Friday, January 09, 2015

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy helping AirPooler in Federal Aviation Administration plane-sharing fight

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts is trying to help Cambridge-based startup AirPooler in a battle against the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the startup's plane-sharing business model.

In a Dec. 15 letter co-written by Kennedy and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana, the lawmakers have requested that the FAA initiate a proper rule-making process to regulate AirPooler and other plane-sharing startups for the sake of innovation in aviation.

The letter was sent to the FAA just weeks before Northeastern University-born startup Flytenow filed a lawsuit against the FAA earlier this week.

Neither member of Congress has received a response from the FAA yet, said AirPooler CEO Steve Lewis.

"The rule-making process is very long, and we don't even know if (the FAA) is going to do that," Lewis said. "In the meantime, our business can't go forward, nor can anyone trying to do similar things in this space."

AirPooler, a 2014 startup finalist in the Boston-based MassChallenge startup accelerator program, offers a website in which pilots of small planes can share expenses of flights with aviation enthusiast-passengers. The business model is similar to that of Flytenow.

AirPooler has nearly 10,000 members that have signed up to receive information about the business since early 2014, many of whom are pilots and aviation enthusiasts, Lewis said.

Last August, AirPooler received a letter from the FAA that effectively banned plane-sharing. The letter was sent to AirPooler after the startup had requested the FAA confirm the legality of its plane-sharing business model.

At issue is whether private pilots can use the Internet as a medium to find passengers and inform them of upcoming flights; and also whether ride-sharing money collected by private pilots is considered "compensation," which would require the pilots to obtain a commercial operator certificate.

The FAA has declined to comment on the matter, instead pointing to the legal interpretation document sent to AirPooler.

Because of the high cost of flying and the highly-regulated nature of the aviation industry, about 6,000 private pilots quit flying each year, the lawmakers said in their letter, citing the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

"Appropriate regulation of general aviation can maintain safety while creating new jobs, attracting new pilots, strengthening our national economy, and providing more options to travelers while growing a truly American industry," the Congressmen wrote in the letter.

Kennedy, a Democrat, is a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, and Rokita, a Republican, is a pilot and aviation supporter who has introduced federal aviation legislation.

Here's the full text of the letter sent by Congressmen Kennedy and Rokita to the Roderick Hall, assistant administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration:

Dear Administrator Hall,

We are writing regarding an August 2014 letter of legal interpretation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of the Chief Counsel. Specifically, the letter addressed the definition of an air carrier as a private pilot or commercial operator, discussing the meaning of "compensation" and whether an expense-sharing website constitutes common carriage under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). We appreciate the FAA's interpretation, but respectfully request the FAA initiate a formal rulemaking process to allow for adequate input and consideration of the impact of the decision to consider expense-sharing websites as common carriers.

As you know, provisions under Title 14 of the CFR regulate activities in aeronautics and space, and § 61.113 places limitations on the privileges of private pilots and pilots in command for receiving compensation. This section contains detailed exemptions for private pilots receiving compensation, including when a pilot may accept a pro rata share of operating expenses of a flight with passengers (14 C.F.R. § 61.113(c)). These listed exemptions for receiving compensation differentiate the requirements of private pilots and commercial operators needing additional certifications.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, general aviation supports over 1.2 million jobs and generates more than $150 billion in annual economic activity. However, due to the cost of flying and the highly regulated nature of the industry, an estimated 6,000 private pilots quit flying each year. Appropriate regulation of general aviation can maintain safety while creating new jobs, attracting new pilots, strengthening our national economy, and providing more options to travelers while growing a truly American industry.

The FAA is responsible for ensuring the safety of our skies, and its role is critical to ensure the safety of private pilots and commercial operators alike. Proper promulgation of an FAA regulation regarding expense-sharing operations would provide sufficient clarity for private pilots and potential passengers, without compromising the safety of air travel. We respectfully request that the FAA initiate a formal rulemaking process as quickly as practicable to provide certainty to existing expense-sharing services.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our request. We look forward to working with you.

Original article can be found at:

After string of jet crashes, a struggle to re-train pilots

(Reuters) - As investigators hunt for what caused an AirAsia jet to crash in an equatorial storm on Dec 28, the aviation industry is still struggling to apply the lessons of accidents in similar weather over the past decade.

It is too early to say whether the Airbus A320 crashed into the Java Sea due to pilot error, mechanical problems, freak weather or - as most often happens in aviation disasters - a combination of factors.

But its apparently uncontrolled plunge, coming after a series of other fatal crashes blamed at least in part on loss of control, has refocused attention on whether pilot training programs need to improve.

Critics say pilots don't get enough training on how to react when an airliner stalls or loses lift, and that changes in guidance about best practices have been slow.

"The lessons have not been learned to this day," said David Learmount, one of the aviation industry's leading safety commentators. "Everyone knows what the problem is, but nobody is doing anything about it."

Though rare, loss of pilot control ranks as the single biggest cause of air travel deaths. Two crashes in particular forced the issue - the 2009 losses of an Air France flight from Rio De Janeiro to Paris, and a Colgan Air turboprop near Buffalo, New York.

In both, confused pilots ignored or countermanded warnings of an impending stall, a condition where a plane loses lift because the air flow over its wings is too slow.

The Air France jet took a four-minute, 38,000 feet plunge into the ocean. Despite repeated stall alarms, the control stick was fatally yanked backwards. 


Classic stall training calls for pilots to push the control stick forward, nosing the plane down so it will swoop lower and regain speed, which is effective but uncomfortable.

But over the last 30 years, most airlines encouraged their pilots to hold the control stick broadly steady and gun the engines to power their way out of a stall, trying to keep the ride as level as possible.

In examining stall crashes from that period, that procedure "wouldn't have helped and would have led to more accidents than it prevented," said Claude Lelaie, a retired former chief test pilot at Airbus.

In a rare joint move from 2009, Airbus and Boeing called for a return to robust cockpit procedures that prevailed "when the old guys like me were being trained," Lelaie said. "We were told to push the stick at the first sign of a stall."

But it took several years to set rules that ensure pilots receive regular refresher training and to root out the disputed cockpit procedures of past decades.

The new voluntary guidelines by the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which coordinates safety, took effect just six weeks before the loss of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, and will take years to be implemented around the globe.

New U.S. rules on pilot training do not take effect until 2019. Regulators will require flight simulators to better model stall behavior, changes that will also take years to implement.

ICAO also has proposed that pilots refresh their stall training by flying small aerobatic planes. But Learmount and others said most airlines would be reluctant to pay for it.

Changes in training cannot be made overnight because they can create other risks. Even minor adjustments must be thoroughly researched to avoid sowing the seeds of future accidents.

The industry is wrestling with a steep drop in the time pilots spend manually flying. Pilots now typically steer for only a few minutes at takeoff and landing, and rely on autopilot for the lengthy, boring cruise phase of flight.

When a sudden upset occurs - such as icing or powerful air currents from a storm - even the best pilots can experience a "startle effect" and may struggle to recall manual flying skills for that rare situation.

A study by Australia's Griffith University found a person's ability to process information is significantly impaired for 30 seconds after being startled, so being trained to cope with the unexpected is as important as knowing cockpit theory.


Flight simulators pose another challenge. The machines are crucial because pilots get little or no in-flight training for stalls after basic training.

