Sunday, February 22, 2015

Accident occurred February 22, 2015 near Statenville, Echols County, Georgia

Two members of Beaufort-based Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 were treated for minor injuries after ejecting from a fighter jet that crashed Sunday in Georgia, according to a news release from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

An investigation is underway into what caused the F/A-18 Hornet to crash during low-altitude tactics training.

The pilot, Maj. Roy Nicka, and the weapons systems officer, 1st. Lt. Robert Reynolds, ejected and parachuted to the ground. They were treated for minor injuries at the South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta.

The plane flew out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and crashed near Statenville, Ga., in the Moody MOA, a military operations area, which is air space designated for military flight operations, according to the release.

The aircraft went down in wooded, swampy terrain about 30 miles east of Valdosta.

Requests for information from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on Sunday night and Monday were not responded to.

The crash site has been cordoned off by military officials. Personnel from Moody Air Force Base's 23rd Wing are providing site security, while members of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing are assembled for recovery operations, according to the release.

Efforts are underway to recover as much of the plane as possible, and the investigation into the cause may take several months.

"Information will be gathered from many sources, including all sources known to have any link to the mishap flight, in effort to determine the cause of the mishap and to help our aviators avoid similar mishaps in the future," according to the release.

Any witnesses are asked to contact the 2nd MAW public affairs office at 252-466-4241 or chpt.jpao.omb@usmc.mil to provide information.



STATENVILLE, Ga. – A military plane flying from a South Carolina base has crashed near this Echols County town.

The McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18D Hornet crashed at 2:53 p.m. Sunday; it was flying from Beauford Marine Corps Station, Beauford, S.C., according to military authorities at the scene.

The plane crashed about 4.5 miles east of Statenville near Ga. 94.

Two pilots parachuted from the plane; both were taken to South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta, said 2nd Lt. Brianca Williams from Moody Air Force Base. There were no fatalities connected with the crash

Moody responded as the nearest military base; the downed plane was not from Moody AFB as initially reported by civilian authorities.

Responders at the scene included the Echols County Sheriff's Office, EMTs from South Georgia Medical Center, the Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Echols County Volunteer Fire Department, Moody AFB Fire Services and security personnel from Moody.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

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










  WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

STATENVILLE, GA (WALB) -

Two pilots have been injured after their plane crashed east of Statenville off Highway 94 in a wooded area Echols County.

Both pilots ejected from the plane. They had minor injuries and were taken to the South Georgia Medical Center for treatment.

It happened around 3 p.m. The plane is a McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18D Hornet.

The Echols County Sheriff's Office has confirmed the crash.

Personnel from the 23rd Wing also responded to the scene, according to a release from Moody Air Force Base.

The aircraft took off from Beaufort Marine Corp. Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Story and video:  http://www.walb.com

India: No takers for state government planes

LUCKNOW: The UP government's plan to sell off one old aircraft and two choppers has crash landed, thanks to recession in the civil aviation sector. Dumped in the hangars of Amausi airport, the Premier 1A aircraft, Chetak and Bell 230 choppers will now be put up for sale again, sources in the civil aviation department said.

The Premier 1A aircraft, that crash-landed with cabinet minister Shivpal Yadav and one other senior minister in 2012, has been put up for sale at least three times. So is the case with Chetak and Bell helicopters which have been found wanting for a buyer.

"However, no companies came up with a respectable amount. The recession in the industry is to be blamed for this," said a government official. The department has again sought a bid for the three till February 25.

The sale coincides with the state government's plans to buy new aircraft and choppers to fly its VIPs.

Purchased during the tenure of former chief minister Mayawati in 2008 at an estimated cost of over Rs 40 crore, the six-seat aircraft, Premier-1A (VT-UPN), has not been used since it skidded off the runway at IGI airport in Delhi in 2012, leaving the top brass of the civil aviation department red-faced.

The department has since been inviting bids from private consultants to evaluate the aircraft. It has been keenly seeking 'valuers' who are registered as surveyors with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority for providing 'market realizable value' for four aircraft and a chopper along with their spare parts, rotables, etc.

