Friday, April 3, 2015

Aircraft declared 32 emergencies last year in British Columbia, Canada: Engine problems, hydraulic leaks and smoking coffee pot among problems reported

A twin-engined Central Mountain Air plane from Vancouver was touching down at Comox airport last Nov. 28 when a seagull suddenly flew past the pilot’s window. There was a “thunk” on the left side of the Beechcraft 1900D during “full reverse thrust” for landing. The left engine started to vibrate and was shut down, and the plane landed safely with emergency crews on standby. A maintenance check revealed that the bird had shredded one of the four propeller blades.

A review of Transport Canada incident reports reveals that at least 32 emergencies were declared for aircraft in B.C. in 2014, for problems such as bird strikes, engine failure, hydraulic fluid leaks, cracked windshields, stuck landing gear, faulty detectors, and smoke in the cabin.

Not all emergencies were what they first seemed to be.

An Air Canada Boeing 767-333 en route from Vancouver to Honolulu declared an emergency on Aug. 21 “due to electrical problem, burning smell in galley and mid-aircraft area.” The plane returned to Vancouver International Airport where the north runway was closed for nine minutes for what turned out to be a minor event. “The company determined that the source of the smoke and smell was a coffee pot,” the report concluded.

Bill Yearwood, regional manager of the federal Transportation Safety Board, said pilots are “getting better” at declaring emergencies “before it’s too late to get help.”

Air traffic controllers also often “fill the gap and call out fire and rescue” when an aircraft is turning back due to a problem “even if the pilot has not declared an emergency or asked for them,” he added.

In 2011, the pilot and co-pilot of a Northern Thunderbird Beechcraft King Air 100 died from fire-related injuries after a crash just short of the runway at Vancouver airport. The crew turned back due to an oil leak, but did not declare an emergency — something that “would have prepared fire and rescue personnel and allowed for a more timely response to the accident,” Yearwood said. Transport Canada continues to reject safety board recommendations to act to reduce post-crash fires.

Vancouver airport spokesperson Jenny Duncan said emergency crews are on duty 24 hours a day and have a goal of reaching the mid-point of the runways within three minutes of receiving notification of an emergency — and can be positioned well in advance with notice from a pilot. Richmond Fire-Rescue, the B.C. Ambulance Service and RCMP can also offer assistance. Duncan could not immediately say how many firefighters are employed at the airport or their annual budget.

Other incidents in which aircraft declared emergencies in B.C. in 2014:

• Feb. 21: A Jazz Aviation Bombardier CL-600-2B19 on descent into YVR from Fort McMurray, Alta., reported an unusual vibration, and shut down an engine. The north runway was closed to allow it priority landing.

• March 31: A Jazz Aviation de Havilland DHC-8 bound for Prince George reported oil-pressure fluctuation, shut down an engine and returned to YVR. The problem was blamed on an incorrectly installed “oil filler cap/dipstick” after servicing.

• April 3: An Air Canada Boeing 777 bound for Sydney, Australia, dumped fuel to lighten its load and returned to YVR due to a hydraulic fuel leak.

Original article can be found here:   http://www.vancouversun.com

Just Aircraft Superstol, N682SC: Incident occurred April 03, 2015 at Murphy Airport (1U3), Idaho

STEVEN J. HENRY: http://registry.faa.gov/N682SC 


A pilot practicing takeoffs and landings Friday morning at the Murphy airstrip had a hard landing after a gust of wind caused him to lose control.

The kit plane, a 2013 Just Aircraft Superstol, struck the ground between the paved airstrip and Idaho 77 at about 10:42 a.m. 


There was damage to the plane’s wings and propeller, but pilot Steven Henry, 58, was not injured, Owyhee County Sheriff Perry Grant said.


A number of pilots from Nampa fly to the Murphy airstrip to practice takeoffs and landings because of its light use.


It takes 15 to 20 minutes to make the trip in the air and many of the pilots stop to eat, Grant said.


“It’s really windy here today,” Grant said.


Source: http://www.idahostatesman.com 


 MURPHY, Idaho -- No one was hurt when the pilot of a small aircraft was able to guide it to an emergency touchdown on an Owyhee County highway.

The plane landed on Highway 78 near Murphy just after 10 a.m. Friday. 

It's not clear whether the plane was having mechanical trouble or whether something else went wrong.

The highway runs parallel to the runway for the Murphy Airport.

Dispatchers called the crash "very minor." Three men were able to lift the aircraft and move it out of the roadway.

Information about where the plane had taken off and where it was going were not immediately available.

Source:  http://www.ktvb.com

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA029
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 28, 2014 in Murphy, ID
Aircraft: HENRY STEVEN J JUST ACFT SUPERSTOL, registration: N682SC
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

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

On October 28, 2014, about 1430 mountain daylight time (MDT), an experimental-Steven J. Henry, Just Aircraft Superstol, N682SC, experienced a loss of engine power during takeoff from the Murphy Airport, Murphy, Idaho. The pilot initiated a forced landing on a dirt road where during the landing roll, the airplane collided with a fence and nosed over. The owner/pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The private pilot and one passenger were not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage to the tail and fuselage. The local personal flight was departing with a planned destination of Nampa, Idaho. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The airplane was recovered for further examination.

Shareholder sues Nordstrom over family’s aircraft fleet

In a federal lawsuit whose details are sealed, a local Nordstrom shareholder is taking on the big retailer’s top brass with claims that the founding family’s fleet of airplanes is being subsidized by the company.

The complaint alleges that Nordstrom, which itself owns two planes, manages and services eight other aircraft owned by members of the extended Nordstrom family. Their private fleet today includes a single-engine turboprop and four floatplanes. In addition, the company leases from the family a pair of business jets — a Bombardier CL-600 and a Cessna 560.

The arrangement has resulted in a “vast, bloated and costly Flight Department to serve the needs of the Nordstrom family” and not the company’s multibillion-dollar retail business, claims the suit, filed last month in federal court in Seattle.

Most critically, the lawsuit says Nordstrom has subsidized the family’s private use of its airplanes to the tune of millions of dollars.

But Nordstrom says that the opposite is true: that charging the family to operate their aircraft helps reduce the costs of the company’s own flight needs. Having access to the family’s aircraft also gives the company flexibility: Last year some 330 employees from across the company used the planes to visit store openings, fulfillment centers and meetings, the retailer says.

Nordstrom said in a statement that the staffing levels are “well within industry standards for the number of planes Nordstrom uses.” The company says it has long employed nine pilots, while the suit contends that three or four should suit its needs.

In regulatory filings, Nordstrom says the family’s payments for aircraft services “exceeded” their estimated cost.

But the lawsuit, filed by King County resident Judith Burbrink on behalf of the company and its shareholders, says the board really hasn’t studied how much money the operation actually costs, and that the statements in the securities filings are misleading.

Burbrink used a little-appreciated facet of Washington corporation law to demand, as a shareholder, detailed information from the company.

That data, and investigations by her attorneys, resulted in the suit’s claim that the Nordstroms pay “just a fraction of the costs.”

Burbrink’s attorneys filed the lawsuit under a temporary seal to give Nordstrom the opportunity to request protection for sensitive company information. Nordstrom has asked U.S. Judge John Coughenour to keep it under wraps.

The lawsuit seeks, among other things, to force Nordstrom directors to take a close look at the costs of providing aviation services to the family, as well as an award of unspecified damages to the company. It also seeks to have Nordstrom pay for the plaintiff’s costs, including attorney fees.

In a redacted version reviewed by The Seattle Times, most of the financial details presented to back up the lawsuit’s claim were blacked out.

But the suit asserts that through the arrangement for operating the Nordstroms’ personal aircraft fleet, the retailer “has secretly diverted millions of dollars in hidden subsidies to the family.”

Asked about the claims, Nordstrom responded that the rates charged to the family members are calculated by a third-party aviation-research company. It maintains that its regulatory filings about the arrangement are “complete and accurate, and satisfy all relevant disclosure rules and requirements.”

It’s not uncommon for publicly traded companies to have complicated arrangements involving the private aircraft of their jet-setting executives.

Last year, Starbucks disclosed in securities filings that the coffee giant had leased CEO Howard Schultz’s $65 million Gulfstream G650 to fly its executives around on business. Under their agreement, Schultz had to pay Starbucks for his use of the plane.

The Nordstrom lawsuit alleges that in 2007, the extent of the aircraft-related transactions between Nordstrom and its namesake family “increased dramatically, as a direct result of the financial crisis” that chopped the value of company stock.

It claims “the Nordstrom family began to shift the cost of flying and maintaining their vast fleet of personal planes on to the Company.”

