Thursday, December 04, 2014

Cessna 208 Caravan, V3-HHU, Tropic Air: Incident occurred December 04, 2014 at Belize City Municipal Airport (TZA)

Nigel Carter

Civil Aviation Department defends record after plane crash 

The Department of Civil Aviation today observed International Civil Aviation Day in honor of the 70th anniversary of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s founding.

 It comes on the heels of yesterday’s crash of Tropic Air Flight 281 off the coast of Belize City as it prepared to land.

As they honored past and present contributors to the industry, Chief Operations Officer in the DCA Nigel Carter told us that Belize’s travel record, both domestic and international, has never been safer.

Flight 281 was the first major accident of 2014, which saw more than 290,000 flights, both domestic and international, take off from Belizean airspace.

The Department conducts regular inspections and monitors the inspections of the major airlines of aircraft and personnel.

Meanwhile, authorities ranging from Police to the Coast Guard to the Airports Authority to Civil Aviation and the Fire Service are investigating, but the Department is not prepared at this time to go beyond the facts.

Carter told us that the purpose of the investigation is merely to establish what happen, and unless any gross negligence is found, it will not be punitive in nature.

Carter confirmed that the Cessna 208 Caravan was almost new and had just been added to the Tropic fleet.

Previous incidents involving both major carriers did not rise to the status of accident and so were not widely reported.

On Thursday evening we spoke with two witnesses to the wet end of Flight 281.

Area resident David Choe did not see the plane fall but observed the slick of aviation fuel released into the sea.

He relayed his concerns that if the fuel was left unattended it might cause a fire if put into contact with a flame source.

Police meanwhile have confirmed that the single-engine aircraft began experiencing engine problems and was unable to decelerate while trying to land.

Attempts were made to shut off the plane engine, however, the momentum caused the plane to overrun the airstrip and end up in the sea.

Two passengers suffered minor injuries, while another was a man from San Pedro Town who had been shot in the leg during a robbery on the island and was being flown to the City for treatment.

The investigation is ongoing at this hour but we can tell you that the plane while lifted out of the sea is now practically useless, having broken up on landing.

- Source:



Nigel Carter, CEO, Department of Civil Aviation

At around two thirty Thursday afternoon a Tropic Air Cessna Grand Caravan, inbound from San Pedro, crash landed at the Municipal Airstrip in Belize City and then ran off the runway into the bordering sea. There were five passengers on but all escaped unharmed. Directors of Tropic Air immediately blamed the slick conditions of the runway, which they claim is too narrow and too short. But there have also been persistent reports of engine failure as the cause of the accident because it couldn’t reduce velocity. A police report issued today says that (Quote) “on arrival at Municipal Airstrip about two-fifteen p.m. the plane began experiencing engine problems and was unable to decelerate.  Attempts were made to shut off the plane engine, however, the momentum caused the plane to overrun the airstrip and ended up in the sea.”  (Unquote)  The Department of Civil Aviation is in charge of the investigation at this point, but they are not offering any concrete information, saying only that the aircraft could not come to a stop within the length of the runway. Today C.E.O. in the Department Nigel Carter told News Five that while any accident is regrettable, the safety record in Belize remains stellar.

Nigel Carter

“We know that incidents and accidents happen from time to time. This year alone Belize is projected to have three hundred thousand flight operations. We believe that of the three hundred thousand flight operations if we do have an accident it is definitely regrettable, but our safety record remains up there with any first world country.”


“We know that tropic air has grown exponentially, faster than any other airline in Belize. Have they grown too fast to keep up with a proper regimen of maintenance, safety and training?”

Nigel Carter

“Well we know that Tropic Air has grown. They’ve expanded their routes and so forth, but we do regulate that growth. With reference to the introduction of any new aircraft to the fleet or any new route, we conduct extensive reviews and testing of the changes that are made to the system. So we can say that we have done our due diligence to ensure that the company has grown and been compliant with standards.”

Carter was unable to provide any clarification of recent reports of other accidents involving Tropic Air planes, since he says the current legislation indicates that any information on accidents must be released by the Minister in charge of Civil Aviation.



John Greif III, President, Tropic Air
Tropic Air: The Airline of Belize 

A press release from Tropic Air has issued information this afternoon that one of its aircraft ran off the runway in Belize City Municipal Airport and landed a few feet away in shallow waters. 

On Thursday December 4, at approximately 2:20 PM Tropic Air flight #281 was going from  San Pedro to Belize City Municipal and upon landing went off the runway and into the water. There were five passengers and a pilot on board; no injuries incurred.

Ambergris Today received information that one of the passengers onboard the plane was Carlos Najera, who was just injured in a shooting incident in San Pedro, an hour before. Najera was being transported to Belize City after he was shot on the leg while he attempted to apprehend a robber coming out of a local store in downtown San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.

Luckily Najera and the other passengers were not injured in the accident and Najera was transported to the city hospital as arrangements had been made for an ambulance to pick him up. Investigations continue as to the cause of the plane accident.

Story, Comments and Photo Gallery:

A single engine Tropic Air plane left San Pedro this afternoon and crash landed on arrival at the Belize Municipal Airport. 

While the pilot was able to land the plane, he could not bring it to a complete stop and the aircraft came to rest in the nearby sea. 

The incident is attributed to the slick conditions of the runway.

On board were five passengers, including a shooting victim who was being transported to the K.H.M.H. 

All escaped unscathed, but the aircraft is being deemed inoperable, a loss of four million dollars. 

News Five’s Isani Cayetano was at the municipal airport immediately after the plane crash landed. He files the following report.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A domestic flight to Belize City, inbound from San Pedro this afternoon, crash landed at the Municipal Airstrip shortly after two o’clock, when it slid off the runway upon touchdown.  Onboard the single engine aircraft were five passengers, including Carlos Najera who had been shot during an early-afternoon robbery on the island.  According to John Greif the Third, President of Tropic Air, the commuter plane careened off the slick runway due to unstable weather conditions we have been experiencing since the beginning of the week.

Via phone: John Greif III, President, Tropic Air

“Today, December fourth, at approximately 2:20 p.m. our flight number two-eighty-one was en route from San Pedro to the Belize Municipal Airstrip.  As you know, the weather has been bad all over the country so the runway was rain soaked.  The pilot landed and was unable to stop the aircraft and it ran off into the shallow water at the east end of the runway.”

Fortunately, the pilot and his passengers escaped the accident unscathed.  The aircraft, however, became waterlogged almost immediately; its prop and wings jutting out from the shoals.  Moments later, authorities converged on the scene.

Via Phone: John Greif III

“We are investigating, along with Civil Aviation, what happened.  But our primary concern is the wellbeing of our crew; in this case it was one pilot and our five passengers.  And one of the passengers was medevaced from San Pedro, we had actually delayed that flight and moved it around a little bit to try to get a gunshot victim off the island.  So our primary concern is for the safety of our crew and our passengers but nevertheless we continue to try to determine exactly what happened.”

Isani Cayetano
“Were there any injuries reported as a result of this incident?”

Via Phone: John Greif III
“No.  Neither, we had everyone taken to the hospital and ironically three of the people were going to the hospital anyway.  So there were no injuries reported or otherwise.  They literally were no injuries.’

While it may be too early to determine the full extent of damages, Greif says the aircraft has been declared inoperable.

Via Phone: John Greif III

“Visually it is not very damaged but anytime an aircraft gets immersed in saltwater it’s useless so it won’t be able to be reused.”

Isani Cayetano: Can you speak to us about some of the safety precautions that can be taken by pilots in cases like these where the weather is one of the forces acting against a successful landing?

