Sunday, February 1, 2015

Engine fault that stranded Thomson tourists found in eight other planes: A problem in a Boeing 787 engine worried the regulator

A technical failure on a Thomson Airways Boeing 787 that left British holidaymakers stranded in Mexico has been found in eight other engines manufactured by the US conglomerate General Electric.

The problem, which involved the fuel nozzles moving out of alignment, occurred on the ground in Cancun in August.

As a result of the fault the engine would not start as the plane was due to take off, delaying a Thomson flight to Glasgow by a day. Thomson had to find accommodation and provide meals for the tourists before they could return them home, as well as issue an embarrassing apology.

Executives at the Civil Aviation Authority, which is the British regulator, were concerned that this was an “unusual incident”, and questioned whether engine manufacturers were managing their risks properly.

GE undertook an investigation and recently told the CAA that there had been eight similar issues in other engines worldwide. None of these involved British airlines, but the US giant had to make technical changes to ensure that other engines did not suffer such technical difficulties.

The problem also came at a bad time for Thomson, as it occurred only weeks after a flight from the Dominican Republic to Manchester had to make an emergency landing at a military airport in the middle of the Atlantic.

This was a more serious issue, as the plane’s right engine had to be shut down mid-flight. At one stage, the aircraft dropped by 500ft a minute so that the captain could fly at a safer, lower altitude before reaching the Azores, and 288 passengers were ultimately delayed by more than 11 hours.

A GE Aviation spokesman said of the Cancun incident: “GE has moved aggressively to determine the cause. GE and Boeing have developed an engine control software modification that will sharply reduce potential acoustic resonance (vibration) within the combustor that could lead to the alignment shift. The new software modifies the engine’s fuel flow characteristics to reduce the acoustic resonance level. The inspection program has been highly successful … . The company does not believe this is a safety or air worthiness issue for airline operators.”

A spokesman for the CAA said that GE and Thomson had “identified the cause and addressed the issue”.


Pilot and Dispatcher Asks National Transportation Safety Board to Reopen Investigation of Buddy Holly Plane Crash

LUBBOCK, TX AND STORM LAKE, IA -- A New England man, L.J. Coon, has asked the National Transportation Safety Board to reexamine the deadly plane crash that killed Buddy Holly of Lubbock along with J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson, Ritchie Valens and the pilot, Roger Peterson. According to the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Coon is a pilot and an aircraft dispatcher. He contacted the NTSB to request the February 3, 1959 crash be reexamined. 

Coon said there is no mention of the fuel gages in the original accident report. He also said the plane’s center of gravity would be compromised with too much weight loaded on the rear of the plane. 

In an email to on Sunday, Coon said at a minimum the 1947 Bonanza 35 was 100 pounds outside the center of gravity and that's if the passengers had their luggage in their laps. 

Coon said in his email, “Attempting to load the 60 pounds of luggage into the Bonanza's [rear] compartment would prove interesting, especially if this luggage was allowed to move further to the rear away from directly behind the rear seating.”

While the fuel gauge was not described by the original Civil Aeronautics Board report, the fuel pressure gauge did show normal pressure. The investigation showed the engine was turning at 2,200 rpm at the time of the crash. 

Coon disputed the idea that Peterson was flying in white-out conditions. He said the visibility was still 6 miles at the Mason City airport and therefore, he disagreed that Peterson is to blame for flying in conditions that were beyond his experience. 

The original report said, “It is believed that shortly after takeoff pilot Peterson entered an area of complete darkness and one in which there was no definite horizon.”

Coon also pointed out that the front passenger seat included a pair of rudder pedals. If Holly had placed pressure on one of the pedals – accidentally, intentionally, or for whatever reason – Coon said it would have made control of the airplane more difficult. 

Will the NTSB reopen the case? Within the last week, the NTSB gave Coon instructions on what needed to be submitted for consideration and Coon is in the process of trying to follow those instructions to the satisfaction of the NTSB. 

Story and photo:

Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, N3794N, Dwyer Flying Service

Wrestlers recall plane crash off Tampa that changed their careers

Buddy Colt poses for a photograph along with one of his championship wrestling belts at his home in Tampa. CHRIS URSO/STAFF

TAMPA — Dennis McCord remembers minute details of the plane crash.

The time was 1 a.m. Safety was a 300-yard swim away. The light they stroked toward hung from the back porch of a home owned by Emelia Martinez.

But today, 40 years later, McCord’s strongest memory from that February morning was the silence of the Cessna 182 cabin as he and the three other men on board realized they were lost in a blur of rain and clouds off the shore of Davis Islands.

The four were professional wrestlers. Silence was not in their nature. They knew something bad was about to happen.

“The silence was eerie. Then we heard a loud boom,” said McCord, 65, of Greeneville, S.C., a graduate of Robinson High School who was known in professional wrestling as “Austin Idol. “The next thing I remember are the white caps.”

McCord was the first to free himself from the plane and swim to the surface, he said.

Gary Williams, known as wrestling manager Gary Hart, was next.

Then came Ronald Reed, aka Buddy Colt, who was piloting the plane.

Robert Schoenberger, the wrestler Bobby Shane, never made it out of the plane. He drowned in his seat at age 29.

The accident happened during a time when Tampa had no professional football, hockey or baseball.

Professional wrestling, operating then under the guise of legitimate competition, was the city’s top attraction. The performers were Tampa’s most famous residents.

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The four in the crash were considered “bad guys” in the industry, willing to cheat and maim to win.

In a testament to how convincing they were, some people in Tampa actually cheered the news of the crash, said Bruce Mitchell, a professional wrestling historian and columnist with Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter.

Schoenberger was a rising star in the ring and was considered a future creative force for the industry.

When wrestling fans today hear the nickname “The King,” Mitchell said, they think of WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler of Memphis. But the crown gimmick was created by Schoenberger.

