Friday, December 19, 2014

1st drone in Nevada test program crashes in demo

BOULDER CITY, NEV. — An aerial drone testing program got off to a bumpy start Friday in Nevada, when the first unmanned aircraft authorized to fly without direct Federal Aviation Administration supervision crashed during a ceremony at a remote site.

"This is still a great day for Nevada," Gov. Brian Sandoval said after the orange aircraft dubbed the Sensurion Magpie was launched by hand, flew about 10 feet and plunged nose-first to the desert floor.

"This is testing," the governor said. "This is why we're here."

Company and FAA officials said the drone wasn't damaged. But they didn't try to fly it again during the ceremony.

"Protocol is to troubleshoot the problem," said Bruce Tarbert, an official with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems — the testing agency that became the first in the nation to gain FAA approval to issue airworthiness certificates on its own.

Certification was made official earlier, Tarbert and FAA officials said, when the pilotless airplane weighing less than 8 pounds and a wingspan of about 5 feet flew for about 15 minutes before guests arrived.

The Republican governor and GOP U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and U.S. Rep. Joe Heck were among those on hand for regional FAA official Glen Martin to present a framed certificate making what Martin called a milestone for the unmanned aerial systems industry. Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid sent a staff representative.

"Today marks the first time that a special airworthiness certificate has been issued to any UAS applicant at any UAS test site," Martin said, and the first time an FAA-designated representative was authorized to issue the document.

Sensurion Aerospace CEO Joe Burns told the 40 people who attended that they were witnessing the birth of a new industry involving unmanned aerial vehicle research, development and operations.

The use of drones is expected to grow quickly not only as a way to deliver pizza or packages by air, but to spray crops, inspect power lines, collect seismic data and provide an eye in the sky to news crews and police.

Steven Hill, the governor's economic development chief, noted the timing and location of the ceremony held on a sunny and clear morning in a vast expanse of desert about 30 miles east of downtown Las Vegas.

"We have 320 flying days a year," Hill said. "We are probably one of the few locations in the country that has the ability to confidently schedule a flight on Dec. 19."

Nevada was one of six states chosen a year ago as a test site for drones while the FAA develops operating regulations.

The first FAA-authorized commercial drone operation over land began in June in Alaska.

New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia also have authorization for drone testing.

Sandoval compared the fledgling drone industry in Nevada to the cellphone industry 25 years ago, and said he hoped Nevada would become a hub for drone development "so our kids and grandkids can stay here and have a career manufacturing and flying UAV's."

Nevada, with vast expanses of open and undeveloped land, already has a top U.S. drone surveillance and combat operations center at Creech Air Force Base about 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It is also home to an air combat training center at Nellis Air Force Base.

Hill said the state has three other official drone testing facilities at airports in Mercury, Fallon and Stead, near Reno.

Story and Photos:

Texas Department of Transportation grant money to boost South Texas International Airport (KEBG), Edinburg

EDINBURG — The Texas Transportation Commission approved at its monthly meeting Thursday the first roughly $190,000 of a total of $2.3 million for improvements to Edinburg’s airport.

The commission is the governing board of the Texas Department of Transportation. The city announced last month it won a grant from the department for design and construction costs of airport improvements. The state agency will provide about $2.3 million for the projects, while the city will kick in about $235,000 as a 10 percent match.

The city council last month passed a resolution to support airport improvements.

“It’s obviously going to enhance our airport,” City Manager Ramiro Garza said. “These are needed improvements to our airport to help us grow it, and we’re very excited about the support we’re getting from TxDOT.”

TxDOT will use the initial $190,000 for engineering and design of hangar and pavement improvements, according to a Friday news release from the department.

Officials will choose a project consultant over the winter, the release said.


Air Choice One numbers looking good so far • Mason City Municipal Airport (KMCW), Iowa

ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 
Passengers board a recent Air Choice One flight out of the Mason City Municipal airport.

MASON CITY | Air Choice One is off to a good start in Mason City, according to airport Manager Pam Osgood.

The airline began operations in Mason City on Nov. 17. 

"In the figures I've seen so far, we had 145 enplanements and 156 deplanements, and that's not for the full month," she said. "According to my calculations we averaged 18 passengers per day. That is a great start." 

Air Choice One provides four flights a day to and from O'Hare Field in Chicago, plus weekend flights.

Its launch in Mason City stopped a long dry spell in commercial air service. Great Lakes, which served the airport for two years, suspended operations in February, citing a pilot shortage.

The local airport commission, working through the U.S. Department of Transportation, sought requests from other airlines twice, after rejecting the first proposals it received.

The commission settled on Air Choice One in September and it started up in Mason City two months later.

Passenger levels are important to the airport for two reasons. It receives a subsidy from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) based on the number of passengers. In years past it has received $1 million for surpassing the 10,000-passenger threshold, but has not come near that in recent years.

Secondly, the federal government provides Essential Air Service (EAS) funding to help airlines subsidize service to smaller airports — as long as passenger traffic warrants it.

