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.   

United Sent Safety Warning to Pilots • Unusually blunt message followed several serious incidents caused by cockpit errors

The Wall Street Journal
By ANDY PASZTOR And  SUSAN CAREY
Updated Feb. 25, 2015 5:19 p.m. ET


United Continental Holdings Inc. ’s management sent a dramatic safety warning to its pilots last month, calling for stepped-up compliance with rules and procedures following several serious incidents caused by cockpit errors.

The bulletin, issued Jan. 9 under the heading “significant safety concerns,” said it was prompted by four separate “safety events and near-misses” in previous weeks, including a plane whose pilots had to execute an emergency pull-up maneuver to avoid crashing into the ground. Another flight cited in the document landed with less than the mandatory minimum fuel reserves.

The two-page memo, signed by the carrier’s senior vice president of flight operations and its top safety official, didn’t provide specifics about those close calls, which hadn’t attracted public attention. But the unusually blunt language focused on the dangers of lax discipline, along with poor crew communication and coordination.

A spokesman for United Continental, created by the 2010 merger of United and Continental, said the company regularly communicates safety findings to cockpit crews, taking a proactive approach that “is direct, clear and open with our pilots.” Such a stance allows the company, now the nation’s second-largest by traffic, “to adjust our actions when we see some of these potential issues.” Officials at the Chicago-based company declined to elaborate.

The last fatal accident for United occurred in 1991 and for Continental it was 1987. Hijackers crashed two United jets in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Both carriers were widely regarded as pioneers or early champions of safety programs.

The bulletin’s substance and urgent tone, however, are markedly different from typical companywide safety communications and updates from management, according to a number of current United pilots.

Aviators periodically receive summaries and descriptions of lessons learned from previous incidents. But those updates generally deal with events that occurred many months earlier, and tend to focus on more-mundane slip-ups such as relatively minor altitude deviations or flying slightly faster than permitted with flaps, or wing panels, extended.

In this case, the bulletin started off by saying recent incidents “have dictated that we communicate with all of you immediately.”

The document also highlights broader safety concerns stemming from demographic trends and personnel shifts affecting pilots, including retirements, new hires and aviators transferring to different aircraft types. Such change, according to the bulletin, “introduces significant risk to the operation.” The company plans to hire some 700 pilots this year, averaging more than 50 a month—a challenging number to integrate into a workforce that already includes more than 12,000 pilots. A minority of new hires go directly to become co-pilots on Boeing 757s flying internationally, which are considered particularly demanding routes.

The alert said “we know this is a brutally honest message,” noting that “the common thread with all of these [incidents] is that they were preventable.” It called for renewed attention to long-standing cockpit-management principles under which “every pilot must be willing to speak up if safety is in question” and “must also accept the input of their fellow crew members.”

Stressing the importance of conducting detailed pre-departure briefings and strictly complying with rules to keep planes from landing too fast or too far down runways, the bulletin mentioned the fatal crash of a United Parcel Service Inc. cargo jet that smashed into a hill while lining up to land in Birmingham in 2013.

“The approach and landing appeared normal to the pilots until right before impact,” according to the bulletin. “Let’s not for a moment think that could not happen at United.”

Federal investigators concluded that a series of crew errors and failure to follow required safety procedures led to the UPS crash, which killed both pilots. UPS didn’t contest the National Transportation Safety Board’s findings that pilot error led to the crash.

One United pilot said the fuel incident highlighted in the bulletin occurred after the crew of a domestic flight headed for Los Angeles asked air-traffic controllers for a revised route, ran into stiff headwinds and then failed to properly monitor fuel consumption, divert to another airport or declare an emergency for an expedited landing.

According to another pilot, concern has been building inside the carrier about potentially poor teamwork when some veteran pilots are paired with new first officers who may be reluctant to assert themselves. “The company wouldn’t have put out this memo if things weren’t bad,” the pilot said.

In response to the bulletin, union leaders for United’s Chicago-based pilots earlier this month said in a memo that the company’s concerns “are very valid.” But the union also complained of “shorter and less robust training,” degradation of respect for “captain’s authority,” “pilot pushing” and oversight of flight operations by labor relations instead of a flight-operations executive.