The six-seater Chetak helicopter, manufactured by HAL, has been waiting for a suitable buyer since 2009 when it was last flown. Likewise, the Bell helicopter, which was last flown in March 2014, has been put up for sale on two occasions.

Original article can be found at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Open house planned to review Iowa City Municipal Airport (KIOW) master plan

IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The first two chapters of a major plan involving the Iowa City Municipal Airport will be reviewed by the public.

The Iowa City Municipal Airport is developing an update to its master plan that will help guide airport operations, including facilities, services, and activities, for the next 20 years.

Parts of the plan could be implemented as early as 2016, and will be used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to guide FAA projects and development in Iowa City.

The open house is to discuss the first two chapters of the master plan has been scheduled for Thursday, March 5, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the airport, located at 1801 S. Riverside Drive in Iowa City.

The open house will offer an overview of the master plan as well as opportunities to view displays and learn more about existing airport inventory, forecast data for facility upgrades or changes that are needed, and goals for long-term growth.

The session will be led by airport staff and project consultants who will be able to answer questions and receive feedback from the public.

The public is invited to attend the meeting, which will be held in the second floor conference room of the administration building.

For more information, visit the project website at www.bolton-menk.com/clients/IowaCity/airport/index.html 

Source: http://www.kwwl.com

Piper PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage, C-GVZW: Fatal accident occurred February 22, 2015 near Felts Field Airport (KSFF), Spokane, Washington

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report: http://app.ntsb.gov/pdf 

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Spokane FSDO-13

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA111 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, February 22, 2015 in Spokane, WA
Aircraft: PIPER PA46 - 350P, registration: CGVZW
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On February 22, 2015, at 1405 Pacific standard time, a Piper Aircraft, Inc., PA46-350P airplane, Canadian registry CGVZW, experienced a loss of engine power during climb out from runway 22R at Felts Field Airport (SFF), Spokane, Washington. The Canadian certificated pilot, the sole occupant, succumbed to his injuries on February 24, 2015. The airplane was destroyed during the attempted emergency landing after it struck a railroad track. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the instrument flight rules (IFR) flight that originated shortly before the accident. The flight was destined for the Stockton Metropolitan Airport (SCK) Stockton, California. 

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector responded to the accident site and identified two different groups of witnesses. The first set of witnesses observed the airplane with the engine sputtering. They observed the left wing drop and the nose pitch up. The right wing then dropped, and the witnesses lost sight of the airplane as it passed behind a building. The second set of witnesses reported that the right wing struck a railroad track at the top of a hill and subsequently traveled down an embankment. The witnesses reported that the airplane slid across a road and came to rest inverted adjacent to the bottom of a railroad bridge. 

Responding investigators stated that the majority of the airplane came to rest at the accident site, with additional wreckage strewn throughout the debris path. Both of the wings had separated from the airplane fuselage; however, they remained near the main wreckage. The investigators stated that the fuel tanks ruptured during the accident sequence, and there was a strong smell of Jet fuel present. 

The FAA inspector obtained the fueling log from Western Aviation at SFF; the fuel log indicated that the accident airplane had been refueled with 52 gallons of Jet fuel prior to takeoff.
===========


SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Department of Ecology is investigating a deadly E. Spokane plane crash and what type of fuel the plane may have used.

The investigation began after the officials cited concerns that the small plane that crashed in Spokane on Sunday was running on the wrong type of fuel.

It remains unclear if the pilot, who died Tuesday, used self serve fuel at Felts Field, or a truck/attendant. The Federal Aviation Administration is also concerned that the plane had used the wrong fuel.

Western Aviation, manages fuel at Felts Field, and told KREM 2 News that it would not be appropriate to comment until the investigation is complete.

Western Aviation at Felts Field released a statement Wednesday regarding the deadly plane crash. It reads:

"Western Aviation would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the pilot's family and everyone involved in this tragedy. We are currently cooperating with the NTSB and FAA in providing any information that may help determine the cause of the accident."

http://www.krem.com




SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. -  A plane piloted by a Canadian man may have been doomed before he attempted to takeoff last weekend as it may have been fueled up with the wrong type of gas at Felts Field, causing the plane to lose power and crash.

