Friday, December 12, 2014

Drishti to clear visibility haze: Airport transmissometer, made in India

The Drishti system at Delhi airport

Drishti - an indigenous transmissometer - would soon help pilots land aircraft at Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport and take off safely in poor visibility condition.

The city airport is in the list of the aerodromes to be equipped with the indigenous runway-visibility instrument Drishti. It helps pilots during landing and take-off, especially in poor visibility conditions.

India Meteorological Department (IMD) had sent a proposal to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in January to install costly imported transmissometers. But the Delhi headquarters of the Met department recently decided to install four Drishtis along the Patna airport runway.

Drishti is designed and developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR-NAL) for IMD.

Informing about the decision to install Drishti, Patna meteorological centre director Ashish Sen told The Telegraph: "Drishti would be fitted at 27 airports across the country. Patna is among the eight airports where the gadget would be fitted in the first phase. Two pairs of Drishtis would be installed on the either side of the runway at the Patna airport. IMD and AAI officials have conducted joint inspection. The procurement order for the equipment has been made to AAI. Now, they just have to deliver them to us."

Aviation experts claimed that the transmissometers installed at Indian airports till now were imported. But their high cost necessitated the development of a cost-effective and highly precise gadget indigenously, which would be on a par with imported transmissometers. This prompted the development of Drishti.

CSIR-NAL and IMD on May 20 entered into an agreement for the joint production of Drishti, which covers a wide range of visibility condition - 25m to 2,000m. Sources claimed that it costs just one-third of imported transmissometers and gives more accurate readings. The price of an imported transmissometer is around Rs 1 crore.

Seven Drishti systems have so far been installed at three international airports - Indira Gandhi International Airport of New Delhi (five systems), Lucknow International Airport (one) and NSCBI Airport of Kolkata (one).

Visibility condition has always been a prime concern at the city airport because of its short runways. It still lacks any digital machinery for measuring the visibility. The visibility for operation of aircraft at this critical airport is assessed through human eyes.

"The present system of using eye estimates for the assessment of the visibility condition is a conventional method and does not give accurate information as required by the modern-day aviation industry. Moreover, it is quite challenging for pilots, as it requires manual calibration with the Air Traffic Controller (ATC). Such a practice is highly unsafe because majority of the accidents in the aviation sector are linked to weather-based situations," said Atul Singh, the executive director of Delhi's Centre for Aviation, Policy, Safety and Research.

Every airport in the country, including Patna, has a meteorological office for providing weather-related information, including visibility condition and forecast required for flight planning and operations, to the ATC.

The ATC at the source airport then conveys the information to ATCs at other locations and all airlines operating their aircraft to and from the airport.

According to the modern-day practices and guidelines of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), various state-of-the-art-equipment, including transmissometer and instrument landing system (ILS), are used to calibrate the visibility.

A category-1 ILS is functional at Patna airport but it lacks a transmissometer - mandatory at all airports according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation and World Meteorological Organisation.

What is Drishti

Drishti is the only indigenously developed transmissometer, which helps in determining runway visibility range at airports

Requirement of transmissometer 

The assessment of visibility at Patna airport is done using human eyes and a detailed scientific map is drawn up using Global Positioning System (GIS). This practice is unsafe and international agencies like International Civil Aviation Organisation and World Meteorological Organisation insist on the use of transmissometer for this purpose

Why Drishti

Drishti is the only indigenously built transmissometer of its kind. Its cost is just one-third of imported transmissometers and is considered more accurate 

Features of Drishti

Capable of handling both low (25m) and high (2000m) visibility accurately

Remote access and control provided

Web-enabled data accessibility system

How Drishti works

Drishti is suitable for installation in all categories of airports — CAT I, CAT II, CAT III A and CAT III B

It comprises a transmitter that sends collimated beam of light and a receiver that is set up at a distance to collect the transmitted beam

The instrument is set up parallel to airport runway

A detector collects the transmitted light beam and measures the attenuation of light intensity while traversing through the atmosphere

It works on the principle of higher the attenuation factor lower is the visibility of the runway

Data from field site is transmitted to ATC room through cable and Wi-Fi.


A plane touches down at Patna airport amid foggy conditions on Friday afternoon.

Drop in fuel prices could keep old aircraft flying longer, lessen new jet demand

As the price of jet fuel plunges, down 33 percent in the last year, many are wondering if this could undercut airlines' demand for new Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

The issue is being closely watched in many circles, and a just-released UBS Securities update on global scrapped aircraft suggests there could be a long-term issue, at least if fuel costs keep dropping and stay down.

While UBS aerospace securities analyst David Strauss said that so far oil prices haven't impacted the level at which airlines are parking aircraft, he suggests that could change.

"We estimate 30 percent of all parked aircraft are 15 years of age or younger, equivalent to 781 aircraft, which we think could come back into service, particularly given the drop in oil prices," he wrote.

This month the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that jet fuel was selling at $2.04 a gallon at the refinery, down 33 percent from a year ago.

Currently Boeing (and Airbus) are riding on a seven-year backlog and each quarter continue to win more orders than they build. But that could start to change, some analysts suggest, if older aircraft become relatively more economical to operate if fuel prices continue to drop.