The crash Feb. 20, 1975, was a turning point in the lives of the victims.

McCord was able to continue his career, despite a crushed foot.

Williams, who died in 2008 at 66, is remembered as a manager but also had performed as a wrestler on occasion. Not after the crash, though. He suffered lingering pain from a broken wrist and injured back.

Reed, Florida’s first top villain, the man the fans paid top dollar to see as he got his comeuppance, never wrestled again. He snapped both ankles in the crash. His feet dangled to the side as he swam.

“It changed my life,” said Reed, 79, who still lives in Tampa. “But it’s not something that I constantly think about.”

McCord agreed.

“You can’t live in the rearview mirror. Every morning you have to move on to that day.”

Reed and McCord rarely communicated in the decades after the accident and have not spoken at all in years.

“We never really knew each other,” McCord said. “We had just met maybe a few weeks before the crash.”

Still, they acknowledge they are forever linked by that day.

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Reed was discovered by a professional wrestling promoter in Houston while training for a power lifting competition.

He was a natural with his immense physique, Marine toughness and background in amateur wrestling and martial arts.

Less than a year later, he was headlining a show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden against “Killer” Kowalski, real name Edward Spulnik — one of the industry’s biggest stars at the time.

Professional wrestling was different then. The big name today, WWE, did not dominate the landscape.

Instead, each area of the country had its own local promotions and champion that came under the umbrella of networks such as the National Wrestling Alliance, the American Wrestling Alliance or the World Wide Wrestling Federation, which later became the WWE.

The regional stars would travel the country to build their national fame in hopes of garnering enough fame to earn one of the major promotions’ world titles and the money that came with it.

That’s where Reed was headed, he said, when the plane crash dashed his ascent.

“I was promised a world title run with the NWA,” he said.

Reed wrestled many of the greats of the era, including Lou Thesz and “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers.

He won eight different titles along the way, including the North American Heavyweight Championship.

And he was one of the era’s most hated wrestlers.

Bleach-blonde baddy Reed was infamous for jabbing his thumb into his opponents’ neck to cut off their breathing.

Fans didn’t just want to boo him, they wanted a hand in ending his career.

One time, after he bloodied beloved Danny Hodge, more than two dozen fans rushed the ring to get at him.

“I started slinging a chain around to protect myself,” he said. “It was intense.”

Then there was the time a fan fired a gun at him. The bullet missed but skimmed the neck of another fan.

“He seemed very real,” historian Mitchell said. “He gave great tough guy interviews that gave the impression he would have torn your head off if he wanted to. And he had that type of style in the ring. He was real good.”

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In 1972, Reed competed in Championship Wrestling from Florida, headquartered at Tampa’s Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, wrestling’s Madison Square Garden of the South.

In 1973, he won the Florida heavyweight title and held it through 1974.

McCord began wrestling in Tampa a year later.

He grew up in Tampa but had no interest in wrestling until he heard how much the performers earned.

He was a close friend of the late Mike Gossett, better known as professional wrestler Mike Graham and son of Eddie “Graham” Gossett, head promoter for Championship Wrestling from Florida.

While hanging at the Gossett home, McCord overheard the father on the phone making a $1,000 deal for a wrestler. He decided he wanted paydays like that.

McCord was trained by Tampa professional wrestling legends: Jack Brisco, the wrestling name of Fred Brisco; Yasuhiro Kojima otherwise known as Hiro Matsuda and Bob Roop, who used his real name in the ring

Eleven months after getting started, in 1972, McCord found steady wrestling work in Nashville performing as tough muscle man “Iron Mike” McCord, Mike being his real middle name.

His first paycheck was $160 for six days of work per week

“I thought, ‘Where is my $1,000?’” he said. “I was starving.”

But he made the big bucks soon enough.

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Like Reed, McCord was a natural. He was a three-sport athlete at Robinson — baseball, football and basketball — and competed in power lifting after graduation.

He left Nashville and worked in Carolina and Australia, then spent a year with the WWWF in New York and returned to Tampa.

Just before McCord came back, Reed received his pilot’s license and bought a plane.

That was normal for successful wrestlers at that time, Reed said.

Tampa was the heart of Florida wrestling but performers had gigs in cities up and down the state and across the Southeast.

A plane allowed them to make it to more shows and earn more wages and make it home each night, saving money on hotels.

A plane paid for itself in the long haul, especially if others flew along and kicked in gas money. That was the deal on the day of the crash.

The wrestlers enjoyed a smooth flight to Miami, performed there, then boarded the plane for the trip back to Tampa.

The weather forecast, according to archived reports of the incident, was clear in Tampa until 4 a.m.

The sky in Miami was full of stars at takeoff, McCord recalled.

But when they neared Sarasota, they learned Tampa International Airport was closed to traffic due to a storm.

Pilot Reed said he wanted to land in Sarasota to wait out the bad weather but was instead rerouted to the small Peter O’Knight airport near the tip of Davis Islands.

Reed figured that meant storm had missed that area. By the time they reached Tampa, and learned otherwise, it was too late to turn back.

“It was raining like hell,” Reed said. “I banked into a cloud and couldn’t see. When that happens, you get vertigo. You can’t tell up from down or left from right. I was trying to find the landing mark and then bang.”

They were engulfed in darkness in wintery cold water.

If not for that back porch light, Reed said, they would not have known which way to swim.

“You don’t think about your pain or how hard it is to swim,” he said. “You think about surviving. And three of us did.”

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Once they made it to shore, Reed and McCord hoisted Williams onto the dock of the home.

The residents called police and helped the injured wrestlers to safety.

“It was a shocker. Huge names in the wrestling business had gone down in a plane crash,” said local radio personality Tedd Webb, who was a friend of the performers. “I hung out with McCord and Gary a lot during those dark days. They fought hard as hell to come back.”

