Friday, November 28, 2014

The lure of tax breaks: Colorado Springs Airport (with video)

Anyone who questions the wisdom of tax breaks to encourage business development might want to chat with Jeff Perkins and Britt Ham.

Perkins works with a company that relocated from North Carolina to an area near the Colorado Springs Airport, in part because of tax breaks approved by city, county and state officials to encourage economic development at or near the airport.

Ham is president and CEO of a company near the airport that is expanding, thanks to the tax breaks.

Together, the companies employ more than 40 people, and they're planning to add another 75 employees - the bottom-line goal of the tax breaks.

The tax breaks are a "huge incentive" for Trine Aerospace LLC to expand in the Springs, Ham said. Trine, which moved to Colorado Springs from Chatsworth, Calif., last year, has grown from about a dozen employees to 20 and has up to eight contract workers.

"It gives us an advantage over other companies," Ham said of the incentives. "The benefit is to lower our cost and allow us to bring business to Colorado Springs. We have to compete for business and, as a new business, that competition is often based on price. We are a quality vendor at a significantly lower price."

Trine plans to expand to 50 employees by the end of 2016, and company officials are studying whether to consolidate space in five hangars at the airport into a single 60,000-square-foot hangar they would build nearby, Ham said.

Perkins, vice president of business management for Rampart Aviation LLC, said the tax breaks were one of several factors that prompted owner Tony Porterfield to move the company from the Raleigh, N.C., area to the Springs. The company specializes in providing flight services, aircraft maintenance and aviation training support mostly for military units for parachute drops. It has 20 local employees and plans to add another 25 in the next year, Perkins said.

Deals hinged on tax breaks

Both companies came to the Springs as Mayor Steve Bach and airport officials were developing a series of tax breaks to lure aviation and aerospace companies to the airport to provide jobs for local residents and generate income for the facility. Any income the airport generates from leasing existing hangars or from land for new hangars helps pay its operating expenses and cuts the amount that airlines pay in landing fees - a potential way to lure more flights to a facility that has seen traffic drop dramatically.

Besides the expansions by Rampart and Trine, the airport also has leased two long-vacant facilities - one that will house a vintage aircraft collection and the other that will be used by a company that plans to convert aircraft once used by airlines for military use, bringing at least 20 more jobs to the airport.

Dan Gallagher, the airport's director, said all four deals depended on the tax breaks, which include city and county exemptions or credits for sales and use taxes paid by businesses that lease, sell, repair or maintain aircraft.

Gallagher said at least two other companies are showing interest, as a result of the tax breaks, in 200 acres on the airport's west side for potential sites of hangars they would build for aircraft modification and conversion that could eventually employ thousands of workers.

"Our future appears to be aircraft integration, or bringing older planes to today's navigational and technical standards, including engine modifications and winglets to make the aircraft more fuel efficient," Gallagher said. "We have a great opportunity to take advantage of this developing industry and we have enough land available to create thousands of additional jobs" in that industry.

Aviation and aerospace manufacturers also have shown increased interest because of the tax breaks in building plants or other facilities in the airport's 900-acre Cresterra business park that has long been envisioned by local officials as an economic hub for the region.

The tax breaks aren't the airport's only recruiting tool. Parts of both the business park and the west side of the airport, which is home to a series of hangars for private and corporate aircraft, are designated as a foreign trade zone. Such zones allow businesses to delay, reduce or even avoid U.S. Customs duties, which are imposed on imported raw materials, parts and equipment brought into the zone, lowering operating costs for any businesses located in a zone.

But the tax breaks are considered a bigger draw.

Bach began pushing for tax breaks at the airport shortly after Gallagher was named interim airport director early last year as a way to help turn around declining airline service by finding other revenue sources that would lower costs for carriers at the airport. He said attracting businesses and jobs to the airport could help jump-start economic development in all of southeast Colorado Springs, the city's most economically struggling area.

"Companies in aviation and aerospace-related industries won't come to our airport unless we can give them some kind of targeted incentive to help them get started here," Bach said.

"We are using performance-based incentives to attract and retain employers at this airport."

Aircraft owners fled airport

Plans for the tax breaks grew out of an exodus of aircraft from the Springs airport that began when the city started charging sales and use tax on aircraft, parts and related equipment.

Owners moved more than 60 aircraft to Meadow Lake Airport near Falcon, Centennial Airport in Englewood and others along the Front Range. Most other cities with airports specializing in private and corporate aviation had waived or rebated such taxes, putting the Springs airport at a disadvantage.

The Colorado Springs City Council voted 7-2 in April to create a commercial aeronautical zone that allows businesses in and around the airport that lease, sell, repair or maintain aircraft to be exempt from most city sales and use taxes.

El Paso County commissioners in August unanimously approved the zone in the same areas to give credits for sales tax paid by businesses on equipment and supplies used in maintaining, retrofitting and upgrading aircraft.

The Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade in September designated the airport as a aviation development zone, which makes aviation and aerospace businesses at the airport eligible for a state income tax credit of $1,200 for each newly hired employee.

Airport officials also have asked the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority to exclude 1,023.6 acres on the airport's west side and in the business park from its borders so airport businesses won't have to pay the authority's 1 percent sales tax.

The authority has scheduled a public hearing Dec. 10 on the request.


2007: City of Colorado Springs begins charging aircraft owners a 2.5 percent sales tax on the value of aircraft based at the Colorado Springs Airport.

2008-13: Owners of 62 aircraft, about 20 percent of the 292 aircraft based at the airport, move them to Meadow Lake Airport near Falcon, Centennial Airport in Englewood and other airports along the Front Range.

March 2013: Mayor Steve Bach appoints Dan Gallagher as interim director of the Colorado Springs Airport following the resignation of Mark Earle and begins discussions about offering tax breaks to lure aircraft owners and aviation-
related businesses back to the airport.

April: Colorado Springs City Council votes 7-2 to create a commercial aeronautical zone in and around the airport that allows businesses selling, repairing or maintaining aircraft to be exempt from most city sales and use taxes.

August: El Paso County commissioners unanimously approve a similar zone offering sales tax credits for equipment and supplies used in maintaining, retrofitting and upgrading aircraft.

September: Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade approves Colorado Springs Airport as an aviation development zone where aviation and aerospace businesses can get a $1,200 state income tax credit for each new employee.

Dec. 10: Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority will hold a public hearing and vote whether to exclude 1,023.6 acres on the airport's west side and in its business park from its borders so businesses in those areas won't have to pay its 1 percent sales tax.

Story, Photos and Video:

Colorado Springs Airport amnesty boxes get their fill - but usually not with marijuana

Travelers leaving from the Colorado Springs Airport have done a good job of stashing their marijuana at home or in their cars before they fly.

