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.”

Source:  http://news.hjnews.com

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: http://news.hjnews.com

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. 
WAYNE CRESHAW/The Telegraph



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: http://www.macon.com

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. 
WAYNE CRENSHAW/THE TELEGRAPH

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: http://abcnews.go.com

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.

Story and comments: http://www.freep.com

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.

Story, photos and video:  http://www.nbcnews.com


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.”

Story and photo:  http://www.knoxnews.com

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
City:   RAPID CITY
State:    South Dakota
Flight Phase:   LANDING (LDG)
FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Rapid City FSDO-27

AIRCRAFT LANDED GEAR UP, RAPID CITY, SD

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. 

Story and photo:  http://www.blackhillsfox.com




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.

Story: http://www.keloland.com

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

The Wall Street Journal

By JENNY W. HSU,  ARIES POON and  COLUM MURPHY

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.

Story and photo: http://www.wsj.com


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

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

Ryan Frank: It’s About the Journey, not the Destination

Ryan Frank, 17, discusses his preflight checklist in front of the Cessna 172N he flew during most of his training at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.
(Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)



For many children, watching a plane navigate the sky is a source of wonderment. For a young Ryan Frank, it was a glance into his future.

Last week Ryan, a 17-year-old junior at Brainerd High School, earned his private pilot's license just days after his birthday made him eligible to do so.

"If I didn't have that age limit, I probably would have had my license in October," Ryan said.

Ryan's earliest memories of flight come from a trip his family took to Arizona to visit his grandparents.

"(My) face was glued to the window and looking out all the time," he said. "Ever since then, I've really lived aviation and flying, always interested, always looking up when I hear the airplane go by."

What began as a pastime - spending hours on a computer flight simulator - grew into a full-blown passion last spring when Sun Country Airlines arranged for Ryan to meet professional pilots and see the cockpit of a jumbo jet. The invitation came in response to a letter he sent to the company, a letter he said he never expected to be answered.

His father, Dave Frank, remembers when Ryan received the call while the family was traveling to the Twin Cities in preparation for a flight to Mexico. The excitement he saw in Ryan, he said, made him realize how important this was to his son.

"He's passionate about it," Dave Frank said. "He has studied everything about it and he's made connections with other pilots already and really done the research, which has been fun for me to see. We've always been one to push him and say, 'Be open-minded and learn everything you can about a situation.'"

When the family returned from vacation, it was not long before Ryan found himself at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport where in June he began flight instruction through Airmotive Enterprises. Instructor Matt Van Cura said he watched Ryan's passion for aviation unfold as he began pursuing his license.

"It's nice to have a student like that, who's talented but also willing to put the work in to accomplish his goals," Van Cura said. "It's interesting to see the progression from someone who knows very little about aviation to someone who is a proficient pilot."

Ryan said his family and airport staff have been supportive of his goals and helped him accomplish them. His parents supported his instruction financially, although Dave Frank said when he saw how much it would cost he jokingly told Ryan he needed to get another job. Ryan took his dad seriously and picked up his third summer gig, washing planes at the airport, to help pay for his flying. He already worked five or six nights per week at Coach's Corner in Deerwood and also mowed about a dozen area lawns.

"When I said that, it was kind of tongue-in-cheek, but he went and got a job there," he said. "He worked probably 60- (to) 65-hour weeks all summer and he saved all of it."

As for Ryan, he said he enjoys working because it makes him feel accomplished.

"When I want to do something, I really commit to it," he said.

After several hours in the sky with an instructor over the course of the summer, Ryan took his first solo flight Oct. 11, a moment he said he'll never forget. His parents likely won't either. Dave Frank said he became unexpectedly emotional when he realized Ryan would be alone in the plane.

"I didn't anticipate it," Dave Frank said. "We were driving over and talking and saying some prayers, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks that my boy's going up there all by himself."

He said his fears stemmed from having known several pilots who did not survive ill-fated flights in small planes, not from a lack of trust in his son.

"He was on a snowmobile when he was 4 or 5 years old, and a four-wheeler, and he was always safe," he said. "I never had to worry about him."

Mother Debra Frank felt the nerves at first, but said the family has let their Catholic faith guide them in supporting Ryan's dream.

"I just trust the Lord is going to protect him," she said. "If it's (his) time in the air, or it's time on the ground, I can't control that. So I try to be proud of him and just excited about it for him."

So far, neither parent has flown with Ryan, although they have plans to do so soon.

Although Ryan has set his course for a career flying professionally, he has not lost sight of another of his passions, computer science. Upon graduation, he plans to attend Central Lakes College and go on to complete a four-year degree in the field, focusing on web design or application development. In an industry where pilots can sometimes be laid off, Ryan said he wants to ensure he has a back-up plan.

"I'd rather go flying than do homework, but you know, you gotta do the homework and do the school part so you can become whatever you want to be later on," he said.

For now, Ryan's flying is relegated to weekends - he's a "weekend warrior" per pilot lingo - but he's gearing up for the next step in flight training, to earn his instrument rating. This will allow Ryan to operate the plane in cloudy or dark conditions using instruments to fly rather than by sight.

The rest of his journey toward commercial flight is mapped out. First, 250 hours of flight to earn a commercial license, then he'd like to become a certified flight instructor to help complete the 1,500 hours of training required to pilot an airline jet. He'll have to wait until he's 23 to earn this final distinction, although it seems likely he'll be first in line to take his test in 2021.

"They always say, 'It's not the destination, it's the journey,'" Ryan said. "For pilots, I think that's really true."

Story and photos:  http://www.brainerddispatch.com

Ryan Frank, 17, talks about his flight training in the Cessna 172N at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.
 (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)