The Piper Malibu, piloted by Michael Clements, went down near the Hamilton Street overpass Sunday afternoon within moments of takeoff from Felts Field.

Numerous pilots and mechanics have confirmed the Piper Malibu that crashed runs on aviation gas, which is essentially a high octane version of automotive gasoline. At Felts Field you can purchase either AV gas or jet fuel; in fact the fuel pumps are side-by-side on the tarmac.

The sign on the gas pumps at Felts Field clearly say 'Self Serve' but it's not known if he filled his own tank with fuel.

While the Piper Malibu should have been filled with AV gas at Felts Field, a report from the Washington Department of Ecology, which responded to the crash scene because of the fuel leaking from the wreckage, said that one of the first FAA inspectors at the scene was concerned "about maybe having Jet 'A' when the plane runs on aviation fuel."

According to instructors at Spokane Community College's aviation maintenance school, if you put jet fuel in a piston-powered plane, like the one that crashed, it won't run very long because it doesn't have any octane and will actually start tearing up the engine.

Last summer in Las Cruces, N,M. four people were killed when the twin engine Cessna 421C air ambulance they were flying crashed shortly after takeoff. The NTSB's preliminary report into that crash said the aircraft took on 40 gallons of the wrong type of fuel and crashed shortly after takeoff.

Multiple attempts have been made to contact Western Aviation, the fixed base operator at Felts Field, both on the phone and in person, for comment on this story. So far they have not responded to any of our requests.

Clements, who had been in critical condition since the crash Sunday, succumbed to his injuries Tuesday afternoon.

The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the crash is ongoing. Typically it can take up to a year for their final report on a mishap to be published.

http://www.kxly.com





















FELTS FIELD, Wash. - The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation in a plane crash over the weekend near Felts Field that left the pilot in critical condition. 

Michael Clements, the pilot, had flown into Felts Field from Canada and had to check in with US immigration officials before heading any further south. After meeting with customs officials he had lunch at the Skyway Cafe and several KXLY sources say he fueled up his plane for the next leg of his trip to Stockton, California.

However, just seconds after taking off to the west, the tower heard Clements radio out a mayday and his single-engine Piper Malibu went down. Went down between Sprague and Trent on North Erie Street.

Spokane police and civilian eyewitnesses braved leaking fuel from the aircraft to pull Clements from the wreckage.

“Apparently, he possibly clipped his wing on the railroad tracks over there and flipped and was actually upside down against the ground here,” Spokane Police Sergeant Chris Crane said.

That made freeing Clements so difficult as his head was pinned against the roof of the crumpled cockpit.

“I didn't know but Sergeant Vigessa was already inside the aircraft, behind the pilot's seat, which was upside down and the pilot was hanging from his seat belt upside down with his head crunched against the ceiling,” Crane said.

Curtis Neal, a civilian who witnessed the crash, tried to knock out a window to give police an escape route, and at that point officers realized they could remove the pilot's head rest and give themselves a little more room to work.

“At that time Sergeant Vigessa reached up with his knife and cut the seat belt, which released the pilot and we were able to get him down and into a flat position and then as best as we could, we carried him from the downed aircraft's position to the grass over here,” Crane said.

Crane spoke with Clements' adult son, who is a paramedic. He said his father picked the railroad tracks for an emergency landing because he didn't want to hurt innocent people on Sprague or Trent Avenue.

The wreckage of Clements airplane was removed from the crash site Monday morning. Meanwhile, the NTSB is checking to see if contaminated or the wrong type of fuel put in Clements' aircraft contributed to this crash. Calls to Western Aviation, the fixed base operator that manages Felts Field, for comment on this story have not been returned.

http://www.kxly.com


SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane police pride themselves on being prepared for anything, but officers say there's no training for the plane crash they responded to Sunday.

"I've been doing this 24 years and I've never had a rescue like this," Sgt. Chris Crane said. Crane arrived on-scene to find fellow Spokane Police Sgt. Kurt Vigesaa already inside the plane helping the pilot.