Nordstrom says the financial crisis had no impact whatsoever. The company says it has always operated between seven and 10 airplanes, including the family’s, since 1998. The total briefly jumped to 11 in 2007, when the company and the family both took delivery of one airplane each before selling a couple.

It’s unclear how or why 67-year-old Burbrink, who used to own the Villa Heidelberg Bed and Breakfast in West Seattle, first began tracking the Nordstroms’ personal air fleet.

The lawsuit says she’s been a shareholder for more than 40 years. On Thursday, her 500 shares were worth about $40,000.

She declined to comment, referring questions to her attorneys, who didn’t immediately respond.

It’s also unclear how much the Nordstroms really take to the air. According to data from FlightAware.com, one of the single-engine planes — a Pilatus PC-12 with room for nine passengers, co-owned by executive Jamie Nordstrom and another family member — last month flew to a couple of high-profile winter getaways for the well-to-do: Jackson Hole and Aspen.

Two of the floatplanes whose tail numbers were not blacked out in the redacted lawsuit, both De Havillands, don’t show any recent flights.

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

Warren County, New York: Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport (KGFL) expansion foes question land, equipment purchases

QUEENSBURY --  Warren County supervisors agreed Tuesday to go forward with $1.1 million in land and easement purchases to remove obstructions from the end of the airport’s auxiliary runway, but opponents of the purchase are questioning why an $80,000 solution that was seen as a fix four years ago was not pursued.

The county will buy land and/or avigation easements on 34 acres to the east of Runway 30, which runs east-west, so that obstructions can be removed from the approach. The issue has been controversial because the county had purchased avigation easements over part of this land 70 years ago, but maps detailing the location of those easements have been lost.

Some county supervisors wanted the county to litigate the issue, to try to enforce the old easements, but the county instead opted to buy land and new easements.

Queensbury resident Travis Whitehead questioned why the erection of a “precision approach path indicator light,” which was viewed as a solution to the obstruction issue by former Airport Manager Don Degraw in 2011, was not pursued. It would have cost $80,000.

“It takes care of this issue,” he said.

Ross Dubarry, the airport’s current manager, said the Federal Aviation Administration concluded the light would not suffice because the aircraft approach angle would be too steep and was “unsafe.”

Opponents have questioned the price the county will pay, but Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover said the purchase price was established through a federally reviewed appraisal process.

“No one in this room set the price,” Conover said.

County leaders have also argued that some of the land can eventually be sold by the county, although Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty pointed out the owner hasn’t had luck with trying to sell it in the past.

“There’s a reason why this hasn’t been developed,” he said.

Beaty had also advocated for the county to try to enforce the old easements, and he said he was “very troubled” by the decision to go forward with the purchase.

Ninety-five percent of the purchase price will be paid by federal and state funding.

The county Facilities Committee also agreed to spend $675,000 for a snowblower/snow plow/street sweeper and firefighting equipment for the airport. Federal and state funding will pay 95 percent of the price, with the local share amounting to 5 percent.

Dubarry said the machine will replace two vehicles that are nearing the end of their service time, one of which is a truck that will be used by the county Department of Public Works.

Beaty questioned the need for it, and asked whether Saratoga County Airport — to which foes routinely compare Warren County Airport operations — has anything similar. It does not.

Warren County Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson also told supervisors the cleanup of fuel-contaminated soil at the airport has been completed, with 80 to 100 tons of material removed. The area is the site where a new restaurant will be located, and construction should resume shortly, he said.

Original article can be found here:  http://poststar.com

Suburban communities see Final Four impact: Greenwood Municipal Airport (KHFY), Indianapolis, Indiana



GREENWOOD, Ind. (April 3, 2015)– Downtown Indianapolis isn’t the only place getting the love this Final Four weekend. Our suburban communities are also preparing for lots of visitors, and the money they’ll bring. It’s a rainy Friday at the Greenwood Municipal Airport, on the eve of the semifinal games in downtown Indianapolis.

“We really expected a lot of teams and the alumni and their fan bases to come flying in,” said Lori Curless, Airport Manager.

Curless is a bit blue though, with small aircraft rain is not your friend. A dozen calls and prospective landings days ago turned into just a handful by Friday afternoon.

“In the middle of the week when they were predicting thunderstorms, that’s when we saw calls canceling their flights. They were either going to go elsewhere or take commercial or drive,” she said.

Curless said she thinks they’ll get some surprise arrivals. Customers will be greeted by a renovated terminal and crew rooms. But with the four teams within driving distance, hotels in the area expect spur-of-the-moment guests, too.

“The whole region benefits from these giant events like Final Four because our hotel occupancy is spiked. We’re virtually sold out,” said Christian Maslowski, President and CEO of the Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.

Maslowski said a big Final Four in Indianapolis means a big win for Greenwood.

Visitors that stay in area hotels will eat in area restaurants, meaning tax money stays in Johnson County, despite all the action in Indianapolis.

“Not only an economic impact for the local businesses but also for our community because those taxes reinvest right into public safety and parks and recreation and schools,” said Maslowski.

Craig Spencer at Main Street Grille is banking on a crowd. He’s bumped up staff and has a welcome sign at the door. Now it’s time to let the games begin.

“Like to fill this place up,” he said.

Story and video:  http://cbs4indy.com

Michael Jensen, lone survivor of 2011 Long Beach plane crash, shares story: Beechcraft 200 Super King Air, Carde Equipment Sales LLC, N849BM

Keynote speaker, Michael Jensen delivers his speech during the 47th Annual YMCA Good Friday Breakfast held at the Long Beach Convention Center on April 3, 2015






LONG BEACH >> For the first time since a fiery 2011 airplane accident that claimed the lives of several prominent Long Beach business leaders, the crash’s sole survivor shared his story in public.

Michael Jensen was the keynote speaker at the YMCA of Greater Long Beach’s 47th annual Good Friday Breakfast. About 900 people — the most ever — attended the event.

Jensen’s message centered around faith, and how his faith and that of the community helped him recover from the brink of death.

“There were five other great guys on that airplane,” he said Friday. “I just still don’t understand it ... We flew off to Utah to discuss business and ski in one of the safest airplanes in the sky, the Beechcraft 200. As we took off from Long Beach Airport over the 405 Freeway, the left engine decided to go. Ken Cruz turned the airplane around quickly and got us almost back to the [runway].”

Jensen said he believes his rescue was miraculous.

“[Firefighters] arrived on the site almost immediately,” he said. “They saw the plane going down as they were going north on Cherry [Avenue] right by the 405 Freeway and the smoke that ensued. They happened to be in their fire gear just finishing a training run. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

All the signals were green as the fire crew raced to the scene, Jensen said. A gate leading into the airport was already open, an ambulance was on the runway and firefighters sprayed water on the fire rather than potentially suffocating foam.

“I was laying face down in the airplane fuselage, the airplane seat over the top of me, the luggage over the top of me; in a pool of gas and water with glass in my teeth and metal in my teeth,” he said. “The side of my neck was wide open. I was breathing out of the side of my neck, another God thing.”

More than 40 percent of his body was burned. He had a broken back, hips, ankles, a knee and ribs. The seat belt he was wearing caused his body to open up from his pelvis to his sternum. He was in a coma for two months.

After he came out of his coma, doctors, friends and family did not tell him about the crash and that everyone else on the airplane had died because they wanted him to focus on his recovery. One day, his wife finally told him.

Killed in the accident were prominent real estate developers Tom Dean and Jeff Berger; Bruce Krall, who was Dean’s banker; Ken Cruz, the airplane’s pilot and Mark Bixby, a Long Beach bicycle advocate and member of the Bixby family of Long Beach’s founding.

“Needless to say, I cried all day long and I still cry,” Jensen said.

The last known fatal crash at Long Beach Airport occurred on June 15, 1994, when a twin-engine vintage French jet crashed just west of the main runway. The pilot, Steve Sutherland, and a passenger, Chong Tassin, were killed when the 1960s-era Fouga Magister’s landing gear failed and Sutherland attempted to return to the airport.

An investigation into the 2011 crash concluded that water contamination in the airplane’s fuel tanks most likely caused the airplane to lose power during takeoff and bank to the left. Although Cruz completed required training to fly the aircraft, he did not receive additional training that could have helped him maintain control of the airplane.

“Contributing to the accident was the power interruption due to water contamination of the fuel, which was likely not drained from the fuel tanks by the pilot during preflight inspection as required in the [plane’s operating handbook],” according to a report released during the investigation.

Jensen thanked those who helped care for him as he recovered and said he found comfort in a Bible passage, 2 Corinthians 12:10, that reads: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“I was inundated with love and care,” Jensen said. “Everyday I was fed and gradually got up, went to physical therapy, cognitive therapy, just a grind, but I had to keep moving.”

He is still in pain daily, but said his days have settled into a semblance of normalcy.