Amnesty boxes, which were added to the airport in January, have been sparsely used for marijuana, said Sgt. Matt Harrell of the Colorado Springs Department airport unit.

"I think people know," he said. "They haven't been trying it."

While some travelers have dropped off edibles, marijuana vapor cigarettes and grams of marijuana, he said those aren't the most common items.

"What we've gotten more than anything is unused prescription medication," Harrell said.

Since the 2012 passage of state Amendment 64, which allows people 21 years and older to use or have recreational marijuana, and the official implementation of the law in the state this year, agencies, organizations and law enforcement officials have had to adapt to the change.

With federal law prohibiting marijuana - and having jurisdiction over airplane travel - confusion can emerge where state laws differ.

The amnesty boxes give passengers a last chance to ditch anything that might be illegal before going through security and possibly facing consequences.

The Transportation Security Administration, which screens airlines passengers and their bags, will call Colorado Springs police if a passenger tries to take marijuana onto a plane.

Denver International Airport does not have marijuana amnesty boxes, a spokesman for the airport said. They ask people to just throw it away, he said.

In addition to marijuana and prescription drugs, Harrell said other items, such as water bottles and cigarette butts, are found when the boxes are checked once a month.

"Probably gummy bears are the strangest thing we've seen in there," he said.

Can you travel with?

1. Marijuana? No. Federal law prohibits passengers from traveling with marijuana, medical or recreational.

2. Prescription drugs? Yes. They can be checked or carried on to a plane. TSA recommends the medication is labeled to help get through security faster, but it is not required.

3. Ninja stars? Yes. Passengers can take martial arts and self defense items such as brass knuckles and ninja stars on a plane, but they must be checked in.

4. Nerf guns? Yes. TSA suggests you check them, though.

5. Snow globes? Yes. If it appears to contain less than 3.4 ounces of liquid it can be packed in carry-on luggage as long as it fits in a one-quart sized bag plastic bag. Larger snow globes must packed in checked bags.

6. Live fish? Yes. But as a carry-on only. The TSA says the fish must be in a clear, plastic spill-proof container, which may be more than 3.4 ounces. A TSA officer will have to visually inspect the fish.

7. Alcohol? Yes. Bottles of alcohol more than 3.4 ounces must be checked in. Bottles with less liquid may be carried on, but must be in a one quart/liter plastic bag with a zip-top and are limited to one per person.

8. Snakes? It depends. The TSA recommends you check airline policy before traveling with pets and animals. Some can be carried on or checked.

9. Frozen rack of lamb? Yes, meat, fish and vegetables and other food items can be checked and carried on. If the food is packed in ice, or ice packs, the ice must be frozen when taken through the screening. If not, they will not be allowed. The FAA limits a passenger to 5 pounds of dry ice, which can also be carried on or checked.

10. Crematory remains? It depends. Some airlines do not allow cremated remains as checked baggages. Security officials will not open the crematory container. TSA suggests a container made of lightweight material, like wood or plastic.

11. Spray paint? It depends. Chemicals such as chlorine, bleach, tear gas and spray paint are not allowed to be carried on. They may be allowed in checked bags. Passengers should check with their airlines.



Casey Parker with Colorado Springs Airport Operations installs an amnesty box outside the security checkpoint at the airport Wednesday, January 15, 2013. Two amnesty boxes are being installed for people who didn't realize that it's illegal to possess marijuana on a plane. It is legal to leave marijuana in a parked car at airports under the Colorado law that legalized recreational marijuana, but you can't bring marijuana inside airport facilities. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Aviation authors to co-pilot event about northern flying life

Into the Abyss

By Carol Shaben

Random House

Polar Winds

by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail

Dundurn Canadian authors Carol Shaben and Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail are women whose recent books delve into the world of aviation, small planes and the pilots who often risk their lives to pursue their passion. Shaben’s debut book — Into the Abyss — is a national bestseller, a B.C. Book Prize finalist and winner of Canada’s Edna Staebler award for creative non-fiction. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail is Edmonton’s Historian Laureate and author of two books — For the Love of Flying and Polar Winds: A Century of Flying in the North. Both writers will be teaming up for the Vancouver launch of Polar Winds on Dec. 2.

Q Why did you each decide to write these books?

A My interest arose after my dad survived a small plane crash in northern Canada. I was 22 and working overseas when I found out about it reading a local newspaper. When I returned home months later, I saw that the tragedy had transfigured my dad. He’d seen six people die, including friends and a close colleague, and had struggled, along with three fellow survivors to stay alive until rescue came. He forged extraordinary bonds with these men, including a convicted criminal and the rookie pilot. I sought out that pilot almost 20 years later and it was he who educated me about the pressures and risks young pilots faced — and continue to face — flying for smaller commuter airlines. These airlines are a lifeline for Canadians in isolated communities both in B.C. and in Canada’s north. I started to investigate the industry and was shocked to discover that small plane safety is still a concern more than a quarter century later. That investigation morphed into an award-winning article, and later, my book. Danielle came to write about aviation through her fascination with the North. Whereas I grew up in northern Alberta, she was raised in southern Ontario, so had a curiosity about this vast region and its people. With her first book, she learned how aviation is an amazing window into Canada’s history and has been connected to almost every development in the North, from resource exploration to public health and even residential schools. In her second book she really draws on her background in social and cultural history to shine a light on the lived experiences of northerners in the air and on the ground, especially using the often hidden voices from women, indigenous peoples and visible minorities.

Q Tell me about the event on Dec. 2 in Vancouver.

A We’re calling it Turbulent Tales: The Ups and Downs of Writing About Canadian Aviation. It’s going to be a relaxed evening of conversation between Danielle and I about our research and writing journeys, and on the theme of aviation. We bring different backgrounds to the table, which will be really interesting. I’m someone who left a career to return to school for an MFA in creative writing, and then pursue investigative journalism and writing. Danielle is a historian who started out as a creative writer and is now trying to marry the two in rigorously researched popular history. Neither of us are pilots, but both feel we’ve been adopted into the aviation community. We also each had personal connections that led us to write the books we did. The event is open to the public and will take place at the Billy Bishop Legion in Kitsilano. There will be free refreshments, beverages for sale and, of course, we’ll be selling and signing books.

Q You’ve both chosen to write about aviation. Any thoughts on the theme?

A I think Danielle and I would agree that its astonishing how much has changed and how little has changed in over a century of flight in both northern Canada and when flying with smaller carriers. Pilots have gone from no navigation aids — no maps, or beacons and imprecise human systems such as dead reckoning — to GPS. They’ve gone from freezing open-cockpit planes they could only fly by visual contact with the ground (and no way to call for help), to planes with the latest instruments, safety features and communications technologies. And yet, any pilot flying into Canada’s northern or remote reaches will tell you that people and airplanes are still at the mercy of the weather and human error — be it from inadequate risk analysis or poor pilot decision making — and that these factors can still have surprisingly tragic results.

