Sunday, February 8, 2015

Palo Alto Airport (KPAO) supplier to warn of lead emissions • Settlement: Nearby residents should receive notification of lead exposure from aircraft fuel

Residents and businesses near the Palo Alto Municipal Airport should be getting notifications about the use of leaded aviation gas at the airport, according to a legal settlement between an environmental-advocacy group and 30 suppliers of lead-containing aviation gas, including the local airport.

Aviation-fuel retailers must post signage regarding the danger of lead and warn residents within 1 kilometer (two-thirds of a mile) of the airport by letter or hand-delivered door hanger as part of the settlement. That includes a portion of East Palo Alto, businesses along the east end of Embarcadero Road and part of the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.

Palo Alto Airport fixed-base operator Rossi Aircraft Inc. is a signatory to the settlement, but the company's owner did not return requests for comment about plans to notify the public.

The Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health filed a lawsuit against the aviation-gas ("avgas") suppliers in October 2011 for allegedly failing to comply with California's Proposition 65.

Lead, which is added to aviation fuel to boost octane and improve performance in piston-engine aircraft, is linked to miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth. It can cause increased heart and respiratory diseases, neurological disturbances, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Environmental Program.

But airport officials are quick to point out that lead particles are heavy and tend to drop near the site of takeoff or where planes are gearing up for flight. A 2011 Duke University study supports that assertion, noting that there was little increase in air lead from background levels beyond 1,500 meters.

The Duke study did find "a significant association between potential exposure to lead emissions from avgas and blood levels in children," however. Children living within 1 kilometer of airports had a 4.4 percent higher blood lead level compared to other children, with children living within 500 meters most greatly affected. The study was adjusted for other sources of lead in the children's environments, such as peeling lead-based paint.

But lead from avgas is minor compared to other sources such as lead-based paint from older buildings, leached lead from water pipes, and consumer products and toys manufactured in countries with less-stringent regulations, the researchers said.

In wildlife, and particularly in birds, lead shot ingestion and consuming contaminated fish are the prevailing sources of lead poisoning.

A June 2013 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) preliminary report on airport lead emissions found that Palo Alto's three-month, average lead concentration in the air was 0.12 micrograms per cubic meter -- just below the EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter. (The San Carlos Airport exceeded the federal standard with a value of 0.33 micrograms, according to the report.)

The EPA study could play a role in policy changes related to leaded avgas. The agency is currently studying whether lead emissions from avgas endangers the public. A final determination is expected in mid-2015.

Local studies of leaded avgas pollution appear to be nonexistent. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which monitors pollutants, hasn't monitored for atmospheric lead for years. Monitoring pretty much stopped when lead ceased being added to automobile gasoline, which was considered the greatest source of lead in air, a spokesperson said.

Wildlife studies around San Francisco Bay have focused mainly on lead sources from ammunition.

Ralph Britton, president of the Palo Alto Airport Association, said he recognizes the risks of leaded fuel and talked about the economic challenges of developing alternative fuel.

"No one thinks using leaded fuel indefinitely is a good idea, but there is no viable alternative at the moment," he said. "That does not mean that it is unimportant to solve this problem, however. Because of the small demand, oil companies have little or no economic incentive to develop an alternative to processes already in place. In time, however, unleaded aviation gasoline will be available, but given the lack of economic incentive it will take some years," he said.

Original article can be found at:

American Grumman AA-1 Yankee, N6116L: Accident occurred February 08, 2015 at Tipton Airport (KFME), Odenton, Anne Arundel County, Maryland

One of the men seriously injured in a plane crash Sunday near Fort George G. Meade is a transportation chief for the Charles County government. 

The other is a retired scientist

On Monday, Jeffry P. Barnett, 57, of Glen Burnie, and Thomas L. Cline, 82, of Silver Spring, were being treated for their injuries at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Cline, who previously worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, was in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Barnett, chief of transportation and community programs for the Charles County government, was in fair condition.

"Jeff is a valuable and dedicated employee with the county and we wish him a speedy recovery," Charles County Commisioner President Peter Murphy said in a statement.

Barnett was piloting a 1970 Grumman American AA-1 when it crashed shortly after taking off at about 2 p.m. Sunday from Tipton Airport. Cline was his passenger.

Federal investigators have yet to determine what caused the plane to crash about a half mile from the end of the runway.

The National Transportation Safety Board expects to release a preliminary report within the next seven to 10 days, spokesman Eric Weiss said.

Investigators will spend the coming days documenting the wreckage, gathering witness accounts, listening to air traffic control tapes and looking at weather conditions as they try to determine what caused the crash, Weiss said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is assisting with the investigation.

The NTSB then will work on a factual report, Weiss said, which allows the agency to gather all of the facts and determine a probable cause. That could take up to a year, he said.
The planned destination of the plane was still unknown Monday afternoon, Weiss said.

The crash site is about a quarter mile from Bald Eagle Drive and the Patuxent Research Refuge.

The plane, registered to Barnett, Cline and a third party, was upside-down when it was found in the woods. Nobody on the ground was injured.

Barnett and Cline were extricated from the wreckage within 50 minutes and flown by helicopter to Shock Trauma. Both were conscious and speaking with emergency personnel, said Anne Arundel County fire department spokesman Capt. Michael Pfaltzgraff.