Meanwhile, the plane was crushed up against an overpass and leaking fluid.

"I just wanted to get [the pilot] out," Sgt. Vigesaa said. But it wasn't as simple as pulling the man from the aircraft. He was pinned upside down, and Sgt. Vigesaa risked hurting him further if he prematurely tried to remove him.

"It wasn't until he stopped breathing, then the choice was clear," Sgt. Vigesaa said. "We need to remove him immediately and open up his airway."

Both sergeants explained they're not really trained for a scenario like this. For each, it was the first plane crash they've responded to, so the answers weren't obvious upon arrival.

"It's almost 100 percent improvisation," Sgt. Crane said.

The pilot, Michael Clements of Alberta, Canada, was taken to Sacred Heart and remained in critical condition as of Monday afternoon. Spokane Police says without the quick work of their officers Clements likely wouldn't have survived. But the officers didn't walking away praising themselves as heroes.

"You just sit back and think, what could you have done better?" Sgt. Vigesaa said. "Did you do everything right?"

"I dreamt about it all night and thought about it all day," Sgt. Crane said.



































The pilot of a small airplane was critically injured today when the single-engine Piper Malibu crashed east of downtown Spokane.

The plane had taken off from Felts Field and went down about 1:30 p.m. just north of East Sprague Avenue at North Erie Street, near the Hamilton Street bridge over the Spokane River.

It hit the top of a BNSF railroad viaduct over Erie and fell to the ground there, Spokane Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Sabo said.

Curtis Neal, who witnessed the crash, said the plane banked left, appeared headed toward a building, banked right, then crashed. Neal was first on the scene.

“I ran over there and tapped on the window,” he said. “He didn’t respond.”

Neal broke out a window to try to free the pilot, who was suspended upside down.

“It looked bad,” Neal said.

Two Spokane Police officers then arrived, and one of the officers cut the seat belt holding the pilot. They pulled the pilot out through a narrow opening.

“They were concerned about a fire hazard,” Sabo said.

Although some fuel spilled from the plane, there was no fire, he said.

The pilot was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and was listed in critical condition.

The plane, registered in Canada, lost power a short time after it took off, Sabo said.

The BNSF tracks were closed to rail traffic to preserve the scene, he said.

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

SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane Police and Fire Department are on the scene of a small plane crash near Erie and Sprague.

One man was pulled from the wreckage and taken to the hospital. He is in critical condition at Sacred Heart.

Spokane Fire Chief Sabo says the single engine plane registered in Canada took off from Felts Field and lost power shortly after. The plane hit train tracks. BNSF has shut down the tracks while evidence is collected, but they don't believe tracks are damaged.

Fuel was spilled at the scene, but no fire broke out.

"We're extremely fortunate no people on the ground were injured," Sabo said.

Bystander Curtis Neal pulled the man from the plane. He told KHQ reporter Cynthia Johnson the pilot's breathing was shallow and that he was upside down in his seat. He said he used a piece of landing gear to break the window of the plane and get to the man inside.

Story, comments and photo gallery:  http://www.khq.com

SPOKANE, Wash. - A small plane crashed near Trent and Erie on Sunday.

Authorities said the pilot has been transported to the hospital. He is currently in critical condition.

Curtis Neal rushed in and helped pull the pilot from the plane. He told KREM 2 News that the pilot was in "bad shape."

KREM 2 News has learned the plane, a Piper PA-46-350P, is registered in Alberta, Canada. The pilot had just cleared Customs at Felts Field and then was headed to Stockton, California.

The plane went down shortly after takeoff.

Spokane Police and fire crews are securing the scene until the FAA investigators arrive.

BNSF tracks are shut down until further notice.