Turbulent Tales: The Ups and Downs of Writing About Canadian Aviation will take place Tuesday, Dec. 2 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Billy Bishop Royal Canadian Legion, 1407 Laburnum St. The event is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be provided. Drinks will be available for purchase. Space is limited, so please RSVP by Sunday at

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Cirrus SR22T, N227RR, Header Bug LLC: Accident occurred November 28, 2014 near Hampton-Varnville Airport (3J0), Hampton, South Carolina

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA062
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 28, 2014 in Hampton, SC
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP. SR22T, registration: N227RR
Injuries: 1 Serious, 3 Minor.

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

On November 28, 2014, about 1200 eastern standard time, a Cirrus Design Corporation SR22T, N227RR, descended under canopy of the cirrus airframe parachute system (CAPS) and landed into a wooded area near Hampton-Varnville Airport (3J0), Hampton, South Carolina. The private pilot and two passengers sustained minor injuries, while one passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by Header Bug LLC, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), Sarasota, Florida, about 0933 EST, and was destined for Orangeburg Municipal Airport (OGB), Orangeburg, South Carolina.

The pilot stated that the purpose of the accident flight was pleasure. He intended to fly to OGB, which was the half way mark of the flight; however, the ultimate destination was to an airport in Leesburg, Virginia. After arrival at SRQ the airplane was removed from the hangar and the fuel tanks were filled. He then performed a preflight inspection using the checklist. No fuel contamination was noted and the oil quantity was checked and found to indicate 8 quarts, or full. After engine start he taxied to the run-up area, and while there performed an engine run-up using the checklist. It included a check of the magnetos at 1,700 rpm, and checking the load of the alternators. When the checklist was completed he obtained his IFR clearance, and departed from runway 04.

After takeoff the flight proceeded towards the destination airport. The pilot further stated that he checked the engine parameters; noting all readings citing specifically (oil temperature, oil pressure, and CHT) were in the green. About 3 minutes later, while flying at 9,000 feet mean sea level with the mixture leaned to the mark and the engine between 65 and 70 percent power, or 2,400 rpm, he heard an audible warning that the oil pressure was zero. The airplane at that time was near Savannah, or about 50 to 60 miles from OGB. The engine power went to idle, and he did not hear any sounds from the engine which was running smooth but was idled back. He reported he had no control over the power, and did not observe any oil or mist coming out of the engine and did not notice any smoke from the engine from oil getting onto a hot exhaust. He also reported he did not hear a change in sound from the propeller as if the propeller had changed pitch, and the propeller never stopped. The passenger in the right front seat read the display on the multi-function display (MFD) that the oil pressure displayed in the red showing 0 oil pressure. In addition, on the primary flight display (PFD) a red highlighted "WARNING" about the oil pressure displayed. He fully enrichened the mixture control and moved the throttle in an attempt to restore engine power but there was no result. Using the on-board avionics he confirmed the nearest airport was 3J0, which ATC confirmed. The controller called to the 3J0 airport to inform personnel there of his situation, and he descended at 98 knots (best glide speed is 88 knots).

The pilot stated that after realizing he was unable to land at 3J0, he informed the passengers to tighten their restrains (seatbelts and shoulder harnesses) before activating the CAPS, and pulled the CAPS activation handle at 800 feet; he did not recall the airspeed at chute pull. He reported that the engine stayed at idle during the descent, and while under canopy, the tail came down just as the airplane hit the trees. He attributed this to the altitude of deployment. A portion of a wing was knocked off and the tail was almost separated. The airplane descended to the ground, and he reported the contact was hard.

The airplane came to rest about ¾ nautical mile and 110 degrees from the approach end of runway 29 at 3J0.

Preliminary inspection of the airplane revealed the right wing was fractured at the outboard end of the flap, and the empennage was fractured just forward of the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer. The airplane was recovered for further examination.

Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA West Columbia FSDO-13

HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. - A small aircraft has crashed just short of the airfield at the Hampton County airport in Varnville. Chief Deputy Billy Jarrell with the Hampton County Sheriff's Office says there were four people on board who sustained minor injuries, and were transported for treatment of the non life threatening injuries.

 Hampton County Emergency Management Director Susanne Peeples says the worst of the injuries sustained was a shoulder fracture. A woman who suffered the injury was transported from Hampton Regional to Charleston for treatment. The other three passengers are being treated at Hampton Regional. The passengers are from Virginia. Their names are not yet being released.

Peeples says that around 1:00 p.m., a distressed signal came from the plane as it went down. Fortunately, the plane had a parachute that deployed. Emergency crews say that without the parachute to lessen the crash, the incident could have been much worse.

Neighbor Kaitlin Alberson says she and her father heard and saw the plane crash.

"It was spitting and sputtering, and I looked outside up in the sky and we saw a plane and then a parachute came out, and then we heard this big crash like power blew out," Alberson says.

Alberson and her father arrived on the scene to see if any passengers needed help, shortly after first responders did. That's when Alberson snapped the photos featured in the article.

Neither Jarrell nor Peeples know what caused the plane to crash into the wooded area near the airport, off of Walterboro Highway and Papas Road. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been investigating the cause.


HAMPTON CO., SC (WTOC) -  It was a frightening end to a holiday trip when a small plane went down in rural South Carolina.

Officials say it happened around 1 p.m. Friday in a wooded area off of Walterboro Highway in Varnville, SC.

EMS and Hampton Fire responded to the crash site and Lifestar was called to the scene.

The pilot reportedly made a distress call to air traffic control just before crashing a few miles away from the Hampton Varnville airport.

There were four people from Virginia on board the plane. Two men and one woman were taken to Hampton Regional Hospital with minor injuries. One other woman was airlifted with a shoulder injury just as a precautionary measure.

"We have a very fortunate situation. No one was seriously injured. We're very fortunate. This has been an experience for us. It isn't something that Hampton County has everyday. So we're very thankful that no one was hurt seriously and we hope the person that does have the worse of the injuries, that she will be okay," said Susanne Peeples, Hampton County EMA director.

Officials have not yet determined what caused the plane to crash.

The FAA continues to investigate.

- Source:

VARNVILLE, S.C. (WJCL) — Officials confirmed that an airplane crashed, in Hampton County, S.C. on Friday. 

 According to the Associated Press, Hampton County Emergency Management Director Susanne Peeples said that the pilot reported an emergency before crashing around 1 p.m. Friday at the airport near Varnville.