 Regis#: N6116L
Aircraft Make: GRUMMAN
Aircraft Model: AA1
Event Type: Accident
Highest Injury: Serious
Damage: Unknown
State: Maryland
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
FAA  Flight Standards District Office: FAA Baltimore FSDO-07


A small plane flies over the area of woods at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge where another small plane crashed after takeoff from Tipton Airport in Laurel. 
(By Joshua McKerrow / Baltimore Sun Media Group /February 8, 2015) 

Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Michael Pfaltzgraff briefs the media Sunday after a plane crashed near Fort George G. Meade. 
(Tim Pratt/ Baltimore Sun Media Group /February 8, 2015)


Anne Arundel County fire officials say a small plane has crashed into the woods near Tipton Airport south of Fort Meade.

Officials say the plane crashed into the trees off of Bald Eagle Drive at around 2 p.m.

Two people were on board.  A fire department spokesman says both victims are conscious, but one of them was trapped in the wreckage.

That victim has now been freed.

Both victims have been flown by helicopter to Shock Trauma.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen tells WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and WBAL-TV that the single-engine 1970 Grumman American AA-1 aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from Runway 28 at Tipton Airport.

She says the aircraft went down about one-half-of-a-mile from the end of the runway.

The FAA and NTSB will investigate.. 

Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Michael Pfaltzgraff told reporters that  crews arriving in the area found two men, one 57-years-old and the other 82-years old, trapped in the wreckage, according to Pfaltzgraff. 

Pfaltzgraff said it took the crews about 50 minutes to free the men from the plane. Authorities earlier said the plane had ended up on its side. 

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, they added. 

This evening, Maryland State Police identified the two men aboard the plane as the pilot, 57-year-old Jeffrey Barnett of Glen Burnie, and the passenger, 82-year-old Thomas Cline of Silver Spring.  Barnett, Cline and a third party own the plane.

Two men were injured, but no one on the ground was hurt Sunday afternoon when a small plane crashed soon after take-off from Tipton Airport in Fort Meade MD .

One of the men injured is believed to be in his fifties and the other in his eighties.  Both men were flown by Maryland State Police helicopter to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Maryland State Police responded to Bald Eagle Drive and Combat Drive, in Ft. Meade, for the report of a plane crash.  On location they found a single-engine plane on its top in a wooded area.  The two men injured were the only people on-board the plane. 

Preliminary information indicates the plane had just taken off from Tipton Airport. The crash is said to have occurred a few hundred yards from the airstrip.

State Police investigators are on the scene gathering additional information.  

Federal aviation officials have been notified of the crash. 


Two men who were injured in the crash were flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, said a spokesmen for the Anne Arundel County fire department. 

One man is approximately 55 years old and the other is possibly 80, said Capt. Michael Pfaltzgraff. He said both men had serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Pfaltzgraff said it took 50 minutes to free the pair from the aircraft, which went down at 1:55 p.m. in the 7500 block of General Aviation Drive, a wooded area in Laurel.

Original post at 3:12 p.m.

A small plane crashed at the Tipton Airport on Sunday afternoon injuring two people, authorities said.

A Grumman American AA-1 aircraft crashed as it took off from the airport, said a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the plane went down about a half mile from the end of the runway around 2 p.m. Two people were on board, she said.

A spokesman for Anne Arundel County police tweeted that two people were conscious and alert.

The crash is near Bald Eagle Drive and Combat Road, Maryland State Police said.

Anne Arundel County Fire Department said the two people were trapped inside the plane, however authorities said further details were not available.

Bergen said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash. She said the agency will release the plane’s registration after local authorities release the names and conditions of two people on board.

FORT MEADE, Md. —A small plane crashed Sunday afternoon at Tipton Airport.

Authorities said the crash happened about 2 p.m.

Officials said a Grumman AA-1 aircraft went down shortly after taking off from Runway 28 and crashed about a half mile from the end of the runway.

Two people were aboard the plane. Both of them were conscious and alert.

Stay with WBAL-TV and for further details.

Photo Credit/Photo Courtesy: AACoFD/Deputy Chief Hoglander

Controlled flight into terrain -By A W K Senaratne

By A W K Senaratne

Aviation is the safest mode of transport at present, when compared with others port such as road, rail and sea. Safety in transport is measured by comparing the number of casualties (deaths) with the number of passengers multiplied by the number of kilometers they travelled. Consequently, in aviation, the number of casualties is the lowest when considered in terms of passenger- kilometers. However, when an aircraft accident occur the probability of survival is least in air transport mainly because of the speed they travel.

Any flight can be divided in to five phases namely takeoff, climb, cruise, descend and landing. Out of these five phases landing phase is the most critical and sixty percent of aircraft accidents occur during this part of the flight. The aircraft accident that occurred last month at Athurugiriya close to Ratmalana airport involving a Sri Lanka Air Force aircraft AN 32 is one of those accidents that took place during the landing phase of the flight.

When analyzing aircraft accidents during the landing phase, eighty percent of these accidents can be grouped into a category called "Controlled Flight In-to Terrain" (CFIT). It simply means that there is nothing wrong with the aircraft and the pilot is in control of it, yet the aircraft hit high ground or land short of the runway. The accident at Athurugiriya falls into this category.

