Saturday, April 4, 2015

Neptune Aviation talks about prepping for fire season | Great Falls, Montana

MISSOULA -- The snow is melting as we move deeper into spring, which means fire season isn't far away.

Neptune Aviation is one company that plays a big role in battling wildfires and they say they're gearing up for what's expected to be a busy fire season. 

The Missoula business creates air tankers for the US Forest Service. They also maintain special planes designed to fight fires known as the BAE 146 air tanker.

Congressman Ryan Zinke visited Neptune Friday to talk with experts about how they're preparing for the season.  He said "I've flown a lot of planes in my military career. These are great. They are also specialized planes, for fighting forest fires. They're a lot more efficient, because they're specialized and it's the right tool for the right job." 

Neptune Aviations Chief Operating Officer Dan Snyder says, “Our mission is pretty amazing. It gives us the amount of energy we need to go through the summer. It's long, hard days, hot days, a long time away from home."

Neptune Aviation was founded in 1993. They hope to secure a new 10-year deal with the Forest Service for next generation aricraft.

Story and video:

Agrinautics thriving in Cedar City, Utah

CEDAR CITY – For nearly 26 years, Cedar City has been home to aircraft parts manufacturer Agrinautics, and company officials said it’s thriving.

Mostly flying under the radar, the business located at 1215 N. Airport Road in Cedar City produces a line of pumps, strainers and fittings for small aircraft and has carved out a considerable niche in Southern Utah.

“We produce aerial application equipment,” said company President Danna Sanders. “What that means is for crop dusters and small aircraft. We focus on valves and strainers. We ship product all over the world that we produce right here in Cedar City. It’s kind of a lesser known fact about Cedar that we are here.”

Agrinautics is a metal foundry and part producer — a main focus on parts — but the company is able to produce nearly anything Sanders said.

The company also has a partnership with Southern Utah University.

“We have a foundry class that we started teaching here a few years back,” she said. “They (SUU) bring a group of students here every semester to observe our process. We enjoy that association with them.”

Sanders said there also is the custom parts aspect of the company.

“We have done projects over the years that have been custom parts or custom metal objects,” Sanders continued, “Obviously, our main demand is for the airplane parts we produce, but we have done some custom projects for people locally.”

The company was started in 1958 by George Sanders.

It was headquartered in central California for a period of time and then relocated to Las Vegas where it operated until 1989 when once again relocation happened, this time to Southern Utah.

“We were next to McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. The part of the runway we were situated next to was annexed to expand,” Sanders said. “Agrinautics was looking to relocate, and Cedar City was recruiting. We thought it would be a good opportunity and we have been here since.”

The company employs a full time staff of 10 people and Sanders says they run a tight ship.

“We have become so efficient in our jobs, that most of us have three or four hats we wear,” she said. “Everyone pitches in and we all know our roles. We don’t have a lot of turnover.”

The company has found a niche and been able to thrive in Southern Utah.

“We don’t do a lot of advertising or anything like that just because these pilots know us and they know what they need,” Sanders said. “We produce original parts for the two largest small aircraft manufacturers in the country.”

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40 years ago... Pilot's death ruled a suicide: North American SNJ-3 Texan, N66233

Police Chief Paul Lynch (l) in his Sunday attire surveys the scene at the plane crash in the front yard Michael and Joan O'Donoghue. The family had just gone inside from a cookout that afternoon. The pilot, Alexander Dyko, committed suicide with the crash, but no other injuries or deaths occurred. 
Town Crier File Photo 

40 years ago...

“August 3 is a good day to die.”

That was the suicide note found in the shirt pocket of Alexander Dyko, whose plane crashed in North Wilmington on that day in 1975.

The WWII vintage AT-6 “Texan” trainer came down on a Sunday afternoon at the corner of Lawrence Street and Shady Lane Drive. There were no injuries other than the pilot, who was killed.

Based on that note, medical examiner Dr. Thomas Devlin ruled his death a suicide.

The restored AT-6 was a familiar sight to aircraft watchers in Eastern Massachusetts. It was a two-seat, single-engine plane with a 42-ft. wingspan. Dyko flew out of the Bedford airport.

The Burlington police logged several complaints about the low-flying plane that afternoon.

 The last log entry at 3:50 p.m. said the plane was headed into Wilmington, and the Wilmington Police Department was notified.

