspeed, attitude, vertical speed, and heading. The PFD unit had external pitot/static inputs for altitude, airspeed, and vertical speed information. Each PFD contained two flash memory devices mounted on a riser card. The flash memory stored information the PFD unit used to generate the various PFD displays. Additionally, the PFD had a data logging function, which was used by the manufacturer for maintenance and diagnostics. Maintenance and diagnostic information recording consisted of system information, event data and flight data.

The PFD sampled and stored several data streams in a sequential fashion; when the recording limit of the PFD was reached, the oldest record was dropped and a new record was added. Data from the Attitude/Heading Reference System (AHRS) was recorded at a rate of 5 Hz. Air data information such as pressure altitude, indicated airspeed, and vertical speed was recorded at 1 Hz. GPS and navigation display and setting data were recorded at a rate of 0.25 Hz, and information about pilot settings of heading, altitude, and vertical speed references were recorded when changes were made.

According to the data, at 15:34:30, about 9 miles from the airport, the airplane initiated a descent out of 3,000 feet msl. The descent rate varied between 500-1000 fpm. The descent stopped at 1,600 feet pressure altitude (1,582 feet indicated) for about 10 seconds, at 15:36:40. The airplane then continued its descent at an approximate rate of 700 fpm.

As the descent continued, the airplane entered a right bank of about 15 degrees about 1.5 miles from the airport. While descending and turning right, pitch, vertical, longitudinal, and lateral acceleration experienced a loading event simultaneously at 15:37:36.

When this occurred, the aircraft was 0.75 miles from the field at 1,045 feet pressure altitude (1,027 feet indicated) and 100 kts indicated airspeed. Following the loading, the aircraft rolled a full 360 degrees to the right, pitch recorded extremes of 21 degrees nose- up to 80 degrees nose-down, and heading spun nearly 720 degrees to the right.

Following the loading, altitude was maintained for about 3 seconds before dropping at a maximum recorded rate of 5,470 fpm. The aircraft came to rest at 15:37:52 at 330 feet pressure altitude in a 75-degrees nose-down attitude with the wings rolled 46 degrees to the left. The recording ended with the aircraft static in these conditions.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Traffic Advisory System

The accident airplane was fitted with an L-3 Avionics SKYWATCH Traffic Advisory System (TAS). As installed, the system included an L-3 Avionics SKY 497 transmitter/receiver unit and an L-3 Communications antenna. The traffic information developed by the SKY 497 system was displayed in the cockpit and provided an audio alert.

According to the manufacturer, the SKYWATCH TAS monitored the airspace around the aircraft for other transponder-installed aircraft by querying Mode C or Mode S transponder information. These data would then be displayed visually to the pilot in the cockpit. The system also provided aural announcements on the flight deck audio system. The audio alert would be inhibited at 50 percent and 100 percent flap settings.

If an intruder aircraft's transponder did not respond to interrogations, the TAS would not establish a track on that aircraft. The system was not equipped with recording capability.

The SKYWATCH system operated on line-of-sight principles. If an intruder aircraft's antenna was shielded from the SKYWATCH system antenna, the ability of the SKY 497 to track the target would be affected. If a SKY 497-equipped aircraft was located directly above an intruder, the airframe of one or both of the aircraft could cause the SKY 497's interrogations to be shielded, depending on antenna location (top-mounted on the accident airplane). The SKY 497 also had the capability to coast (predict) an intruder's track to compensate for a momentary shielding.
In an interview with state police immediately after the accident, the pilot explained the operation of the system to the trooper conducting the interview, and stated he did not receive a traffic alert prior to the collision.

FAA Advisory Circular 90-48c

"Pilots should also be familiar with, and exercise caution, in those operational environments where they may expect to find a high volume of traffic or special types of aircraft operation. These areas include Terminal Radar Service Areas (TRSAs), airport traffic patterns, particularly at airports without a control tower; airport traffic areas (below 3,000 feet above the surface within five statute miles of an airport with an operating control tower…"


The pilot of the airplane that collided with a helicopter near Frederick Municipal Airport last month told state police his onboard collision avoidance system did not warn him before the fatal crash.

State police interviewed Scott V. Graeves, the 55-year-old pilot of the Cirrus SR22, at the emergency room at Meritus Medical Center several hours after the October 23 collision. Graeves said his “traffic alert” system never alerted him to the presence of other aircraft in the area, according to a Maryland State Police incident report obtained by The Frederick News-Post through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

The police report explains that the traffic alert system Graeves referred to is a system that uses the transponder signals given off by other aircraft to alert pilots their proximity to avoid a collision.

