Thursday, February 26, 2015

Air India: Tire Burns on Landing

CHENNAI: When Air India’s Hyderabad-Chennai flight touched down at the runway on Wednesday night, there wasn’t merely a loud squeaking as rubber made contact with asphalt. This time there was a fiery, red flame to go with it. Two of the tires on the Airbus A320 lost their outer layer seconds after touching down and given the high friction - caught fire and burned for a few seconds.

The pilot must have had nerves of steel as he handled the tire-burst gamely, but inside the aircraft, not one of the 155 passengers knew that anything was amiss. “Some of the passengers complained that the plane’s landing had been a little extra bumpy, but they joked that it wasn’t as bad as being on one of the smaller Bombardier planes. They had no idea that 2 tires had burst and burned,” said an airport official, on duty at the time of the incident - 8.40 pm.

Had this happened on any of the older plans - particularly the slightly aged Boeings, there might have been a major disaster. “The biggest problem tends to occur when the nosewheel bursts on landing, but there are several fail-safes to ensure that the plane will land safely even if it does. The rear tires are usually backed up pretty well to handle the stress of a large plane even if a tire bursts,” said Captain Jacob, a pilot with the airline. Tiremakers like Goodyear supply a standard 30x8.8 itches for the Airbus A320 that could handle speeds up to 225 mph.

As the large bird taxied its way to the bay and parked there, engineers who checked on the damage found that tires 5 and 6 had completely lost their outer cover.

“All the newer Airbus aircraft have multiple, tubeless low-permeability tires and with the friction co-efficient being as high as it is while landing, these sort of bursts tend to happen. There was no instability of major crisis. The pilot was very much in control,” said an AI spokesperson.

The plane missed it’s outbound trip to Mumbai and needed to be replaced with a spare flight.

Original article can be found at: http://www.newindianexpress.com

Private jet that skidded off runway still in Tacloban: Incident occurred January 17, 2015, Bombardier BD-700-1A11 Global 5000, RP-C9363

The private plane carrying government officials that skidded off Tacloban airport Saturday, January 17, 2015. 
(Photo grab from ANC report)



The private jet that skidded off the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City during the papal visit in January is still stuck inside the city’s airport complex as probe into the mishap is underway.

Allan M. Cahingcoy, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) Tacloban assistant area manager, said the plane will only be turned over to operator after all investigations are done.

“It’s still there, but it was moved 75 meters away from the center of the runway and it’s not obstructing any aircraft movements on the ground,” he said.

Aside from Caap's aircraft accident investigation and inquiry board, the aircraft manufacturer and an insurance firm have launched separate probe into the mishap.

The Bombardier GL50 executive aircraft, carrying Cabinet secretaries, “swerved and rolled” at the end of the take off runway when it attempted to leave for Manila in the afternoon of January 17 due to strong winds brought by Tropical Storm Amang.

Cabinet officials led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma were on board the private jet when the incident happened. They were in Tacloban to check the situation of the city during Pope Francis’ visit on that day.

According to Caap, the private jet is operated by Manila-based Challenger Aero Air Corp., a subsidiary of San Miguel Corp. (SMC).

Story and photo: http://www.sunstar.com.ph

Investigation finds federal employee rearranged flights for air marshal trysts

Text messages, submitted as evidence in program specialist Michelle D’Antonio’s defense against air marshal Roy Duron’s restraining order, are filled with flirtatious, suggestive and sometimes graphic exchanges between her and Duron.



What began as an internal investigation of harassment by a Federal Air Marshal program specialist has turned into a larger investigation of rearrangement of flights for favors or to meet air marshals for “sexual trysts,” possibly leaving high-risk flights without air marshals.

A story by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s multimedia platform Reveal written by Andrew Becker reports that an original investigation began with Michelle D’Antonio, a program specialist for the Federal Air Marshal Service. Air marshals are trained government employees who fly on board commercial flights with a high risk of a terrorist attack or flights with important passengers. D’Antonio was responsible for coordinating delayed or missed flights and providing logistical support, and thus had special access to government records and files regarding the flights of air marshals.

According to Reveal, the internal investigation began when Lisa Duron, the wife of air marshal Roy Duron who has acknowledged having a four-year affair with D’Antonio, said she received harassing phone calls from D’Antonio after the relationship between D’Antonio and Duron fell apart in December 2013. D’Antonio was placed on administrative leave that same month.

In January 2014, the couple filed temporary restraining orders against D’Antonio, “stating they feared for their safety and were blackmailed,” which were later dismissed.

The investigation revealed that D’Antonio looked up files and flight schedules of air marshals she was interested in dating and at times rearranging flights to give others preferred treatment.

“I think she put the offer out to quite a few (federal air marshals) and managers, literally acting like a travel agent,” retired air marshal Sonya Hightower told Reveal. “I think a lot of people were aware she was doing some of these things, but no one wants to comment on it. If everybody’s getting hooked up, nobody’s going to say anything.”

Now, more than 60 government employees are under investigation as officials find if at-risk flights were left without air marshals. However, reporter Becker notes, the investigation remains focused on D’Antonio. Former and current employees say D’Antonio looked up “personnel files, identification photographs and flight schedules to pinpoint air marshals she was interested in meeting and possibly dating.”

The TSA has not confirmed or denied an investigation is taking place.

“However, TSA maintains a rigorous code of conduct for all of our employees, especially law enforcement personnel, and pursues appropriate accountability for violators of ethical standards and the law,” the TSA said in an email to Reveal.

Story and comments:  http://www.pbs.org



One counsel will represent aviation authority, airport CEO

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board agreed during a workshop Thursday to maintain just one general counsel to represent both the board and the Tampa International Airport CEO.