The Mason City Airport saw a 50 percent decrease in passengers between 2008 and 2012, due in part to inconsistent service provided by Great Lakes.

Osgood said the airport had a viable 12,000 passengers a year as recently as 2011, and she believes reliable service from Air Choice One will help see those levels return.

“So far the planes have been full, so we are optimistic,” Osgood said. “We feel we can get back to that status again. We need to demonstrate they can be successful here, and we think we can.”

She said, as always, the key to success will be the support of the North Iowa public in utilizing the air service.

- Original article can be found at:

Most plane accidents happen while still at airports

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20:  Aviation statistics show that flying is still very safe, despite the headline-grabbing losses of flights MH370 and MH17 this year, said Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE.

In its Global Aviation Safety Study report, the Allianz Group unit said a very significant part of insurance claims made in recent years is actually due to aircraft being unable to leave the airport in the first place.

Such insurance claims are largely due to the planes being declared unsafe to fly due to “ground equipment damage” or “mechanical failure”.

The report noted that damage caused by accidents while the plane is still at airport ramps are on the rise, costing the aviation industry about US$10 billion (RM35 billion) a year.

“Ineffective communication is at the heart of most incidents. Contact between airplanes and ground service equipment accounts for more than 80% of incidents.

“Damage from foreign objects continues to be an issue for the aviation sector, with this being the fifth highest generator of insurance claims by number.

“Bird strikes are a notable cause but incidents on runways with animals such as zebras and cows can also cause losses.” 

The unit’s global head for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific Henning Haagen said: “Today, there are fewer fatalities or total hull losses compared with the past.”

When aircraft losses do occur, the report estimated that 70% of fatal accidents are related to human error with pilot fatigue as a major contributor.

“Initiatives such as crew resource management and the automated cockpit have improved safety levels, but automation can also have a downside as a number of incidents have raised the question of whether pilots are too reliant on automation in the cockpit.”

But such automation also has a downside, the report noted. “Newer aircrafts are highly exposed to cyber crime due to the prevalent use of data networks, onboard computer systems and navigation systems.

“The expected increase of drones in commercial use also poses as another risks as an anticipated future shortage of a skilled workforce including pilots.”

Looking back, the report added: “In 2012 88% of global aviation fatalities occurred in Africa (45%) and Asia (43%).

“Africa currently uses the highest percentage of second generation aircraft – over 50% of the total fleet analysed. Upgrading the airline fleet to current generation aircraft is one of the safety initiatives which have lowered the global accident rate.

“In some parts of Africa, safety and training standards are comparable to those of 50 years ago in the US or Europe.”


Riverton Regional Airport (KRIW) to fall 2,000 passengers short of 10,000 enplanements this year

Riverton Regional Airport Manager Paul Griffin

(Riverton, Wyo.) – To no one’s surprise, enplanements at Riverton Regional Airport will come in around 8,000 passengers this year, some 2,000 short for the airport to qualify for a $1-million FAA grant for airport infrastructure.

Airport Manager Paul Griffin said at the end of November, the airport had enplaned 7,271 passengers, compared with 12,337 at that same time last year.

In the first quarter of this year, flight cancellations by Great Lakes Airlines were running up to 60 percent, which caused a big dip in the numbers that the airport could not recover.

“We are not alone as Sheridan and Cheyenne are in the same boat due to the pilot shortage and FAA mandate for crews and hours,” Griffin said. “Hopefully legislative action will correct this in the years ahead.”

With bad weather closing in the airport several days last month and with pilot shortage issues, Griffin said the number of flight cancellations by Great Lakes Airlines in November totaled 23. That compared to only 12 in October.

The good news in those statistics, according to Airport Board Member Bob Steen, is that the on-time performance of Great Lakes at Riverton Regional has been 76 percent, with only 10 percent of flights being late and five percent of flights cancelled.

Griffin said the airport is being served with 19 passenger Beech airframes and that some Brasilias have also flown in.

“During the fog events of the past two days, Great Lakes has been overflying us and going direct from Denver to Worland and back. We hope the fog lifts soon.”

Board Chairman Dean Peranteaux said communication from Great Lakes’ local airport staff has been good. “They go out of their way to communicate with passengers, sometimes two to three days out. Sometimes they don’t know a flight isn’t coming in until that very day,” he said.

Peranteaux said Great Lakes executives have not been returning his calls since October. “Sadly, there is not a lot of opportunity for Great Lakes to go out of its way to make sure flights go into and out of Riverton,” he said. “They are losing pilots in the double digits and back in October they only had two new pilots coming in.”

The pilot shortage hit most national commuter airlines after the FAA increased the right seat, or co-pilot, requirements from 250 hours to 1,500 hours.

A county-wide task force looking into how to enhance commercial air service at the airport is working on establishing itself as a non-profit organization to assist its fund raising efforts to provide a revenue guarantee for any future air service enhancements. The Task Force is working with Wyoming Aeronautics to identify a potential second carrier for the airport.