The Cirrus SR22 collided with the helicopter, a Robinson R44, about 1,100 to 1,200 feet above ground at about 3:40 p.m., according to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report. All three occupants of the helicopter were killed in the collision, but Graeves and his passenger, 75-year-old Gilbert L. Porter, were almost unharmed.

Christopher D. Parsons, 29, of Westminster, William Jenkins, 47, of Morrison, Colorado, and Breandan J. MacFawn, 35, of Cumberland, were the three men who died in the helicopter.

Graeves was told three helicopters were in the vicinity when he made his second contact with the Frederick air traffic control tower about 3 miles from the airport as he was making his approach, according to both the NTSB and the state police reports.

“[Graeves] instructed the tower he could see two [helicopters] (one was at the 12 o'clock position in front of him and the second was at a distance to his 9 o'clock position),” the police report states. “He explained as soon as he informed the tower of that he observed, to his immediate left (9 o'clock position) the third helicopter was very close to his aircraft.”

Graeves told police that he then pulled sharply on the controls to gain altitude and avoid the helicopter, but he felt the collision on the left side of the plane in the wing or wheel area, the report states. Graeves activated the plane's emergency parachute, and the plane landed in a treeline off Monocacy Boulevard.

State police also interviewed two men who witnessed the collision from the rear of 1317 Bucheimer Road where one of the men, Jason Nelson, was working on his tow truck. After seeing the two aircraft collide, Nelson and a co-worker, Jonathan Francis, jumped into the truck and drove to the plane's crash site.

“Nelson stated that once they reached the airplane the pilot and front seat passenger were still inside the airplane,” the report states. “The pilot was assisted out of the plane by citizens who had come to help. Nelson and several others walked to the passenger side of the airplane where they assisted the elderly passenger out.”

When troopers spoke to Porter in the hospital, he told them there were “several heroes on the ground,” according to the report. Porter said the plane was leaking fuel when several bystanders came to his and Graeves' aid.

Francis said that he met a police officer and saw an ambulance nearby after he had helped Nelson and others get Graeves and Porter out of the plane, the report states. After directing police to the plane, Francis went to the helicopter crash site in the Frederick Self Storage lot off Monroe Avenue, where he waited for police.


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


http://www.fredericknewspost.com/frederick tower call audio

http://www.fredericknewspost.com/all calls from the collision audio

Tower communications (graphic audio, may be disturbing) 

Cirrus SR22, N122ES, Graeves Auto & Appliance Inc. and Robinson R44 Raven II, N7518Q, Advanced Helicopter Concepts, Inc: Accident occurred October 23, 2014 near Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), Maryland

 http://registry.faa.gov/N122ES

http://registry.faa.gov/N7518Q

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA025A

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 23, 2014 in Frederick, MD
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N122ES
Injuries: 3 Fatal,1 Minor,1 Uninjured.

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA025B
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 23, 2014 in Frederick, MD
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N7518Q
Injuries: 3 Fatal,1 Minor,1 Uninjured.

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

On October 23, 2014, about 1537 eastern daylight time, a Cirrus SR22 airplane, N122ES, and a Robinson R44 II helicopter, N7518Q, operated by Advanced Helicopter Concepts, collided in midair approximately 1 mile southwest of the Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), Frederick, Maryland. The helicopter departed controlled flight after the collision, descended vertically, and was destroyed by impact forces at ground contact. The airplane also departed controlled flight, the ballistic parachute system was deployed, and the airplane landed nose-down in a thicket of low trees and brush. The flight instructor, commercial pilot receiving instruction, and a passenger in the helicopter were fatally injured. The private pilot on board the airplane was not injured, and his passenger sustained a minor injury. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the airplane, which departed Cleveland, Tennessee on a personal flight about 1247. No flight plan was filed for the helicopter, which departed FDK on a pre-rental check-out flight about 1535. Both flights were conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Preliminary radar and voice communication information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the accident airplane first contacted the FDK local controller at 1534:10 approximately 10 miles west of the field at an altitude of 3,000 feet. The local controller acknowledged the pilot's transmission and instructed him to report three miles west of the airport for a left downwind to runway 30. The pilot acknowledged and read back the controller's instructions.

At the time the accident airplane contacted the local controller, traffic handled by the tower included two helicopters in the traffic pattern, one airplane conducting practice instrument approaches to runway 23, another airplane inbound from the southeast, and also a business jet with its IFR clearance on request.

At 1535:02, the controller cleared the accident helicopter for take-off from taxiway alpha, issued the current winds, and the call was acknowledged.