Several Wilmington residents saw the plane and heard it sputtering before the crash. It was seen over Chestnut Street, Town Park, Butters Row and Glen Road before it came down at the end of Lawrence Street.

The plane clipped an oak tree at 69 Lawrence St. and then a large pine tree.

Mario Crescitelli at 65 Lawrence St. said he saw the plane over trees near Sprucewood Road. The motor was erratic. Then it revved up and climbed, heading toward Glen Road. Then it turned to the right, and flew along the Wildcat railroad track, banked, with its left wing high. He said the plane was sputtering, obviously in trouble. Crescitelli said he thought the pilot was attempting to land on the tracks.

“It looked to me like the guy was in trouble, serious trouble, and it looked like he was trying to get out of it,” said Crescitelli.

When the plane was behind Crescitelli’s house, it started to level off but then the engine cut out with a loud noise and the plane clipped two trees.

It then hit a swimming pool at 45 Shady Lane Dr., bounced across the street, flipped over and landed upside down in the yard of Michael and Joan O’Donoghue, where it demolished two cars. There was a brief fireball, but the house did not catch fire.

If there were any angels at work that afternoon, they were probably in charge of timing. The O’Donoghues had just finished an outdoor cookout, and John Collins had vacated his poolside cot 15 seconds before the plane hit.

A week after the crash, freelance writer Jim Ross submitted an article to the Town Crier, delving into Dyko’s record.

Two years earlier, in May 1973, Dyko had his license suspended for careless and reckless operation, flying below 1500 feet, flying below 500 feet and performing acrobatics in a control zone.

Then in July 1974, he was questioned by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after a fatal plane crash in Newburyport. Witnesses said that two planes had been performing a series of loops, rolls and dives at low altitudes. Donald Ackerman’s plane was in the backside of a loop, flying upside down, when it dove into a marsh, about two miles from the Plum Island airport.

When questioned, Dyko, in obscene language, charged the eyewitnesses with jumping to conclusions and confusing motions with acrobatic maneuvers.

He said he saw the other plane in trouble and flew alongside it. He lowered his landing gear and pointed down, trying to get the other pilot to land. He said he then flew ahead and left the area. He said he did not see the other plane crash.

Dyko’s AT-6 was the only other plane in the area at the time. The NTSB did not cite him for any responsibility for the crash of the other plane.

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NTSB Identification: NYC76AN019
14 CFR Part 91 General Aviation
Aircraft: N.AMERICAN SNJ-3, registration: N66233
 FILE    DATE          LOCATION          AIRCRAFT DATA       INJURIES       FLIGHT                        PILOT DATA
                                                               F  S M/N     PURPOSE
3-3666   75/8/3    WILMINGTON,MA       N.AMERICAN SNJ-3    CR-  1  0  0  NONCOMMERCIAL             PRIVATE, AGE 45, 450
        TIME - 1555                    N66233              PX-  0  0  0  PLEASURE/PERSONAL TRANSP  TOTAL HOURS, 400 IN TYPE,
                                       DAMAGE-DESTROYED    OT-  0  0  0                            NOT INSTRUMENT RATED.
          BEDFORD,MA                  LOCAL
        TYPE OF ACCIDENT                                         PHASE OF OPERATION
           COLLIDED WITH: TREES                                     IN FLIGHT: ACROBATICS


Pilots to be warned over icing after 2014 Mali air crash

Debris is seen at the crash site of Air Algerie flight AH5017 near the northern Mali town of Gossi, July 24, 2014. 

(Reuters) - Aviation regulators are expected to issue new advice to pilots after investigations into the crash of an Air Algerie jet in Mali last July found it went out of control after being hit by ice as an anti-icing system remained switched off.

France's BEA crash investigation agency, which is helping Mali to investigate the crash that killed 116 people, said the MD-83 jet appeared to have run into trouble after vital probes that measure pressure on the engine inlets blocked up with ice.

Properly working probes are needed to help the McDonnell-Douglas aircraft measure the thrust of its engines.

With the probes iced up as the Algiers-bound jet skirted a storm, the plane's autopilot thought the power was too high and slowed the engines below the level needed to maintain cruise height, starting a chain of events that sent it out of control, BEA said on its website.

The statement explained some of the causes of the crash and said it had notified U.S. and European regulators who would issue the new guidance.