But most simulators still cannot accurately model a plane's behavior in a full stall. The Federal Aviation Administration has pressing to make them better in a rule-making process that closed this week.

Simulator makers want better data about stalls to improve their machines. But plane makers say airliner stalls are so unpredictable that the data would be of little value - a dispute that could also have implications for any potential liabilities.

"It's not clear how the simulation data will be collected," said Pat Anderson, director of flight research at Embry-Riddle Aeronautic University, the largest U.S. flight training school.

Around the world, airlines, flight schools and governments vary widely in how swiftly and fully they adopt the changes.

Some airlines train in-house and go beyond what's required. Others just meet minimum standards, said David Greenberg, a consultant and former head of flight operations at Delta Air Lines.

"Training is still a patchwork quilt," he said.

Original article can be found at:

2013 Columbia Helicopters crash in Peru, which killed 7, spurs $110 million in lawsuits

Darrel W. Birkes, who fished each summer with his brother is seen here in Alaska July 2011, died at the age of 62 in a helicopter crash in Peru on January 7, 2013.   He worked for nearly 30 years for Columbia Helicopters. Photo courtesy Marvin Birkes

Families of six of the seven people who died in a January 2013 helicopter crash in Peru have now filed suit against Aurora-based Columbia Helicopters -- bringing the total amount sought to $110 million.

Two new wrongful death lawsuits -- representing the two Peruvians who were on board -- were filed this week in Multnomah County Circuit Court. The other five people on board were Americans and were involved in petroleum exploration.

The suits fault the companies that manufactured, owned and maintained the black Boeing-Vertol Model 234 chopper, a civilian version of a military Chinook helicopter with tandem rotors. Listed as defendants in some or all of the suits are: Columbia Helicopters; Columbia Helicopters Leasing, which owned the aircraft; and the Boeing Co., which manufactured the aircraft.

The crash occurred on Jan. 7, 2013, just outside Pucallpa, a city in eastern Peru that sits on a major tributary of the Amazon River. The suits filed this week state that the helicopter broke apart in flight for unknown reasons, and the suits both list defective components as a possible cause.

The two Peruvians who died were co-pilot Igor Abelardo Castillo Chavez and aircraft mechanic Luis Alfredo Ramos Gonzalez. The Americans were pilot Dann J. Immel of Gig Harbor, Wash.; maintenance crew chief Edwin Cordova of Florida; aircraft mechanic Jaime Pickett of Tennessee; Leon Bradford of Utah; and Darrel Birkes, who was born in Tigard and attended Sunset High School.

Birkes was 62 and living in Peru as an ex-pat. He worked as a master rigging coordinator, determining the correct loads for helicopters carrying equipment and people to oil and gas production sites.

Birkes’ estate is the only one that hasn’t filed a lawsuit, say attorneys involved in the case.

“The crash caused severe injuries including burns and other injuries that resulted in the death of (Castillo Chavez), as well as his conscious pain and suffering,” reads one of the suits.

An attorney representing Columbia Helicopters did not return a call for comment.

Story and Photo Gallery:

Helicopter Company Blamed for Crash in Peru

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - The surviving relatives of two men who were killed in a helicopter crash in Peru seek to hold the company that owned the helicopters liable.

In January, a helicopter with a team of men working in oil exploration crashed shortly after taking off from the Pucallpa Airport in Peru.

Seven people, including Dann Immel and Leon Bradford, died in the crash.

The men's family members sued the Oregon-based Columbia Helicopters Leasing, which leased the helicopter that crashed, for wrongful death, negligence and product liability.

They say the helicopter crashed "due to failure and separation of its rotor."

Without naming specific details, the family members claim there was a defect in the helicopter that caused the rotor to become separated.

A representative with Columbia Helicopters declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The named plaintiffs are Dann Immel's son and parents and Leon Bradford's wife, four children and mother. Each family member seeks $15 million in damages.

They are represented by Matthew Clarke of Landye Bennett Blumstein LLP.


NTSB Identification: ERA13RA106
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Non-U.S., Commercial
Accident occurred Monday, January 07, 2013 in Pucallpa, Peru, Peru
Aircraft: BOEING-VERTOL 234, registration: N241CH
Injuries: 7 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On January 7, 2013, about 2002 universal coordinated time (1502 local time), a Boeing-Vertol 234, N241CH, operated by Columbia Helicopters Peru, S.A.C., was destroyed during an inflight breakup and subsequent impact with terrain near Pucallpa, Peru. The U.S. commercial-rated pilot, Peruvian private-rated co-pilot, and five additional company employees of both U.S. and Peruvian nationality were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The sling-load positioning flight had departed FAP Captain David Abenzur Rengifo Interbnational Airport (SPCL), Pucallpa, Peru, about 5 minutes earlier, en route to Cadet FAP Guillermo del Castillo Paredes Airport (SPST), Tarapoto, Peru, and was operating under Peruvian flight regulations.

The investigation is under the direction of the Republic of Peru.

For further information contact: 

Comision de Investigacion de Accidentes de Aviacion (CIAA)
Direccion General de Aeronautica Civil 
Avenida Jiron Zorritos 1203
Lima 1 Peru Central: 6157800

Tel: ( 511 ) 315 - 7800 

This report is for informational purposes, and only contains information released by the Republic of Peru.

 Investigators stand near the wreckage of a U.S.-owned cargo helicopter in Pucallpa, Peru,  Jan. 7, 2013. Five U.S. citizens are among seven people killed in the crash in the Peruvian jungle. The heavy-lift, twin-rotor Chinook BH-234 chopper, owned by Columbia Helicopters in the Portland suburb of Aurora, Oregon, crashed  shortly after taking off from the provincial capital of Pucallpa bound for Tarapoto. 

Beechcraft G36 Bonanza, Grey Aviation Advisors and Solutions Inc., N89SN: Accident occurred December 18, 2013 near Sandy Creek Airpark (75FL), Panama Creek, Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA14FA074
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 18, 2013 in Panama City, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/07/2015
Aircraft: RAYTHEON G36, registration: N89SN
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.

The flight was about 60 miles from the destination airport when the pilot reported a total loss of engine power to air traffic control. The controller provided information on nearby airports, and the pilot maneuvered the airplane toward the closest airport. The pilot reported the airport in sight; radio and radar contact were subsequently lost. A search for the airplane was initiated, and the wreckage was located in a heavily wooded swamp about 1 mile east of the airport. There were no known witnesses to the accident. The fuel tank selector handle was found in the “left main” (left wing tank) position. The left wing tank was not breached, and about 1 pint of fuel was recovered from the tank. The right tank was breached, and it contained residual fuel; however, there was no evidence of fuel leakage on the ground beneath the tank. The airplane was fitted with optional wing tip tanks, which were found empty. The total amount of fuel recovered, including the residual fuel in the tanks and fuel recovered from a small pool of water directly under the airplane, was about 2.5 gallons, which was less than the manufacturer-reported unusable fuel quantity of 6 gallons. The airplane was last serviced with fuel about 28 days before to the accident; however, the total fuel onboard at that time could not be determined. The propeller blades exhibited no rotational damage or signatures. After the accident, the engine was removed from the airframe and successfully test run at the manufacturer’s facilities; no evidence of pre-accident malfunction or failure was observed. Although a shoulder harness was available, the pilot was found in the left seat with only his lap belt fastened. Damage to the airplane’s multi-function display was consistent with impact by the pilot’s head during the accident sequence. The pilot’s cause of death was blunt force head trauma, and the impact forces that he experienced would likely have been reduced if he had been wearing his shoulder harness.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s inadequate preflight and inflight fuel planning, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. Contributing to the pilot’s injuries was his failure to use the available shoulder harness.


