Monday, December 29, 2014

Mooney aircraft rolls off line in China

A Mooney M20TN utility aircraft rolled off the line on Monday in central China's Henan Province, marking the United States-based manufacturer's revival following its purchase by a Chinese company last year.

The piston-powered general aviation aircraft, Zhengzhou No.1, has a maximum speed of 448 km per hour. It has a body length of 8.13 meters, a wing length of 11 meters and a height of 2.59 meters.

Four Chinese companies and a private buyer ordered 17 Mooney M20TN on Monday.

Meijing Group, a Chinese real estate developer based in Henan, purchased Mooney in October 2013 after it had laid off employees and suspended production in 2010.

Meijing Group already had two aviation companies in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou.They run businesses of aircraft assembly, trading, exhibition and airport construction. The deal between Meijing Group and Mooney is expected to revive the 85-year-old manufacturer of single-engine general aviation aircraft that have sold more than 11,000 worldwide.

Meijing Group, registered in Zhengzhou in 2002, is aiming to expand its business outside of real estate development.

Zhengzhou was approved as the nation's first air economic zone in early 2013. Since then, it has been transitioning from a rail-based economy to an aerospace one.

Source:   http://www.ecns.cn/business

Chapel Hill’s little airport: Horace Williams (KIGX) keeps hanging on

CHAPEL HILL —  Earlier this month, a plane took off from Horace Williams Airport, never to land at its destination.

Instead, it crashed into a house in Montgomery County, Md., killing the pilot and two passengers, as well as three people inside the house.

The tragedy has rekindled debate about the future of Horace Williams Airport.

The airport off Estes Drive is owned by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Until 2011, it was used for medical flights run by the N.C. Area Health Education Center. But since 2011, only small private planes have been up and down the runway.

The fight for space

The debate over the building’s future is longstanding. Supporters of the airport say that UNC has been trying to close it since at least 2001, when the University announced it would no longer allow the Chapel Hill Flying Club to operate from Horace Williams.

A 2001 press release from UNC cited “safety issues and community concerns” as primary reasons for ejecting the club.

The club, which had been based at Horace Williams since the early 1960s, had been involved in three accidents from June 1999 to May 2001, according to the press release.

The push continued in 2002 when the UNC Board of Trustees announced it would close the airport to make room for Carolina North, a research campus planned by the university. This announcement spurred the N.C. General Assembly to pass legislation requiring the University to keep the airport open until 2005.

Three years passed, and everything seemed clear for the University to take the steps it wanted to take. The Senate had passed a 2005 provision that would allow UNC to close the airport if AHEC moved to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The trustees voted to do just that, although they said no move would be made until construction on Carolina North was ready to begin, according to a 2005 press release.

In 2007, the Board of Trustees approved a lease at Raleigh-Durham International to build a new hangar slated for $3.5 million.

But it wasn’t until 2011 that the university actually moved all its operations from Horace Williams to the new hangar.

“We survived it pretty well,” said Gordon Kramon, director of UNC Aviation Services. He added that the only difference was that some people had to make a 20-minute drive to the airport instead of a five-minute one.

But even after the move, the airport remained open. Part of the 2005 Board of Trustees agreement stipulated that it would remain open until construction on Carolina North was ready to begin.

Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for facilities services, said that economic downturn in 2008 affected potential Carolina North funding.

“We are not in a position to move forward yet, so the airport remains open,” he said.

In 2013, the N.C. House took another stab at the airport, calling for an Aug. 1 closure.

But August came and went, and still, planes fly in and out of Horace Williams.

A pending lawsuit

On July 12, 2010, a plane from Delaware crashed after touching down at Horace Williams, leaving one of two passengers with serious injuries and killing the pilot, Thomas Pitts, when the cockpit hit nearby trees.

Raleigh-based Crouse Law soon took on a lawsuit against the UNC and the manager of the airport at the time, Paul Burke. The plaintiff was Pitts’ widow, Deborah Markwood.

Jim Crouse said that the case is still in early discovery phases. However, he argues that there should not have been trees inside the fence surrounding the airport.

“That fence was on the wrong side of the trees,” he said. “There is law that says you can’t have premises with dangerous situations on them.”

Crouse added that he has heard the trees inside the fence have been cut down since the crash.

He said that although the National Transportation Security Board has completed its investigation and issued a probable cause report citing operational error, those reports are not admissible in court.

“(The report) doesn’t say, ‘What was the cause of death?’” Crouse said. “It says, ‘What was the cause of the crash?’”

He said that monetary damages sought from UNC have not yet been finalized.

Safe or hazardous?


By law, all airports open to the public must be inspected at least once every three years.

Horace Williams’ last inspection was in 2013.

Bobby Walston, director of the aviation division of the N. C. Department of Transportation, said that because Horace Williams doesn’t receive state or federal funding, Federal Aviation Administration standards are more of a guideline than a requirement.

Jimmy Capps, a contractor who inspects airports statewide and who inspected Horace Williams in 2013, said that the NCDOT can make comments about potential hazards. A list of these comments is available online so that pilots can make informed decisions about where they fly.

Capps made a list of observations about Horace Williams – including that there was vegetation in the runway, which can affect the runway over time, and that the markings were faded and cracked.

However, he said that Horace Williams is not a safety concern.

“My overall opinion of the airport is that it’s in fair condition,” he said. “It’s not the best I’ve seen; it’s not the worst I’ve seen.” He added that he flew his personal plane into the airport to complete the inspection.

The cost incurred


If Horace Williams were to make updates to try to meet FAA requirements, UNC would be responsible for all the cost.

It costs the University about $160,000 a year to keep the airport running, according to UNC’s office of communications and public affairs.

From Jan. 1, 2014, to Nov. 30, 2014, 827 aircraft flew in and out of the airport.

This means that monthly, UNC spends more than $13,000 so that an average of 75 planes can use the airport.

No end in sight

With Carolina North still seeking funding avenues and with no current plans to break ground on the project, it seems that a conversation that began more than a decade ago will continue well into the future.

Source:  http://www.heraldsun.com

NTSB Identification: ERA10FA356
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, July 12, 2010 in Chapel Hill, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/07/2011
Aircraft: CIRRUS SR20, registration: N527MJ
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious, 1 Minor.

