Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cirrus SR22 G2, N358CD: Accident occurred February 19, 2015 at Blue Grass Airport (KLEX), Lexington, Kentucky

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Louisville, Kentucky
Continental Motors, Inc.; Mobile, Alabama 

Aviation Accident Final Report -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA134
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, February 19, 2015 in Lexington, KY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/13/2017
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N358CD
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

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

The private pilot reported that he conducted a preflight inspection and engine-run-up with no anomalies noted. The pilot then taxied the airplane to the runway and began the takeoff roll for his planned personal cross-country flight. The airplane lifted off the runway and climbed to about 200 ft above ground level, at which point, the engine “backfired” several times, followed by a partial loss of power. The pilot chose to discontinue the flight, retarded the throttle to idle, and initiated a descent to land on the remaining runway; however, the pilot was unable to stop the airplane, and it overran the runway and collided with the precision approach path indicator lights and a snowbank. 

Postaccident test runs of the engine with a new set of magnetos and the original ignition harness revealed that the likely cause of the loss of engine power was related to the ignition harness. Subsequent examination of the ignition harness revealed the presence of radial carbon tracks on the sleeves of 8 of the 12 terminals on the harness. The harness and its terminal wells were in generally dirty condition, which likely resulted in spark plugs erratically misfiring. Although one of the engine’s magnetos internal mechanisms was damaged, the damage was likely the result of the engine misfiring. According to an engine manufacturer service bulletin (SB), the ignition harness spark plug terminals should be removed, inspected, and cleaned at each annual inspection. The engine logbook indicated that the spark plugs were “cleaned, gapped, and inspected” during the last annual inspection, which was completed about 14 flight hours before the accident. However, the logbooks did not note compliance with the SB or whether the ignition harness spark plug terminal, and not just the spark plugs, had been inspected and/or cleaned. Given the generally dirty condition of the ignition harness spark plug terminals, it is likely that maintenance personnel did not properly inspect and clean the ignition harness terminals in accordance with the SB.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
Maintenance personnel's failure to properly inspect and clean the engine ignition harness spark plug terminals, which resulted in a partial loss of engine power during an attempted takeoff.

On February 19, 2015, about 1440 eastern standard time, a Cirrus SR22 airplane, N358CD, was substantially damaged during a runway overrun while attempting to depart from Bluegrass Airport (LEX), Lexington, Kentucky. The private pilot and both passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight that was destined for Oakland County International Airport (PTK), Pontiac, Michigan. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 and was originating at the time of the accident.

According to the pilot, he did not observe any abnormalities with the engine during any of the five individual flights that he completed in the accident airplane about one week prior to the accident. The pilot reported that both the preflight inspection and subsequent engine run-up did not present any anomalies on the day of the accident. The pilot then taxied to runway 22 and began a takeoff roll. The airplane's initial climb appeared normal until it reached approximately 200 feet above ground level (agl). The engine "backfired" several times, which was immediately followed by a partial loss of power. The pilot elected to discontinue the flight, retarded the throttle to the idle position, and initiated a descent to land on the remaining runway. The pilot stated that he had "too much energy" to stop the airplane before it overran the end of the runway and collided with the precision approach path indicator lights and a snowbank. According to a police report, the pilot stated that the airplane touched down near the approach end of runway 04.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector interviewed a witness who was in his office, which was located about midfield on runway 22/4, at the time of the accident. According to the witness's recount, he did not observe any anomalies as the airplane began its climbout. However, once the airplane was "abeam his office window" and approximately 200 feet agl, the witness heard the engine surge, which was followed by a reduction in power and multiple loud "pop" sounds. The airplane then entered a nose-low attitude and began to descend. The witness observed the airplane begin a landing flare from approximately 30 feet agl. During the airplane's subsequent touchdown attempt, it bounced three times and then overran the runway.

The 1454 recorded weather observation at LEX included wind from 280 degrees at 12 knots, gusting to 15 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, overcast clouds at 3,400 feet, temperature -14 degrees C, dew point -23 degrees C; barometric altimeter 30.31 inches of mercury.