"The speed at which new aircraft will be introduced and will be retired will be slowed down," said Adam Pilarski, senior vice president of Avitas Inc., a prominent Washington, D.C.-area aerospace consultancy. "A number of orders we have will start getting canceled, and that is more serious."

To be sure, Pilarski has definite and somewhat radical views on this subject, including a long-held contention that crude oil will get down to $40 a barrel.

While it did dip down to $57 dollars a barrel this week, that's still a long way from a sustained $40 level. Crude has traded at over $100 a barrel for much of the past four years. Before the recession it was higher, but it did take a radical and brief plunge to $40 during the fall of 2008.

Seattle-area aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton takes a more nuanced view, saying that while he doesn't expect crude oil to go as low as $40, and he doesn't expect order cancellations, he does think lower oil prices could lighten the pressure for new orders.

But that may not be such a problem, Hamilton contends, because the seven-year backlogs are so huge that lifting some of the pressure would bring some flexibility into the market without any great penalty to Boeing or Airbus.

The level of aircraft scrapping is an interesting litmus test, and the December UBS Securities report said that level has sunk to about 1.8 percent of the global fleet, "well below the level of past years," as carriers put relatively new aircraft into storage without scrapping them.

"We think the sustainability of all-time high production rates out of Airbus and Boeing is partially dependent on high levels of aircraft (4-5 percent) being removed from the fleet," said the report.

While the actual scrap aluminum in a jetliner is only worth $30,000 to $50,000, according to reports, recovered components such as engines and landing gear can be sold at far higher prices.

Part of the reason for the parking is that Boeing and Airbus are delivering new aircraft at record high rates, especially the smaller single-aisle Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s.

The study said 188 Airbus A320s were parked in December, versus 90 Next Generation Boeing 737s.

A Boeing spokesman sent statements suggesting that Boeing sees the current fluctuations as short term, and doesn't think they will hurt orders.

"Current oil prices and volatility are in line with our range of assumptions for the long term," the statement said. "In the mid-to-long term, efficiency and capability will remain the key drivers of market demand."

New aircraft have other improvements in addition to fuel efficiency that also drives orders, Boeing said.

"Regardless of exactly where in the range fuel prices trend to over the long term, new airplanes are a 20-plus year investment," the Boeing statement said.

There's also an upside to the lower fuel prices for Boeing, because this will help airlines increase expected 2015 profits to $25 billion, up from the $20 billion expected for 2014, according to the International Air Transport Association.

More money will help some carriers more easily make long-term aircraft investments.

Story and Comments:

Bell Boeing CV-22B Osprey: Incident occurred December 12, 2014 at Double Eagle Airport, Albuquerque, New Mexico

 A CV-22 Osprey from Kirtland Air Force Base’s 58th Special Operations Wing sustained moderate damage to its nose Friday morning when the tilt-rotor aircraft’s front landing gear malfunctioned as it was setting down at Double Eagle Airport on the West Mesa, base officials said.

None of the six crewman aboard was injured.

The aircraft was damaged about 11:30 a.m. as it was concluding its third liftoff and landing exercise of the day during a regular training mission, according to the 377th Air Base Wing’s Public Affairs Office. The 58th Special Operations Wing aircraft routinely land and take off at Double Eagle during training.

A board of officers will investigate the incident, base officials said.

The 58th’s primary mission is training special operations and combat search-and-rescue crews. In addition to seven Ospreys, the wing has MC/HC-130 transport aircraft and HH-60 Pave Hawk and UH-1H Huey helicopters.

The tilt-rotor Osprey combines the vertical flight capabilities of a helicopter with the speed and range of a turboprop airplane. The Air Force “fact sheet” on an Osprey puts its value at $89 million in 2005 dollars, which would be about $104 million today.

Base officials could not immediately determine Friday whether any of the 58th Special Operations Wing’s Ospreys had experienced mishaps since they first began arriving at Kirtland in 2006.

Piper PA-32R-301T Turbo Saratoga SP, N3127R: Accident occurred December 12, 2014 in Springfield, Missouri

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA077
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 12, 2014 in Springfield, MO
Aircraft: NEW PIPER AIRCRAFT INC PA 32R-301T, registration: N3127R
Injuries: 2 Serious, 2 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 December 12, 2014, about 1730 central standard time, a Piper PA-32-301T, single-engine airplane, N3127R, was substantially damaged after impacting an obstruction and terrain during an approach to landing at Downtown Airport (3DW), Springfield, Missouri. The pilot and one passenger were seriously injured and the other two passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane was registered to PPG Properties, LLC; and was operated Integrity Home Care, Inc.; both of Springfield, Missouri. Night low visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 business flight. The airplane had departed Lee's Summit Municipal Airport (LXT), Lee's Summit, Missouri, about 1620 and was destined for 3DW.

The airplane had descended on an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF), Springfield, Missouri. After reaching VMC the pilot cancelled the IFR flight plan and advised he was proceeding direct to 3DW. Witnesses about 2 miles southwest from 3DW saw the northeast bound airplane impact the top of a 367 foot tall tower and continue flying northeast. Other witnesses about one mile from the tower saw the airplane impact trees and terrain. The witnesses immediately called 9-1-1 emergency. 