But that person will be hired by the board, not the airport CEO. And the attorney can only be fired by the board, which should give whomever is hired the security in making decisions that are best for the aviation authority, without worry that bucking the CEO could lose them their job, board members said.

Longtime Aviation Authority general counsel Gigi Rechel resigned in October 2014, within days of reports that the Florida Bar Association was investigating a complaint that she may have violated the state’s Sunshine Law. The complaint alleges that she broke the law by failing to archive hundreds of text messages involving official Aviation Authority business.

According to airport officials, Sprint had deleted the text messages from Rechel’s cell phone unbeknownst to her and despite her efforts to get copies, she was unable to do so.

A total of 51 printed pages of text messages between Rechel and former board member Martin Garcia were reported automatically deleted from her account.

The Tribune obtained those texts through a public records request to Garcia. Among the texts sent from Rechel to Garcia is one dated Jan. 28, 2014 in which she texts “Joe is not totally comfortable with my board interaction...function... would prefer me be his deputy.” In a text the following day, she goes on, “Chief of staff... with no board role... I have pushed back wanting to maintain some independence... but it is an open issue between us... unresolved.”

It is that sort of discomfort board members want to avoid with a new general counsel.

Several board members said they have gotten input from county residents concerned that the former general counsel represented Lopano more than she represented the board and at times, that seemed a conflict.

“I always felt like she worked for you, Joe, and always felt there was a screening of information before coming to me,” said Board Member Victor Crist, a Hillsborough County Commissioner, speaking to Lopano. “I never felt like I had the eyes and ears I would have preferred to have” from the general counsel.

Board member Sam Rashid continued, saying he wanted a general counsel that could basically talk to the board about anything without “any impediment or coercion from management.”

“Looking at our policy, we may want to take a look at that and make it clear general counsel is hired and fired by the board, reports to the board. Make that language clear,” said Board Chairman Robert Watkins.

Lopano pushed back, if lightly, saying “the CEO, according to the law, is responsible for hiring the staff. Up until now, you’ve allowed me to hire people and you see the team we have,” which is solid, he said. “I don’t see any reason to change how we’ve operated up to now.”

Board members didn’t go for it. They did agree to have Lopano and interim general counsel David Smith look at the policy and bring possible wording changes back to the board at an upcoming meeting. But they agreed that the board should hire and when necessary, fire the general counsel.

The proposed policy changes will likely come up again on the aviation authority board agenda in March or April. After that, the board will work with Smith and Lopano to devise a plan for hiring a new attorney.

As for the complaint against Rechel for a possible violation of the Sunshine Law, it was still being reviewed by the Florida Bar Association staff as of Thursday.

Source: http://tbo.com

Budget proposal could ground some Public Safety aircraft

JUNEAU — A budget proposal laid out Thursday could wind up grounding two search and rescue helicopters and a plane capable of prisoner and personnel transports.

A House subcommittee denied a $2.4 million request by the Department of Public Safety for an expanded aircraft section, a request that followed an audit. It called for adding eight new employees, including maintenance workers and pilots.

The panel decided that given the state's budget situation, adding that many new workers doesn't make sense. It rejected a proposed amendment from Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, that would have added a portion of the request.

The crash in oil prices has exacerbated the state's budget deficit, projected to be in the billions of dollars this year and next. Gov. Bill Walker's administration and lawmakers are looking at cuts in a bid to downsize government, mindful of a need to try to make the state's reserves stretch. The state plans to dip into savings to help get by.

The subcommittee's recommendation will be considered as the House Finance Committee crafts its version of the operating budget. Whatever might pass the House still would have to be considered by the state Senate.

The potential grounding of the aircraft would be due to a lack of funding for trained and certified maintenance personnel, either on staff or on contracts, Kelly Howell, director of the department's Division of Administrative Services, said by email.

In an interview, Public Safety Commissioner Gary Folger said that if the money isn't added, the department likely would have to rely more on its search and rescue partners. He told the subcommittee that the National Guard often responds when it is dark or the weather is poor and an outside company helps pick up some slack.

Folger left open the possibility that smaller department helicopters not intended for search and rescue, could be used, depending on the circumstances.

The department has another King Air plane for transports that Folger said is a more capable aircraft, but it is also limited in where it can go by its landing gear, he said.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, chair of the subcommittee handling the department's budget, said he's not thrilled about some of the proposed actions. But he said there also isn't much choice, given the large shortfall.

House subcommittees have been closing out their work this week. Here are some other highlights:

—On Tuesday evening, the subcommittee handling the University of Alaska system budget proposed cutting $26.5 million more than Walker proposed. If it stands, the cut would be significant, impacting people and programs, university system spokeswoman Carla Beam said Thursday. It is safe to say that would include sports teams, she said, with travel budgets for Anchorage and Fairbanks among the cuts.

—A subcommittee on the Legislature's budget proposed cutting about $920,000 from the current year during a brief meeting Thursday morning.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, called it a first step in the process. While the cut may not seem like much now, negotiations are under way dealing with issues such as staff and salaries, he told reporters at the House majority's regular news conference.

 Source: http://www.adn.com

Snow cited as cause of basketball team's airplane issues

WATERLOO (KWWL) -  Following their loss to the University of Northern Iowa basketball team, the Evansville Aces had a few hiccups getting home.

The Aces booked a private plane to take them back to Indiana, a twin-prop Jetstream 41. Before takeoff, the Evansville play by play commentator, Lance Wilkerson, tweeted, "About to fly out of Iowa. Say a prayer for us. Can't wait to see Eville."

The plane left safely, but as they climbed, the pilots noticed a problem.

"We have a vibration in the engine," one pilot says in the air-traffic recordings. "It's getting pretty bad so we're returning."

The controller then asked if they're declaring an emergency.

"Yes sir, we're declaring an emergency at this time," the pilot responds.