The four-seat, low wing, fixed-gear airplane was manufactured in 2004 and powered by a Continental Motors IO-550-N27, 310-horsepower reciprocating engine. According to the maintenance records, the airplane's most recent annual inspection was performed on December 5, 2014, at a total airframe time of 3,700 flight hours, 14 flight hours before the accident. At the time of the inspection, the engine had accumulated 1,598 total flight hours since its last overhaul, which took place on December 18, 2009 at 2,116 hours, total time in service. A 500-hour magneto inspection was completed at the time of the annual inspection.

According to the engine logbook, the ignition harness was replaced with a factory new unit on August 24, 2009, approximately 100 hours before the engine was overhauled. The logbook entry that pertained to the airplane's most recent inspection stated that the spark plugs were "cleaned, gapped, and inspected" and the engine was inspected in accordance with the manufacturer's maintenance manual. The ignition harness inspection and cleaning requirements were included in a service bulletin, but not in the manufacturer's maintenance manual. The most recent inspection logbook entry did not reference the service bulletin nor did it indicate that the ignition harness spark plugs terminals had been cleaned.

The airplane was equipped with an Avidyne multi-function display (MFD) that was capable of recording airplane and engine performance data to a compact flash card. The compact flash card was removed and successfully downloaded. The data contained recorded engine parameter data and GPS coordinates for the accident flight. The data were recorded at a rate of once every 6 seconds, and did not include altitude or airspeed; however, the airspeed was computed using time and the airplane's GPS-derived location. According to the data, the airplane began a takeoff roll at 1437:12 at which point the engine rpm increased from 1,470 rpm to 2,460 rpm, on its rise to takeoff power. In the 18 seconds that followed, the engine maintained 2,400 – 2,700 rpm, which corresponded to a fuel flow of about 30 gallons per hour (gph).

After the airplane passed the first third of the runway, the engine rpm, fuel flow, and cylinder exhaust gas temperatures (EGT) began to decline simultaneously; however, a precise rate of decline could not be captured due to the rate at which the data was recorded. The fuel flow decreased to 3 gallons per hour in the 12 seconds that followed the power reduction. The engine rpm and cylinder EGTs continued to decline as the airplane reached the departure end of the runway. At 1438:12 the engine rpm leveled out at approximately 450 rpm for about 12 seconds, when the airplane came to rest. The rpm then decreased to 0 rpm and the fuel flow was reduced to 0 gph almost simultaneously.

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the spark plugs and ignition harness functioned normally when field tested, and electrical continuity was established through the magneto switch and primary leads. The magnetos had been timed to approximately 22 degrees below top dead center (BTDC), consistent with the manufacturer's specification. Both magnetos were subsequently field tested, but only the right magneto produced a spark at the ignition leads.

A set of new magnetos, furnished by the manufacturer, were installed and timed to 22 degrees BTDC and a set of test leads were attached to the disconnected primary leads to bypass the magneto switch. The ignition harness was not replaced. A subsequent engine test run revealed that the engine ran smoothly on both magnetos. When the right magneto was selected the engine lost approximately 20 rpms, but continued to run smoothly. Once the left magneto test lead was selected, the engine lost power and began to backfire.

All 6 fuel injectors were cleaned after an inspection showed that some of the injectors were contaminated and restricted. The injectors were reinstalled and another engine run was attempted; however, the engine still lost power and backfired when the left magneto was selected. The airplane was secured until the engine could be re-run with new spark plugs and a new ignition harness.

A follow-up engine run was completed with a new set of spark plugs installed and a subsequent engine-run revealed that the engine lost approximately 200 rpm when the magneto switch was moved from BOTH to LEFT, but the engine did not backfire as it did during previous tests. After the ignition harness was replaced, the engine dropped only 20 rpm when the left magneto was selected and did not backfire.

The ignition harness and magnetos were submitted to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examination. An examination of the ignition harness revealed the presence of radial carbon tracks on the sleeves of 8 out of 12 terminals on the harness. The sleeves exhibited pitting, discoloration and flat spots consistent with wear contact. Black deposits were observed on the sleeve surfaces, including the areas that sealed against the spark plug insulator. Each terminal spring was covered in black deposits and several of the springs and sleeves were bent. Multiple leads displayed wear damage, and in one case the damage extended to the underlying metal braid.