An examination of the airplane wreckage showed the tips of all three propeller blades were missing and there was impact damage on the left wing that breached the left wing fuel tank and penetrated from the leading edge all the way through to the front side of the spar of the left wing. An examination of the tower showed the 17 foot tall lightning rod and mast were separated and impact damaged. The tips of all three propeller blades and the separated portion of the left flap were found on the ground near the base of the tower, and parts of the lightning rod and mast were found wedged in the top of the tower structure. Police officers that responded that evening to the tower location after the accident reported that the white strobe light on the top of the tower was still operating.

At 1652 the automated weather observing system at SGF, located about 5 miles northwest from the accident location, reported wind from 180 degrees at 6 knots, visibility of 10 miles, overcast clouds at 1,800 feet, temperature 11 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 7 degrees C, with an altimeter setting of 30.26 inches of Mercury. Data from the United States Naval Observatory indicated that sunset occurred at 1656, and the end of civil twilight occurred at 1725. 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -   The four people who survived the crash of a small plane on Friday evening near Evangel University call themselves “The Miracle Four.” Co-pilot Greg Horton said Monday that they have no other way to explain it.

Bill Perkin, the pilot, and Horton were hospitalized after the crash. Horton returned home on Monday morning but Perkin is still hospitalized. Passengers Paul Reinert and Amy Ford walked away from the mangled plane, and went to see doctors on their own.

Integrity Home Care of Springfield owns the Piper Saratoga, a six-seat, single-engine plane. The group flew to Lee’s Summit on Thursday to visit the company’s office in Kansas City. On the return trip, they hit a cellular telephone tower as the plane approached the Springfield Downtown Airport about 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Horton is the company’s chief executive officer and co-owner. Reinert is the company’s other co-owner. Perkin is a company vice-president and Ford is the company’s director of hospice; she had never flown in the company’s plane before this trip.

Perkin is also the owner of KSPR-TV; KY3 Inc. operates KSPR under an agreement with Perkin Media. He said Monday that he expects to go home by the end of the week but will return to a hospital for surgery again in about two weeks.

Horton talked about the flight on Monday afternoon at his home. After clipping the tower next to the Martin Luther King Bridge on Benton Avenue, causing the engine to stop working, Horton started looking for a place to crash land while Perkin maintained control of the plane.

Less than a minute later, while trying to glide toward the downtown airport, the plane smashed through tree tops and spun around on impact between two houses. Trapped in the twisted wreckage with Perkin, Horton said fumes from leaking fuel quickly filled the air.

"I've had a song on my mind the last few days. I remember sitting there and all I could remember was, ‘Breathing in His grace, breathing out His praise.’ (song lyrics). I knew the fuel was leaking out,” said Horton. “I had in my head, I had the knowledge this could explode any second, but that song, I know it's why I did not panic."

What's mind boggling and uncanny is the vacant lot where the plane came down is not even the length of a football field. Another 100 feet in any direction and the wreckage would've slammed into houses or power lines or both, or hit an Evangel dormitory across the street.

“Other than God's angels guiding into the ground, I don't know how we got there and I'm anxious to hear the details,” Horton said.

In the blink of a eye, and maybe two minutes from a safe landing, they hit the tower.

“I saw the top of the tower, we hit it and the engine changed pitch,” Horton said.

Perkin held the plane in a glide as the engine quit.

“I knew we were going to come down and I was looking for Bill to spot a landing spot.”

Cars, streets, houses, businesses whizzed by in the dark below. A university campus was coming up quickly on the horizon, but Horton says all was calm on board.

“Then, ‘Bang!’ We sheared off a tree.”

The crippled plane spun around when the dead engine hit the ground. The two passengers in back bailed out unhurt. Perkin and Horton were trapped in the crumpled cockpit.

Seventy-two hours after being rushed to an emergency room, Horton said the unbelievable is still unexplainable.

“I’m in wonder and amazement at how God protects us through everything we went through,” he said. “Every day, every moment, I find something new to be thankful for.”

Less than 24 hours after walking away from a plane crash in east-central Springfield, Paul Reinert said his stress level had not gone down much by Saturday afternoon.

Reinert was in the back seat of a small private airplane that clipped a cellphone tower and crashed into a vacant lot on the Evangel University campus on Friday evening, narrowly missing several homes on its way down. And although he left the scene virtually unharmed, he said the incident has left him a bit shaken.

"Our pilot did an incredible job of finding a place to land that thing with no buildings," Reinert said. "While I got whipped around pretty good, I was able to stand up and walk out of the plane."

All four people inside the plane survived. Two were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, while Reinert and Amy Ford — who was also in the back seat — walked away from the scene.

Reinert is the co-owner of Integrity Home Care of Springfield, along with Greg Horton, who was in the front seat of the plane. The pilot, Reinert said, was Integrity's vice president Bill Perkin.

Reinert said he visited Perkin at Cox South on Saturday morning, and the pilot is recovering from a couple of broken bones. A CoxHealth spokeswoman said Perkin is listed in stable condition. A Mercy Hospital spokesman said Horton is listed in good condition.