On December 18, 2013, about 0720 central standard time (CST), a Raytheon Aircraft Company model G36, N89SN, impacted trees and terrain during a forced landing attempt near Panama City, Florida. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by Grey Aviation, Inc. as a business flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from North Palm Beach County General Aviation Airport (F45), West Palm Beach, Florida about 0554 eastern standard time (0454 CST) and was destined for Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida (DTS). 

The flight was about 60 miles from the destination airport when the pilot reported to Tyndall air traffic control (ATC) that he had lost all engine power. The controller provided information on nearby airports and the pilot maneuvered the airplane in the direction of Sandy Creek Airpark (75FL), a fly-in community. The pilot reported the airport in sight and radio and radar contact was eventually lost. A search for the airplane was initiated, and the wreckage was located in a heavily wooded swamp about one mile east of 75FL. There were no known witnesses to the accident.


The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and airplane multi-engine land. He reported a total flight experience of 5,000 hours, including 50 hours during the last six months, on his class 1 medical certificate application, dated March 20, 2013. The medical certificate included a restriction to wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision.

According to the airplane's owner, the accident pilot was the sole pilot of the airplane since its purchase. The airplane was purchased by its present owner on August 28, 2013. Since then, according to an aircraft flight logbook, about 53.5 hours of flying time had accumulated at the time of the accident. 


The airplane was a Raytheon Aircraft Company model G36 that was manufactured in 2006. It was powered by a Continental IO-550B engine, rated at 300 horsepower at 2,700 rpm and was equipped with a Hartzell three-bladed constant speed propeller.

The Hobbs time recorded at the accident site was 734.2 hours. The last annual inspection on the airframe and engine occurred on August 22, 2013 at an airframe total time of 683.0 hours Hobbs time. The last recorded maintenance included Garmin G1000 upgrades on October 3, 2013 at Hobbs time 722.8 hours.

No recorded flight and engine data was obtained from the G1000 system as the Secure Digital (SD) card required to record such data was not installed.


The 0658 CST surface weather observation for Tyndall Air Force Base (PAM), located about 5 miles southwest of the accident site, included sky clear, wind from 020 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 10 statute miles or greater, and altimeter setting 30.32 inches of mercury.


The wreckage was found generally intact and upright, on a heading of 270 degrees magnetic, at coordinates 30.101966, -85.462343. There was no evidence of fire noted. The local terrain consisted of flat, heavily-wooded, sandy soil, saturated with water. The airplane struck two 8-10 inch diameter pine trees; one at the right wing root and one about 1/4 wing span distance outboard on the left wing. There was a ground scar under the forward fuselage area about 5 feet long by two feet wide by six inches deep. The ground scar was filled in with water.

The fuselage exhibited light buckling just aft of the engine firewall. Each horizontal stabilizer leading edge had multiple dents from tree and/or bush strikes. A pine tree, about 10 inches in diameter, was found uprooted. The lower half of the tree was found under the left wing and the upper half was found resting on top of the airplane's rear fuselage. The tree strike at the right wing root pushed the leading edge upward and restricted the cabin door from being opened.

The Garmin G1000 Multi-Function Display (MFD) glass panel was shattered and showed evidence of impact by the pilot.

All primary flight control surfaces remained attached, and flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit controls to all surfaces. The aileron trim tab was found in the neutral position, and elevator pitch trim was found slightly nose up and within the green band. The landing gear and wing flaps were found in the retracted (up) positions.
The throttle was found aft, near the "idle" position, the propeller lever was aft at the "full decrease" position, and the mixture lever was full forward at the "full rich" position. The auxiliary/emergency fuel boost pump switch was in the "OFF" position. Engine control linkage continuity was established from the cockpit controls to their respective engine connections.

The three-blade, constant speed propeller remained attached to the propeller flange and all three blades remained within the propeller hub. One blade displayed minor aft bending deformation, another blade displayed significant aft bending deformation, and the third blade appeared to be undamaged. None of the blades displayed rotational damage or signatures. The propeller blade with minor bending could be freely moved within the hub; the other two blades were secured inside the hub. 

The engine remained attached to the airframe and there was no discernable impact damage to the engine. No oil leaks were observed. All of the cylinders remained attached to their respective installation points and there were no anomalies noted with the cylinders. The crankcase was intact and there were no anomalies noted. After the engine driven fuel pump was removed, the crankshaft was rotated approximately one quarter turn and it was noted that the crankshaft was continuous from the front to the rear of the engine.

The left and right magnetos remained attached to their respective installation points and appeared to be undamaged. The ignition harness remained attached to the magnetos and to the spark plugs and there were no signs of damage or abnormalities to the ignition harness. The top spark plugs were removed and visually inspected. All of the top spark plugs displayed normal operating signatures when compared to Champion Aviation Service Manual AV6-R.

The engine-driven fuel pump remained secured to its installation point and appeared to be undamaged. The fuel lines were removed from the fuel pump; only residual fuel remained in the fuel pump outlet line, and there was no fuel observed in any of the other lines. The fuel pump was removed and the drive coupling was noted to be intact. The fuel pump was rotated by hand and the pump rotated freely; it was noted that no fuel pumped out of the fuel pump during rotation. The fuel inlet line leading to the fuel manifold valve was disconnected from the fuel flow transducer by the investigation team and only residual fuel was noted in the fuel line. There were no signs of fuel leaks or external abnormalities with the fuel manifold valve or the fuel nozzles. The fuel metering unit and the throttle body were only partially visible to the investigation team; there were no abnormalities noted with the visible portions of the throttle body and fuel metering assembly.

The fuel tank selector handle was found in the "left main" wing tank position. Investigators tested the fuel selector's functionality by blowing forced air into the fuel selector though the fuel line removed from the engine-driven fuel pump. The selector valve functioned normally in the left and right main tank positions, and no obstructions in the fuel lines to the main tanks were observed. 

A 40-gallon bladder tank, of which 37 gallons were useable, was housed in each wing, positioned from the wing root to about one third wing span outboard. Less than 1 pint of fuel was recovered from the left tank. No evidence of fuel leakage was observed on the ground under the tank. The fuel lines leading from the left tank to the airframe were connected and unbroken. The fuel probe and baffle flapper appeared normal. The fuel tank finger screen was clean and free of obstructions. 

The right main tank was breached on the inboard, forward end due to impact damage to the wing's leading edge. A residual amount of fuel drained from the bladder when the wing was removed by recovery personnel. The soil directly under the right wing showed no evidence of fuel spillage; no odor or visible layer of fuel was observed. The fuel probe and baffle flapper appeared normal. The fuel tank finger screen was clean and free of obstructions.

The airplane was fitted with 20-gallon wing tip tanks. Each wing tip tank was designed to feed fuel to its main tank when its boost pump, mounted in the wheel well, was activated. Each wing tip tank was empty when visually checked. No evidence of spilled fuel was found directly under or near the tip tanks. The two boost pump switches, mounted on the left side of the instrument panel, were found in the "off" positions.