Back on the ground in Waterloo, fire crews stood at the ready, just in case.

Aviation Director Keith Kaspari said he was proud of his crews.

"When we got the call, we responded accordingly," he said. "We were in position, and of course, the aircraft landed safely."

The Evansville team spent another night in Iowa, with a few more tweets from Wilkerson.

"Plane is broke," he wrote. "Pilot did a great job getting us back. Firetruck was waiting on runway. Never in danger. All precautionary. Back to hotel."

The plane is operated by Corporate FlightManagementt, Inc, based in Smyrna, Tenn. Matt Chaifetz, the Chief Commercial Officer, said the issue was caused by blowing snow working its way into the plane's engine cowlings.

He said the aircraft wouldn't fit in the Waterloo hanger, so it sat on the runway.

"The way the aircraft was parked, and the way the wind was blowing, I mean, it would have to blow in a very particular way," Chaifetz said. "We're talking about a space that is maybe a half an inch or less around."

The plane was quickly repaired, and the team left around noon Thursday. They arrived safely home in the afternoon.

The Evansville basketball team is no stranger to aviation tragedy -- in 1977, most of the team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash.

Story and photo:  http://www.kwwl.com


Grand jury files new charges against Albuquerque balloon pilot accused of child sex crimes



A federal grand jury filed a superseding indictment Wednesday charging Albuquerque balloon pilot Bentley Streett, 39, with more federal sex crimes against minors.

He had previously been arrested on Oct. 3 of last year and was indicted Oct. 21 on two counts of coercion of a minor and two counts of transferring obscene matter to minors.

Wednesday's filing charges Streett with nine counts relating to either engaging in sexual conduct with minors or trying to obtain pornography from them.

He faces two counts of interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors; four counts of attempted production of visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and three counts of transferring obscene matter to minors.

The first two counts allege Streett traveled to Illinois in July and August 2013 to have sexual relations with a female minor.

Two counts allege he tried to persuade another female minor to send him child pornography in Sept and Dec. 2013, and two other counts allege he tried to persuade a third female minor to send him child pornography in Nov. 2013.

One of the counts says Streett "transferred obscene material" to the first female, and two other counts say he did the same to the third female victim.

If convicted of any of the crimes, he will be forced to register as a sex offender.

The sexual relations with a minor charges carry a penalty of up to 30 years imprisonment on each count; the production of child pornography charges carry penalties of between 15 and 30 years on each count, and the transfer of obscene materials charges carry up to ten years imprisonment on each count.

If convicted of all nine counts against him, Streett faces between 45 years and life in prison.

In October 2013, the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) received a tip that Streett had allegedly solicited nude photographs from a 15-year-old in El Paso, Texas.

A search warrant conducted on Streett's cell phone records should he sent numerous text messages to the 15-year-old, and the victim told investigators Streett had asked her to send him nude photos, though she declined.

This led to the original grand jury indictment.

Investigators also discovered that Streett allegedly sent text messages to a second victim, a 14-year-old, asking her to also send him nude photographs. They said he also sent that girl nude photos of males and females, some of whom appeared to be under the age of 18.

Streett pleaded not guilty to charges in Albuquerque Metropolitan Court in February 2014. A motion to dismiss the case was denied last June. 

Story, comments, video and photo: http://www.kob.com

After Decades, La Guardia Airport May Allow Long-Haul Flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco

Removing the ban on flights longer than 1,500 miles could pave way for more transcontinental seats from New York; regulators to consider effect on ticket prices

The Wall Street Journal
By Andrew Tangel and Jack Nicas
Updated Feb. 25, 2015 5:00 p.m. ET


Regulators are considering lifting the decades-old restriction on flights longer than 1,500 miles from New York’s La Guardia Airport, a move that likely would trigger a scramble by airlines to launch lucrative new long-haul flights to California and other destinations in the U.S. West.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls New York City’s three major airports, said it is studying the so-called perimeter rule “to determine whether it remains in the best interest of the region’s air travelers.” The authority said any change would occur only after thorough analysis and consultation “with all interested parties in a public and transparent manner.”

Lifting the rule, formally in place since 1984, would pave the way for new transcontinental flights between La Guardia and cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Seattle—now served only by New York’s other two major airports, both of which are farther from Manhattan. Because airlines’ slots at New York’s airports are limited, new service would come at the expense of existing flights—almost certainly to smaller cities, industry officials said.

“The mix of flights at La Guardia would change materially,” said Mike Boyd, president of aviation-consulting firm Boyd Group International. “Why would you have a 50-seat jet going to Charlottesville when that slot can be used for a 150-seat jet going to Seattle?”

Discussions on lifting the rule began late last year and have accelerated recently, people familiar with the talks said. The authority plans to study how abolishing the rule would affect air traffic, ticket prices, noise and operations at the region’s airports, these people said. The study could be completed within a few months, and lifting the rule would require approval by the bistate authority’s board of 11 commissioners, these people said. The discussions come as the governors of New York and New Jersey recently backed a report that, in part, called for easing regulatory burdens at the region’s airports.

Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. control 40% and 28%, respectively, of the departing seats at La Guardia. JetBlue Airways Corp. and United Continental Holdings Inc. have much smaller positions there and have instead invested heavily in John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports, which could lose some value if travelers can fly nonstop to more destinations from La Guardia.

Officials at two airlines said Delta has been lobbying Port Authority officials to reconsider the perimeter rule. Delta declined to comment.

Rob Land, JetBlue’s senior vice president of government affairs, said officials should complete a long-awaited project to replace a key terminal building before embarking on a rule change that would pack more travelers into an already overcrowded airport.