“I have chosen to live my life for the five men who died by continuing Mark Bixby’s vision,” Jensen said.

He is working with the YMCA to rebuild the Camp Oakes village, which serves as the camp for the YMCA of Greater Long Beach.

Story, photo gallery and video:  http://www.presstelegram.com



Surveillance Video Clip: http://dms.ntsb.gov

NTSB’s online investigation file: http://dms.ntsb.gov


NTSB Identification: WPR11FA166
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, March 16, 2011 in Long Beach, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/29/2012
Aircraft: BEECH 200, registration: N849BM
Injuries: 5 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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

Witnesses reported that the airplane’s takeoff ground roll appeared to be normal. Shortly after the airplane lifted off, it stopped climbing and yawed to the left. Several witnesses heard abnormal sounds, which they attributed to propeller blade angle changes. The airplane’s flight path deteriorated to a left skid and its airspeed began to slow. The airplane’s left bank angle increased to between 45 and 90 degrees, and its nose dropped to a nearly vertical attitude. Just before impact, the airplane’s bank angle and pitch began to flatten out. The airplane had turned left about 100 degrees when it impacted the ground about 1,500 feet from the midpoint of the 10,000-foot runway. A fire then erupted, which consumed the fuselage.

Review of a security camera video of the takeoff revealed that the airplane was near the midpoint of the runway, about 140 feet above the ground, and at a groundspeed of about 130 knots when it began to yaw left. The left yaw coincided with the appearance, behind the airplane, of a dark grayish area that appeared to be smoke. A witness, who was an aviation mechanic with extensive experience working on airplanes of the same make and model as the accident airplane, reported hearing two loud “pops” about the time the smoke appeared, which he believed were generated by one of the engines intermittently relighting and extinguishing.

Postaccident examination of the airframe, the engines, and the propellers did not identify any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Both engines and propellers sustained nearly symmetrical damage, indicating that the two engines were operating at similar low- to mid-range power settings at impact. The airplane’s fuel system was comprised of two separate fuel systems (one for each engine) that consisted of multiple wing fuel tanks feeding into a nacelle tank and then to the engine. The left and right nacelle tanks were breached during the impact sequence and no fuel was found in either tank. Samples taken from the fuel truck, which supplied the airplane's fuel, tested negative for contamination. However, a fuels research engineer with the United States Air Force Fuels Engineering Research Laboratory stated that water contamination can result from condensation in the air cavity above a partially full fuel tank. Both diurnal temperature variations and the atmospheric pressure variations experienced with normal flight cycles can contribute to this type of condensation. He stated that the simplest preventive action is to drain the airplane’s fuel tank sumps before every flight.

There were six fuel drains on each wing that the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) for the airplane dictated should be drained before every flight. The investigation revealed that the pilot’s previous employer, where he had acquired most of his King Air 200 flight experience, did not have its pilots drain the fuel tank sumps before every flight. Instead, maintenance personnel drained the sumps at some unknown interval. No witnesses were identified who observed the pilot conduct the preflight inspection of the airplane before the accident flight, and it could not be determined whether the pilot had drained the airplane’s fuel tank sumps. He had been the only pilot of the airplane for its previous 40 flights. Because the airplane was not on a Part 135 certificate or a continuous maintenance program, it is unlikely that a mechanic was routinely draining the airplane's fuel sumps.

The witness observations, video evidence, and the postaccident examination indicated that the left engine experienced a momentary power interruption during the takeoff initial climb, which was consistent with a power interruption resulting from water contamination of the left engine's fuel supply. It is likely that, during the takeoff rotation and initial climb, water present in the bottom of the left nacelle tank was drawn into the left engine. When the water flowed through the engine's fuel nozzles into the burner can, it momentarily extinguished the engine’s fire. The engine then stopped producing power, and its propeller changed pitch, resulting in the propeller noises heard by witnesses. Subsequently, a mixture of water and fuel reached the nozzles and the engine intermittently relighted and extinguished, which produced the grayish smoke observed in the video and the “pop” noises heard by the mechanic witness. Finally, uncontaminated fuel flow was reestablished, and the engine resumed normal operation.

About 5 months before the accident, the pilot successfully completed a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 pilot-in-command check flight in a King Air 90. However, no documentation was found indicating that he had ever received training in a full-motion King Air simulator. Although simulator training was not required, if the pilot had received this type of training, it is likely that he would have been better prepared to maintain directional control in response to the left yaw from asymmetrical power. Given that the airplane’s airspeed was more than 40 knots above the minimum control speed of 86 knots when the left yaw began, the pilot should have been able to maintain directional control during the momentary power interruption.

Although the airplane’s estimated weight at the time of the accident was about 650 pounds over the maximum allowable gross takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds, the investigation determined that the additional weight would not have precluded the pilot from maintaining directional control of the airplane.

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


The pilot’s failure to maintain directional control of the airplane during a momentary interruption of power from the left engine during the initial takeoff climb. Contributing to the accident was the power interruption due to water contamination of the fuel, which was likely not drained from the fuel tanks by the pilot during preflight inspection as required in the POH.


Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows off new firefighting aircraft, the FireBoss



PRINCETON, Minn. (KMSP) -

A new firefighting aircraft, the FireBoss, will be used by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources during the 2015 fire season.

The state fire program recently transitioned from CL-215 planes to the new FireBoss in order to keep pace with changing technology and efficiencies. 

“The engine itself is like 400 times more reliable, it sounds like I'm exaggerating, but it's an actual statistic,” Ron Stoffel, Wildfire Suppression Supervisor for the Minnesota DNR, said.

The FireBoss is a single engine air tanker with floats. It's manufactured by a Minnesota-based company, FireBoss, LLC of South St. Paul, and Texas-based Air Tracktor, Inc. They are operated by Aero Spray of Appleton, Minnesota.

There are currently now four FireBoss planes on contract at airports around Minnesota.

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

Quicksilver Enterprises MXL II, N476VB: Fatal accident occurred April 03, 2015 near Petaluma Municipal Airport (O69), Sonoma County, California

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

DONALD WAYNE WRIGHT: http://registry.faa.gov/N476VB

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA140 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 03, 2015 in Petaluma, CA
Aircraft: QUICKSILVER ENTERPRISES INC MXL II, registration: N476VB
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 3, 2015, about 1230 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur built Quicksilver Enterprises Inc. MXL II, N476VB, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near the Petaluma Municipal Airport (O69), Petaluma, California. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The student pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The local flight originated from O69 at an unknown time.

One witness, who was located on the first tee at the Adobe Creek Golf Course, reported that they observed the accident airplane flying over their position about 1,000 feet above ground level (agl). He thought it was too windy for a small airplane to be flying as he estimated the wind was from the north, about 15 to 20 miles per hour (mph). A short time later, the witness had moved to the second tee, when he saw the accident airplane pointed directly into the wind along a northerly heading toward O69. The witness recalled that it "did not seem to making headway," and appeared to remain in the same position relative to the ground until about 20 seconds later, when the airplane entered a slow left 180-degree turn. The witness heard the sound of the engine increase as he stopped watching the airplane for a few seconds. Shortly after, he heard the engine noise stop and looked up, observing the airplane "falling straight [down] out of the sky" with both wings appearing upward, as if they had collapsed or folded in the middle. Subsequently, the airplane descended below a tree line.

A second witness, who was playing golf at the Adobe Creek Golf Course, northeast of the accident site, reported that he saw the airplane flying in an easterly direction; it flew over the vineyard, and turned right to the west into the wind. He looked down, hit a ball, looked up, and saw the airplane at a 45-degree angle, both wings folded upward; the airplane immediately entered a spin, and descended into the ground. The witness recalled that the wind was blowing fairly strong, estimating about 10 to 20 mph with gusts to 20 mph or more. The witness stated that he recalled that it wasn't a good day for flying the ultralights.

A third witness reported that he was located on a walking trail by the water treatment plant, and was watching the accident airplane fly around the area. The witness said that following a turn, the airplane suddenly descended in an almost vertical attitude while appearing to be traveling "very fast", followed by both wings folding upward.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 51, held a student pilot certificate, which was issued on January 23, 2014.

Review of the pilot's personal logbook revealed that as of the most recent logbook entry dated March 29, 2015, he had accumulated 66 hours total flight time, 65.1 hours in the accident make/model airplane, 36.2 hours of solo flight time, of which 3.8 hours were within the previous 30 days, and 7 hours within the previous 60 days of the accident.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) files, the pilot had first applied for a medical certificate in 2003. At that visit, the aviation medical examiner (AME) documented he had a "rather abrupt manner, quite tense and emotionally labile mood. Tangential, but not confused." In addition, he had scarring and limited range of motion of this left elbow. Although the pilot had not initially reported any significant medical history, he eventually told the AME he had had a severe head injury. The pilot's certificate was deferred, and the FAA eventually denied his application.