Via Phone: John Greif III

“Good question.  We take safety and training very seriously here at Tropic.  I don’t know if you remember, we reported it to the news about a year ago.  We bought a caravan simulator so we have in our office in San Pedro a device that exactly mimics the inside of the caravan.  It has ten or twelve flat screen TVs that mimic the look of the outside of the airplane so much so that when you’re taxiing in San Pedro you can see our terminal building from the San Pedro airstrip and everything.  And all of our pilots spend several hours a month going through recurrent training, weather training, instrument training and all that.  So we take the safety aspect of it very, very seriously.”

The primary issue, according to the experienced aviator, is the location and size of the airstrip itself.  Despite ongoing work to expand the facility, landing in Belize City is somewhat dangerous.

Via Phone: John Greif III
“The problem with the Municipal Airstrip is, I’ve been in aviation in Belize for over forty years.  I started flying here when I was fifteen and the Municipal Airstrip is simply too short, it’s too narrow and it’s surrounded by water on all three sides.  The government is expanding and lengthening it but it’s just taking forever to get that done.  So in my opinion, the primary enhancement to aviation safety in Belize would be to finally finish with the Municipal Airstrip.”

Isani Cayetano
“In terms of an estimated dollar amount, can you give us the value of the aircraft that has been damaged?”

Via Phone: John Greif III

“Sure.  It’s four million dollars.”

An investigation led by the Civil Aviation Department, as well as Tropic Air remains ongoing. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

- Source:

Angry NetJets Pilots Protest Corporate Greed at Art Basel in Miami Beach

NetJets pilots protest in front of the Miami Beach Convention Center 
Photo: Ben Davis

Inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, the mood was upbeat during the opening day of Art Basel in Miami Beach. Outside, however, it was a different matter, as dozens of uniformed pilots protested the fair's longtime sponsor NetJets.

Though their demeanor was restrained and even jovial, their signs were blunt: “Hands Off Our Benefits" and “Management Greed Is Destroying NetJets." According to organizers, about 65 pilots and a handful of flight attendants came out over the course of Wednesday to protest at the fair's entrance. They planned to return throughout the week.

“NetJets has a booth here and they do an event for NetJets customers, so this is a good environment to get our message out," union representative Pedro LeRoux explained. “We've actually had a lot of NetJets customers stop by and talk to us who were unaware of the labor issues."

Relations between NetJets and its workers have been tense for over a year. Despite being profitable, NetJets is seeking to trim 5 percent from its budget through concessions and shrinking its workforce, in the hopes of generating increased returns for Berkshire Hathaway, the Warren Buffet conglomerate that owns the jet-sharing company.

“We fly some of the wealthiest people around, and we are owned by Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet," LeRoux said, when asked what the pilots' message to fairgoers was. “We just want them to know what they [Buffet and NetJets CEO Jordan Hansell] are doing to the average American, with the cuts we are expected to take."
NetJets, for its part, has issued a statement accusing the pilots of attempting to destroy the company's brand rather than negotiating.
In addition to the picket at Art Basel in Miami Beach, the organization representing 2,700 NetJets pilots has just issued a lawsuit against NetJets, alleging that the company waged a campaign of dirty tricks including “impersonating a pilot on Twitter" and “illegally infiltrating a password-protected, confidential message board for pilots," according to Reuters.

For more information about the pilot's demands, LaRoux directed people to visit
- Source:

Lawsuits filed against developer Blackwell

A lawsuit against Quad-Cities' developer Rodney Blackwell alleges he misappropriated funds from an aviation company in which he was a partner and seeks more than $1 million in damages.

RKA, LLC, and Blackwell Aviation, LLC, both Iowa limited liability companies, filed suit against Mr. Blackwell on Oct. 28, in Scott County District Court.

According to the lawsuit, Blackwell Aviation was formed on Sept. 8, 2008. An operating agreement effective Jan. 1, 2009 says Mr. Blackwell and RKA are each 50 percent members in Blackwell Aviation, an   entity wherein Mr. Blackwell and Gregg Ontiveros are the two managers.

The sole business of Blackwell Aviation is ownership and operation of a 2006 Cessna Model 560XL aircraft and ownership and operation of an aircraft hangar facility and association improvements located at the Quad Cities International Airport in Moline, with an address of 6225 74th Ave., Milan.

According to the lawsuit, on Aug. 1, 2014, Mr. Ontiveros took over management and control of the bank accounts of Blackwell Aviation.

The lawsuit alleges Mr. Blackwell breached his contractual obligations, oral agreements and fiduciary duties owing to RKA and Blackwell Aviation.

The lawsuit alleges Mr. Blackwell is indebted to RKA and Blackwell Aviation for $1,061,612 and other further sums, "as may be determined as a consequence of RKA's and Aviation's ongoing investigation into Blackwell's acts and omissions to act."

Among the allegations is Mr. Blackwell misappropriated to his own use approximately $165,000 from Blackwell Aviation, along with unpaid aircraft use of $72,730 for 2013 and 2014, and unpaid monthly operating expenses of $171,600 related to the aircraft and hangar facility.

The lawsuit alleges Mr. Blackwell is also indebted to RKA and Blackwell Aviation $500,771 for aircraft maintenance.

In an unrelated lawsuit, a Muscatine man is suing Mr. Blackwell for an alleged delinquent loan and unpaid property taxes in Rock Island County.

Roy J. Carver Jr., is suing Mr. Blackwell for $323,375, which includes principal and accrued interest.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 25 in the Iowa District Court for Scott County, alleges Mr. Carver and Mr. Blackwell agreed the loan would bear interest at five percent per annum from and after Jan. 29, 2013.

"There have been no payments on the loan," the lawsuit said. "Plaintiff (Carver Jr.) has demanded repayment of the loan and payment has been refused."

Mr. Blackwell had no comment on the lawsuits, saying, "we will need to reserve comments during (the) litigation process."

- Source:

Incident occurred December 04, 2014 at Toledo Express Airport (KTOL), Ohio

A commercial airliner landed safely Thursday night at Toledo Express Airport after the crew aboard reported smoke in the cockpit, authorities said.

The tower at the airport was alerted around 8 p.m. that an aircraft was about 10 minutes away from the airport and would be landing.

Lucas County Sheriff’s deputies and area fire departments, including Swanton’s, responded.

By 8:30, the plane was on the ground and authorities reported that the smoke in the cockpit had cleared. Passengers were to be allowed off the plane.

The aircraft was a Delta 757, said Holly Kemler, spokesman for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.  Further information about its origin and destination were not immediately available.

There were no reports of injury.


Washington man finds wedding ring near site of 1959 plane crash, tracks down daughter in New Jersey

NEW JERSEY -- The parents of a young girl disappeared in 1959 while flying to Washington state, her pilot father and mother never heard from again. And for more than a decade, the family lived under a shroud of mystery. 

 Now, Joyce Wharton lives in New Jersey. And she recently received a wondrous gift from a stranger that brought back memories more than a half-century in the past.

"To me, it's my Christmas miracle," Joyce said. "And I look at the ring, and I think about my mother. It's like reaching back in time."

Fifty five years ago, Joyce lost her parents in a small plane crash.

"They went out to the airport and left, but they never arrived in Seattle," she said. "So for many many years, we didn't know what had happened."

Her family agonized for nearly 15 years without answers until plane wreckage was discovered in a dense wooded area in Washington.

With closure and peace finally in hand, Joyce said she never imagined there could be more to come. Then, on Sunday, she got an unexpected phone call.

"He said 'Joyce, I have your mother's ring, and I've been looking for you all these years and I want you to have this,'" she said.

The voice on the phone was Nick Buchanan, a logger who had stumbled upon the ring near the crash site.

With the help of his nephew, he used to track Joyce down some 3,000 miles away.

"My mouth was open," she said. "I couldn't believe what I was restores your faith in human nature, because there's so many bad things happening. And yet there are good people out there, kind people. People persevere."

Overwhelmed with joy, she calls the return of this precious family heirloom a miracle, one made possible by a perfect stranger she now considers a part of her family too.