“The deplorable conditions at La Guardia from a customer perspective as well as an airline perspective operationally are only getting worse by the day and we have yet to begin the yearslong ‘pardon our dust’ period that is the Central Terminal project,” Mr. Land said. “It would seem the last thing we want to do is add more crowds to La Guardia until we appropriately address capacity issues.”

La Guardia’s two main 7,000-foot runways could support aircraft that can reach some near European cities, such as London and Paris, and Latin American destinations like Mexico City and Bogotá, Colombia. But La Guardia lacks a federal border-clearance facility, which is needed to accept travelers from most international airports, and has little space to add one.

Still, without a perimeter rule, airlines at La Guardia could serve a handful of new international destinations, including Dublin and Vancouver, because those airports can pre-clear U.S.-bound travelers under agreements with U.S. border officials. Airlines already serve Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax from La Guardia.

Travelers, politicians and airline officials have criticized La Guardia, built in 1929, for being outdated. Vice President Joe Biden last year said it was out of a “Third World country.”

The next step in a project to replace La Guardia’s 50-year-old Central Terminal Building, known to travelers as Terminal B, has been delayed until at least April pending the outcome of a broader design competition for New York airports. Some industry officials said they worry that lifting the perimeter rule could further delay La Guardia’s overhaul—concerns that are shared by some at the Port Authority, a person familiar with the process said. “Lifting the perimeter rule will absolutely have some impact on the procurement,” the person said.

The perimeter rule has roots in the 1950s, when the Port Authority limited La Guardia flights to within 2,000 miles, according to court documents. The authority formalized the rule in 1984 but tightened the restriction to 1,500 miles, with the exception of Denver. The rule isn’t in effect on Saturdays, and some airlines have experimented with longer flights on that day. Delta currently flies to Aruba and back on Saturdays.

The idea was to limit air traffic at La Guardia to business travelers and steer vacationers taking longer-distance flights to farther-flung Newark Liberty and JFK airports.

An executive at one airline said officials implemented the perimeter rule partly because decades ago, La Guardia’s runways could only handle aircraft that could fly less than 1,500 miles or so. But 30 years later, smaller jets can fly much farther than they used to.

“Today’s aircraft performance is such that it’s a really an anachronistic design to divide markets between La Guardia and the long-haul New York airports,” said Bob Mann, a New York-based airline consultant.

Limiting carriers to a 1,500-mile radius from La Guardia has resulted in nonstop service for a few dozen smaller cities in the eastern U.S., including Roanoke, Va., Lexington, Ky., and Bangor, Maine. Airline officials and consultants said that because slot restrictions prohibit carriers from adding more net flights at La Guardia, airlines would almost certainly drop flights to smaller cities in exchange for new service to the West Coast. Airlines stand to earn far more by flying larger planes to bigger cities than on serving small cities with 50-seat jets.

“This will change [smaller cities’] access to New York,” said Mr. Boyd, the airline consultant. “But it’s good business—the highest and best use of an asset.”

Story, comments and photos:  http://www.wsj.com

National Transportation Safety Board chief urges updates for crash investigations

WASHINGTON – The head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that federal accident investigations must adapt to deal with modern technology and international participants.

Christopher Hart, the board's acting chairman, said investigators can learn from video and pictures that observers take at crash scenes.

International participation in what used to be strictly domestic investigations has also changed the rules about how reports are shared and released, Hart said.

"I've asked my staff to look at redesigning the investigation process from scratch," Hart told an Aero Club of Washington luncheon. "There are some exciting opportunities to improve."

Observers posted video of the Asiana Airlines flight 214 crash in San Francisco in July 2013 before the NTSB was officially notified. Pictures from other crashes gave investigators details about how a plane was maneuvering that aren't available from voice and data recorders aboard planes.

"That's an amazing resource that we've never had before," said Hart, who has a commercial pilot's license. "Now we can narrow down the focus much quicker and to the point, much more accurately."

Computerization of data from millions of flights can be analyzed to inform investigations, Hart said.

In another vein, Hart said investigations are increasingly international because planes or components are manufactured overseas.

"The days of a completely domestic accident are pretty much gone," Hart said. "It makes a huge difference."

The practical result is that while the NTSB keeps its accident reports confidential until they are finalized, rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a branch of the United Nations, allow participants to see reports before they are released publicly.

In the "miracle on the Hudson" accident of US Airways flight 1549 in January 2009, Airbus got to see the report early as French manufacturer of the plane, while US Airways didn't as a domestic airline.

In the Birmingham, Ala., crash of UPS Airlines flight 1354 in August 2013, Airbus again got to see the report before UPS.

And in the case of a Japan Airlines Boeing 787, whose lithium battery caught fire while parked in Boston in January 2013, the Japanese battery manufacturer got to see the accident report before Boeing.

"This is one that really got in my craw," Hart said. "This really started me along this path about how we could do this better."

The challenge is how to balance an independent investigation with peer review and comments from participants.

"It's very important that the public knows that what we come up with is an unbiased account of the event that is based on the facts and the evidence, and not who lobbies the best," Hart said. "That is our challenge."

Hart said staffers have just begun reviewing the issues and he set no deadline for changes. But he didn't think a regulatory change would be needed and he wasn't calling for changes in ICAO rules.

Hart, who served on the board from 1990 to 1993, rejoined in August 2009. He became acting chairman nearly a year ago and a Senate panel Thursday endorsed his becoming permanent chairman. The full Senate must still vote on confirmation to a two-year term as chairman.

"I don't really have that long to do this," Hart said. "I would like to see some significant movement on it and have it underway and operating while I'm still at the helm." 

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

Windy day leads to Balloon Fiesta lawsuit



ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A man who claims the balloon pilot he was riding with shouldn’t have taken off on a windy day three years ago and that Balloon Fiesta shouldn’t have let him is suing.


The lawsuit stems from a blustery October day during the 2012 Balloon Fiesta.