Examination of the right magneto revealed that 11 teeth were fractured and two teeth were cracked. The left magneto exhibited 9 fractured teeth and one partially fractured tooth. A set of teeth from the right distributor gear were deliberately fractured under impact loading conditions and the resulting impact signatures were consistent with those observed in the teeth that had been previously fractured in both magnetos. Laboratory testing showed that each distributor gear had a Fourier-transform infrared spectrum consistent with the specific material prescribed by the magneto manufacturer.

Champion Aerospace Aviation Service Manual, AV6-R, dated August 2014, stated that if the terminal well in the spark plug became dirty with moisture or other foreign material, current could track through the dirty terminal well to ground on the shell, which could result in an erratic misfire of the spark plug. This condition was known as connector well flashover. The service manual further stated that spark plugs with dirty terminal wells should be replaced with serviceable units.

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority Airworthiness Bulletin (AWB) 17-005, Issue 3, dated October 2014, listed a number of potential causes for nylon distributor gear failures, including propeller strikes, kick back during start-up events, and any other event that can cause shock on the gear train driving the distributor gear.

According to Service Bulletin (SB) SB-643B, published by Continental Motors, Inc. on April 6, 2005, all ignition harness outlet plates, covers, or cap assemblies should be cleaned and inspected in concurrence with the 500 hour magneto inspection. Any damaged parts, including those that were broken, brittle, cracked or burned, must be replaced. The SB required that all ignition harness spark plug terminals be removed, cleaned, and inspected during each 100 hour, annual inspection, or progressive maintenance inspection.

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA134 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, February 19, 2015 in Lexington, KY
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N358CD
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

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

On February 19, 2015, about 1440 eastern standard time, a Cirrus SR22 airplane, N358CD, was substantially damaged during a runway overrun near Bluegrass Airport (LEX), Lexington, Kentucky. The private pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight that attempted to depart LEX at 1440 and was destined for Oakland County International Airport (PTK), Pontiac, Michigan. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

In his written statement, the pilot reported that he completed a preflight and engine run-up before departing LEX. The airplane lifted off the runway and, about 200 feet above ground level (agl), the engine "backfired" several times, which was followed by a partial loss of power. The pilot subsequently pulled the power back to idle and attempted to land the airplane on the remaining runway. The airplane overran the end of the runway and collided with the precision approach path indicator lights, which resulted in substantial damage to the wings. The pilot's statement was corroborated by multiple witnesses. 

A postaccident examination was conducted by the engine manufacturer under the supervision of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. An engine test run with new magnetos revealed no anomalies when either the right or both magnetos were selected. When the magneto switch was turned to the left position the engine produced only partial power as evidenced by several cylinder misfires. The engine was test run again after the magneto switch was bypassed, which produced the same result. The examination also revealed a significant amount of contamination on three of the fuel injectors. The engine was test run again after each injector was cleaned; however, the engine still produced only partial power when the left magneto was selected. The ignition harness was tested using an ignition lead tester and no anomalies were identified. 

The airplane and engine were retained for further examination at a later date.

No one was injured Thursday when a small private plane taking off from Blue Grass Airport lost power and ran off the end of the main commercial runway, an airport spokeswoman said.

Three people were aboard the Cirrus SR22 aircraft, said Amy Caudill, spokeswoman for Blue Grass Airport.

"The aircraft lost power at approximately 200 feet" in the air, she said. "It then landed hard at the end of our runway."

The runway re-opened at 4:15 p.m.

The incident, which has been reported to the National Transportation Safety Board, happened at 2:40 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The FAA said it will investigate the incident.

The plane was on its way to Oakland County International Airport in Pontiac, Mich., according to the FAA statement.

The single-engine plane's registered owner is Optimal Aircraft Management of Sanford, Mich., according to FAA records. Records also list several other co-owners.

The runway was closed for about 90 minutes, Caudill said. One arriving flight planning to land at Blue Grass was diverted. Two departing flights were delayed until the aircraft could be towed to a maintenance facility at the airport, Caudill said.

Original article can be found at:

Blue Grass airport experienced flight delays after a small plane became disabled on the runway.