"To see a ring that the last time I saw this ring, my mother was wearing it 55 years ago, that's my Christmas miracle," she said.


Hainan Air Elbows Its Way Into China’s Skies: Feisty Carrier Gets Creative in Attempt to Chip Away at State-Owned Airlines’ Dominance

The Wall Street Journal
By Joanne Chiu

Dec. 4, 2014 4:46 p.m. ET

To gauge the state of competition in China’s airline industry, look at the antics of Hainan Airlines Co. , China’s largest private carrier.

The feisty southern China-based airline had for years unsuccessfully lobbied Chinese aviation authorities for permission to fly a major international route like Beijing to Paris.

So in 2012, Hainan Air got creative, getting its parent company to take a 48% stake in tiny French carrier Aigle Azur, which then applied for French approval for the Beijing-Paris route. The carriers unveiled a plan to start service in June, using a Hainan Air jet, complete with Hainan livery and flight staff.

The plan hit headwinds when Russia, whose relationship with France had soured over tensions in the Ukraine, wouldn’t let Aigle Azur fly over Siberia on the way to Beijing. Aigle Azur finally abandoned the route in October. “As long as French and Russian authorities haven’t reached an agreement on that matter, we will not be able to consider the launch of this service,” said Aigle Azur CEO C├ędric Pastour.

So Hainan Air in September launched its own flight to Paris from the smaller southeastern city of Hangzhou, and said it would figure out other ways of snagging a prime route.

In an emailed comment, Hainan Air Chairman Xin Di said Aigle Azur’s decision won’t affect Hainan Air’s global ambitions or its cooperation with the French carrier. “We’ll continue our overseas expansion drive, targeting the U.S. and European markets as well as emerging countries in Russia and Africa,” he said.

Hainan Air’s Paris push illustrates the new forces of competition—as well as obstacles—in China’s aviation industry, long dominated by slow-moving state-owned carriers that got favored protection from the government.

A decade ago, China’s three main state airlines— Air China Ltd. , China Eastern Airlines Corp. and China Southern Airlines Co. —controlled almost all air travel inside as well as to and from China. They still have a 77% share of all traffic for Chinese carriers.

The government started to liberalize the domestic aviation market in the middle of the previous decade, allowing several new airlines to emerge. Last year, China opened the door further to domestic competition, again allowing the creation of new carriers and loosening restrictions on aircraft purchases.

But state carriers are still protected in international travel, helped by an implicit regulatory principle that only one carrier can operate in a handful of key long-haul routes. That effectively keeps Hainan Air—the only private Chinese airline that operates such routes—out of most prime international connections.

“China effectively operates under a one-airline, one-route policy in which its carriers are not permitted to compete on long-haul routes,” said Will Horton, senior analyst at consultancy CAPA-Centre for Aviation.

Each state airline group has a hub at one of China’s international gateways: flag carrier Air China is based in Beijing, China Eastern Airlines in Shanghai and China Southern Airlines in Guangzhou. That means those carriers get first dibs on the biggest, most-profitable global destinations from their hubs.

From Beijing, for instance, Air China monopolizes the most-coveted flights to places like New York, Paris, London and Tokyo. Hainan Air flies to cities like Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Toronto, Brussels, and Moscow—places considered less desirable.

Hainan Air was founded in 1993, in China’s southern resort city of Haikou. Two years later, it snagged a $25 million investment from hedge-fund billionaire George Soros , the first foreign stake in a Chinese airline. Since then, Hainan Air and its affiliates have grown into China’s fourth-largest airline group with 12.5% of passengers flown in 2013, according to China’s aviation regulator.

The airline’s parent, HNA Group, is known for making waves. HNA has actively sought investments overseas, in areas ranging from transportation and tourism to banking and insurance. HNA was one of the first to respond after the Chinese government allowed new airlines to be set up last year, saying it would change West Air, an existing regional carrier, into a budget airline. In September 2013, a dispute between one of HNA’s shipping units and a Chinese creditor got so bad that it resulted in the seizure of one of HNA’s cruise ships, passengers and all, in a South Korean port.

Hainan Air started offering international flights more than a decade ago, and now operates more than a dozen. But it has always wanted a flight between first-tier cities in China and the West, since they are more popular with travelers and make more money.

So far, its efforts haven’t borne fruit. Besides its attempt to fly Beijing-Paris with Aigle Azur, Hainan Air in late 2013 applied for a route between Beijing and Newark Liberty International Airport, which is part of the New York City metropolitan area. In an attempt to win regulators’ approval, it offered to fly three times a week between Beijing and Nairobi, Kenya—the kind of route China wants as part of its plan to boost trade with Africa. Although the carrier had initially said it hoped to start flying those routes in 2014, Chinese regulators still haven’t given the green light.

So for now, Hainan Air is concentrating on launching more flights from Beijing to second-tier cities abroad, as well as flights to prime destinations from secondary Chinese cities such as Hangzhou, a metropolis southwest of Shanghai that is home to e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and the nation’s largest beverage company, Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co.

Hainan Air’s Mr. Xin said the carrier is looking at opportunities in cities with sizable populations and robust economic growth. “There are 13 Chinese cities with a population of more than 10 million,” he said in a June interview. “Cities such as Tianjin, Chongqing, and Shenzhen are among our potential options for new services.”

Air China said it is unfazed. Referring to the growing clout of China’s smaller airlines, Air China Executive Director Fan Cheng said the flag carrier would focus on bolstering its core competence as a premium carrier and strengthening Beijing as the region’s major transit hub.

—Robert Wall in London contributed to this article.


Aligbe: Nigerian Airlines Lack Managerial Competence

Industry consultant and Chief Executive Officer of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe says Nigeria has sustained air operations so far this year without a major accident because of improved safety standards. He however posits that lack of critical competences remains a major problem of Nigerian airlines. He spoke with Chinedu Eze.


It is almost a year now that Nigeria has not recorded any major incident or accident in air transport sector. What do you think is responsible and how can the country maintain that level of safety status?

We thank God that the year has been very good, accident free, a major incident free, so there is nothing that has happened in the industry that is not a common place in the aviation sector. So we thank God for the situation. What made it possible? Let me tell you, for quite some time a system has been put in place and it appears the system is growing and everyday it is getting stronger. People are keying into safety requirements; people are beginning to attempt to self-regulate themselves and keeping themselves under the regulation, knowing that if they don’t, there is an institution that will ask them why they are not doing it. They also know that accident will hurt their market. And I don’t think there is any airline that wants to be involved in an accident.

I said this because a lot of us were afraid when the seat of the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was left uncertain. We had people in acting capacity, yes they tried their best but try as much as you can, when you are in an acting capacity you don’t have the full mandate and there are things you will not be able to do. But we were lucky that things have gone on very well. But also we are luckier today that we have a DG sitting in NCAA. So that position has been filled, there is a full mandate, full mandate has returned to the institution, they can now police the industry or do things to make sure that the industry does not sleep again. That is why the safety consciousness in Nigerians has increased. Operators particularly are avoiding getting themselves into that situation where there will be major incident or accidents.

But many Nigerians still criticise the system and that possibly explained why some people believed that the Category One (Cat 1) safety status given to the country in 2010 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the US would not be renewed in 2014. Even when it was renewed, some Nigerians dubbed it political Category One. Why the criticism and doubts if so much has been done?

I don’t know those who did it and if they know what safety and airworthiness and standards means; if they know what are involved, if they know that they are a continuous process, there is no end to it, that there is continuous improvement and that once the system is on ground and the system is supporting this continuous improvement, then there is every reason to say yes nothing has happened, things have not started going backwards, there is no retrogression. If they understand it and they still say what they are saying then you can call it mischief. On the other hand it is possible that they don’t understand what it involves and so they believe that because one or two accidents have happened, they now come to the conclusion, therefore we no longer can retain Cat 1, it is not true. So, the people who look at these things, the FAA when they come, even the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in all their safety audit, they are looking at the system, they are looking at the individuals manning the system, they are looking at the processes.