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.

Witnesses observed the airplane overfly the runway and enter a left traffic pattern. The airplane appeared to be faster than they were accustomed to seeing small airplanes operating. The airplane touched down hard on the runway surface and bounced several times before departing off the left side into the grass. The engine was described by the witnesses as operating at full power and the airplane appeared to by flying about 60 to 70 mph. The nose of the airplane was observed in a 45-degree nose up attitude and then leveled out back onto the ground. The airplane traveled 840 feet until the left wing collided with a tree and the airplane spun to the left and collided with the airport perimeter fence. The left and right flaps were in the retracted position. The Pilot's Operating Handbook for the airplane stated that the flaps are required to be extended 50 percent for a balked landing/go-around. No anomalies were noted during the examination of the airframe, flight controls, engine assembly, and accessories.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's improper recovery from a bounced landing and subsequent improper go-around procedure, which resulted in a loss of directional control, runway excursion, and collision with a tree. 

NTSB Identification: DCA15MA029
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 08, 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD
Aircraft: EMBRAER EMB-500, registration: N100EQ
Injuries: 6 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 traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 8, 2014, about 1041 Eastern Standard Time (EST), an Embraer EMB-500 Phenom 100, N100EQ, impacted terrain and houses about 0.75 miles short of runway 14 while on approach to Montgomery County Airpark (GAI), Gaithersburg, Maryland. The airline transport rated pilot and two passengers were fatally injured as well as three persons on the ground. The airplane was destroyed during the impact and ensuing fire. Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and the flight was operating on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The airplane was registered to and operated by Sage Aviation LLC., of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The flight originated from Horace Williams Airport (IGX), Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with GAI as its intended destination.

National Transportation Safety Board Alaska welcomes new investigators

After a competitive search involving more than 150 candidates, the National Transportation Safety Board -- the federal agency tasked with investigating civil aviation accidents (and major accidents on the land and in water) in the U.S. -- announced last week the arrival of two new investigators to the Alaska Region Office of Aviation Safety. Shaun Williams and Millicent Hoidal bring to the state a wealth of diverse aviation experience and return the Alaska office staff to its full complement for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

Williams was formerly with the Federal Aviation Administration in Alaska, where he was responsible for the initial certification of Part 135 carriers, which includes charter and air taxi operators. Prior to that he was a Canadair CL-65 captain for Air Wisconsin where he gained many hours operating in cold weather environments. Williams graduated from the University of North Dakota and is an airline transport certificated pilot with airplane single-engine land and multiengine land ratings and is type rated in Beech 1900 and Canadair CL-65 airplanes. He also holds a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument ratings.

The move from the FAA to NTSB will allow Williams to explore different facets of the aviation environment and, as he said in a recent interview, "get more into the why and how" of aviation accidents. He's keen to promote safety in different ways to Alaska pilots.

"As an example," he said, "during hunting season Alaska often suffers a number of accidents. We would like to get information out to pilots on the common causes of those crashes and how to mitigate them."

Hoidal has been with the NTSB since internships with the Operational Factors Division in Washington, D.C. and the Southwest Regional Office in Texas. Most recently she worked as a contract duty officer with the agency's Response Operations Center. She has degrees from Louisiana Tech University and Texas State University and is working toward a graduate degree in commercial aviation from Delta State University. Hoidal also holds a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and multiengine land ratings and a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument ratings. She is the first female aircraft accident investigator assigned to Alaska.

Even as a newcomer to the Anchorage area, Hoidal is keenly aware of the state's unique relationship with aviation.

"Aviation permeates every level of the community and people's lives," she said. "Everyone has airplanes here and the wide range of environments they fly in are so different, from the Interior to Southeast and everywhere else. There is a great adventure opportunity to work in this office and so much to learn; the aviation community is much different from the rest of the country and presents a chance to learn both from the other investigators here and the places I will go on the job."

According to Alaska Region Chief Clint Johnson, there were many "wonderful candidates" for the Alaska openings.

“As chief of the Alaska office of the NTSB, adding Shaun and Millicent to our office brings a wealth of valuable operational experience, and I feel very blessed with the team we’ve assembled,” he said.

“The NTSB’s trademark is to carry out and deliver thorough, in-depth accident investigations, and the addition of these new investigators to the Alaska office will help us to deliver on that pledge. Simply put, I feel we owe it to the flying public here in Alaska.”  

Both Williams and Hoidal will continue NTSB accident investigation training for the next year. They will also have to attend the NTSB’s training academy in Washington, D.C., and have already starting launching alongside Alaska's two "journeymen" investigators, Chris Shaver and Brice Banning, as well as other investigators assigned to the NTSB Western Pacific region. 

Alaska's NTSB investigators handle an average of 100 aviation accidents a year and also travel to assist on investigations outside the state when needed.

- Original article can be found at: http://www.adn.com

Pilots concerned over power plant near Waterbury-Oxford Airport (KOXC), Oxford, Connecticut



OXFORD — A plot of land just east of Waterbury-Oxford Airport was approved for a power plant back in 1999, and now it is back in the news as a company is finally ready to build on it. 


But there’s been one change to the plan: Competitive Power Ventures wants to nearly double the approved sized, which would require two 150-foot tall stacks. That makes local pilots nervous.

“A press conference held today suggested a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration determined that the CPV Towantic Energy Center project would pose a hazard to the Oxford Airport. This is simply not the case,” said Yanina Daigle, spokesperson for Competitive Power Ventures, which wants to build the 805-megawatt power plant.

That message, however, is in direct conflict with the FAA, which sent a notice of “presumed hazard to aviation” to the company’s office in Braintree, Massachusetts. The hazard is regarding the height of smokestacks and buildings, pollution and thermal plumes that would result from the proposed power plant.

“Initial findings of this study indicate that the structures (stacks), as described, exceed obstruction standards and/or would have an adverse physical or electromagnetic interference effect upon navigable airspace or air navigation facilities,” wrote Darrin Clipper, a specialist for the FAA.

The CPV Towantic Hill Power Plant would be less than a half a mile from the Oxford Airport. Pilots and aviation experts have spoken out and said that the plant would create dangerous, and possibly even deadly, conditions for them to land and take off.