In early nineteen seventies, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) accepted an avionics (aviation electronic) system designed to prevent these so called CFIT accidents suitable to be installed on aircraft. This new avionics system was called Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS). It gives oral and visual warnings in seven modes to the pilots, if the aircraft gets too close to the ground in an unusual or unintended manner during landing or take off phases of the flight. For example during the landing phase, if the aircraft is descending at the rate of five feet per second but the aircraft radio/ radar altitude decreases by ten feet per second, then the GPWS will shout to the pilot "PULL UP - PULL UP TERRAIN - TERRAIN", indicating that the aircraft is getting closer to ground in an unusual manner (ground is rising or aircraft is heading towards a hill). A similar warning will come up if soon after takeoff the radio/ radar altitude of the aircraft decreases rather than increasing at the rate of climb of the aircraft, indicating that the ground is getting closer unusually. ICAO made it compulsory to have this system fitted on all commercial aircraft carrying more than nineteen passengers.

This very useful and important avionics system has paid dividend by reducing the percentage of CFIT accidents which was at eighty percent of all landing phase accidents to that below forty percent at present. With the advancement of the present day modern computer systems with large memory capacities, a more improved version of GPWS was introduced, and is called Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS). Aircraft equipped with EGPWS and having "Glass Cockpits" (aircraft with modern TV type instrument display) can give a graphic three dimensional display of the terrain in front of the aircraft on its way to land at the runway. This display will show all tall buildings, high tension electricity lines raised ground contour etc. To provide this view the EGPWS computer memory has to be loaded with the terrain data of each airport where the aircraft is intended to be used. This data is obtained from GPS(Global Positioning System) terrain data. Also the computer terrain data has to be updated regularly as required by the ICAO. This type of display will enhance the confidence of the pilots and safety of the flight to a greater extent during the landing phase of the flight. Since the introduction of EGPWS only a few aircraft installed with this system has met with CFIT accidents.

The ill fated aircraft AN 32 operated by Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) under Helitours commercial operation was doing a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) landing at Ratmalana airport. There is no radio landing aids available at Ratmalana airport other than a basic NDB (Non Directional Beacon) which is a navigational aid rather than a landing aid. It is highly dangerous and unwise to do a visual landing without any radio landing aid with the level of visibility that was prevailing due to mist around 6 am at Ratmalana airport on that fateful day. This type of weather occurs only on few days per year at Ratmalana or Katunayake airports. To do a safe landing in poor visibility there should be ground based radio aids.In such situations IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) landing has to be carried out.To do an IFR precision landing the airport should have the main radio aid used for landing in bad or normal weather, called Instrument Landing System (ILS). This system consists of two radio beams radiated from the runway towards the aircraft. One beam guides the pilot/ autopilot in the vertical plane to approach and land at a three degree angle with the runway surface. The other beam guides the pilot/ autopilot in the lateral plane (horizontal plane) to come along the extended centre line of the runway with the magnetic heading of the runway. With this radio aid the pilot/ autopilot can carry out a safe landing looking at the instrument panel alone, and without seeing the runway at all. This type of landing is called auto-landing.

In Sri Lanka only Katunayake and Mattala airports are equipped with this ILS radio landing aid. Even these two installations fall in to the category one and no auto landing is allowed. To carry out auto landing the ground based ILS system should be in category three. Since we have over ninety five percent of clear visibility throughout the year auto landing facility will not be essential. However, a less expensive non precision landing aid that guides the pilot only in lateral plane would be useful for Ratmalana airport which could have prevented this type of accidents. Most common less expensive non precision radio landing aid is the VOR/DME (Very high frequency Omni Range/ Distance Measuring Equipment). These two units are co-located and the first one gives magnetic heading to fly along the extended centre line of the runway to carry out a safe landing. The second unit gives the distance to reach the runway threshold (landing end of runway). If the NDB that is available at Ratmalana airport is located along the extended centre line of the runway, it could be used as a navigational aid as well as a non-precision landing aid even though its accuracy is much less than that of VOR/DME and it does not provide the distance to touch down point. At present the NDB at Ratmalana airport is installed not in line with the extended centre line of the runway (for reasons unknown) thus preventing its use as a radio landing aid (non precision) in addition to a navigational aid.

Factors that could cause CFIT accidents can be identified as wind shear, micro burst, poor visibility, miss-orientation, pilot error, etc. Wind shear/ micro burst is caused by turbulent weather conditions where thick columns of air moves vertically up or down at places. If this happens across the path of the aircraft on its way to land it can create a disastrous situation for the aircraft. Detection of wind shear condition is not easy and needs expensive radar equipment. Under poor visibility condition, even though there were no landing aids at Ratmalana airport, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar could have been used to vector (direct) the aircraft on to the runway by the air traffic controller on duty had the pilot made such a request. With poor visibility in a visual landing condition the pilot tend to look out to locate the runway, and in the process, they lose concentration on aircraft altitude and ends up in disaster, when suddenly a build up or hill appears in front of the flight path. This could be a likely cause of the accident at Ratmalana involving SLAF AN – 32 aircraft. However, the real cause/ causes can be identified only after a detailed investigation including the analysis of the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder (black boxes).

(The writer is a Commonwealth Expert on Aviation and was in charge of Airworthiness and Accident investigation Division at the Department of Civil Aviation of Sri Lanka. He has investigated over twenty aircraft accidents including four Sri Lanka Air Force aircraft accidents. He can be reached at

Story and photos:

TransAsia Plane Grounding Extended as Pilot Testing Continues After Taiwan Crash • Most of TransAsia’s ATR Planes Will Remain Grounded Through Tuesday as 71 Pilots Undergo Testing

The Wall Street Journal

By Jenny W. Hsu, Aries Poon and Andy Pasztor

Feb. 8, 2015 5:22 a.m. ET

TAIPEI—Most of TransAsia Airways Corp. ’s ATR planes will remain grounded through Tuesday as pilot testing continues, the carrier said Sunday.