Sources say the small plane lost power on the runaway during takeoff and that three people were on board. No one was inured. The plane was 200 feet in the air when it lost power and was able to make a hard landing on the runway. 

The plane has been cleared off the runway. The three people inside of the plane were headed to Michigan. 

They are now driving to their destination.

You can check the status of all flights by visiting Blue Grass airport's flight status screen.

Story, video and photo:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A small plane lost power during takeoff, slid off the runway and into a snowbank Thursday afternoon at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport.

Three people were on the plane, but no one was injured, Blue Grass Airport spokeswoman Amy Caudill told WKYT.

The plane, a Cirrus SR22 aircraft, ran off the end of Runway 22 at the airport, according to a release from FAA Communications Kathleen Bergen. The crash happened about 2:40 p.m. when the plane, which was headed to Pontiac, Mich., was trying to take off.

Caudill said the private aircraft managed to take off, and had gotten 200 feet off the ground before losing power. The plane came down for a hard landing at the end of the runway, she said.

No other information was available about the crash. The FAA is investigating.

The small plane was towed off the runway, and Caudill says the runway was reopened.

Flights heading to Lexington were being diverted to Louisville or Cincinnati. No flights were cancelled as of 4:15 p.m., but multiple departures were delayed.

Airport officials say to check the status of your flights.

Source and video:

Angel Flights: The sun never sets on humble pilots who lift sick to far-off care

Fully focused, Scott Stevens pilots his Piper Meridian on an Angel Flight. Making such flights for people who really need it, he says, keeps everyday problems in perspective. 
— Photo from Scott Stevens

Dale Thuillez at the controls of his Pilatus PC-12. He loves to fly and notes a pilot has to maintain his skills with regular flights. “You might as well do it for a good cause,” he said.

by Elizabeth Floyd Mair

“There was a gentleman with advanced cancer, who basically had been told by the doctors that there was nothing more they could do,” Albany attorney Terence L. Kindlon recalled.

“His family traditionally gathered every year at Block Island. He was in such delicate condition that he couldn’t ride in a car that far. But if you’re in an airplane and it’s a calm day up there in the sky, it’s like sitting in a chair for an hour.”

In his spare time, Kindlon volunteers as a pilot with Angel Flight Northeast, a not-for-profit organization that brings patients, free of charge, to medical treatment and on compassion flights.

So Kindlon flew the patient from Albany to one last family reunion.

It was breezy and sunny when they touched down on the island and got out to greet the patient’s family. “It was a moving scene,” Kindlon said. “I recall more than a dozen family members there — at least three generations — and it was obvious that my ailing passenger was their patriarch, and that they were thrilled to see him.”

Not long afterward, the man died. Kindlon later received a thank-you note saying that the family had been so grateful that they asked mourners to consider making donations to Angel Flight Northeast.

Local volunteer pilots

Kindlon is not the only local pilot who volunteers with Angel Flight Northeast.

Two others are Dale Thuillez, a semi-retired attorney with Thuillez, Ford, Gold, Butler & Monroe, LLP in Albany, and Guilderland native Scott Stevens, a professional engineer and the president of Dimension Fabricators in Glenville.

Thuillez (pronounced “Twillis”), 66, has been volunteering for Angel Flight NE for about eight years. He estimates that he has made 50 flights for the organization in his Pilatus PC-12.

“I love to fly,” Thuillez said. “And, in order to maintain your skills, you must fly regularly. You might as well do it for a good cause.”

What Angel Flight Northeast does

All of the nearly 1,000 private pilots who have been approved to work with Angel Flight Northeast volunteer their time and fuel and use their own planes for the flights, which Angel Flight refers to as “missions.” The air travel is completely free for patients and their travel companions.

Anyone in need of transport to medical treatment can apply, according to Barbara Sica, head of marketing and communications for Angel Flight Northeast. Many patients are referred by social workers, doctors, civic organizations, or even through word-of-mouth from other patients.          

“You may be sitting there waiting for your own medical care, and you get to chatting with the person next to you, and they ask how you got there, and that’s how they find out about Angel Flight,” Sica said.

Patient requests are listed online on the group’s website, and pilots with time available check the list for flights they might want to take.