The good thing is that we have document, the act is a very, very good document. The NCAA Act has been looked at; it has been certified and well put together to be able to sustain safety and safety regulations in the industry. So these are the things that they look at, they don’t look that one accident has happened. Yes they also want to know why that accident happened. If it is question of laxity from the system then they can say look with this we cannot guarantee safety. But if it is something that happens that you cannot blame it on the system that has been put in place then you cannot come to the conclusion that we don’t merit the Cat 1. And there is nothing like political Cat 1.

The truth of it is that do we have the best of the relationship with the US today? We don’t have the best of relationship, in fact our relationship with the US is not as good as it used to be and I can say that for someone who have watched the aviation industry over the years and known the relationship we had with the US, time was during Kema Chikwe’s period (as Aviation Minister), she could pick up her phone and call her US counterpart Rodney Slater and ask for one thing or the other and could get it. In fact Chikwe demonstrated it excellently well and showing that good relationship between us and the US, but these days there is a cooling off on relations with the US for one reason or the other which to many of us is very surprising. Because we have a president of an African decent and one would have thought that it would draw us closer to him.

We recognise that there is an American President but there is a president of an African decent and we think that it would endear Africa like when he came newly. But looking back one could tell you that the relationship during the Clinton era probably was better than it is today. The other day Gowon was saying that America is not Nigeria’s friend; they have not helped us in this Boko Haram issue. There might have been some challenges but even if we withdraw from ground that help can come, we can buy arms but America said no, we have assisted with $34 million dollars. Yes it is assistance but what is $34 million to the kind of war being prosecuted? It won’t even buy you one fighter jet but that is the situation, so we don’t have that excellent relation that will lead America to give us a political Cat 1.

There is something for those who call it a political Cat1, they know what they are thinking of but there are conditions precedents if anything is going to be done as a favour those conditions are not there. And so whatever we have we earned it and we need to believe in ourselves, have confidence in ourselves that we earned it and we can sustain it. And I am sure that we are in a position to sustain it and will sustain it.

What do you expect the Director-General of NCAA to do to consolidate on the safety standard already attained?

You know I have always argued with those who worried that the current DG is well placed to, not only sustain but to hype the safety standard already attained. We have a firm foundation, you need somebody to build further on that firm foundation and extend the frontiers, that this DG is properly positioned because having worked, having held sway in accident investigation which is basically areas to find out why accidents happen, where mistakes were made, whether on the airline’s side or whether on the safety oversight side. The two or three accident reports that he handled, two before he came that happened 2005 that is the ADC and Bellview, they were handled excellently well and within that you saw how airlines were cutting corners, how airlines did what they shouldn’t do. You saw where there were inadequacies in the regulatory authority, all of them you find it in their report. And so he is fully aware, no airline can deceive him about this or that, given his experience.

Secondly, the two accidents that happened while he was at Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which is Dana and Associated Aviation, the speed with which the interim report on Associated came out, it is one thing because before we will wait and wait but we now have a black box decoder that can decode and give the reading on the black box.  So it is already domesticated in Nigeria, it was done in-house and therefore when you look at it that way then you understand that somebody who is on the seat as the number 1 regulator is fully aware of what he requires to do in terms of safety regulation. And so, for me I have no doubt in my mind that we have a competent and knowledgeable person that is handling the policing of the industry in terms of safety oversight. That is what I think and I think people should have confidence too.

Airlines recently said they are considering code-sharing as a way of improving their profitability and stem the current rivalry; do you think Nigerian airlines can successfully do it and how will it help the industry?
Why do they have the 10 years average life span? It is because of challenges of operation of remaining in business. They don’t stay long in business for various reasons. There are so many, the first thing they will tell you is that government is not helping enough; that is always where they go to. Yes there are things government can do to help the industry but the fact of the matter is that most of the airlines experience the same thing, which include low capitalization, the general absence of critical manpower and then challenges of operations maintenance and the rest of them. There are things that afflict them that are beyond their control, but there are also things that afflict them in terms of fact that they don’t have the managerial competence within the airlines generally. How many managers of airlines do you have today?

Even in various places, we have good pilots, we have good engineers but managing the airline is a different kettle of fish. So many of them suffer this and that affects their revenue and at some point they start and come big but they do not survive it. Because sooner than later they suffer revenue reverses in the industry.  Yes, up till today they have not adopted the market principles that will help them grow up in terms of revenue. Like you are talking about code-sharing now, code-sharing has a multiplier effect, it is multi-dimensional because the passenger benefits. And you know that if I am holding airline A ticket, say, like Medview and Discovery.  I am holding a Discovery ticket, if Discovery cancels flight or its not operating I can walk across to Medview and ask for a seat and Medview will offer it to me.

It is less stressful for the passenger, the airline that could not fly that is on the ground gets some revenue from the ticket it has sold and the one that is flying probably doesn’t have full load, it gets additional load from this, so it is a win- win situation. And that can help because when we did our own in the days of Nigeria Airways; when we did their own with British Airways, Nigerian Airways was smiling home. There were no challenges about paying salaries, no challenges about paying pensions and so on. And so when you see such situations you know that this will help grow their market share, this will help in their revenue and this will help to sustain them. So it has been an age long relationship between airlines to enlarge their market share and then increase revenue generation.

And that is why we offered advice over the period but they never listened. Some think that the thing to do cut is to throat of your rival, if you can eat up your colleague’s airline then eat it up by being the number one and let others run after you. They never see that even if you are the biggest airline you will just have to stop and know that there are times you will have challenges. You see if you have more passengers, supposing you are a big airline and you have many more people for one day, for one flight you can say, okay we will put you in our partner’s airline, you take them and put them in your partner’s airline, no matter what you will make at least 10 per cent of that money. If you don’t have this arrangement they will go to another airline and that airline will get 100 per cent profit. But if they come to you, and you say okay we will put you in another airline and you book them on your partner’s airline, you make money out of it and your partner airline makes money out of it.

In which way do you think government can help to facilitate that?

What I know is that what should be tried in the industry is a Soludo (former Governor of Central Bank, Charles Soludo) approach: carrot and stick. If you are doing this, these are the benefits. If you don’t do it you lose the benefits and the benefits will be such that when you see the value added you will say wait a minute, so if I do this, this is the value I will get then you move to it. So, it is a carrot and stick approach. That is what I think we should adopt; the Soludo approach in the industry to make the airlines see reasons why they should go into these forms of partnership. However loose, however strong a partnership is but they need to go into it in order to survive and to create room for those who want to travel.

Some airlines argue that Nigeria is not ripe for operating airlines to buy new aircraft because its high cost which they will not be able to recover from the market. Do you agree with this?

That is total nonsense, arrant nonsense; the truth of it is that, that position has been undermined by Arik.  Arik has acquired new equipment whether it is Bombardier CRJ, whether it is Boeing 737 and Arik has placed order for Boeing 777 new ones, and even for Dreamliner. So, this position has been punctured by Arik and I believe that other airlines as a pick-up will look more towards getting brand new equipment because there are so many advantages of brand new equipment.

Why is it that our market is not yielding much profit to the airlines?

Well, remember that it is a function of the economic well-being of the people. The more money people have the more pleasure they seek. The more money people have the more the inclination to take away areas of stress. If people have enough money they will decide to fly to Asaba or fly to Benin instead of going by road transport. But if you don’t have that kind of money you will go for road transport so it is a function of the economic well -being of the people.

Many Nigerians seem to be against national carrier, why is it so?