The pilot's last application for a medical certificate was dated December 3, 2004. At that time, he reported 45 total flight hours, and reported his head injury, admission to hospital, and disability as a result. He also reported that he had severe injuries of the left elbow with joint replacement. The AME deferred his certificate; the FAA requested additional information from the pilot regarding his injuries, requested he undergo a neurocognitive evaluation, and provide the results to them. The results indicated he had below average visual processing speed, normal intellectual ability, and no impairments in executive functioning, speech perception, or verbal judgment. However, the pilot failed to provide all the requested information to the FAA, and his certificate was eventually denied.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The two-seat, high-wing, fixed-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 062, kit was built in 1984. It was powered by a Rotax 503 engine, rated at 50 horsepower. The airplane was also equipped with a whirlwind two bladed composite propeller.

Review of the airframe and engine logbooks revealed that the most recent conditional inspection was completed on November 12, 2014, at a tach time of 28.23 hours. The most recent maintenance conducted on the airplane was completed on March 24, 2015, at a tach time of 45.34 hours, which included installation of a 4.5 gallon seat fuel tank.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A review of recorded data from the Gnoss Field Airport (DVO) automated weather observation station, located about 6 miles west of the accident site, revealed at 1235 conditions were wind from 300 at 4 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 19 degrees C, dew point 5 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.20 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane impacted an open field adjacent to a tree line about 1.3 miles southeast of runway 29. The airplane came to rest in a near vertical position. All major structural components were present at the accident site. Debris, including the engine and one propeller blade, were located within about 15 feet of the main wreckage.

The left wing remained partially attached to the airframe via both the flying wires and landing wires, however, it was separated at the forward spar attach point. The forward spar was separated about mid span. The fracture surface was consistent with overload and impact damage. In addition, all of the internal braces for the left wing were separated. One of the internal brace wires was found separated, and exhibited splayed signatures, consistent with overload. The wing covering was mostly intact, but torn in various areas. No scuffing or transfer marks were observed on either the top or bottom side of the wing. The left aileron remained attached to its respective mounts.

The right wing remained attached to the airframe via the forward spar mounts and all of the flying and landing wires. The forward spar was bent and twisted in numerous areas, consistent with impact. In addition, all of internal braces for the right wing were separated. The wing covering was mostly intact and turn in various areas. No scuffing or transfer marks were observed on either the top or bottom side of the wing. The right aileron remained attached via its respective mounts.

The empennage remained intact and undamaged. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers remained attached to their respective mounts. The rudder and elevators remained attached to their respective mounts.

Flight control continuity was established from all primary flight controls to the cockpit controls.

The airframe was mostly impact damaged. The instrument panel was separated with numerous instruments dislodged. The right side flying wires remained attached to the seat structure; however, the left side flying cables were separated by first responders.

The airframe was equipped with a ballistic parachute system. The parachute was found dislodged from one half of the parachute case; however, it was extended about 15 feet from the main wreckage. The envelope of the parachute remained stowed within the opposing half of the case.

The engine was separated from the airframe, and located about 15 feet from the main wreckage. The carburetors and the propeller gearbox were separated from the engine. The propeller hub and one of the two propeller blades remained attached to the propeller gearbox and located within the main wreckage. The separated propeller blade was found about 10 feet from the main wreckage. The separated propeller blade exhibited a nick in the leading edge near the blade tip. The nick was found consistent with the size of a landing wire utilized on the airplane. Both the left and right carburetors were separated. When the float bowls were removed, the internal floats were found intact and undamaged. The needle valves for both carburetors and valve seats were intact and undamaged. The engine crankshaft was rotated, and compression was obtained on both cylinders.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy performed at the request of the Sonoma County Coroner's Office by Forensic Medical Group determined the cause of death was multiple extreme blunt force injuries due to a light plane crash, and the manner of death was an accident. No significant natural disease was identified, however, the examination of the brain was limited by the extent of injury.

In a note regarding the death investigation, the investigator reported they had interviewed the pilot's ex-wife who believed the decedent changed his name due to the fact he really wanted to fly, and could not due to a traumatic brain injury he received, which would exclude him from getting a pilot's license. The investigator also noted that the pilot was receiving supplemental security income disability benefits under the social security number and the different name than what the airplane and student pilot certificate were issued under.

Toxicology testing performed by NMS Laboratories at the request of the Coroner identified tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana) at 3.3 ng/ml in cavity blood. Levels of the primary metabolite, tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THC-COOH) were less than 5.0 ng/ml.

Toxicology testing performed by the FAA's Bioaeronautical Research Laboratory identified diphenhydramine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THC-COOH; 0.0873 ug/g) in liver. In addition, diphenhydramine (0.634 ug/ml), THC (level below 1 ng/ml), and THC-COOH (0.004 ug/ml; 4 ng/ml) were identified in cavity blood. THC (level below 1 ng/g) and THC-COOH (0.0059 ug/g; 5.9 ng/g) were identified in the lung.

Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms and as a sleep aid. It is available over the counter under the trade names Benadryl and Unisom. Diphenhydramine carries the following FDA warning: may impair mental and/or physical ability required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks (e.g., driving, operating heavy machinery). Compared to other antihistamines, diphenhydramine causes marked sedation; this is the rationale for its use as a sleep aid. Altered mood and impaired cognitive and psychomotor performance may also be observed. In fact, in a driving simulator study, a single dose of diphenhydramine impaired driving ability more than a blood alcohol concentration of 0.100%. The therapeutic range for diphenhydramine is 0.0250 to 0.1120 ug/ml.

Diphenhydramine undergoes post mortem redistribution where after death, the drug can leech from storage sites back into blood. Central post mortem levels may be about two to three times higher than peripheral levels.

Although now available for medicinal use in some states and has been decriminalized in limited amounts in others, marijuana continues to be labeled as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It has mood altering effects including inducing euphoria and relaxation. In addition, marijuana causes alterations in motor behavior, perception, cognition, memory, learning, endocrine function, food intake, and regulation of body temperature. Specific performance effects include decreased ability to concentrate and maintain attention, impairment of hand-eye coordination, and is dose-related over a wide range of dosages. Impairment in retention time and tracking, subjective sleepiness, distortion of time and distance, vigilance, and loss of coordination in divided attention tasks have been reported.

Interpreting post mortem blood and tissue results for marijuana is complex for several reasons. First, the drug is lipophilic, and gets stored in fatty tissues; it undergoes post mortem redistribution, and may leech back into blood from liver, lung, and brain after death. Thus, post mortem testing may not indicate ante-mortem levels. Marijuana has been demonstrated to have clinical effects at levels as low as 0.001 ug/ml. While significant performance impairments are usually observed for at least 1-2 hours following marijuana use, and residual effects have been reported up to 24 hours, even when the blood level is undetectable.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

Portions of the left and right wing spars were sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examination. A senior metallurgist examined the spars, and reported that the right spar exhibited a separation about 53 inches from the inboard end. The deformation pattern of the spar tubes at and adjacent to the separation were consistent with bending deformation. Optical examination of the fracture at the separation revealed features consistent with overstress separations following approximately 45 degrees of deformation. No indications of preexisting cracking or corrosion were apparent.

The left wing spar was fractured about 96 inches from the inboard end. The fracture and adjacent deformation were consistent with a tension bending separation. No indications of preexisting cracking or corrosion were apparent.



NTSB Identification: WPR15FA140 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 03, 2015 in Petaluma, CA
Aircraft: QUICKSILVER ENTERPRISES INC MXL II, registration: N476VB
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

On April 3, 2015, about 1230 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur built Quicksilver Enterprises Inc. MXL II, N476VB, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near the Petaluma Municipal Airport (O69), Petaluma, California. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The student pilot, the sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The local flight originated from O69 at an unknown time.

Multiple witnesses located adjacent to the accident site reported observing the accident airplane maneuvering south of O69, at an altitude of about 1,000 feet above ground level (agl). Witnesses stated that they heard a loud "pop" and observed "the wings fold upward" as the airplane descended vertically below a tree line.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane impacted an open field adjacent to a tree line about 1.3 miles southeast of runway 29. All major structural components were present at the accident site. Debris, including the engine, and one propeller blade were located within about 15 feet of the main wreckage. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office identified the pilot killed in the ultralight plane crash near the Petaluma Municipal Airport on Friday as David Michael Wright, a Petaluma resident. Wright was 51.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transport Safety Board are conducting an investigation into the crash on Browns Lane, about a mile from the airport.

Wright was the only occupant of the Quicksilver MXL II aircraft when it crashed at about 12:30 p.m. Friday.