United’s aviators agreed to a combined labor contract in late 2012 and a merged seniority list was adopted in 2013, big achievements in joining the two groups after the merger. But there are still cultural differences and friction between the two sides, some pilots contend.

Capt. Bob Sisk, chairman of the central air safety committee for United’s pilot union, in a recent update to pilots listed a number of common threads linking serious incidents over the past two years, including poor teamwork.

“Typically, the pilots didn’t brief together as a crew,” he said, while “the captain was generally a highly experienced pilot” paired with a co-pilot “who was a new hire, a returning furloughee, or was relatively new” on the aircraft type.

Capt. Sisk also said a possible contributing factor in many of the incidents, “and an area of deep concern,” is that numerous pilots have reported significant discrepancies between how standard operating procedures “are presented in training and how they are implemented on the line.”

Veteran United pilots said the latest safety alert is comparable to management moves about seven years ago, well before the merger, when United pilots received extra training on fuel-management issues.

That initiative was prompted by a spate of hazardous incidents, including a United crew that took off from Los Angeles International Airport and belatedly realized, as their jet climbed in darkness over water, that the plane’s fuel pumps weren’t turned on and the engines could stop.

A crew on a different United flight, according to safety officials at the time, almost lost thrust from both engines because fuel tanks had been drained in the wrong order, making the remaining fuel inaccessible. 

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

House members urge airliners to have recorders that eject

At a House hearing Wednesday, lawmakers called for airliners to have flight recorders that eject and float during an emergency, in order to more easily find planes that crash in the ocean and learn what happened.

"We're really way behind the times on this," Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., told the oversight subcommittee on transportation.

But international representatives of airlines and regulators said deployable recorders might not be necessary if airlines and air traffic controllers start tracking flights more closely.

Kevin Hiatt, senior vice president for safety at the International Air Transport Association, which represents 250 airlines, said deployable recorders would be redundant if airlines are streaming flight data by satellite directly from planes. He said flight tracking could be improved with equipment already aboard planes.

"There is no one-size-fits-all solution," Hiatt said.

The hearing came nearly a year after Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared March 8 between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing with 239 people aboard. The search is now focused on a remote part of the Indian Ocean, based on brief satellite signals.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the search, said Wednesday the effort has combed a section of ocean floor the size of Vermont, which is about 40% of current plans. No trace of the plane has been found.

"It's absolutely unacceptable that today we are unable to locate or properly track a passenger aircraft," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the panel chairman who headed the hearing. "It's our responsibility to ensure that no commercial aircraft with passengers should be allowed to fly without a working tracking device."

The airline group, IATA, organized a task force that proposed in December that airlines know where their planes are every 15 minutes, although without dictating how.

But because airlines fly more than 500 mph, that could still leave a vague crash location. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended tracking planes to within about 7 miles, without saying how.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, a branch of the United Nations that recommends airline policies, is asking its 191 member countries for comment this week about 15-minute tracking. The organization's goal is to adopt a policy in November, which would be applicable in November 2016, said Ambassador Michael Lawson, the U.S. representative to ICAO.

"We believe these basic procedures would significantly improve search and rescue responses in the event another tragedy were to occur," Lawson said.

Lawmakers voiced impatience with international efforts that aren't expected to mandate better flight tracking.

Duncan's legislation that would require ejectable recorders of cockpit voices and flight data, starting with planes ordered in January 2017.

"I think we're way past the time this should have been done," Duncan said.

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., also said ejectable recorders could be found and recovered faster than if attached to a plane at the bottom of the ocean.

"This is not a new matter," Price said.

Manufacturers have divided on the issue. At an NTSB meeting in October, Pascal Andrei, who coordinates Airbus' flight-data recovery project, said the company plans to install deployable recorders on its A350 and A380 aircraft and on the A320 family for planes flying over water.

But Mark Smith, an accident investigator for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said deployable recorders aren't always found and could lead to unintended problems if they ejected inadvertently over urban areas.

Military F-18 fighters intentionally deployed recorders 24 times since 2004, but recovered only 18 of them, Smith said.