At 1536:49, the pilot of the accident airplane reported that he was three miles from the airport on a 45-degree entry for the downwind for landing on runway 30.

At 1537:22, the local controller instructed the airplane to report midfield left downwind for runway 30 and said, "I have three helicopters below ya in the uh traffic pattern". At 1537:30, the pilot of the airplane acknowledged the request to report midfield downwind and stated he had two of the helicopters in sight. Immediately after that transmission, at 1537:34, the local controller said, "Alright uh two echo sierra, I have ya in sight runway three zero, maintain your altitude to…until turning base, cleared to land."

At 1537:49, the pilot of another helicopter in the traffic pattern reported that an airplane and helicopter were both "down."

Witnesses on the ground observed the aircraft converge at the same altitude. One witness who observed both aircraft converge indicated that neither aircraft changed altitude as they approached each other and the two subsequently collided.

A flight instructor for the operator in another company helicopter followed the accident helicopter in the traffic pattern for landing abeam runway 30. He said his helicopter had just completed the turn onto the crosswind leg of the traffic pattern, when the accident helicopter came into his view. At the same time, the airplane appeared in his field of view as it collided with the helicopter rotor system.

The pilot of the accident airplane was not immediately available for interview.

The airplane pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014. He reported 1,080 total hours of flight experience, of which 1,000 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.

The flight instructor held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014. Examination of his logbook revealed 832 total hours of flight experience, of which 116 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.

The pilot receiving instruction held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for airplane single engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 29, 2013, and he reported 2,850 total hours of flight experience on that date. Excerpts of a pilot logbook revealed 1,538 total hours of helicopter experience.

The 1553 weather observation at FDK included scattered clouds at 4,800 feet, 10 miles visibility, and winds from 330 degrees at 16 knots gusting to 21 knots.

FDK was located at an elevation of 306 feet and the air traffic control tower was operating at the time of the accident. The published traffic pattern altitude for single-engine and light-twin airplanes was 1,300 feet mean sea level (msl), and 1,800 feet msl for heavy multiengine and jet airplanes. The traffic pattern was a standard left-hand pattern, and there was no published traffic pattern or altitude for helicopters.

The helicopter wreckage and its associated debris came to rest in a self-storage complex between two buildings, with parts and debris scattered in and around the complex. All major components were accounted for at the scene. The main wreckage came to rest largely upright, and included the cockpit, cabin area, fuselage, tailboom, engine, transmission, and main and tail rotors. All components were significantly damaged and deformed by impact forces. The "blue" main rotor blade was fractured near its root, and the outboard 11 feet of main rotor spar was located 50 feet from the main wreckage with no honeycomb or blade skin afterbody material attached.

Control continuity could not be established due to numerous fractures in the system, but all fractures exhibited features consistent with overload.

The airplane came to rest nose down, in a dense thicket of brush and low trees, wedged between tree trunks, and held in that position. All major components were accounted for at the scene, except for the right wing flap, aileron, and right landing gear wheel and tire assembly, which were located between the helicopter and airplane sites. Examination of the airplane revealed that the trailing edge of the right wing was impact-damaged. The flap and aileron hinges were significantly damaged and twisted, and the surrounding sheet metal displayed saw-tooth fractures, consistent with overload.

 
Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA Baltimore FSDO-07

 

A CIRRUS SR22 (N122ES) COLLIDED IN FLIGHT WITH A ROBINSON R44 HELICOPTER (N7158Q) ABOUT ONE-HALF MILE SOUTHWEST OF FREDERICK AIRPORT. ALL 3 PERSONS IN R44 WERE FATAL. BOTH PERSONS IN CIRRUS SR-22 RECEIVED MINOR INJURIES. NO GROUND INJURIES. CIRRUS SR22 WAS INBOUND FOR LEFT DOWN TO VISUAL RUNWAY 30. ROBINSON R-44 WAS CONDUCTING LOCAL CLOSED-PATTERN TRAFFIC WITH TWO OTHER TRAINING HELICOPTERS OVER A NEARBY GRASS INFIELD NON-MOVEMENT AREA. WEATHER WAS VFR. THE CONTRACT TOWER CONTROLLER WAS COMMUNICATING WITH BOTH AIRCRAFT.
 
Any witnesses should email witness@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov.


Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board make final inspections October 25 to a Cirrus SR22 airplane that was involved in a midair collision October 23 with a helicopter. The NTSB released its preliminary report about the crash, but a cause was still unclear.

 
Courtesy of WUSA9 
 An aerial image of the plane's crash site.