Williams kept the “Gary Hart” stage name and spent most of his career in Texas after that.

McCord reinvented himself as “Austin Idol” — a flamboyant man who dubbed himself the “universal heartthrob” and spent most of his time in Memphis.

“What an amazing talent,” historian Mitchell said. “Before Hulkamania, there was Idolmania in Memphis”

Reed remained in the industry for a few years, as a wrestling manager and commentator in Florida, but it wasn’t the same.

“It was like going from being a brain surgeon to a hospital orderly,” he said. “I wanted to be in the ring.”

He went into hardware supply sales and found that his wrestling fame helped business.

“People knew me so were willing to listen to me,” he said.

As for flying, he took to the air as soon as he was medically cleared.

“I’ve never been nervous about crashing again,” Reed said. “It was an accident. A tragic one, but still an accident.”

Story, photo gallery and comments:

NTSB Identification: MIA75AM061

14 CFR Part 91 General Aviation
Aircraft: CESSNA 182J, registration: N456BC
 FILE    DATE          LOCATION          AIRCRAFT DATA       INJURIES       FLIGHT                        PILOT DATA
                                                               F  S M/N     PURPOSE
3-0770  75/2/20    TAMPA,FL            CESSNA 182J         CR-  0  1  0  NONCOMMERCIAL             PRIVATE, AGE 39, 105
        TIME - 0120                    N456BC              PX-  1  2  0  BUSINESS                  TOTAL HOURS, 55 IN TYPE,
                                       DAMAGE-DESTROYED    OT-  0  0  0                            NOT INSTRUMENT RATED.
          MIAMI,FL                    TAMPA,FL
        TYPE OF ACCIDENT                                         PHASE OF OPERATION

You're Fired! Airport Staff Booted After Russians Push Plane Down Runway


Several employees at a Western Siberian airport have been fired following an incident that saw passengers being asked to push their own plane down a runway in temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius — presumably to discourage staff from pulling a similar stunt.

More than 70 people aboard a regionally operated flight to Krasnodar from Igarka — a town in Russia's Krasnoyarsk region more than 100 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle — were asked to disembark in order to help prepare the plane for takeoff in November last year.

Word of the incident quickly made the rounds in the international media, with footage of the passengers pushing the plane in icy conditions gathering hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

Neither the airport's air safety inspector, the ground technician, nor the on-duty traffic controller raised any objections to the passengers pushing the plane, despite the fact that this contravened air safety laws, the Interfax news agency cited Oksana Gorbunova, an assistant to the Western Siberian prosecutor, as saying Friday.

As a result all three employees involved in the incident have lost their jobs, Gorbunova said, adding that both the airport itself and the air steward on duty at the time will face disciplinary action.

The aviation safety inspector and the steward have also been fined 1,500 rubles ($21) for violating air safety requirements, Gorbunova was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Despite the drama, the plane involved in the incident eventually took off without any problems and arrived at its destination in Krasnodar two hours later, having incurred only a slight delay.

Story and photo:

In Sweden, Remote-Control Airport Is A Reality

 As our plane touches down in Sundsvall, Sweden, the horizon is all snow and ice. A small air traffic control tower sticks out above the white horizon.

But this airport actually has two air traffic control centers. The second one is just a short walk from the airport runway.

Inside a ground-floor, windowless room, there's a display that looks exactly like what you'd see out of an air traffic control tower. You can see the snowy runway, you can see the trees, you can even see a car pulling into the airport parking lot.

But instead of windows, these are actually screens. And the airport you're looking at isn't the one in Sundsvall. It's the one in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden — about 105 miles away.

Ornskoldsvik is the first airport in the world to land passenger planes remotely. This summer, an airport in Leesburg, Va., will become the first American airport to use the new technology.

Erik Backman runs the remote airplane landing center in the town of Sundsvall. He explains that the town of Ornskoldsvik has a tiny airport, and it's expensive to keep air traffic controllers there who spend hours with no planes to land.

So they decided to have one team in Sundsvall that could handle both cities.

"The day you have one air traffic controller who can control two airports, then you have some good benefits according to costs," Backman says.

A 'Paradigm Shift' For The Industry

In Ornskoldsvik, a set of cameras and microphones delivers a real-time image to Sundsvall. Of course, new technology is notoriously glitchy.

And a problem landing an airplane is far more consequential than a laptop freezing up.

Backman says when he saw the first mockup of this technology in 2004, he was dubious. The room had to be dark, the pictures were jumpy.

But a decade later, they've been landing planes remotely for months without any major problems.

Mikael Henriksson, the project manager, has been an air traffic controller for 40 years. He says in all his time looking out tower windows, there were only three big innovations: blinds to block out the sun, thicker glass to block out the noise, and bug zappers to get rid of the flies.

Now, he's had a chance to play with this new technology, and he can't believe it only arrived near the end of his career.

"For the air traffic controller, this is like airline pilots going from propeller to jet," Henriksson says. "It's a paradigm shift."

Many Uses, Including Potentially For The Military

Because once the windows are replaced with screens, you can overlay all kinds of information on the display: airplane numbers, runway incursion warnings. You can zoom in, or switch to an infrared view to see through thick fog or darkness.

And that might make this technology useful even for big, crowded airports.

Anders Carp is head of traffic management at Saab, the Swedish defense and security company that created this technology. He thinks there are worldwide — even military — applications.

Airports in dangerous places could have a camera house instead of a control tower, he says. The air traffic controllers could be a few — or a few thousand — miles away in a safe environment, because it doesn't matter whether the remote tower is across town or on the other side of the earth.

Back in the Sundsvall control center, a plane descends toward the Ornskoldsvik runway. We watch it move across the screen. The sound shifts in stereo as the plane rolls along.

The passengers — and even the pilot — have no idea whether they've been brought in for a landing from the tower they can see out their window, or from this hidden, remote center more than a 100 miles away.