When the fuselage was lifted by aircraft recovery personnel, a ground scar was present. The ground scar was filled in with water due to the saturation of the soil at the accident site. A layer of fuel was observed on top of the surface of the water, which was collected and quantified by investigators. The total amount of recovered fuel, including the residual fuel in the tanks, was about 2.5 gallons. Once the wreckage was removed from the accident site, investigators examined the vegetation in and around the main wreckage; no discoloration consistent with fuel spray or leakage was observed. 


A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed at the offices of the District 14 Medical Examiner, Panama City, Florida, on December 20, 2013. The autopsy report noted the cause of death as "Blunt Force Head Trauma" and the manner of death was "Accident." 

Forensic toxicology testing was performed on specimens of the pilot by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicology report indicated no carbon monoxide in the blood, and no ethanol was detected in the vitreous. Cyanide testing was not performed. Dextromethorphan was detected in the blood but not in the urine. Dextromethorphan (Robitussin®, Delsym®, Sucrets®, Bromfed-DM®, Tylenol Cold®, NyQuil®) is an over-the-counter cough suppressant also found in prescription cough medications. It is metabolized into dextrorphan, which also has cough suppressant properties. Ibuprophen was detected in the urine. This medication is an over-the-counter Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID). It is used as an anti-inflammatory medication to treat aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever.


First responders noted that the pilot's lap belt remained attached and he was seated in the left cockpit seat; however, he was slumped forward and to his right. The pilot's shoulder harness was not attached and was undamaged. 


Engine Examination and Test Run 

The engine was examined at the Continental Motors facility at Mobile, Alabama on April 8 and 9, 2014. Due to minimal impact damage, a test run was attempted and the engine was not disassembled. Prior to the test run, the engine oil cooler was removed and replaced due to impact damage. Dried mud was removed from the intake system. The engine contained about 11 quarts of oil. The spark plugs were cleaned of rust due to prolonged storage prior to the test run. The plugs operated normally on a test bench.

After installation in a test cell, the engine started on the first attempt. The engine ran smoothly and without hesitation at an array of throttle settings from idle through full throttle (2,648 RPM observed). All engine parameters were observed to be in the normal operating range. Magneto checks were normal.

Fueling History

According to a flight logbook recovered from the wreckage, the airplane was parked at Tampa International Airport (TPA), Tampa, Florida from November 17-22, 2013. On November 22, 18.2 gallons of 100 octane low lead (100LL) aviation gasoline were purchased at a fixed base operator (FBO) at TPA. This was the last known record of a fuel purchase for N89SN prior to the accident. The airplane arrived at F45 on November 22 following a direct flight from TPA and remained there until the initiation of the accident flight on December 18. According to personnel at F45, no fuel was purchased for the accident airplane between November 22 and December 18. 

According to the flight logbook and the Hobbs meter on the airplane, the airplane departed TPA at 729.9 Hobbs time. The Hobbs time recorded at the accident site was 734.2 hours (4.3 hours elapsed since last fueling). Although the amount of fuel purchased on November 22 was known, the amount of fuel on board the airplane after the last refueling could not be determined.

ATC Transcript of Communications 

According to a transcript of communications provided by Tyndall ATC, the pilot, at 0715:36, stated, "We're losing uh oil here for some reason." A copy of the audio transmission was also provided to investigators. The audio file was then forwarded to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders lab for examination. Their assessment was that the term "oil" referred to by ATC was deemed unintelligible.

 Lt. Col. Larry Eli Caison
CALLAWAY — “Inadequate preflight and inflight fuel planning” have been cited as the cause of a plane crash near the Sandy Creek Airpark that killed an Okaloosa County businessman.

Eli Caison, co-director of Grey Aviation Advisors and Solutions in Shalimar, was killed Dec. 18, 2013, when his plane went down en route from his home in Palm Beach Gardens to Destin Airport.

A National Transportation Safety Board brief published Wednesday found that Caison’s failure to properly gauge the fuel required to reach his destination “resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.”

It also noted Caison was not wearing a shoulder harness when the plane went down, a factor “contributing to the pilot’s injuries.”

The cause of death was listed in the report as “blunt force head trauma.”

Caison, 52, took off from a South Florida airport about 6 a.m. the day of the crash to spend Christmas with his family in Okaloosa County. He was scheduled to land in Destin shortly before 8 a.m.

The NTSB investigation determined he was about 60 miles from Destin Airport when he reported “a total loss of engine power.”

Caison, an experienced pilot qualified to fly single-engine and multi-engine aircraft, attempted an emergency landing at Sandy Creek Airpark in the Allanton area but went down in a heavily wooded swamp about a mile east of there, the report said.

Investigators recovered about 2.5 gallons of fuel in the Beechcraft Bonanza G36, less than the six gallons the plane’s manufacturer considers “unusable.”

“The total fuel onboard … could not be determined,” the report said.

The plane was capable of holding 444 pounds of gasoline, according to the manufacturer. It had been “last serviced with fuel” 28 days before the fatal accident, according to the report.

Caison was a retired Air Force officer who had received a first-class medical designation in March 2013. That allowed him to be certified as a transport plane pilot.

He and partner Kevin Camilli opened Grey Aviation Advisors & Solutions in Shalimar in 2007.

They also were partners in Grey Aviation, a business using former special operations pilots. The company’s work includes “airborne surveillance and special missions,” according to its website.


Larry Eli Caison (1961 - 2013) 


Lt. Col. Larry Eli Caison, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), 52, was killed in an aircraft crash in Bay County near Panama City, Fla., on Dec. 18, 2013. He was born at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to Larry and Lorie Caison on Oct. 30, 1961

 Lt. Col. Caison was flying from West Palm Beach to Destin, Fla., to be with his family for Christmas. En route, the single engine plane he was piloting lost power and crashed one mile short of an emergency landing attempt at Sandy Creek air field. He is preceded in death by his father, Larry Foard Caison, in 2009. He is survived by his mother, Lorie Caison of Destin; his sister, Lisa Branham of Chesapeake, Va.; former wife, Nancy Caison, and their daughter, Loren Caison, and son, Owen Caison of Shalimar, Fla.; his niece, Jessica Bullock of Newport News, Va.; and sons, Keaton Thomasson and Dillon Thomasson of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Lt. Col. Caison is a graduate of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Va., in 1979 and the Virginia Military In-stitute in 1983. Lt. Col. Caison retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2006 after 23 years of service. First he was a navi-gator and then convinced the Air Force to send him to pilot training. He piloted the B-1 bomber for the Strategic Air Command and C-130 Combat Talon for the Special Operations Command. His service included duty at McCord AFB in Tacoma, Wash.; Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan; Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, S.D.; Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and the Pentagon.

Lt. Col. Caison was president of Grey Aviation, a company in Destin that he founded after retiring from the U.S. Air Force. Grey Aviation is a small company that provides airborne surveillance and special mission capability to U.S. and foreign military and other government agencies. He also founded and owned Grey Tactical Outfitters in Destin.