Story and photo:  http://www.krem.com






























Curtis Neal
Man who helped save the pilot in the crash 
(Photo: Lingenfelter, Tesia)


Curtis Neal












































Interview with an Alaska pilot: Keith Manternach, Iron Dog volunteer

Several team aircraft lined up to depart McGrath for Galena during Iron Dog 2014. 
Courtesy Keith Manternach



By Colleen Mondor
February 22, 2015

As part of an ongoing series highlighting the diversity of Alaska's aviation community, Bush Pilot exchanged some recent emails with Keith Manternach, who lives on Anchorage's Upper Hillside. Manternach has flown all over the state and said he became interested in flying in the early 1990s, because "it seemed that all of my hunting and fishing buddies had airplanes or had friends with airplanes, since I was an avid hunter (and) fisherman I decided to get my pilot’s license and bought my own airplanes shortly after that."

He currently holds a private pilot certificate with a performance rating, float rating, and tailwheel endorsement and is actively involved with the Iron Dog as a volunteer team pilot. His work with the race gives him "the opportunity to fly from Anchorage to Nome and then onto Fairbanks before returning back to Anchorage in late February each year." Manternach regards this week away from home, flying everyday "in some very challenging situations," as a "great learning experience" which he enjoys a great deal.

Manternach plans to purchase a fast twin engine airplane in the near future to "leave home for months at a time to fly around North America".  

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

A: I think that the most valuable items in my flight bag are my satellite phone and my personal locator beacon; between the two of them no matter how bad the situation I should be able to find my way to safety.

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

A: My favorite places to fly to in Alaska on floats or skis would have to be Rainy Pass Lodge and/or Shell Lake Lodge. Both of these lodges are very remote and run by great people that cater to the aviation population.

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

A: The best flying advice I ever got was that the preflight is more important than the actual flight; an unprepared airplane and/or pilot is a recipe for disaster.

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

A: I mainly fly my 1958 Cessna 180; it is equipped with floats in the summer, hydraulic wheel skis in the winter, and tundra tires in the spring and fall. I also have a 1954 Piper PA-18 Super Cub that I fly on tundra tires in the summer and straight skis in the winter. Both airplanes have their strong points: the Cessna is very comfortable and fast and the Piper is capable of taking off and landing in very short spots.

For many years I owned a home in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. When I first started flying internationally we simply needed to call Canadian Customs to let them know that we were going to be entering Canada, and then let the U.S. Customs know when we were coming back. During my years of flying in and out of Canada things changed dramatically -- today you have to have to be registered with eapis (Electronic Advanced Passenger Information System) which is a computer-based pilot information system that lets the Canadian and U.S. Customs know what your flight intentions are. I am sure that this has improved the security although it has also turned some people off from flying internationally due to the excessive paperwork involved.

I have made a few trips from Alaska to Washington state to ferry other people’s airplanes, and I would encourage any avid pilot to make this trip; it has the chance of weather delays but I think Southeast Alaska might be the most beautiful part of our state. As far as flying in and around the Lower 48, I have regularly rented airplanes out of Seattle, Las Vegas and Chicago; this takes a bit of time and planning but it exposes you to a whole different type of flying due to the large volume of traffic at Class B airports.

Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen[at]alaskadispatch.com if you would like to tell us your favorite place to fly in Alaska.

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

Federal Aviation Administration investigating near miss on O'Hare International Airport (KORD) runway last week

The pilot of an American Eagle airliner taking off from O'Hare International Airport last week took evasive action to avoid hitting another plane that strayed onto the runway, the Federal Aviation Administration and a source said Sunday.

The incident involving two regional jets occurred at 9:46 p.m. Tuesday. The American Eagle plane, which was cleared by air-traffic controllers and was on its takeoff roll, "steered around" a United Express Bombardier CRJ-700 that "turned without authorization onto an active runway," FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

The United Express plane, traveling to Toronto, had just begun to enter runway 28 Right when the pilot of the American Eagle Embraer 145 steered around it and departed safely en route to Columbus, Ohio, Molinaro said. He said the incident is under investigation.

A source at O'Hare said the United Express pilot strayed onto the runway after missing an assigned turn from one taxiway to another. The FAA did not confirm that account Sunday.

No additional information was immediately available Sunday. The Tribune contacted the National Transportation Safety Board, which was expected to send an investigator, an FAA source said.