The organization has never turned down a request, according to its website. In addition, the group will fly people “for as long and as often as they need to travel, with no limit whatsoever to the number of flights.”

Why the pilots do it

Stevens has been volunteering since 2007 and estimates that he has made about 40 flights to date in his Piper Meridian, which is a six-seat single-engine turboprop. “Recently, however,” he said, “that four-letter word, ‘W-O-R-K.’ keeps getting in the way.”

Stevens, 57, notes that this kind of volunteer work — up close with people who in many cases are desperately ill — makes it easy for pilots to keep any difficulties they may have in perspective.

“Some people get upset when, you know, they have a fender bender,” he said. “My feeling is, hey, you’ve got no problems!”

He also likes that volunteers get to see “places you’d probably have almost no occasion to ever visit otherwise. I mean, why would you go to Houlton, Maine? You wouldn’t. Well, this guy is ill and he needs help. OK, well, let’s go to Houlton, Maine, then!”

Stevens said that he doesn’t “get real excited about just going out and taking a ride in his airplane.” He does, though, like “the aspect that you need to be completely attentive to what you’re doing.” It forces you, he says, to forget about things like accounts receivable and workload. “You’ve got to be focused.”

A dream deferred

For Kindlon, becoming a pilot was a dream he had had since childhood. “There’s an airplane pilot gene that has yet to be discovered, but we all know it’s there,” he said. “My earliest memories as a young boy after World War II are of looking up at the sky at airplanes.”

It took him many years to achieve that dream. He joined the Marines during the Vietnam War, and the military had agreed to send him to flight school. But while serving as an enlisted man in Vietnam he was shot in the head during the Tet Offensive; in the days immediately afterward, he suffered a number of seizures.

The federal government then told Kindlon he would have to wait 20 years and then submit documentation to show that he had been seizure-free for two decades, in order to get medical clearance to become a pilot. So he got that clearance in 1988, exactly 20 years after being shot, and has had it since.

“I have been flying ever since without so much as a headache,” he said.

Kindlon, 68, said that this volunteer work is a win-win situation for patients and pilots. “If you’re a pilot who likes to fly,” he said, “then this is a good reason to use your airplane that’s not strictly for self-indulgence. You get to fly and somebody gets to travel easily.”

Kindlon estimated that he is now up to 34 missions in his twin-engine pressurized Cessna. His goal is one per month, he said, “but that’s not as easy as it sounds.”

He has had a number of missions scrubbed at the last minute — “and I mean the last possible minute.” This has included several where he has been in the airplane, engines turning, ready for departure, when he has received a call saying that the patient was too sick to fly or something else had gone awry. Factor in mechanical problems, unsafe weather conditions, and scheduling conflicts and, says Kindlon, “I always feel lucky when I’m actually strapped in and en route.”

He is now at a point in his life where he is beginning to cut back his work, Kindlon said. “So I should be able to take more flights.”

How it works

To be approved as an Angel Flight Northeast pilot, you must fulfill a variety of conditions related to hours of experience and meet insurance requirements as well as have an instrument rating, Kindlon said.

Pilots must have a valid medical certificate and a current flight review (an endorsement from an instructor following a performance test), the group’s website notes. Pilots cannot be 75 or older unless accompanied on missions by a younger, qualified co-pilot. Angel Flight Northeast also has requirements related to the aircraft’s registration, licensing, and airworthiness; the craft must pass inspection every year.

Patients need to be medically stable and ambulatory.

“What I do,” Thuillez said, “is go online and look, and I try to match who needs what with my schedule and of course the weather. And I’ll just say, ‘OK, I’ll do this flight,’ and then I’ll get an email back with the contact information. And then I call the people, and then we just go do it.”

Distance not the only factor

It’s not always that patients are too sick to travel long distances by car, Stevens said. Sometimes an illness has exhausted all of a patient’s financial resources, and he can’t afford to get to his treatment, even when it is not too far away.

Stevens recalled one Springfield, Massachusetts police officer whom he flew two or three times to Boston for cancer treatment.

“You might say Springfield to Boston isn’t very far. But he couldn’t work any more, and his wife’s income was the only one keeping groceries on the table. If she drove him there, she’d have to take time off from work,” he said. “And when they got to Boston, assuming the ’83 Pontiac would even get that far, how would they park? And where would they stay? And would she still have a job when she got back?