Reinert said the plane made contact with something in the dark sky over Springfield as the group returned from a visit to Kansas City. He said he immediately knew something was seriously wrong.

"Once that happened, it became very difficult to control the plane," Reinert said. "Within a few seconds, the engine went off, and it was clear we were going to have to crash land.

"I knew that Bill was an excellent pilot. I knew he would do his best to find a place that would give us some chance of survival, and he did."

Reinert said those 60-90 seconds with the plane malfunctioning in midair were long ones, but he did his best to keep his composure.

"You feel somewhat out of control," Reinert said. "There wasn't a whole lot I could do, so I was going to just try to be alert and do the best I could."

Reinert said after the plane crashed, he grabbed Ford and helped her out of the wreckage. He then went back to retrieve Horton and Perkin, but they were stuck.

First responders were there in less than two minutes, Reinert said, and they were able to pull the other two occupants from the wreckage.

Reinert said he is still processing everything, but he feels lucky to be alive.

"I was fortunate," Reinert said. "There was a minute or a minute-and-a-half with some pretty high anxiety prior to finding the ground."

Brenda Hill, a public relations manager for Verizon Wireless, confirmed Saturday that the plane made contact with a Verizon-owned cell tower near Chestnut Expressway and the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge.

Hill said there was no loss of service, but Verizon representatives were on the scene Saturday to assess the damage to the tower and determine what repairs were needed, if any.

"We never had a disruption of service, so we know that if there is damage, it is nothing that made the tower go down," Hill said.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration were on the scene of the crash and at the tower by 10 a.m. on Saturday. And by 5 p.m., police tape was down, and the plane pieces had been loaded onto trucks and removed from the scene for further investigation.

Terry Williams, public affairs officer for the National Transportation Safety Board, said FAA investigators are reporting back to the NTSB so the two agencies can piece together what went wrong.

Williams said the investigation is still in its early stages and he did not anticipate the NTSB releasing much information on the cause of the crash until at least Monday.

"We are gathering information the FAA is providing to us," Williams said. "We are going to be looking at the engines and we are going to be talking to any witnesses. Of course, everyone in this particular crash survived, so we are going to be talking to the pilot."

Elizabeth Cory, media spokeswoman for the FAA, confirmed that the plane flew out of Lee's Summit and was heading to the Downtown Airport in Springfield.

Cory said she could not speculate on what may have gone wrong since it is still an open investigation. She said the FAA is looking into the licensure of the pilot, certification and maintenance of the aircraft and rules of flight. She said investigators would pull radar, talk to witnesses and potentially send parts of the plane back to the manufacturer for review.

Cory said the airplane involved was a Piper 32, a single-engine aircraft that seats six people.

A witness saw the plane clip the cell tower near Chestnut Expressway and the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge around 5:30 p.m. Friday, before it traveled another mile and a half over rush-hour traffic and went down in a small empty field near Pythian Street and Delaware Avenue — less than 100 feet from several houses and right across the street from a playground.

There was no apparent damage to any structures in the area, and first responders seemed to have the situation under control in a matter of minutes.

Kent Boyd, spokesman for the Springfield-Branson National Airport, reported that aviation weather conditions were unremarkable Friday. Visibility was 10 miles, with a ceiling of 1,600 feet. Winds were from the southeast at 8 knots, or about 9 mph.

A piece of the crashed plane (long white object) lies on the ground near a communications tower about a mile southwest of the crash site.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Springfield police confirmed late Friday night that they found debris from a small plane about a mile southwest of the spot where the plane crashed earlier in the evening. The debris is near a telephone tower on the east side of Benton Avenue, near the Martin Luther King Bridge over Jordan Creek and the railroad tracks.

The discovery of the piece of the plane appears to verify information from a witness who says he saw the plane clip a tower.  The Springfield News-Leader reports the witness was hooking up a trailer at Moore Printing on Jefferson Avenue, a couple of blocks from the tower, when he saw the plane hit the tower.  Police cordoned off around the tower and the debris on Friday night.

Two people were taken to a hospital, and two others were able to walk away from the wreckage.  The single-engine plane crashed on the south side of Pythian Street between Glenstone and Delaware avenues about 5:40 p.m. Friday.   That's just south of Evangel University.

Two of the four people on the plane were taken to a hospital by an ambulance for what seems to be minor injuries.  The other two people went to a hospital on their own to be checked out.

The six-seat plane is owned by Integrity Home Care of Springfield.  The pilot is Bill Perkin, a company vice president.   The passengers are chief executive officer Greg Horton and Paul Reinert, owners of the company, and Amy Ford, the company's director of hospice.  They were returning to Springfield after visiting Integrity's office in Kansas City. 

Perkin is also the owner of KSPR-TV;  KY3 Inc. operates KSPR under an agreement with Perkin Media.

The plane was returning to Springfield from Lee's Summit.  It ended up mangled on the ground on its belly in a brushy vacant lot in a residential area near Pythian at Delaware Avenue.    It hit some trees before it hit the ground.

Jody Waggoner lives on Delaware near the crash.  He says he was in his house when he heard something that sounded like someone coming up to his yard and hitting his truck.  He says the impact shook his whole house.