In the accident, one was air-lifted after a plane crashed about a quarter mile short of the runway of the Hampton-Varnville Airport – about a mile outside of Varnville.

However, neither the one sent off by helicopter nor the other three suffered life-threatening injuries.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been called in to investigate the accident and is on the scene with more expected to join the investigation.

The incident involved a Cirrus aircraft which had a airframe parachute system.

Hijack alert sees Turkish plane's jet escort

A Turkish Airlines pilot's mistaken activation of a hijack alarm triggered a high-octane security deployment at Vienna airport on Friday, Austrian police said.

The error -- coupled with a depressurization warning and then unexplained radio silence from the cockpit -- led to two jet fighters being scrambled to escort the Boeing 737 to land at Vienna's Schwechat airport.

The passenger plane had been flying from Frankfurt to Istanbul when panicked passengers saw oxygen masks fall from the ceiling after it was hit by a pressurization problem.

The pilot -- who had asked to make an emergency landing  -- apparently inadvertently activated the hijack alarm as he responded to the problem, police said, confirming a report on the website of the daily Kurier newspaper.

Authorities stepped down from their hijack alert status 40 minutes after the plane landed, Kurier said.

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Boeing hopes SpiceJet's 'fleet reduction' strategy will work

NEW DELHI: With an order for 42 Boeing 737 Max worth $4.4 billion from crisis-ridden SpiceJet, the US aircraft major hopes that SpiceJet's strategy of "shrinking now and expanding later" - a reference to SpiceJet's ruthless fleet reduction - would work.

Boeing commercial airplanes (VP-sales) Dinesh Keskar was in India recently and told TOI that the delivery of 737 Max to SpiceJet, Boeing's answer to Airbus' hugely successful A320 Neo, begins from 2018 onwards and by then the low cost carrier (LCC) "will find a way out".

SpiceJet had ordered 42 Boeing 737 Max at the Hyderabad air show this March. But today, the LCC is struggling to survive by returning planes, cutting flights drastically and its auditors casting aspersion on its claim of being a going concern.

"I am not much worried. They will find a way. Their strategy is of shrinking now and expanding later. When you are hurting, the last thing you want to do is expand. Anyway, SpiceJet is supposed to start getting the Max from 2018 onwards," Keskar said. SpiceJet is today flying just 22 Boeing 737s - down from 35 in summer - and has cut over 50 daily flights reportedly due to a lack of funds that saw leasors taking back planes.

Asked won't the going get tougher for existing carriers, including SpiceJet, when Tata-Singapore Airlines JV airline starts flying soon and when Tata-AirAsia JV expands its wings, Keskar said: "Thanks to oil prices, airline operating costs have fallen. With those reduced costs and the current fare levels, the average gap in break-even price per ticket is just $10 (Rs 600-700). Indian carriers will be in profit during this peak holiday season." He added that SpiceJet will be able to deploy its smaller fleet more gainfully.While aircraft manufacturers keep their fingers crossed for airlines - remember the hit Airbus took when its customers Air Deccan and Kingfisher folded up with the latter having placed orders for five A-380s that were written off only recently - SpiceJet is fighting for survival. The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has asked the LCC to give weekly status reports on its payables to various agencies.

Top DGCA officials say the airline has informed them that as many as 116 pilots have resigned and are serving notice period till mid-2015. While multiple top officials of DGCA confirmed getting this information from SpiceJet, the airline denied having giving any such information to the regulator when reached for comment.

On its part, SpiceJet says it is cutting Boeing fleet to get out of unfavorable leasing contracts. "We are revamping the fleet to come out stronger and shed unfavorable contracts and unwanted aircraft. We are doing this as part of turnaround process.... (Our) schedule reduction is about 50," Kapoor had told TOI last Sunday, while claiming that the airline's Boeing 737s fleet will grow to about 30 by the year-end.

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Clutha helicopter crash report hit by delay: Eurocopter EC 135 T2+, G-SPAO

The final investigation report into the Clutha helicopter crash a year ago today will not be ­published until mid-2015.

A draft version will take several weeks to complete, the UK Department for Transport’s air accident investigation branch (AAIB) said yesterday. It will then be sent to “interested parties”, such as relatives of those who died and the helicopter firms involved, early next year.

Ten people were killed when a Police Scotland helicopter crashed on to the Clutha bar in Glasgow city center on Friday, 29 November, 2013.

The AAIB issued its last interim report into the crash in February, when it revealed the helicopter’s two engines had failed after being starved of fuel, despite 76kg of fuel remaining in its main tank.

The AAIB said the two fuel supply tanks linking the main tank to the engines were almost empty, but it found no problems with the connecting pipes.

It said yesterday the investigation had been protracted because the Eurocopter EC135 T2+ aircraft was not required to have flight data or cockpit voice recorders. It said: “As a result, significant work was required to extract and analyze the contents of non-volatile mem­ory from microchipped equipment known to record data.

“This, together with further examination of the aircraft and subsequent tests, has now been completed, to the extent that the investigation team may reach its conclusions.”

The AAIB said it had been working with the helicopter manufacturer, engine manufacturer, the European Aviation Safety Agency, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and the helicopter operator, along with other specialists, “to establish the causes and contributory ­factors that led to the accident”

Its February report said the investigation would “seek to determine why a situation arose that led to both the helicopter’s engines flaming out when 76kg of fuel remained in the fuel tank group”.

Pilot David Traill and his passengers, police officers Kirsty Nelis and Tony Collins, lost their lives. Those killed in the pub were John McGarrigle, Mark O’Prey, Gary Arthur, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins and Samuel McGhee. Some 32 people were taken initially to hospitals across the city. Joe Cusker was pulled from the wreckage alive but later died in hospital.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represents relatives of those who died, called for the final report to be published sooner, and repeated its demand for an urgent review of helicopters below a certain weight being exempt from carrying “black box” equipment.

Elaine Russell, a partner in the firm, said: “We cannot overstate how important it is for the AAIB to get this publication out as soon as possible so that our clients can understand what led to the incident, as well as what should be done to ensure that no-one else faces the terrible ordeals they have endured.

“The middle of 2015 is simply too long to wait for the answers that are needed.”

Jim Morris, a partner in the firm’s aviation law team, said: “Current regulations on the fitting black box equipment exempt helicopters weighing less than 3,175kg from having to carry it, which, as this tragedy and the latest AAIB update demonstrates, can make the job for the accident investigators much more challenging and cause significant delays in finding out the cause of accidents.

“This in turn leads to delays in providing answers to the loved ones of those affected, as well as affecting whether lessons can be learned and measures implemented to improve flight safety.

“One year on, and all of our clients remain frustrated and desperate for answers regarding how this terrible tragedy ­happened.”