“This way,” he continued, “we fly him to Boston, and then they also have what they call Earth Angels who pick you up at the airport and drive you to your appointment and wait for you and drive you back.”

The police officer’s wife was able to keep her job, but the officer has since died, Stevens said.

The role of the Earth Angel

Sica of Angel Flight NE also underscored the importance of the Earth Angels, who solve the question for patients of how to get from the airport to the medical facility.

“Oftentimes the Earth Angel will wait and then bring the patient back again to the airport so that he or she can catch the flight home,” she said. “It’s really overlooked, but it’s a huge component.”

In many cases the Earth Angels — who may sit with a patient in the waiting room, particularly if the patient has no travel companions — can develop a close bond with patients in a short time.

All that is needed to become an Earth Angel, Sica said, is a valid driver’s license, a good working vehicle, and a lot of compassion.

Travel beyond the Northeast

There are various Angel Flight organizations around the country that work independently, but they do sometimes cooperate to take patients long distances, Sica said. Another way that the organization is able to accommodate patients who need to travel a long way or in difficult weather conditions is by partnering with several commercial airlines; at this point, these are JetBlue, Cape Air, and PenAir.

Kindlon noted that, after the Boston Marathon bombing, a number of marathoner amputees who needed to visit a specialist in Florida for physical therapy practice in using their new “running blade” prosthetics were flown on Angel Flight Northeast’s commercial airline partner JetBlue.

Like old friends meeting for the first time

Kindlon and Thuillez, who have known one another for almost 45 years, since law school, made headlines locally a couple of years ago for their proximity to an unfortunate incident in Angel Flight history.

Kindlon accompanied Thuillez on an Angel Flight mission in May 2013. They picked up a cancer patient and his wife at the Rome Air Base and flew them to Boston’s Logan International Airport.

“For me it had an extra dimension, because the patient turned out to be an ex-Marine,” Kindlon said, “and he had been in the same part of Vietnam that I had. We didn’t know each other, but we were like old friends meeting for the first time, because we had been to many of the same places and known many of the same people.”

They left the patient and his wife in Boston and flew back. That night, Kindlon got a call from a local news station saying there had been a crash, he recalled. The plane carrying the patient and his wife back home had crashed, killing them and the pilot.

“It was so sad,” Kindlon said.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a report in January 2015 on the crash, saying that it was caused by a series of actions the pilot took in response to a mistake he had made earlier, when loading the instrument approach into the plane’s global positioning system; these corrective actions led to stress that exceeded the plane’s design limits and caused the craft to break in midair.


Have they themselves had any close calls?

Kindlon said no, that he is a very conservative pilot. Every year, he says, he goes to a training facility in Illinois for three days of work on a simulator, making his way out of simulated emergencies, in which the airplane is on fire, the engines quit, or the landing gear won’t go down.

“I’ve never had a real emergency, but the training prepares you so that if you did, it would be second nature to respond to it appropriately,” he said.

On the weekends, “if I’m not doing anything, I go down to the airport,” Kindlon says, meaning the South Albany Airport in Selkirk, where he keeps his plane. There he does a series of practice takeoffs and landings, “because taking off and landing is usually the most dangerous part of any flight.”

And every year he has the plane “torn apart and inspected down to the last rivet.” The mechanic who does it is south of the Capital Region, in Sidney, and the mechanic flies the plane back to Albany himself when he’s finished, which Kindlon says his wife appreciates. “It shows her that he’s confident in his work,” he said.

Stevens also said he had not had any close calls. “That’s where my engineering background comes in, you know? The way to not have that happen is to not be in the position where it can happen,” he said.

His closest call, Stevens said, was the time he flew a patient — a young man of about 18 who had had a heart transplant — and his brother from White Plains to Buffalo for a one-year checkup. “The forecast was for the most unbelievable winds you could imagine, and, as we got down and we got close, it began to knock us around, enough to knock the glasses off your face.”

Stevens turned around and told the young men to tighten their seat belts. The landing, he said, “was the most difficult I’ve ever done.”

