Saturday, March 14, 2015

Incident occurred March 13, 2015 at Lampson Field Airport (1O2), Lakeport, California

LAKEPORT, Calif. – Firefighters were dispatched to Lampson Airport just before 2:30 p.m. Friday after Lake County Central Dispatch received a report from Sonoma County that a small fixed-wing plane that had lost an engine was coming in for a landing.

Lakeport and Kelseyville Fire were dispatched to the scene, but before arriving REACH 6, which has a base at the airport, reported that the plane has landed safely, with no injuries.

Some oil was reported to be on the runway, which REACH 6 reported was being cleaned up by people at the airport.

The N-Number given over the air for the plane is registered to a Windsor address.


Stowaway found on Arik Air plane at Murtala Muhammed International Airport

A stowaway was today discovered on an Arik Air plane at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, ikeja, Lagos.

Arik Air engineers were checking the aircraft in preparation for a flight when the body of the stowaway was discovered in the main wheel well of the aircraft.

Investigations are still on to determine where the stowaway originated.

The aircraft has been fumigated by the Port Health authorities while the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) officials are carrying out their investigation.

Original article can be found at:

Air India's 26-year-old plane flies back to Delhi after wheel snag

NEW DELHI: Air India's 26-year-old first batch of Airbus A-320s have become a technical nightmare for the crew operating these 'relics' and passengers flying them. 

On Saturday evening, one of these old planes (VT-EPJ) took off for Vadodara from Delhi with 122 passengers on board as AI 819. But after getting airborne, the left side main landing gear of this 1989-made plane reportedly got stuck. The crew could not retract it and did not get the light which indicates that the left side landing gear door had closed. 

Since the aircraft could not have flown to Vadodara with a wheel suspected to be stuck out, the crew immediately informed Delhi air traffic control about their technical issue and sounded an alarm. "The pilots handled the situation very deftly and the plane made an emergency or precautionary landing at Delhi. The aircraft came to a halt safely," said a source. 

Crew operating these old planes has been complaining about them to the airline for a long time. "The biggest problem in them is problematic weather radar which tells the crew about weather ahead. Pilots get to know about rain or storm ahead through these radars and then accordingly switch on seat belt signs after which everyone gets seated to avoid injuries due to turbulence," said a source. 

The other problem is very high instance of non-functional auxiliary power units which are used to keep aircraft air conditioning on on ground. In the searing Indian summer, there have been several instances of passengers protesting the oven-like aircraft interiors at many airports. "Last year passengers of a flight staged a dharna at Jammu due to this problem," said a source. The other recurring problem with these old planes is hydraulic failure. 

The first batch of these A 320s had started joining erstwhile Indian Airlines in 1989. Then after one of these planes crashed in Bengaluru in February 1990, this fleet was grounded following doubts over its "fly by wire" technology. These planes were finally cleared to fly again in IA in December 1990. 

AI was supposed to phase out these old aircraft and replace them with brand new leased A320s. But with this aircraft not so easy to get in the international market, the old ones still are being used by AI. 

Original article can be found here:

Edgar County Board Meeting – March 11, 2015: Edgar County Airport (KPRG), Paris, Illinois


During the Edgar County Board meeting held on March 11, 2015, I read a prepared statement related to the “false and misleading” statements that Jerry Griffin placed on his job application for the airport manager job (previous article here).

Kirk Allen and Robert Bogue also made comments to the board.

The County Clerk talked about restoration of older historical books and records of the county.

Public comment starts at about the 2:15 mark in the above video.


Retired pilots fight to keep Missoula smokejumper plane in service

Jump-15, a Douglas DC-3, came off the assembly line on June 12, 1945, and has been in service dispatching smokejumpers for the Forest Service Intermountain Region since 1964. It is scheduled for retirement after this season.

In the alphabet soup of airplane names, a BT-67 is not a DC-3.

The plane the “Band of Brothers” jumped out of at D-Day was a C-47. Seventy years and lots of civilian modifications later, James Bond brought a DC-3 to a dogfight in “Quantum of Solace.”

The big twin-engine plane that hauls smokejumpers from the Missoula Aerial Fire Depot is a BT-67, known on U.S. Forest Service radio as Jump 15. Seen from the edge of the runway, it’s all the same plane with different paint jobs.

But not to retired pilots Barry Hicks and Dick Hulla. They were alarmed to learn the U.S. Forest Service plans to retire Jump 15 from smokejumper service at the end of this wildfire season.

“They’re saying it’s an old airplane that’s unsafe and needs to be retired,” Hulla said. “In our opinion, the BT-67 is one of the most economical, safest and capable aircraft in the fleet right now.”

Jump 15 used to be a C-47, and then a DC-3. Now it’s a BT-67, and the difference is more than just a change of letters, numbers and symbols.

The new name translates to Basler-Turbine model 67. It refers to a rebuild the plane underwent in 1991, when its radial engines were replaced with more powerful turbine motors. In the process, Basler Turbo Conversions replaced more than 60 percent of its airframe and other parts.

Hulla and Hicks argue that while Jump 15 was built in 1945 and has been flying for 18,800 hours, its critical parts are just 5,800 hours old. That makes it younger than most of the other smokejumper aircraft currently in service.