Story and Comments:

Piper PA-24-250 Comanche, N5897P: Accident occurred November 28, 2014 near Andrews University Airpark (C20), Berrien Springs, Michigan

NTSB Identification: CEN15CA064 
Accident occurred Friday, November 28, 2014 in Berrien Springs, MI
Aircraft: PIPER PA 24-250, registration: N5897P

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

BERRIEN SPRINGS, MI — Rory Robinson was in his house in Berrien Springs late Friday morning when he heard something outside that didn't sound quite right.

"It sounded like a big snowplow, only louder," said Robinson, who lives in the 400 block of Bluff Street. "It sounded like a plane going through the trees."

A second after hearing the noise outside, power went out. That's when Robinson, a former pilot, knew something was wrong and went outside to investigate.

"We immediately lost power, it took down power lines," Robinson said. "That's when I went outside and saw the plane. It came over the river, it went right through the trees on the top of the river bank and stopped about six feet short of a house."

Robinson said that he didn't hear any engine noise prior to impact and he didn't observe any leaking fuel around the wreckage.

"That was my biggest concern, besides for the people on board," he said. "I don't know if they ran out of fuel or what. There was no fuel leaking around the crash. I think he was trying to make it to Andrews (Airpark) in Berrien. I had heard no engine noise."

The crumpled aircraft, a Piper PA-24 Comanche, had four people aboard.

Two people in the aircraft suffered serious injuries and two people suffered minor injuries, said Rick Smiedendorf, chief of the Berrien Springs Oronoko Township Police Department.

The aircraft was headed from Richmond, Ind., to the Andrews University Airpark for a family gathering in the Berrien Springs area, according to a news release issued late Friday afternoon from the Berrien Springs Oronoko Township Police Department.

The Piper Comanche was being piloted by Bryce Fisher of Richmond. He was in the plane with his his father, Dr. William Fisher of Richmond, who owned the plane and was acting as co-pilot.

Also aboard were William Fisher's wife, Barbara, and Bryce Fisher's girlfriend, Miritha Morales of DeKalb, Ill.

William Fisher and his wife, both 70, were seriously injured in the crash.

As of 3:15 p.m. Friday, the wreckage of the aircraft was being removed from the scene, Robinson said. Seeing one of the wings being loaded on to a trailer, he noticed that the aircraft's retractable landing gear did not appear to have been extended.

"It was a low-wing aircraft," Robinson said. "It did have retractable gear on it. The gear appeared to be still up."

This incident is still under investigation, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said.

Story, Comments and Photo Gallery:

A single-engine plane crashed Friday morning at 11:12 a.m. behind a home in the 400 block of North Bluff in Berrien Springs, according to Berrien County dispatch. 

 Police sent out a report that evening stating that the pilot of the plane was Bryce Fisher who was flying with three passengers.

The first passenger and co-pilot was his father, Dr. William Fisher, who owned the plane. The other passengers were Barbara Fisher, wife of Dr. Fisher and Miritha Morales, girlfriend of Bryce.

According to reports all by Morales are from Richmond, IN, she is from Dekalb, IL.

The passengers were out and walking around when responders arrived and the pilot was trapped in the plane and had to be extricated.

We were told all four occupants are now in the hospital. Two of them appear to be in serious condition. 

The FAA will be taking over the investigation.

We're told four homes in the neighborhood lost power because I&M had to cut lines in order to free up the plane to be removed.

None of the surrounding houses, however, were damaged by the plane which landed just five to six feet away from the nearest home, according to reports.

The plane was headed from Richmond, Indiana to Andrews for a family holiday function, we're told.

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U.S. Airlines Recovered from Wednesday’s Nor’easter: Cancellations, Delays Close to Normal on Friday

The Wall Street Journal 
By Susan Carey
Nov. 28, 2014 1:26 p.m. ET

After canceling more than 750 flights on Wednesday, a busy travel day before the Thanksgiving holiday, due to snow, rain and winds across the East Coast, airlines were operating close to normal on Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Air-Traffic Control System Command Center website showed no major airport problems from coast to coast at midday Friday., a live tracking service, reported only 27 flight cancellations by midday Friday, although 533 flights were delayed. Normally, U.S. airlines operate about 25,000 flights a day.

United Continental Holdings Inc. warned on its website, however, of light snow in Boston and Chicago and high winds in New York on Friday.

Wednesday was a far different story, as a wave of low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico shifted northeastward, bringing widespread rain from Florida to Maine. The storm, which developed into a nor’easter, brought significant snow from the central Appalachians into the inland parts of the Northeast U.S.

With 2.27 million passengers scheduled to fly that day, one of the busiest travel days of the year, airlines ended up canceling 751 flights and nearly 4,900 others were delayed.

The worst-hit were flights headed to and from Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, New York’s La Guardia and JFK airports and Reagan National Airport near Washington.

Passengers whose flights were canceled could opt for refunds. But those determined to make their holiday trips were offered opportunities to change their flight times during a limited window without financial penalty.

Delta Air Lines Inc. said Friday that it was able to rebook some of its passengers on Wednesday within 3½ hours of their scheduled arrival times, with others being reaccommodated up to seven hours later, meaning some weren’t on their way until Thursday morning.

American Airlines Group Inc. also said it was able rebook its passengers who had planned to fly on Wednesday, without having to put on extra flights.

United also said it made good on its customers’ travel plans, with some delays, and operated 12 extra flights Thanksgiving morning to help the effort.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving itself, there were 85 U.S. flight cancellations and nearly 1,000 delays, according to

Friday’s weather forecast was benign. U.S. government meteorologists said that while average temperatures in the eastern half of the country will be colder than normal, there will be no major snow, just some lake-effect showers downwind of the Great Lakes.

An arctic front across the northern Rockies and Plains also will usher in colder temperatures this weekend, but the greatest concentration of heavy snow should remain north of the Canadian border, according to the latest forecast.

Sunday is slated to be the busiest travel day of the year, with 2.61 million people expected to fly on U.S. airlines, according to trade group Airlines for America. Monday will rank second, with 2.41 million fliers expected.

Delta said that Sunday is shaping up to be the busiest day in its history, with 5,700 flights on the books, including those of its Delta Connection regional partners. A spokesman said the weather is supposed to be good that day.

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A worker de-ices an American Airlines Eagle jet at La Guardia airport on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. After canceling hundreds of flights because of the storm, airlines were operating close to normal on Friday. Reuters

Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation asked to train more pilots

BANGKOK  --   A shortage of qualified Thai pilots on the country's domestic air routes means that some foreign pilots are being employed, according to the Civil Aviation Department.