After a safe landing, he looked back at his passengers and said, “You don’t know how hard that was.” The patient smiled broadly and said, “Are you kidding me? That was the most fun I’ve ever had!”

Balancing safety concerns against the importance of the missions is always crucial, Stevens and Kindlon agreed.

Stevens has turned down many requests from Angel Flight and even scrapped flights “on the day of” because of the weather forecast. He said he’s been in the position of telling a patient, “I know that in your heart you absolutely need to make this appointment today, but I don’t feel comfortable.”

Kindlon related a “corny saying” that often comes to his mind: “There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”

More humble help

Dale Thuillez said that, in addition to Angel Flight Northeast, he flies occasionally for a newer, similar not-for-profit organization called Patient Airlift Services, known as PALS, and for a group that serves wounded veterans, called Veterans Airlift Command.

Also, after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, he was contacted by a charitable organization to see if he could fly medical supplies and doctors to Haiti, and patients out on the return flights. His plane, the Pilatus PC-12, he says, is “designed with a long range and an ability to carry heavy loads and to land on short and unimproved fields.”

He and other Pilatus pilots, and pilots of other planes with similar characteristics, were contacted “because we had to fly from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to different locations in Haiti with substantial loads.” They needed to be able to land in small fields or on roads to deliver supplies and medical staff to remote areas that had been cut off from the capital by the earthquake.

“I flew to a very small airport in Jacmel on the south coast three days in a row,” Thuillez said. “After delivering our cargo and doctors, we flew people back to Florida. Happy people.”

Kindlon told The Enterprise about Thuillez, “I am a big fan of Dale’s. He graciously does a lot of good things —such as his volunteer flights to Haiti — very humbly and quietly.”

Story and photos:

Scott Stevens’s Piper Meridian is set to spread its Angel wings. Stevens enjoys seeing places he wouldn’t otherwise visit.
 — Photo from Scott Stevens

Volunteers find more WWII plane parts, possible human remains in Osteen, Florida

Torey of K-9 Search & Rescue of Orange City works the Osteen crash site of a World War II bomber. The golden retriever is trained to sit if she detects the scent of human remains.
News-Journal/ANTHONY DeFEO

OSTEEN — Volunteers with metal detectors and cadaver dogs uncovered more clues Thursday in the mystery surrounding what happened to a World War II-era dive bomber that crashed in Osteen some 70 years ago, including dozens of items likely linked to the crash and possible human remains.

For a second day, archaeologist George Schwarz of the U.S. Navy's Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., coordinated a volunteer search effort for an ill-fated Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless, which likely crashed after taking off from what was then the DeLand Naval Air Station.

The search area includes a debris field spanning more than 200 yards across multiple properties, most of which are densely forested. Despite the rough terrain, a team of cadaver dogs from K-9 Search & Rescue of Orange City focused on a spot surrounded by palmetto bushes, possibly indicating human remains on the site.

By mid-afternoon, volunteers from the Central Florida Metal Detecting Club also managed to turn up hundreds of items buried in the search area, 30 or 40 of which are likely related to the crash, Schwarz said.

Still, no parts have been found containing a crucial piece of information — known in Navy parlance as a “bureau number,” a unique identification number for the plane.

The cadaver dogs are trained exclusively to sniff out human remains. They ignore scents of other animal carcasses, said Pat Totillo, a volunteer and trainer with K-9 Search & Rescue of Orange City.

“It's like looking for a needle in a haystack,” she said. “We have a plane and we're finding tiny pieces of a huge object, so you can imagine what it's like trying to find a person, which is so small compared to a plane.”

Totillo said while the dogs each focused on one particular area, it's not certain that human remains are buried there — or related to the plane crash.

“It tells us we need to further investigate it,” she said. “At this point, we're looking for something so minute — I mean, these dogs will pick up on a tooth.”

Added Schwarz, “We don't really have enough information to say one way or another. The dogs, they were excited about one particular area, but we did a preliminary investigation of that spot and didn't find anything. So we're going to go back and look a little bit more, but it's not conclusive there's anything there yet.”

Schwarz said he and his team, along with the volunteers, had covered a quarter of the site by mid-afternoon and were looking to sweep half of it by the end of Thursday.