Well, I wouldn’t know what is happening within government but all that I know is that a couple of times I have come across the Minister in his public presentations, what has always been consistent is his determination to float a national carrier. For me, reading him, it appears for me that he has a mandate to do that; that is reading him. But I don’t know the inner workings of his mind or the inner workings of the Ministry or government because one is not in the inner circle. But I know that from what I have read, from all the body language, from all the speeches it appears that there is unalloyed commitment to float a national carrier.

Those who say we don’t want national carrier, what is their option. I always ask them what is the alternative. And they say government should come and help the existing carriers to grow up and take the position of a national carrier. And I say to them, first and foremost, it is about 30 years if not more, since 1983, 84 when the industry was liberalized, how well has the private operator grown? How well have they grown?  Research conducted by Captain Mohammed Joji reveals that from 1983 to date 49 airlines have collapsed. That is on the average of one and half per year. And so when you look at it, how many of them have grown? The only one that has shown signs of growth is Arik. I will give the new entrants maybe three, four years to see how they are advancing. I know that airlines like Medview are showing indication of growth but it is again too early to say yes this has happened. But you can see the progress it is making and you see that this progress is not a retrogressive progress.

It is progressive progress as it were; it is forward moving progress. But also in the life of an airline industry it is too early to conclude categorically. You can say these are the signs of growth but let’s say in the next five year you can turn back and look around and say how far has it grown and then you can begin to sum up your conclusions. We talk about Arik because Arik is about eight years and so you can begin to say is this airline growing or not? In terms of equipment, yes it is growing. In terms route network, it is growing because it is adding many routes. But you can say a lot still remains to be addressed in terms of structuring the growth and how the growth will go?

So I say to people even with the growth it has attained, has it attained the growth that Nigerian see and say we have a representative airline globally that can compete, that we can point as an airline that is coming from Nigeria. We cannot say yes. Again I ask them do we need one flag carrier in this country. And I say no.

we are more than 170 million people and it is projected by UN that by 2050 we will be 400 million in Nigeria. So you can know progressively what it is. What do we need? And people who say no to national carrier at the same time they wake up to say government should create job and in the industry you have over 200 young trained pilots that have nowhere to go to. They are not counting the engineers; they are not counting other people in other specialized areas, dispatchers and the rest.

By the time you count them you can see the mammoth problem we have. There are people coming into this segment of the society and they are properly trained but they have no place to work. And it is not a question of saying let me look at the other way, this people are in a field that you cannot substitute their training for other things. They cannot wake up tomorrow and become marketers after being trained as commercial pilots and having been type rated as aeronautical engineers. So this is the challenge. And then who is setting the benchmark in the industry? Nobody is setting the benchmark; no airline today is setting the benchmark today in the industry.
National carrier sets benchmarks in terms of everything, fare and the rest. National carrier offer jobs pick up Nigerians and make sure that these Nigerians can go through normal training before they are fully employed. No foreign airline, no private airline will do that, they want readymade workers who come into the cockpit and fly off and make money. They are not about to take young pilots and see them through this tutelage. This is what national carriers do, this was what Nigeria Airways was doing in its hey days. And so there are so many reasons why we need a national carrier, it has nothing to do with aggrandisement.

Our bilateral air service agreement, we are not servicing anyone of them. Imagine Ethiopian Airline has 28 frequencies in and out of Nigeria; yet Addis Ababa is not a destination, it is a transit destination which can be achieved if somebody wants to, but they are flying 28 frequencies weekly. Emirates so far has 28 frequencies from Nigeria, it has for Abuja, it has 14 frequencies from Lagos, Kano it has. It has not started Kano but it is asking for other places like Enugu and Port Harcourt. So it wants to make sure that eventually it has about 42 weekly frequencies into Nigeria. We are beginning to get into the danger of India, India allowed Gulf Airlines from the Middle East into their country, they are operating 182 frequencies. That is why India airline collapsed. It is now that India has seen the danger that they got themselves into by ceding out all these rights that they now want to refloat. India is thinking of bringing back an Indian national flag carrier. For quite for time Kingfisher in India was doing well but the big boys collapsed it, before you know it, it was gone with other challenges that it faced. So India has no airline representing them.

These global airlines can kill Arik; look at what happened in Dubai. To tell you the truth, I do not believe that they killed Virgin Nigeria on the route. You know why I don’t believe, Virgin Nigeria never planned to be an international operator. It was the government that was forcing it to go international. It planned to be a very strong domestic and regional operator; that was the plan of Virgin Nigeria. Who killed it in the UK? It was flying to Heathrow Airport, London from there it went to Gatwick. What aircraft was it using? It was using a rickety Boeing767, that was what it was using, the same thing on South Africa route. What did it use to go to Dubai? So I do not believe that it was killed, the Virgin group can match any airline man to man. And when you bring people from the Virgin group with that wealth of knowledge, you tell me that a legacy airline can equally drive them out of business, I do not believe.

I am not saying that those airlines didn’t try to do one thing or the other but I don’t believe that they were the sole cause. So we talk about our reciprocal position of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) which is poor, we are not reciprocating anything in the area of BASA. So airlines are coming on to scramble, to take over the destinations in Nigeria. Then it becomes political, the Kano State government will cry that the Aviation Minister is not allowing airlines to come into Kano. Enugu wants, and Port Harcourt wants, this is the kind of pressure you have, very soon a lot of states are building airports they call international airports. The will want to have international flights, some time they will start blackmailing the government that the government is not giving them this. Sooner or later people will ask you why Akwa Ibom airport is not an international airport and it will become an issue for agitation.

We don’t have national carrier. If we have all these airports will be fed and operated. When Nigeria Airways was alive, it was operating Calabar, Benin, Kaduna, Markudi, Yola, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Jos and Kano. There was no airport that it did not operate into; it operated all these airports and kept them alive. So it is a domestic airline that should do these things but we don’t have it as at today. Everybody is facing Abuja; it is now that people are saying we can fly Abuja-Owerri, Abuja-Calabar. These are the things that should be, it is a domestic airline, domestic airlines should come together to formidably argue against any of these rights being giving to these airlines and what should be done. Like we said, they can tell them we have giving you these seven frequencies, four of them you will operate alone while the other three if you want them you have to do in relation with a domestic operator.

When they do that; they will come to help the domestic operator to up the standards. It is true that our domestic operators still have the problem of upping standards that is why I said there is no benchmark but a national airline will set you a benchmark. Some of them have excellent in-flight menu service, I have flown Medview, I have flown Air Peace, their services are standard. I haven’t flown Dana recently, Dana used to have good one in the past, I don’t know whether they have kept it. But there are so many other things in terms of standard that have to be upped. So where there is no benchmark you won’t find that but if airlines coming into this country are made to operate some of their frequencies in association with domestic operators they will be able to up the standard of our domestic operation and that is the improvement that we are looking for in the industry.

- Source:

F/A-18D, 163464, Blue Angels, United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron: Incident occurred December 04, 2014 at Brunswick Executive Airport (KBXM), Brunswick, Maine


A U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet slid off the runway in icy conditions at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station while nearing the end of its taxi early Thursday but was not damaged in the incident.

“It’s nothing significant, ” U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Corrie Mays, one of the two pilots of the F/A-18 Hornet, said after the incident. “We just slipped off the runway a little bit down there. We are getting pulled out now. The jet is in perfectly good condition.”

A Blue Angels F/A Hornet, flown by Capt. Jeff Kuss and Capt. Corrie Mays, does a publicity flyover at Brunswick Executive Airport. After landing, it slid off the runway.  

The single Blue Angels jet – part of the Navy’s renowned acrobatic flying team – landed at the Brunswick airport around 7:30 a.m. but appeared to fishtail while taxiing at a slow speed as it approached the end of the runway. The plane is in Brunswick as part of a logistics trip in advance of a September performance by the Blue Angels at the Great State of Maine Air Show.