The majority of the airline’s turboprops were grounded Saturday as all 71 pilots of the planes began retraining and qualification tests required by local authorities days after the deadly crash in Taipei that killed at least 40 people.

The decision, which led to the cancellation of at least 122 domestic flights, follows the release of flight data indicating that fuel to the left engine of Flight 235 was manually cut off after the right engine of the twin turboprop plane appeared to have malfunctioned almost immediately after takeoff.

Both engines stopped producing thrust just before the ATR72-600 crashed into the Taipei’s Keelung River on Wednesday, four minutes after takeoff, according to flight data reviewed by Taiwan officials investigating the deadly crash.

The data raise the possibility that the pilot may have mistakenly cut fuel to the only engine keeping the plane in flight. Taiwan aviation safety authorities have declined to provide any interpretation or speculate on the cause of the crash.

Over the years, there have been cases in which military and commercial pilots have mistakenly shut down the wrong engine in an emergency, including a 1989 accident involving a British Midland Boeing 737 jetliner that crashed while trying to make an emergency landing in the U.K. In the wake of that and other accidents, plane manufacturers changed the design of some instruments and throttle systems to help pilots avoid such mistakes. Airlines and regulators also changed pilot-training programs, urging crews to be more deliberate in analyzing situations before shutting off any engine during flight.

Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council presented its preliminary findings after analyzing the data retrieved from the plane’s cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders, commonly known as the ’black boxes.’ A final report on the cause of the crash will be released in about 12 months.

Wednesday’s crash was TransAsia’s second fatal air accident in seven months. The plane carried 53 passengers and five crew members; the accident left 40 people dead, 15 injured and three—all Chinese nationals—unaccounted for.

On Friday, Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said the carrier would be banned from adding new international routes for a year. TransAsia had already been excluded from new international routes after the crash in July that killed 49 people. The second plane crash extends the ban to Feb. 4, 2016, the CAA said.

Following media speculation, TransAsia reiterated Sunday that the pilot didn’t work overtime on the day before the crash, and added that it doesn’t know how many hours the pilots slept the night before. The carrier declined to disclose what time the pilot signed off the night before, citing the continuing investigation.

The initial report of TransAsia’s July crash in Penghu, released late last year, suggested that pilot fatigue wasn't a causal factor, although the local pilot association has in the past complained about the amount of overtime pilots work.

Separately, the CAA said Sunday that the lengthening of TransAsia’s transit time from 20 minutes to 30 minutes—effective from March 1—was agreed to before Wednesday’s crash and was designed to accommodate occasional flight delays. The “preventive measure” wasn't a response to the carrier’s July crash and the current 20-minute transit time was still considered sufficient for safety checks before flying, the CAA said.

Air-safety concerns in Asia have been growing as the region’s traffic continues to boom, and following a number of tragedies last year, including the Dec. 28 crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, which went down in the Java Sea on its way from Indonesia to Singapore, and the mystery disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March.

Last week, international air-safety officials said they would press some Asian nations to beef up regulation of their airlines.

Story, comments and photo:

A ground mechanic works on a TransAsia Airways ATR airplane in Taipei, Taiwan, on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. Photo: Associated Press

Woodbine, New Jersey, seeks grants for site remediation projects

WOODBINE – Mayor William Pikolycky has announced that the borough has applied to the state for grants to address two site remediation projects.

One grant request for $152,000 would address old ammunition bunkers at the Woodbine Municipal Airport (KOBI).

The other, for $223,000, is aimed at groundwater monitoring and on-going site investigation at the former foundations and structures landfill on Fidler Hill Road.

“If funding is approved, this will give us a final closure action plan for these two locations,” said Pikolycky.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Logan-Cache Airport (KLGU) Logan, Utah: Long wish list • May host 5K fundraiser

The Logan-Cache Airport is expanding and there will be some changes in the coming years, including reconstruction on a taxiway. 

Lee Ivie, the airport’s manager, gave an update on the airport to the Logan-Cache Airport Authority Board last week after giving an update to the Cache County Council.

“One thing that has made the budget very easy this year is we will have no FAA or state grant projects,” he said. “This is a very rare year that that’s going to happen.”

The reason for that, he said, is the airport needs to bank funds because there are very large projects ahead in the next several years. These projects require a money match to receive funds.

Though the airport is saving money for bigger projects, there are still projects in the works. There are many projects the airport is planning on over the next five years, he said.

Last year they completed the construction of a new taxiway, he said.

There are two landing strips, which makes four runways. The main runway is in great condition, he said, but the second is greatly in need of repair.

In 2016, the airport will do the design work for reconstructing Taxiway C, with the reconstruction to begin in 2017, he said.

“It has been recommended that we either close that runway down or we reconstruct it,” he said. “It’s not eligible for federal funding, so this will have to be funded through the state and locally.”

There are many problems with this runway, he said, and this is something the airport plans to fix in 2016. The Utah Department of Transportation has put this project on their priority list, he said, so that it doesn’t have to be closed.

Another project for 2016, he said, is going to be pavement preservation on the current runway. It will be state funded, he said.