Lt. Col. Caison had many interests. He coached high school wrestling. He kept a healthy regimen of exercise with running and weight lifting the mainstays. He enjoyed riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle, traveling and a good cigar. He was a terrific pilot. Mostly he loved and enjoyed being with his family, who will miss him.

A memorial service will be held at Shalimar United Methodist Church, 1 Old Ferry Road, Shalimar, FL 32579, phone number, 850-651-0721 at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. The Rev. Dr. Larry Bryars will officiate.

In lieu of flowers, please make a gift to Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Road, Suite 300, Jacksonville, FL 32256, phone 877-832 6997.

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Beech P35 Bonanza, N9532Y: Accident occurred March 18, 2014 near Kickapoo Downtown Airport (KCWC), Wichita Falls, Texas

NTSB Identification: CEN14LA165
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 18, 2014 in Wichita Falls, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/15/2014
Aircraft: BEECH P35, registration: N9532Y
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

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

The pilot reported that, while turning from the downwind to the base leg to prepare for a short-field landing on the runway, he reduced the throttle. He then applied throttle to increase the power when the airplane was about 600 feet above ground level; however, the engine did not respond, and the pilot subsequently executed a forced landing to a field. During the landing, both wings sustained substantial damage. 
During an engine test run with the cockpit fuel mixture control in the full-forward position, the engine would lose power when the throttle was advanced past 2,000 rpm. When the cockpit fuel mixture control was pulled out about 1 inch, the engine would develop 2,700 rpm (full power) when the throttle was advanced. The examination of the engine revealed that the lean mixture stop pin in the fuel metering unit was loose and could be removed by hand. Wear was observed on the inside of the fuel mixture actuating arm and on the mixture stop on the rotating shaft. The fuel metering unit’s rich mixture stop pin was missing, which allowed the actuating arm to travel past the full-rich mixture position. A bench test of the fuel mixture control demonstrated that extension past the rich mixture stop pin reduced the fuel flow to the engine. This condition indicates that the airplane’s fuel mixture control was misrigged, which resulted in the rich mixture stop pin dislodging from the fuel metering unit. It could not be determined when the fuel mixture control was misrigged.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The loss of engine power due to the misrigging of the fuel mixture control.

On March 18, 2014, about 1020 central daylight time, a Beech P35 airplane, N5932Y, sustained substantial damage after a loss of engine power while landing at the Kickapoo Downtown Airport (CWC), Wichita Falls, Texas. The pilot received minor injuries and the instructor pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an instructional flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not on a flight plan. The flight originated from CWC about 0930. 

The pilot reported that he had turned from the downwind leg to the base leg and was preparing for a short-field landing on runway 17 (4,450 feet by 75 feet, asphalt). He had reduced the throttle during the turn to base leg, but when he applied throttle to increase the power, the engine did not respond. The airplane's altitude was about 600 feet above ground level, and the pilot executed a forced landing to a field containing mesquite bushes. The airplane sustained leading edge damage to both wings during landing. 

The on-site examination of the airplane by Federal Aviation Administration inspectors revealed that the airplane had 50 gallons of fuel on board. No damage to the engine was observed. The airplane wreckage was transported to an aircraft storage facility for further examination and an engine run.

The Beech P35 Bonanza, serial number D-7017, was manufactured in 1962. The engine was a 260-horsepower Continental IO-470-LCN, manufactured in 1981. The last annual maintenance inspection was conducted on January 1, 2014, with at total aircraft time of 5,896 hours. At the time of the accident, the engine had 4,210 total hours with 326 hours since the last major overhaul. The airplane had flown 21 hours since the annual maintenance inspection. 

On May 28, 2014, an engine run was conducted. The bent propeller was removed from the engine and replaced with a stock propeller. A 5 gallon fuel container was connected to the left side of the fuel selector. No other work was performed and the engine was run on the airframe. The engine was started and allowed to warm up. The throttle was then advanced to 1,700 rpm and a magneto check was performed. Each magneto had a 75 rpm drop during the magneto check. The throttle was then advanced to full throttle with the mixture full rich. When the throttle was advanced over 2,000 rpm, the engine would begin to lose power. 

During the first engine run, an attempt was made to shut down the engine, but the cockpit mixture control was stuck in the full rich position. The actuating arm on the fuel metering unit was over center and had to be moved by hand to the lean position. The rich mixture stop pin on the fuel metering unit was missing, allowing the mixture actuating arm to travel past the full rich mixture position and over center.

The engine was run a second time with the mixture control in the cockpit pulled out about one inch. The throttle was advanced and the engine then ran at 2,700 rpm (full power). The engine was then shut down using the cockpit mixture control. 

The fuel metering unit was removed and examined. The rich mixture stop pin was missing from the fuel metering unit and could not be located. The lean mixture stop pin was loose in the fixture and could be removed by hand. Wear was observed on the inside of the fuel mixture actuating arm and on the mixture stop on the rotating shaft. The fuel screen was clean and clear. The fuel metering unit was sent to Continental Motors, Inc for further testing.

On September 9, 2014, the fuel metering unit was reassembled, examined and tested at Continental Motors, Inc. The examination revealed that the rich mixture stop pin was missing and had signatures of wear in the pin socket. The fuel metering unit was flow tested and it functioned properly through its full range of operation, although some leakage was observed. Upon completion of the production test, the mixture control was extended past the stop pin limits in one-half stop pin diameter increments. The first extension reduced fuel flow from 124.9 pounds per hour (pph) to 113.4 pph. The next extension reduced flow from 133.9 to 88.9 pph. The amount of over extension the aircraft mixture control cable produced is unknown. The test demonstrated that the extension past the rich mixture stop pin reduced the fuel flow to the engine.

The National Transportation Safety Board provides the suspected cause of an emergency landing and crash near Kickapoo Airport last March.

A single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza was about to land when it lost power during the approach.

The student pilot had to make an emergency landing in a field, and the plane skidded about 80 yards before coming to a stop.

No injuries were reported.

Although the plane suffered substantial damage, no fire broke out. 

The instructor pilot said the student handled the power outage very well.

According to the NTSB brief, the plane was at about 600 feet in the air when the pilot applied throttle to increase power, and it did not respond.

The investigation revealed the fuel mixture control had been misrigged.

Investigators say it could not be determined when it happened.


EDITORIAL: Time to resolve airport dispute • Ontario International Airport ( KONT), California

A rational, adult resolution to the conflict over the Ontario International Airport can’t come soon enough. The bitter back-and-forth over ownership of the airport has been marred by petty insults, a lawsuit and political posturing.

The airport has been owned by the city of Los Angeles since 1985 and is operated by Los Angeles World Airports. LAWA, a department of the city of Los Angeles, also operates Los Angeles International and the Van Nuys airport. Officials in Ontario have accused LAWA of putting too little effort into managing ONT in order to drive greater utilization of LAX.

A report presented this week by Al Boling, interim executive director of Ontario International Airport Authority, found that the decline in air service at ONT has cost the regional economy $2.6 billion since 2010. Though airport passenger counts rose 4.1 percent in 2014 over the previous year, passenger counts are down more than 40 percent since 2007.

Meanwhile, Superior Court Judge Gloria Connor Trask is expected to issue a ruling on the pending lawsuit filed by the city of Ontario. The city is attempting to terminate the existing joint-powers agreement over the airport on the grounds that Los Angeles hasn’t put in enough effort to sustain traffic at ONT.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013, which followed a few years of on-and-off efforts by the city to negotiate with Los Angeles over a potential purchase of the airport.