A plane tow vehicle and several trucks responded and crews appeared to spread additional salt near the plane, but the aircraft had not been moved as of 9:30 a.m. Mays said the plane ended up in the grass right next to the tarmac after ice on the runway prevented the jet from making a complete stop.

“With a small amount of runway left when we started experiencing that, we didn’t have the option of take-off either,” Mays told members of the news media who had gathered at the airport to watch the jet’s arrival and attend a press conference. “So our training kicked in at that point. . . . We did the best we could. And the jet is safe and we are safe, so it worked out.”

The plane is visiting Brunswick Landing, as the former naval air station is now known, in part to promote the air show slated for Labor Day weekend next year. Mays and Capt. Jeff Kuss, who handle logistics for Blue Angels appearances, plan to meet with Brunswick Landing representatives, visit the airfield and inspect facilities.

The Blue Angels are known for their precision formation flying and acrobatics, often flying as close as 18 inches from each other.

At the Brunswick show, they will be flying their six distinctive blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets and will be accompanied by their C-130 support aircraft “Fat Albert.”

The Blue Angels will be the featured performers during the air show on Sept. 5 and 6. This will be the Blue Angels’ first appearance in Brunswick since 2011. The Defense Department canceled most military aerial demonstrations in 2013 – including a planned Blue Angels appearance in Brunswick – because of the “sequestration” budget cuts. Organizers of the Great State of Maine Air Show canceled the event roughly six months before the show because of the budget uncertainty.

“We’re just happy to be back,” said Mays, a Massachusetts native.
The Brunswick show will be the farthest north the Blue Angels will perform on the East Coast next year.

 Tickets go on sale on Dec. 12 at 8 a.m.

- Source:

Cessna 210-5(205), Skydive Sussex, N8296Z: Incident occurred December 04, 2014 near Sussex Airport (KFWN), New Jersey

WANTAGE — Recently published footage from a helmet camera captured a small airplane's crash last December from a skydiver's point of view.

That footage, which contains explicit language, was uploaded to YouTube Friday by Kurt ImpactSN — one of the skydivers who was inside the plane when it crashed on Dec. 4, 2014.

"My friends and I are all experienced licensed skydivers," he said in the video caption. "We asked one of our friends to take us up in his Cessna to jump. After taking off we encountered engine issues and were forced into a muddy field. Landing gear ripped off after hitting a ditch/mud and the plane flipped over nose first. Pilot did a good job handling a bad situation."

The skydiver, who asked to be identified only as Kurt, told NJ Advance Media his group knew something was wrong with the plane pretty quickly.

"There wasn't much to think about at the time because there wasn't anything we could do," he said. "We just had to wait and see what happens."

After it crashed, he said, the only thing they were thinking about was getting out of the plane in case it caught on fire.

"The pilot did an awesome job considering the field he had to put it into," he added.

As reported by New Jersey Herald, only minor injuries were sustained by those on-board. Richard Winstock, one of the owners of Skydive Sussex, was forced to make an "off-field" landing in a muddy field near Route 639 and Route 565 due to engine trouble, the newspaper reported at the time.

Curt Kellinger, who also owns Skydive Sussex, told NJ Advance Media the National Transportation Safety Board — along with Cessna and Continental Engines — did a complete inspection of the aircraft and its engine after the crash.

"It's something that's not really common the way this thing quit," Kellinger said of the engine failure.

The airplane was inspected less than two months before the crash — equivalent to 13 engine operating hours — but "it is likely that maintenance personnel did not adequately inspect" part of the engine, according to the NTSB's report.

"We don't spare a dime when it comes to maintenance," Kellinger said. "We're in these planes all the time. They're our offices. This was an internal part of the engine that a normal pilot would never see. It had nothing to do with anything that we had done."

According to the NTSB report, an "examination revealed that both of the No. 2 cylinder intake valve springs were fractured, and visible rust was observed on the surfaces of the springs. The springs showed evidence of fatigue fractures that had originated from rust pits on the fracture surfaces. After the valve springs were replaced, the engine was capable of operating normally at full power. "

The probable cause of the crash was "maintenance personnel's inadequate inspection of the No. 2 cylinder valve area during the most recent annual inspection, which resulted in the in-flight failure of the intake valve springs due to rust on the spring surfaces and subsequent fatigue cracking," according to the NTSB's report.

Kellinger complimented Winstock's handling of a fully loaded plane.

"It was the safest thing to do with everyone on board," Kellinger said of Winstock's landing in the muddy field. "He did a very good job of putting the plane down without anyone getting hurt. There's not a lot of guys who could do that."

Story, comments and video:

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA071
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 04, 2014 in Sussex, NJ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/19/2015
Aircraft: CESSNA 210 5(205), registration: N8296Z
Injuries: 1 Minor, 5 Uninjured.

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

The pilot reported that, shortly after the skydiving flight departed, the engine experienced a “mechanical failure” and that he then executed a forced landing in a farm field south of the airport. The airplane nosed over in the mud, which resulted in structural damage to the airframe. 

During a postaccident test run of the engine on the airframe, lower-than-normal exhaust gas temperature indications were observed on the engine’s left-side (Nos. 2, 4, and 6) cylinders. Excessive soot and smoke were also observed on the engine’s left side. During a subsequent test run, the engine initially did not achieve full power. Further examination revealed that both of the No. 2 cylinder intake valve springs were fractured, and visible rust was observed on the surfaces of the springs. The springs showed evidence of fatigue fractures that had originated from rust pits on the fracture surfaces. After the valve springs were replaced, the engine was capable of operating normally at full power.

An annual inspection was completed on the engine less than 2 months (13 engine operating hours) before the accident. As part of the annual inspection, the engine manufacturer’s operating manual required the removal of the cylinder rocker covers and inspection of the valve area for breakage and proper lubrication. It is likely that maintenance personnel did not adequately inspect the No. 2 cylinder valve area during the annual inspection, which allowed the rust to go undetected and resulted in the in-flight failure of the No. 2 cylinder valve springs.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
Maintenance personnel’s inadequate inspection of the No. 2 cylinder valve area during the most recent annual inspection, which resulted in the in-flight failure of the intake valve springs due to rust on the spring surfaces and subsequent fatigue cracking.

On December 4, 2014, about 1100 eastern standard time (EST), a Cessna 205, N8296Z, was force landed in a farm field following a total loss of engine power during the initial climb from Sussex Airport, Sussex, New Jersey (FWN). The commercial pilot had minor injuries and five passengers were not injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to Markelwin Aviation LLC and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a skydiving flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

The pilot reported the following. About 1,200 to 1,300 feet above mean sea level, or about 800 to 900 feet above the ground, during the initial climb, a "mechanical failure" of the engine occurred. Due to the low altitude, he force landed the airplane in a muddy farm field, south of the airport. The airplane's nose gear struck a ditch and the airplane nosed over before coming to a stop. The pilot and passengers exited the airplane without further incident.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the accident site and examined the wreckage. The aft fuselage and empennage exhibited structural damage from impact forces. The propeller was bent aft and the engine remained attached at the firewall. The engine turned freely when the propeller was rotated manually.

On December, 17, 2014, the engine was test run on the airframe, which was equipped with a digital engine monitor, displaying EGT for each cylinder. Due to vibration as a result of impact damage, the engine was not run higher than 1,700 rpm. During the run, the left side cylinders (numbers 2, 4, and 6) experienced a drop in EGT while the right side of the engine ran within the normal range. Black exhaust smoke was observed from the left side engine exhaust manifold. After the test run, the fuel nozzles for the left side of the engine were observed to be clogged with a black substance and the spark plugs were soot-covered. The fuel manifold valve was opened and no anomalies or obstructions were observed. Additionally, each spark plug lead produced spark when the propeller was rotated by hand. The fuel nozzles and spark plugs were then cleaned and the engine was test run again, with the same result of the left side exhibiting significantly less EGT verses the right side (200 degrees F versus 1,000 degrees F) after about 1 minute of operation. Prior to the EGT drop, a magneto check was performed at 1,700 rpm with no anomalies noted. After the second test run, the air intake and exhaust were inspected and observed to be free of obstructions. Some oil was noted inside the number 2 cylinder.