In response to Thai pilot complaints that foreign pilots are illegally flying planes on domestic routes and affecting their careers, Civil Aviation Department Director-General Somchai Piputvat said that the use of foreign pilots violated Thai labor law but solved the local shortage of pilots for the present.

Mr Somchai said the law might be amended to permit foreign pilot domestic service as the training of qualified Thai pilots cannot at present meet demands in the growing aviation industry

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary for Transport Soithip Trisuddhi told the department to increase the numbers of trained aviation personnel to meet the growing demands of the aviation industry.

Thailand's permanent secretary for transport used the 81st anniversary of the founding of the Department of Civil Aviation to call for urgent improvements to the Air Transport Act of 1954 which she said had become outdated. She said more pilots needed to be trained and that facilities needed to be upgraded.

In the 60 years since the act was effected, developments in the aviation industry, Ms Soithip said many changes have come to the air transport sector.

Ms Soithip instructed the department to quickly finish its plan to make better use of the department's 28 provincial airports.

The plan should promote safe operations of the facilities in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

Ms Soithip told the department to increase the numbers of trained aviation personnel to meet the growing demands of the aviation industry.

Transport Minister Prajin Juntong's policy to upgrade U-Tapao airport into an international airport was also brought to focus on the occasion, Ms Soithip said.

Early next Thailand's month transport authorities will discuss area allocation for commercial and security operations at U-Tapao airport with the Navy, as it supervises the facility, Ms Soithip said.

Civil Aviation Department Director-General Somchai said a consultancy will conclude the plan for the 28 provincial airports by the end of December.

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Pilots to airlift boughs of holly to Tangier Island residents

45th Anniversary Tangier Island Christmas “Holly Run” To Take Place December 6th 

Stevensville, Maryland  -  On December 6, 2014, as they have been for over forty years, pilots from the Chesapeake Bay area will bring Christmas cheer to the approximately 700 isolated residents of Tangier Island, Virginia.

Eastern shore pilot Ed Nabb, Sr. started delivering holiday greens (holly) to the island in the 1960s when he realized that the rising sea level had eroded Tangier Island to the point that it no longer supported the growth of holly or other traditional Christmas evergreens.

His son, Ed Nabb Jr. took the reigns upon his father’s passing growing the event to nearly three dozen pilots and planes carrying holly to the island. In recent years, the event has grown to more than fifty aircraft and Santa has joined the pilots to spread Christmas cheer.

The pilots this year are also bringing school supplies for the students and teachers at the Tangier Combined School. “Teachers on the island can’t just run out to Walmart like we can,” explained Chesapeake Sport Pilot Chief Flight Instructor and Holly Run coordinator Helen Woods. “Things that every teacher needs this time of year like Kleenex and Germ-X can be in short supply. We’ll be loading our planes with these and other items the school needs in addition to bags of holly.”

Chesapeake Sport Pilot flight school ( will sponsor the run for the fifth year in a row out of its 6,000 square foot facility at the Bay Bridge Airport, in Stevensville, Maryland where they plan to serve breakfast to the pilots before the flight. “We are delighted to be able to host the Holly Run again this year,” said Woods. “Promoting the joy and fun of aviation is what Chesapeake Sport Pilot is all about.”

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is also planning to participate with their president Mark Baker joining the flight. Tangier’s mayor and Methodist pastor are also planning a special combined Tangier history lesson and Christmas service for the pilots to be held in Tangier’s beautiful and historic Methodist church. Lunch will later be served at Loraine’s Sandwich Shop on the island.

Ed Nabb Jr. and the Santa Claus (Richard Lindstrom) will be flying with the group.

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Canadian aircraft idling in fight

Canadian military aircraft tasked with fighting Islamic State in Iraq are spending most of their time on the ground.

Canada is contributing six CF-18 fighter jets, two Aurora military surveillance aircraft and a Polaris refueling plane to the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the extremists.

The aircraft began flying sorties Oct. 30, and by the end of the first week had logged a total of 42. Those included an airstrike that destroyed four Islamic State construction vehicles.

But the pace has slowed, particularly over the past week.

While the CF-18s and other aircraft flew a combined 26 and 35 sorties in the war's second and third weeks, only 13 sorties were flown Nov. 20-26.

The military counts a sortie every time one of its planes embarks on a mission. If two planes are involved in the same mission, it counts as two sorties.

Of the 13 sorties, six were flown by the CF-18s, or exactly one mission per fighter jet over the entire six days.

The Auroras flew four and the Polaris three. Each sortie is believed to run about four to six hours.

A U.S.-led command center is responsible for assigning missions to coalition aircraft, and the Canadian commander on the ground, Col. Daniel Constable, said Thursday that Canada accomplished everything asked of it.

But Constable also said two weeks ago that coalition forces were having a hard time finding Islamic State targets, and the latest update indicates the situation hasn't improved.

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Diane Terrill has joined the City of Naples Airport Authority as its communications specialist for noise abatement

The position was created to oversee the airport’s noise program. 

Diane Terrill's responsibilities include responding to the public about aircraft noise concerns; promoting noise-abatement procedures among airport users; assisting with public outreach and communication, and working with the airport authority’s Noise Compatibility Committee.

She most recently was the manager of Laconia Municipal Airport, a general aviation airport in New Hampshire. 

She developed the airport’s Good Neighbor policy to alleviate noise and traffic issues, increase public awareness and garner strong community support.

For more information or to receive email updates about the airport, visit

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Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub, N9720P, Alaska West Air: Accident occurred November 27, 2014 in Nikiski, Alaska

NTSB Identification: ANC15LA005 
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Thursday, November 27, 2014 in Nikiski, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/17/2015
Aircraft: PIPER PA 18-150, registration: N9720P
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that he had flown the airplane for about 20 to 30 minutes to survey the area for possible landing sites. After choosing a landing site, the pilot completed the prelanding checklist, cycled the carburetor heat on, and then placed it in the “off” position. When the airplane was established on short final for landing, the engine lost total power. The pilot attempted to restart the engine by switching fuel tanks and applying carburetor heat, but engine power was not restored. The airplane subsequently collided with rising terrain, which resulted in substantial damage to the fuselage and wings. A postaccident examination of the engine revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical problems that would have precluded normal operation. 

Another company pilot, who had landed his airplane at the same location only minutes before the accident airplane approached, stated that carburetor ice accumulated during the descent. Further, the atmospheric conditions at the time of the accident were conducive to the accumulation of carburetor icing at glide and cruise power settings. Therefore, it is likely that, as the pilot reduced engine power, carburetor ice formed, which caused the engine to lose power.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The total loss of engine power due to carburetor icing, which resulted from the pilot’s failure to use carburetor heat while operating at low-power settings in an area conducive to carburetor icing.