Ontario officials believe they can do a better job of managing the airport. The Press-Enterprise has noted that city officials “believe that with local control, they can begin to revive the airport through cost-cutting, airline incentives, better marketing and other measures.”

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has repeatedly indicated his support for negotiating a resolution to the issue.

“We understand LAX is critical, but we’re also looking creatively to our friends in the Inland Empire and the eastern part of Los Angeles County to see what we can do to transfer Ontario to local ownership,” Mr. Garcetti said last September at a southern California infrastructure conference.

While such statements have suggested that a rational resolution to the conflict is possible, that potential has failed to be realized.

LAWA officials, for their part, haven’t helped move things along. LAWA executive director Gina Marie Lindsey has reportedly described suggestions to share air traffic with regional airports as a “silly waste of time” and “a politically driven mantra to appease LAX neighbors.”

LAWA executive Stephen Martin, for his part, disparaged the Inland Empire as “inbred.”

Both cities ought to come to the negotiating table and resolve this issue. It is likely that the city of Ontario could better manage and promote an airport in their community, as they have far more incentive to do so than the city of Los Angeles.


Lancair 320, N7ZL: Fatal accident occurred January 09, 2015 near Van Nuys Airport (KVNY), California

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -   National Transportation Safety Board:

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Van Nuys, California 

Lycoming Engines; Agoura Hills, California

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA081
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, January 09, 2015 in Van Nuys, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/04/2017
Aircraft: GIBBS LANCAIR 320, registration: N7ZL
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.

The commercial pilot was taking off for a personal, cross-country flight. Several witnesses reported that, shortly after takeoff, when the airplane was about 400 ft above the ground, they heard the engine "pop" at least twice, sputter, and then go silent, consistent with a loss of engine power. About this time, the pilot reported to the tower controller very quickly but not very clearly that "I have an engine failure I think." The tower controller subsequently issued the pilot the current altimeter setting and attempted to contact the pilot but did not receive any further radio transmissions. The airplane continued straight, turned right, and then spun to the ground. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The airplane was last refueled before its previous flight in Flagstaff, Arizona, 4 days before the accident; the airplane was then flown from Flagstaff to the Van Nuys Airport, Van Nuys, California. Although a narrow stream of what smelled like gasoline and engine oil was found near the wreckage, there was no fuel remaining in the fuel tanks.

The airplane was equipped with an electronic flight instrument system (EFIS), which has a low fuel alert that is set by the pilot or a mechanic. When fuel decreases to the specified amount, an alert pops up front and center on the EFIS, and it will not disappear until the pilot acknowledges it. Given that the pilot mostly conducted his own maintenance, it is highly likely he was familiar with the EFIS and knew that the airplane was low on fuel and how much fuel remained but decided to take off anyway. As a result of his decision, the engine lost engine power shortly after takeoff due to fuel exhaustion at too low of an altitude for the pilot to recover from the stall and subsequent spin.

A friend of the pilot reported that the pilot texted him about 1249 when he arrived at the airport. He said that the pilot normally arrived about 1230. The pilot seemed to be in a rush that day because he was supposed to fly home the day before, and apparently he and his wife had argued about the issue. In addition, the pilot's friend noted that the pilot had recently become more conscious about where he bought fuel. Based on the directions the pilot received from the air traffic controller to stay below 2,000 ft if flying to Burbank, the friend believes it is likely the pilot was attempting to fly to Whiteman Airport about 5 nautical miles away that had cheaper fuel before continuing to his destination. 

According to the air traffic control recordings, the pilot first contacted the ground and tower controllers about 1308, and he was cleared for takeoff at 1311. Just before takeoff, the pilot's work e-mail documented nine messages, three of which were sent by the pilot, the last of which was sent at 1311. In the emails, the pilot indicated confusion about an issue, which may have been a further distraction to him. The evidence indicates that the pilot was rushed and sending e-mails, which likely distracted him during the taxi and takeoff and decreased his vigilance about the airplane's fuel status.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's improper decision to take off despite low fuel alerts, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion, his subsequent failure to maintain adequate airspeed and his exceedance of the airplane's critical angle of attack, which led to an aerodynamic stall and loss of control at too low of an altitude to recover. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's distraction due to his sending e-mails and being rushed during taxi and takeoff, which resulted in reduced vigilance about the airplane's fuel status.


On January 9, 2015, about 1313 Pacific standard time, a Lancair 320, N7ZL, impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from Van Nuys Airport (VNY), Van Nuys, California. The commercial pilot (sole occupant) sustained fatal injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and was being operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no flight plan was filed. The flight was destined for Scottsdale Airport (SDL), Scottsdale, Arizona. 

The pilot contacted VNY ground control about 1308 and requested to taxi from the northwest side of the airport to runway 16R. Ground control cleared him to taxi to runway 16R via taxiways A and C. The pilot then contacted the control tower and requested to take off from runway 16R. The tower controller informed him to stand by for traffic. About 1311, the tower controller informed the pilot of traffic in the area and directed him to fly straight ahead to highway 101 and to stay below 2,000 ft if flying to Burbank; he then cleared the flight for takeoff. 

About 1313, the pilot reported very quickly but not very clearly that "I have an engine failure I think, N7ZL." The tower controller issued the pilot the current altimeter setting and attempted to contact the pilot but did not receive any further radio transmissions. The airport's crash response team was immediately alerted. 

Several witnesses reported that, shortly after takeoff, when the airplane was about 400 ft above the ground, they heard the engine "pop" at least twice, sputter, and then go silent. The airplane continued straight then turned right. Some witnesses mentioned that the airplane appeared to be very slow when the right wing and nose dropped. The airplane started to spin and impacted a nearby street in a nose-low attitude. 


The pilot, age 47, held an air transport pilot certificate for airplane multiengine land and helicopters issued on November 18, 2011, and a commercial pilot certificate for single-engine land. The pilot also held an instrument rating and a flight instructor certificate for airplane single- and multi-engine land, helicopter, and instrument. In addition, the pilot held an airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate issued on February 1, 2012. The pilot's first-class medical certificate was issued on December 4, 2014, with the limitation that he must have available glasses for near vision. During his most recent medical examination, the pilot reported 2,349 total flight hours, 150 hours of which were in the previous 6 months. 


The four-seat, low-wing, tricycle-gear airplane, serial number 137, was manufactured in October 1996. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-0320 BIA 160-horsepower engine and equipped with a Hartzell Propeller Inc., model AC-F24L-1BF controllable-pitch propeller. The maintenance logbooks were not located for examination. The tachometer and the Hobbs meter were electronic, and damage precluded determining the current readings. 

The airplane's last known refueling occurred on January 5, 2015, at the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) Flagstaff, Arizona, when 28.2 gallons of fuel was added. The airplane was fueled during the airplane's last known flight before the accident flight, during which the pilot took off from SDL and stopped at FLG for fuel before finishing the flight at VNY. The total amount of fuel on board the airplane at the time of the accident was not determined.