Investigators have been hindered by damage to "black box" cockpit audio recordings, which were unusable, but have spent months reconstructing engine settings from the data recorder of the MD-83 jet which was operated by Spain's Swiftair.

Data analyzed suggested the crew had not activated a de-icing system designed to protect the engine inlet probes.

The icing over of the pressure sensors is the first possible cause of the crash to be put forward by the investigators.

As it fell towards the ground, the jet rolled suddenly to the left and pointed almost straight down, the BEA said.

The crash is one of several accidents in which an aircraft is thought to have lost control at high altitude, putting the spotlight partly on training to help pilots identify and then deal with an aerodynamic stall, or loss of lift.

The BEA said black box data did not provide any indication the crew had used stall recovery maneuvers, but said the investigation was continuing, with a final report expected in December.

It said a similar situation had started to unfold on a similar plane operated by Swiftair less than two months before the Mali crash, but without serious consequences.

In June 2002, a McDonnell Douglas MD-82 jet operated by U.S. carrier Spirit Airlines suffered a loss of thrust on both engines.

The BEA said it had shared information on all these incidents with the regulators who would soon issue the guidance to help pilots identify similar problems.

McDonnell-Douglas was bought by Boeing in 1997. 

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Jabiru J250-SP, N593J: Accident occurred April 04, 2015 in Surprise, Maricopa County, Arizona

NTSB Identification: GAA15CA037
Accident occurred Saturday, April 04, 2015 in Surprise, AZ
Aircraft: JABIRU JABIRU - SP, registration: N593J

NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.


SURPRISE - The occupants of a small plane were lucky to suffer only minor injuries after crashing in a Surprise field early Saturday afternoon. 

According to Surprise Police Department, the single-engine plane landed in a field near the Loop 303 and Cactus Road after taking off from the Glendale Airpark.

The pilot was reportedly taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

Photos from Surprise Police Department's Facebook page showed damage to the front and at least one of the wings.

There is no word yet on what caused the unexpected landing, but the FAA will be investigating the incident.

Story and photos:

A small plane crashed at a private airfield near Loop 303 and Cactus Road on Saturday afternoon, a spokesman for the Surprise Police Department said.

The plane had a single occupant who was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, Lt. Mike Donovan said.

The single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft took off from Glendale Airpark on Saturday afternoon and landed short of the air strip near Loop 303 and Cactus Road, Donovan said.

The Federal Aviation Administration lists the plane as a Jabiru 3300 light-sport aircraft.

According to the FAA website, the Jabiru is registered to a Waddell man.

It was not immediately clear if the owner was the pilot in Saturday's crash.

Story and photo:

Incident occurred April 03, 2015 at Yeager Airport (KCRW), Charleston, West Virginia


A plane flying into Yeager Airport declared an emergency before landing Friday, April 3, 2015.

United Flight 5012 was flying out of Washington Dulles International Airport.

Airport officials say the plane declared an emergency due to white smoke in the cabin, likely from an electrical issue which affected the transponder. The pilot was able to fix the problem before the making final approach by resetting the system.

The flight had 34 people on board.

No one was injured and the plane landed safely.

Story and photo gallery:

Robinson R44, HQ Aviation LLC, N30242: Fatal accident occurred March 22, 2015 in Orlando, Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA164 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, March 22, 2015 in Orlando, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/16/2016
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N30242
Injuries: 3 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.

Approximately 5 minutes after the pilot departed he told air traffic control that he wanted to return to the airport, but did not specify a reason. The pilot was unable to make it back to the airport and collided with trees, powerlines, and a residence. Post-accident examination of the helicopter found that the lower swashplate left forward attachment ear had no rod end hardware present. A review of the helicopter's maintenance logbook revealed there were no entries regarding the repairs to the main rotor system; however, the helicopter's journey log revealed that several flight tests had been conducted due to a track and balance issue with the main rotor blades. According the mechanic who performed the most recent maintenance to the swashplate, he did utilize the manufacturer's maintenance manual; however, he did not complete the work and the chief mechanic later completed the job. The chief mechanic did not make any entries into the logbook because he "forgot."

The inflight loss of control was most likely caused by the detachment of the left front push-pull tube from the lower swashplate due to the liberation of the attachment bolt. The cause of the bolt liberation could not be conclusively determined because the attachment hardware could not be recovered.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
An inflight loss of control due to the likely detachment of the forward left servo control tube upper rod end attachment bolt.