Waggoner said he went outside and saw people in the alley with flashlights.  Shortly afterwards, emergency responders arrived.

Waggoner says he walked over to look at the plane crash and says it looked pretty bad.  He says one person was pulled out of the wreckage on a stretcher. 

The Springfield Downtown Airport is about half a mile east of the crash site, on the east side of Glenstone Avenue, behind the huge building that used to be a cup factory.  That airport serves small private planes such as the one that crashed.

The plane is a Piper Saratoga.   According to FAA online records, it's been recently bought by Integrity Home Care of Springfield.

The Flight Aware website indicates the plane flew on Thursday from Springfield to Lee's Summit, just south of Kansas City.  The plane then left Lee's Summit at 4:25 p.m. Friday for the return trip to Springfield.

Integrity Home Care provides home health, hospice, pharmacy, and personal care services to seniors and disabled individuals in their own homes.

The Federal Aviation Administration and or the National Transportation Safety Board will send investigators to the scene, but likely not until Saturday morning.


Here's a message from Kent Boyd, spokesman for Springfield-Branson National Airport:

"I’ve received several calls this evening about the plane crash near Evangel.

"The Springfield Airport’s aircraft/rescue fire department received no word this evening about an aircraft is distress. Likewise, our general aviation staff heard nothing from airborne aircraft in the area.

"It is reasonable to conclude that the downed plane was landing, or taking off from Downtown Airport.

"Aviation weather conditions this evening in Springfield are unremarkable.  Visibility is 10 miles, with a ceiling of 1,600 feet. Winds from the southeast at 8 knots (9 mph).

"Investigation of the incident will be done by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)."

A small private airplane left a trail of what-ifs in its wake as it flew over mid-town Springfield on Friday and crashed into a vacant lot on the Evangel University campus.

A witness saw the plane clip the cell tower near Chestnut Expressway and the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge at around 5:30 p.m., before it traveled another mile-and-a-half over rush-hour traffic and went down in a small empty field — less than 100 feet from several houses and right across the street from a playground.

All four occupants survived. Two went to the hospital with minor injuries, and two others did not need medical transport, the city reported on Friday night.

There was no apparent damage to any structures in the area, and first responders seemed to have the situation under control in a matter of minutes, even though the plane was reported to have been on fire at one point.

KY3 reported that the pilot of the plane was Bill Perkin, owner of KSPR-TV. KY3 said the passengers were Greg Horton, Paul Reinert and Amy Ford, and the plane is owned by Integrity Home Care of Springfield.

Lt. Chad Eutsler, with the Springfield Police Department, was on the scene at Evangel. He said the situation could have been much worse with so many homes and buildings in the vicinity, but he could not speculate on if the pilot crash-landed in that spot on purpose.

"We are very fortunate," Eutsler said. "We don't know the circumstances, if it was something where the pilot was able to take action to do that, but I am sure that is something the investigation will be focused on."

The investigation into exactly what happened is now in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. A release from the city said investigators were not expected until Saturday morning.

The portion of the plane's aircraft registration visible to a News-Leader photographer following the crash appears to match that of a single-engine plane that left Lee's Summit Municipal Airport at 4:25 p.m., according to the the flight-tracking website FlightAware. The website indicates the plane was headed to the Downtown Airport in Springfield, with a scheduled arrival time of 5:29 p.m.

Ken Walker was hooking up a trailer at Moore Printing Company on North Jefferson Avenue when he said he saw the plane clip the cell tower near Chestnut Expressway with its right wing.

Walker, who also pilots small airplanes, said the crash scene had the look of more luck than skill.

"I would say it just wasn't his time to die," Walker said.

Walker said the plane looked to be flying too low as it hit the tower. He said fuel started blowing out of the plane after it made contact with the tower, but the pilot was able to keep the wings level.

Walker said he thought the pilot may have been flying low to stay under the dropping cloud cover.

There was police tape around the tower on Friday night, and an officer on the scene said there was a piece of an airplane on the ground next to the tower.

Derrick Dann lives a few blocks away from the crash site on Pythian Street. He said he saw the plane before it crashed and immediately knew something was wrong.

"We were outside and we heard a plane and we looked up and it was flying real low," Dann said. "Me and my wife were like 'Oh my God, that thing is going to crash.' And then all of a sudden you just heard a bunch of trees (snapping) and a bunch of noise."

Evangel spokesman Paul Logsdon marveled aloud that the plane hit the ground where it did.

"It's sort of a miracle it landed there near a cluster of trees," Logsdon said. "That's one of the very few bare stretches around."

Logsdon said the lot was one of several residential properties Evangel owns in the area. He said the university buys up lots on occasion as they become available. The lot where the crash occurred is on the south side of Pythian in an area where five houses had been taken out, he said.

Aaron Braunberger, a student at Evangel, was walking across campus when the crash occurred. He said he thought initially that it was a car accident until he saw the overwhelming response from police and firefighters.

"There were so many lights and vehicles here," Braunberger said. "It was crazy."

The crash occurred near the downtown Springfield airport, a relatively small, privately-owned airfield southeast of the intersection of Glenstone Avenue and Division Street. The airport is open to the public. Private planes account for most of the air traffic at the airport, which does not have an on-site control tower.