The engine was shipped to the manufacturer's facility for further examination. After an initial inspection, the engine was prepared for a run in the test cell. Once installed, the engine started on the first attempt without hesitation. The engine speed was brought to 1,000 rpm to warm up the engine to normal operating temperatures. The engine was run at 1,200 rpm for five minutes to stabilize. The engine throttle was advanced to 1,600 rpm, 2,100 rpm, and 2,450 rpm and held for five minutes at each rpm setting to stabilize. The engine throttle was then advanced to the full open position and the engine began to "stumble" and lose power.

Investigators then began troubleshooting the fuel system. Subsequent engine runs would result in the engine only being capable of attaining 1,800 rpm. Further troubleshooting revealed both number 2 cylinder intake valve springs were broken. Visible rust was observed on the surfaces of the springs. The broken valve springs were replaced and the engine was run again. After replacing the valve springs, the engine was capable of operating normally at full power. The engine throttle was rapidly advanced from idle to full throttle six times, where it performed normally without any hesitation, stumbling or interruption in power. No further anomalies noted that would have prevented normal operation or production of rated horsepower.

The fractured inner and outer intake valve springs from the number 2 cylinder were subsequently examined by investigators. Both springs showed fatigue fractures originating from rust pits on the surfaces.

A review of the engine maintenance logbooks revealed that a 100 hour/annual inspection was completed on October 14, 2014, at 7,857.8 hours tachometer time. About 13 hours of operating time had accrued since the last inspection of October 14. About 1,501 hours had accumulated on the engine since its last major overhaul. According to the engine manufacturer's operating manual, under the 100-hour inspection procedures, it states, "Remove valve rocker covers, and inspect visible parts of the valve mechanism for breakage and lack of lubrication. All parts should be covered with oil."

WANTAGE — A Cessna 210-5 (205) with a pilot and five skydivers aboard flipped in a field near the Sussex Airport after a forced off-field landing December 04, 2014. 

Forty-six-year-old Richard Winstock, the pilot of the plane and co-owner of Skydive Sussex, confirmed that the plane was boarded with passengers who were going to skydive. Winstock is also the national director of the U.S. Parachute Association.

Classified by New Jersey State Police as an “airplane incident,” the emergency landing occurred Thursday around 11 a.m. near Routes 639 and 565 in Wantage.

The passengers on board were Ryan Leak, 41, of Paterson; Caig Vanetten, 48, of Saugerties, N.Y.; Matthew Vidusek, 26, of Hampshire, Ill.; Chris Delpozzo, 28, of Troy; and Kurt Steinbruch, 25, of Wyckoff, according to state police.

New Jersey State Trooper Alina Spies said the state police received the call around 10:58 a.m.

Winstock said that engine troubles resulted in the forced landing.

“Everyone's fine,” he said.

He added that the plane landed on its three wheels, but the muddy field caused the aircraft to flip while it was slowing down.

State troopers at the scene reported some minor injuries that were being assessed by the Wantage Emergency Squad.

Spies said the six men onboard the aircraft declined any further medical attention.

The matter has been handed over to the Federal Aviation Administration, she said Thursday afternoon.

According to the FAA registry, the plane is a 1963 Cessna 210-5(205). The status of the aircraft is listed as “in question,” and the registration was pending.

According to, the aircraft model contains six seats and can hold a maximum weight of 3,300 pounds.

A spokesperson with the FAA said that the current status listing and registration of the plane is due to the aircraft recently being sold and re-registered. It is quite common, the spokesperson said.

“A Cessna 210 made a forced landing in a field south of Sussex, New Jersey at approximately 10:50 a.m.,” a statement from the FAA reads. “The pilot reported a problem with the aircraft's engine shortly after it took off from Sussex Airport. The FAA will investigate.”

In March, Winstock broke a leg when he misjudged a skydive landing, colliding with fellow skydiver Tyfani Detky, of Stockholm, on the ground. Detky was knocked unconscious, and the two were transported and

treated at Morristown Medical Center.

At the time, Winstock said that it was his first accident in 25 years of skydiving. He has made more than 14,000 jumps.

Story, comments and photos:

Incident occurred December 04, 2014 at Burlington International Airport (KBTV), Vermont

A plane carrying 52 people had to turn around and make an emergency landing at Burlington International Airport after a bird hit and damaged the plane's windshield Thursday afternoon, the South Burlington Fire Department said.

The United Airlines flight 4331 was 40 miles away from the airport when the incident occurred at 2:31 p.m. No one was injured in the incident as the airplane landed safely at the airport about 15 minutes later, fire department Capt. Sacha Lascala said.

The plane, an ExpressJet, was en route to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, said airport Director of Operations Kelly Colling.

Damage was visible to the windshield once the plane landed, Lascala said. Colling said that the windshield, "looked like it was shattered, but intact."

Fire crews from Burlington, South Burlington, and Williston responded to the scene, Lascala said. Emergency crews were called off the scene at 2:51 p.m., Lascala said.

- Source:

Airline bans blogger for ‘Mean Girls’ quotes

A word to the wise ...  be careful what you tweet.

Following a painful encounter with a JetBlue customer service rep over the thanksgiving holiday, YouTube blogger Matthew Lush unleashed a series of tweets quoting “Mean Girls” to his 155,000 followers.

Upon discovering that he was charged and booked for a flight without receiving a confirmation of the booking, the Southern California-based vlogger attempted to fix the issue with a little help from an airline employee he dubbed “Regina87346.” Unsatisfied with her assistance, however, Lush channeled his inner Regina George and hit back at JetBlue with a series of sassy tweets.

JetBlue got wind of Lush’s social media smack and not only escorted the vlogger from its terminal, but permanently banned him from the airline.

Read more here:

Celebrity plane crashes draw special scrutiny from the National Transportation Safety Board

Thomas Frank , USA TODAY

Flooding the zone

The small-airplane crash that killed a pilot in Owasso, Okla., last year seemed like a minor event that would require just one or two federal investigators.

But this crash killed the son of U.S. Sen. James Inhofe.

The National Transportation Safety Board assembled an unusually large team for a single-fatality crash: At least seven NTSB investigators, three Federal Aviation Administration inspectors and four manufacturing companies tested the airplane's engines, propellers, valves, switches and shafts; conducted a rare sound-spectrum study to determine the engines' condition in flight, and a radar study to calculate the airplane's position in its final minutes. They scrutinized Perry Inhofe's flight-training record, his communication with air-traffic controllers and interviewed at least 20 people, including his flight instructor and his widow, who detailed Inhofe's eating, sleeping, drinking and snoring habits.

The outsize investigation is typical of how the NTSB treats airplane crashes that kill prominent and politically connected people and celebrities — and a sharp contrast to how it investigates most crashes of private aircraft, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The NTSB, considered the world's premier aviation investigator, has given special treatment to crashes that killed John F. Kennedy Jr., former senator Ted Stevens, singer John Denver, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan and lesser-known people with political ties, records and interviews show.

In at least 15 crashes since 1996 that killed prominent people, the NTSB took extensive steps to determine the cause of the crash, assigning teams of investigators to analyze numerous possible problems. The investigation of JFK Jr.'s crash involved at least 56 people: 16 from the NTSB, 11 from the FAA, and 29 from other agencies and companies, NTSB records show. The typical investigation of a fatal private-airplane crash involves four to five people, according to a USA TODAY review of 600 NTSB investigations since early 2011.

John DeLisi, head of the NTSB's Office of Aviation Safety, said a larger initial team goes to a high-profile crash to accelerate the investigation and get information to the public more quickly.