Story, audio, photo and comments:

Mikael Henriksson works at an air traffic control center in the town of Sundsvall, Sweden. But the screens show the airport in the tiny town of Ornskoldsvik, more than 100 miles away. It's the world's first facility to use new technology to help passenger planes land far away at an unmanned airport. Rich Preston/NPR

Officials meet to address airplane safety after recent calamities

WASHINGTON >> Government and aviation industry officials from dozens of countries are meeting in Montreal this week to try to find consensus on how to keep from losing airliners like the one that vanished without a trace in Asia and another shot down in Eastern Europe.

It is only the second high-level safety conference in the 70-year history of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, but last year was calamitous. A Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared in March and has not been found. In July, another Malaysia Airlines flight was down shot down while flying over an area of Ukraine where ethnic Russian rebels are trying to secede.

There is broad agreement that the agency should build a database where governments can send intelligence or warnings about risks to aircraft flying over conflict zones. Historically, though, nations other than the United States rarely have posted public warnings about such risks in other countries. Few have global intelligence networks, and it has been considered almost impolite for one country to issue a warning about another. Instead, the practice has been for each country to issue warnings only about its own airspace.

But that is changing.

ICAO, the U.N. agency, sent an urgent warning to members on Jan. 14 that airlines flying over Libya risk being shot down. On Jan. 22, the European Aviation Safety Agency distributed a French warning that flights over Pakistan might be subject to “terrorist attacks.”

Ukraine had warned airlines flying over its territory to remain above 32,000 feet. The Malaysia plane, however, was flying at about 33,000 feet from the Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, when it was fired upon.

A majority of the 298 people aboard were Dutch citizens. The Netherlands wants airlines to tell passengers before takeoff whether a plane’s flight path will cross a conflict zone. Airlines and other nations say that goes too far.

While sympathetic to the Dutch concerns, “we’re also confident that an ICAO centralized database represents a reasonable balance,” said Kenneth Quinn, former general counsel at the Federal Aviation Administration.

There also are disagreements about whether database information should be screened before being made public, and how to handle conflicting or inaccurate information. Besides official intelligence, the database is expected to include media reports and other unofficial information.

The U.S. does not believe the U.N. agency is capable of evaluating the information and wants sources of reports be identified so users can decide how much weight they want to give them, said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue is politically sensitive. “There may be conflicting information, but you don’t make the world safer by protecting people from ambiguity,” the official said.

As for keeping track of planes, there is agreement it needs to be done better, but no certainty on how to do that.

The U.N. agency and the International Air Transport Association, the world’s leading airline trade group, want long-haul flights over ocean to report their whereabouts every 15 minutes. If a plane deviates from its route or if there is some irregularity, the plane automatically would report its position every minute. That way an impact site should be within about 6 nautical miles of the last reported position.

Some airlines are balking at the potential cost. There also is disagreement over whether specific technology solutions should be required or whether airlines should be allowed to choose their own, so long as a plane can meet the reporting standard.

Malaysia Airlines 370 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard. The Boeing 777 was capable of reporting continuous location information by satellite, but the system was not in use. The plane is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean. More than 25,000 square miles of ocean have been searched, but nothing has been found.

Current global aviation standards require that airliners flying long distances over water report their position about every 45 minutes, but satellite services can provide more precise information. Customers of Spidertracks, a New Zealand company that provides satellite-based tracking mostly to charter operators flying to remote or dangerous parts of the world, can monitor the movements of planes in near real time on their smartphones or laptops and exchange two-way text messages with the aircraft.

Part of the need to find lost planes is for the recovery of flight data and cockpit voice recorders, also known as “black boxes,” to learn what happened.

European regulators and aircraft maker Airbus want planes equipped with black boxes that automatically eject and float to the surface in the event of a water crash. The boxes would have emergency locator transmitters, but there are doubts about their effectiveness.

Boeing officials, who oppose the idea, have told aviation forums that the company is unaware of a single instance in which one of its airliners has been found as the result of an emergency locator transmitter. The company wants the flexibility to decide which technologies work best.

One way to get around the need for floating black boxes would be for airliners to stream much of the data via satellite to ground stations or cloud data storage sites. But cost is a major factor, and there are concerns about privacy and security.

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that black boxes and flight tracking methods also be made tamper resistant. MH370’s transponder and other equipment that might have been used to track the plane shut down during the flight. Global aviation officials suspect they were deliberately turned off, but without the plane or its black boxes there is no way to know for certain.



International Civil Aviation Organization:

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Norwalk-Huron County Airport (5A1) begins search for new leader

Huron County Development Council director says she is not interested in becoming next airport manager.

It's time to plan for the future.

That theme was made evident at Wednesday's special meeting of the Huron County Airport Authority where board members terminated the management contract with Douglas Aviation.

Harry Brady, airport board president, talked Thursday about a new direction for the facility and the plan for management.

Brady was asked if Carol Knapp, director of the Huron County Development Council, would become the next fixed-base operator at the airport.

"I've heard that rumor, too, and I don't think there's much substance tied to it," he said. "I haven't asked her and we really haven't put out there the criteria we're looking for in the position."

Knapp was also asked Thursday if she was interested in the job.

"I have no interest in serving as the next fixed-base operator at the Huron County Airport," she said.

"My passion is economic development and it is my desire to continue doing the job I love. As the county's economic development director, my plate is full and there is not sufficient time in my day to take on additional responsibilities of this nature," Knapp added.

Is the airport looking for a full-time manager?

"That really depends on what we expect them to do," Brady said. "The position needs to be flexible.

"Maybe some weeks it would be 15 to 20 hours, but during the weeks where there are main events at the race track, they might work five days, eight hours per day, because planes will be in and out and people will be in and out," he said.

Brady said the position also depends on how much the county commissioners are willing to contribute monetarily.