Runway incursions, which are incidents involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on a runway, are the leading threat to safety at airports, according to the FAA and the NTSB.

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

Bahamas Cites Poor Decisions by Crew as Cause of Plane Crash

Investigators looking into a small plane crash that killed a prominent Christian minister and eight others last year have found it was likely caused by bad decisions by the crew during stormy weather, the islands' civil aviation department said Sunday.

A Learjet carrying the Rev. Myles Munroe and members of his Bahamas Faith Ministries crashed Nov. 9 after striking a shipping crane as it attempted to land in Grand Bahama. The crash killed everyone on board, including Munroe's wife.

On Sunday, the islands' civil aviation department said its accident investigation unit had concluded its probe into the crash. In a final report, investigators determined that poor decision-making by the crew as they attempted to descend below the authorized altitude without being able to see the runway area was the probable cause.

The jet was trying to land during heavy rain and reduced visibility as a storm front passed over the area. During a second attempt at landing at the Grand Bahama International Airport, the crew struck a crane at a shipyard during a "go-around procedure," according to the Sunday statement from the civil aviation department.

The right outboard wing, landing gear and right wing fuel tank separated from the plane on impact, according to the department.  The aircraft spun out of control for roughly 1,578 feet (526 yards) before slamming into a recycling facility. Nobody on the ground was hurt.

Munroe was a best-selling author, motivational speaker and influential Christian pastor who frequently spoke on television and gave sermons around the world. At the time of the crash, he and the others were flying to a global leadership forum that he had organized in the Bahamas.

Source:     http://abcnews.go.com

http://www.aaipu-bcaa.com/N17UF_Preliminary_Report.pdf 

NTSB Identification: ERA15RA047
14 CFR Non-U.S., Non-Commercial
Accident occurred Sunday, November 09, 2014 in Freeport, Bahamas
Aircraft: GATES LEARJET CORP. 35A, registration: N17UF
Injuries: 9 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On November 9, 2014, about 1652 eastern standard time, a Gates Learjet Corp 35A, N17UF, registered to Diplomat Aviation (Bahamas) Ltd., was destroyed when it impacted a crane and terrain during approach to Grand Bahama International Airport (MYGF), Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas. The airline transport pilot, copilot, and seven passengers were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight originated from Lynden Pindling International Airport (MYNN), Nassau, Bahamas, about 1600 and was operating under Bahamian flight regulations at the time of the accident.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Air Accident Investigation & Prevention Unit
Bahamas Department of Civil Aviation 
P.O. Box AP-59244 
Nassau, N.P., The Bahamas 
1 (242) 376-1617 
1 (242) 377-6060 FAX 
Email: aaipu.bcaa@gmail.com
website: www.aaipu-bcaa.com

This report is for informational purposes, and only contains information released by the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Captain Stanley Thurston 
~

 
First Officer Frahkan Cooper
~
The passengers and pilots preparing to board the ill-fated flight.


Three Wyoming airports facing steep federal cuts

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rob Shearer looks at his phone while waiting to meet a passenger Friday at Cheyenne Regional Airport. A steady decline in passenger traffic in Cheyenne, Sheridan and Riverton has caused cuts in federal funding, making it difficult for Cheyenne to replace its aging terminal.



An ongoing, nationwide pilot shortage continues to cripple Great Lakes Aviation’s ability to serve several Wyoming airports, and the effects are starting to hit home, according to airport managers.

“We just had a discussion with Great Lakes, and they are losing money on this flight,” said John Stopka, manager of Sheridan County Airport. “It doesn’t work for them, it doesn’t work for us … in the next month or so they will have to make a business decision.”

Losing flights means losing passengers, and losing passengers means losing critical federal money.

Sheridan is one of three Wyoming airports that boarded fewer than 10,000 passengers last year, triggering a cut from $1 million in federal money to $150,000 for capital projects unless Congress offers temporary reprieve. Funds for Riverton and Cheyenne regional airports are also on the chopping block.