Officials have not said for certain whether the plane was attempting to land at or take off from that airfield.

No one answered calls to the Downtown Airport's main phone number after normal business hours. The News-Leader's attempts to locate a phone number for General Manager Bradley Byron were unsuccessful.

Kent Boyd, spokesman for the much-larger Springfield-Branson National Airport, said his facility's aircraft/rescue fire department received no word about an aircraft in distress, and the general aviation staff heard nothing from airborne aircraft in the area.

Boyd reported that aviation weather conditions were unremarkable Friday. Visibility was 10 miles, with a ceiling of 1,600 feet. Winds were from the southeast at 8 knots, or about 9 mph.

It was clear from the scene that at least two people had to be removed from the plane by emergency workers and were taken away on stretchers, but officials later reported that no one suffered severe injuries.

Logsdon said no Evangel buildings were damaged., a website maintained by state and local traffic authorities, listed the location of the crash as 1620 E. Pythian St., between 900 N. Waverly and 900 N. Delaware. The site reported an "aircraft emergency" at 5:30 p.m. The initial report listed the location as 1111 N. Glenstone Ave. — an address for Evangel University — between 1800 E. Pythian and 1800 E. Bergman.

County property records show the lot is owned by the university.


Clarke County, Mississippi: Search for Possible Missing Plane Called Off

Emergency officials have called off the search for a plane believed to be missing in Clarke County.

Clarke Co., Miss. Thursday, a search began for a possible downed plane in Clarke County. Now emergency officials believe that aircraft never actually went down. 

Reports of a low-flying and sputtering plane came through 911 last night from northern Clarke County in the Snell community.

Mississippi Highway Patrol helicopters were searching for this aircraft Thursday night, and Friday military aircraft were even on the hunt. But those searches haven't turned up anything. 

Clarke County Emergency Management Director Eddie Ivy says they've now spoken with other people in the area who think they might have heard the plane sputtering, and one person says he heard the plane's engine rev back up and take off. 

The search is suspended and emergency officials say right now they do not believe there is an aircraft down.

Ivy says if they hear any other information about the plane that leads them to believe it's still out there, they will resume the search.


China needs more pilots: Shortage of pilots grounds general aviation

There is growing demand for short-range flights serving businesses and tourists, but the issue is who will fly them.

Li Jian, a 25-year-old helicopter pilot, has just signed up to fly with a general aviation operator based in Hebei province.

Li has been interested in flying since childhood. He was an aviation technician before attending a flight school for nine months in the United States, and he said that most of his classmates easily found jobs after getting their licenses.

“Many general aviation operators are eager to hire pilots and it is not a problem for us to get a job,” Li said.

The demand for general aviation pilots is set to increase as China further opens its low-altitude airspace. But talent is scarce, and that may constrain the sector’s development, experts said.

“The industry will benefit immensely from airspace management reform, but airspace is not the top challenge for the general aviation industry,” said Wu Jingkui, chairman of the Asian Business Aviation Association. A bigger problem is the shortage of skilled staff.

A problem like that takes time to solve to ensure the sector’s safe, efficient and steady growth, he said.

“I do not expect to see the industry boom suddenly,” Wu said. “Everything, from pilot training to researching the business, takes time.”

Some general aviation operators plan to train pilots themselves.

Bi Wei, chairman of CITIC Offshore Helicopter Co Ltd, the largest helicopter operator in China, said the company has been given approval to train pilots and technicians, and it will build a training center and schools for the purpose.

It will also help train pilots for other operators. On Nov 11, the company signed a contract to train three pilots for China Rescue and Salvage, under the Ministry of Transport.

“As the general aviation industry develops, the training business will be a huge market,” Bi said.

Other companies also want a slice of that market.

Zhang Jian is the general manager of HNA Aviation Academy’s marketing department, a subsidiary of HNA Group Co Ltd. That group is the parent of Hainan Airlines, which operates a network of scheduled domestic and international flights.

The HNA academy, the second-largest flying school in China in term of training hours, is moving into the private-license training business, but only 5 percent of its trainees are on that track at present.

Shortage of pilots grounds general aviation

About 130 to 140 students will graduate from the school this year, and most of them will work on scheduled flights, Zhang said, adding that the school has not seen a marked increase in general aviation trainees.

France-based Thales Group SA, an electrical systems and service provider for the aerospace, defense, transportation and security industries, is targeting China’s general aviation training market and expects its helicopter simulator business to increase in the Chinese mainland.

“China’s training market is huge and its ‘spring’ has come,” said Xia Jinsong, deputy chief executive officer of Thales China.

Last year, Thales signed a contract with Sichuan Haite High-tech Co Ltd, China’s only listed aviation maintenance company, to sell simulators for EC-135 helicopters and auxiliary facilities. The transaction was valued at about 10 million euros ($12.5 million).

“The number of helicopters in China will keep increasing after low-altitude airspace is open, and that will mean large business opportunities for related services such as training,” Haite High-tech said in a statement.

Although demand for general aviation pilots is huge, their incomes are much lower than those of civilian jet pilots who fly for major domestic and international carriers.