The pilot of an ultralight aircraft died Friday afternoon when his plane crashed in a rural area of Petaluma near the city’s Municipal Airport, Sonoma County sheriff’s officials said. 

Witnesses described watching the craft spiral toward the ground before it crashed, and one man said he noticed a wing appeared to have folded up. The experimental Quicksilver MXL II crashed under unknown circumstances, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident, with the latter serving as the lead investigative agency, Gregor said.

Multiple people began calling 911 at about 12:30 p.m. Friday to report a plane crash in a field off Frates Road, across the street from the PG&E Lakeville substation, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lt. Greg Miller said. The location is in the general area of the airport’s southeastern approach.

The sheriff’s helicopter crew Henry 1 helped emergency responders find the crashed aircraft in a field with nearby vineyards about a half-mile south of the intersection of Frates and Adobe roads.

The craft is a lightweight, fixed-wing, single-engine airplane that resembles a glider. It retails new for about $24,000 and used from $7,000 to $10,000.

Emergency personnel confirmed that the pilot had died, Miller said. The identity of the pilot, who was the sole occupant in the two-seat craft, was not immediately available as coroner staff worked to notify the person’s family.

The plane was owned by a Petaluma man who purchased it last April, according to a match of its tail number on an FAA database. It was manufactured in 1984 and required a pilot’s license to fly.

Near the crash scene, John Naas, 43, of Rohnert Park was watching the aircraft as he talking with a co-worker outside of their offices at Labcon North American on Lakeville Highway near Frates Road.

“I took my eyes off of him for a minute, looked up and saw that his wing had folded up and he was going down,” Naas said.

Russel Fones, 34, of Petaluma was out walking on paths off Cypress Drive near Shollenberger Park when he heard a noise, looked up and saw a small plane spiraling downward.

“I thought he was just doing a stunt but he just kept going straight down until he disappeared below the horizon,” Fones said.

“Ten seconds later I heard it go boom when it hit the ground,” he said.

He said he then saw and heard fire trucks and other emergency vehicles rushing toward the crash site.

The Petaluma airport handles about 60,000 take-offs and landings each year, manager Bob Patterson said, noting that it includes ultralight aircraft such as the light sports plane similar to the one that crashed Friday.


The pilot of an ultralight aircraft died Friday afternoon when the plane crashed in a rural area of Petaluma near the city’s Municipal Airport, Sonoma County sheriff’s officials said.

Witnesses described watching the craft spiral toward the ground before it crashed and one man said he noticed a wing appeared to have folded up.

Multiple people began calling 911 at about 12:30 p.m. Friday to report a plane crash in a field off Frates Road across the street from the PG&E Lakeville substation, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lt. Greg Miller said. The location is in the general area of the airport’s southeastern approach.

The sheriff’s helicopter crew Henry 1 helped emergency responders find the crashed aircraft in a field about a half-mile south of the intersection of Frates and Adobe roads.

Emergency personnel confirmed that the pilot had died, Miller said. The identity of the pilot, who was the sole occupant, was not immediately available as coroner staff worked to notify the person’s family.

Nearby, John Naas, 43, of Rohnert Park was watching the aircraft as he talking with a coworker outside of their offices at Labcon North American on Lakeville Highway near Frates Road.

“I took my eyes off of him for a minute, looked up and saw that his wing had folded up and he was going down,” Naas said.

Russel Fones, 34, of Petaluma was out walking on paths off Cypress Drive near Shollenberger Park when he heard a noise, looked up and saw a small plane spiraling downward.

“I thought he was just doing a stunt but he just kept going straight down until he disappeared below the horizon,” Fones said.

“Ten seconds later I heard it go boom when it hit the ground,” he said.

Then he saw and heard fire trucks and other emergency vehicles rushing toward the crash site.

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





At least one particular individual died Friday afternoon when a compact aircraft crashed near the Petaluma Municipal Airport, according to preliminary reports.

Various people today began calling 911 at about 12:30 p.m. to report a plane crash in an region of vineyards and fields southeast of the Adobe Creek Golf and Nation Club and in the southeastern method to the airport.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lt. Greg Miller mentioned one particular person was confirmed to have died in the crash about 1 mile from Adobe Road close to Browns Lane.

It wasn’t straight away known if everyone else was in the aircraft at the time of the crash.

Russel Fones, 34, of Petaluma was out walking on paths off Cypress Drive close to Shollenberger Park when he heard a noise, looked up and saw a small plane spiraling downward.

“I believed he was just performing a stunt but he just kept going straight down until he disappeared below the horizon,” Fones mentioned.

“Ten seconds later I heard it go boom when it hit the ground,” he mentioned.

Then he saw fire trucks and other emergency autos rushing toward the location.

The sheriff’s helicopter crew Henry 1 was at the scene, along with emergency personnel and ambulances. A CHP helicopter was also heading to the region.

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

 PETALUMA (CBS SF) — A pilot was killed when his ultra-light aircraft crashed near the Petaluma Municipal Airport, according to Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.

Multiple 911 calls reported the crash around 12:30 p.m., Friday.

The plane went down near Adobe Creek Golf and Country Club, near the southeast approach to the airport. The sheriff’s helicopter crew along with emergency personnel and ambulances all converged on the scene.

Early reports do not indicate whether anyone else was in the craft with the pilot.

The aircraft was initially described as a glider, but the sheriff’s department said it had a cockpit and an engine.

Bob Patterson, manager of the Petaluma Municipal Airport, said the crash site is about a mile southeast of the airport. He said he had no information about the plane or pilot.

“We don’t get many gliders here,” Patterson said.

Unlike a conventional plane, a glider is a motorless aircraft whose free flight does not depend on an engine. It relies entirely on the dynamic reaction of air currents against its lifting surfaces.

Cirrus SR20 and Cessna Citation CJ1: Incident occurred April 02, 2015 at Skylark Field Airport (KILE), Killeen, Texas






A minor plane collision at Skylark Field in Killeen resulted in no injuries Thursday.

Police and fire officials were called to the small airport about 11:40 a.m. after officials said a pilot in a single-engine Cessna crashed into a larger two-engine Citation jet while ferrying.

“We had a minor incident here, not a major incident,” said Brian Brank, deputy chief of the Killeen Fire Department. “(The Cessna) was transitioning across this area and struck the nose of this Citation (jet) with the leading edge of the wing. Nobody’s injured.”

As a firefighter dressed in a silver heat-resistant suit stood by, Brank said officials were waiting to receive instruction on how to safely separate the aircraft.

“We’re waiting for some instruction on how to proceed,” Brank said.

A man at the scene, who may have been the pilot of the parked Citation, declined to comment on the accident.

As breezy gusts blew across the airfield Thursday, Brank said wind was likely not a factor in the accident.

“We have a lot of wind out here a lot of times and we don’t have these issues,” Brank said. “This was some sort of mistake. Either he turned the wrong direction and wasn’t paying attention, who knows. It wasn’t because (of) the wind or anything.”

Story and photo:   http://kdhnews.com

Bell 206L-1 LongRanger 1, T&M Aviation, N50KH: Fatal accident occurred March 30, 2015 in Saucier, Mississippi

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA173 
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Monday, March 30, 2015 in Saucier, MS
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/22/2016
Aircraft: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON 206 L-1, registration: N50KH
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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

The purpose of the flight was to assist in the scheduled burn of an 800-acre wooded area. The helicopter was under contract with the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service. A Forest Service employee reported that, as the helicopter neared the conclusion of a 61-minute controlled burn mission, he observed it complete a turn to a northerly heading at the southwestern end of the burn area. About 7 seconds later, he heard a sound that resembled an air hose being unplugged from a pressurized air tank. A crewmember, who was the sole survivor, reported that the helicopter was about 20 ft above the tree canopy when the pilot announced that the helicopter had lost power. The helicopter then descended into a group of 80-ft-tall trees in a nose-high attitude and impacted terrain. Witnesses participating in the controlled burn at the time of the accident did not observe any other anomalies with the helicopter before the accident. 

The fuel system, fuel pump, and fuel control unit were destroyed by fire, which precluded a complete examination. During the engine examination, light rotational scoring was found in the turbine assembly, consistent with light rotation at impact; however, neither the turbine rotation speed nor the amount of engine power at the time of the accident could be determined. The rotor blade damage and drive shaft rotation signatures indicated that the rotor blades were not under power at the time of the accident. An examination of the helicopter's air tubes revealed that they were impact-damaged; however, they appeared to be secure and properly seated at their fore and aft ends.

On the morning of the accident flight, the helicopter departed on a reconnaissance flight with 600 lbs of JP-5 fuel. The helicopter returned with sufficient fuel for about 133 minutes of flight, and the helicopter was subsequently serviced with an unknown quantity of uncontaminated fuel for the subsequent 60-minute accident flight. Based on the density altitude, temperature, and airplane total weight at the time of the accident, the helicopter was operating within the airplane flight manual's performance limitations. 

Most of the cockpit control assemblies were consumed by fire except for the throttle, which was found in the "idle" position. Given the crewmember's report that, after the engine failure, the helicopter entered and maintained a nose-high attitude until it impacted trees and then the ground, it is likely that the pilot initiated an autorotation in accordance with the Pilot's Operating Handbook engine failure and autorotation procedures. A review of the pilot's records revealed that he passed the autorotation emergency procedure portion of his most recent Federal Aviation Administration Part 135 examination, which occurred 1 month before the accident, and this may have aided in his recognition of the engine failure and decision to initiate an emergency descent. 

Although a weather study indicated that smoke and particulates were present in the area before, during, and after the accident, witnesses reported an absence of smoke near the area where the helicopter lost power and impacted the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined due to postaccident fire damage.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On March 30, 2015, about 1436 central daylight time, a Bell 206 L-1, N50KH, registered to HLW Aviation, LLC and operated by T & M Aviation, Inc. under contract to the United States Forest Service, was destroyed by controlled burn fire after it impacted terrain near Saucier, Mississippi. The commercial pilot and the front left seat crew member were fatally injured; the rear seat crew member sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the aerial application flight that was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137. The flight departed Dean Griffin Memorial Airport (M24), Wiggins, Mississippi, about 1334.

After a pre-mission briefing at M24, the flight departed to assist in the scheduled burn of an 800 acre wooded area through a process known as "aerial ignition." A witness that observed the helicopter prior to the accident was walking a road on the southern end of the burn area when he noticed the helicopter "make a turn and go back." About 7 seconds after the turn, the witness heard a sound that resembled an air hose being unplugged from a high pressure air tank, and heard the helicopter impact terrain about three seconds later. With the exception of the high pressure sound, the witness did not observe anything unusual with the helicopter. According to the witness, the helicopter's last transmission to ground personnel was approximately 7 minutes prior to the accident. 

Several Forest Service personnel were performing controlled burn functions on the ground during the mission. About 6 employees were located near the northeastern tip of the planned burn area, 1 employee was located at the western end, and 3 employees were stationed at the southeastern end, where the helicopter came to rest. Multiple witnesses on the ground, were in contact with the accident helicopter during the operation; however, none of the witnesses observed the helicopter crash nor did they hear a distress call prior to the accident. Several witnesses observed small plumes of smoke scattered across the burn area blowing east as a result of the western wind. One witness reported that a helicopter crewmember inquired about the smoke levels during the mission and made a decision to continue after he determined the smoke levels would not pose a hazard to the flight. None of the witnesses observed the helicopter come into contact with smoke. 

Satellite tracking data provided by the online government contracted application Automated Flight Following (AFF), and monitored by a Forest Service dispatch office through a unit mounted in the helicopter, indicated that the helicopter had been operating at a low altitude over the controlled burn area for approximately 56 minutes prior to the accident. According to the data, the helicopter had been flying a grid pattern from the northwest to the southeast. The last recorded position for the helicopter at 1433, indicated that it was at an altitude of 354 feet mean sea level (132 feet above ground level (AGL)), a heading of 150 degrees true and a calculated groundspeed of 43 knots. Forest Service employees reported that the flight pattern for firing is normally based on wind parameters and vegetative conditions to control for smoke management and burn results. According to the surviving crew member, the accident helicopter and crew completed a reconnaissance flight on the morning of the accident flight to evaluate the prescribed burn area. The AFF satellite tracking data showed that the flight was completed in approximately 72 minutes.

The surviving crew member stated that he was operating a plastic sphere dispenser (PSD) from the rear right seat at the time of the accident. This device injects plastic spheres filled with potassium permanganate with glycol and dispenses them below the helicopter. Towards the end of the aerial ignition mission, the helicopter was in "slow" forward flight about 20 feet above the trees when the surviving crew member heard "buzzers and alarms" and the engine spool down. Almost simultaneously, the pilot announced "we lost power" and the firing boss remarked "we are going in." The helicopter completed a quarter turn and "slipped" through the trees in a nose high attitude; it subsequently impacted the ground hard and came to rest on its left side. The surviving crew member did not receive a response from the front seat occupants despite his attempts to get their attention. The wreckage was not on fire after it came to rest, but the crew member observed an approaching ground fire from the controlled burn and decided to vacate the area to a nearby Forest Service road. The surviving crew member reported that the helicopter was in level forward flight at an estimated airspeed of approximately 50 knots when the pilot announced a loss of power.

The audio files from the helicopter's aural warning system were played for the surviving crew member during a follow-up telephone conversation. The crew member recognized both alarms and arranged them in the following sequence: the sustained alarm immediately followed by the fast pulse alarm. According to the manufacturer, the sustained alarm corresponds with the low rpm horn and the fast pulse alarm is an engine out indication; however, the pulsed tone will sometimes follow the steady tone when a power loss occurs. 

The surviving crew member recounted the events that transpired during a failed engine start attempt that occurred before the accident flight. He described hearing "whine" and "clicking" sounds with the absence of the turbine flame associated with a normal engine start. The second attempt resulted in a successful engine start, which was preceded by a "click, click, click" of the igniter followed by the flame of the turbine.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 40, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter, airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. He additionally held a mechanic's certificate with ratings for airframe and powerplant, which was issued on May 19, 2005. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate was issued on February 23, 2015 with the limitation, "must wear corrective lenses." 

According the pilot's resumé, in 1998, he accepted a position as an aircraft technician with T&M Aviation and subsequently received flight instruction from a company owner. After he obtained his private pilot certificate, he performed ferry flights for the company until 2005, when he received his commercial pilot certificate and was subsequently approved to fly under the company's Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 135 certificate. The pilot's flight experience between 2006 and the date of the accident, included agricultural spraying, long line external load, low level reconnaissance flights, and prescribed burn operations. Additionally, he maintained the company's helicopters as a mechanic during this time and served as the director of maintenance from 2010 through 2013. According to the aircraft owner's records, the pilot's most recent FAR Part 135.293 and FAR Part 135.299 recurrent check was completed on February 3, 2015 in a Bell 206 L3 helicopter. The pilot satisfactorily completed the proficiency check, which involved two emergency simulations; a stuck pedal, and an autorotation. 

T&M Aviation entered into a contract with the Forest Service on January 10, 2012 to conduct aerial ignition operations. Pilots of T&M Aviation were required to complete an Interagency Helicopter Pilot Qualifications and Approval Record and pass a flight evaluation by an Interagency Helicopter Inspector Pilot. The pilot's most recent mission approval was completed on April 30, 2014, at which time he was approved to fly aerial ignition operations until April 30, 2015.

According to the pilot's personal flight logbooks, he had accumulated 6,471 total hours of flight experience, about 6,300 hours of which were in the accident helicopter make and model. The owner estimated that the pilot had accrued 22 additional flight hours in the 90 days that preceded the accident flight. 

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

According to FAA records, the accident helicopter was manufactured in 1980, at which time it was equipped with an Allison 250-C28 500 hp turbo-shaft engine. In 1993, an Allison 250-C30P 650 hp turbo-shaft engine was installed in accordance with Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. supplemental type certificate (STC) SH5695SW and modified in 2001 in accordance with Air Services International STC SH296NM. At the time of the accident, the helicopter had accrued approximately 11,602 flight hours. 

A maintenance history of the helicopter was established through the operator's archived records, as the most recent maintenance records were destroyed by fire. The helicopter's most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on March 11, 2015, at which time it had accumulated 11,597 hours total time in service. Life limited component inspection schedules were listed for the gearbox, compressor and turbine, which had accrued 11,487 hours, 1,974 hours, and 1,861 hours since their most recent overhauls, respectively. A review of the component maintenance tracking history revealed that each life or time limited engine component were within their respective life expectancies. 

A scheduled inspection of the accident helicopter was completed on November 20, 2014, as part of the operator's contractual agreement with the Forest Service, which did not reveal any discrepancies.

The helicopter's most recent turbine engine power check was completed on February 28, 2015, at 5,742 flight hours. A trend value of +19 was recorded under the following atmospheric conditions: 2 degrees C and a pressure altitude of 10,000 feet, which did not exceed the helicopter's operating limitations when compared to the pilot's operating handbook (POH).