Electronic Flight Instrumentation System

The airplane was equipped with a GRT Avionics Horizon HX electronic flight instrument system (EFIS), which is a panel-mounted display that consolidates multiple instruments into a compact view to aid in pilot situational awareness. The Horizon HX EFIS has a flight data recording function that needs to be enabled, and a USB drive must be inserted into the EFIS for the data to record. The multifunctional display was shipped to the National Transportation Safety Board recorders laboratory for examination. The device powered on normally, and the data recording feature setting was determined to be inactive. Therefore, the device contained no pertinent information related to the accident.The Horizon HX EFIS has a low fuel alert, which is programmed by the pilot and/or mechanic to notify the pilot when the fuel reaches a specified level. This notification pops up front and center on any screen, and it does not leave the screen until the pilot acknowledges it. 


At 1251, the VNY weather reporting station reported wind from 090 at 5 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 21° C, dew point 04° C, and an altimeter setting of 29.97.


VNY is located 3 miles northwest of Van Nuys, California, at an elevation of 802 ft. The airport has two hard-surfaced runways, 16R and 34L magnetic, and 16L and 34R magnetic. Runway 16R/34L is 8,001 ft long and 150 ft wide.


The airplane came to rest at one corner of two intersecting streets. Telephone and power lines crossed all four corners of the intersection, and diagonally crossed two corners of the intersection. None of the wires appeared to be damaged, and no striations were observed on the airplane. The airplane was oriented to the southeast. The first identified point of contact was an impact crater in the street asphalt. The engine cowling and white paint transfer marks, which were almost parallel to the final orientation of the wings and were the approximate length of the wings, were found adjacent to the impact crater. The main wreckage was about 34 ft east of the impact crater; the area between the impact crater and main wreckage was covered with a sticky, dark-colored fluid. The cockpit area was destroyed, and the seats were fully exposed; the seats belts were not latched. The throttle and mixture controls were full in. 

Both wings remained attached to the fuselage; the right wing leading edge was split open the entire length, and the inboard two-thirds of the left-wing was split. The paint on both leading edges was chipped. The fuel caps for both wings and the header tank were in position and secure. Both wing tanks and the header tank on the fuselage had been breached; there was no fuel remaining in the fuel tanks, however, there was a narrow stream of what smelled like gasoline and engine oil in the gutter. 

The tail section was fractured and separated circumferentially just forward of the vertical stabilizer and horizontal stabilizer. The rudder remained attached at all hinges, and the elevators remained attached at all hinges.


The County of Los Angeles Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, Los Angeles, California, conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was reported as "multiple blunt traumatic injuries."

The Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot; 0.388 (ug/ml, ug/g) of doxylamine was detected in the pilot's blood. Doxylamine is a sedating antihistamine available in a number of over-the-counter cold and allergy products. It is also the active ingredient in a few over-the-counter sleep aids. The usual therapeutic window is considered between 0.050 and 0.150 ug/ml. However, doxylamine undergoes significant postmortem redistribution; postmortem levels in central blood may be three times higher than peripheral blood. Tolerance to the effects of doxylamine is less likely to develop than for some of the other sedating antihistamines; therefore, the use of this drug causes some degree of psychomotor slowing.


Airframe Examination

The cabin area was heavily fragmented; however, the instrument panel remained relatively whole and was still connected to the firewall. Flight control continuity was established from the cabin flight controls to their respective flight control surfaces. 

The fuel system was traced from the wing fuel tanks to the center forward cabin where it was fracture-separated and fragmented. The remaining parts of the fuel system were heavily fragmented. The fuel selector plate and two arms that appeared to be a part of the fuel selector were found loose within the cabin area. One fuel selector body was found; it contained one open end with what appeared to be a one-way check valve and one fractured rod end. 

Engine Examination

There was no evidence of catastrophic malfunction or preimpact fire. The crankcase's nose section sustained heavy impact damage. Due to the damage to the crankcase, the crankshaft would not rotate by hand. Holes were drilled into the case; the inside of the case was examined with a borescope, and there was no evidence of internal mechanical malfunction. 

The induction system sustained heavy crush damage. The fuel injection servo sustained heavy crush damage and was fragmented; however, the throttle and mixture controls were still secured to their respective control arms. The fuel pump was found displaced from its mounting pad; it was disassembled, and there was no evidence of flow obstruction or internal mechanical malfunction. The fuel flow divider remained secured at its mounting pad with the fuel lines secured at their respective fittings. The left magneto was rotated by hand, and it produced sparks at all four posts; the right magneto was an electronic ignition system and could not be tested. The ignition harness was destroyed; the spark plugs were removed, and they exhibited wear patterns consistent with normal operation. 


Pilot's Friend Statement

A friend of the pilot reported that the pilot would often text him when he arrived at the airport about 1230. On the day of the accident, he received a text from the pilot about 1249. He said that he seemed like he was in a hurry that day because he was supposed to have returned to SDL the day before. He later found out that the pilot and his wife had argued about it.

The friend stated that the pilot conducted most of his own maintenance. He also mentioned that the pilot had recently become conscious about where he purchased fuel. Based on the VNY tower controller's direction for the pilot to stay below 2,000 ft if flying Burbank after takeoff, he believes the pilot was flying to Whiteman Airport (WHP), which is 5 nautical miles away from VNY and is notorious for having cheaper fuel than VNY. In order to fly from VNY to WHP, one must contact Burbank air traffic control. 

E-mail Traffic

Between the time the pilot arrived at the airport and the time of the takeoff (between 1249 and 1311), the pilot's work e-mail documented nine messages, three of which were sent by the pilot. In the messages sent just prior to takeoff, the pilot mentioned that he was very confused about the discussion.

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA081
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, January 09, 2015 in Van Nuys, CA
Aircraft: GIBBS LANCAIR 320, registration: N7ZL
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 January 9, 2015, about 1300 Pacific standard time, a Lancair 320, N7ZL, impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from Van Nuys Airport (VNY), Van Nuys, California. The commercial pilot (sole occupant) was fatally injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage throughout. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight and no flight plan was filed. The flight was destined for Scottsdale Airport (SDL), Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Witnesses reported that shortly after takeoff they heard the airplane's engine start to sputter and quit. They observed the airplane make a right turn; it started to shake before it nosed over and descended into an intersection below. The airplane impacted the ground hard and bounced backward about 15 feet, coming to rest upright. 

The airplane has been recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Dr. Alberto Behar.

Albert Enrique Behar dedicated his career to the idea that there was no place too hot, too cold or too remote for science. 

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Arizona State University, he developed robotic instruments that investigated Antarctic lakes, the deep ocean and volcanoes and helped determine there was once water on the surface of Mars.

“Not just going there and visiting and coming back and saying, ‘I did it,’” said ASU colleague Jim Bell. “But going there and trying to do groundbreaking scientific discovery.”

Behar, 47, died Friday when the small plane he was flying crashed shortly after takeoff from Van Nuys Airport.  The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what led the single-engine Lancair to lose altitude and slam into a busy intersection near the airport.

Behar was an experienced pilot and instructor for airplanes and helicopters, and the weather was clear.

“I can’t see what would be the cause of something like this,” said Van Nuys pilot Kashif Khursheed. “He was very knowledgeable, competent and thorough.”

Behar had survived plane trouble in the past. In 2011, an aircraft carrying Behar and flown by Khursheed developed engine trouble and made an emergency landing on a Santa Clarita roadway. No one was hurt.