In 2017, he said there will be rehabilitation of the northwest apron.

“It needs repair and that will be a joint venture from both the FAA, the state, and local funding,” he said.

In 2018, the airport will purchase snow removal equipment and a high-speed sweeper.

“It’s something we greatly need at the airport,” he said. “When we get frost and the inversion sets in, we have to have the ability to sweep the runway.”

Another project for 2018 will be pavement preservation of ramps, he said.

In 2021, the airport is looking to purchase property to create a runway protection zone, he said.

“A lot of this is a wish list,” he said. “These projects have been approved, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to get all the funding.”


Logan-Cache Airport may host 5K fundraiser 

The Logan-Cache Airport is holding a community day in July and Utah State University’s aviation team is looking to have a 5K fundraiser run to help the students pay for competitions in the fall.

Desiree Malan, a senior in the aviation program at USU, said the open house at the airport is a good opportunity for the fundraiser run.

“We try to go compete every year,” she said. “But we have to have the money to actually fund ourselves.”

The goal is to raise $5,000, she said, which would fund 250 people at $20 per person.

John Kerr, the chair of the airport authority board, said other fundraiser runs have been proposed at the airport before, but there have always been issues. Using federally funded assets for what might be argued to be a non-aviation related event, he said, could cause problems.

David Hartmann, the vice president of engineering for Armstrong Consultants, said the airport would probably be OK getting the FAA’s approval for this event.

“It makes it a lot easier that it’s not for profit,” he said. “I can’t speak for the FAA. I would just say you would need their approval.”

When a facility that has a lot of federal dollars is shut down, he said, the FAA wants to see where the money is going.

Being not for profit, he said, makes the fundraiser an easier sell for the FAA.

The route for the run should not close the main runway, however, the official route hasn’t been approved.

Kerr told the aviation team to come back with a route that wouldn’t close the main runway and the board would discuss the fundraiser.

“The sense seems to be a guarded willingness to pursue this,” he said.

Aaron Dyches, the chief flight instructor for the aviation team, said the goal of the airport open house is to bring the community to the airport, and the 5K would be a good way to do that. 

Original article can be found at:

Robins unit stays ready for military plane crashes

Staff Sgt. Michael Lindsay shows some of the equipment the Hammer ACE unit at Robins Air Force Base uses when it deploys. The setup includes solar panels that power electronics to establish communications at an aircraft crash site. 

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- A small, elite unit at Robins stands ready around the clock to respond to a military aircraft crash or nuclear episode.

The Hammer ACE unit is the only one like it in the Air Force. It specializes in setting up communications when a crash site is at a remote location that may not even have cellphone service.

“Hammer” is an Air Force name for a specialized unit, and ACE stands for Adaptive Communications Element. The unit is made up of just nine people, with three on call at any given time to respond to a crash.

It doesn’t happen very often, but they are expected to be ready to go when it does. The unit has been at Robins since 2010 and has been on five calls, which means they spend a lot of time training.

“We have some highly trained, highly qualified airmen here,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Williams, the superintendent of the unit. “At the end of the day you really don’t want them to go out and do their job. If we are called out, people have died. The only question is how many.”

The most recent deployment happened in August when an F-15 from the Massachusetts Air National Guard crashed in a remote area of Virginia. The pilot, a decorated combat veteran, died in the crash.

The unit formed in 1980 after two serious incidents happened back to back, said Senior Airman Curtis Bonham.

A B-52 bomber on the ground and loaded with nuclear bombs caught fire, causing a major scare. Just three days later a worker at a nuclear missile silo dropped a wrench into the silo that bounced off the floor and punctured the rocket. The damage led to an explosion that blasted the nuclear warhead out of the silo.

Of course, there was no nuclear explosion in either case. But it led the Air Force to conclude that it needed a way to establish and secure communications when responding to serious episodes. Bonham said in both cases there were misunderstandings by the public due to misinterpretations of military lingo and operating procedures that were picked up over unsecured radios.

“The community did not really understand what was happening,” Bonham said. “It caused fears and anxieties.”

But it’s not just about keeping communications secret, Williams said. The equipment they set up helps ground commanders communicate information to the public. They even have a satellite TV dish they set up so commanders can see what information is being reported in the media.

While responding to accident sites is their primary purpose, they also are useful in other situations. They responded to hurricanes Katrina and Sandy because communications in those areas were obliterated. They also may respond to aircraft crashes from other military branches -- and even civilian crashes.

Their equipment includes a satellite dish to link phone and computer communications, powered with batteries that can be trickle charged with roll-up solar panels.

“We are completely self-sustainable,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Lindsay. “We don’t need power right away.”

The unit was originally at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, then moved to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia before coming to Robins. One reason the unit has moved, Williams said, is that its mission does not fit neatly into any larger unit, so it has been transferred between units.

But it is now attached to the 51st Combat Communications Squadron of the 5th Combat Communications Group at Robins, better known as the 5th Mob. The 5th Mob goes into remote locations in combat areas and sets up communications. Hammer ACE basically does the same thing, except at crash locations rather than combat areas.

So, the 5th Mob is a good fit for the unit, Williams said. A Hammer ACE position is highly sought after, and when there is a vacancy in the unit, a dozen or more 5th Mob airmen generally apply.

“These are the finest airmen I have had the pleasure of working with in my 24 years,” he said.