Great Lakes is the only airline using the Sheridan airport, which means problems will only increase if Great Lakes pulls out and no other airline steps in. Great Lakes CEO Chuck Howell did not return multiple calls requesting an interview.

A nine-passenger Great Lakes plane currently serves Sheridan with one flight per day, six days a week, Stopka said. There is no way the airport will reach the 10,000 passenger mark this year.

“I’ve been here 39 years, and we’ve never been in this position,” Stopka said.

The Sheridan airport could be forced to delay safety projects like replacing lighting and a 20-year-old electric fence meant to keep out wildlife, according to Christy Yaffa, airport planning and programming manager for the state’s aeronautics division.

Wyoming lawmakers are considering coming to the rescue for some projects, like repairs to a safety area along the runway, Yaffa said, which would help. Sen. Mike Enzi introduced a bill last month seeking to use 2012 passenger boarding numbers to calculate federal money through 2017. A similar bill is being considered in the House.

Using 2012 numbers means looking at how airports fared before federal changes that airlines and industry experts say caused a nationwide pilot shortage and subsequent passenger downturn. It would also delay the pending drop in federal funding.

Following a 2009 plane crash in Buffalo, New York, that killed 50 people, Congress increased the required training hours to fly from 250 hours to 1,500 hours. The new rules went into place August 2013. The additional hours add time and expenses for pilots in training, say industry experts.

With fewer pilots available, smaller regional airlines are cutting back service to low-traffic airports like those in Wyoming.

Cheyenne Regional Airport boarded 5,380 passengers in 2014, a 56.4 percent drop from 2013, according to an unofficial count.

“It is going to hurt immensely,” said Tim Barth, airport manager, regarding the looming federal cuts.

A reduction in federal money could mean delaying or scaling back plans to replace an old terminal building next year. The airport has secured $14 million and needs another $4 million to provide the facility the community deserves, Barth said.

Other projects that could be affected in the near future include replacing snow removal equipment and fixing pavement.

“You can’t have a pothole out there,” Barth said. “We may have to repair sections as needed, replace what’s worst, but when you do it piecemeal, it drives the cost up.”

Barth said he expected pending legislation to help Great Lakes turn its operations around in the coming year, but he also wanted to see more permanent help from Congress.

Sheri Taylor, the air service development manager for the state’s aeronautics division, said her department is trying to combine Wyoming’s voice with other rural states suffering from reduced or eliminated service in order to get Congress talking about the issue. The state is also trying to recruit airlines to bring in supplemental service.

Wyoming does have a program that guarantees a minimum revenue to airlines as a way to take some of the risk out of moving into a low population market, Taylor said. Several airlines have expressed interest, but have said they don’t have the pilots to come in any time soon.

The recent rule changes have compounded an already existing shortage, explained aviation consultant Ken Jenkins. The U.S. airline industry laid off a lot of pilots following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and many of them went overseas. Since then, demand has returned, but the supply of pilots has lagged behind, he explained.

“You need the manpower to fly the routes. If you don’t have it, the airlines look at small stations and say, ‘Well, alright, this is the lowest … service,’ and they’re going to drop it.” Jenkins said. “It’s only going to get worse before it gets better.”

Great Lakes endured a 61 percent drop in passengers from 2013 to 2014, and operating revenue tumbled 51.6 percent to $44.4 million.

The airline also terminated service to 14 airports last year, according to its financial statements.

“Nationwide, that is a really sad story that keeps getting repeated,” Yaffa said. “Airlines are so risk adverse that opening a new market to them is just too risky … once it’s gone, it’s really hard to bring it back.” 

Original article can be found at: http://trib.com

Australia follows New Zealand in helicopter ban

Australia has followed New Zealand in banning a popular model of helicopter after investigations into a fatal crash near Queenstown identified an issue with rotor blades.

James Louis Patterson Gardner, 18, of Queenstown and Stephen Anthony Nicholson Combe, 42, of Wanaka were found dead on Thursday at the scene of the crash of a Robinson R44 helicopter operated by Queenstown-based Over the Top.