“He was very good in that crash,” Khursheed recalled. “He kept quiet when he was supposed to be quiet. I was actually quite impressed.”

A native of Miami, Behar earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from USC. In a 2009 interview posted on JPL’s website, Behar said he was attracted to robotics because it required skill in multiple fields.

He worked at JPL in La CaƱada Flintridge for 23 years and also held a research professor post at ASU, where he directed the Extreme Environments Robotics and Instrumentation Laboratory. Colleagues said his death was a profound loss for science. He was valued for bridging the divide between scientists trying to study an inhospitable environment and engineers whose robots could survive there.

“From his submarines that peeked under Antarctica to his boats that raced Greenland's rivers, Alberto's work enabled measurements of things we'd never known,” NASA scientist Thomas Wagner said in a statement. “His creativity knew few bounds. He is, and will forever be, sorely missed.”

As part of the NASA team exploring Mars with the Curiosity rover, Behar was responsible for a device that detected hydrogen on the planet’s surface as the rover moved.

Bell, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said the instrument contributed to the team’s conclusion there had been water on Mars.

Two years ago, Behar took a robot he and his ASU students had developed to one of the most remote parts of Antarctica to probe a sub-glacial lake.

Not all of his solutions were high tech. In a climate change study in 2008, he used rubber ducks to track the flow of melting glaciers in Greenland.

Behar is survived by his wife and three children.


Alberto Behar

A small plane that had just taken off from Van Nuys Airport crashed onto a busy Lake Balboa intersection Friday afternoon, killing the pilot, a longtime Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist.

The crash occurred at 1:15 p.m. at the southwest corner of Hayvenhurst Avenue and Vanowen Street, said Sgt. Barry Montgomery of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Alberto Enrique Behar, 47, of Scottdale, Arizona, died at the scene of the crash, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. R. Hays said. Behar was the only person on board the aircraft.

According to his online resume on, Behar had worked as an investigation scientist at JPL in Pasadena since 1991, where he worked on robotics systems for planetary exploration.

His resume also described him as a test and ferry helicopter pilot for Lang Aircraft Services, a faculty member at the International Space University and an instrumentation engineer for the George One Crew Recovery Foundation.

Behar received a patent in 2011 for a robotic system he designed to operate in zero-gravity, according to the online profile. He earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Southern California in 1998.

Behar has also worked as a faculty member at Arizona State University’s School of Earth & Space Exploration, according to the college’s website.

“It’s amazing no one on the ground was injured,” Montgomery said. “It’s a Friday afternoon and there were lots of people on the street. I can only say, someone was looking out for them.”

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration were on the scene by midafternoon, and a team from the National Transportation Safety Board was en route, he said.

Bogart Monroy, who paints airplanes and other equipment at the airport, said the pilot had just taken off. Monroy, who said he knew the pilot for ten years, only by his first name, Alberto, had a wife and three children.

“It’s a sad day for us at the airport,” Monroy said. “There are already a lot of people in mourning at the airport.”

According to an FAA aircraft registry, registration on the experimental, amateur-built Lancair 320 was pending. The airplane’s current status was listed as “in question,” and no information regarding the aircraft’s certification date was available. The year of the plane’s manufacture was also unavailable. The last listed airworthiness certification listed in the database was in October 1996.

The plane’s ownership was listed as “registration pending,” but Alberto Behar Consulting LLC of Scottsdale, Ariz., was listed under “other owner names.”

The nose of the white-and-red, single-engine plane, its engine and cockpit were demolished.

The wings, part of the fuselage and the tail remained intact.

Video from a security camera at LA Auto Connection showed that the plane appeared to come straight down out of the sky, impacting near the sidewalk in front of the business on the west side of Hayvenhurst at Vanowen, with the tail section sliding a few feet around the corner onto Vanowen.

Farzan Amiri, project manager at, a company that provides office computing services to LA Auto Connection and other firms, said that from watching the security video, it appears the plane might have come apart in the air.

“It’s sad, very sad,” he said. “It’s just excruciating to see this. The moment of someone’s death — it’s not fun to watch.”

“We heard a big impact,” said Pat Gallegos, 26, sales manager at LA Auto Connection. “This corner is known for traffic accidents, but this sounded like a tractor trailer. The impact was so loud and hard that it rattled the place.

“We came out and didn’t see any cars and then I saw the plane engulfed in flames. We got a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, but by then it was too late” to help anybody, said Gallegos, 26, of Downey.

“There is not much left of the plane. The cockpit was totally demolished and it was obvious the pilot died on impact.”

Gallegos said that a woman in a gray car was making a left turn when the plane crashed, narrowly missing her car. The woman got out of the car, became upset and left the scene, Gallegos said.

The whole front end of the plane lay in pieces on the street. The tail section was resting on the street with the front end up against the curb in a pile of debris.

Operations at Van Nuys Airport were not affected.

The runway at Van Nuys Airport was inspected following the crash and is operational, according to spokeswoman Mary Grady.

The intersection where the plane went down was closed, according to reports from the scene, and Metro reported buses on Line 165 were being detoured from Vanowen Street to Victory Boulevard between Woodley Avenue and Balboa Boulevard.



Alberto Behar

A small plane crashed in an intersection after departing Van Nuys Airport Friday afternoon, killing the aircraft’s pilot. 

The plane went down at Hayvenhurst Avenue and Vanowen Street, just south of the small airport in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.

The Los Angeles Fire Department was called to the scene at 1:14 p.m., and the one occupant on board was determined to be dead, according to the department’s Erik Scott.

The pilot was identified as 47-year-old Alberto Enrique Behar of Scottsdale, Arizona, Lt. R. Hays with Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said.

Behar was a professor at Arizona State University as well as a member of the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, according to his online biography.

The plan did not collide with any vehicles, structures or people on the ground, authorities said.

“It could have been a lot worse,” police Sgt. Barry Montgomery said. “The citizens in this area really were fortunate that it wasn’t a more tragic incident.”

The fixed-wing aircraft was down in the middle of the intersection, and firefighters appeared to have placed a sheet over a body, aerial video from Sky5 showed. The aircraft’s cockpit was destroyed.

Witness Cheryl Dickerson said she saw the plane but heard no engine noise and then there was a “loud crash” and she saw the plane “just break apart.” She said it looked like the plane tried to avoid people on the street.

“There were people up and down the street. Everybody was screaming and running over there to see if we could help,” Dickerson said. “But by the time we got there, there was nothing anybody could do. … I am in shock — to see something like that so close and not to be able to help.”

The plane’s tail number indicated it was an experimental, amateur-built, single-engine, fixed-wing Lancair 320.

The plane’s registration was listed as “pending” in Federal Aviation Administration records, and it was linked to an address in Scottsdale.

In response to an email inquiry, a spokesman for the FAA said only that the Lancair had crashed under “unknown circumstances” after departing from Van Nuys Airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board was the lead in an investigation into the crash, Scott said in emailed update.

The Fire Department was working with the airport and police to determine what led to the crash, Scott told KTLA.

The intersection of two major thoroughfares was shut down and traffic was being rerouted by police, who urged drivers to avoid the area.

Runways at Van Nuys Airport were inspected after the crash, and the airport’s Twitter account stated that the facility was operational.


Photo by Mike Meadows/Los Angeles Daily News