According to the lawsuit, there was about a one hour delay because of wind conditions, but balloons were able to eventually launch. The plaintiff, Anthony Hall, was riding with New Hampshire pilot Rick Jones. The flight drifted over Corrales as the winds picked up again.

Jones decided to bring the balloon down in a field near the Juvenile Detention Center in Rio Rancho, but according to the lawsuit, the winds forced a hard landing.

The force of the impact ejected Plaintiff Hall and broke the fiberglass poles of the gondola… the gondola landed on top of Plaintiff Hall’s upper torso and dragged him on his back along the ground covered with sagebrush and rocks for about 30 feet.

The lawsuit claims Hall suffered serious injuries, but doesn’t specify what they were. Video from Sky News 13 from that day shows several rough landings due to the wind and even one balloon caught up in power lines.

Hall and his wife are now suing Jones and Balloon Fiesta for negligence and is looking for punitive and compensatory damages. The lawsuit claims Jones didn’t fly carefully or safely enough and that Fiesta needed to better screen pilots and shouldn’t have let balloons launch that day.

The attorney behind the lawsuit, Marvin Romero, declined comment for this story when reached by KRQE News 13 Wednesday. Balloon Fiesta officials also declined to comment on the lawsuit but did say the event does everything it can to make sure pilots are informed of wind conditions on flight days.

“We’ve got about six or seven reporting stations around the Albuquerque area that reports winds,” said Don Edwards, Balloon Fiesta’s event director. “If we have some surprises on weather and all of a sudden things change for the unexpected, we have a text messaging service.”

Edwards also made it clear that pilots who fly Fiesta do so at their own risk.

“All flights we have out here are made basically on the pilot’s decision,” Edwards said. “We’d never tell anyone they’d have to fly.”

Story, comments and video:  http://krqe.com

MidAirUSA Set to Pay Unpaid Rent at Griffiss International Airport (KRME), Rome, New York



Oneida County has reached an agreement with an airplane repair company that hasn't paid rent for its hangar space at Griffiss International Airport for more than a year.

MidAirUSA owes Oneida County almost a million dollars, but now the county has agreed to allow MidAir to pay back only a fraction of that amount.

With legislation passed by Oneida County Monday, MidAir has to pay $250,000 to the county instead of just under one million for unpaid rent at Griffis.

Oneida County said this deal with MidAirUSA is all about a balancing act.

"Economic development in terms of jobs and an employer as well as money owed to the county that we just can’t keep carrying," said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente.

"This company wouldn’t of had any other option, but to go bankrupt and then you have the people out of work, we still don’t get our money, so it's a bad bad situation, so this is the best of a bad situation," said Oneida County Legislator George Joseph.

MidAir's USA's financial problems stem from international strife.  They rely on major business from Russian companies.

"It's unique circumstances, because their business model that depends on Russia and with all of these sanctions that have taken place," said Picente.

"He's had some issues that weren't probably all his fault," said Oneida County Legislator Frank Tallarino.

The county said that's a reason why the county is making this deal with MidAirUSA.   Another main reason is for the growth of the area.

"We really didn’t want to lose the jobs.  Somewhere between a hundred and forty and a hundred and fifty jobs, so that's important," said Joseph.

Now, the county said it's time to look ahead to the future of MidAirUSA in Oneida County.

"Weeing whether or not the international peace lessens it's restrictions on their cash flow and secondly whether there’s other business there that they can attract that can keep them moving forward," said Picente.

As part of the agreement, MidAir is responsible for paying the rest of the million dollars in unpaid rent in fifty thousand dollar monthly payments until paid off, and they also have a new lease agreement that will be for twenty eight thousand dollars a month a Griffis.

Story and video:  http://www.cnyhomepage.com



Pilatus PC-12/45, N651PB: Man accused of trying to steal plane from Ocala International Airport (KOCF), Florida

It didn't take long for investigators to find out that Ceron was not the registered owner, or any way affiliated with the actual owners, of the Pilatus PC 12, police said.
 (Photo: Ocala Police Dept.)



Ceron faces felony charges of burglary and attempted grand theft, plus misdemeanor charges of giving a false name to law enforcement and criminal mischief. He remains in custody at the Marion County Jail on $51,000 bond. 
(Photo: Ocala Police Dept.)



OCALA, Fla. - An Ocala man is behind bars after police say he tried to steal a $2.5 million plane from Ocala International Airport.

A member of Landmark Aviation's ground crew contacted Ocala Police after he found a man in a hanger Thursday night. Police said the man told the crew member he needed to go to Chicago.

Police said 23-year-old Juan Pablo Ceron claimed he owned the Pilatus PC 12 plane, valued at $2.5 million, and was preparing it for a trip to Chicago.

The crew member told police Ceron didn't show any ID and it looked like the airplane had been tampered with.

Ceron at first gave a fake name to officers, who said he is not the registered owner, has no connection with the company that is and has no claim to the plane.

Police said between $200 and $300 worth of damage had been done to the plane. Oxygen masks had been pulled down, life vests inflated and tube covers and propeller ties removed.

The safety blocks had been removed from the wheels and police said it looked like Ceron was trying to start it up.

Ceron refused to speak to officers and was arrested on two counts of burglary, attempted grand theft, giving a false name to law enforcement and criminal mischief.

Police notified federal agents because it is an international airport.

Ceron is being held on $51,000 bond at the Marion County Jail.  

Sources:  

http://www.myfoxorlando.com

http://www.firstcoastnews.com

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Willits, California: REACH base study open for public comment

Mead & Hunt have provided Willits city officials with its initial California Environmental Quality Act study for locating the new proposed REACH air ambulance base at Ells Field. Based on the study, Willits city staff concluded the city would now prepare a “mitigated negative declaration” for the project, pending a public comment period.