- Original article can be found at:

Former Airport Board Chairman Jim Matson was honored by the Board for his long service to the airport. The plaque of appreciation included “Heartfelt Congratulations and a sincere thank you.” Matson served as the chairman of the board for some eight years from 2006 to this year before he resigned due to health concerns. He had been an airport board member since 1999.

Parties seek trial in SilverWing lawsuit: Sandpoint Airport (KSZT), Idaho

SANDPOINT - Mediation and arbitration have failed to gain any loft in SilverWing at Sandpoint's federal suit against Bonner County.

Both sides filed a joint resolution Monday asking for a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene in April.

"The parties are not presently able to agree on alternative dispute resolution and wish to proceed to trial," read a joint notice to the court.

The notice comes after Bonner County rejected an offer by SilverWing to settle the matter for $5 million, according to Commissioner Mike Nielsen. The offer is $500,000 more than what SilverWing offered to settle for in 2013.

SilverWing, the developers of a fly-in housing project on the west side of Sandpoint Airport, sued the county in 2012 alleging it was misled about a plan to relocate a runway and Federal Aviation Administration approval of through-the-fence access at the airport. The suit also alleged that the county violated SilverWing's civil rights via inverse condemnation and denial of equal protection under the law.

However, a federal judge jettisoned three-fourths of the claims raised by SilverWing last month. Judge Edward Lodge ruled that the company's civil rights claims fail as a matter of law because there is no allegation that the county had a policy or custom that was the moving force behind the alleged constitutional violations.

Lodge left one state law claim intact in which SilverWing argued that it reasonably relied - to its detriment - on the county's promise that there were no plans to shift the runway.


Whistle-blower sues Huntington Beach aircraft parts company over his firing

A Huntington Beach aviation equipment manufacturer is being sued by a former employee who says he was illegally fired for whistle-blowing on the company.

Hoang Nguyen, 46, of Huntington Beach alleges that Ameri-King Inc. has been selling rebranded or refurbished products that were made in China and not approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to his attorney Katrina Foley, a Costa Mesa city councilwoman.

The FAA is investigating the company on allegations that it sold to distributors Chinese-made items such as emergency locater transmitters, altitude encoders and power converters that were relabeled to say they were made in the United States. The distributors then sold them to small-plane manufacturers like Cessna Aircraft Co., Foley said Wednesday.

"There's about 400 small planes that crash annually," Foley said. "There's a lot of investigation going on right now as to whether or not some of what had been previously considered as pilot error is really faulty products."

It is unknown whether any of Ameri-King's products have been used in large commercial aircraft, Foley said.

The company, at 17881 Sampson Lane, sells about 5,000 parts to distributors each year, said Do Phu, another attorney for Nguyen.

Nguyen's lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, seeks general and compensatory damages, including lost wages, and compensation for mental and emotional distress.

"The lives of people using these airplanes are more important to me," Nguyen said in Vietnamese as attorney Tuan Anh Nguyen interpreted. "The safety and lives of other people compelled me to do this."

The complaint also accuses Ameri-King of tax evasion and using computer software that was installed without proper licensing, Foley said.

Victor Van, an Ameri-King manager, declined to comment Wednesday.

Ameri-King hired Nguyen in 2006 as an assembler, and he worked for the company for eight years. His duties included soldering wires to connectors and checking whether equipment worked properly, according to Nguyen's complaint.

Nguyen says he observed other employees relabeling Chinese-made parts that were not FAA-approved.

In 2008, his complaint says, Nguyen confronted his supervisor, Keith Van, about the actions, saying the products "increased risk of airplane crashes."

According to the complaint, Keith Van responded: "It's strange to say this, but when an airplane crashes, no single company will be held liable, because an airplane has thousands of parts and any single one of them could have resulted in the crash. So no one will be able to say definitively what made the airplane crash."

Nguyen says he continued to remind his employers of what they were doing. In 2011, he twice sent letters to the FAA detailing the activities, according to the complaint.

In October 2012, FAA inspectors visited Ameri-King to see the products and told Nguyen that they would open an investigation, the complaint says.

On Jan. 16, 2013, FAA officials interviewed Nguyen at the work site in front of Keith and Victor Van. Afterward, the complaint says, Keith Van told Nguyen that he could quit his job, and he later threatened to fire him if he continued making reports to the FAA.

Nguyen stayed in contact with the FAA and talked with officials at their office on Feb. 7, 2013. He met with FAA officials four more times that year, according to the complaint.

Ameri-King fired Nguyen on Jan. 8 this year, saying there was no work for him at the company. Nguyen argues that his work flow had not decreased and that several people were hired after he was let go.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pilot jailed over China air crash disaster: Qi Quanjun, captain of the airliner that came down in heavy fog in Yichun in 2010, killing 44, blamed for disaster

The captain of an airliner that crashed in Heilongjiang province in northern China four years ago, killing 44 people, has been jailed for three years.