The FAA offered a solution: a study said if the stacks were “reduced in height, so as not to exceed 46 feet above ground level (876 feet above mean sea level), it would not exceed obstruction standards and a favorable determination could subsequently be issued.”

Herman Schuler, who owns and flies his own plane out of Waterbury-Oxford Airport, says he is not at all concerned about flying over the thermals the gas-fire power plant would emit. He also added that, while it’s double the size of the one approved by the FAA and the Connecticut Citing Council in 1999, this plan is more environmentally friendly.

“It is lower and less visible and, on a per pound basis, it uses less fuel and generates more energy,” said Schuler, who was the head of the Oxford Economic Development Commission from 2005 to 2011.

But, an advocate for the neighboring town of Middlebury says Competitive Power Ventures’ revised plant proposal states there would be a 43 percent increase in emissions to the population within a 10- to 12-mile radius of the plant.

“With natural gas facilities what you have is a very, very fine particulate matter the density of say talcum powder,” said Chester Cornacchia, of Naugatuck.

The first of several public hearings on the matter will be held at Oxford High School on Jan. 15. The Connecticut Siting Council, which has the authority to grant or deny the power plant application, expects to make a decision within the next several months.

Story and video:   http://foxct.com

New concerns are being raised about a proposed power plant in Oxford and on Monday opponents reacted to reported Federal Aviation Administration concerns about the height of the plant stacks.

Neighbors have previously worried about Competitive Power Ventures Towantic Energy Center's potential impact on people's health and property values. Now we’re hearing about worries for planes at the Waterbury-Oxford airport.

The Waterbury-Oxford Airport is a place for recreational pilots. Now one of them who’s been flying for more than 40-years says he’s concerned for planes landing here if the plant is built.

“I’m very concerned as pilot but I’m more concerned as a flight instructor,” said Burt Stevens, who is both a pilot and an experienced flight instructor.

“As a 23-year old, I decided that flying looked like fun. So, I went to Oxford. That’s where I started flying.”

Now just about a half-mile from the airport on this land in a rural business park, Competitive Power Ventures wants to build an 800 megawatt, natural gas powered plant.

Stevens says the plant would be right underneath an approach route for planes about to land.

In a letter last month, the FAA voiced concerns about the height of smokestacks that would be about a half mile from one of the main hangars and near the flight path of the runways and taller than the tower that houses air traffic control.

The developer responded to the letter on Monday, stating, “A press conference held today suggested a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration determined that the CPV Towantic Energy Center project would pose a hazard to the Oxford Airport. This is simply not the case.

"The FAA letter dated November 17, 2014 was a notice that the issue needs more study and consideration. It's important to know the CPV Towantic Energy Center was previously studied and approved by the FAA," the company continued. "The current proposed modifications seek to significantly improve the design relative to compatibility with the Oxford Airport. We look forward to continuing to work with the community as this process moves forward.”

Those opposed to the plan say the height of the stacks and what comes out are huge safety risks.

"The most susceptible are the student pilots who are going to be flying into these plumes and they’re going to be flying into these plumes which in some cases are invisible and they reach a thermal hazard and they essentially fall out of the sky and that’s one of the most serious issues that would be had in terms of the air safety," Chet Cornacchia said.

Vince Calio is an amateur pilot who flies in and out of Oxford Airport.He said the position of the runway could spell disaster if the power plant moves ahead.

“That puts you in some conflict with the height of the stacks," Calio said. "It certainly puts you into the plume which rises far above the height of the stacks.”

According to Stevens, plumes from the plant’s stacks could shoot up at 40-miles an hour and create a danger for small planes crossing potentially just a few hundred feet above.

“If an inexperienced pilot is thrust into this type of severe turbulence that could occur and will occur if this plant is built ….he could be thrown into a greater than 45 degree bank and not be able to recover before he hits the ground.”

After all these years flying, Stevens says the approach over the proposed plant site is the best for small planes. He says any other route could compromise safety.

Plant opponents say the FAA is still looking into the plume issue.

Competitive Power Ventures previously said all concerns about the plant have been addressed and looks forward to presenting its position to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

The company has been approaved to build the plant for 15 years, but now wants to make the output even bigger than originally planned. The company said the airport issue will be addressed.

"The current proposed modifications seek to significantly improve the design relative to compatibility with the Oxford Airport," the company said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with the community as this process moves forward."

- Original article can be found at:    http://www.nbcconnecticut.com

Police Blotter: 1900 block of Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, California

8:45 a.m. Friday 

Police say items were stolen from a plane.

Source: http://www.mercurynews.com

Milestone: Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1093 • Jack Barstow Airport (KIKW), Midland, Michigan

Nick King/Midland Daily News NICK KING
Midland's Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1093 member Dick Sipp works on a Van's Aircraft RV-12 on Sunday in the Ormond Barstow Aviation Education Center the at Jack Barstow Airport. Sipp was finishing an annual inspection of the plane. Sipp, who has been a member in the Midland chapter since 2005, says that the personality of the chapter is unique in that it really focuses on youth activities and education which helps others get into aviation. The chapter, now 80 members strong, will celebrate their 20th anniversary on Jan. 8.



Jan. 5 marks a milestone for Midland’s Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1093.


On that day in 1995 a group of 12 men and women met at 7 p.m. in Bob Anderson’s hangar at Jack Barstow Airport to hold their first meeting.


Now 80 members strong, the group will celebrate its anniversary Jan. 8 in their own building at the airport.


“We are going to have cake and ice cream,” said president Mike Woodley, laughing.


The Midland chapter is part of an organization that was founded in 1953 in Milwaukee, Wis., by a group of individuals who were interested in building their own planes. With chapters all over the world and a membership numbering more than 180,000, the group has expanded to include all those who have a passion for aviation.


The Midland chapter got off the ground when Walt Suminski and Dale Johnson, members of the Saginaw, Midland, Bay City EEA Chapter 159, thought the Jack Barstow Airport in Midland would be the perfect site for a chapter.


“Midland is ideally located for learning and teaching aviation,” said Suminski. “North of Midland is nothing but farm land. Pilots learning to fly can fly north and not interfere with towers and cities. It’s really a natural.”