And they add that its larger passenger capacity, stronger airframe, and longer flying range make it a better choice than the more recently built Sherpa paratrooper planes the Forest Service plans to replace Jump 15 with.

The two Missoula men bring some extensive credentials to the table. Hulla retired in 2008 as the supervisory pilot for Forest Service Region 1 after a career jumping out of and then flying the BT-67.

Hicks retired in 2003 as regional aviation officer for the Forest Service, with a smokejumping career that goes back to the Ford Tri-motor.

The Forest Service is updating its smokejumper fleet with a group of 10 C-23B+ Sherpa planes acquired from the U.S. Coast Guard. Those planes are going through a civilian conversion, which will change their name to SD3-60 Sherpas.

For the moment, the Forest Service refers to them as C-23B+/SD3-60s.

“The (Sherpas) are newer, more modern aircraft that will help the U.S. Forest Service deliver firefighters to wildfires more safely and effectively, increasing the chances of suppressing them while they are still small and preventing them from becoming large, dangerous and costly wildfires,” Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Jones said in an email. “(Sherpas) offer superior performance and efficiency for most of the current smokejumper fleet.”

That now includes four Sherpa C-23A models, two DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otters and Jump 15.

When the Sherpa B models come on line, the four older A models will be retired as well. The Twin Otters will stay in service because of their ability to land on small backcountry airstrips.

The old and new Sherpas carry up to 10 smokejumpers, while Jump 15 carries 16. Sherpas can fly for about three hours, while Jump 15 can fly four hours.

Hulla described the difference this way: On a smokejumper mission east of Miles City, Jump 15 could carry 16 smokejumpers and their gear from Missoula and deliver them to the fire. A Sherpa could only take 10 jumpers, and would have to stop at Miles City to refuel before it could reach the fire.

And keeping a mix of planes allows smokejumpers to pick the proper plane for particular missions.

And it avoids the problem Southwest Airlines recently had when a maintenance defect forced the grounding of all its Boeing 737s – the only type of plane it flew.

Nevertheless, Jones said the Forest Service needs a plane with standardized operating procedures, training, maintenance and logistics support. She said those efficiencies outweigh the risk of a fleet-wide maintenance issue that could ground all the Sherpas at once.

Hicks said that sounded more like the Forest Service is trying to avoid trouble instead of make clear judgments.

He compared it to the agency’s effort to move away from Korean War-era P2V retardant bombers, like the ones that have been the mainstay of Missoula’s Neptune Aviation, in favor of more modern jet bombers.

Jump 15 doesn’t fly under the same hazardous conditions as the P2Vs, he said, and shouldn’t be lumped into the same modernization bucket.

“People think we’re hung up on nostalgia – that’s our favorite plane,” Hicks said. “But in the aviation business, you need a replacement program. If they could state for certain that these B-model (Sherpas) they’re bringing in can fill the bill, I’d say: Go for it boys. That’s what we did in the 1990s, when we went to Basler to replace aircraft we were worried about. I don’t think anything else they can get is going to be as nice to the taxpayer as the BT-67.”

Hulla added that the BT-67s are among the few planes qualified to fly to Antarctica, and continue to be a popular choice for military special forces around the world. Douglas Aircraft Co. built about 10,000 of them, and at least 500 are still flying.

“Wherever that plane lands, somebody’s going to be happy to have it,” Hulla said. “It’s going to be flying for 50 years.”

Story and photo:

Canadair CL-600-2C10 Regional Jet CRJ-702, N157GJ: Incident occurred March 14, 2015 at O'Hare International Airport (KORD), Chicago, Illinois

An airplane was forced to make an emergency landing at O'Hare International Airport after it experienced a mechanical problem upon the landing Saturday afternoon.

The GoJet plane, operated by United Airlines, touched the ground without its nose gear in place for the landing. After it landed, the plane sat on the runway with the nose still touching the ground.

The flight originated in Grand Rapids, Mich., and was scheduled to arrive in Chicago at about 3:30 p.m., according to Karen Pride, a spokesperson for the airport.

Despite the missing gear, the plane landed without incident and nobody was injured, Pride said.

Incident occurred March 14, 2015 near Felton, Clay County, Minnesota

Clay County, MN (Forum News Service) – A small plane made an emergency landing on county road in Clay County on Saturday.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said at 2:16 p.m. a call came in about an emergency landing. Two people were inside the plane at the time.

The plane had a mechanical problem and was forced to land on County Road 11, north of County Road 34, the Sheriff’s Office said. The plane landed safely, and there were no injuries reported.

No one was hurt and the plane was towed away to a nearby farm to be repaired.

Will Final Four bring extra traffic to Shelbyville Municipal Airport (KGEZ), Indiana?

It’s a wait-and-see game for Shelbyville Municipal Airport officials.

Yes, the Final Four is coming to Indianapolis the first weekend of April. Whether that translates into a spike in traffic at the local airport remains to be seen.

The city last hosted the championship of the NCAA basketball tournament in 2010.

“I don’t recall it having an impact on us then, but it all depends on how many people are coming in,” Airport Manager Darrell Shrader said.

With a number of smaller airports closer to Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of this year’s Final Four, Shrader expects any increase in traffic here would be overflow at best.

“If that happens, we can handle some pretty big aircraft out here,” Shrader said.

With a 5,000-foot by 100-foot runway, the airport can handle 20-passenger jet aircraft.

“As far as weight on our runway, that’s a limiting factor on any smaller general aviation airport such as Shelbyville,” Shrader said. “According to the Federal Aviation Administration legalities, 40,000-pound airplanes are about what we’re supposed to handle daily. But working through the FAA and our engineering firm, we have determined that we can land aircraft up to 100,000 pounds on occasional basis.

“There’s never going to be an airplane bigger than that to come in here because of the 5,000-foot runway.”

Shrader said the airport can be ready if there is an overflow of Final Four traffic, but as of Thursday, the airport had received no inquiries from anyone wanting to land here for the event.

“Back when we had the Super Bowl (in 2012), we had quite a few airplanes,” Shrader said. “We could have had more airplanes in here ... (but) I was going to end up having to park airplanes on taxiways. We can do that, but we don’t like to because it traps airplanes.”

Shrader said the airport would love to have the extra business, as traffic has been down because of economic factors.

“It’s down because the economy affects general aviation; that’s even corporate aviation. Last year was really bad. ... We had a terribly bad winter which affected the corporate traffic; it affected the little guys even more,” said Shrader, who noted that there are over 70 airplanes based at the airport.

The decrease in flights has pushed a proposed runway extension project out to at least 2020.

“In our master plan, we had planned on lengthening our existing runway to 6,200 feet. We have some aircraft operating here that need the longer runway. But the FAA looks at numbers, how many of the jet aircraft come in here in a year’s time, they track all that. They couldn’t justify the numbers for us to lengthen the runway as quickly as we wanted to do it,” Shrader said.

Original article can be found at:

de Havilland Canada DHC-8-402Q Dash 8, N191WQ: Incident occurred March 14, 2015 at Denver International Airport (KDEN), Colorado

DENVER - A plane was forced to turn around shortly after take off at Denver International Airport Saturday morning.

At 10:55 a.m., United Flight 4870 heading to Kansas City landed safely after it was discovered a tire had blown.

The runway was closed as crews cleaned up debris from the tire.

Firefighter responded to the scene but no passengers were injured during the incident.

Other air traffic was not affected.

Passenger Danny Dodge captured the emergency landing on video and posted it to his Facebook page.

Story, video and photo:

Lone survivor details plane crash in book

Not many people can tell their story of being involved in a plane crash. But Coaldale resident Tom Wilson’s tale is anything from ordinary.

Wilson was the lone survivor of a November 2008 B.C. plane crash that killed seven people. He has since done his own investigation into the crash, including why the pilot made the decision to fly that day, and why the plane was even allowed to fly at all.

He also wanted to share his tale of personal recovery and to tell why he chose now to speak publicly about the incident

Those experiences have all culminated into the book “Moments of Impact,” which he co-authored and intends to formally launch when he attends a construction conference in Edmonton late next month.

“There’s obviously a lot of interest in the story, but I wanted it to be more than that,” Wilson said. “We’ve written a book to try to help people understand pressure and courage.”

Wilson’s seaplane crashed into the side of a mountain on Thormanby Island, off the B.C. coast, about 20 minutes after taking off from Vancouver International Airport. After impact, Wilson, who was 35 at the time, managed to scramble out of the wreckage mere moments before it exploded.

His face and hands were burned and cut, but he walked several kilometres down the mountain to a beach where he was spotted about 4.5 hours later. He told the rescue crew he didn’t know what caused the crash as he was asleep at the time.

“It was international in media attention. I wasn’t prepared or ready to talk to the media. I was still in mourning. I worked on my recovery and personal healing; trying to find a meaning,” Wilson said.

“The entire plane was just ripped to pieces. There was nothing left of it. The Transportation Safety board actually listed it as unsurvivable.”

Two years later, producers at the Discovery Channel told him they wanted to do a re-enactment. Although he struggled with the decision to provide information, thinking there would be too much sensationalism, he ultimately approved of the 20-minute final clip they produced.

He then decided he should speak up.

“That changed my perspective,” Wilson said.

In the book, he describes how all other planes leaving Vancouver that morning had been grounded due to weather. But the veteran coastal pilot, who had recently joined Pacific Coastal Airlines, was contracted to carry construction workers to a remote hydroelectric project.

“You couldn’t see down the runway at all. It was just terrible,” Wilson said.

The pilot told them they would have to do “low-level flying” and “if anyone has a problem with that, let me know and I’ll let you off now.”

“No one was comfortable,” Wilson said. “I end up (in the book) focusing on that moment. Why didn’t I speak up? I didn’t feel safe and I guarantee the other guys didn’t.”

He said he didn’t want to be a nuisance to the other passengers, some who were returning home, and others who needed to get to work. But nobody else spoke up, either, so in the book, he talks about the different pressures involved with human behavior, risk tolerance, courage and bravery.

“I go through how I ended up finding closure,” Wilson said. “I had a lot of survivor’s guilt with keeping my mouth shut. Now I’ve found a way to memorialize these men and use their story as a message.”

Wilson has reached out to the families of each victim, and has shared the completed manuscript with those who wanted to read it. He also said part of the proceeds from “Moments of Impact” will go to the University of Alberta burn ward, where he spent time after the crash.


No Major Movement at Yeager Airport (KCRW) Slip Friday Night, Saturday Morning

UPDATE 3/14/15 @ 7:40 a.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Emergency crews say there has been no new damage to homes in the Keystone Drive area Friday night into Saturday morning, following the landslide at Yeager Airport.

Several residents who live along Keystone Drive, from Barlow Drive to Greenbrier Street, evacuated their homes for fear of flooding. Water has gotten in to some of those homes.

One home and Keystone Apostolic Church were destroyed by the slide.

Rain began falling Friday afternoon and continued through Saturday morning, which worried crews that they would see more problems with the landslide. They continued to hear popping sounds, and noticed some new cracks in the landslide, but didn’t see much movement early Saturday morning.

Water rescue teams spent the night near Keystone Drive to assess the situation. Excavators and bulldozers were brought in to clear Two Mile Creek of debris from the slide, and emergency management officials say that seems to have prevented more flooding.

Flights into and out of Yeager Airport are continuing on a normal schedule. Airport officials are stressing that the airport is safe.

UPDATE 3/13/15 @ 8 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Engineers and emergency crews remain in place Friday night as fears of a worsening landslide continue below Yeager Airport.

Meanwhile, many residents who live along Keystone Drive from Barlow Drive to Greenbrier Street have evacuated their homes. A few have stayed behind, mainly those who live above the flood plain.

Crews reported hearing more cracking and popping from the landslide late Friday afternoon, as well as seeing new cracks developing in the affected area. As of Friday morning, the slip had destroyed at least one-third of the engineered fill at the end of runway 5.

Keystone Apostolic Church and at least one home have been destroyed by the slide.

Water rescue teams plan to be in the area all night Friday and into Saturday morning to assess the situation.

Crews are working with excavators and bulldozers to clear Two Mile Creek of debris from the slide.

On Friday morning, a couple of private contractors worked to create a new channel through the debris so the water that had backed up and flooded homes could be released into the rest of Two Mile Creek.

The channel worked, lowering the water level in the flooded area by a few feet.

During work on the channel, officials evacuated the area behind the landslide as a precaution. There were initial concerns the water would rush out quickly and possibly flood the nearby homes.

The next threat, though, comes with the moderate rain expected Friday night into part of Saturday.

Flights into and out of Yeager Airport continue on a normal schedule. Airport officials say the runway itself is unaffected by the slip, and the FAA deemed the airport to be fully operational. Aircraft do not land or takeoff on the engineered fill area impacted.

UPDATE 3/13/15 @ 7:45 a.m. 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Water is starting to get into the homes directly below the slip at Yeager Airport in Charleston.

The slip has destroyed at least one-third of the engineered fill at the end of runway 5.

County officials tell WSAZ, as of Friday morning, emergency crews still hear popping and cracking sounds coming from the hillside, so they expect more slips throughout the day.

The big concern is still about heavy rain expected this weekend.

An excavator was brought in late Thursday night to clear out Two Mile Creek, that was blocked off with mud and rocks from the slip. About 12:30 a.m., crews had finished widening the creek.

However, with more issues Friday morning, the crews are expected to spend most of the morning clearing out more of the creek before the rain moves in.

As a precaution, people who live in the area are being asked to leave. The voluntary evacuation is for people who live along Keystone Drive from Barlow Drive to Greenbrier Street.

As of Thursday night, about 30 people had left the area. A few more left Friday morning once the water started rising even more.

Several other families, who don't live directly below, have also decided to leave their homes because they don't have utilities and they don't know when they will come back on.

The American Red Cross is stationed at the command center on Greenbrier Street to help families impacted by the slip.

Residents who need housing assistance should call Kim Lewis with Yeager Airport at 304-550-8131. The airport has already put several people in hotels until the all clear is given.

The Kanawha-Animal Shelter has already moved its resources, along with the animals, to Camp Virgil Tate due to the risk of flooding.

Emergency officials plan to meet with other businesses, including FedEx, Friday morning to alert them of the potential flooding. They want to make sure everyone has a plan as a precaution.

County leaders will also meet with the National Weather Service to determine the amount of rain expected and when it will be in the area.

So far, at least one home and church have been destroyed by the slip. No one has been hurt.

Meanwhile, flight operations continue to be unaffected.

Airport officials say the runway itself is unaffected by the slip and flights continue to operate as normal. Aircraft do not land or takeoff on the fill area impacted.

The area impacted contains what's called EMAS, a high energy absorbing material. It can stop a plane that overshoots a runway-- in it's tracks. The FAA has been notified some of the EMAS is damaged, but the airport is still within safety guidelines to continue operations.

Story, video and photo gallery:

Pilot Rips Claim by Creflo Dollar Ministries That It Needs $65 Million Luxury Airplane to Carry '100,000 Pounds of Food'

A veteran pilot from Rock Hill, South Carolina, said rubbish to claims by Creflo Dollar Ministries on Friday that the effort to purchase a new $65 million luxury Gulfstream G650 airplane is needed by the ministry to transport "100,000 pounds of food," and staff members across the world to spread the love of Jesus.

The organization headed by popular televangelist Creflo Dollar, who is also founder of World Changers Church International, came under fire this week after The Christian Post first reported on their online campaign asking 200,000 people to donate $300 or more each to facilitate the purchase of the luxury airplane once described as the "holy grail of private jets" in a Bloomberg report.

When asked why the televangelist could not take commercial flights instead to carry out his work as suggested by many critics, Juda Engelmayer of 5W Public Relations in New York, which represents Creflo Dollar Ministries, said their significant cargo made the jet necessary.

"You're missing the point. The plane is not so Creflo Dollar can get on by himself and fly. They take a ministry team of 10 to 15 people with them. They take thousands of pounds of food and provisions with them when they go around the world. If he's coming to the New York church, he'll hop on a Delta flight; if he's taking 12 people plus 100,000 pounds of food, it's not that simple," Engelmayer explained.

David Graham, Global Express aircraft captain with Advanced Air Management, which "specializes in the management of long-range business jets owned by individuals and entities desiring the opportunity to offset the cost of ownership through private charter," decried the explanation by Dollar's media representative as nonsense in an email message to CP late Friday.

"The G650 MAX RAMP WEIGHT is 99,600# then add 4,000# for the G650ER. IT CANNOT CARRY 12 PEOPLE AND 1000,000 # OF FOOD AND SUPPLIES LIKE THE COMMENTER SAYS!!!! CREFLO IS A CROOK AND SCAMMIN (sic) HIS CHURCH IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!!!" wrote an incensed Graham.

On his LinkedIn profile he explains: "I have an extensive knowledge of the Corporate Aviation Industry. My experience ranges from Chief Pilot to Line Captain with Worldwide Operations. Part 91 and Part 135."

Gulfstream, the manufacturer of the G650, also highlights on its website that the aircraft "flies at more than 92 percent of the speed of sound," holds about 18 seated passengers and can take off with a maximum weight of 99,600 pounds.

The company also lists a pre-owned G650 with a flight record of 1,616 hours and 625 landings since it entered service in last December for $67,950,000.

As of Friday afternoon, the link to the $65 million campaign was no longer functional and appeared with a message stating that the link "could have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable."

Engelmayer could not confirm if Dollar had abandoned his appeal for $65 million or the mission to get a new jet, but said his client was currently traveling via "commercial" flights.

"Whatever he has to [use to travel], you know, commercial transportation," he said almost grudgingly.

Story, video and photo:

Transfer station grading begins

Another hillside in Carbon Canyon is being leveled and graded, this time by Edison crews building a transition station to connect overhead lines to underground lines for the Tehachapi project.

A good view of the activity is available from the utility road near 15067 Avenida Comprades at Gold Shadow Lane off Rancho Hills Drive.

The three-acre station will be composed of steel structures and electrical components with the tallest structure at 108 feet topped by a 25-foot extension.

Dump trucks are inching up the hillside at the Pine Valley Estates entrance at Canon Lane and Eucalyptus Avenue, hauling dirt to the transition station site.

The 200-foot towers will soon bear 500 kV lines and 37 aviation marker balls strung across the canyon scenery, including the Oak Tree Downs gated community of 135 property owners.

The 36-inch diameter orange, yellow and white balls will be located on the highest positioned wires between the tower near the city’s western border at State Road and the tower west of the western end of Eucalyptus Avenue, according to Edison.

No aviation lights will be installed on the wires.

A supplemental environmental document addressing requirements from the Federal Aviation Administration said the visual impacts of the marker balls are unavoidable, because their purpose is to make the wire spans more visible to pilots.

When the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered Edison in July 2013 to tear down the towers, the directive did not apply to the canyon community because of its topography and hilly terrain.

Jason Tullai, who lives on Everest Drive in Oak Tree Downs, said the 500 kV lines will pass directly above his property and those of his neighbors. “Our community was excluded from the comprehensive solution,” Mr. Tullai said. “We’re going to be the ones to live with high-voltage towers, not just close to our properties but directly over our properties. How is that fair?”

Story and photos:

Is Watching Drone Videos Good Use Of Federal Aviation Administration Inspector Time?

By John Goglia

I’ve been trying for several weeks to find out how the FAA is using inspector resources in investigating unmanned aerial vehicle – drone – operators.  One of my concerns has been with what appears in the media to be a disproportionate use of scarce FAA inspector resources on drones that may not have the same safety impact as other aviation issues, for example, air carrier operations that carry millions of passengers annually.  One of my concerns has been ongoing allegations of maintenance problems at several airlines, one involving a lawsuit by mechanics at American Airlines claiming intimidation by the airline for reporting safety problems.  The FAA initially responded that it would get right back to me with a response on how many inspectors were being used in drone investigtions.  I’m still waiting.

Well this week has brought to light how at least two FAA safety officials in disparate parts of the country have been spending some of their time: watching drone videos.  In both cases, the videos were apparently not being watched to ferret out unsafe operations of drones but to determine whether the operators were engaged in commercial activities.  One case involved the head of the Portland, Maine Flight Standards District Office who left a voice mail message for a drone operator he suspected of operating commercially informing him that they would be looking for him to take down his website.  No mention of any safety issues on the voice mail.  The other case involved a letter sent to a drone hobbyist from an FAA inspector in Tampa, Florida informing him that his YouTube account indicated that he was operating commercially.  Again, no mention in the letter of any safety concerns. The letter purports to be an educational letter informing the drone operator of the FAA rules. I would say the inspector needs to be educated on whether a YouTube account indicates commercial operation, but I digress.

To put my concern about use of inspector time on non-safety issues in context, the FAA’s latest workforce data indicates that there are 4,104 aviation safety inspectors.  The aviation industry those inspectors are responsible for is captured in an FAA table included in its FY14 Workforce Planning Report.  These are some highlights from that table.  You can review for yourselves the staggering responsibilities that a mere four thousand people have in overseeing the US aviation system and decide whether viewing drone videos for commercial operations should occupy even an iota of inspector time.

Read more here:

Climb immediately: Piper PA-32R-301T Turbo Saratoga (N4120S) tumbles through clouds above Lincoln (KLNK), Nebraska 

From a windowless room in Bellevue, Travis Arnold picked up the Piper near Nebraska City, just after it crossed the border from Missouri.

The single-engine plane can seat six but it carried only two that day, a couple headed from Hannibal to Lincoln for their daughter’s baby shower.

It was Arnold’s job to get them there.

“Most people think of air traffic controllers, the only thing they think about are the people in the tower,” the 32-year-old said. “By far, more controllers are involved in something people don’t see. They sit in front of radar scopes in a dark room and guide aircraft through the skies.”

The skies were mostly empty Dec. 13, the clouds thick and gathered low, maybe 800 feet from the ground. Most private pilots fly visually, and they need to be able to see what’s below and ahead of them.

“So when it’s not very nice outside -- if it’s foggy or there are low ceilings -- they don’t fly,” Arnold said. “That day was super slow.”

That would change during the 45 minutes he spent that afternoon trying to coax the Piper to the ground, the small plane disobeying his directions as it turned and tumbled through the clouds north of Lincoln.

A few months later, the pilot would stand on a stage in Las Vegas, addressing a room full of air traffic controllers.

And he would tell the audience: “Travis Arnold saved my life.”


Michael Bukstein has flown for 45 years, logging more than 850 hours. He’s instrument-rated, allowing him to use his gauges to cruise through clouds most private pilots must avoid.

He’d owned the 17-year-old Piper Saratoga for 11 months. It’s no starter plane; similar models routinely sell for $300,000.

The two-hour trip to Lincoln was his second flight since having it serviced. And most of it was uneventful. He sailed up through Nebraska with his wife, Sherry, and their 100-pound chocolate lab, Molly, in the back.

From Bellevue, Arnold watched the blip on his radar screen. When it was about eight miles north of Lincoln, he told Bukstein to turn left and begin his approach. The pilot answered from the clouds, acknowledging Arnold’s directions.

But the Piper crossed the approach line and was now heading southwest.

No cause for alarm, Arnold said. “It’s not uncommon for a pilot to fly through the final approach course. It happens from time to time, for whatever reason.”

So the air traffic controller tried guiding him left again, to correct his course. The plane kept turning, and turning, and started flying northeast toward Omaha.

“I made contact with him, and he said he’s having some weird readings on his gauges,” Arnold said. “Thank God it was not very good weather, because he was the only airplane I talked to for 45 minutes.”

Arnold has more than a decade of experience as an air traffic controller, about half of that with the Air Force. He knows what can happen to a pilot in deep cloud cover without working instruments. Spatial disorientation, complete confusion.

“You don’t know what’s up, down, left, right. You have no perception of where the ground is.”

In the Piper, Bukstein was struggling to understand what was going wrong.

“The plane started making turns in unpredictable directions,” he said. “I didn’t recognize what the problem was immediately.”

Pilots flying by instruments watch all of their gauges, but they focus on the attitude indicator. It shows them the plane’s position relative to the ground -- nose up or down, wings tipped or level. And Bukstein had lost that, along with most of his other instruments.

He didn’t know if he was banking or climbing or falling. And looking out the windshield didn't help, because there was nothing but clouds. In fact, he was trained not to look out the windshield while instrument flying because it can cause disorientation.

Instead, he was told to rely on his instruments, but they didn’t seem to be working.

Arnold spoke again into the radio, a calm voice. He tried putting Bukstein and the Piper into a slow turn, a full minute to change direction from east to west. About 15 seconds in, he saw them descending.

“He was dropping like a rock. He was about 800 feet off the ground, which sounds like a long way to a normal person, but you can cover that in no time when you’re doing 130 mph.”

But Bukstein was relieved when the Piper dipped out of the clouds.

“I was delighted to see the ground,” he said. And he was already thinking about crash-landing protocol: Power off, close gas tanks, unlock doors. He started looking for a field. He knew he’d destroy the Piper but he wanted to deliver Sherry and Molly to safety. He wanted them all down.

In Bellevue, Arnold had the opposite reaction.

Climb, he said. Climb immediately.

He heard nothing from the Piper.

“The stress level inside your body goes up,” Arnold said. “You know something’s not right.”

Bukstein was making a decision: “Am I going to listen to him or am I going to land this thing in the farm field up ahead?”

Despite the lure of solid ground, he relied on his training: Altitude is valuable when you’re having problems. The closer you are to land, the closer you are to crashing. Listen to the controller.

“It took me a few seconds to kick that in and make the commitment to go up into those clouds, because I knew it would be difficult again.”

But when he throttled up and climbed -- to 3,000 feet, then 4,000 -- his instruments returned. Arnold guided him above the clouds and put him through a few turns, the gauges still working.

“Once he was up there,” Arnold said, “everything was beautiful.”

Bukstein diagnosed the problem. His instruments are run by a vacuum system, powered by the engine. When he had approached for landing, he’d powered down, lowering the air pressure the instruments needed to operate.

Because of the malfunction, Arnold declared an emergency and asked Bukstein a series of standard questions.

How much fuel on board?

How many souls?

That last one troubled the pilot. It made the danger more tangible, more personal. “That gave me pause. That’s a bad question. That’s like asking: How many bodies are we going to look for?”

He answered: Two humans, one Lab.

Arnold gave the Piper a long final approach, and Bukstein lowered his wheels and flaps -- creating more air resistance, requiring more throttle and keeping his instruments powered.

Arnold also gave the pilot his reassurance: Instead of handing him off to the Lincoln tower for the landing, he would remain in Bukstein’s ear.

“You’re going to be talking to me all the way to the ground, Sir,” he told him. “All the way to the ground.”


They made it all the way to the ground. Sherry made it to the baby shower. The pilot got the Piper checked out and they flew home to Hannibal without incident.

Bukstein thought about it. When he had the Piper serviced, the mechanics adjusted the vacuum down, and that could have killed his instruments when he slowed for the landing.

Last month, he and Sherry flew the Piper back to Lincoln -- without problems -- for the birth of their granddaughter, Charlotte, to Sabrina and Hank Cerny.

In Bellevue, Arnold’s co-workers suggested his performance was worthy of an Archie League Medal of Safety Award -- named after the first air traffic controller and given to controllers credited with saving lives.

“I said, 'I think we might be stretching here. This is not a big deal.' I never thought in a million years I would have won it.”

But earlier this month, he shared a table with Bukstein in Las Vegas, then listened as the pilot stood on stage, describing the instant when the ground loomed below him and Arnold told him to climb.

“At that moment, I had 100 percent confidence in Travis,” he told the crowd. “I felt like he was sitting right next to me in that copilot seat.”

Arnold joined him on stage to receive his award. Thank you, he said.

Later, he would acknowledge the danger Bukstein had faced. He would also deflect all the credit for helping the pilot escape it.

“Without a doubt, that was a life or death situation,” he said. “But I did I save his life? I don't think so. That's just my job.”

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Travis Arnold (left) is presented an air traffic control award by Michael Bukstein, the private pilot from Missouri whose instruments failed as he was trying to land in Lincoln in December.

Team Minimax, G-MYRG: Plane crash at Northrepps Airfield due to lack of fuel

A light aircraft crashed into a field of sugar beet after running out of fuel in mid-air, an investigation found.

The 56-year-old pilot "force-landed" the Team Mini-Max at Northrepps Airfield, Norfolk, in December.

He admitted an "unfamiliarity" with the "aircraft and its fuel consumption", the air accident report said.

The aircraft "flipped inverted" during the crash landing, but the pilot was uninjured. Members of the local flying club helped him escape the cockpit.

In the report the pilot said he "misjudged the glide performance of the aircraft with a stationary propeller" and in attempting to land on the runway "feared he would not be able to clear some power lines which ran across the approach".


Whilst overhead Northrepps Airfield after a local flight, the engine suddenly stopped.

The pilot states that he misjudged the glide performance of the aircraft with a stationary propeller and, in attempting to land on the runway, feared he would not be able to clear some power lines which ran across the approach. 

He therefore force-landed the aircraft in a field of sugar beet but, as soon as a bar which stretched between the two landing gear wheels entered the crop, the aircraft flipped inverted.

The pilot was uninjured but required the help of members of the local flying club to right the aircraft before he could evacuate from it.

The cause of the engine stopping was found to be a lack of fuel which manifested itself when the aircraft attitude changed.

The pilot admits that unfamiliarity with the aircraft type and its fuel consumption combined with overestimating its glide performance with a stationary propeller by about 300 feet per minute were the main causal factors in the accident.

The Forum: Nathan Marcucci, Hays Regional Airport (KHYS) Manager

Published on March 3, 2015

The Forum: Nathan Marcucci, Hays Regional Airport Manager

Credit Facebook

Special Planes Are Lifeline for Ebola Patients • As Georgia Airfield Welcomes Back ‘Ebola Gray,’ State Department Plans Expanded Program

The Aeromedical Biological Containment System is installed in a modified Gulfstream G-III aircraft in this undated photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta last year.

The Wall Street Journal
Updated March 13, 2015 4:41 p.m. ET

CARTERSVILLE, Ga.—In a nondescript hangar at a small airfield here, a shiny gray jet was serviced Friday after delivering an Ebola patient from West Africa to a hospital near Washington, D.C.

The modified Gulfstream G-III—dubbed by some “the Ebola Gray”—is one of three planes that aircraft-charter company Phoenix Air Group Inc. has used since August for about 35 Ebola-related flights from West Africa to the U.S., Germany and elsewhere.

The planes are almost the only lifeline from West Africa for foreign organizations trying to ensure their staffs receive Western-level medical care if they contract Ebola. “Right now, we continue to be the company that the world turns to,” said Dent Thompson, vice president and chief operations officer of Georgia-based Phoenix Air, who has been coordinating the Ebola flights.

But with a number of infectious-disease outbreaks in the world today, Phoenix Air is scarcely enough. Each plane carries only one passenger and has to undergo a 24-hour decontamination process before it can be used again.

“Phoenix can move one patient at a time, and it takes three days,” said William Walters, director of operational medicine at the State Department, which has brokered medical evacuations for Ebola patients to multiple countries.

The Ebola epidemic may have ebbed, with Liberia’s last patient discharged earlier this month. But it is far from over: Cases are still rising in Sierra Leone and Guinea.

On Friday, Phoenix Air delivered an American health-care worker who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., for treatment. The Phoenix Air plane landed in Washington around 4 a.m., and shortly thereafter the jet was in Cartersville, set to be decontaminated and readied for another flight, Mr. Thompson said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that other Americans who may have been recently exposed to Ebola but haven’t tested positive were going to be flown out of West Africa. One person was being flown to Atlanta, to be near Emory University Hospital, which has treated other Ebola patients, according to the CDC.

The State Department is working on expanding medical-evacuation capabilities. With a $5 million grant from philanthropist and entrepreneur Paul Allen, it is overseeing the construction and testing of two biocontainment units that are large enough for four patients each, along with a medical crew, and can be loaded onto a 747-400 or similar jumbo jet and then unloaded with any patients, without requiring decontamination of the whole plane.

Dr. Walters said the new biocontainment units won’t be ready until May, assuming they prove worthy in testing. The new medevac units “will represent the next generation in biocontainment capability, for the current outbreak and those that may follow,” he said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force announced it had developed three “transport isolation systems” for its planes to handle patients with Ebola or other highly infectious diseases, but it hasn’t yet tried the systems with any patients, according to an Air Force spokeswoman.

Mr. Allen decided to fund the expansion of medical evacuation to help aid organizations attract foreign staff to West Africa, said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, director of the Ebola program. “This was seen as a way to incentivize people to know that if they got there and got sick, there would be a way to get home,” she said. Mr. Allen also set aside $2.5 million to help patients cover the cost of evacuations beyond what their insurance will cover. So far, $1.25 million of that money has been spent for nine patient evacuations, said Ms. Fitzgerald. Mr. Allen has also given money to the World Health Organization to help coordinate global coordination of medical evacuations.

For the time being, though, the responsibility of evacuating patients rests with closely held Phoenix Air, which has a contract for medical evacuations with the State Department. It also has contracts with the U.S. to haul explosives, play the enemy in military war-game exercises and transport criminals for various federal law-enforcement agencies. It shuttled the U.S. presidential delegation to and from Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

In 2008, Phoenix Air, the CDC and the Defense Department began developing an “Aeromedical Biological Containment System,” or ABCS, for airplanes to transport patients with highly infectious diseases.

The system—a self-contained, two-compartment tent of clear plastic, tubing, zippered doors and medical equipment—is placed in the back half of the modified Gulfstream. Funding for the project lapsed in 2010 due to federal budget cuts, according to Phoenix Air. “We just put everything on a shelf because we knew eventually there would be an epidemic,” Mr. Thompson said.

In late July, when two American missionaries in Liberia contracted Ebola, the State Department called Phoenix Air to pull the biocontainment system off the shelf. “It was scary to start with,” said Michael Flueckiger, medical director of Phoenix’s air ambulance division. “We didn’t know: Could we do this safely?”

Mr. Thompson said the cost per flight varies depending on fuel, distance, time and other factors. The airline was paid $200,000 apiece to fly missionaries Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol from Liberia to Atlanta in August.

Since then, Phoenix Air jets have been on call for Ebola flights any time of day or night. Emergency requests for flights have come in as late 2 a.m. “We sit here on what we call hot standby 24-7,” said Mr. Thompson.

Dr. Flueckiger said “anti-scientific hysteria” over Ebola has complicated the job. Many governments have refused to allow airplanes with Ebola patients to land and refuel. At one foreign airport, which Mr. Thompson wouldn’t name, armed police drew their weapons when they thought the pilots might try to leave the tarmac, he said.

The U.S. requires that Phoenix Air land at one of five airports designated for travelers from the three main Ebola-afflicted countries—a rule that has at times required an extra stop with critically ill patients.

Some Phoenix Air medical crew members with jobs at other medical facilities were advised not to go on trips to fetch Ebola patients, because they wouldn’t be able to return to their main jobs for 21 days after the flight, Dr. Flueckiger said.

In the early days of the outbreak, the company was “getting squeezed to death in terms of our staffing,” he said.

Since then, Phoenix Air has hired more medical staff fulltime to avoid conflict with hospitals and others worried about the disease, Mr. Thompson said.

“Ebola evokes an irrational fear in people, even medical people,” he said.

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