It is the first time a pilot has been convicted on the mainland of the offense of causing a major air accident, according to the China News Service.

Qi Quanjun was the captain of a Henan Airlines flight that crashed near Yichun airport in August, 2010.

The flight was flying to Yichun from the provincial capital Harbin with 91 passengers and five crew on board.

The aircraft crashed 690 metres away from the runway.

Fifty-two people were also injured in the crash.

An investigation ruled that the crash was caused by pilot error.

The report said Captain Qi and his co-pilot insisted on landing the aircraft at Yichun Airport, even though the plane was engulfed in heavy fog and the runway was not visible.


NTSB Identification: DCA10WA087
Accident occurred Tuesday, August 24, 2010 in Yichun, China
Aircraft: EMBRAER ERJ190, registration:
Injuries: 42 Fatal, 7 Serious, 47 Minor.
The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On August 24, 2010 at 9:40 PM local time, Henan Airlines flight VD8387 (registration B-3130), an Embraer 190 equipped with General Electric (GE) CF-34 engines, impacted terrain about 1.5 km (0.9 miles) short of runway 30 during approach to Yichun Airport, Yichun, China. Of the 96 passengers and crew on board, there were 42 fatalities, 7 serious injuries, and 47 minor injuries. The airplane was substantially consumed by post-crash fire. The flight originated from the Harbin Taiping International Airport, Harbin, China. 

The accident is being investigated by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The NTSB has appointed a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13 as the State of design and manufacture of the engines.

All requests for information should be directed to: 

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC)
#155 Dongsi Street West, Dongcheng
Beijing, China 100710, China

Beechcraft Bonanza V35A, N555SF: Fatal accident occurred December 18, 2014 in Seagoville, Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Aviation Accident Final Report -   National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items -   National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: CEN15FA081
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 18, 2014 in Seagoville, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/22/2016
Aircraft: BEECH V35A, registration: N555SF
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

After a 90-minute instrument flight rules flight, the pilot descended toward his home airport and attempted six unsuccessful instrument approaches in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The controller terminated three GPS approaches and one instrument landing system approach because the pilot flew through the final approach course; one GPS approach was terminated because the pilot was performing S-turns on final. Sunset occurred during the third approach attempt. After the fourth approach attempt, the controller suggested that the pilot divert to an airport with visual meteorological conditions (VMC), which the pilot declined because of the airplane’s low fuel status. During the sixth approach attempt, the pilot stated he was “getting tired of flying this airplane.” The controller offered him vectors to a VMC airport, but the pilot declined, stating he wanted to “keep working until we get it.” Soon after he made this statement, the airplane turned right toward the final approach course and rapidly descended until terrain impact. The pilot likely either attempted to descend below IMC and/or experienced spatial disorientation, but the investigation was unable to determine the precise reason for the loss of control. The pilot’s six unsuccessful approach attempts and his decision not to divert to a VMC airport revealed poor instrument flight skills, poor fuel planning, lack of situational awareness, and poor judgment. A review of medical records revealed that the pilot was using a sedating antihistamine and had several physiological issues, including vision deficits, diabetes, diabetic neuropathy. These conditions may have had an impairing effect on the pilot, but the medical investigation was limited by the degree of damage to the pilot’s body and the extent to which they may have affected the pilot at the time of the accident could not be determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s loss of control and subsequent impact with terrain in instrument meteorological conditions. 


On December 18, 2014, at 1816 central standard time, a Beech V35A airplane, N555SF, impacted terrain near Seagoville, Texas. The pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Night instrument meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. The flight departed about 1535 from the South Arkansas Regional Airport (ELD), El Dorado, Arkansas and was destined for Mesquite Metro Airport (HQZ) Mesquite, Texas.

At 1708, after descending into the HQZ area, the pilot received vectors from air traffic control to final for the RNAV (GPS) RWY 35 approach, but he flew through the final approach course. After the controller issued a vector to rejoin final, the pilot flew through the final approach course a second time. The controller queried the pilot if he heard his last transmission, but the pilot did not respond. After a second query, the pilot responded that he was "busy flying the airplane."

At 1712, the pilot received vectors for a second GPS approach. At 1714, the controller informed him that he had flown through final approach course again, with no acknowledgment from the pilot. Following termination of this approach by the controller, the pilot requested to fly the full GPS approach by starting from outside the initial approach fix (YEAGR).

At 1723, controller informed the pilot he was abeam YEAGR and requested the aircraft's fuel status, which the pilot reported as eight hours. The controller instructed the pilot to proceed direct to YEAGR and fly the procedure turn approach. At 1735, while on the final approach course inside the final approach fix (IKUSE), the pilot was directed to execute a go-around, after the controller noticed the airplane making S-turns. The controller directed a climb to 2,000 ft mean sea level (msl) several times, but the pilot did not respond.