In July 2014, REACH proposed to locate a REACH air ambulance base in Willits with plans to start up by November 2014. Threats of lawsuits kept the base from starting up, even temporarily until a full CEQA assessment was completed. REACH established a temporary base at the Ukiah municipal airport in January as it waited for Willits to complete its environmental review.

A public hearing has been set before the Willits City Council for March 28 at 12:30 p.m. at the Willits Center for the Arts to allow for public comments on the project.

The public is also being asked to provide comments on the project by mail to: City Clerk; City of Willits; 111 E. Commercial Street; Willits, CA 95490. Comments may be emailed to planning@willitscity.com.

The public notice also solicits comments from all state and federal agencies with an interest in commenting on the project.

Once all comments are received, the city will evaluate them and determine whether to adopt the initial study or to request further action.

SUMMARY OF POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS

“The only potentially significant environmental effect is noise impacts to residences west of the Airport due to use of a new helicopter parking position. Shifting the helicopter parking position further from the western property line of the Airport reduces the noise impact to less than significant levels,” according to the initial study by Mead & Hunt.

The city has endorsed the proposal by Mead & Hunt to “shift the helicopter parking position closer to the runway. Although not absolutely required, we anticipate that this would likely result in the leasehold being expanded about 20 feet to the north in the area near the parking position,” says Mead & Hunt Senior Project Planner David P. Dietz.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The project involves a .34 acre leasehold on the Willits Municipal Airport which will house an 1,850 square foot modular office, four paved parking spaces, a 20 foot by 20 foot helicopter parking position. The area around the helicopter parking position will be stabilized with rolled gravel or asphalt.

The facility will extend the developed area of the airport’s building area about 35 feet to the south. The modular office is consistent in appearance with the other airport buildings. The helicopter parking pad will be similar to nearby aircraft tiedown positions.

A dedicated Jet A fuel truck will be parked at the airport for REACH use only. The truck is expected to require refilling about every 4 to 6 weeks.

The project site was graded when the airport was built originally and is within the existing fence line.

The new facility will be visible to three residences located southwest of the project site.

The facility is expected to be staffed around the clock with emergency personnel. Initially pilots are expected to serve a 12-hour shift.

While “most patient services will occur away from the airport,” some patients may load onto the helicopter at the airport directly from ambulances. Depending upon the patient needs, ambulances may arrive with lights and sirens.

The increased ground traffic caused by the project is estimated at 10 vehicle trips per day.

Routine helicopter maintenance is expected to occur on site, either at the parking pad or in the existing nearby box hangar. More extensive routine major maintenance will be conducted at another REACH facility.

Mechanical problems to the helicopter which arise while it is parked in Willits will likely be addressed on site.

The helicopter currently planned for assignment to the Willits base is the Airbus EC 135. REACH anticipates there will initially be one flight per day on average but see this expanding to 1.5 flights per day. There will be days when there are no flights and days when there may be several, depending upon emergency demand.

The CEQA “document only addresses the environmental impacts of the facilities that will be created if the lease is approved. No environmental review is required to introduce regular helicopter operations at the airport. Helicopter operators have a right to use the airport. No approvals are required. In this way, airports are like roads; no approval is required for individuals to use either type of transportation facility.”

NOISE IMPACTS

Evaluating noise impacts of aviation operations in California typically use Community Noise Equivalent Levels (CNEL). This evaluation gives heavier weight to noise generated by time of day. Noise generated between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. are given a five decibel penalty and noise generated from 10 p.m. to 7 a. m. are given a 10 decibel penalty compared with the same activity conducted during daytime operations.

The FAA has set 65 dB Community Noise Equivalent Levels generated at airports as compatible with all land uses, including residential.

Mead & Hunt used a more rigorous standard of 60 CNEL for the Willits REACH assessment.

Mead & Hunt concluded that a minor shift of the helicopter parking pad of 55 feet east and 20 feet north would lower any impact of REACH helicopter operations to a maximum of 60 CNEL at the airport fence line. While not required under FAA guidelines, Mead & Hunt recommended, and the city endorsed the proposed mitigation.

REACH helicopter landings would generate more sound at the closest house to the airport than a Cessna 182 landing but less than a Cessna 172 landing.

SPOTTED OWL IMPACTS

All impact of the project on biological resources were considered less than significant, including Keep the Code concerns over impacts to the spotted owl habitats.

Mead & Hunt concluded “the three areas where historical sightings of the Northern spotted owl have occurred have been and will continue to be routinely overflown by fixed wing aircraft. The REACH helicopter will also regularly overfly the northeastern location during arrivals. REACH may overfly all sites during departures depending upon the intended destination.”

Sound levels over the sites generated by REACH helicopters were similar to fixed wing aircraft which routinely fly over the sites. All aircraft traffic typically remains at least 1,000 feet above the nesting sites due to the elevation of the airport runway. Sound levels generated by all airport traffic was considerably below the sound levels considered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to constitute harassment of the owls.

Mead & Hunt contacted California and U.S. fish and wildlife specialists about the potential impact on spotted owls. Both state and federal specialists considered the project’s impact would be so limited neither agency would likely evaluate the project.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service specialist “indicated that the agency would not wish to involve itself in regulating the flight of medical helicopters generally.” Mead & Hunt requested a letter from the USFS anyway, and the specialist indicated a letter would be provided by April 4.

OTHER IMPACTS

All other impacts of the REACH operation in the 36 page initial study were considered either to have no impact or less than significant impacts.

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

Sun Country pilots approve strike authorization

Pilots for Sun Country Airlines, who have been working under terms of an old contract for the past five years, have voted to authorize a strike if further federal mediation efforts to reach a new deal are unsuccessful.

But no work action is imminent, leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association acknowledged Wednesday.