On November 27, 2014, at 1117 Alaska standard time, a Piper PA-18-150 airplane, N9720P, collided with terrain after a total loss of engine power while maneuvering for an off-airport landing near Nikiski, Alaska. The certificated commercial pilot sustained serious injuries and the sole passenger sustained minor injuries. The aircraft was registered to Summit Leasing LLC and operated by Alaska West Air, Inc., under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 as an on-demand commercial air taxi flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the entire flight, and a company flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Kenai, Alaska approximately 1030.

In a statement provided to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), the pilot stated that prior to the accident he flew approximately 20 to 30 minutes surveying the area for possible landing sites. During this time, he applied carburetor heat three or four times to check for carburetor ice. After a landing site had been selected, the pre-landing checklist was completed, and the carburetor heat was placed in the off position. On short final the engine lost all power. The pilot then switched fuel tanks and turned the carburetor heat back on, but the engine would not restart. The airplane subsequently collided with an area of rising terrain just short of the intended landing site, sustaining substantial damage to the fuselage and wings.

On December 1, 2014, the NTSB IIC, along with another NTSB investigator performed a post-accident examination of the airframe and engine. Control cable continuity was established from the cockpit control to the engine for the throttle, mixture, carburetor heat and cabin heat.

On December 11, the NTSB IIC, along with another NTSB investigator, performed a follow-up examination of the engine and fuel system. No anomalies, contamination, or evidence of malfunction was found in any of the engine accessories. The cylinders, pistons, valve train, crankshaft, and other internal components were all without evidence of anomaly or malfunction that would have precluded normal operation. 

Both magnetos were removed from the engine and the coupling was rotated. When the coupling was rotated, a blue spark was produced from each terminal, in rotational order.

The closest weather reporting facility was the Kenai Airport, Kenai, about 31 miles southeast of the accident site. At 1053, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) from the Kenai Airport was reporting in part: wind from 010 degrees at 3 knots; sky condition, clear; visibility, 10 statute miles; temperature 10 degrees F; dewpoint 9 degrees F; barometric pressure 30.23 inHG.

According to a carburetor icing probability chart, an airplane operating in the ambient conditions at the accident site could expect light carburetor icing while at cruise of glide power. 

Another company pilot who landed at the same location only minutes before the accident aircraft approached, stated that during the descent, his aircraft had accumulated carburetor ice during the approach.

A Lycoming Service Instruction states in part, "if icing conditions are suspected, apply 'Full Heat.' In the case that full power needs to be applied under these conditions, as for an aborted landing, return the carburetor heat to 'Full Cold' after full power application.

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

Alaska State Troopers today identified the pilot injured in a Thanksgiving Day crash as 55-year-old Brad Adams, of Soldotna. His only passenger was a 16-year-old boy whom troopers have not publicly named. 

Adams suffered "serious but non-life-threatening injuries," troopers wrote. The teenager was treated and released for minor injuries. 

Troopers say Adams was flying a Super Cub owned by Nikiski-based Alaska West Air. Someone called 911 to report the downed plane at 11:36 a.m. Thursday in an area on the west side of Cook Inlet known as Kustatan Bench. The company responded to the crash in an R44 helicopter and flew the pilot and teen to a Soldotna hospital. 


Alaska State Troopers say a small plane crashed on the west side of Cook Inlet Thursday morning, with two injured occupants flown to Soldotna for treatment.

According to AST spokesman Tim DeSpain, a helicopter from the 11th Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was sent to the scene. Troopers were informed of the crash shortly before noon, but didn't immediately have further information on the plane that crashed.

“It’s across the inlet from Nikiski,” DeSpain said. “It sounds like from the air they could see two people.”

Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska chief, confirmed that the plane -- a Piper PA-18 Super Cub with two occupants on board -- crashed at an airstrip on the west side of Cook Inlet at about noon Thursday.

"This accident happened on landing," Johnson said. "Initial, preliminary information is that the pilot experienced a loss of engine power and the airplane crashed shortly after that."

Johnson said both of the plane's occupants were injured in the crash.
"One was seriously injured, and one had injuries considered minor," Johnson said.

Central Emergency Services spokesman Brad Nelson said medics were alerted that two patients from the crash were headed to Central Peninsula Hospital. A Channel 2 viewer sent a photo of the patients being transferred to medics from an arriving helicopter.

“They are bringing two victims to the Soldotna hospital,” Nelson said. “Our crews are going to meet them there.”

A plane went down on the west side of Cook Inlet sometime before noon on Thursday, according to Alaska State Troopers. 

 Two people were rescued via helicopter, said Troopers spokesperson Tim DeSpain.

“The plane crash was seen from the air, pretty much across the inlet from Nikiski and they could see two people,” DeSpain said.

It is unclear which organization’s helicopter rescued the two after they were spotted.

“It may have been a private company,” he said.

The two people rescued from the downed flight were both injured and taken to Central Peninsula Hospital where CES firefighters helped to offload them into the facility, said Central Emergency Services Capt. Lesley Quelland. She didn’t know much about the crash.

“We were notified of it when we got dispatched to a helicopter coming into Soldotna airport with two victims from the crash,” she said. “We asked dispatch to have them redirect to the hospital landing.”

DeSpain said he did not know the identities of the two injured people. No one from the National Transportation Safety Board office in Anchorage was available to talk about the the crash.

STOL UC-1 Twin Bee, N9503U: Incident occurred November 27, 2014 near Johnston County Airport (KJNX), Smithfield, North Carolina


Highest Injury: None

Damage: None
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)


Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA Greensboro FSDO-39

BENSON, NC (WTVD) -- A small plane headed from Florida to New Jersey was forced to make an emergency landing in a Johnston County field on Thanksgiving.

The pilot and another person on board said they lost power on the twin-engine Seabee and had to put down near Baileys Crossroads Rd. and Benson Hardee Rd. in the Benson area - close to the Harnett County line - just after 6 p.m.

The Seabee can land and take off from both water and a normal runway.

The men were checked out by paramedics, but were not seriously hurt.

The plane is reportedly now stuck in the muddy field, so the men planned to stay overnight in a local motel.

The FAA is expected to investigate.

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Paramedics check out two men who were on a plane that came down in a field on Thanksgiving Day.

BENSON, N.C. — A small airplane has made an emergency landing in a Johnston County field. 

Multiple media outlets reported the plane put down in the Benson area near the Harnett County line shortly after 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

 A pilot and another person were on the plane that lost power on the twin-engine Seabee aircraft. 

The men were not seriously hurt. Their names were not released. 

 The Seabee can land and take off from both water and a runway.

Not an Airplane Pilot? You Won't Be Flying Commercial Drones

Here’s a regulatory riddle no one has yet solved: Does it take an airplane pilot to fly a small drone?