The pilot completed a load calculation form, provided by the Forest Service, for a reconnaissance flight that took place on the morning of the accident flight. According to a USDA Forest Service representative, a new form must be completed each day or if there are changes to the flight crew, the pressure altitude changes by at least 1,000 feet, or the ambient temperature changes by a minimum of 5 degrees C. The pilot first calculates the mission operating weight, the combined sum of the aircraft empty weight, the pilot's weight, and total weight of the fuel. This number is then subtracted from the helicopter gross weight to determine the mission payload weight. A pressure altitude of 300 feet and an outside air temperature of 23 degreee C were included on the form that was completed the day of the accident. The form showed a total combined weight of 3,952 lbs, 198 lbs below the helicopter's published gross weight and 118 lbs below the USDA Forest Service's artificially reduced gross weight. The pilot used the same form to calculate an additional payload to plan for an unscheduled long line fire-fighting mission; however, a representative of the USDA Forest Service reported that the bucket and line were not used on the day of the accident flight. 

At the time of the accident, the helicopter had burned approximately 196 lbs of fuel. The density altitude at the time of the accident was 1,489 feet, which was used in conjunction with a temperature of 27 degrees C and a revised total weight of 3,756 lbs. to compute the helicopter's performance at the time of the accident. A review of the helicopter flight manual indicates the helicopter was operating within "AREA A" of the out of the ground effect performance chart.

T&M Aviation uses a portable fuel truck to supply helicopters based at M24 with JP-5 aviation fuel. As part of their refueling procedure, a record of the fuel sample, quantity, and amount dispensed is maintained by the fuel technician. T&M Aviation was not able to provide a copy of the fuel record on the date of the accident flight; however, according to a load calculation, the helicopter was serviced with approximately 600 lbs of fuel in advance of the helicopter's morning flight. Fuel performance calculations indicate the helicopter landed at 1050 with approximately 133 minutes of fuel remaining and the surviving crew member reported that the helicopter was subsequently refueled before departing on the accident flight. A fuel sample taken from the fuel tank after the accident was clear and free of any water or contaminants. 

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

According to a National Transportation Safety Board weather study, the observations at GPT and BXA indicated ceilings greater than 3,000 feet AGL at the surface at the time of the accident, no visibility restrictions, and variable wind. The wind reported at GPT at the time of the accident was from the south/southwest between 10 and 20 knots, and the wind at BXA reported a west/northwest wind between 5 and 15 knots. Witnesses reported the winds at the time of the accident were variable from the northwest and south at approximately 5 mph

The environment was unstable from the surface through 8,000 feet mean sea level (msl), which would allow for air to rise and fall easily with lifting mechanisms in the area of the accident site. A sounding wind profile revealed the presence of low level wind shear between the surface and 1,000 feet msl, with several layers of clear air turbulence from the surface through 10,000 feet. 

A base reflectivity measurement indicated multiple targets at the accident site at the time of the accident, likely as a result of the smoke and particulates from the fire burning before, during and after the accident. While Forest Service personnel reported the presence of smoke in the area, there was little smoke at the accident site when the helicopter impacted the ground. 

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The accident site was located at the southern end of the controlled burn area in a wooded area about one quarter mile north of a road. An initial impact point (IIP) was identified by several 80-foot-tall broken trees, about 70 feet south of the main wreckage. The helicopter tail rotor marked the beginning of the debris path, which was located about 30 feet beyond the IIP on a northerly heading. The main wreckage was oriented northwesterly about 180 feet above msl and comprised of the cockpit, fuselage, engine, main rotor assembly, and main rotor blades. The high landing skid was in the debris path, a few feet aft of the main wreckage. The helicopter upper deck section, which included the main rotor, transmission, and collective/cyclic hydraulic servos, was attached to the fuselage and had sustained fire damage. The cockpit and cabin were destroyed by fire with the exception of the center window frame and portions of the instrument panel, which were co-located with the fuselage. Both main rotor blades sustained significant fire damage, but were attached to the main rotor hub: Blade A (the white blade) was slightly bent opposite the direction of the rotation and Blade B (the red blade) displayed two 45 degree chordwise bends. The tip to Blade B exhibited signs of overload separation that was consistent with impact forces and was located about 20 feet northeast of the main wreckage. Both the tail rotor and tailboom sustained fire damage and were co-located near a tree 20 feet south of the main wreckage. 

The tail rotor assembly was located next to a tree and was separated from the tail rotor drive shaft. The tail rotor drive system was traced from the tail rotor through the gearbox to the steel tail rotor drive shaft that was mounted to the freewheeling unit on the engine gearbox. There were no indications of spline drive wear on the tail rotor spline shaft coupling at the freewheeling unit and the main drive shaft did not exhibit any resistance when moved forward and aft.

The cockpit/cabin section came to rest on its left side and was destroyed by fire. The collective control was found in the cockpit area with the throttle mechanism exposed and in the idle position. Cyclic and collective control continuity from the cockpit to the hydraulic servos could not be attained due to fire damage. The helicopter upper deck section, including the main rotor assembly and transmission, was damaged by fire, but remained attached to the fuselage. Continuity was established from the collective/cyclic hydraulic servos to the swash plate and through overload fractures of the pitch change links. Hand rotation of the main drive shaft confirmed the presence of drive continuity through the main transmission to the main rotor blades. Both main rotor pitch change links exhibited signs of overload separation; the white blade link was separated at the swaged end and the red blade link separated about mid-span. 

Engine Examination

The engine was recovered from the accident site and subsequently disassembled at the manufacturer's facility, under the supervision of the NTSB. Several accessories including the accessory gearbox, power turbine governor fuel control unit, and fuel pump could not be examined as they were consumed by post-crash fire. Both the right and left air discharge tubes displayed some impact damage, but were properly seated at their fore and aft ends. The compressor remained intact in its normal position and did not display any evidence of impact damage. The impeller and impeller shroud did not exhibit any rotational scoring and the no abnormalities were observed on the compressor scroll and diffuser. 

The combustion section outer case remained in its normal position and was not damaged during the impact. The left side tube was dented and the forward end was seated on the scroll partially covered in molten metal. A visual inspection of the outer combustion case revealed the weld material on the mating flange to the left side air tube had melted and the tube shifted away from the mating flange. The combustion liner was not damaged and did not display any unusual burn patterns or streaking. 

The N1 shafting turbine to compressor coupling and spur adapter gear were properly seated and exhibited heat damage. Both the power turbine inner and outer shafts were also in their proper positions.

The fuel pump was consumed by fire and the fuel lines were also damaged by fire, which precluded a complete examination of the fuel system. Although the fuel nozzle could not be separated due to thermal damage, a visual inspection of the nozzle revealed no abnormalities. 

Thermal damage prevented an examination of the accessory gearbox; however, several idler gears along with three oil pump gears, the torque meter gear and pinion gear were recovered from the accident site. Each gear displayed evidence of exposure to fire, but a visual inspection of the teeth and splines did not reveal any evidence of mechanical deformation.

The turbine section contained two areas of light rotational scoring on the stage four nozzle blade track that displayed evidence of contact with the stage four wheel outer shroud knife seals. 

Rotor Blade Examination

An examination of photographs by a NTSB helicopter engineer revealed that both main rotor blades remained attached to the main rotor hub. One of the main rotor blades exhibited two chordwise bends along its span and its tip end was fractured and had separated from the blade. The leading edge of both main rotor blades did not exhibit evidence of damage consistent with high rotational energy. The afterbody and trailing edge of both main rotor blades exhibited multiple wrinkles along the blade span and was primarily heat distressed due to exposure to the postcrash fire. The main rotor hub remained attached to the main rotor shaft. The main rotor shaft exhibited impact marks from both main rotor flap stops. 

The engine-to-main transmission drive shaft remained connected to the engine output flange, but the engine gearbox housing was consumed by the postcrash fire. The steel tail rotor drive output shaft (normally beneath the engine) remained connected on both ends via flexible couplings; the forward flexible coupling did not exhibit abnormal rotational damage and the aft flexible coupling exhibited slight openings between its laminates. 

Both tail rotor blades remained attached to the tail rotor hub and exhibited evidence of heat distress due to exposure to the postcrash fire. The leading edges of both tail rotor blades did not exhibit evidence of damage consistent with high rotational energy. 

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Mississippi State Medical Examiner's Office, Jackson, Mississippi. The cause of death was listed as "thermal injuries and smoke inhalation." 

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot. No carbon monoxide, ethanol, or drugs were detected in the samples submitted. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

72-hour History

Follow-up interviews with both the pilot's wife and the pilot's roommate were used to construct a 72-hour history. After 7 days of crew rest, the pilot was requested to return to work Sunday, March 29, 2015 as a relief pilot. According to the pilot's wife, he slept normally Thursday and Friday night. On Saturday morning he attended a church conference and then completed a 12 hour drive to Mississippi to prepare for work. The roommate stated that the pilot normally slept "quite a bit." He observed no abnormalities with the pilot's behavior or sleep patterns during the two nights that preceded the accident. 