The basic salaries and hourly rates are about the same, Li Jian said, but there is a huge difference in flying hours.

“It would be a good month if we had 10 flying hours, but the ceiling for pilots flying regular routes is 100 hours each month,” Li said.

Actually, the lack of working hours is a problem across China’s general aviation industry, not just Li’s company.

The whole industry, with 1,519 aircraft, recorded 591,000 flight hours in 2013, compared with about 25 million hours in the United States, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

However, Li can expect more flying time in the future, as low-altitude airspace reform will serve as a catalyst for the general aviation sector.

A national meeting on low-altitude airspace management reform was held on Nov 21-22 to discuss draft regulations.

Wang Zhiqing, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said China’s general aviation flying hours will reach 2 million annually, with more than 5,000 aircraft, by 2020.
“Demand for general aviation is huge and it is a rising industry with great potential,” Wang said.

Vice-Premier Ma Kai, who is also director of the National Airspace Management Committee, told the national meeting that reform should aim at promoting rapid, safe development of the general aviation sector and maximizing the use of low-altitude airspace.

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Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission Adopts Emergency Rules Requiring Marking of Wind Evaluation

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is waiting on Gov. Mary Fallin's approval of a rule it passed to improve low-flying aircraft safety near towers used by the wind energy industry.

At its meeting in November, the commission adopted emergency rules designed to protect low-flying aircraft from towers used to measure and record wind speed.

Rules would require towers used for measuring wind speed as part of the wind power generation process to be marked, painted, and flagged for clear visibility. Towers 50 feet or taller would fall under the requirement.

The emergency rules need Fallin's signature before they would go into effect. She seems to be in favor of approving it.

“Anytime that we [have] the opportunity to minimize the risk of serious injury or death among the flying public, we should take the necessary actions to do that,” said Vic Bird, director of the Aeronautics Commission. “These rules will provide pilots such as crop dusters and emergency medical personnel with an added layer of safety.”

“Governor Fallin supports these new rules, which will increase safety for pilots by making these towers more easily visible," her communications director, Alex Weintz, said Friday. "Significant improvements have been made over the originally proposed legislation which the governor vetoed.”

Anemometer towers are used in a variety of industries, one being the planning stages of Wind Farms.

Wind energy companies use the towers, also called meteorological evaluation towers (METs), to measure wind speeds at potential sites for their turbines.

Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission spokesman Harve Allen said that he has not seen data on any changes in the number of anemometer towers in Oklahoma, but with the proliferation of the wind industry in the past few years the rules are needed.

The emergency rules are a result of last session's House Bill 3348, which state lawmakers passed in late May.

“HB3348 was in no way meant to stifle the growth of wind farms in our state. The wind industry plays an important role in bringing alternative energy solutions to the state as well as creating jobs. We appreciate the dialogue and input both the wind and agriculture industries provided during this whole process,” Bird said.

Before legislation was introduced some groups within the agriculture community approached the commission expressing concern over the safety of low-flying aircraft, Allen said.

The concerns stemmed from a 2013 accident in the Oklahoma Panhandle when the pilot of a cropduster was killed when the aircradt crashed into an anemometer tower, Allen said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also encouraging states to pass laws that would improve safety for low-flying aircraft from the relatively shorter towers, Allen said.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not regulate towers below 200 feet. Therefore those towers can be left unmarked and very difficult for pilots to see during the day.


United to cut service out of McClellan-Palomar Airport (KCRQ), Carlsbad, California

CARLSBAD—SkyWest Airlines, which operates under contract with United Express Airlines, is going to cut daily commercial service from McClellan-Palomar Airport to Los Angeles by April 2015.

The move comes after Sky West announced fleet transitions to improve overall efficiency and long-term profitability, and would leave the airport without commercial service.

Sky West officials are phasing out the use of the Embraer 120 Brasilia turboprop aircraft, which seats about 30 people, in order to transition to an all-jet fleet.

The LAX to Carlsbad route exclusively uses the Brasilia turboprop.

In January, the Federal Aviation Administration released new rules involving pilot’s duty times, which increased the cost of operating the Brasilia turboprops.

United Express operates about seven flights to LAX out of the airport daily.

Charter services run out of the airport for people willing to book private flights.

Other aviation services run out of the airport, including flight schools and personal aircraft pilots.

“While there will not be any commercial passengers traveling through the airport, the airport is still open and continues to support many aviation businesses,” Airport Manager at McClellan-Palomar Olivier Brackett, said.

He went on to say that so far, no other commercial airlines have applied to fill the void that will be left in April.

“There has been some general interest, but we do not have any active applications from other commercial airlines at this time,” Brackett said.

Surf Air is a membership based service and just started servicing the airport. Members pay $1,750 monthly for unlimited flights, which go to Las Vegas, Santa Barbara and Truckee.

Another commercial airline attempted to operate out of McClellan-Palomar Airport, California Pacific Airlines, but faced difficulties getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Transportation Security Administrations officials have yet to decide whether or not to relocate the two officers based at the airport.

“If there’s not commercial service at an airport, there’s no requirement for TSA officers to be there,” Nico Melendez, TSA spokesman said.