“We are not going on strike, but we are authorizing the leadership to set a date,” ALPA spokesman Jake Yockers said. “If mediation is unsuccessful we then go to arbitration and then there would be a 30-day cooling off period. No strike is planned.”

Sun Country Airlines had no comment on the development.

Mendota Heights-based Sun Country has 246 pilots on its roster. Of those who were eligible to vote and did vote, 100 percent approved strike authorization, Yockers said.

“We hope this sends a message that we are serious about getting a new contract,” Yockers said.

The next round of negotiations is set for next month.

Under the federal Railway Labor Act, contracts for airline pilots don’t expire, they become amendable. In the case of the Sun Country pilots, the contract became amendable in 2010.

Sun Country’s fleet consists of about 20 Boeing 737s.

According to ALPA, a 737 captain at Sun County is paid at a rate that is 62 percent of the pay for a comparable pilot at Delta Air Lines and 69 percent of a contemporary at Spirit Airlines.

Privately held Sun Country Airlines does not release detailed financial statements, but reports filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that the airline has been profitable in recent years. However, net income sagged in 2013 because of scheduled maintenance expenses and competition from low-cost competitor Spirit Airlines.

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

Papa 51 Thunder Mustang, N7TR: Fatal accident occurred February 25, 2015 in Helotes, Texas

http://registry.faa.gov/N7TR

NTSB Identification: CEN15FA154
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 25, 2015 in Helotes, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/14/2016
Aircraft: ROSE THUNDER MUSTANG, registration: N7TR
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

A witness observed the airplane flying about 600 ft above ground level over an unpopulated area. He observed the nose of the airplane go straight up while the airplane simultaneously banked left. The airplane became fully inverted and then began to descend in a left bank. The witness reported that he expected to see the airplane pull up and level off at its original altitude and then depart the area as he had seen the airplane do many times before. However, this time, the airplane continued to descend nearly straight down until he lost sight of the airplane behind a hill and trees; he heard a “thud” moments later. He reported that the engine sounded like it was producing full power throughout the maneuver, and he heard no indication of a loss of engine power. The airplane impacted hard, rocky terrain that contained juniper, mesquite, and oak trees. A majority of the fragmented wreckage of the composite airplane was located within 300 ft of the initial impact point; the engine was found about 730 ft from the initial impact point. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. An examination of an engine monitoring device installed on the airplane indicated that the engine was producing power at the time of impact. The wreckage path and the length of the debris field indicated that the pilot attempted to recover from the maneuver but was unable to maintain terrain clearance due to the low altitude at which he started the maneuver.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance from terrain after initiating an aerobatic maneuver at a low altitude. 

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 25, 2015, about 1624 central standard time, an experimental amateur-built Rose Thunder Mustang, N7TR, was destroyed when it impacted terrain about 2 miles southwest of Helotes, Texas. The commercial pilot received fatal injuries. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The local flight departed from the Boerne Stage Field Airport (5C1), San Antonio, Texas, about 1604.

A witness who lived about 1/2 mile northeast of the accident site reported that he initially heard and then observed the airplane approaching from the northeast and flying to the southwest about 600 feet above ground level. The area the airplane was overflying was unpopulated and near the Government Canyon State Natural Area. When the airplane had flown about 1/2 mile to the southwest, he observed the nose of the airplane go straight up while simultaneously banking to the left. The airplane became fully inverted and then began to descend in a left bank. The witness reported that he expected to see the airplane pull up and level off at its original altitude and depart to the northeast as he had seen the airplane do many times before. However, this time, the airplane continued to descend nearly straight down until he lost sight of the airplane behind a hill and trees, and he heard a "thud" moments later. He reported that the engine sounded like it was producing full power throughout the maneuver and he heard no indication of a loss of engine power. There was no postimpact ground fire. The witness reported that he lived in the same neighborhood as the accident pilot and had previously seen the pilot perform similar maneuvers in the past.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The 66-year-old pilot held a commercial certificate with single-engine land, multi-engine land, and airplane instrument land ratings. His pilot's logbook indicated that he had 3,992 total hours of flight time with 58 hours in the accident airplane. He held a second class medical certificate that was issued in April 2014.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was a single-engine experimental amateur-built Rose Thunder Mustang, serial number GHTM002, manufactured in 1998. It had a maximum gross weight of 3,200 lbs and seated two. It was equipped with a Ryan Falconer V-12 640 horsepower engine. The last conditional maintenance inspection was conducted on May 1, 2014, with a total airframe time of 469 hours. The engine had 140 hours since the last overhaul. The airplane was a scaled down replica of a North American P-51D.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1551, the surface weather observation at San Antonio International Airport (SAT), located about 12 nm east of the accident site was: wind 320 degrees at 4 kts; visibility 10 miles; clouds few at 2,500 ft; temperature 19 degrees C; dew point 3 degrees C; altimeter 29.81 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane impacted hard, rocky terrain that contained juniper, mesquite, and oak trees. The debris field was found on a 015 degree magnetic heading. A majority of the fragmented wreckage of the composite airplane was located within 300 feet of the initial impact point. Flight control cable continuity was not established due to the numerous control cable breaks and fragmented control surfaces. All cable breaks exhibited features consistent with overstress failure.

The 640- horsepower Ryan Falconer V-12 engine was found about 730 feet north-northeast from the initial impact point. A visual examination of the engine revealed that the intake manifold, ignition harness, reduction gearbox, and propeller were separated from the engine. All spark plugs were damaged or sheared off during impact. There was no evidence of a preimpact breach in the engine crankcase. The oil pan was separated during impact exposing the power section. The engine including the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, and cylinders were examined and there was no evidence of lubrication distress or heat distress.