The two rolled up their sleeves and got down to business.


But it wasn’t easy, remembers Suminski.


“In order to start a chapter, we had to have a certain amount of charter members, 10-12,” he said. “We got the names together and submitted it to the EAA convention office in Oshkosh, Wis. If they think it looks doable, they assign you a chapter, give you the by laws and instructions on how to set it up. We decided to do it.”


They were assigned Charter 1093 with Johnson elected president, Dr. John W. Shriner, vice president, Jim Powell, treasurer and Suminski as secretary.


That was the easy part. They group had to come up with a place to meet, raise some money and become a 501 (c)(3)organization.


Member Bob Anderson not only offered his hanger for meetings, but through his business, Reliable Printing, did the newsletter for free.


The group wanted their own place, a place where they could teach people of all ages the love of flying.


But with $20 in their pockets, and dues of $12 per year, that dream wasn’t going to be a reality without a lot of work.


“We had a Christmas party,” Suminski said. “We had an auction at the party and we had a tremendous turnout. Some members bid enormous amounts of money for Mickey Mouse things. We had ice cream socials, open houses, all the things we could think of to try and raise money. We progressed and built up our treasury.”


With a price tag of $30,000 for the shell of a building, that amount of money wasn’t going to be raised with auctions and ice cream.


The group went to the Barstow Foundation, who offered to match a dollar with every dollar the group made, then raised that to $2 for one, giving the group $20,000 if they could come up with $10,000.


“We didn’t have the 10,” Suminski said. “We went back to our members. They contributed from $200 to $500 each and we came up with the $10,000.”


Donations helped as well. A pilot passed away and gave the group a customized van, which they sold. Jack Yoder also left the group a number of hangers in his will, and The Dow Chemical Co. donated all the insulation for the building.


“We never could have done it without all our volunteers pitching in,” Suminski said.


Two years into their charter, they broke ground on what would become the Ormond Barstow Aviation Education Center. Ormond Barstow was the brother of Jack Barstow.


Educate they do, offering the Young Eagles free flights for kids ages 8 through 17 on the Second Saturday of each month, and a week-long aviation camp in the summer for students in ninth through twelfth grades.


“We don’t teach kids to fly,” said Dot Hornsby, who leads the programs. “We give them a well rounded experience in aviation.”


The top three students from the class are flown to the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, held each year.


The group also hosts two pancake breakfasts and fly-ins each year. Dates for 2015 are May 2 and Sept. 12, as well as a Santa Fly In, with crafts.


On the drawing board for this year, is the Midland Community Aviation Discovery Area on a piece of vacant land at the airport. Partnering with the Midland Area Community Foundation as part of the STEM program, the area will have picnic tables, benches and educational displays, as well as front row seats to watch the planes come in.


As for the future, Suminski still has a few dreams he would like to see fulfilled.


“I would like to build onto the chapter building,” he said. “A classroom where young pilots just learning to fly can come in and get weather briefings, talk to other pilots, sit down with instructors.”


“I was also looking to add on a tool shop where you can fabricate and make the parts you need rather than buying them,” he said.


And, last but not least, when it’s time for the Oshkosh convention, he would like Midland to be a welcoming airport for those who are flying in from all over the world.


“They could come in and fill up at a reduced rate, have some homemade doughnuts and coffee,” he said. “You would see all kinds of air planes fly into Midland.”


The Midland chapter is open to anyone who has a love of flying, whether they own a plane or not. Dues are $25 for the local chapter and $35 for the national membership per year.


Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month.


For more information, check out the Web site at www.eea1093.org, or call Woodley at (586) 944-7101.


 - Original article can be found at:   http://www.ourmidland.com

Airline to give falcons a lift: German national carrier says it will ensure 'maximum hygienic protection of the cabin walls, seats and carpets from soiling by the birds'

London - Lufthansa is to install special cages in some of its aircraft to allow Middle Eastern owners to bring their falcons into the main cabin.

The Falcon Master tray, which can be attached to a folded seat, includes a cage and a feeding station.

The German national carrier says it will ensure “maximum hygienic protection of the cabin walls, seats and carpets from soiling by the birds”.

“The target group would be customers from the Middle East, where falconry is very popular,” the airline said.

Some Middle Eastern airlines already allow hooded and chained falcons to fly with their masters.

Falconry has a long tradition in Arab culture, but with wildlife under pressure, hunting has been restricted, and many affluent Gulf Arabs now travel as far as far as Morocco, Pakistan and Central Asia to indulge their passion. - Daily Mail

Robinson R22 Beta, N771MM, LLB Enterprises Group Inc: Fatal accident occurred December 29, 2014 near Palm Beach County Park/Lantana Airport (KLNA), Lantana, Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA085
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 29, 2014 in Lake Worth, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/06/2017
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R22 BETA, registration: N771MM
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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

The purpose of the instructional helicopter flight was to review advanced maneuvers in preparation for the student pilot’s upcoming stage check. The student stated that he and the flight instructor had conducted 3 approaches and landings before initiating a practice autorotation. He stated that as the helicopter descended through 100 ft in the autorotation, the instructor applied throttle in an attempt to recover, but the engine did not respond. A witness stated that, about halfway through the helicopter’s autorotative descent, it appeared to momentarily level off before abruptly entering a nose-down attitude and descending to ground contact. A surveillance video showed the helicopter descending rapidly at a steep angle in the last 2 seconds before impact. The helicopter impacted terrain about 700 ft north of the runway threshold, fatally injuring the instructor and seriously injuring the student. Postaccident examination of the helicopter and a test run of the engine revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. 

The flight school’s published procedure for practice autorotations instructed the pilot to initiate the maneuver first by lowering the collective, then reducing the throttle to idle. The practice of reducing the throttle to idle was contrary to manufacturer guidance for this maneuver, which stated that the throttle should be adjusted only enough to allow for a small tachometer needle separation in order to reduce the chance of inadvertent engine stoppage during the maneuver. The practice of reducing throttle to idle introduced greater susceptibility to a loss of engine power, though it could not be determined whether a loss of power occurred before the accident.