The crews will return Friday to examine the other half of the area, before making a short announcement on their findings.

The saga of the plane began late last year, when Osteen resident Rodney Thomas contacted the DeLand Naval Air Station Museum about plane parts he'd been finding on and around his property for three years. The museum, in turn, contacted the Navy.

The DeLand Naval Air Station, now the municipal airport, trained pilots in the SBD-5 planes during WWII.

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Sanford, Florida to Cancun nonstop flights coming in May

SANFORD --  Starting in May you’ll be able to fly nonstop from Orlando Sanford International Airport to Cancun, Mexico. 

Branson AirExpress Operated by Orange Air announced Thursday that it will begin nonstop service beginning Wednesday, May 6 to Cancun International Airport (CUN) in Mexico. 

The airline says service will operate three days per week on 150-seat Orange Air MD-83 Jet aircraft with comfortable stretched seating in every row at no additional cost.

In addition, complimentary non-alcoholic beverage and snack service will be available on every flight. 

For rates and bookings go to or call 1-888-859-2541.


Silver Airways makes changes to focus on Florida

Sami Teittinen, CEO of Silver Airways.
 (Arlene Satchell/STAFF)

Silver Airways is putting a target on Florida.

The airline has restructured its operations to emphasize service within the state and to the Bahamas, areas where it sees a gap in service.

In recent months, Silver increased its flying in Florida by nearly 40 percent, part of an attempt to convince consumers that flying is an affordable alternative to driving.

The Fort Lauderdale-based airline shut down underperforming flights in Cleveland and Atlanta last year but kept a small presence in the Washington, D.C., market to supports its codeshare partner United Airlines.

Last November, Silver inaugurated service between Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville and, in June, between Key West and Orlando, among other routes.

On Feb. 12, it launched nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale to Tallahassee ahead of the busy Florida legislative session, which starts March 3. On March 12, it'll add service from Fort Lauderdale and Key West to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

Silver now averages more than 130 daily flights to 28 destinations in Florida and the Bahamas, as well as the Mid-Atlantic region from Washington, D.C.-Dulles.

"A year ago we were kind of flying everywhere," Silver CEO Sami Teittinen said in an interview. "Now we have the network where we want it to be."

Silver has changed its aircraft, too, phasing out its older 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D planes.

Since December, all flights are flown on 34-seat Saab 340B plus turbo-prop aircraft, Teittinen said. The 27 Saabs have leather seating, large overhead bins, flight attendant service and an active noise reduction system.

With only one type of plane, Silver saves money on training mechanics and pilots, Teittinen said.

The fuel-efficient Saab aircraft reportedly burns 60 percent less fuel per hour than a 70-seat regional jet.

Silver added to the savings by moving its aircraft maintenance hangar from Gainesville to Orlando, where it will open a $4.5 million facility next Thursday.

"In Gainesville, you ended up flying airplanes there empty to maintain them," Teittinen said. "Orlando is a bigger hub for us so when they come there, they can go through maintenance and then [resume operations]."

Industry analysts like Seth Kaplan of Airline Weekly, based in Fort Lauderdale, say Silver is looking to gain traction on certain Florida routes recently abandoned by Southwest Airlines.

Those include nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando and Jacksonville, as well as service between West Palm Beach and Tampa.

"Even as Silver sells flights under its own brand, it also hedges its bets via partnerships with quite a few larger airlines like United and JetBlue, which can put their own passengers on Silver," Kaplan said. "This lowers the risk for Silver, because it doesn't have to rely entirely on its own brand recognition to fill its seats."

Chicago-based investment firm Victory Park Capital launched Silver in May 2011 after acquiring parts of the former Gulfstream International Airlines.

In 2013, Air Transport World named Silver Regional Airline of the Year.

"The regional carrier has battled the odds in a weak economic climate with its visionary strategy, strong leadership and passion for providing safe, reliable service," ATW said. "This airline is well-positioned for the years ahead."

The same year, Silver ranked No. 8 among the top 10 airlines in Conde Nast Traveler's 26th Readers' Choice Awards.

"The next phase," Teittinen said, "is ensuring that the schedule, maintenance, airport operations and customer service gets really lined up so that the on-time performance will continue to improve."

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