At 1738, the pilot acknowledged his climb clearance and agreed with the controller's suggestion to fly an ILS approach to Runway 17, which would be the fourth approach attempt. At 1744, controller instructed the pilot to intercept the localizer and cleared him for the ILS approach. At 1746, the controller advised the pilot he was flying through the final approach course, with no response. The controller canceled the approach clearance and advised the pilot of visual meteorological conditions (VMC) airports in the area where he might conduct a visual approach.

The pilot replied with his request to fly to YEAGR to attempt another GPS approach. The controller asked the pilot if it might help to talk to a different controller who was also a pilot. The pilot replied that he just wanted to fly the full GPS approach, with no shortcuts. At 1752, the controller cleared the pilot to fly direct to YEAGR and report procedure turn inbound. At 1808, the pilot was cleared for the RNAV GPS Runway 35 approach. At 1809, the controller asked the pilot if he was turning off-course towards the east and to confirm that he would turn back to the final approach. At 1810, the pilot requested a vector and the controller canceled the approach clearance.

The pilot requested vectors for another GPS approach. At 1814, the controller cleared the pilot to fly the RNAV GPS Runway 35 approach, which would be the sixth approach attempt. The pilot acknowledged the approach clearance and stated he was "getting tired of flying this airplane". The controller asked the pilot if there was anything he could do to help and if he would like to try a VMC airport. The pilot replied he would like to continue to attempt to land at HQZ and "keep working until we get it".

At 1816, after noticing a descending right turn toward the final approach course, the controller instructed the pilot to climb to 2,000 ft msl, followed by issuance of a low altitude alert. The pilot did not respond and the airplane continued to turn right and it entered into a rapid descent until terrain impact.


The pilot, age 73, held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument ratings. On April 22, 2014, the pilot was issued a special issuance Class 3 medical certificate, which required corrective lenses be available for near vision and was not valid after one year. At the time of the medical examination, the pilot reported having 5,100 hours of total flight experience, with 40 hours in the last six months. On August 21, 2014, the pilot accomplished an instrument proficiency check in the accident airplane. Night flight experience was not recorded in the pilot's most recent logbook.

The pilot's medical history included treated hypertension since 1995 and type 2 diabetes since 1998, complicated by a degree of diabetic neuropathy that was "mild" in 2002 and not mentioned thereafter. His medical history also included bilateral diabetic retinopathy which required laser photocoagulation, bilateral cataracts (right greater than left), and diabetic papillopathy in the left eye. In April of 2014, there was laboratory evidence of worsening renal function, but the cause was unclear and the pilot did not follow up with his physician for further testing.

At the time of his last FAA medical exam, the pilot reported using metformin, pioglitazone, valsartan, hydrochlorothiazide and nebivolol. Metformin and pioglitazone are oral prescription medications used to treat diabetes. Valsartan is an oral prescription medication for hypertension. Hydrochlorothiazide is an oral prescription diuretic medication used to treat hypertension and heart failure. Nebivolol is an oral prescription beta blocker medication used to treat hypertension.

According to his wife, the pilot was having difficulty with his night vision and depth perception. She stated that he avoided flying at night and that he had struck objects while maneuvering his car in a parking garage in the months prior to the accident.


The accident airplane, a 1967 Beech V35A, was registered to the pilot and equipped with a Continental IO-520BA engine, serial number 814377-R. The last annual inspection recorded in maintenance logbooks occurred on February 14, 2013, with 6,115 total airframe hours and 626 hours since last engine overhaul.

Since 2009, the airplane was equipped with a Garmin G-600 Integrated Flight Display System, a King KFC-200 autopilot, dual Garmin GNS-430W integrated GPS navigation receiver/communications transceivers, and a Garmin GDL-69A XM radio/weather receiver. On September 16, 2013, a Garmin GDL-88 ADS-B transceiver was installed.


At 1825, the weather observation station at HQZ, located about 8 miles north of the accident site, reported wind from 020 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 4 miles, mist, overcast clouds at 600 ft above ground level (agl), temperature 8 degrees C, dew point 7 degrees C, altimeter setting 30.16. Astronomical data obtained from the United States Naval Observatory for the accident site indicated that sunset time was 1723.

At 1520, the pilot received an official weather briefing from Lockheed Martin Flight Service (LMFS) via the website. The weather briefing contained standard weather information in text format. An Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) valid at the accident time forecast instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions, with ceiling below 1,000 ft agl and visibility below 3 miles in precipitation and mist. The full LMFS briefing and NTSB weather study are located in the docket for this investigation.


The airplane impacted terrain in a nose low, right wing down attitude and the engine impacted 28 feet beyond the initial impact point, creating a 4 ft deep crater. The aircraft tumbled and separated into multiple pieces. The fuselage came to rest 110 feet beyond the initial impact point.

Flight control cable continuity for the elevator and rudder controls was confirmed from the tail surfaces to the forward carry through spar. Aileron flight control cable continuity was confirmed from the forward carry through spar to the wing bellcranks. One of the right aileron cables had separated in tension overload. Damage to the remainder of the control cable system precluded its examination.