Based on conflicting statements from the student, it could not be determined who was controlling the helicopter during the entry into and throughout the autorotation before about 100 ft. The helicopter’s trajectory described by a witness and as captured on surveillance video suggested a rapid, uncontrolled descent during the final portion of the autorotation, consistent with a main rotor stall; likely as a result of a premature application of collective pitch. This allowed the rotor rpm to decay below the normal operating range at an altitude that was insufficient for power recovery. In the event that the helicopter did experience a loss of power during the maneuver, the helicopter should have been able to attain a safe landing following a steady-state autorotation. The helicopter manufacturer published notices to pilots warning that main rotor stall due to low rotor rpm could occur rapidly, at any airspeed, and that if allowed to develop, recovery could become “virtually impossible.”

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A main rotor stall due to low rotor rpm, which resulted in an uncontrolled descent into terrain. Contributing to the accident was the flight instructor’s delayed remedial action. 

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA085
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 29, 2014 in Lake Worth, FL
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R22 BETA, registration: N771MM
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On December 29, 2014, at 1025 eastern standard time, a Robinson R22 Beta, N771MM, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while performing an autorotation near Palm Beach County Park Airport (LNA), Lake Worth, Florida. The flight instructor (CFI) was fatally injured, and the student pilot sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local instructional flight, which departed about 0940. The flight was operated by Palm Beach Helicopters, Inc., and was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

A witness, who was a CFI, reported that he and a student were taxiing their airplane to runway 15 for takeoff when they heard the accident helicopter announce its position on a right base leg, with the intent to conduct an autorotation to taxiway Bravo. The CFI then offered to hold at the airplane's present position to allow the helicopter more room to conduct the maneuver. He stated that the helicopter pilot thanked him, and shortly thereafter, he observed the helicopter enter a "rapid descent typical of [autorotation]" from an altitude of between 800-1,000 feet above ground level (agl). About 500 feet agl, the helicopter appeared to level off, then pitched abruptly nose-down and descended to ground contact. Just prior to impact, he heard a panicked radio transmission from the helicopter that was mostly unintelligible. He also stated that, based on the accent he heard, he believed the CFI onboard the helicopter was conducting all radio transmissions.

Another CFI, who was taxiing a helicopter with a student on the south side of the airport, reported hearing the accident helicopter transmit, "we're going in the grass" over the airport's common traffic advisory frequency. Shortly thereafter, an airplane in the airport traffic pattern reported that there was a helicopter down, and the CFI in the helicopter flew to the accident site to render assistance. 

In a statement to law enforcement two days after the accident, the student pilot recounted that he and the CFI were practicing autorotations following a simulated engine failure. The student stated that he could not recall whether he or the CFI initiated the autorotation. About 100 feet above ground level, the CFI said, "We're going down, we're going down," and at that time, the CFI was controlling the helicopter. The student stated that, until that point, the autorotation had "appeared pretty normal," and he added, "I don't know if the engine cut off, or the engine didn't turn back on." 

In a subsequent interview, conducted about two weeks after the accident, the student stated that the flight was Lesson 2 in Stage 3 of the school's private pilot training course. He reported that he could not recall most of the accident flight, but recalled that prior to the accident, he and the CFI had been flying for approximately 40 minutes and had conducted 2 or 3 steep approaches as well as a maximum-performance takeoff. The accident autorotation was the first of the accident flight. He stated that he could not recall who initiated the autorotation or the rotor rpm indication during the maneuver. He remembered that the CFI was controlling the helicopter as it descended through about 100 feet above ground level, and as the CFI rolled on the throttle in an attempt to recover, there was no response from the engine. The CFI stated, "We're going down, we're going down." The student also stated that, on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, he observed the CFI using his cell phone and stated that he appeared to be conducting a video call, as he briefly saw someone on the phone's screen. He stated that the CFI turned the phone to face outside of the helicopter as if he was showing the view out the helicopter's windscreen to the individual on the phone. He could not recall when the CFI discontinued the use of the phone.

In a written statement provided after the interview, the student recalled that the CFI "asked for the controls," on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern prior to entering the autorotation. The student stated that he "handed over the controls and looked south out my door enjoying the view." The student then recalled looking at the ground "in a nose down attitude" as the helicopter descended, and seeing the CFI "fighting with the cyclic and collective." 

Surveillance video from a building near the accident site captured approximately the last 2 seconds of the flight before impact, and showed the helicopter descending rapidly at a steep angle. 

PERSONNEL INFORMATION 

The CFI held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates, both with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter; as well as an airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate was issued in March 2014. Review of operator records revealed the CFI had about 397 total hours of flight experience, of which about 280 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model. He had accumulated about 121 hours of flight instruction given. 

The student held an FAA second-class medical and student pilot certificate, which was issued in December 2012. He reported about 37 total hours of flight time, all of which was in the accident helicopter make and model. 

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The helicopter was manufactured in 1996 and was equipped with one Lycoming O-360 series, 145 hp reciprocating engine. Review of maintenance records provided by the operator indicated that the helicopter's most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on December 1, 2014. At that time, the airframe had accumulated a total time of 4,162.9 hours, and the engine had accumulated 1,978.7 hours since its most recent overhaul. The helicopter's 2,200-hour inspection was completed on February 13, 2013 at a total airframe time of 2,184.2 hours. 

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION 

The 0953 automated weather observation at PBI recorded wind from 180 degrees at 7 knots, 10 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 2,100 ft, temperature 26 degrees C, dew point 22 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.13 inches of mercury. Review of a carburetor icing probability chart revealed the potential for serious carburetor icing at glide power. 

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The helicopter came to rest on its left side in a grassy area about 700 feet northwest of the runway 15 threshold at LNA. The wreckage path was oriented approximately 140 degrees magnetic, and extended about 75 feet from the initial impact point to where the fuselage came to rest. The initial impact point was identified as a large metal stake, about 3 feet in height. The second point of impact was a small crater measuring about 4 feet long and 1 foot deep, located about 15 feet past the initial impact point. A portion of the forward skid crosstube was located in the crater. The vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer, and portion of the tail rotor came to rest next to the crater. The tail boom was separated from the fuselage, and fractured into several pieces, some of which displayed signatures consistent with main rotor blade contact. The skids separated from the fuselage and were fractured into several sections, which were located along the wreckage path. 