Brady said he'll ask the commissioners, himself, for funding.

"It'll happen," he said.

In the meantime, the airport board members will be filling in until a manager is hired.

"John Evans will be out there on weekends monitoring the phones for a couple hours," Brady said. "I'll make sure the runway is plowed.

"We'll try to get somebody in there as soon as possible," he added. "Maybe we'll just hire a maintenance person who is responsible for the upkeep of the airport."

Original article can be found at:

Bay Area tech types take to skies

Aviation student Thomas Munka, of San Francisco, does a visual check while making his approach for landing during his flying lesson with Chris Hansen of Sterling Flight School at Buchanan Field Airport in Concord on Jan. 24. Munka is one of a growing number of tech workers in the Bay Area who have developed an interest in learning how to fly and perhaps buying their own aircraft. (Dan Honda -- Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE >> When it comes to riding Silicon Valley’s soaring tech boom, the sky’s not the limit — it’s simply the next rung in the ladder.

In another byproduct of the digital Gilded Age that has turned the Bay Area into one big startup-tropolis, the tech community is undergoing a remarkable altitudinal adjustment. Whether it’s Intel using its fleet of corporate jets to essentially run a private regional airline, or the retired Apple big shot getting his pilot’s license so he can zip back from his San Luis Obispo home to have lunch in Cupertino, or the San Francisco 20-something learning to fly because it’s a “beautiful hobby” that lets him “defy physics,” the region’s tech warriors are spreading their wings.

“I’m seeing more and more young people who’ve made money from tech startups and are now buying planes,” said Walt Gyger, owner of the Trade Winds Aviation flight school at Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose. “Back in 2008, people were holding off on spending on a dream like flying, but that money is coming back now.”

Big tech companies are using private jets to shuttle their CEOs between meetings in Santa Barbara, Seattle and Denver, sometimes in a single day, and the IPO-endowed are using their stock-option windfalls to buy fractional shares in NetJets planes. Vickie Buonocore, publisher of San Mateo-based In Flight USA, has noticed an increased interest in private aircraft, especially among companies “looking for ways to quickly get their executives around the country and the world. Private planes let you go where you want and when you want, without security hassles or waiting in long lines.”

And with the worsening congestion on Bay Area roads, flight student Tom Munka said it’s only a matter of time before he and his fellow pilots will be “aero-commuting” around the region. Munka, a 23-year-old San Franciscan working for a telecom company and learning to fly at Sterling Flight Training Center in Concord, said he hopes to buy a plane after he gets his license and use it initially for leisure but eventually for business.

“If it becomes cost-effective to travel around by plane, then I might do that,” said Munka, as he pursues his “beautiful hobby.”


He said “with the traffic becoming so congested, it can take one hour to drive across San Jose. In L.A., we’re starting to see more and more people aero-commuting, with the airport parking lots full by 7 a.m., and I can see this as a reality for more and more people in the Bay Area, too.”

The flexibility and speed of private aviation have been shown to help boost the bottom line, an important point given the competitive pressure cooker Silicon Valley is these days. One industry survey showed that companies using private aviation enjoyed an 11 percent higher market-cap growth than those that didn’t use it and that they also generated more income due to productivity.

Access to smaller airports is a big part of that efficiency. According to the General Aviation Manufacturing Association, business aviation serves 10 times the number of U.S. airports (more than 5,000) than are served by commercial airlines, which total about 500. So it’s no surprise, as Buonocore points out, that “there are more and more corporate people who want to rent aircraft. And you have aircraft operators standing by, waiting for their phone calls, just like a taxi service.”

While business aviation may not necessarily be experiencing a dramatic boom, some industry data indicate a strong and steady increase in activity year over year ever since the market hit bottom in 2008. U.S. sales of piston engine airplanes and business jets jumped nearly 10 percent from 2013 to 2014, while overall airplane shipments rose nearly 6 percent, according to GAMA, with more growth expected in 2015.


Jim Lafferty of Lafferty Aircraft Sales, based at Mineta San Jose International Airport, said he sees the impact of those sales figures each day. With planes coming and going nonstop, and work proceeding at the airport on a huge new facility co-owned by Google, the scene is what you’d expect to see in the middle of an economic renaissance.

“There are hangars full of airplanes everywhere you look, some based in San Jose, others in places like Monterey and Stockton, that are constantly flying in to pick up or drop off businesspeople,” said Lafferty. “There’s a lot going on — it’s crazy out here.”

Large-scale operations such as Intel’s — whose fleet of private aircraft shuttles employees daily between corporate outposts in California, Oregon and Arizona — are the exception, and GAMA studies show that smaller companies operate the majority of business aircraft, with 59 percent of firms operating business aircraft having fewer than 500 employees. But just below the Intels of the aviation world rests a long string of options, descending in price and offering a custom-fit flight experience for each substratum of the tech world’s peripatetic.

There are private planes for hire, such as the ones from JetSuite, that have become go-to travel choices for the Valley’s rich and powerful. With state-of-the-art avionics, a board of directors that includes Zappos wunderkind Tony Hsieh, and onboard Wi-Fi and XM Radio, these aircraft provide a just-in-time experience that’s seemingly cut from the Silicon Valley cloth. It’s not cheap: one recent “Daily Deal” offered a private four-seater jet, one-way from San Jose to Oakland, for $536.43.

A less expensive option is an “all-you-can-fly” airline like Surf Air, a startup that offers a monthly membership for $1,750 (with a $1,000 sign-up fee) that lets members hop on daily scheduled flights up and down the state, pretty much to their heart’s content. “A lot of our members could afford something like NetJets but would rather invest that money in something else,” said Justin Hart, vice president of member acquisition for Santa Monica-based Surf.

“The new commodity is time. You have your typical executive in the Bay Area, who’s making $400,000 a year but chooses not to buy his own plane. But he needs to get to a meeting in L.A. and he knows his company values his time, so he can’t afford to wait in line for 90 minutes at LAX, dreading what awaits him at SFO.”