"There is more than one way to solve this problem," Smith told NTSB. "Be aware that each of these options also has drawbacks that we have to be aware of when introducing into the commercial fleet." 

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

Exclusive: Transportation Security Administration issues secret warning on 'catastrophic' threat to aviation

The Transportation Security Administration said it is unlikely to detect and unable to extinguish what an FBI report called “the greatest potential incendiary threat to aviation,” according to a classified document obtained by The Intercept. Yet despite that warning, sources said TSA is not adequately preparing to respond to the threat.

Thermite — a mixture of rust and aluminum powder — could be used against a commercial aircraft, TSA warned in a Dec. 2014 document, marked secret. “The ignition of a thermite-based incendiary device on an aircraft at altitude could result in catastrophic damage and the death of every person onboard,” the advisory said.

TSA said it is unlikely to spot an easy-to-assemble thermite-based incendiary device during security screening procedures, and the use of currently available extinguishers carried on aircrafts would create a violent reaction. The TSA warning is based on FBI testing done in 2011, and a subsequent report.

A thermite device, though difficult to ignite, would “produce toxic gasses, which can act as nerve poison, as well as a thick black smoke that will significantly inhibit any potential for in-flight safety officers to address the burn.”

TSA warned federal air marshals not to use customary methods of extinguishing fires — the water or halon fire extinguishers currently found on most aircraft — which would make the reaction worse, creating toxic fumes. Instead, air marshals are told to “recognize a thermite ignition” — but TSA has provided no training or guidance on how to do so, according to multiple sources familiar with the issue.

TSA circulated these Dec. 2014 materials through briefings, according to sources familiar with the issue, but did not offer up guidance on what to do with this information, and equipment that could mitigate this threat, like specific dry chemical extinguishers, has not been provided. According to the TSA advisory, federal air marshals and other on-flight officers should: recognize a thermite ignition, advise the captain immediately, ensure the individual who ignited the device is “rendered inoperable,” and move passengers away from the affected area.

“We’re supposed to brief our [federal air marshals] to identify a thermite ignition — but they tell us nothing,” said one current TSA official, who asked not to be named because the official is not authorized to speak to the press. “So our guys are Googling, ‘What does thermite look like? How do you extinguish thermite fires?’ This is not at all helpful.”

Several aviation officials, who also asked not be named, confirmed they had been briefed on the threat, but given no information or training on identifying thermite ignition. “They say to identify something we don’t know how to identify and say there is nothing we can do,” one federal air marshal said. “So basically, we hope it’s placed somewhere it does minimal damage, but basically we’re [screwed].”

Read more here:  https://firstlook.org

Southwest Completes Inspections on More Than Half of Grounded Planes • Airline put some of its mechanics on overtime to conduct overnight checks on the grounded jets

The Wall Street Journal
By ANDY PASZTOR And  SUSAN CAREY
Feb. 25, 2015 2:45 p.m. ET


Southwest Airlines Co. said Wednesday it had completed mandatory inspections on nearly 80 of the 128 jets it took out of service the previous day because of missed checks of backup rudder systems.

The Dallas-based discount carrier reported minimal disruptions to its flights on Wednesday from the incident, after the Federal Aviation Administration late Tuesday approved a plan to let Southwest keep the Boeing Co. 737-700s flying for up to five days while the work was done.

Southwest canceled about 80 flights Tuesday night and put some of its mechanics on overtime to do checks overnight on the grounded planes. As of Wednesday morning, it had canceled 15 additional flights related to the inspections, out of its more than 3,400 daily departures. It expects to complete the remainder of the checks in the course of normal operations and will clear all the aircraft well before the FAA deadline, a spokeswoman said.

Passengers who encountered disruptions were put on other flights. Severe winter weather in the southern U.S. in the past two days also has caused Southwest to cancel flights.

Southwest, the largest hauler of U.S. domestic passengers, has a fleet of 665 Boeing 737s, of which 447 are the 737-700 variety, which seat 143 passengers. The Southwest spokeswoman said the number of flights and time period during which the affected aircraft operated without the mandatory checks varies with each plane, so she had no specifics.