The primary digital flight display and line replaceable units that provide data to the displays were fractured into multiple pieces. The face plates of two analog altimeters displayed the correct altimeter setting. The standby attitude indicator gyro rotor was removed from its indicator and exhibited rotation scoring on the rotor and the housing.

The three propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub, which was inside the crater created by the engine. One propeller blade exhibited "S" type bending, the second blade was bent aft, and the third blade appeared straight.

During recovery of the engine from the crater, impact damage included a breach in the crankcase. The crankshaft was broken, with the propeller flange remaining attached to the separated propeller hub. The induction system was destroyed by impact forces and the throttle body was broken into several small pieces. The throttle arm remained secured to the throttle body shaft, with the attaching nut in place to secure the throttle arm.

All fuel tanks were breached due to impact forces. The fuel manifold diaphragm was intact. The fuel screen was clear of debris, with no fuel found. Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.


On December 19, 2014, an autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Dallas County Institute of Forensic Sciences. The cause of death was blunt force injuries. The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed toxicology tests on the pilot. Medical evaluation was limited by the degree of injury to the body. The brain, heart, and kidneys were not available for examination and there was no blood, vitreous, or urine available for toxicology or clinical testing. Ethanol was identified in the liver, but not in muscle. Diphenhydramine was identified in both liver and muscle.

Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms and is a sleep aid. It is available over the counter under the trade names Benadryl and Unisom. Diphenhydramine carries the following warning: may impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks (e.g., driving, operating heavy machinery).


Data from the engine monitor was downloaded and plotted. The airplane's fuel flow of 27 gallons per hour (gph), consistent with takeoff power, was observed towards the start of the recording. A similar fuel flow was observed four times throughout the event flight at 17:10:42, 17:26:12, 18:00:24, and 18:07:48. At 18:13:12, the fuel flow dropped to an average of 7 gph, consistent with low power, for the duration of the recording.


The airplane was configured with two main and two tip fuel tanks with a capacity of 40 gallons and 20 gallons each, respectively. The refueling lineman stated that he added 16 gallons of fuel and was not able to visually sight any fuel in either main tank, consistent with about 44 gallons of fuel or less on board. Data from the engine monitor indicated that 44.4 gallons of fuel had been consumed at the time of the accident.

The United States Air Force conducted a GPS performance analysis for the time period of the accident. No indications of a loss or degradation of the GPS signal in the accident area were present.

NTSB Identification: CEN15FA081 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 18, 2014 in Seagoville, TX
Aircraft: BEECH V35A, registration: 
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

On December 18, 2014, about 1817 central standard time, a Beech V35A airplane, N555SF, impacted terrain near Seagoville, Texas. The pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Night instrument meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. The flight departed from the South Arkansas Regional Airport (ELD), El Dorado, Arkansas about 1535 on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan and was destined for Mesquite Metro Airport (HQZ) Mesquite, Texas. 

According to a preliminary review of air traffic control voice and radar recordings, the pilot made an IFR descent toward HQZ and attempted several unsuccessful instrument approaches into HQZ. Following the last aborted instrument approach, the airplane began a right turning descent and both radar and radio contact were subsequently lost. 

The weather observation station at HQZ, located about 8 miles north of the accident site, reported the following conditions at 1825: wind from 020 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 4 miles, mist, overcast clouds at 600 feet above ground level, temperature 8 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 7 degrees C, altimeter setting 30.16.

 Any witnesses should email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email



Charles Jinks: 

SEAGOVILLE -- Others heard it, but Teresa Steele may have been the only person who saw the Beechcraft Bonanza V35A fall from the sky around 6:15 p.m. Thursday in Seagoville.

She tells News 8 exclusively that she knew tragedy was about to strike.

"I saw it and I thought, 'this is going to crash, because he's going too low and he's going too fast to pull up,'" said Steele. "It just dropped out of the clouds, it was really foggy. I'm afraid he must have gotten confused in the fog."

Steele heard a thud about 30 seconds later as the plane crashed nearly a mile away, in the 1600 block of Bent Tree Road.

All that remains are mangled pieces of metal, crumpled next to a barn just yards from a home. Throughout the morning, Seagoville police guarded the scene. The woman who lives in the home nearby could be seen walking past the debris to feed her horses. She was too shaken to speak with reporters.

Two FAA officials arrived early in the morning, combing through debris and taking pictures to piece together the initial parts of the investigation. An NTSB investigator is expected to arrive from Colorado Friday afternoon to lead the investigation.

So far, the FAA will only confirm that the pilot was on his way to the Mesquite airport, about nine miles away, when he lost radio and radar contact with the air traffic controllers around 6:15 p.m.

The pilot had limited visibility because of weather conditions.

"All of a sudden you hear a full airplane roar; seemed like it was right over the house. At the same time, I heard it pass over. I heard a thunk on the top of my roof, like someone dropped a brick over it or something like that," said Fred Baugh, who lives across the street from where the plane crashed.