Marcus Lovingood, a 29-year-old movie distributor and owner of a digital ad agency in L.A., uses Surf to fly up to the San Carlos Airport for business three or four times a week. He figures he’s saved his eight-employee company, Futureleap Media, $30,000 since he first joined Surf Air a year and a half ago. “We were spending $2,000 to $3,000 a month for travel in California, with me taking Southwest flights three times a week and using up a lot of my valuable time,” said Lovingood. “Surf Air just made so much sense.”

Other entrepreneurs are learning to fly, either for fun or for business once their startups get off the ground.

“We’ve been seeing an uptick this past year in the number of people learning to fly, and a lot of them are from the tech community,” said Bert Postma, a pilot and member of the Stanford Flying Club. “This area is much better off than other parts of the country, so a lot of people here can afford to get into general aviation.”

Postma said students have included “young people from Google and Stanford,” as well as a recently retired senior executive at Apple, and techies who fly to work from as far away as Oregon. And many of them,” he said, “end up buying their own planes.”

Bill Sutherland, director of marketing operations for Apple, said friends got him interested in flying in 2009, and when an in-law told him about how he used his plane for his own business, “that flipped my switch.

“Someone said it might make sense to buy my own plane for my training, so I got a used Cessna 172 for like $118,000,” said Sutherland, who knows at least six fellow Apple employees who fly. He has since upgraded a couple of times, using his plane to visit family across the country.

Sutherland said he kept one of his old planes and rents it out, but he sold his Cessna 206 “to another Apple guy, so it’s staying in the Apple family.”

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Pull out of tailspin on airline dilemma: Kearney Regional Airport (KEAR), Nebraska

Kearney Hub Opinion

If commuter air service in Kearney could be in a worse situation, it is hard to imagine how. Reliability is iffy. Passenger traffic is in the toilet. The choice of companies that could replace the current carrier, Great Lakes, is dwindling as excessive federal requirements for pilot experience have decimated the commuter airline industry.

To understand how desperate the situation has become, consider the bet that Kearney leaders placed on an Ohio-based airline, Aerodynamics Inc. Municipal leaders here picked ADI to provide daily commuter flights to Denver and promised up to $500,000 to help with promotional efforts.

ADI has been skating on thin ice, having declared bankruptcy in 2013, and now is in danger of losing its federal permit for commuter and charter flights. Last week the federal Department of Transportation tentatively canceled ADI’s commuter and charter certificates, declaring the airline to be financially unfit because its president was guilty of defrauding $500,000 from another company.

ADI has replaced the offending executive, but it’s unknown whether the airline possesses the capital that FAA officials would like to see as an assurance that ADI can make good on its obligations to the communities it intends to serve. It’s entirely possible, after the required review period, that the DOT will make its temporary declaration against ADI permanent.

If ADI is dealt the death blow, Kearney could be adrift without a paddle — but wait.

What about Great Lakes?
Its balance sheet is strong, and the FAA has ordered Great Lakes to temporarily continue its service out of Kearney.

Why not put some energy into helping Great Lakes? How? Start by cutting out the negative talk. Each time a city leader says we have a lousy airline, potential passengers drive down the road.

Put money on the table. Great Lakes can’t lure passengers until it resolves its reliability issues. Rather than tossing $500,000 at a bad bet, consider how that money might help put pilots in Great Lakes’ cockpits. Spiffs for pilots, scholarships for pilot trainees at UNK — get outside the box and think creatively.

Ask questions. How do other airports succeed? 
Grand Island is boarding 60,000 passengers annually and will open a new $14 million terminal in early 2016. Why do other communities have airport authorities, and how are they boosting air service with the taxes and other revenues the authorities generate?

Finally, encourage businesses and industries to support Kearney’s airline. If executives and high level managers aren’t using the airline, we’ll surely lose it.

Original article can be found at:

Edgar County Board having insurance problems at KPRG - Paris, Illinois

PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –  The Edgar County Airport’s recent response to a Freedom of Information Act request proved to be consistent with what we have been suspecting for years – that the perceived issue of “insurance” was never really an issue, and is still not an issue – it was simply a smoke screen for several “people” to attempt to flex their muscles and try to get what they were after from the Airport, and ultimately from the taxpayers.

Think back over the past few years and remember the constant badgering about insurance from people leasing hangars, etc, at the airport. Even going so far as the former airport manager claiming that even though proof of insurance was shown, it could be canceled at any time, therefore there was no insurance. Chris Patrick (disgraced former county board chairman), Jimmy Wells (disgraced former airport manager), Adonna Bennett (disgraced former airport advisory board chairman), and Mike Heltsey (disgraced former Dept. of Corrections employee, former illegally appointed “covert investigator” for the Crippes regime, and current county board member) were the main culprits in the scheme – all on the taxpayer dime.

Now back to present time:

The existing hangar lease agreement at the airport requires that proof of insurance be given to the airport manager for all “flyable airplanes” stored inside or outside of the leased hangar. The proof of insurance must name the county as additionally insured (on flyable airplanes), and there must be a minimum of $1 mil of general liability insurance. This term as used, is meant to denote airplanes that are currently flyable, and also airplanes that can be brought to flyable status with some type of maintenance performed on them. Remember that term “flyable airplane” as that plays an important part to this puzzle.