The FAA on Wednesday declined to comment on how many flights occurred before Southwest disclosed the slipup to the agency and voluntarily took the planes out of service temporarily. It isn’t known if the FAA will recommend civil penalties against Southwest for the lapse. An agency spokesman said the FAA can’t comment on open investigations.

Missing inspections on a few planes isn’t uncommon, although computerized maintenance systems are designed to keep mechanics on track to perform periodic and one-off checks and repairs. But missing so many required inspections and having to negotiate a last-minute agreement with safety regulators to keep the planes flying is highly unusual, according to safety experts.

The FAA last July proposed a $12 million civil penalty against Southwest for overseeing a contractor’s allegedly improper repairs to 44 of its planes to prevent fuselage cracking, which the carrier challenged in federal court. In 2008, the agency proposed a $10.2 million penalty over other maintenance issues, and the airline settled for $7.5 million.

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

♥♡ Piper M500 Aircraft Demonstration Flight with Dick Rochfort, ATP, CFII Master Instructor and Piper Test Pilot Bart Jones


Published on February 25, 2015 

Ride along with Master Instructor Dick Rochfort and Piper Test Pilot Bart Jones as they demonstrate the Piper M500. This is Piper's PT6-42A 500 SHP turboprop aircraft equipped with the Garmin GFC700 autopilot equipped with Enhanced Stability Protection, Under-speed Protection, Over-speed protection and other great new features. 


You may view hundreds of additional videos and articles about flying the PA46 Matrix, Malibu, Mirage and Meridian aircraft at http://www.rwrpilottraining.com/ or contact Dick directly at mail@rwrpilottraining.com

Fly Safely - Train Often

Cessna 441 Conquest II, Jodie Aquisitions LLC, N441TG: Fatal accident occurred February 04, 2015 near Denton Municipal Airport (KDTO), Texas

http://registry.faa.gov/N441TG

NTSB Identification: CEN15FA136

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 04, 2015 in Argyle, TX
Aircraft: CESSNA 441, registration: N441TG
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 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 4, 2015, about 2109 central standard time, a Cessna model 441 twin turbo-prop airplane, N441TG, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain following a loss of control during an instrument approach to Denton Municipal Airport (DTO), Denton, Texas. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Del Air Enterprises II, LLC, and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 while on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight that departed Willmar Municipal Airport (BDH), Willmar, Minnesota, about 1829.

According to preliminary Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control data, at 2050:47 (hhmm:ss), the accident flight established contact with Dallas-Fort Worth Terminal Radar Approach Control and reported being level at 4,000 feet mean sea level (msl). According to radar data, the flight was located about 35 miles northwest of DTO and was established on a southbound course at 4,000 feet msl. The approach controller issued the current weather conditions at DTO and told the pilot to expect the GPS runway 36 approach. At 2052:57, the approach controller told the pilot to fly direct WOBOS, an intermediate fix associated with the instrument approach. The plotted radar data showed the airplane turned to the south-southeast to a direct course toward WOBOS. At 2059:35, the flight was cleared to descend to maintain 3,000 feet msl and the pilot acknowledged the altitude clearance.

At 2101:24, the DTO tower controller advised the approach controller that a Cessna 172 had just landed at DTO and that the pilot reported light-to-moderate turbulence during approach along with an inflight visibility of about 1.5 miles. The approach controller subsequently advised the accident pilot of the light-to-moderate turbulence. At 2103:09, the flight was cleared to descend to maintain 2,500 feet msl and the pilot acknowledged the altitude clearance.

At 2103:23, the approach controller told the pilot to turn to a south heading. The pilot acknowledged the heading change and subsequently turned southbound. According to radar data, at 2104:09, the airplane descended below 2,500 feet msl. At 2104:26, the approach controller told the pilot to turn to an east heading. The pilot acknowledged the heading change, but according to radar data did not initiate the turn as requested. The airplane continued to descend while on a southbound course until reaching 2,100 feet msl at 2104:46 when it began to climb. At 2104:59, after establishing that the flight had not turned to the assigned heading, the approach controller told the pilot to turn to a heading of 080 degrees. The pilot acknowledged the assigned heading and radar data showed the flight entering a climbing left turn toward the east.