Baugh said it did not appear debris hit his home. He said shrapnel hit his neighbor's horse, which suffered a minor injury. There are no reports of any other serious injuries or damage to homes. The Dallas Medical Examiner's officer is still trying to identify the pilot. The FAA says the NTSB's investigation could take several months to a year to complete.


SEAGOVILLE, Texas—“It’s not something you’d expect to have happen right in the middle of cooking dinner…having a plane crash next to you,” Seagoville resident Fred Baugh said. 

But it did.  After 6 o’clock Thursday evening, a small plane crashed near this Seagoville house.  The pilot—killed.

“Very scary and sad,” neighbor, Randy Neely said.  “Especially a week before Christmas.”

“Heard an airplane engine..very loud. We immediately started running outside, and I heard an impact that I thought was something hitting my roof,” Baugh said.  “[I think] it was the actual shockwave from the plane hitting.”

You can still see pieces of the red, white, and blue plane next to this barn.

“When it hit, one of the horses panicked and jumped through the fence.  So the horse had a gash on its side.  So my daughter went up there, holding on to this horse, and trying to calm it.”

Nothing could prepare his 14-year-old daughter for what saw next.

“The pilot had been killed instantly…It was body parts, and she had to stand next to it for a long time.  She had kind of a traumatic night.  She handled it really well,” Baugh explained.

The FAA says the plane lost contact about 5 miles south of the Mesquite Metro Airport. Although none of these houses were damaged, there is no happy ending.

“It didn’t make any smoke, spark…or anything,” Baugh said.  “After that, completely dark and completely silent.”


Bushkill Township, Pennsylvania: Supervisors approve helicopter pad on Keller Road property

Attorney David Jordan provides closing arguments before the Bushkill Township Board of Supervisors.
 (Pamela Sroka-Holzmann|

Bushkill Township residents living near Keller Road soon could see a helicopter taking off and landing after supervisors gave the OK for businessman Richard Villone to construct a heliport on existing farmland.

Villone and his wife, Heather, of Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania had filed an application on Aug. 4 to construct the private-use, 200-by-200-square-foot landing pad on land they are seeking to buy in the 1100 block of Keller Road.

Township supervisors on Thursday unanimously gave the nod following a handful of hearings with experts providing testimony. Supervisor Julianne Bender made the motion to grant the couple conditional use approval and Supervisor Carolyn Hill seconded it.

Supervisors set various conditions on the heliport.

Villone will not be able to store fuel on the estimated 77-acre property -- something he had wanted to do in an above-ground trailer. The helicopter's noise can't exceed 65 decibels and Villone will only be able to fly an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset. He also must limit his travel to 20 trips per week and no more than four trips per day.

All the conditions were set forth by supervisors' Vice Chairman Jason Smith, who is board liaison to the township planning commission. Township planners had recommended supervisors approve the landing pad.

When asked if the Villones can comply with the conditions, David Jordan, the attorney representing the couple, said he would be discussing it with his clients. Jordan said he would have rather had specific times set by the board than sunrise and sunset.

"We're happy that they accredited our application and they believe the Villones will act properly and neighborly," Jordan said.

Neighbors in opposition of the helicopter pad expressed disapproval when leaving the meeting.

A petition previously had gathered an estimated 200 signatures against the project. However, resident Bill Sprague, who spearheaded the petition, later rescinded his and two other signatures and waged support for the Villones.

"We're disappointed," said Baron Road resident Richard Steiner after the vote. "I think there was certainly enough conditions for the supervisors to be able to find opposition to the application."

Colleen Brooks, who operates nearby Williams Manor Personal Care Home, had said the peace and tranquil living marketed by her facility will be destroyed by the helicopter. The facility's patients include those diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and dementia and others, under hospice care.       

"It's a safety issue," Brooks said, noting patients could become startled by the noise.

In closing arguments, Steiner, representing Baron Road residents, had blasted Richard Villone for not providing a private demonstration of the helicopter at the request of neighbors. He said a study conducted by Norman Dotti, an acoustical engineer from Butler, New Jersey-based Russell Acoustics, wasn't convincing enough.    

"The applicant has failed to demonstrate that the quality of neighborhood life for these long-term residents will not be adversely affected," Steiner argued. He said many residents have horses that could become spooked by the helicopter and riders will have to endure safety risks.  

Jordan told the board Steiner was "throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick."

Jordan had advised his clients not to do the private demonstration because he believed objectors would continue to voice opposition no matter what had taken place in the demonstration, he said.

Jordan poked holes in Steiner quoting national crash statistics pertaining to a Robinson R44, Villone's helicopter model. Jordan said it is one of the most popular models in the world and used during training exercises. He blamed a recall for the crashes and said there haven't been any deaths since the gas tanks were fixed based on that recall.

"You have no proof that anything bad is going to happen from this heliport," Jordan told the board.

He said horses also can be spooked by under things, such as motorcycles.