A FOIA request asking for the certificates of insurance on all airplanes for all hangar leases was sent to the airport, and this is their response:

Certificates of insurance for T-hangar leases…were provided for:

a)      1) John Milligan*1981 Cessna 152 – 1,000,000.00 – 7/2014 to 7/2015 Does not show the County as additionally insured

b)      2) Jacob Barrett – 1968 Cessna 1721 – 1,000,000.00  – 6/2014 to 6/2015 Does not show the County as additionally insured.

c)       3) Dale Barkely  2007 Sky Ranger II LSA  – 1,000,000.00  –  8/2014 to 8/2015 Shows the County as additionally insured.

d)      4) Jacob Jobst    1968 Cessna 150 H   –  1,000,000.00  –  8/2014 to 8/2015 Does not show the County as additionally insured.

e)      5) Frank Bishop 2006 Christavia MK 1 –  0000000000 – 4/2014 to 4/2015 Does not show the County as additionally insured.

f)       6) John Roehm  1946 Cessna 140  –  1,000,000.00 – 5/2014 to 5/2015 Does not show the County as additionally insured.

g)      7) Dennis Naylor 1978 Cessna 152   – 1,000,000.00 – 8/2014 to 8/2015 Does not show the County as additionally insured.

Far-reaching Consequences

Let us just assume for once that the Edgar County Airport and the Edgar County Board are actually telling us the truth on this issue – that there are only 7 (SEVEN) flyable airplanes at the Edgar County Airport. Don’t get me, wrong, I don’t believe for a minute that the board gave us the correct number, but we can always hold out hope…

This would further prove the fraudulent grant application for the fuel farm/apron extension, where they all claimed 36 airplanes at the airport – is it any wonder the FAA and IDOT put a screeching halt to the million dollar grant?

Now, copies of any applications for future grants have been requested, so we can see what numbers are listed on those applications – care to take a wild guess?

Ok, back to reality – the County did not respond with all of the information that is required by the lease agreements. We must find out why certain people are allowed to violate their lease and demand they comply. I suggest that all leaseholders in violation of the lease be given 30 days to vacate the T-hangar and the airport, after all, they should treat everyone the same.

Remaining Questions:

a)      Why, in foia hangar lease requests, did not all 15 hangars have leases on them and match the insurance documents when all 15 hangars are in use as indicated by the comparison between leases and insurance documents?

b)      Does Chris Patrick have a flyable airplane at the airport and if so, where is his insurance document?

c)       Does “Tom and Jerry “ have a flyable airplane at the airport and if so, were is his insurance document?

d)      RSB does not have flyable aircraft in storage at the Edgar County Airport…

e)      Does Jake Payne have a flyable airplane at the airport and if so where is his insurance document?

f)       Does Tom Newlin have a flyable airplane at the airport and if so where is his insurance document?

g)      Does Steve Blane have a flyable airplane at the airport and if so where is his insurance document?

h)      Does Tom Newlin have a flyable airplane at the airport and if so where is his insurance document?

i)        Does Dale Barkely lease a hangar and if so where is a copy of the lease agreement?

j)        Does John Milligan lease a hangar and if so where is a copy of the lease agreement?

k)      Does Jacob Jobst lease a hangar and if so where is a copy of the lease agreement?

l)        Why doesn’t Frank Bishop (insurance doc) match name on lease (Kevin Bishop) and include information requested in FOIA showing $1,000,000.00 in insurance coverage?

m)    Why are Indiana residents (i, e, Newlins) allowed to lease (3) hangars…from the airport when that airport is a subsidized by Illinois/Edgar County taxpayers to the tune of $100,000-$200,000.00 annually – AND – claims have been made that there is a waiting list for hangar space, but that list could not be produced.

n)      Records in hand indicate only 7 airplanes at the Edgar County Airport in flyable condition


The bottom line in all of this, is to show that all of the excuses and lies put forth in the past from airport and county board members were in fact lies, and there has never been, and will never be, an attempt at holding others accountable to the terms of the lease they signed.

Original article can be found at:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Community Wants More Restrictions at Montgomery County Airpark (KGAI), Gaithersburg, Maryland

The Maryland Aviation Administration inspected the Montgomery County Airpark Wednesday morning and the results of that inspection are due in a few days. 

 Keith Miller, executive director of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, told members of the Airpark Liaison Committee Wednesday night, that the inspection was requested by the authority in the wake of the tragic plane crash in December that killed six people. The MAA, the administration that issues the license to the Revenue Authority to operate the airpark, annually inspects the Gaithersburg airpark.

“We requested the MAA to do in interim inspection and that was conducted this morning. We anticipate the results of that inspection this week or the week after,” Miller told the group.

Miller said the authority also recently met with the Federal Aviation Administration who agreed to designate the north side of the airport as a “congested area” on flight charts starting Feb. 5 but that the designation won’t have any impact on airport operations. Miller also said the FAA was not in favor of limiting the hours the airport here is open. It is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Limiting the scope of the airport could impact federal funding, he said. That funding has ranged between zero dollars some years to $2 million other years, he told MyMCMedia. Last year, Miller said, 39 operations took place between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The authority also met with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association earlier this month to review airpark operations, according to Miller. A report from that group has not yet been submitted.

The meeting Wednesday night comes on the heels of an earlier meeting held between County Executive Isiah Leggett; Council member Craig Rice, who represents that area of the county and members of the Airpark Concerned Citizens Alliance. In that meeting, alliance spokesperson Robert Anderson expressed concerns about the number of take-off and landings completed at the airport and the lack of an updated airpark impact study that was last done about 25 years ago. The group made several requests including limiting hours at the airport and the types of aircraft that fly there.

Miller did not attend the Tuesday meeting, but said the authority is waiting on a National Transportation Safety Board review of the crash to determine if any operational changes need to be made at the airpark. That could take up to a year. He said the number of airpark operations – a take-off or landing- totaled about 50,000 last year, far less than the airpark at its busiest in 2001 when more than 160,000 operations were logged there. The drop can be attributed to post 9/11 regulations regarding restricted airspace and training requirements, Miller said.

Liaison Committee member Nancy Shenk said at the meeting she believed the community needed a public meeting to hear an update about the airpark and about the crash that killed the three aboard the jet on Dec. 8 and a mother and her two young sons who died when the plane crashed into their house.