If another airline comes in, Melendez said, the officers will stay.

“Considering the fact that we still have five months until United pulls out, there still is time for the airport to find other commercial service to come in, so no hard decisions have been made as to where they’re going to go, what’s going to happen or when they’re going to leave,” Melendez said.


Oconee County hires new airport director: Oconee County Regional (KCEU), Clemson, South Carolina

Sam Carver
WALHALLA — The Oconee Regional Airport has a new director to replace the retiring Kevin Short.

Sylvian “Sam” Carver is slated to begin in the position Dec. 22, according to Randy Renz, chairman of the Oconee County Aeronautics Commission.

The 42-year-old Carver was hired by Oconee County following a nationwide search after Short announced his retirement some weeks ago. Short served as director of Oconee County’s airport for nine years.

Carver has served as the director of the Slidell, Louisiana, municipal airport from 2007 until 2011. That airport is described on the city’s website as one of the largest noncommercial airports in Louisiana, home base to more than 100 airplanes and having 30 privately owned hangars. Like Oconee County’s airport, it has a 5,000-foot runway.

According to local media reports, Carver was one of eight upper-level city employees whose jobs were cut when the city of Slidell faced a financial crisis in 2011.

His profile with the American Association of Airport Executives says the Gulfport, Mississippi native graduated from Delta State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in commercial aviation. Prior to the Slidell position, Carver was supervisor of operations at the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida and has held supervisory positions at Fort Lauderdale International Airport and at Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport in Mississippi.

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Air traffic control failure disrupts flights over Britain causing chaos at airports

London: A computer failure at an air traffic control center sparked travel chaos in Britain on Friday as the peak Christmas season gets underway, officials said.

Heathrow Airport, Europe's busiest hub, said 50 flights had to be cancelled and warned passengers to check their flight status before setting off.

After more than an hour in which some departures were blocked and arrivals diverted, Britain's National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said the system had been restored and services were returning to normal.

The London airports system is the busiest hub in the world with around 135 million passengers a year.

Heathrow is the world's busiest international airport. Over 67 million passengers travel through it annually on services offered by 90 airlines travelling to over 180 destinations in over 90 countries, according to its website.

Other British airports were also affected, including Bristol, Edinburgh and Leeds.

"Disruption on this scale is simply unacceptable and I have asked NATS for a full explanation of this evening's incident," Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin said.

Brussels-based Eurocontrol, which earlier reported that airspace over London had been shut down, said a "measured recovery" was underway.

NATS had earlier said that it was "restricting traffic volumes" following a technical problem at the Swanwick control centre in southern England.

"UK airspace has not been closed, but airspace capacity has been restricted in order to manage the situation," it said in a statement on its website.

Air France said around 20 of its flights were affected, including one flight headed for Dublin which was forced to turn back to Paris.

Two Iberia flights that left Madrid for London also returned to their departure point.

Heathrow Airport said in a tweet that the failure was caused by a "power outage", while British media reported that there had been a "radar display issue".

This is not the first time that a technical failure at Swanwick has caused travel chaos.

Hundreds of flights in Britain and Ireland were delayed or cancelled last year due to a similar problem.

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Airline grounds flights to Carlsbad due to helicopter activity: CEO cites safety concerns over helicopter activity

CARSLBAD >> New Mexico Airlines has grounded flights to and from Carlsbad indefinitely until a safety concern near the airport is taken care of, said Greg Kahlstorf, chief executive of Pacific Wings.

Undocumented helicopter flights directly next to the airport, but not part of the airport, are causing what Kahlstorf described in an email to the Federal Aviation Administration as "unique safety concerns and challenges."

Kahlstorf notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the concern in May, but said nothing has yet been done to address the issue.

"It is not common for an airline to continue to have to fly into an airport where there is a safety issue like this," Kahlstorf said.

Flights by the company have officially been grounded beginning Friday morning, but Kahlstorf said Carlsbad is the only airport where flights were grounded because of airport safety concerns.

Other news sources are reporting that flights by the company in Los Alamos and other airports in Southeastern New Mexico were grounded due to mechanical issues.

Kahlstorf said that FAA regulations dictate that an airspace safety study be done in such situations, but to his knowledge, no such study has yet been done.

"After six months of notifying the appropriate agencies, we can no longer take the risk of serving a city where this safety concern exists," Kahlstorf said.

He said when the FAA has told him that the situation is safe, he will resume flights to and from Carlsbad.


Cessna 172: Incident occurred December 11, 2014 at Charlottetown Airport

A small private plane landed safely at the Charlottetown Airport Thursday after a pilot declared he was coming in for an emergency landing.

Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority, says neither of the plane’s two occupants was injured. The plane was towed off the runway.

The pilot had been giving flight training.

Newson says the plane, a Cessna 172, was experiencing engine trouble when the pilot declared at 3:39 p.m. the need to make an emergency landing at the airport.

The airport activated its emergency response procedure.

The plane landed safely at 3:47 p.m.

Newson says a pilot calling in an emergency landing at the Charlottetown Airport is rare, happening perhaps once every two or three years.


© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
A Cessna plane is towed after making an emergency landing at the Charlottetown Airport Thursday.