"The prominence of anyone involved plays a role in our initial response because it escalates the public interest," DeLisi said. He declined to say how this approach affects the NTSB's overall investigation, which typically takes a year or more.

But lawyers representing crash victims and survivors say the NTSB's treatment of high-profile crashes discredits the agency.

"The NTSB stumbles over themselves wanting to get press coverage in high-visibility crashes," said Jon Kettles, a Dallas aviation attorney. "I represent three families, they've gotten zero info from the NTSB. The disparity is deplorable."

After a glider accident in 1999 killed Donald Engen, the NTSB undertook its first "major investigation" of a fatal glider crash since at least 1983 and released a 42-page report, agency records show. Most reports on fatal glider crashes are two or three pages.

Engen is a former NTSB board member and FAA administrator.

"Obviously, there was a strong feeling in the board because most of the members of the board knew Mr. Engen personally," said Jim Hall, the NTSB chairman from 1994 to 2001.

The NTSB extensively investigated a 1998 crash that killed Lt. Gen. David McCloud, a military commander in Alaska whose death drew the attention of Ted Stevens, then Alaska's senior U.S. senator and Senate Appropriations Committee chairman.

"When the head of my appropriations committee had an interest in something, I had an interest in it as well," Hall said.

And Stevens' death in 2010, nearly two years after he lost a re-election bid, triggered a major investigation, with at least 31 investigators, company representatives, police and consultants. The crash killed five.

The detailed investigations contrast sharply with how the NTSB approaches most of the roughly 250 annual fatal crashes of private airplanes and helicopters. Four or five people — from the NTSB, FAA and manufacturers — typically review the flight history, aircraft wreckage, weather, pilot experience and pilot toxicological reports, and sometimes study an aircraft component for malfunction.

In detailed investigations, teams might scrutinize a pilot's background for health or emotional problems; possible missteps by air-traffic controllers; potential malfunctions of numerous components; factors affecting crash survival, including seat belts, emergency response and airport conditions; the aircraft's design and maintenance; and a wide range of atmospheric conditions gleaned from satellites, radar, pilot reports and advisories.

DeLisi said the NTSB does not set out to conduct an expansive investigation of a private-aircraft crash but lets investigators determine the scope as they look at possible causes.

"We need to make decisions based on the circumstances of the accident and our resources," DeLisi said.

Detailed investigations sometimes assuage pilots and their surviving families because they uncover factors that exonerate the pilots involved, USA TODAY found.

After legendary test pilot Scott Crossfield was killed flying his Cessna Centurion in 2006, an NTSB major investigation found that an air-traffic controller had failed to give him adverse weather assistance.

The depth of the Crossfield investigation, involving at least 12 people, and the findings were unusual for the NTSB, which has found pilots solely responsible for about 75% of fatal crashes of private aircraft since mid-2010, a USA TODAY analysis shows. The findings are usually succinct and blunt, citing a pilot's "failure," "improper decision" or "inadequate" maneuver.

The NTSB investigation of the 1997 home-built airplane crash that killed John Denver also was highly unusual for its depth, which included at least 30 interviews, and its finding of a design flaw in the location of a handle that controlled fuel flow.

Going by the book

The NTSB has privately encouraged giving priority to crashes involving prominent people.

An agency manual listing factors that determine the number of officials sent to a crash site says that one factor — deaths and injuries — "considers not only the numbers of people but their prominence."

The manual directs regional NTSB offices to notify NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C., after major events such as crashes of commercial or commuter flights, deadly midair collisions — and crashes involving "public figures or officials of widespread recognition or prominence."

"The more public interest there is, the more it will drive the investigation," said Keith McGuire, an NTSB investigator from 1977 to 2006.

McGuire oversaw the investigation of a 1996 crash that killed 7-year-old pilot-trainee Jessica Dubroff and two others as she tried to become the youngest person to fly across the U.S. A team of at least nine people studied how the weather, airplane weight and flying angle affected the Cessna Cardinal's stall speed, what time pilot-in-command Joe Reid went to sleep and woke up for three days before the fatal flight and a hotel clerk's impressions of the three people the morning of the flight. The NTSB's 69-page final report is nearly nine times the average length of other reports on three-fatality crashes in 1996.

"We spent a lot of time on that because of the public interest," McGuire said. He said an extensive investigation does not "short-change another investigation. It might delay another investigation."

Several former NTSB board members say public interest and news media scrutiny justify extensive investigations.

A large NTSB team at celebrity crashes is vital to handle a media throng, make information public quickly and contain speculation and intrusiveness, said John Goglia, an NTSB board member from 1995 to 2004. The NTSB pulled John F. Kennedy Jr.'s Piper Saratoga out of 120 feet of water in 1999 in part to prevent amateur divers from getting hurt or killed trying to take photographs, Goglia said.

The NTSB took 1,067 photos of Kennedy's airplane and its parts.

The NTSB views high-profile crashes as rare and valuable opportunities to address a wide audience of pilots and the public. "Those are, to me, teaching moments and an opportunity to remind the pilot community as well as the general public of the risk in aviation and the importance of specific details," said Hall, the former NTSB chairman.

The NTSB used the Perry Inhofe crash on Nov. 10, 2013 to push for safety improvements in the aircraft model he was flying, a Mitsubishi MU-2B, which had been scrutinized previously by both the NTSB and the FAA because of its crash history.

"We had an opportunity in that accident," said DeLisi of the NTSB. "We knew that the prominence of the individual was going to lead to increased public interest. We take advantage of situations like that to help push our safety recommendations." The NTSB recently urged the FAA to provide better guidance to MU-2B pilots.

Sen. Inhofe, who is a leading congressional advocate for private pilots, declined to comment.

Former NTSB board member Steven Chealander, who served from 2007 to 2009, said that celebrity involvement does not drive investigations. "To say that this guy is a big celebrity so we're going to make a big deal out of this, that would be wrong, because you're going to taint the reputation of the NTSB as a fact-finding, science-based, investigative agency," he said.

Many probes are handed off

The NTSB has wide discretion in how it investigates airplane and helicopter crashes.

Federal law requires that the agency determine the "probable cause" of every aviation crash that kills or seriously injures someone or that substantially damages an aircraft. In non-fatal crashes, the NTSB often makes the determination based largely on pilot statements.

With 90 aviation investigators, the NTSB says it gives priority to crashes that will yield the most benefit in terms of safety improvements. "Our only objectives are to determine the probable cause of the accident and to extract lessons learned that will prevent similar accidents in the future," the NTSB said in a 2013 annual report.

Some celebrity crashes get extra NTSB scrutiny solely because of their circumstances, such as New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor crashing Lidle's Cirrus into a Manhattan high-rise apartment building in 2006, five years after the 9/11 attacks. The death of golfer Payne Stewart and five others in 1999 drew national attention because their Learjet flew hundreds of miles on autopilot after the crew became incapacitated before crashing in South Dakota.

Some high-profile crashes have yielded NTSB safety recommendations urging improvements in an aircraft model, pilot training, flight operations, air-traffic control procedures or other factors. NTSB's non-binding recommendations are usually followed and have led to safety features such as crash-avoidance warning systems in aircraft.

But some extensive investigations of high-profile crashes yield little.

After the 2012 death of Steve Appleton, CEO of Micron Technology, an $8-billion-a-year company, four NTSB investigators worked with an FAA inspector and five company representatives to determine the cause.

The effort was exceptional considering that the crash killed only one person and involved a home-built airplane. The NTSB typically conducts "limited" investigations of home-built plane crashes and does not send its own investigator to the site.

The team investigating Appleton's death produced an 18-page final report — seven times the length of the average NTSB report on fatal home-built airplane crashes in 2012 — but struggled to find the cause.

Investigators found that Appleton failed to maintain adequate airspeed but that he lost engine power "for reasons that could not be determined."

Story and photos: