Friday, March 13, 2015

Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Veteran to receive Congressional Gold Award

Airplane insignia and mementos line the wall in the North Middleton Township home of Newt Robbins, who spent 50 years in the Civil Air Patrol. He will soon be the recipient of the Congressional Gold Award for his decades of service.

NORTH MIDDLETON TOWNSHIP — Fifteen-year-old Newt Robbins was caught up in a wave of patriotism in 1942, and he volunteered to serve in the Civil Air Patrol with hopes of defeating America’s enemies in combat in World War II.

“We had a war on, and that was the thing to do, was to volunteer,” he said. “What I wanted to do was go in and fly fighter planes.”

It didn’t happen that way — Robbins received pilot training only to be told his services weren’t needed, then received a year of Naval platoon leader training, but he wasn’t deployed until the war ended. However, Robbins used his training to re-enter the Civil Air Patrol and work in aviation for the Pennsylvania State Police, beginning a 66-year career of flight and community service that included rescue missions of downed planes, helping state police find missing persons, and founding Carlisle Crime Stoppers.

On March 28, Robbins will receive a Congressional Gold Medal, an award that must be designated by an act of Congress. The award was made available on Dec. 10, 2014, to the more than 200,000 active-duty members of the Civil Air Patrol during World War II.

War effort

A quick glance in Robbins’ office — decorated with model airplanes, state police insignias and military memorabilia — tells the story of a life filled with activity. It began with an childhood interest in flying, and he can still remember building model airplanes and his first flight at 8 years old. He was sworn in as an Air Patrol Cadet in 1942 and was trained on small Piper Cub airplanes.

One of his first contributions to the war effort, he said, was serving as an Aircraft Warning Service observer, placed on top of a mountain to spot unusual, potentially enemy planes and equipped with a direct phone line to Washington, D.C., to report any activity, he said.

He joined the Army Air Corps in hopes of becoming a fighter pilot, only to be part of a group that was told in 1944 that pilots were no longer needed and the only options were to become a ground crew member, an “Army grunt,” or be discharged, he said.

“We were really (angry), because we were flying at the time,” he said. “We took the discharge out of it and, in sheer spite, joined the Navy.”

Robbins became a Naval platoon leader by the age of 17 in 1945, but this time it was too late to enter the fighting fray before the war ended. He spent one day on a battleship before being sent to decommission destroyers in Florida.

“I was a deck ape above deck,” he said. “I was on three United States Navy ships, and I never was in saltwater.”

Robbins was discharged from the Navy in 1946, forcing him to find a civilian career after missing the opportunity to fight oversees — but his aviation training during the war shaped him for a lifetime of more daring adventures.

Pilot adventures

Robbins next decided to attend Bucknell University to become a civil engineer, but he found himself up against a backlog of other war veterans seeking an education.

“They said, ‘It will be another year before we can even get close to (accepting) you,’” he said. “For an 18-year-old kid, that’s a lifetime.”

So he decided instead to attend Roosevelt Aviation School on Long Island, New York, obtaining his Airframe and Powerplant license. A few years later, after being laid off from a job with a coal company, his stepfather recommended he seek a job operating an aircraft for the Pennsylvania State Police.

“I looked at him sort of funny and said, ‘State police? I never wanted to be a cop,’” he said.

He decided to take his stepfather’s advice, however, beginning a 32-year career that lasted until his retirement in 1985. During that time, he helped to investigate fatal crashes, find missing persons and track fleeing bank robbers from aboard his plane, he said.

Robbins also maintained his activity in the Civil Air Patrol for about 25 years, helping to respond to more emergency situations than he can remember. One of the most memorable, he said, was the 1964 Savage Mountain B-52 crash in Somerset County of a plane that contained two nuclear bombs. All but one member of the crew ejected from the aircraft, and the Civil Air Patrol was called upon to locate them in the mountains and the snow. Robbins said he remembers seeing a man waving his arms, and he waved the wings of the plane back, so he believes — although he can’t prove it — that it was his plane that discovered one of the B-52’s crew members alive.

Not all of his experiences had as positive a result. He remembers working unsuccessfully to resuscitate a drowning victim in a quarry until his arms get tired, as well as the state police incident in which he was asked to investigate a plane crash into the side of a mountain.

“The plane was still burning, and I saw a stump over there that was burning,” he said. “I walked over to it, and it wasn’t a stump — it was the pilot. It was his trunk.”

Robbins finally retired in 1985 after more than 32 years in the state police, but he still did not fade from the public spotlight.

“My family had a history of dying off young, and I wanted to do some public service,” he said, so he joined the Exchange Club of Carlisle.

Assigned to the club’s crime prevention division, he formed the Carlisle Crime Stoppers organization and a few years later helped Pennsylvania develop its first statewide crime stoppers network, he said.

Among other activities, the Exchange Club provides community service, works to prevent child abuse, organizes youth programs, and helps promote “Americanism” through such activities as providing flags at parades, said communications director Anne Wood, who said she wanted Robbins to be recognized for his years of service in various capacities.

“He has always been out doing everything he could to help the exchange club,” she said. “He has a wonderful sense of humor, and he’s just a delightful guy.”

Robbins will receive the commercial medal during a 1 p.m. March 28 ceremony at the Reading Regional Airport terminal at 2501 Bernville Road.

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Navion Rangemaster G, N2408T: Incident occurred March 13, 2015 at Billings Logan International Airport (KBIL), Billings, Montana


The main runway at Billings Logan International Airport was closed for 45 minutes after a single-engine aircraft had landing gear trouble and crashed on the runway.

No one was injured in the incident that occurred at about noon Friday, said Airport Operations Manager Shane Ketterling.

Two commercial flights bound for Billings — Delta flight 4669 and United Airlines flight 465 — were diverted toward Bozeman.

The airlines rerouted the flights because it was initially unclear how fast crews could clear the runway, Ketterling said.

According to the United website, the flight was able to return toward Billings without landing in Bozeman.

The Delta flight, according to the Delta website, landed in Bozeman before taking off and heading toward Billings.

The small airplane, a Navion Rangemaster, was headed to Billings from Belgrade, Ketterling said.

The pilot and plane’s owner had communicated to the control tower that his front landing gear might not be locked properly in place, but said he believed he could land the plane.

When the plane hit the ground, it sustained damage to the propeller and engine, but the male pilot and his female passenger were uninjured.

A small amount of fuel leaked onto the runway, but crews were able to get the fuel and the plane off the runway quickly, he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration was notified and will conduct an investigation, he said.

Original article can be found here:


A scary situation was averted at Billings Logan International Airport on Friday afternoon when a small private plane landed and had its landing gear fail.

The front landing gear collapsed shortly after touchdown, according to the airport operations center.

Neither of the two occupants were injured, but the mishap shut down the runway for 45 minutes. 

The landing gear failure diverted two flights bound for Billings.

A United flight en route from Denver was sent to Bozeman, and a Skywest flight from Salt Lake was also diverted to Bozeman temporarily.

Both flights arrived by in Billings around 2 p.m., Bozeman airport director Brian Springer said.

Story and photo:

Tensions Soar Over Proposed Airport Restrictions In East Hampton

Tensions soared on Thursday evening, as two sides battled it out during a public hearing on four proposed laws designed to curb the noise problem at East Hampton Airport.

Members of the aviation industry, local pilots and some business owners sparred with environmentalists and residents from four different East End towns at a hearing on proposed restrictions which would theoretically limit operations at East Hampton Airport by approximately one third while addressing almost two thirds of the noise problem.

Over 70 people addressed the East Hampton Town Board during a three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting on Thursday, March 12 at LTV Studios, however unlike previous meetings where the speakers were predominately those spear-heading the noise abatement movement, those involved in aviation were also out in full force.

Members of the Quiet Skies Coalition, and other like-minded individuals, lined up to thank the board for their hard work and to lend support to their four proposed restrictions which in their minds have not gone far enough to tackle the problem of noise on the East End.

David Gruber, who has been an open opponent to the airport for some time, said that the rumors that the proposed laws would make the airport financially unviable were “theatrical nonsense.” He also said referred to a group of aviators filing suits against the town who call themselves the friends of the East Hampton Airport “the self-serving operators from far away.”

One self-proclaimed friend of the airport took it upon himself to name the names of the top complainers of noise at East Hampton Airport, in an effort to show that the problem is not as widespread as community members would have the board think. This then spurred applause from members of the noise-affected community, who believe that the number of complainants is way lower than those who claim to be plagued and tortured by the noise.

Other members of the aviation community were adamant that the proposed restrictions would be detrimental to the region at large, and would result in a huge hit to the East End economy, as they claim the airport draws in visitors who otherwise would not be spending their time or money on the East End.

Montauk and Southampton residents expressed some concern that the proposed laws would have an unforeseen negative impact on neighboring hamlets if flights and helicopter operations were to move to nearby airports.

The public comment period will remain open in East Hampton Town until the end of business of Friday, March 20.

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Aerobatic pilots land in Dunnellon, Florida

John Nafziger of Maryland, puts on his parachute as he prepares to fly his Yak 55M through a series of patterns, rolls and turns in the Intermediate class during the International Aerobatic Club Snowbird Acro Classic flying meet that was held Friday at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport.

DUNNELLON — Aerobatic pilots from around the country, including a three-time world aerobatic champion, converged at the airport here Friday for the two-day Snowbird Classic International Aerobatic Club aerobatic regional competition.

Pilot Nick Cain, 17, of Lakeland, participating in his first aerobatic competition, said he flew solo before he could legally drive a car.

On Friday he took off in a bright green Bellanca Decathlon, a fabric-covered “tail dragger,” or rear-wheel, single-engine sport plane.

After his aerial performance, which included a required series of loops, 180s and 270s, he said he “felt good.”

Faith Drewry, who operates a flight school in Tallahassee, sat in the blue and yellow Super Decathlon, similar to Nick Cain’s plane but with more horsepower.

Drewry watched starter Bud Griffin, one of several volunteers from Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 812 of Ocala, for instructions on when to taxi toward the flight line.

“Flying is my passion,” said Drewry, who competed in the primary class.

At least 13 pilots competed in primary, sportsman, intermediate and advanced aerobatic classes. The field was cut nearly in half due to bad weather at the home airfields of many of the competitors, according to Mark Stewart, one of the event organizers.

The competition was also delayed by low clouds. But they began to lift after lunch, allowing the pilots to take turns performing their routines.

Competitors gain points in each category and will move on to later competitions, including one in May in Sebring and then the nationals in Sherman, Texas, in September.

The competition was the first sponsored and sanctioned by local IAC Chapter 89, according to Ralph Sebexen, who spearheaded opening the chapter in 1989.

Sebexen, a former aerobatic pilot, explained that fliers must perform their routines at prescribed levels in an airspace “box.”

In Friday’s competition the “box” was about 4,000 feet high and about 3,300 feet square, Sebexen said.

John Helms, manager of the airport for Marion County, said this was the first IAC competition at Dunnellon.

Helms said he understood that the airfield had served as a transport and glider training center during World War II, and also was used for the development of a WWII night fighter-bomber.

Charlie Sikes, 44, of Auburn, Alabama, came to compete in his $80,000 classic 1971 Pitts S2A biplane.

Sikes said his favorite maneuver is a loop that tops out at about 3,500 feet and reaches down to around 2,000 feet.

Ron Hill, who works with FedEx’s dangerous goods shipping department, which handles commercial items like paints and batteries, piloted a black and white Pitts biplane in the sportsman class.

Taylor Walters, a resident of Leeward Air Ranch and former U.S. Air Force flight surgeon, participated with his Russian-built SP-9.

Walters, 72, has been competing in aerobatics for about 15 years.

Foster Bachschmidt, 25, of Ocala, current National IAC Champion in the advanced class, attended the event to observe but did not compete in his Extra 330 SC airplane. He said he plans to compete in events that may lead to the advanced world championships in Radom, Poland, later this year.

Nikoly Timofeev, 59, a three-time world unlimited aerobatic champion, sanctioned by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), came to the event with his MXS plane.

According to Liza Weaver with IAC Chapter 89, without other entries in the unlimited class, Timofeev competed in the advanced class Friday and was leading that class late in the afternoon.

Timofeev will complete in events later this year as a member of the USA Unlimited Aerobatics Team.

According to, the eight-man, one-woman “best of the best” team will represent the U.S. at the FAI World Championship finals in August in France.

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Aviation policies could hamper growth: International Air Transport Association

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has questioned several regulations issued by the Transportation Ministry in the aviation sector, which according to the association could hamper the industry’s growth in the coming years.

IATA director general and CEO Tony Tyler said that the ministry should apply “smarter” regulation principles when establishing new regulations, such as minimum price and forbidding airlines from selling tickets at airports when train tickets can be purchased at a train station.

“Any regulation that is not a smart regulation will hamper the growth of the industry. The government’s job is to regulate. We are not against regulation because regulation in the area of safety is essential,” Tyler said in a press conference on Thursday.

“So we urge the government to think about the problems it’s trying to resolve and then talk to the experts and people involved in the industry,” he added.

The minimum-price regulation used to be the norm in the industry around 30 years ago but it has slowly been eliminated, according to Tyler. Scheduled low-cost airlines cannot price their tickets at less than 40 percent the price ceiling set by the government, according to a recent Transportation Ministry regulation.

“It’s better to let the market determine the prices and make sure that airlines run properly and are properly supervised to meet their safety obligations,” he went on saying.

IATA also urges the country to increase capacity. By 2034, Indonesia’s airports are expected to handle an additional 183 million passengers compared to today, the association’s data shows.

“The capacity problem in Jakarta is nowhere near being solved, even with the terminal upgrades. Indonesia needs a hub. The most efficient solution is to maximize the potential of one airport — Soekarno-Hatta where significant investment has already been made,” Tyler said.

He added that safety remained aviation’s top priority and the biggest concern for the successful development of aviation in the archipelago given the fact that Indonesia has had at least one hull loss annually since 2010.

Indonesia was assessed as below the global average in the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP).

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also downgraded Indonesia to Category 2 in its International Aviation Safety Assessment program.

IATA encouraged the government to make the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) compulsory for an Indonesian AOC (air operator certificate), since national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia is the only airline in the country that is in the IOSA registry.

“We are here to help Indonesia lift its game in safety,” Tyler ensured.

The ministry’s director for airworthiness and flight operations Muzaffar Ismail said that the ministry had yet to decide whether the government would comply with the IOSA in the near future.

“Our main focus now is to revise the government’s civil aviation safety regulations,” he said.

- Source:

Opinion: Airborne or grounded

by Ejvind Sandal

At Copenhagen Airport, there are a remarkable number of vacant parking lots – all of course due to the ongoing labor conflict between Norwegian and its pilots. 

Get used to it! 

The dispute swiftly followed a strike by SAS crews after they were transferred to Cimber Air – a discount carrier they claim – and will no doubt be followed by more action when Ryanair tries to establish a hub in Copenhagen without union involvement.  EasyJet will be next.

Forget the past

The staff unions are complaining about slave-like working conditions, no sick pay, forced vacations and low and lowering wages. But they need to face up the reality that the days of glamourous air transport are over. The entrepreneurs are adamant that nobody is forcing anyone to work for these airlines if they don’t want to.  And if they do, they will be contributing to the mission to bring even more competitive prices to the consumer. 

Passengers do not seem to mind buying cheap seats. They do not mind paying specifically for services such as food and beverages, luggage, extended leg space, early boarding, window seats and what have you – all of which used to blur the concept of basic cost. Tickets are available on the internet and price comparison websites make the market transparent.

Consumers choose cheap

Meanwhile, the traditional airlines are appealing to consumers to travel with carriers who have happy staff members with union agreements, even if that means higher prices. It’s an organically-farmed chicken vs battery hen argument in which foodstuffs are offered at higher prices with very little evidence to prove they ease the strain on global resources or the pain of animal welfare.

We have also seen the same thing happen with energy consumption. Customers can pay extra for electricity produced by renewables – but would they be able to tell the difference regarding what powers their computer? 

Overall, the conclusion is that most consumers are acting on price and quality and not on sentiments. This is not likely to change in the near future.

Beyond common sense

If only airport services could be grilled in the same way. Security at Kastrup currently employs over 1,000 people. They extend their ‘service’ to demand the removal of shoes and belts and body-frisk you without consideration of your gender, age or personal sensitivity. They confiscate your aftershave and suncream if it amounts to more than 100 ml. They claim that a glass of honey so stiff that it could be carried upside down without a lid is a contraband liquid – water bottles and cigarette lighters are also forbidden and a pair of nail scissors is not far off from being a police matter. 

This has gone too far beyond common sense.  Air carriers should demand the same cost efficiency from airports as they do in the airplanes – and passengers should pay a lot less in airport taxes and fees. And the prices they charge for a hot dog in the departure lounge…

Discount airports please

If passengers can do without fancy services in the air, they can do so at the airport as well. We do not pity the airport operators for missing out on parking fees at 200 kroner per day or more when the conflict is on. We enjoy discount flights and now we demand discount airports. 


Boshears Skyfest: May air show postponed to fall

A May air show is being postponed until fall due to conflicts, according to a Thursday post on the organization’s Facebook page.

The Boshears Skyfest air show event had been scheduled for May 16 and 17, but the organization chose to cancel after learning Thunder Over Augusta was also scheduled for May 17.

“It would not be fair to this community to have both events on the same day, as the people would not be able to attend both,” the social media post stated.

Organizers said that May 16-17 was never ideal, but was the only option for a spring show at the time due to Sun N Fun and Mother’s Day.

The event has already been rescheduled for Oct. 17-18.

Organizers said the performers who had been scheduled for the May dates, as well as the GASCar Club, will all be available for the October dates. 


Jet practices approaches over Hutchinson, Kansas

Those who saw a two-toned jet attempting to land Friday about noon at Hutchinson Regional Airport should know the plane never landed.

The jetliner, a Bombardier CS100, was just practicing approaches, but never came in for a landing, said Eddie Wells, air traffic controller, who is stationed at the Hutchinson airport’s tower.

Before newly built jets can be sold, they have to be certified. When people look to the sky and see Citation jets or Bombardiers circling the city of Hutchinson they most likely are in the process to be certified.

“We get a lot of them from the aircraft manufacturers in Wichita,” Wells said. “Sometimes, the jets haven’t even been painted.”

Friday’s jet most likely was a single-aisle, long-range passenger aircraft developed by Bombardier Aerospace, Wichita.

Original story can be found here:

Solberg-Hunterdon Airport (N51) Readington, New Jersey: Solberg better serves public good as airport, not preserved space, trial document says

READINGTON TWP. — A post-trial reply brief from Solberg Airport says there was "no actual threat at any relevant time of imminent or even likely conversion" of the airport to anything "other than airport-related use."

The brief by attorney Laurence Orloff was required of both sides after testimony in the airport condemnation trial concluded, and it addresses issues raised during the trial. The trail took place over a period of seven months in Superior Court in Somerville, ending on Jan. 22.

The township was also required to submit a post-trial brief. Information on that brief was not immediately available.

The Solberg brief asserts that there was "never any likelihood that the Solberg Airport property would not remain overwhelmingly comprised of open space (at least 95% or more of the acreage taken in fee), even if the airport facility were expanded to a limited extent as a result of any of the alternatives set forth in the 1997 Solberg Airport Master Plan. "

Readington voters in 2006 approved a $22 million bond ordinance essentially requiring the township to either acquire the 625 open acres surrounding the airport and the development rights to about 100 acres used for airport operations, or to negotiate a settlement with the airport owners.

Both sides have been in court since then, and an attempt at mediation was made last year before the trial started.

According to the document filed on behalf of the Solbergs, the airport isn't "environmentally unique, comprised almost entirely of grassland and farmland like thousands of other acres in Readington."

It says a condemnation would be counter to the township's standard method of open space acquisition, of buying from a willing seller. "Readington had never, before or after this taking, used its eminent domain powers to acquire private property for open space purposes," the brief says.

It lists open space totals in the township to support its claim that Readington has "many other options to fulfill its supposed open space goals, to the extent they are not already more than reasonably satisfied."

The brief cites earlier court rulings related to Solberg, in addition to trial testimony to, for instance, bolster its stance on the need to condemn Solberg lands for open space preservation or to preserve the airport itself.

While open space preservation and our country's aviation system are both "undoubtably and indisputably public purposes which governmental policy holds dear," the brief says, Solberg Airport "serves a far weightier role in the state, regional, and national aviation system than it does in the Readington open space preservation efforts, to the extent the airport does not serve both." The brief makes reference to current and future needs as an airport.

However, the Solbergs add, "the Appellate Division did not ask this Court to try the question of which public purpose predominates in the abstract. Rather, the Court has been directed to resolve the question of which public purpose is more important with respect to the Solberg Airport property in view of the challenge to Readington's condemnation constraining the airport for all time to 102 acres.

"Solberg respectfully submits that the answer is clearly aviation, keeping in mind, of course, that while serving aviation purposes and furthering aviation policy, the property will continue also to promote open space as it has for the past 70 years."

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$1 million worth of vintage Pratt & Whitney engine parts stolen in Wallingford, Connecticut

 Frank Westervelt, 45, is accused of stealing more than $1 million worth of vintage Pratt & Whitney aircraft parts from a Wallingford facility.
Wallingford Police Department

WALLINGFORD — A New Haven man faces felony charges after police said he sold and scrapped at least $500,000 worth of vintage aircraft parts that were intended for museums. A local organization estimates $1 million worth of vintage parts are missing from its Wallingford location.

Frank Westervelt, 45, of 174 Howard Ave., New Haven, was arrested last Friday and charged with felony first-degree larceny by ongoing scheme, two counts of third-degree burglary, first-degree criminal mischief, and possession of burglary tools.

Police were actively investigating the theft of “high dollar irreplaceable vintage Pratt and Whitney jet engine parts” that were reported stolen from the Wallingford Business Park on Nov. 18, police spokesman Lt. Marc Mikulski, said. The parts are owned by Connecticut Corsair, a non-profit educational organization, Mikulski said. Connecticut Corsair sponsors STEM programs at high schools and colleges, and collects, stores, refurbishes and builds displays for students studying engineering and aerospace, Mikulski said. Connecticut Corsaid also donates items to museums.

One of the items reported stolen was set to be donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., Mikulski said. Connecticut Corsaid estimated that over $1 million worth of vintage aircraft parts including gearboxes, jet engine stators, vanes, engine cases, combustion chambers and a forklift were stolen.

On January 7 the property manager at the Wallingford Business Park at 718 North Colony Road reported that someone had stolen about 300 feet of copper piping from one of the units, Mikulski said. The piping’s value was estimated to be $2,000.

Detectives have accounted for about $500,000 worth of the stolen aircraft parts. Police developed probable cause to believe Westervelt sold the aircraft parts to a New Haven scrap dealer for a fraction of what they were worth, Mikulski said.

Anyone with information related to this case is asked to call the detective division at (203) 294-2845. The case is ongoing, Mikulski said.


Flying over Heroes' Field

Schlund in front of the helicopter he now flies for Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. 
(Photo courtesy of Todd Schlund)

MOUNT VERNON — Todd Schlund credits his success in life to those around him -- his family, his parents and the people of Mount Vernon and surrounding area, to name a few.

"I'm here because I've had great people carry my dumb butt, and the good Lord has a great sense of humor," he said.

Schlund, 51, grew up on a hog farm outside Mount Vernon. He now lives in Locust Grove, Va., and is a STAT MedEvac helicopter pilot for Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

His expansive experience as a decorated U.S. Marine, military medevac pilot and as a military private contractor helped him garner the position.

Schlund's well-rounded career as a medevac pilot, both in helicopters and jets, also gained him recognition in his hometown. He was inducted into Heroes' Field in October and recognized for his service to his country.

"He was a unanimous choice for us. His resume is impressive and his service to our country is unparalleled," said Eric Denning, Mount Vernon's activities director and a selection committee member. "He is a man who has dedicated his life to the betterment and well-being of others."

His awards are the Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, the Air Medal with five Strike/Flight Awards, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat V and two gold stars and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one gold star.

Even six months after being inducted into Mount Vernon's Heroes' Field, Schlund is still honored for the recognition.

"I received this honor because of what family and community members taught me," Schlund said. "I am who I am because of them."

He flew missions during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Southern Watch and three tours in Iraq for Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

He flew CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, AV-8B Harrier II jets and MC-12 Liberty jets.

After he retired from the Marine Corps in 2008, he worked at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in the applied physics lab. When a private company found out he was a retired combat pilot, it told Schlund the U.S. Department of Defense needed help. So Schlund went back overseas as a contractor supporting special operations units. He flew intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

"There is so much demand for ISR stuff, they just don't have the number of people they need," Schlund said.

When he finished his private contractor work for the military, Schlund came back to the U.S. and worked for Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa., and is now flying medevac helicopters for Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Although he is proud of growing up on a farm and the work ethic it instilled in him, Schlund said he wanted to "strike out" on his own.

"I really felt I owed something to America and the folks who'd been around me, those who'd gone before me," he said. "I felt like I owed them something back."

The Marines

When the opportunity to join the Marine Corps arose in 1983 while he was attending the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, he took it as a challenge. The 1981 Mount Vernon High School graduate said a recruiter "laid down the gauntlet" by asking, "What makes you think you can do this?"

"I said, 'Because I know I can do this,' " Schlund said.

After he graduated from USD in 1985, he mostly flew helicopters during the first half of his career. He transitioned to flying jets during the last half of his career for troop transport and medevac missions.

He chose the Marine Corps because of its members' pride and professionalism.

"It's a small organization, it's very integrated," he said. "We can go out and we've got our own aircraft and ground guys."

He added that there's a lot of emphasis on operating as a team and never letting your fellow Marines down.

Schlund attained the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring. He commanded a support squadron on his second tour in Iraq. He was in charge of security, health, morale and welfare for more than 900 people.

During his final tour, Schlund was the executive officer of a support group for all security and airfield business. While there, his combat medevac flight training came in handy again as the unit was short of medevac pilots. He flew a CH-46E helicopter on a combat medevac mission into Habbaniyah, Iraq.

Family, support has been everything

He said the most difficult part of his military career was constantly leaving his family. Schlund and his wife, Jody, have been married for 30 years this summer.

"She's been awesome," Schlund said. "It's been very, very, very hard on the family. There's no other way to put it. It has just been hard on them."

The couple have four children -- twin daughters Ashlee and Linsey; son Tony, who is in the Navy; and daughter Courtney, still at home.

Jody was not thrilled about Schlund going back into a war zone in Afghanistan in 2013 as a private contractor. But she supported the decision knowing he had the skills needed to help save lives, Schlund said.

"I have a certain skillset, experience, that through all those years, if I've got that and there's a need, then I should do what I can to support the effort," Schlund said.

He said the military lifestyle and his position as a private contractor with the military have taken a toll on his wife and children. He missed graduations, concerts, proms, birthdays, Christmases and other important events. He describes Jody and his children as "awesome."

Three of his children graduated from high school while he was overseas.

"They're very proud and very supportive, but I'm kind of glad I'm not currently doing those things," Schlund said of his military career. "If I've had any success, it's because Jody's been there and raised the kids."

Heroes' Field induction

Support from his hometown community and state has also been huge for Schlund.

In October, he was honored as an inductee into Heroes' Field at Mount Vernon School. The Heroes' Field Courtyard is a project to raise funds for Mount Vernon School District's outdoor athletic complex. A granite plaque bearing Schlund's photo, his name and a brief description has been placed in the courtyard.

"When I first heard about it, I really struggled with it," Schlund said. "I was unbelievably honored. I didn't see it coming. I was blown away."

Schlund often says he is no one special and didn't feel worthy of receiving such an honor from his hometown. But then it dawned on him: the award wasn't about him, he said. He viewed the award as a testament to the people and events that helped shape his life.

He said every interaction he had with farmers in the community, the moms and dads who volunteered and his schoolmates helped him become who he is. He succeeded because the people of Mount Vernon showed a strong work ethic, plowing through hard winters and ignoring pain and sickness.

"They left something with me, even in a small way, but nonetheless had an impact on my life," he said. "So I suddenly realized it was not my award, it was their award."

He said the men and women of the community helped him put his faith in God and grow in his faith.

"Faith has been a huge part of my life," Schlund said. "I know all the stuff I've been through and the blessings I've had is because of His hand, not because of anything I've done."

His classmates and community members prayed for him when he was deployed.

He credits his dad, Bill, his mom, Bonnie, and sister, Jill Roberts, for giving him great inspiration. As a hog farmer, his dad worked particularly hard to support the family. His mom spent many years suffering debilitating migraines, but fought through the pain to raise and support her family. She died in 2007.

"I respect no one on the planet more than Mom and Dad," Schlund said.

His sister also suffered terrible migraines and defeated breast cancer.

"She always meets me with a smile," Schlund said. "I'm surrounded by heroes. At the end of the day, it did a lot for me in my journey."

Schlund also said his induction into Heroes' Field is thanks to the organization's committee, who selects the inductees, including Sherri Kayser who made the plaque Schlund received. Mount Vernon Athletics, Denning and Superintendent Patrick Mikkonen allowed him to speak at the school, which was an honor, Schlund said.

"To this day, I don't feel worthy of the recognition. It's such a distinct honor," Schlund said. "We get recognized in the military, but when you think about it, there's only one Heroes' Field. Only a handful of people can say they've received that honor."

Story and photo:

National Transportation Safety Board: Pilot, company, Federal Aviation Administration at fault in North Slope plane crash • Beechcraft 1900C-1, N575X

The National Transportation Safety Board took the unusual step this week of citing not only errors committed by the pilot, but also company practices and Federal Aviation Administration oversight as factors in the November 2013 crash of a Hageland Aviation flight at a landing strip on Alaska's North Slope.

Neither of the aircraft's pilots nor the single passenger were injured in the accident that saw the Beechcraft 1900 touch down short of the landing strip at the Badami oil field airstrip, but the plane sustained substantial damage in the crash, according to a final report on the accident issued Tuesday by the NTSB.

Officially, the cause of the accident was determined by the NTSB to be “the captain’s decision to initiate a visual flight rules approach and attempted landing into an area of instrument meteorological conditions..." But also contributing were Hageland Aviation's “inadequate procedures for operational control and flight release and its inadequate training and oversight of operational control personnel” and the FAA’s “failure to hold the operator accountable for correcting known operational deficiencies and ensure compliance with its operational control procedures.”

The Badami accident was one of a string of accidents and incidents involving aircraft operated by Ravn Alaska members between 2012 and 2014.

Ravn includes Hageland Aviation, now known as Ravn Connect, Era Aviation, now known as Corvus Airlines, and Frontier Flying Service. Following fatality accidents in St. Marys and near Bethel, both of which are still under investigation, the NTSB issued two safety recommendations directing the FAA to conduct audits of flight operations, training, maintenance and inspection, and safety management programs of Ravn Alaska members. The NTSB also recommended the FAA audit its own oversight of the carriers.

Recently, the FAA has placed investigators in Bethel seven days a week on four-day rotations and is also providing continuing surveillance in Nome, Kotzebue, Barrow and Deadhorse.

Weather concerns

The Beechcraft in the Nov. 22, 2013 accident was carrying its single passenger the 29 miles between Deadhorse and the private oil field support airport at Badami. The flight departed at about 1:15 PM when the latest weather from Badami’s private weather observer reported 1 1/2 miles visibility, scattered clouds with blue skies above and blowing snow, according to NTSB interviews with the flight's first officer.

The accident occurred about 15 minutes later.

While en route, the flight's first officer told investigators he contacted the Badami weather observer again and learned the weather had deteriorated to 3/4 miles visibility in blowing snow. At that point, the first officer told the NTSB that the captain took over all radio communications.

The captain told investigators that a few minutes later the weather observer informed him he had 1 mile visibility, but the weather observer told the NTSB that he notified the pilots he could “...occasionally see the cold storage camp, which was located ‘1 1/4 miles away,’ but he did not consistently have 1 mile visibility.”

The observer further described the weather as “bad” and that he could sometimes not see the runway. He told investigators he advised the pilots to “use their own judgment”.

The captain told the NTSB his visibility “...was unrestricted and that he had the runway environment in sight 20 miles from the airport.” He asked the first officer to load the instrument approach into the GPS, although he did not use it. He described the approach as normal until he realized he “was too low.”

The first officer told investigators he voiced concerns multiple times while on approach, finally saying “watch out,” just prior to impact. The aircraft then touched down short, with the main landing gear impacting the elevated edge of the runway surface. The right main gear separated and the aircraft slid along the runway.

Cockpit Voice Recorder not secured

The flight was equipped with both a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, the latter of which provides a record of the most recent 30 minutes of radio communications aboard the aircraft.

On the day of the accident, NTSB investigators requested that Hageland secure the FDR and CVR and the company's director of maintenance assured them both recorders would be secured by maintenance personnel on scene.

But on Dec. 5, 2013, it was discovered that the CVR was never secured and engine maintenance runs had subsequently been performed on the aircraft. The NTSB vehicle laboratory in Washington, D.C. later determined that the pre-accident audio had been completely overwritten by maintenance personnel rendering the CVR useless to investigators.

In an email, Bob Hajdukovich, CEO for Ravn Alaska, provided the following explanation for how the CVR data was lost:

This particular CVR issue had to do with the configuration of our BE1900C aircraft, some of which have both a CVR and an FDR and some of which only have a CVR.  When the mechanic was dispatched out to retrieve the CVR, he accidentally retrieved the FDR only thinking that he had sent in the CVR. Weeks later, when it was discovered that we had pulled the FDR, the engine runs had already been completed after the replacement of the propeller. The CVR and FDR are both in similar orange boxes and everyone thought the CVR was secured.

Without the CVR, the NTSB was unable to verify the account of communications between the pilot, first officer and weather observer at Badami.