The four-bladed propeller hub and reduction gearbox was found about 600 feet from the initial impact point. Three of the four wooden blades were separated at the hub, and the fourth blade was separated about 6 inches from the hub. The fractured wooden propeller blades were not located.

Two MoTec M48 Engine Control Units (ECU) A and B and a Vision Microsystems EC100 were sent to the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Vehicle Recorder Division for examination.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The autopsy of the pilot was performed at the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office, San Antonio, Texas, on February 26, 2015. The cause of death was blunt force injuries sustained in the crash of an aircraft. A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute. The results were negative for all substances tested.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The NTSB Vehicle Recorder Division examined the MoTec M48 ECUs and the Vision Microsystems EC100. It was determined that the Vision Microsystems EC100 was unable to record data relevant to the event and no further work was performed. The examination of the MoTec M48 ECUs revealed the following information:

The MoTec M48 ECU's primary function was to control engine fuel injection and ignition timing. In addition to its primary function, the ECU contained a data logging feature that captured engine parameters and internal ECU faults at a user defined sample rate. The device was set to record at one sample per second and contained 10,638 points of data. It recorded time as elapsed seconds recorded (ESR). The accident flight was identified as the last recorded flight from data point 9,425 to 10,595.

The download of the data from the ECUs indicated that the flight lasted about 19.5 minutes. The engine parameters that were recorded included: engine rpm, throttle position, oil pressure, fuel flow, and barometric reference. The duration of the flight was uneventful until 10,570 ESR, when the barometric reference began increasing, consistent with a descent. The ECU lost power at the last recorded data point of 10,595 ESR. All the engine parameters indicated that the engine was operating at the time that the ECUs stopped recording data.

NTSB Identification: CEN15FA154 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 25, 2015 in Helotes, TX
Aircraft: ROSE THUNDER MUSTANG, registration: N7TR
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to cha
nge, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On February 25, 2015, about 1624 central standard time, an experimental amateur-built Rose Thunder Mustang, N7TR, was destroyed when it impacted terrain about 2 miles southwest of Helotes, Texas. The commercial pilot received fatal injuries. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The local flight departed from the Boerne Stage Field Airport (5C1), San Antonio, Texas, at an unknown time.

A witness who lived about .5 mile northeast of the accident site reported that he initially heard and then observed the airplane approaching from the northeast and flying to the southwest about 600 feet above ground level. The area the airplane was overflying was unpopulated and near the Government Canyon State Natural Area. When the airplane had flown about .5 miles to the southwest, he observed the nose of the airplane go straight up while simultaneously banking 90 degrees to the left. The airplane became fully inverted and then began to descend in a left bank. The witness reported that he expected to see the airplane pull up and level off at its original altitude and depart to the northeast as he had seen the airplane do many times before. However, this time, the airplane continued to descend nearly straight down until he lost sight of the airplane behind a hill and trees, and he heard a "thud" moments later. He reported that the engine was producing full power throughout the maneuver and he heard no indication of a momentary loss of engine power. There was no postimpact ground fire. The witness reported that he lived in the same neighborhood as the accident pilot and had previously seen the pilot perform similar maneuvers in the past.

The airplane impacted hard, rocky terrain that contained juniper, mesquite, and oak trees. The debris field was found on a 015 degree magnetic heading. A majority of the fragmented wreckage of the composite airplane was located within 300 feet of the initial impact point. Flight control cable continuity was not established due to the numerous control cable breaks and fragmented control surfaces. All cable breaks exhibited "broom straw" type fractures.

The 640- horsepower Ryan Falconer V-12 engine was found about 730 feet north-northeast from the initial impact point. A visual examination of the engine revealed that the intake manifold, ignition harness, reduction gearbox, and propeller were separated from the engine. All spark plugs were damaged or sheared off during impact. There was no evidence of a preimpact breach in the engine crankcase. The oil pan was separated during impact exposing the power section. The engine including the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, and cylinders were examined and there was no evidence of lubrication distress or heat distress.

The four-bladed propeller hub and reduction gearbox was found about 600 feet from the initial impact point. Three of the four wooden blades were separated at the hub, and the fourth blade was separated about 6 inches from the hub. The fractured wooden propeller blades were not located.














A deadly plane crash in Government Canyon State Natural Area, northwest of San Antonio, has led to a federal investigation. Bexar County officials said it appears only the pilot was in the plane at the time.

The plane was registered to Thomas Baber of Helotes, Texas. KENS 5 has not confirmed the identify of the victim.

Eyewitness News spoke to Jim Crane who not only saw the plane go down, but is also a neighbor of the pilot.

"I never thought I'd see something like this," said Jim Crane.

It's not easy for Jim Crane to talk about it, but he said he saw the very moment his neighbor crashed his small plane into the rugged terrain of Government Canyon.

Crane said his neighbor was doing an "inside loop" maneuver. It's a move the pilot has been seen doing countless of times before.

"At the top of the loop as he's coming back down he would normally level off and fly back in the opposite direction of the valley," said Crane. "In this case he went below the hill behind us. My mother and I were not yelling, but saying 'pull up pull up' and then we heard the thud."

A fellow pilot himself, Crane knew there was no way anyone could survive the crash. First responders said the wreckage from the plane spreads several hundred feet.

"We were looking for survivors and hoping for survivors and hoping to have a rescue but that wasn't possible," said SAFD Battalion Chief Jacob Mendiola.

Crane said many people have seen his neighbor fly the area on a regular basis. Crane wants everyone to know, his neighbor was an experienced pilot and that it's unfair to speculate he was doing anything risky Wednesday.

"I don't want his family to live with that thought, I don't want an investigation to be based on a reckless situation because it was not, it was anything but that," said Crane. "This was a maneuver I had seen him do countless times."

Federal investigators will arrive on scene Thursday and will conduct their investigation.