At 2105:40, when the flight was 8 miles from the final approach fix (NULUX), the approach controller told the pilot to turn to a heading of 030 to intersect the final approach course, to maintain 2,500 feet msl until established on the final approach course, and that the flight was cleared for the GPS runway 36 approach. The pilot responded, "Okay, 030 maintain 2.5 until established on the approach." According to radar data, the flight turned to a north heading instead of the assigned heading of 030 degrees.

At 2106:17, the approach controller told the pilot to contact the DTO tower controller and the pilot replied with the correct frequency change. The flight continued due north until 2106:38, when it turned to a 030 degree course and subsequently descended through 2,500 feet msl at 2107:01. At 2107:16, the pilot established communications with the DTO tower controller. The tower controller told the pilot that the surface wind was 360 degrees at 19 knots with 25 knot gusts, and then cleared the flight to land on runway 36. The tower controller also asked the pilot if he had received the pilot report (PIREP) that had been issued by the proceeding Cessna 172. The pilot confirmed that he had received the PIREP from the approach controller. According to radar data, the airplane continued to descend as it intersected the final approach course and continued northbound toward NULUX.

At 2108:44, the automated air traffic control system issued a low altitude alert for the accident flight. The system presented the low altitude alert on both the control tower and the approach control radar displays. According to radar data, at the time of the low altitude alert, the airplane had descended to about 1,500 feet msl. At 2108:51, the tower controller told the pilot to "... check your altitude, you are still a couple of miles from the marker (NULUX), and uh believe your altitude should be about 2,100 there." The pilot replied, "Okay, going back up." According to radar data, following the altitude alert, the airplane continued to descend until the final radar return, recorded at 2109:11, about 2.5 miles south of NULUX at 1,000 feet msl (about 300 feet above the ground). At 2109:12, the tower controller transmitted again that the airplane was lower than the specified minimum descent altitude (2,000 feet msl) for that segment of the instrument approach. There was no response from the accident pilot.

According to preliminary airplane performance calculations, based on available radar data, during the time period 2106:43 to 2108:43, the airplane's ground speed decreased from about 145 knots to 95 knots and the airplane descended from 2,400 feet msl to 1,500 feet msl. During the final 28 seconds of radar data, the airplane's ground speed further decreased from 95 knots to 55 knots, while the descent rate decreased from 1,300 feet per minute to 650 feet per minute.

The flight path of the accident airplane was captured by a security video camera installed on the exterior of a building that was located about 1/2 mile southeast of the accident site. The video camera, which was facing west, captured the accident airplane's wingtip navigation and strobe lights as it crossed from left to right at the upper portion of the camera's field of view. According to a preliminary review of the camera footage, the airplane entered the camera's field of view at 2108:48 and appeared to be in a wings level descent as it continued across the first half of the camera's lateral field of view. At 2109:00, the descent angle increased substantially before the airplane entered a near-vertical spiraling descent. The airplane's navigational lights and strobes were not visible after 2109:09.

According to 911-emergency calls received following the accident, several individuals reported hearing an airplane overfly their position at a low altitude followed by the sound of a large ground impact.

According to first responders with the Argyle Fire Department, upon arrival at the accident site, there was no evidence of ice or frost accumulation on the airplane's fuselage, wings, or tail. Additionally, the first responders reported that there was a substantial smell of Jet-A fuel at the accident site; however, there was no evidence of an explosion or postimpact fire. The pilot was seated in the left cockpit seat and was secured by a lap belt. The available shoulder harness did not appear to have been used.