Story and photos:

Staff Sgt. Michael Lindsay talks about some of the communications equipment the Hammer ACE unit would set up inside a tent an aircraft crash site. The unit is ready to deploy around the clock. 

Investigators: Human Error Caused Idaho Guard Chopper Crash

BOISE, Idaho —   Military investigators say human error caused an Idaho Army National Guard helicopter to crash during a training mission in November near the Boise airport, leading to the death of two pilots on board.

Right before the crash, the pilots were practicing a routine emergency procedure: flying their Apache attack helicopter to safety on a single working engine, Col. Tim Marsano, a Guard spokesman, said in a statement.

To simulate loss of power, they were supposed to momentarily slip one of the engine power-control levers into the lock-out position, then pull it back, decreasing power to one of the engines.

But investigators concluded one or both of the pilots pushed both control levers into the lock-out position and kept them there for too long, causing the engines to over-speed and shutting down the engines.

When they lost power, the pilots had three seconds to respond before impact, Marsano said, and that's not enough time to restart the engines or otherwise recover the aircraft. The accident occurred about 400 feet above ground level, in the darkness.

Both pilots — chief warrant officers Stien P. Gearhart, 50, and Jon L. Hartway, 43 — were killed instantly upon impact because of blunt-force trauma, the Ada County Coroner's report determined. The two were the only men aboard the aircraft. The crash also resulted in a total loss of the helicopter.

The crash investigation concluded it was not possible to determine which pilot inadvertently placed both engine power control levers into the lock-out because the levers can be operated from either the front or rear seats.

The investigation also determined that all Guard supporting aviation systems were within normal Army standards.

Apache aircrews will be briefed on the investigation, Guard officials said, with the goal of preventing similar accident.

"This routine, hands-on instruction is critical for military helicopter aircrews, since it trains them how to quickly respond to the loss of one engine's power during aircraft operations on both combat and training missions," Marsano said. This emergency procedure is regularly practiced by Apache pilots across the entire U.S. Army, he said.

Both pilots were assigned to the 1-183rd Attack Reconnaissance Battalion headquartered at Gowen Field in Boise. Gearhart lived in Meridian, and Hartway lived in Kuna.

Marsano said the families had requested privacy.

Original article can be found at:

Michigan Supreme Court: No jobless pay for airport security worker fired for helping traveler

ROMULUS, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court says an airport security guard fired for using a computer to help a traveler can't collect unemployment benefits.

In a unanimous decision Friday, the court says lower courts exceeded their authority when they overturned a ruling by state officials.

U.S. Security Associates fired Carnice Hodge for misconduct at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Hodge was trying to help a harried traveler, but U.S. Security says she violated company policy in 2011 by using a computer to get flight information.

The company opposed her application for unemployment benefits. An administrative law judge and the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission ruled against Hodge before courts intervened.

The Supreme Court says Hodge still could have helped the traveler by directing the traveler to someone who had permission to provide flight information.

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Sea Dragon Down: Docs Show Navy Fears More Chopper Crashes

Editor's Note: This story was co-published with The Virginian-Pilot and the Investigative Reporting Program

 More than a year after a Navy helicopter crashed off the coast of Virginia, killing three crew members, high-ranking military officials are worried not enough has been done to prevent a similar tragedy, according to confidential documents obtained by The Virginian-Pilot and NBC News.

After an MH-53E Sea Dragon caught fire and went down on Jan. 8, 2014, the military ordered crews to inspect all Sea Dragons in the fleet -- and every CH-53E Super Stallion, the Marine Corps variant -- for signs of damaged fuel lines and wires like those that caused the crash.

There's now evidence that many of those inspections were conducted haphazardly, if at all, leaving dozens of potentially unsafe helicopters in service and sending officials scrambling to come up with a plan to fix the problems, according to a chain of emails circulating last week among leaders at Naval Air Systems Command, the Maryland-based office that oversees all Navy and Marine Corps aircraft programs.

"Please close hold this information and do not forward," a Marine officer wrote at the start of one email about the shortcomings of last year's inspections. "Engineering is very concerned. … We don't need another mishap as a result of chafing wiring on a fuel line."

The emails included attachments detailing the seriousness of the situation, including a spreadsheet documenting disparities in how much time was spent on the inspections, and a PowerPoint presentation apparently used during a leadership briefing last week by Col. Hank Vanderborght, the Sea Dragon and Super Stallion program director.

The bottom line, Vanderborght wrote to begin the slides, is that "the risk of cabin fire was not mitigated and the hazard of chafing on fluid-carrying lines and wires was not eliminated."

A spot check of Marine helicopters conducted two weeks ago produced disturbing results, according to the slides. Of 28 Super Stallions examined, all but eight were found to have bad fuel lines or wiring, including at least one with chafing lines in the same location that led to the deadly Sea Dragon crash a year ago, when a worn-out wiring bundle released an electrical arc that connected with jet fuel, igniting an explosive fire.

Vanderborght recommended that "Top Level leadership conduct intrusive verification," that the inspections be completed with "requisite attention to detail," and that training and on-site guidance be provided for inspection teams.

This week, a similar review is being done on Sea Dragons, said Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic. The engineers so far have discovered additional discrepancies and have concluded that the initial training on how to conduct the wiring and fuel-line inspections was inadequate, Kafka said.

After the crash, the Navy had estimated crews would need to spend 36 hours on each aircraft to conduct the newly required inspections and related repairs. But on dozens of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters, crews reported spending less than three hours on the work, according to maintenance records included in the emails.