The fuselage exhibited downward crushing, and the cabin was fractured aft of the seat structures. Both the auxiliary and main fuel tanks were intact and contained fuel, and both fuel caps were secure. The fuel vent tubes were separated from the auxiliary tank by impact, which allowed fuel to drain from the tanks following the accident. 

The main rotor remained attached to the fuselage. One blade was bent up and displayed several chordwise creases along its span. The second blade was bent up about 45 degrees near its root. Neither blade displayed significant leading edge damage. The tail rotor drive shaft separated from the helicopter during the accident sequence, and a 5-foot portion was located about 500 feet west of the main wreckage. The aft portion of the tail rotor drive shaft was not recovered.

The helicopter was removed from the accident site and transported to a secure facility for further examination. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to the main rotor system. Tail rotor control continuity was established from the cockpit to the intermediate flex coupling. The main rotor gearbox rotated smoothly by hand with no anomalies observed. Examination of the v-belts, sheaves, and overrunning clutch also revealed no anomalies. Tail rotor drive continuity was established from the upper drive sheave to the intermediate flex coupling. The tail rotor gearbox rotated smoothly, with no anomalies noted. 

The engine remained attached to the airframe at its mount. The mixture control wire was impact-separated from the mixture control arm. The carburetor heat control was bent, and was in the off position. The carburetor air box was partially crushed, and the carburetor heat slider valve was in a mid-travel, partially open position. The carburetor remained attached to the engine, and the throttle control arm was observed about 1/8 inch from the full-throttle position. The exhaust system was partially crushed. The sparkplugs were removed and displayed normal wear characteristics. The engine was rotated by hand at the cooling fan, and thumb compression was obtained on all cylinders. Crankshaft continuity was established to the accessory gears. Oil was added to the engine to facilitate a test run, and when power was applied to the engine starter, the engine started, accelerated, and ran continuously for several minutes utilizing the fuel onboard. A magneto check was performed with no anomalies noted.

The engine was shut down, and the carburetor, oil filter, and oil suction screen were removed for examination. The carburetor float bowl contained blue liquid consistent with 100LL aviation fuel, and did not display any sign of contamination. There was no damage to the internal components of the carburetor, and the fuel inlet screen was absent of debris. 

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the CFI by the Office of the District Medical Examiner, District 15, Palm Beach County, Florida. The cause of death was identified as blunt force injuries. Toxicological testing was performed by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Testing was negative for carbon monoxide, ethanol, and all tested-for drugs and their metabolites.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Cell Phone Information

The CFI's cell phone was retained for examination in the NTSB vehicle recorders laboratory; however, the device was passcode-protected and could not be unlocked. Usage records obtained from the cellular service provider could not conclusively determine whether the phone was in use at the time of the accident. 

Practice Autorotations

According to the pilot training syllabus provided by the flight school, the objective of Stage 3, Lesson 2 was for the student to practice advanced maneuvers and procedures, including normal and steep approach, normal and maximum performance takeoff, hovering, hover taxi, air taxi, ground reference maneuvers, emergency operations, autorotation to a power recovery, loss of tail rotor, stuck pedal, hovering out of ground effect, and confined area operation. 

Review of the student's training record indicated that he completed Stage 2 of the syllabus on December 23, 2014. Instructor notes for the previous flight, dated December 22, 2014, indicated, "gap in training is evident in proficiency, basic straight [and] level unsatisfactory, [aeronautical decision making] needs work, approaches need work."

The flight school specified that all 180-degree and straight-in autorotations be terminated with a power recovery throughout the private pilot training course. School policy also stated that landings and autorotations at LNA were performed to the runways or to the grassy areas next to runways 15/33 and 09/27. 

The flight school's written procedures for a straight-in autorotation with power recovery indicated that the maneuver should be initiated at an altitude of 700 feet agl after clearing the area for potential traffic conflicts and applying carburetor heat. Upon selecting a landing site, the autorotation was entered by rolling the throttle to the full idle position, where the procedure specified it should be held "firmly against the stop for the remainder of the autorotation." About 40 feet agl, the recovery was initiated by applying aft cyclic to bring the helicopter to a skids-level attitude, where it was held for 3 seconds prior to entering a flare. At that time, the throttle was "crack[ed] open" to allow the rpm governor to operate, forward cyclic applied, and the collective raised to bring the helicopter to a hover about 5 feet agl. The maneuver guide also stated, "Make an IMMEDIATE power recovery if the following conditions do not exist through 100' AGL: Aircraft aligned with touchdown point; Rotor RPM in the green; Airspeed within +/- 5 [knots] of 65 [knots]; Rate of descent <1,500 fpm". 

The manufacturer's Pilots Operating Handbook outlined the following procedure for a practice autorotation with a power recovery: "1. Adjust carb heat as required. 2. Lower collective to down stop and adjust throttle as required for small tachometer needle separation. CAUTION: To avoid inadvertent engine stoppage, do not chop throttle to simulate a power failure. Always roll throttle off smoothly for a small visible needle split. 3. Adjust collective to keep rotor RPM in green arc and adjust throttle for small needle separation. 4. Keep airspeed 60 to 70 KIAS. 5. At about 40 feet AGL, begin cyclic flare to reduce rate of descent and forward speed. 6. At about 8 feet AGL, apply forward cyclic to level aircraft and raise collective to control descent. Add throttle if required to keep RPM in green arc."

Robinson Helicopter Company Safety Notice SN-38, "Practice Autorotations Cause Many Training Accidents," stated, "There have been instances when the engine has quit during practice autorotation. To avoid inadvertent engine stoppage, do not roll throttle to full idle. Reduce throttle smoothly for a small visible needle split, then hold throttle firmly to override governor. Recover immediately if engine is rough or engine RPM continues to drop." 