The airplane wreckage was found in a grass-covered industrial storage yard located about 6.35 nautical miles (nm) south of the runway 36 threshold. The accident site was 400 feet northeast of the final radar return and about 207 feet right of the final approach course. There was no appreciable wreckage debris path identified at the accident site. The entire lower fuselage surface was crushed upward, consistent with a vertical impact while in a near level pitch attitude. The airplane tail section was found partially separated immediately aft of the aft pressure bulkhead. The vertical stabilizer, rudder, horizontal stabilizers, and elevators remained relatively undamaged. The leading edges of both wings, propeller spinners, and the airframe radome did not exhibit evidence of a ground impact. Aileron control cable continuity was established through an overstress separation of the aileron sector drive cable in the mid cabin area and a separation of the balance cable near the right wing root. All other flight control cables were continuous from the cockpit control inputs to their respective flight control surfaces. The landing gear was found extended. The wing flaps were found extended about 10-degrees. The stall warning horn and landing gear warning horn were extracted from the cockpit and both horns produced an aural tone when electrical power was applied. Switch continuity for the wing-mounted lift sensor was confirmed with an Ohmmeter. The left side altimeter's Kollsman window was centered on 30.24 inches-of-mercury. The right side altimeter's Kollsman window was centered on 30.09 inches-of-mercury. Both engines remained attached to their respective wing nacelle structures. The first stage compressor impeller of each engine exhibited blade tip bends that were opposite the direction of rotation and/or visible scoring as result of the rotating compressor impeller coming in contact with its respective shroud. The third axial turbine stage of each engine exhibited re-solidified metallic splatter on the turbine nozzle. The observed damage to the first compressor stage and third turbine stage was consistent with each engine operating at the time of impact. Both propeller assemblies remained attached to their respective engines. There were two approximately 12-inch deep holes observed aside and slightly behind the engines where the rotating propellers had dug into the soil. Both propellers exhibited significant bending of their blades opposite the direction of rotation. Additionally, all propeller blades exhibited leading edge gouges, chordwise scratches, and polishing of the cambered side.

At 2103, the DTO automated surface observing system reported: wind 350 degrees at 17 knots, gusting 25 knots; an overcast ceiling at 900 feet above ground level (agl); 2 mile surface visibility with light rain and mist; temperature 3 degrees Celsius; dew point 3 degrees Celsius; and an altimeter setting of 30.26 inches of mercury.

The airplane's multi-hazard awareness system, the cockpit annunciator panel, and a cockpit multi-function display were retained for additional examination. Both engines and their control units were retained for possible teardown and/or testing. Additionally, the pilot's personal mobile phone, tablet computer, and a handheld device that provided his mobile devices with Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) information, weather data, ADS-B traffic, and GPS data were retained for potential retrieval of non-volatile data.


William "Bill" Graves


According to a preliminary report released by The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the pilot who was killed in a plane crash Feb. 4 in Argyle was unable to maintain the appropriate altitude during its approach to Denton Enterprise Airport.

Flower Mound resident William Blake Graves, 52, was flying a Cessna 441 from Willmar, Minn. to Denton when the plane crashed at 9:09 p.m. in a field near U.S. Highway 377 and Stonecrest Road in Argyle.

According to the report, the pilot of a Cessna 172 landed at the airport earlier, and at 9:01:24 p.m. the tower controller advised the approach controller that the Cessna 172 pilot had reported light to moderate turbulence upon landing with visibility being about 1.5 miles. The approach controller advised Graves of the conditions and cleared him to land at 9:03:09 p.m. but to maintain a level of 2,500 feet mean sea level (msl), and Graves confirmed.

According to the report, there were two instances when the controller advised Graves to head in a certain direction, but it did not happen.

The report states the tower controller at Denton Enterprise Airport advised the pilot at 9:08:51 p.m. to maintain an elevation of 2,100 feet msl since the plane's elevation at that time was 1,500 feet msl. The report states that Graves responded by saying, "OK, going back up."

But the plane continued to descend to 1,000 feet msl, or 300 feet above the ground. At 9:09:12, the controller notified Graves again that the plane was below the specified minimum decent altitude of 2,000 feet, but Graves didn't respond, the report states.

The report states that between 9:06:43 and 9:08:43, the plane descended from 2,400 feet msl to 1,500 feet msl and that its ground speed decreased from 145 knots to 95 knots. During the final 28 seconds of radar data, the plane’s descent rate decreased from 1,300 feet per minute to 650 feet per minute, with the ground speed decreasing further from 95 knots to 55 knots.