Mr. Patterson Gardner was the son of the company's owner and Mr. Combe was a former Royal Marine pilot. Tributes have flowed for the pair, including from Prime Minister John Key who had met Mr. Patterson Gardner.

The NZ Civil Aviation Authority issued a ban on Saturday, prohibiting pilots from flying Robinson R44 series helicopters fitted with CO16-7 rotor blades, affecting about 80 helicopters in New Zealand.

Australia's flight safety watchdog, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), imposed the same ban, affecting about 485 helicopters.

Investigators at the scene of the Queenstown crash identified a main rotor blade failure in their initial examination.

They say there may be similarities with an earlier R44 incident in January where the pilot experienced severe vibration but managed to land safely.

The blade from Thursday's fatal crash is being sent to the manufacturer and the United States Federal Aviation Administration for analysis.

The R44 is the second most common helicopter type in Australia.

"We don't want to keep the aircraft on the ground a minute longer than is necessary," CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told news agency AAP.

The precautionary grounding would not affect aircraft providing Queensland and Northern Territory cyclone relief, he said.

"The R44 is used in passenger charter transport, mustering and aerial agriculture but not typically used in those sorts of rescue applications," Mr Gibson said.

Original article can be found at: http://www.3news.co.nz

City out to halt airport drag racing: Hannibal Regional (KHAE), Missouri

Efforts have been ongoing to attract more air traffic to Hannibal Regional Airport, but lately the wrong type of “traffic” – motorcycles and cars - have been spotted using the airport’s runway for drag racing.

The topic was raised during last week’s Airport Advisory Board meeting. Lori Brown of Survival Flight, the air ambulance service which has personnel stationed at the airport around the clock seven days a week, noted the volume of vehicles being seen at the airport during the nighttime hours.

“There’s so much traffic,” she said.

It was reported that it’s not uncommon for drag races to occur in the airport’s paved areas, particularly on the 4,400-foot long runway.

“That’s so dangerous,” said Robin Carroll, the airport's fixed base operator.

Carroll also said there is plenty of evidence in the form of cans and bottles to suggest that “after-hours visitors” at the airport are consuming significant amounts of alcohol.

Following the Airport Advisory Board meeting, Carroll contacted Brian Chaplin, the city’s Public Works superintendent. Following a meeting between Chaplin and Police Chief Lyndell Davis, Chaplin says the city will be taking a dim view of unauthorized people on airport property.

“I want it to stop immediately. It’s a problem out there. It’s more of a problem than we thought we had,” he said. “If you’re caught in areas you’re not supposed to be in – taxiway, runway, where the fuel is, anywhere where a plane will be at - and you’re on foot or in a vehicle, and you have alcohol, you will be arrested on the spot and be prosecuted.

“I don’t care who you are, if you’re on that runway with a vehicle… You will be prosecuted and we will prosecute to the fullest. We’ll have zero tolerance for it. It’s very serious.”

Davis is happy to help deal with the problem.

“Since the airport has been experiencing an ever-growing use for private and medical air traffic over the last few years increased police presence was warranted,” he said. “Enforcement will be exercised as needed to curb the problem. Officers were instructed to patrol the property at all hours of day especially at night when the illegal activities are mostly likely occurring.”

Police patrols of the airport have already been increased, according to Chaplin.

“They’re patrolling it every single night,” he said. “They know where people are supposed to be and not supposed to be at the airport.”

In addition to police patrols, Chaplin indicated other security steps are under consideration, such as expansion and enhancement of the airport’s four-camera security system. Also being discussed are options such as a “keyed” gate.

If unauthorized traffic is not halted, Chaplin and Davis are concerned that a serious incident will occur.

“The last thing anyone wants is an preventable incident to occur at the airport due to the carelessness of unauthorized visitors,” said Davis.

“That airport is so busy any more. We have pilots flying in all hours of the day and night. These people, when they’re on the runway, don’t know if a plane will come up to land. They (planes) asre going to come down and hurt somebody or kill somebody,” he said. “If there’s a plane crash out there because of this, it’s bad, it’s really, really bad, because we didn’t do what we were supposed to on our end.”

- Story and photo: http://www.hannibal.net