NTSB Alaska Region Chief Clint Johnson said last week that the loss of the voice recorder "does not allow the NTSB to know the sequence of events leading to the accident.”

Changes in flight management

In 2014 Hageland made a change in its dispatching procedures when the company opened an operational control center in Palmer. But at the time of the Badami accident, per the company's FAA-approved procedures, flights in the area were managed by a flight coordinator who was responsible for completing a flight risk assessment with pilots before takeoff, including weather conditions. 

Such an assessment wasn't completed in the case of the accident flight.

The flight coordinator, a longtime employee, told investigators she had not completed required company training concerning her job. She also did not discuss weather or any risks associated with the flight with the crew. This was contrary to requirements in the Hageland’s Operations Manual, which required eight hours of initial training and three to four hours of recurrent training.

Out station flight coordinators no longer participate in flight decisions and instead concentrate on filling out load manifests, coordinating with ramp personnel and customer service with passengers.  They do not contact the operational control center in Palmer, nor are they part of those discussions.

Now, according to operational control center manager Greg Tanner, every single Hageland pilot departing from an out station must contact dispatchers in Palmer to receive a flight release. Based on a company-developed risk level assessment, the departure is either approved or may require discussion with upper management. The flight release is active for 30 minutes and if the flight hasn't departed by then, the pilot must contact Palmer again. According to Tanner, the center averages 140-160 flight releases each day.

“This system takes the pressure [to fly] away from the local stations,” Tanner said in a recent phone interview. “Here at the center, our only job and motivation is that the flights be safe and legal.”

There are still four open accident and incident investigations involving Ravn Alaska air group members.

Original article can be found here:

NTSB Identification: ANC14LA007
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, November 22, 2013 in Deadhorse, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/10/2015
Aircraft: BEECH 1900C, registration: N575X
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

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

Before departure of the short, nonscheduled charter flight, the weather at the destination airport was reported to be wind from the northeast at 27 mph, scattered clouds with blue skies above, and 1 1/2 statute miles (sm) visibility with blowing snow. According to the first officer, after departure, he contacted the destination airport and was advised that the visibility had deteriorated to 3/4 sm. The captain then informed the private weather observer that the flight would need at least 1 sm visibility to land. A few minutes later, the weather observer informed the captain that the visibility had improved to 1 sm. The captain stated that the approach was normal until he had a “sinking sensation” and realized that the airplane was too low. The airplane subsequently touched down short of the runway, and the main landing gear impacted the elevated edge of the runway surface, which resulted in the right main gear separating. The airplane then slid along the runway surface, which resulted in substantial damage to the fuselage and right elevator. The captain reported no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The private weather observer on duty at the destination airport the day of accident reported that he notified the pilots via radio that he could occasionally see a cold storage camp located 1 1/4 miles away but that he did not have 1-mile visibility. He said that, the weather was “bad” and that, at times, he could not see the runway. He said that he instructed the pilots to use their own judgment. Based on reported weather observations, at the time of the accident, the visibility had deteriorated to 1/2 mile in heavy blowing snow. Therefore, it is likely that the flight crew lost sight of the runway during the visual approach, which resulted in the airplane touching down short of the runway.

According to the company’s General Operations Manual (GOM), operational control was held by the flight coordinator for the accident flight, and the flight coordinator and pilot-in-command (PIC) were jointly responsible for preflight planning, flight delay, and release of the flight, which included the risk assessment process. The flight coordinator who had operational control of the flight and released it the day of the accident had not completed flight coordinator training, which was required per the company’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved operations training manual. She assigned the flight a risk level of 2 (on a scale of 1 to 4), which, according to company risk assessment and operational control procedures, required a discussion between the PIC and flight coordinator about the risks involved. However, the flight coordinator did not discuss with the flight crew the risks and weather conditions associated with the flight. At the time of the accident, no signoff was required for flight coordinators or pilots on the risk assessment form, and the form was not integrated into the company manuals.

A review of FAA surveillance activities revealed that aviation safety inspectors had performed numerous operational control inspections and repeatedly noted deficiencies within the company’s training, risk management, and operational control procedures. Enforcement Information System records indicated that FAA inspectors observed multiple incidences of the operator’s noncompliance related to flight operations and opened investigations but that the investigations were closed after administrative action had been taken. Therefore, although FAA inspectors were providing surveillance and noting discrepancies within the company’s procedures and processes, the FAA did not hold the operator sufficiently accountable for correcting the types of operational deficiencies evident in this accident, such as the operator’s failure to comply with its operations specifications, operations training manual, and GOM and applicable federal regulations.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

The captain’s decision to initiate a visual flight rules approach and attempted landing into an area of instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in the airplane touching down short of the runway. Contributing to the accident was the operator’s inadequate procedures for operational control and flight release and its inadequate training and oversight of operational control personnel. Also contributing to the accident was the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to hold the operator accountable for correcting known operational deficiencies and ensure compliance with its operational control procedures.