Richard Villone has been a licensed pilot since 2008, with extensive training completed as required by the Federal Aviation Administration, Jordan told the board. To date, Villone has flown 300 hours and only needed 25 hours to be licensed, he said.         

"He could have come and said, 'I got my license and I want my heliport,'" Jordan said "He said (six years later), 'I think I am good enough and safe enough to put my heliport in your township.'"

This is the fourth heliport to gain approval in Bushkill Township.

Township supervisors previously have given the nod to private helicopter pads in the 1200 block of Bushkill Center Road on seven acres; 900 block of State Park Road on 19 acres and 1300 block of Church Road on 10 acres.


Cessna 310J, N700MA: Incident occurred December 18, 2014 at San Antonio International Airport (KSAT), Texas

Event Type: Incident 

Highest Injury: None

Damage: Minor

Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)


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

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA064
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, November 28, 2014 in Berrien Springs, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/19/2015
Aircraft: PIPER PA 24-250, registration: N5897P
Injuries: 4 Serious.

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

The pilot stated that he calculated that the airplane had sufficient fuel on board for about 90 minutes of flight; he estimated that the flight to his intended destination would take about 70 minutes. The flight encountered weather as it approached its destination, so the pilot decided to circle the area until the weather cleared. Once the weather cleared, he lined up the airplane on final approach for the runway. The pilot stated that, about 4 miles from the runway, the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power because the airplane ran out of fuel. During the subsequent forced landing, the airplane impacted trees and terrain.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s inadequate fuel planning, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

On November 28, 2014, about 1110 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-24 airplane, N5897P, sustained substantial damage following a total loss of engine power enroute to Andrews University Airpark (C20), Berrien Springs, MI. The pilot, who was the registered owner, co-pilot, and 2 passengers were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of departure from Richmond Municipal Airport, Richmond, Indiana. The flight was being operated in accordance with 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a personal flight and an instrument flight plan had been filed.

The pilot stated he was planning a 70 minute flight enroute to his destination. The fixed based operator at his departure airport was closed and fuel was not available. He had calculated there was 90 minutes of fuel onboard the airplane based on a previous flight 2 days prior. The pilot reported he encountered weather as he approached his intended destination and decided to circle until the weather cleared. When the weather cleared he lined up on final approach for the runway. The pilot stated that approximately 4 miles from the runway he encountered a total loss of engine power when the airplane ran out of fuel. During the subsequent forced landing, the airplane impacted trees and terrain causing substantial damage to airplane's fuselage and wings.

RICHMOND, Ind. - Four people survived a plane crash in Berrien Springs on the day after Thanksgiving. ABC57 went to Richmond, Indiana to check in with the pilot and his mother, who is in rehabilitation.

“Every time I close my eyes, it's like those images just keep coming back,” said pilot Bryce Fisher.

For Fisher, a trip on Black Friday to visit his grandmother in Berrien Springs quickly turned into a nightmare that keeps replaying in his head.  

“I don't remember panicking. I don't remember thinking this is it. It was just complete tunnel vision in a situation like that. Between the engine dying and actually hitting the trees, we probably had 25 to 30 seconds,” said Fisher.

He had seconds to make a miraculous landing. He landed 2 feet from a home, 2 feet from a ravine and in between trees.

“If we had gone into the St. Joseph River, we would have drowned. I was trapped. She was trapped. So it was by the hand of God that we're alive today,” said Fisher.

Fisher obtained his pilots and mechanics license at Andrews University. He is thankful for the training he received.

And he believes the power cable between trees helped stop the Piper Comanche just in time.

“After the dust settled I just remember trying to listen is anybody else okay? And for the first minute I didn't hear anybody so it was really terrifying,” said Fisher.

Fisher's father Dr. William Fisher is 72 years old and even though he had several broken bones, he was up and walking around at the scene.

Dr. Fisher has been flying for 45 years.

“He with a broken back, pulls out my mom. And pulls out Miritha. When it came to me I was kind of trapped. And he was like, ‘Son, I can't do it,'” said Fisher.

Fisher says the plane landed upside down and his head was in the snow, but somehow, he didn't lose consciousness. 

“I must have hit something on the instrument panel that was really strong and narrow because it impacted my tooth and broke my maxilla bone, my palate. They were like, ‘Do you remember swallowing your tooth?' And I was like, ‘No!' they didn't know until they took a CT scan that the tooth was in my nasal cavity,” said Fisher.

Fisher's girlfriend Miritha Morales suffered a broken leg. His mom had a broken hip and arm. 

Fisher's mom, Barbara, is at the Acute Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, Indiana.

It was emotional for their family as they held hands. 

Barbara said through the tears that she believes she's alive because she was praying when they crashed.

“Miritha, Bryce, Bill, and I, our hands are securely in the Lord. Can't be any other way,” said Barbara.

The Fishers are hoping for a Christmas miracle. 

They are hoping to bring Barbara home on Christmas day.

Doctors said she should make a full recovery. 

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