Only six of the 28 Sea Dragons that remain in service - and just 17 of the 151 Super Stallions - received an adequate wiring and fuel-line inspection of at least 36 hours after last year's crash, according to an analysis of the data.

Additionally, according to the emails, officials are worried that some of the squadrons focused on finding chafing fuel lines but failed to properly search for bad wiring, which should have been given equal attention.

Kelly Burdick, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, said correcting the cause of the Jan. 8, 2014 crash is "paramount" to the Sea Dragon and Super Stallion community.

"Cross checking to ensure corrective actions are having the desired effects is part of our normal process. If a discrepancy is found, we immediately act to rectify the situation. The e-mail and brief … are part of a process," she said, adding that Vanderborght was traveling and wasn't available for an interview.

The internal emails and documents sound an alarming tone, yet more than two weeks after the discrepancies were discovered, Sea Dragons and Super Stallions continue flying in Norfolk, Virginia, at bases across the country and overseas. Further, there is little indication that maintenance crews who work on the helicopters or sailors who fly them have been fully briefed on the matter.

"It's all news to me," said one aviator from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "I find it deeply troubling."

The inspections ordered a year ago were among measures the Navy has taken to try to improve the safety of wiring and fuel lines. Although some of the helicopters are outfitted with wiring from the 1980s - now brittle and prone to sparking fires - nobody had been required to regularly inspect Sea Dragon wires over the helicopter's three decades in service.

Since the crash, every Sea Dragon is supposed to be thoroughly inspected every 400 flight hours to ensure no wires or fuel lines are chafing or damaged.

Earlier this week at HM-14 - one of two Sea Dragon squadrons at Norfolk Naval Station - a maintenance crew, unaware of the higher-level concerns, grounded the only helicopter at the command that had been cleared to fly this week. Maintainers found several chafing fuel lines and wires, according to sources.

A safety investigation conducted after last year's crash said the Navy, in order to fully remedy the chafing issue, must go beyond inspections: "Physically isolating aircraft wiring from all critical aircraft components is necessary to prevent catastrophic chafing between maintenance intervals," the report said.

In a statement Thursday, Rear Adm. J.R. Haley, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, said he is confident in the Navy's ability to ensure Sea Dragons are safe to fly and trusts the service's "culture of safety," which gives even junior pilots authority to demand that repairs be made if they are uncertain of an aircraft's safety.

"We are aware of the challenges in maintaining the aging airframe and will continue to ensure the helos remain safe," Haley said in the statement. "NAVAIR engineers have years of experience over many prior airframes in sustaining the safety of our aircraft as they age. We have total confidence in their ability to ensure we are flying airworthy planes."

Nicole Van Dorn, whose husband was among the three sailors killed off Virginia Beach, said it was "beyond inexcusable" that many helicopters were not properly inspected following the crash.

Lt. Wes Van Dorn had been working to expose problems at his squadron and often warned that someone would get hurt if changes weren't made.

"This points to exactly what Wes observed," Nicole Van Dorn said. "That is, an organizational culture that is built on the acceptance of risk because it's easier. I'm so glad someone is speaking up, because Wes can't."

The Virginian-Pilot has spent more than a year investigating problems with the Sea Dragon, the Navy's oldest and most crash-prone helicopter -- and the only one in the fleet capable of sweeping for underwater mines. The latest revelations come days after an NBC Nightly News and Virginian-Pilot story raised concerns about the safety of the aircraft.

Even as Naval Air Systems Command officials were trading emails last week, the newspaper had been questioning the command about its efforts to address wiring problems in light of a Jan. 15 incident over the Arabian Gulf.

In that incident, two wires had chafed inside a Sea Dragon, causing an electrical arc that -- according to numerous sailors at the command -- sparked a brief fire and forced the crew to land in Kuwait.

The Navy confirmed that there was an electrical malfunction but did not use the word "fire."

When asked about the incident, the service responded by touting its work to fix bad wires and fuel lines. No mention was made of the newly discovered problems with those efforts.

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Duncan bill would require ejectable, floatable black boxes on planes

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. has been fighting for years to require airlines to equip commercial aircraft with technology that will make it easier to find a plane when it crashes.

The airline industry has resisted, and Congress has been reluctant to force the issue.

But the disappearance of the still-missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 over the South China Sea last March and other recent aviation disasters have led aviation experts to again call for airlines to fit their planes with the data recorders. Duncan is hoping the renewed attention will also cause Congress to finally force the airlines to put the technology on all domestic flights.

“To me, it just makes sense,” the Knoxville Republican said. “I think it should have been done a long time ago.”

Duncan filed legislation Thursday that would require airlines to install ejectable “black box” data recorders on all newly manufactured aircraft in the United States. A similar bill filed by U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., would direct the Federal Aviation Administration to require passenger aircraft to be equipped with tracking technology.

The boxes, already widely used by the Air Force and Navy and other military aircraft around the world, are located on the exterior of the plane. They pop off during a crash and immediately transmit a signal identifying the location of the crash site, enabling search crews to find the plane quickly and giving investigators speedy access to critical data.

The boxes also float, which would make it easier to find them when a plane crashes in the ocean or another large body of water.

“Had Malaysia 370 been equipped with a deployable flight recorder, it would have likely led to the plane’s discovery and provided closure for the families of those on board,” Duncan said. “It also could have saved many millions of dollars in search costs that are still being accrued and possibly provide answers critical to preventing a future crash.”