The report states that several individuals in the area reported hearing the plane fly overhead at a low altitude before crashing. A security camera on a building located about a half mile from the crash captured images of the plane, showing a wing level descent before turning into a "near-vertical spiraling descent."

The Argyle Fire Department reported no ice or frost on the plane's fuselage, wings or tail, according to the report. First responders noted a significant smell of Jet-A fuel at the site, though there was no explosion.

The report states that Graves was wearing his lap seat belt but not his shoulder harness.

A final report won't be available for several months, NTSB officials said. Officials collected several items for further investigation, such as the plane's engines, multi-hazard awareness system and Graves' cell phone.

Graves was a Dominos Pizza franchise owner, according to the Dominos Franchisee Association website. He operated 94 stores in nine states under the parent company Dough Management, Inc. He began his career in 1981 as a pizza driver.

The website states that he was married to Susan Graves, and the couple had six children.

Lawsuit Filed Over Fatal Plane Crash: Learjet 35A, Diplomat Aviation, N17UF

The estate of the only American citizen on board the ill-fated Learjet 36, which crashed in bad weather on November 9 in Grand Bahama, has filed a legal suit against Diplomat Aviation.

Diego Desantiago, a Colorado resident and evangelical minister, was killed when the plane carrying Dr. Myles Munroe and his wife with several other Bahamas Faith Ministries ministers, struck a crane and crashed in the Grand Bahama shipyard.

The suit points to pilot error as the basis for their claim, according to court documents filed in the District of South Carolina. Desantiago’s estate, represented by his brother Juan Desantiago, has “strong viable claims” against Diplomat Aviation.

It was revealed by this newspaper in December that lawyers representing Diplomat Aviation (Bahamas) Ltd, the company under which the Learjet was registered, were embroiled in a court battle with a US-based insurance company over the payout from a $10m liability policy.

The latest documents said: “The question of liability coverage is the sole issue presented by the declaratory judgment proceeding. The Desantiago Estate undeniably has a significant interest in this issue.

“Although the investigation into the crash of the subject aircraft is not yet complete, preliminary information points to pilot error as the likely cause. Thus, the Desantiago Estate has strong viable claims against Diplomat Aviation for Desantiago’s death.”

The final report of the incident, reported in The Tribune on Monday, blamed poor decision-making of the crew in initiating and continuing a descent below the authorised altitude.

The documents added: “The sole issue presented by the Declaratory Judgement proceeding is whether XL Insurance will be required to indemnify Diplomat Aviation for up to $10m (the amount of liability coverage) as a result of the crash of the subject aircraft.

“In the event that there is no coverage it is quite possible that the Desantiago Estate would find itself without remedy for Diego’s death. It is unknown whether Diplomat Aviation, apparently a Bahamian corporation, has available assets to satisfy any judgement entered against it.

“Accordingly, the disposition of this Declaratory Judgement proceeding would impair or impede the Desantiago Estate’s significant interest in the question of liability coverage.”

“If XL Insurance prevails in this action, Diego’s estate’s recourse for negligence of the flight crew will likely be against only Diplomat Aviation, an alleged uninsured corporation,” the documents said.

Nearly four months after the crash the final report said: “The Civil Aviation Aircraft Accident Investigation and Prevention Unit (AAIPU) has determined that the probable cause of the incident was ... the poor decision-making of the crew in initiating and continuing a descent in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) below the authorised altitude, without visual contact with the runway environment.

“A fireball lasting approximately three seconds was observed as a result of the contact between the aircraft and the crane. The right outboard wing, right landing gear and right wing fuel tank separated from the aircraft on impact.”

“This resulted in the aircraft travelling out of control, some 1,578 feet, before crashing inverted into a pile of garbage and other debris in the City Services Garbage and Metal Recycling Plant adjacent to the Grand Bahama Shipyard.”

The jet was “some 3.2 nautical miles from the runway threshold” when it struck the crane, the report says.

Story, comments and photo: http://www.tribune242.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.

 
First Officer Frahkan Cooper
~

Captain Stanley Thurston 
~

The passengers and pilots preparing to board the ill-fated flight.