On March 22, 2015, about 1430 eastern daylight time, a Robinson Helicopter Company R44 II, N30242, impacted a two-story residence while maneuvering near Orlando, Florida. The private pilot and the two passengers were fatally injured, and the helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter was registered to a private individual and operated by HQ Aviation. The local flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which departed from Executive Airport (ORL), Orlando, Florida, shortly before the accident.

A review of voice transcriptions obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that the pilot contacted the ORL air traffic control tower to request his takeoff clearance. The pilot received a clearance, for a downtown departure leaving from the operator's helipad. Approximately 5 minutes later the pilot contacted the control tower and stated that he wanted to return to the operator's ramp. There were no other transmissions made by the pilot.

Multiple witnesses reported hearing a loud helicopter flying low, which caught their attention. As they looked in the direction of the sound they observed the helicopter descending into a tree. One witness watched the helicopter's main rotor blades break apart as it descended through the trees. The helicopter subsequently impacted a power line transformer before colliding with the residence and erupted in flames. The witnesses called the local authorities and attempted to extinguish the fire.


The pilot, age 48, held a private pilot certificate with a rating for rotorcraft-helicopter. A review of his logbook revealed he had a total flight experience of 124 hours, including 13 hours during the last 6 months. The pilot possessed a third-class medical certificate dated September 6, 2013, with no limitations or restrictions. Further examination of the pilot's logbook revealed he was signed off on August 9, 2014 for the special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) No. 73, which required him to have special training to operate the Robinson R-44.


The helicopter was a Robinson Helicopter Company model R44 II that was manufactured in 2007. It was powered by a Continental IO-540-AE1A5 engine, rated at 235 horsepower. The Hobbs meter was destroyed and per the journey log the last known recorded airframe total time was 1,267.5 hours on the day of the accident flight. The last annual inspection of the airframe and engine occurred on October 31, 2014, at an airframe total time of 1,092.1. The last recorded 100 hour inspection noted under discrepancies "rotated TR pitch links" on December 28, 2014, at an airframe total time of 1,186.1 hours. This was also the last maintenance entry made in the airframe logbook.

Though no recent maintenance entries were noted in the helicopter maintenance logbook, there were entries in its journey log (flight log of every flight) that several maintenance flights were conducted in support of attempts to track and balance the main rotor blades. The maintenance flights were identified by (MX or MTX) in the journey log. The first flight was conducted by another pilot on March 1, 2015, and the pilot stated that the MX flight was conducted for a track and balance of the main rotor blades. The next MX flight was conducted on March 6, 2015 and March 11, 2015, by another pilot who stated the flight was conducted for a track and balance of the main rotor blades. The last MX flight was conducted on March 15, 2015, and was signed off by the operator to show that the work was completed.

In a telephone interview, the mechanic who performed the most recent track and balance of the rotor blades stated he performed the job in accordance with the R44 Maintenance Manual section 10.230, the tail rotor in accordance with section 10.240 and the fan in accordance with section 6.240. He said that he did not complete the work and the chief mechanic later completed the job. The chief mechanic stated that he was not clear where the previous mechanic had finished the previous day. Further interviews with the chief mechanic, revealed that he performed the last check and reading of the track and balance of the main rotor blades. He also mentioned that he replaced the belt tensioning actuator gear motor on March 10, 2015, but "forgot" to make all of the entries in the helicopter's maintenance logbooks.


The recorded weather at ORL, at 1453, included winds from 240 degrees at 10 knots; 10 statute miles visibility, few clouds at 4,900, temperature 30 degrees Celsius (C), dew point temperature 18 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.94 inches of mercury.


Examination of the accident site revealed that the helicopter came to rest on the top floor of a two-story residence, about 3 miles northwest of ORL, and on a 360 degree magnetic heading. The wreckage debris field was about 50 yards in circumference. All flight control surfaces were located at the accident site. Examination of the wreckage revealed that a post-impact fire was concentrated within the second story of the building where the helicopter came to rest. A postcrash fire had consumed a majority of the wreckage. The main rotor mast, head, and gearbox were found separated from the main wreckage and within the debris field.

Examination of the cockpit and cabin section revealed that the instrument console was destroyed by impact forces and fire. The collective and anti-torque pedals were found within the wreckage. The mixture was found within the wreckage in the full rich position and impact damaged. Examination of the flight control system revealed that is was fire and impact damaged. At the lower swashplate, the left forward attachment ear had no rod end hardware present, and could not be located. The rod end was present at the top of the left push pull tube, which was found within the wreckage.

The swashplate and push pull tube with the attached rod end were sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examination. The examination of the lower swashplate attachment lug bolt holes were examined for indications of damage or deformation. The side of the lug that butted up against the rod end was referred to as the "rod end-side" of the lug and the other side was referred to as the "opposite side." The rod end-side of the front left push-pull tube attachment lug exhibited an outward deformation along the outer lower portion of the bolt hole. There were no other notable features on the front left lug nor were there any signs of deformation on any of the other lugs.

Examination of the hydraulic control servos revealed that they were intact and the two forward servos had bends in their shafts and could not be moved. The aft servo piston was free to move when force was applied. The tail rotor pitch change slider was free to slide along the tail rotor gearbox output shaft.

Examination of the driveline revealed that the drive belts were completely burned away but displayed belt residue in the grooves of the upper and lower sheaves. The belt tension actuator was fractured between the anti-rotation scissors. The upper and lower actuator bearing were fire damaged. The lower bearing did not rotate when force was applied. The upper bearing rotated but dragged when force was applied. The sprag clutch was fire damaged and did not rotate. The forward flex coupling, main rotor gearbox input arm and main rotor gearbox was fractured. Further examination of the main rotor gearbox revealed that it was fire damaged. The main rotor gear box did not rotate and the mast tube was fractured. The main rotor shaft was bent and fractured. The droop stops and droop stop tusk were intact and in place. There was scoring on the main rotor hub just inboard of the pitch change housings.

Both main rotor blades were accounted for at the crash site. One main rotor blade was intact and impact damaged. The rotor blade was bent downward and approximately 33 inches from the coning bolt and the spar was fractured. The blade was distorted over the span of the blade and scored on the lower surface.

The opposite main rotor blade was fractured and scored on the lower surface. Examination revealed it was bent upward from the coning bolt and approximately 12 inches further outboard bent downward. The spar was fractured in two areas on the rotor blade; 70 and 104 inches from the coning bolt. The blade spar had a forward bend at the outboard separation. A section of the skin and honeycomb separated from the spar at the bend. The main rotor blade was sent to the NTSB Material Laboratory for further examination, and examined for indications of fatigue failure. The pieces consisted of an approximately 95-inch long section of blade from the outboard tip to a fracture through the spar at the inboard end and a smaller piece of the blade consisting of the trailing edge, upper and lower skins, and honeycomb core. The small piece was separated from the rest of the blade by a chordwise fracture approximately 80 inch from the blade tip and a longitudinal fracture that proceeded inboard just aft of the spar. The deformation and fracture features on the blade were visually examined. The blade exhibited an aft bend that extended from the blade tip to the approximate position of the chordwise fracture, buckling of the upper and lower skins, and a comparatively severe forward bend at the inboard end. The fracture at the inboard end of the spar was located at a circular hole in the spar and exhibited 45° inclined fracture surfaces, consistent with an overstress fracture. No evidence of fatigue was observed.

The intermediate flex coupling was intact but impact damaged. The tail rotor driveshaft was separated a few inches forward of the tail rotor driveshaft damper. The tail rotor driveshaft damper bearing was fire and impact damaged and was not free to rotate. The friction linkage was intact, but separated from the tail cone and the linkage pivots were fire damaged.

The tail boom was separated from the main fuselage, and displayed fire damage. The tail rotor control tube was fractured at the fuselage, and remained attached to the tail rotor gearbox. The vertical fin and horizontal stabilizer were impact damaged and remained attached to the tail boom. The tail rotor blades were undamaged and remained intact to the gearbox. The aft flex coupling was intact. The tail rotor gearbox was intact and free to rotate, and contained blue oil.

Examination of the fuel system revealed that it was fire and impact damaged. The main fuel tank was not recovered. The auxiliary tank was distorted and the fuel cap was not recovered. The fuel tanks were not bladder-style tanks and were ruptured. The main fuel tank flexible outlet line was breached, but intact on the fuel valve. The fuel valve was in place and in the partially closed position. The gascolator was intact and was removed for examination and no debris was found in the fuel screen. The remaining fuel lines were fire damaged, but the fittings remained.