Safety Notice SN-24, "Low RPM Rotor Stall Can Be Fatal," stated, "Rotor stall is very similar to the stall of an airplane wings at low airspeeds. As the airspeed of an airplane gets lower…the angle of attack of the wing must be higher for the wing to produce the lift required to support the weight of the airplane…The same thing happens during rotor stall with a helicopter except it occurs due to low rotor RPM instead of low airspeed. As the RPM of the rotor gets lower, the angle of attack of the rotor blades must be higher to generate the lift required to support the weight of the helicopter…Even if the collective is not raised by the pilot to provide the higher blade angle, the helicopter will start to descend until the upward movement of air to the rotor provides the necessary increase in blade angle of attack…The increased drag on the blades acts like a huge rotor brake causing the rotor RPM to rapidly decrease, further increasing the rotor stall. As the helicopter begins to fall, the upward rushing air continues to increase the angle of attack on the slowly-rotating blades, making recovery virtually impossible, even with full down collective."

FAA publication P-8740-71, "Planning Autorotations,"was intended to raise flight instructor awareness to the hazards of training students in autorotations and provide guidelines and parameters for conducting practice autorotations. The pamphlet concluded, "The number one error in practice autorotations is the failure of the flight instructor to take control of the aircraft and terminate the maneuver before it progresses to a point where the flight instructor is not capable of recovering the aircraft in time to prevent damage to the aircraft or injury to personnel. REMEMBER: As a flight instructor, you are the most knowledgeable and experienced person in that helicopter. Do not let your student fly the helicopter into some corner of its performance envelope where it is not recoverable."

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA085
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 29, 2014 in Lake Worth, FL
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R22 BETA, registration: N771MM
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may cont
ain 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 29, 2014, at 1025 eastern standard time, a Robinson R22 Beta, N771MM, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering for landing at Palm Beach County Park Airport (LNA), Lake Worth, Florida. The certificated flight instructor (CFI) was fatally injured, and the student pilot sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local instructional flight, which departed about 0940. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

In a statement to law enforcement, the student pilot recounted that he and the CFI were practicing emergency procedures following a simulated engine failure. The student pilot said that he entered an autorotation after the throttle was reduced to idle, and the helicopter was in an autorotational descent when the accident occurred. He could not completely recall the sequence of events leading up to the accident, but stated that as the helicopter descended through 100 feet, he remembered the CFI saying, "we're going down." 

Another CFI, who was taxiing a helicopter with a student on the south side of LNA, reported hearing the accident helicopter transmit, "we're going in the grass" over the airport's common traffic advisory frequency. Shortly thereafter, an airplane in the airport traffic pattern reported that there was a helicopter down, and the CFI flew to the accident site to render assistance. 

The helicopter came to rest on its left side in a grassy area about 700 feet northwest of the runway 15 threshold at LNA. The wreckage path was oriented approximately 140 degrees magnetic, and extended about 75 feet from the initial impact point to where the fuselage came to rest. The initial impact point was identified as a large metal stake, about 3 feet in height. The second point of impact was a small crater measuring about 4 feet long and 1 foot deep, located about 15 feet past the initial impact point. A portion of the forward skid crosstube was located in the crater. The vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer, and portion of the tail rotor came to rest next to the crater. The tail boom was separated from the fuselage, and fractured into several pieces, some of which displayed signatures consistent with main rotor blade contact. The skids separated from the fuselage and were fractured into several sections, which were located along the wreckage path. 

The fuselage exhibited downward crushing, and the cabin was fractured aft of the seat structures. Both the auxiliary and main fuel tanks were intact and contained fuel, and both fuel caps were secure. The fuel vent tubes were separated from the auxiliary tank by impact, which allowed fuel to drain from the tanks following the accident. 

The main rotor remained attached to the fuselage. One blade was bent up and displayed several chordwise creases along its span. The second blade was bent up about 45 degrees near its root. Neither blade displayed significant leading edge damage. The tail rotor drive shaft separated from the helicopter during the accident sequence, and a 5-foot portion was located about 500 feet west of the main wreckage. The aft portion of the tail rotor drive shaft was not recovered.

The helicopter was removed from the accident site and transported to a salvage facility for further examination. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to the main rotor system. Tail rotor control continuity was established from the cockpit to the intermediate flex coupling. The main rotor gearbox rotated smoothly by hand with no anomalies observed. Examination of the v-belts, sheaves, and overrunning clutch also revealed no anomalies. 

Tail rotor drive continuity was established from the upper drive sheave to the intermediate flex coupling. The tail rotor gearbox rotated smoothly, with no anomalies noted. Power was applied to the engine starter, and utilizing the fuel onboard, the engine started, accelerated smoothly, and ran continuously for several minutes with no anomalies noted.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Miami FSDO-19

http://registry.faa.gov/N771MM


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


Two pilots were practicing an emergency procedure during a routine training flight when the helicopter they were in crashed north of the Lantana Airport, killing one and seriously injuring the other, according to the pilot who survived.

Jonathan Desouza, 25, a student pilot, said his instructor, Luis Aviles, 34, of West Palm Beach, was doing an emergency procedure simulation for engine failure when their aircraft crashed, killing Aviles and severely injuring Desouza.

"I guess when we went to bring the motor back on, the motor just didn't start back up," Desouza told Sun Sentinel news partner WPEC-Ch. 12 on Tuesday.

Preliminary information indicated the pilots possibly were practicing the procedure when the Robinson R-22 helicopter crashed at 10:20 a.m. Monday at John Prince Park, said Allison Diaz, a National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator who is leading the inquiry.

The safety board said it could take a year to complete the comprehensive investigation.

"We'll be investigating things such as the pilot's training record, medical history, the helicopter's maintenance history, and environmental factors such as weather," Diaz said.

Desouza said his instructor had control of the helicopter when the aircraft went down. He said the last thing he remembers is Aviles telling him they were going to crash.

"Three seconds later we hit the ground," he said. "And I pretty much blacked out."

He said he doesn't remember anything after the crash, and when he came to, he was in the back of a medical helicopter heading for Delray Medical Center.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Aviles was a certified helicopter flight instructor. He also had an instrument rating, a commercial pilot's license and a helicopter mechanic license.

Records for Desouza were unavailable because he is a student pilot.

Desouza's neighbor, Conroy Casella, 57, said several neighbors know him through Desouza's pressure cleaning service. "He does well at it," Casella said. "He's a great kid. God, I hope he pulls through."

The NTSB said Palm Beach Helicopters owned the helicopter, according to WPEC-Ch. 12. Aviles is listed as an employee of the business, according to its website.