Right now there’s no simple route to using a drone legally in U.S. airspace for commercial purposes. But no shortage of industries expect to make unmanned aerial vehicles—and their human pilots—a part of the future workforce. The list includes everyone from real estate developers and electrical utilities to farmers and filmmakers. As the Federal Aviation Administration finishes its first draft of new rules this month, business interests have closely monitored requirements for drone pilots. If regulators regard the person at the controls as akin to a private pilot, it would mean upwards of 40 flight hours at a cost of up to $10,000, limiting to pool of workers qualified for the job.

The training provision is central to new rules expected to be released for public comment by year’s end. In their current form, as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, the drone regulations would include a private pilot licensing mandate, along with limiting flights to 400 feet and only in daylight. The FAA already required trained airplane pilots when it granted permission in September for seven Hollywood production companies to shoot aerial footage with unmanned drones, the only major exception to the current commercial drone ban.

Private companies, of course, see little similarity between a 20-pound drone with no passengers and a small airplane. “To compare these two is to compare apples to oranges,” says Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition and a senior adviser at the Washington (D.C.) law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. His lobbying group is funded by about a dozen companies, including, that are building UAVs and related navigation technologies to field drones in commercial enterprises. Amazon, for example, sees drones as a potential delivery mode for online purchases.

“Being able to fly a Cessna has nothing to do with flying a UAV,” says Tim Adelman, a partner with New York law firm LeClairRyan who specializes in aviation regulation and is a certified flight instructor. “The FAA understands that.”

The FAA had no comment on its small UAV rules, which are still being prepared, spokesman Les Dorr said. The rules are expected to be released by the end of the year, followed by a comment period. That’s when commercial drone operators will try to kill the pilot licensing requirement and press the FAA for a less-stringent standard.

Needless to say, companies such as Amazon and Google, which want to deploy drones as part of their business ventures, do not want to hire large numbers of pilots; they accuse regulators of stifling the industry’s potential. Other nations have less onerous restrictions, and Drobac says commercial drone fleets will be operating soon—just not in the U.S.

Earlier this month, for instance, Transport Canada announced a liberalization of rules for UAVs weighing less than 55 pounds and effectively ended regulation of those less than 4.4 pounds. “You’re going to see it all overseas—in the near term,” Drobec says of commercial UAV work. “Coming soon to a country near you.” He describes what he sees as a “disconnect” between the FAA’s rule-making and the technical advancements in UAV radar, navigation, and safety systems.

Others argue that the FAA’s conservative approach is warranted considering the challenges of figuring out how to integrate unmanned aircraft into crowded U.S. skies, particularly when it comes to ensuring safe communications between drone operators and air-traffic controllers. The agency also has been charged by Congress to consider national security when it certifies UAV operations, and one advantage of mandating private pilots is that federal background checks are part of the licensing requirement.

“One can be frustrated, one can wring their hands about the pace this is proceeding, and it’s a pointless exercise,” says Mark Dombroff, an attorney at New York’s McKenna Long & Aldridge who advises would-be commercial drone operators. “The reality is that if one drone … gets entangled with an airplane in this country, everything stops.”

He and others predict that, eventually, the FAA will give the industry what it wants: drone operators who will be certified as their own class of airman, distinct from pilots who fly manned aircraft. The drone operators would be trained to communicate with air traffic controllers but avoid the dozens of flight hours most private pilots need before they’re able to receive FAA certification.

Dombroff, a private pilot himself, calls for a drone operator certificate that “doesn’t require flight time in a fixed-wing aircraft.” He envisions a few days of classroom instruction at a certified flight school and passing an FAA proficiency test. Background checks could be handled separately and without much bureaucratic trouble.

In the industry’s nascent days, however, the early adopters of corporate drone fleets could find themselves needing a few good FAA-certified private pilots.

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Air, rail and boating safety measures 'insufficient,' says Transportation Safety Board of Canada

Transportation Safety Board says feds not doing enough to enforce safe transport

OTTAWA - The Transportation Safety Board says the federal government isn't doing enough to enforce proper safety practices by Canada's railways, airlines and marine operators.

The board, which investigates transport accidents and makes recommendations for improvement, released its 2014 watch list of significant safety issues Wednesday.

The annual list cites problems that the investigative board believes are of ongoing concern.

This year it takes direct aim at Transport Canada's oversight of self-regulatory safety systems, notwithstanding a series of Conservative government announcements designed to bolster public confidence.

Citing the deadly derailment and fire in Lac-Megantic, Que., that claimed 47 lives last year, the Transportation Safety Board says the federal regulator has failed to identify safety problems under its watch and has put too much emphasis on company audits rather than on-the-ground inspections.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has strongly defended so-called safety management systems, or SMS ...  a self-regulatory approach to government oversight in which federal auditors monitor companies' own safety reports rather than inspecting their operations directly.

Last month Raitt announced her department would hire 10 new auditors, doubling the number employed by Transport Canada across the country.

"An SMS on its own is not enough,'' Kathy Fox, the chair of the board, said in the TSB release.

"That's why we are calling on (Transport Canada) to regularly oversee all safety management systems and processes to ensure they are effective.''

Fox added that "when transportation companies are unable to effectively manage safety, TC must intervene in a way that succeeds in changing unsafe operating practices.''

The release states there is "an imbalance between auditing processes versus traditional inspections.''

The board also warns that while all federally regulated railways are required to have a safety management system, that is not the case for all marine and air operators. That needs to change, says the TSB.

The board called on the department to ensure railway companies properly classify flammable liquids and "ship them in containers of the safest design,'' while also assessing rail routes to mitigate risks.

A spokeswoman for the transport minister said all the recommendations on the watch list are being reviewed.

"Transport Canada continues to consult with industry and unions on how to best address the issues raised by the Transportation Safety Board,'' said the emailed response from Raitt's office.

"That being said, Transport Canada has taken a number of actions to enhance the safety of our transportation system and will continue to do so. We thank the TSB for their work and share their objective for a safer transportation system.''

Just last week, Raitt announced new railway operating certificates would come into effect in the new year, a measure she said would further enhance rail safety oversight.

However the certificates simply require a senior executive to attest that the rail company has done an internal risk analysis, without submitting any documentary proof. That executive cannot be held personally liable for the safety attestation at a later date, say government documents supporting the new legislation.

Newly released government spending documents, meanwhile, show that the budgets for rail, marine and air safety oversight at Transport Canada have been cut between 20 and 27 percent over the last five years, even as volatile oil-by-rail shipments have increased exponentially.

"For each of the issues identified on our watch list - issues supported by our science, and our thorough examination of the facts and findings in every accident we investigate - we believe actions taken to date are insufficient,'' said Fox, the TSB chair.

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