“You have a community so distraught about what happened and to wait a year is not giving that community a change to really talk to they people they need to talk to. This is a community raw with emotion,” she said. “There has to be a meeting sponsored by the county  to talk with the people of that community that includes the FAA and MAA so these organizations are made aware of our needs and what’s been going on over our houses all these years.”

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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.

Interview with an Alaska pilot: Mark Madden

By  Colleen Mondor
January 30, 2015

UAA Flight Technology Professor Mark Madden holds numerous certificates and ratings, including airline transport pilot multi-engine, commercial airplane single-engine land and sea, instructor certificates for CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, IGI, is tailwheel-endorsed and has been designated a Master CFI by both the National Association of Flight Instructors and Master Instructors, LLC. He is a member of the Federal Aviation Administration's FAAST Team Safety Program and was named National FAA Safety Team Representative of the year in 2013 by the General Aviation Awards program.

Madden has been a part- and full-time pilot, instructor, and program developer for the FedEx Cessna Caravan contractors, is a freelance aviation technical writer, an officer of the board of directors of the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation and board member of the Lake Hood Pilots' Association.

Mark Madden answered questions about Alaska flying via email late last year.

Q: What item (or items) in your flight bag do you consider to be the most indispensable?

• Headset. Prefer noise cancelling;
• Hand held standby VHF transceiver and spare batteries;
• Nomex gloves (yes, I really do wear them when I fly);
• Electronic scale to obtain accurate baggage/cargo weights for performance calculations. This scale is hand held and can also be attached to a wing strut tie-down ring;
• Current FAA approved navigation charts and Alaska Supplement. These are hard copy paper charts that do not require an electrical source to operate (see next item for night operations);
• Small flashlight with batteries stored separately i.e., batteries are never stored inside the “dead battery case”. Also spare batteries; and
• Small first aid kit. This one is in addition to a larger first aid kit in my survival vest.
Madden carries all of these items in his flight bag, and not in his survival vest, which is also carried on board.

Q: What is your favorite place to fly to (or over) in Alaska and why?

A: This is a difficult question to answer since there are so many. I always enjoy flying through Lake Clark Pass. I consider this mountain pass to be one of the most beautiful passes I’ve ever seen. Flying around Denali is at the top of the list as well.

Q: What is the best flying advice you ever received?

A: Never pass up an opportunity to take on more AvGas (load permitting of course) or use the men’s room!

Q: What type of aircraft do you most enjoy flying and why?

A: I enjoy flying my Maule M5-210C. It’s a great airplane and perfect for off-airport and STOL operations. It’s also owned free and clear.

Original article can be found at:

No pilot's license, no problem: Flying for beginners

Light-sport planes in front of the Richard B. Helgeson Airport in Two Harbors. The local Experimental Aircraft Association chapter is hosting a speaker on February 5 to talk about the more affordable side of flying. Photo courtesy of Seth McDonald.

Seth McDonald of Two Harbors still remembers the first time he rode in a small airplane. He was 8 or 9 years old, his stepdad had a friend that was a pilot, and he took McDonald for a ride.

 It took McDonald almost 30 years to rekindle that love for flying. He joined the Two Harbors chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association four years ago, and is working towards getting his pilot's license.

McDonald, now the local EAA club vice president, said if he had known how affordable hobby flying is, he would have jumped in much sooner. Their EAA chapter is bringing a speaker to Two Harbors Feb. 5 to talk about ultralight planes, one of the least expensive and easiest ways to get into aviation. Ultralights are one-seater planes intended for recreational flying that can cost as low as $4,000 and require no pilot's license to fly.

"It's a big myth ... that these people are doctors and lawyers," McDonald said. "Yes, there may be a couple that are. But a vast majority of the folks are middle-class, blue collar guys and gals that are flying on a budget that is pretty tight."

The myth has its roots in fact — a small Cessna plane can cost more than $100,000 and requires a pilot's license with around 40 hours of flight time to fly. But McDonald and local EAA chapter president Mike Busch are on a mission to let people know that's not the only way to fly. Busch invited Timm Bogenhagen from the national EAA headquarters to speak in Two Harbors, and his talk will focus on ultralights.

"What we're trying to do with Timm's visit is to engage that part of the public that is interested in aviation but they've not taken that step because they've just said, 'Well, it's expensive. It's not for me,'" McDonald said.

Busch said another motive for the outreach is to get more young people involved in flying. He's been flying since he started working towards his pilot's license when stationed in Puerto Rico in the Navy in the 1960s. Today, professional pilots that are Busch's age are retiring in droves.

"There are a shortage of pilots even now. We're trying to grow some new ones," he said.

They have a Young Eagles program that takes kids up into the air, just like McDonald got the chance to do when he was young.

Busch said the Two Harbors EAA chapter focuses heavily on "homebuilt" aircrafts. About a half-dozen planes are being constructed at the Richard B. Helgeson Airport in Two Harbors right now, including Busch's own in his hangar. He pointed to the gearhead process of building a plane as something to expose aviation to people that don't yet know how to fly a plane. High-tech model planes are another easy way to learn about flying, McDonald pointed out.

"There are many facets of aviation," Busch said. "You don't have to be a pilot to get involved."

The talk on Feb. 5 is at 6:30 p.m. at the Two Harbors Community Center, 407 South Ave., Two Harbors. It's open to the public. The local EAA chapter meets every first Thursday at the community room in Two Harbors High School throughout winter and at the Two Harbors airport in the summer. They have grown the club from just a handful of members five years ago to around 30 now, and are always accepting new members, McDonald said.

"I don't care what you fly ... flying is flying," Busch said. "You depart from mother Earth, and you're up there in the ocean of air. You may be going a little faster or slower, but the feelings and the actions required are all about the same. It's just such a different feeling."

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