Unknown aircraft performance contributed to float plane accident in Port McNeill, British Columbia: Cessna 185E Skywagon, Air Cab, C-FQGZ

A commercial Air Cab float plane crashed on West Cracroft Island, killing three persons, because a pilot new to the company was unaware of how multiple modifications affected the airplane's performance and handling, the federal transportation safety board has determined.

Pilot Kevin Roger Williams, 42, and two passengers, Norm Slavik, 58, and Frederick Wiley, 40, died after the Cessna C-185E stalled while preparing for landing and crashed onto a small island on Potts Lagoon east of Port McNeill at 11:40 a.m. on Oct. 24, 2013.

In a report released Wednesday, the board said the pilot had accumulated about 3,137 hours total flight time, 1,682 hours of those in seaplane operations.


The pilot had started working for the company 10 days before the accident. The accident occurred on the pilot’s first day of unsupervised flying for Air Cab. The pilot had not flown to the Potts Lagoon area and had not flown the accident aircraft before the day of the accident.


The airplane had received multiple approved modifications over the years, and the pilot would not have known how all these would have changed the performance of the airplane.


"The aircraft’s high bank angle, steep descent, short wreckage trail, and low airspeed were consistent with the occurrence of an accelerated aerodynamic stall at an altitude from which recovery was not possible," the board found.


Because the modifications resulted in performance and handling characteristics unique to the aircraft, the actual stall speed of the aircraft "remained unknown and could only be estimated" and may have compromised the ability of the stall warning system to indicate an impending stall. An advanced stall warning system may have made a difference.


The board concluded that the "installation of multiple modifications without adequate guidance on how to evaluate and document the effects on aircraft handling" may result in pilots losing control due to unknown aircraft performance.


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


http://www.bst-tsb.gc.ca/pdf


http://www.bst-tsb.gc.ca/eng/report 


RICHMOND, BC, Feb. 25, 2015 /CNW/ - In its report into a 2013 British Columbia (B.C.) float plane accident (A13P0278), the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) expressed its concern that, if multiple modifications are made without adequate documentation of the effects on aircraft handling, pilots may lose control of the aircraft due to unknown aircraft performance.

"Pilots need accurate information on how an aircraft will fly after modifications have been made to it," said Joseph Hincke, TSB Board Member. "We are concerned that this information is not available consistently and that accidents will continue to occur as a consequence."

On 24 October 2013, a CBE Construction Ltd. (Air Cab) Cessna C-185E float plane left Port McNeill, B.C. water aerodrome with a pilot and 2 passengers on board for a charter flight to West Cracroft Island, B.C. At 1140, while maneuvering for landing on water, the aircraft experienced an accelerated aerodynamic stall while being flown at an altitude from which recovery was not possible before it collided with the terrain on a small island in Potts Lagoon, West Cracroft Island. The aircraft was destroyed and the 3 occupants were fatally injured.

The investigation found that several approved modifications (Supplemental Type Certificates or STCs) had been made to the aircraft that resulted in undocumented performance and handling characteristics and that the pilot's expectation of the aircraft's performance capabilities may not have been accurate. The investigation also identified a risk if multiple modifications are installed without adequate guidance on how to evaluate and document the effects on aircraft handling and performance. Further, there is an increased risk of stall accidents if advanced stall warning systems, such as angle of attack indicators, are not incorporated on aircraft.

Air Cab has begun emphasizing an awareness of aircraft modifications and their effect on aircraft handling during pilot initial and recurrent training. It is also in the process of implementing a G switch on its aircraft tracking system as a back up to the aircraft's electronic locator transmitter, and installing a disconnect G switch on its aircraft batteries to reduce the risk of a post-crash fire, in response to other issues identified during the investigation.

In November of 2014, the TSB announced that it would conduct a Safety Issues Investigation into Canadian air taxi operations to understand the risks that persist in this important sector of the aviation industry. The study will engage industry, the regulator and other stakeholders to gain a full understanding of the issues affecting air taxi operations. The Board may make recommendations to address any identified systemic deficiencies.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

SOURCE Transportation Safety Board of Canada

http://www.newswire.ca