The National Transportation Safety Board first recommended in 1999 that Congress mandate the technology on all commercial planes, but it is not currently used on any commercial aircraft in the world.

That is about to change.

The European manufacturer Airbus announced last month that it will start equipping its two largest jetliners — the A350 and A380 — with the ejectable black boxes.

And this week, airline officials at an international aviation safety summit in Montreal agreed in principle to add ejectable, floatable black boxes on all commercial jetliners. The International Civil Aviation Organization, which sets airline standards and regulations, is expected to ratify the proposal in November.

Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, applauded Duncan and Price for pushing Congress to mandate what he said are “common-sense and low-cost aviation safety upgrades.”

“Several crashes have occurred over the last six years, let alone the 14 years since I was chairman, that continue to demonstrate the need for these technology upgrades,” Hall, who is from Chattanooga, said in a statement. “Floating recorders, distress signals, 25-hour cockpit voice recorders and cockpit image recorders are all existing, ready-to-install technologies.”

Airbus’s decision to install the boxes on its jetliners and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s likely endorsement of the technology could provide the momentum needed to get Congress to act, said Duncan, who sits on the House Aviation Subcommittee and is its former chairman.

“When you’re talking about these bigger crashes, people want to know and need to know as much as they can (about what happened),” he said. “This is just one small way to make international aviation even safer. It should have been done a long time ago.”

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Piper PA-24-250 Comanche, N6086P: Incident occurred February 06, 2015 at Rapid City Regional Airport (KRAP), South Dakota

Regis#:    N6086P
Aircraft Make:    PIPER
Aircraft Model:    PA24
Event Type:    Incident
Highest Injury:    None
Damage:    Unknown
State:    South Dakota
Flight Phase:   LANDING (LDG)
FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Rapid City FSDO-27


ALEN ENTERPRISES INC DBA: http://registry.faa.govN6086P 

 Both the pilot and passenger were able to walk away when after an electrical system failure forced a plane to land at Rapid City Regional Airport without landing gear at 7:30 Friday night. 

The Rapid City Fire Department says the plane was en route from Wyoming to Wisconsin when the electrical system failed about 80 miles outside of Rapid City, shutting down on-board computers and access to landing gear. 

With no radio, the pilot had to land without notifying the airport tower and employee saw sparks flying from the underside of the aircraft at it skidded to a stop on the runway.

The fire department says the pilot had only airspeed and altitude indicators available and they used their iPads to navigate to a landing place. 

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RAPID CITY, SD - Two people walked away from a crash landing at Rapid City Regional Airport Friday night.

Fire officials say their single-engine prop plane's electrical system failed about 80 miles outside of Rapid City.  

The failure shut down on-board computers so the pilot couldn't deploy the plane's landing gear.

Airport tower workers saw sparks fly underneath the plane as it skidded to a stop on the runway.

The husband and wife on board were checked out by medical crews at the scene.

They were en route from Wyoming to Wisconsin when the electrical failure happened.

Officials say they used their iPads to find a safe place to land.


TransAsia Grounds Some Planes, Tests ATR Pilots After Taiwan Crash • Death Toll From Wednesday’s Crash Rises to 39

The Wall Street Journal


Feb. 7, 2015 6:17 a.m. ET

TAIPEI— TransAsia Airways Corp. will ground most of its ATR planes from Saturday to Monday, as pilots of the turboprops undergo qualification tests required by local authorities days after a deadly crash here which killed at least 39 people.

The decision, which led to the cancellation of 90 domestic flights, follows the release of flight data indicating that fuel to the left engine of Flight 235 was manually cut off after the right engine of the twin turboprop plane appeared to have malfunctioned almost immediately following takeoff.

Both engines stopped producing thrust just before the ATR72-600 crashed into the Taipei’s Keelung River on Wednesday four minutes after takeoff, according to flight data reviewed by Taiwan officials investigating the deadly crash.

The data raise the possibility that the pilot may have mistakenly cut fuel to the only engine keeping the plane in flight. Taiwan aviation safety authorities have declined to provide any interpretation or speculate on the cause of the crash.

Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council presented its preliminary findings after analyzing the data retrieved from the plane’s two cockpit voice recorders and flight-data recorder, commonly known as the ‘black boxes.’ A final report on the cause of the crash will be released in about 12 months.

Wednesday’s crash was TransAsia’s second fatal air accident in seven months. On Friday, Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said the carrier would be banned from adding new international routes for a year. TransAsia had already been excluded from new international routes after the crash in July that killed 49 people. The second plane crash extends the ban to Feb. 4, 2016, the CAA said.

Air-safety concerns in Asia have been growing as the region’s traffic continues to boom, and following a number of tragedies last year, including the Dec. 28 crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, which went down in the Java Sea on its way from Indonesia to Singapore, and the mystery disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March.

During the week, international air-safety officials said they would press some Asian nations to beef up regulation of their airlines. A report released this week at a summit held by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency that sets nonbinding safety standards for carriers and regulators, found about one-third of commercial-plane crashes in Asia between 2008 and 2012, to some extent, “involved deficiencies in regulatory oversight.”

—Andy Pasztor contributed to this article.

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One of the recovered engines from TransAsia Airways Flight 235 is inspected at the crash site on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. 

TransAsia Airways
Transasia Avions de Transport Regional ATR-72-212A, B-22816, Flight GE-235