Aviles' biography on the company's website said he served in the U.S. Marine Corps before he started teaching flight instruction. He moved from New Jersey to Palm Beach County in 2012 and obtained an aeronautical sciences degree from Palm Beach State College, according to the website.

Palm Beach Helicopters' president could not be reached for comment despite phone calls.

At about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the helicopter was moved to an aircraft salvage facility in Fort Pierce, as part of the investigation.

Before that, representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the helicopter manufacturer and engine manufacturer met Tuesday morning at the crash site to gather information that would have otherwise been lost when the helicopter was relocated.

A preliminary report from the NTSB is expected in about 10 business days, but a more-detailed factual report is expected to be released in about 12 months. About 60 days after that, investigators should have a probable cause for the crash, Diaz said.

An FAA spokeswoman told Ch. 12 the helicopter that crashed had no prior accidents or incidents.

According to FAA records, the helicopter is registered to LLB Enterprises Group Inc., out of Fort White, Fla. Robinson Helicopters said on its website the R-22 seats two, and was used for a number of operations, including flight training and livestock mustering.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com



Luis Aviles and Jonathan Desouza


Two pilots may have been practicing an emergency procedure during a routine training flight when the helicopter they were in crashed north of the Lantana Airport, killing one and seriously injuring the other, federal officials said Tuesday.

Preliminary information indicates the pilots possibly were practicing the procedure when the Robinson R-22 helicopter crashed at 10:20 a.m. Monday at John Prince Park, said Allison Diaz, a National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator who is leading the inquiry.

It's among the possibilities being considered in the crash that killed flight instructor Luis Aviles, 34, of West Palm Beach, and injured student pilot Jonathan Desouza, 25, of Boynton Beach.

Investigators don't know who was piloting the helicopter during the crash, but said they hope to talk with Desouza, who was hospitalized. Talking to him should "shed some light on what was going on at the time of the accident," Diaz said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it could take a year to complete the comprehensive investigation.

"We'll be investigating things such as the pilot's training record, medical history, the helicopter's maintenance history, and environmental factors such as weather," Diaz said.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Aviles was a certified helicopter flight instructor. He also had an instrument rating, a commercial pilot's license and a helicopter mechanic license.

Records for Desouza were unavailable because he is a student pilot.

Desouza's neighbor, Conroy Casella, 57, said several neighbors know Desouza through Desouza's business, "The Pressure King," a pressure cleaning service. "He does well at it," Casella said. "He's a great kid. God, I hope he pulls through."

Casella was surprised to learn his neighbor was on the helicopter. "I had no idea it was him," Casella said Tuesday.

At about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the helicopter was moved to an aircraft salvage facility in Fort Pierce, as the investigation continued.


Before that, representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the helicopter manufacturer and engine manufacturer met Tuesday morning at the crash site to gather information that would have otherwise been lost when the helicopter was relocated.

A preliminary report from the NTSB is expected in about 10 business days, but a more-detailed factual report is expected to be released in about 12 months. About 60 days after that, investigators should have a probable cause for the crash, Diaz said.

The NTSB said Palm Beach Helicopters owned the helicopter, according to WPEC-Ch. 12. Aviles is listed as an employee of the business, according to its website.

A photo from the Facebook page of Palm Beach Helicopters shows the exact helicopter that crashed and a man identified as Luis Aviles standing in front of it, Ch. 12 reported.

Palm Beach Helicopters' vice president could not be reached for comment despite phone calls.

An FAA spokeswoman told Ch. 12 the helicopter that crashed had no prior accidents or incidents.

According to FAA records, the helicopter is registered to LLB Enterprises Group Inc., out of Fort White, Fla. Robinson Helicopters said on its website the R-22 seats two, and is used for a number of operations, including flight training and livestock mustering. Robinson Helicopters couldn't be reached for comment despite a phone call, Ch. 12 said.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com


Witnesses say they heard a Robinson R22 helicopter "sputter" before crashing Monday near Lantana Airport.

The helicopter crashed about 100 yards from the airport in John Prince Park. One person onboard was killed, and another was in critical condition after the crash that happened just before 10:30 a.m. according to authorities.

"I saw the helicopter inverted and I knew something was wrong. It was sputtering," witness Charles Ketchel said. Ketchel, along with other witnesses, was staying at the John Prince Park campground.

"I knew what it was because I am familiar with helicopters...I used to fly in the Army and all I know is when I heard the noise and it hitting the trees, I knew something was not right," Jerry Campbell said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is on scene and the National Transportation Safety Board will have an investigator on the scene Tuesday morning. Staff at Palm Beach Helicopters confirm it was one of their helicopters that went down in the crash. They didn't say, though, who was involved in the incident.

The flight training school is known by aviation enthusiasts around the country. Those in the local aviation community say they're part of a close knit group, and are anxious to find out who was involved in the crash.

"The aviation community here at Lantana is a close-knit community of friends, family, colleagues, coworkers. You don't go a couple weeks without learning someone's name or knowing someone by their face," says Nikolas Markis.

Markis is training to be a pilot, and is familiar with Palm Beach Helicopters. He says students travel from around the country to get flight training at the school.

Markis says he's not afraid to fly again after this incident, but says there are always some concerns when you go in the air.  "Just like having a friend or family member go for a drive and not come back, you do have that in the back of your mind every time you go up. That could be you," he says.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office has not released the victims' names pending family notification.

Story, Video and Photo Gallery:  http://www.wptv.com


Investigators are still at the scene of a fatal helicopter crash Monday morning just north of Lantana airport.

One person was killed and another critically injured after the crash that occurred in John Prince Park, less than 100 yards north of Palm Beach County Park Airport, just north of Lantana Road and west of Interstate 95.

By early afternoon, the body of the deceased remained covered in a yellow tarp in the helicopter, which was in pieces in an area of the park that appears to be a maintenance area with buildings, barrels, trucks and tractors. 

The area is separated from the airport by a small creek. 

The blade of the helicopter was bent and cracked but still attached. 

Police tape surrounds the crash area. 

It doesn’t appear that the helicopter was damaged by fire.

Authorities said the helicopter was carrying two people when it crashed about 10:30 a.m.

The injured person was flown by Trauma Hawk to an area hospital.

Story and Video:   http://www.palmbeachpost.com