Part 137 Operations Specifications 

According to T&M Aviation's Operations Specifications, the accident helicopter was authorized to conduct Title 14 CFR Part 137. The operations specifications also required the holder to maintain the engine in accordance with the Rolls-Royce 250-C230P operations and maintenance manual and had a Time-in-Service (overhaul) interval of 2000 hours for the turbine assembly. The Time-in-Service intervals for the compressor and gearbox assemblies were noted as "On Condition." 

USDA Forest Service Contract

On January 10, 2012, the USDA Forest Service entered into a contract with T&M Aviation, to provide an aircraft and pilot for the purpose of performing aerial ignition operations. The contract listed numerous requirements and specified the configuration of the aircraft, the installation of required equipment, and the qualifications and duties of the pilot.

Aerial Ignition Operation

As part of the contract, T&M Aviation provided a pilot and helicopter during plastic sphere dispensed ignition, a common practice in controlled burn operations to ignite ground fuels on large acreage without damaging the tree canopy. According to the PSD manual, the dispenser case is constructed of aluminum and houses a supply of plastic spheres that each contain 3.0 grams of potassium permanganate. The PSD injects a predetermined dosage of ethylene glycol (common automotive coolant) from an inclusive tank and are ejected from the helicopter in batches of 2 or 4. The injection creates a timed combustion to detonate the spheres outside the helicopter. In the event of a malfunction, the unit is equipped with a 1 gallon water reservoir to extinguish burning spheres that remain within the chamber. 

During aerial ignition operations, the plastic sphere dispenser operator (PLDO) is accompanied by a firing boss who directs the mission. The PLDO is a Forest Service-employed helicopter crewmember responsible for the preparation, installation, operation and maintenance of the PSD. Two sections of the device were recovered from the accident site including the PSD exit chute and a small water tank used in the event of a premature ignition. The unit was bench tested by the plastic sphere dispenser operator (PLDO) prior to the accident flight in accordance with the manufacturer's test procedure and a one-gallon container of water was placed in the helicopter. 

The Forest Service allows its contract pilots to operate below 500 feet AGL as higher altitudes provide less control of sphere placement, which may result in unintended ignition outside of burn boundaries. The airspeed/altitude combination depends on how the PSD firing boss decides to deploy the spheres, which precludes the use of a prescribed flight profile. 

Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH)

According to the "Engine Failure and Autorotation" section of the pilot's operating handbook,

"At low altitude, close throttle and flare to lose excessive airspeed. Apply collective pitch as flare effect decreases to further reduce forward speed and cushion landing. It is recommended that level touchdown be made prior to passing through 70% rotor RPM…"

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA173
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Monday, March 30, 2015 in Saucier, MS
Aircraft: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON 206 L-1, registration: N50KH
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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


On March 30, 2015, about 1435 central daylight time, a Bell 206 L-1, N50KH, operated by T&M Aviation for the U. S. Forest Service, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Saucier, Mississippi. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed; however, obscuration due to smoke were reported by multiple eyewitnesses and no flight plan was filed. The commercial
pilot and one flight crew member were fatally injured; another flight crew member received serious injuries. The public use aerial application flight had departed from Dean Griffin Memorial Airport (M24), Wiggins, Mississippi, about 1334.

The public use flight was contracted by the U. S. Forest Service to assist in a controlled burn through a process known as "aerial ignition." Multiple witnesses were in contact with the accident helicopter from the ground during the operation; however, none of the witnesses observed the helicopter crash. Preliminary satellite tracking data indicated that the helicopter had been operating at a low altitude over the controlled burn area for approximately 50 minutes prior to the accident. The last recorded position for the helicopter at 1433, indicated that it was at an altitude of 350 feet, and a heading of 150 degrees. According to a witness, seconds prior to the accident he observed the helicopter complete a 180 degree left turn to a northerly heading. About 7 seconds later he heard a sound that resembled an air hose being unplugged from a high pressure tank, which was followed by the helicopter impacting trees and then the ground.

The accident site was located in a wooded area on a northerly heading about one quarter mile north of a road. The initial impact point was identified by several broken trees, at a height of about 80 feet, and was located about 1,000 feet southeast of the helicopter's final recorded position. The wreckage path was about 40 feet long, and oriented approximately 002 degrees magnetic. Both the tail rotor and tailboom sustained fire damage and were co-located near a tree 20 feet south of the main wreckage. The tailboom was separated into five sections; each section contained a Thomas disc coupling, a hanger bearing and about 3 feet of tail rotor drive shaft. A two foot section of tail rotor drive shaft extended from the 90 degree gearbox of the tail rotor assembly. The high skid landing gear was separated from the fuselage and located a few feet aft of the main wreckage. The helicopter upper deck section, which included the main rotor, transmission, and collective/cyclic hydraulic servos, was attached to the fuselage and had sustained fire damage. The cockpit and cabin were destroyed by fire with the exception of the center window frame and portions of the instrument panel, which were co-located with the fuselage. Both main rotor blades sustained significant fire damage, but were attached to the main rotor hub: Blade A (the white blade) was slightly bent opposite the direction of the rotation and Blade B (the red blade) displayed two 45 degree chordwise bends. The tip to Blade B exhibited signs of overload separation that was consistent with impact forces and was located about 20 feet northeast of the main wreckage.

Postaccident examination of the airframe was conducted at the accident site. Flight control continuity was traced from the collective/cyclic hydraulic servos to the swash plate and pitch change links, respectively. Hand rotation of the main drive shaft confirmed the presence of drive continuity through the main transmission to the main rotor blades. Both pitch change links fractured on impact; the Blade A pitch change link exhibited fracture signatures at the swaged end that were consistent with overload forces and the link to Blade B fractured about mid-span. The main rotor hub assembly sustained little damage, but was completely intact. Each fractured section of the tail rotor drive shaft displayed evidence of overload separation at the fracture ends; however, all sections rotated freely by hand through their respective hanger bearings and flexible Thomas couplings. Continuity of the tail rotor drive system was traced from the tail rotor through the gearbox to the steel tail rotor drive shaft that was mounted to the freewheeling unit on the engine gearbox. There were no indications of spline drive wear on the tail rotor spline shaft coupling at the freewheeling unit and the main drive shaft did not exhibit any resistance when moved forward and aft.

The pilot held a FAA Commercial Pilot Certificate with ratings for rotorcraft, airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held an airframe and powerplant certificate. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on February 23, 2015, at which time he reported 8,000 hours of total flight experience.  


Brendan Mullen


The lone survivor of Monday's helicopter crash in the De Soto National Forest is recuperating from a broken neck and burns across 15 percent of his body while funeral plans are made for the co-worker and pilot who died.

Brendan Mullen, 42, remains hospitalized and will need skin grafts, said Kathy Bushnell of the Helena National Forest district in Montana.

"Brendan is aware that there's been a lot of attention on him, and even more thoughts and prayers sent his way," she said. "He and his family appreciate it."

Mullen, a Forest Service employee for nearly 20 years, had been working in the Wiggins-based forest district since February. He was on a temporary assignment to help with controlled burns in the De Soto district, where rain has hindered efforts to burn forest land to prevent wildfires and help regenerate the longleaf pine.

Bushnell said Mullen's assignment was as a plastic sphere disperser operator, a job involving the use of aerial ignition devices.

"We do not know what his specific mission/assignment was the day of the crash," Bushnell said.

A family friend said Mullen's girlfriend and brother are with him at the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile.

Mullen was a passenger in a Bell 206 L1 with Forest Service engineering technician Steve Cobb of Wiggins and pilot Brandon Ricks of Blanchard, Okla., when the plane crashed in woods in Harrison County. The crash site was 3.5 miles northeast of Saucier.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator has said the helicopter caught fire after it crashed.

Mullen escaped the aircraft. Cobb, 55, and Ricks, 40, did not. Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said Cobb died of blunt-force trauma and Ricks died of smoke inhalation.

Cobb, an award-winning engineering technician, and Ricks, a longtime pilot, are each survived by a wife and children.

Cobb's visitation will be Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Wiggins, where he was a deacon. Funeral services will be at the church at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Ricks had worked for T&M Aviation in Abbeville, La., since 1998. He was employed as a forestry helicopter. He attended a flight school and became a pilot after graduating from high school in 1993.

Funeral services for Ricks will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Blanchard.

Story and photo gallery: http://www.sunherald.com




Steve Cobb






Brandon Ricks




De Soto District Ranger Ben Battle pauses for a moment after lowering the flag to half-staff, honoring the memory of Steve Cobb, a U.S. Forest Service engineering technician killed in a helicopter crash on Monday.