Examination of the engine revealed that when rotated by the cooling fan, continuity to the rear gears and valve train was confirmed. Compression and suction were observed on all four cylinders. Further examination of the engine revealed that the bottom of the sump was fire damaged and the fuel servo was not observed or recovered. The flow divider was intact and the fuel injector nozzles were removed and examined. The fuel injector nozzles were unobstructed. The engine driven fuel pump remained attached to the engine and was impact damaged. Examination of the magnetos revealed that they both remained attach to the engine. The left magneto was impact damaged, but when rotated by hand it sparked on all towers. The right magneto was fire damage and did not rotate. The top spark plugs were removed and top spark plugs and the electrodes were undamaged. The bottom spark plugs were not removed and examined using a borescope. The bottom spark plug electrodes were undamaged an oil soaked. Examination of the engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the State of Florida District Nine Medical Examiner, Orlando, Florida.

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot, with negative results for drugs and alcohol.

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA164
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, March 22, 2015 in Orlando, FL
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N30242
Injuries: 3 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 March 22, 2015, about 1430 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R44 II helicopter, N30242, impacted a two-story building while maneuvering near Orlando, Florida. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured, and the helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter was registered to a private individual and operated by HQ Aviation, Orlando, Florida. The local flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which departed from Executive Airport (ORL), Orlando, Florida, shortly before the accident.

Multiple witnesses reported hearing a loud helicopter flying low which caught their attention. As they looked in the direction of the sound they observed the helicopter descending into a tree canopy. One witness watched the helicopter's main rotor blades break apart as the helicopter descended through the trees. The helicopter subsequently impacted a power line transformer before it collided with a building and exploded into fire. The witnesses called 911 and attempted to extinguish the fire.

Preliminary review of air traffic control radar data and voice transcription revealed that the pilot requested a downtown departure. The helicopter departed ORL on a westerly heading and approximately 5 minutes into the flight the pilot requested to return to the airport. This was the last recorded transmission from the pilot.
Examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in charge revealed that the helicopter impacted the top of a two-story building about 3 nautical miles northwest of ORL on a 360 degree magnetic heading. The wreckage debris field was about 50 yards in circumference. All flight control surfaces were located at the accident site. Examination of the wreckage revealed that a post-impact fire was concentrated within the second story of the building where the helicopter came to rest.

The cockpit section of the helicopter was destroyed by impact forces and post-crash fire. The main rotor mast, head and gearbox were found within the wreckage debris field.

The cause behind Central Florida's deadliest helicopter crash two weeks ago likely awaits a yearlong investigation to figure out what went tragically wrong in the last minutes of the three victims' lives.

Recreational pilot Bruce Teitelbaum became so concerned just minutes after takeoff March 22 from Orlando Executive Airport that he decided he had to turn back. After Teitelbaum radioed the control tower, his rented Robinson R44 II helicopter crashed into a home in the College Park neighborhood and burst into flames.

The crash is the 10th tenth fatal Robinson helicopter accident in Florida during the past over the last 15 years.

Since Jan. 1, 2000, there have been 165 people killed in 96 crashes involving Robinson helicopters in the United States, according to National Transportation Safety Board records. There have been 512 deaths in 291 Robinson crashes worldwide since 1982.

That's second only to Bell Helicopter, which has been in business 37 years longer than Robinson and has built more than three times as many helicopters, records show.

Nationwide, there have been 229 people who died in 122 Bell helicopter crashes since 2000. There have been nearly 1,100 deaths worldwide in at least 485 crashes since 1982, NTSB records show.

Of the 69 Robinson helicopter crashes in Florida — 10 which resulted in death — since 2000, there have been 19 killed and 41 injured, according to the NTSB.

The deaths in Florida were attributed to various causes, including pilot error and mistakes beyond the control of Robinson helicopters, according to NTSB findings.

'Not easy to fly'

Robinson Helicopter Co. President Kurt Robinson said the R44 II helicopter that crashed in Orlando is a model with a strong safety record and low number of engine or mechanical malfunctions.

"Helicopters are not easy to fly," said Robinson, noting that about 90 percent of accidents are attributed to pilot error. "Flying helicopters takes more skill than driving a car or flying an airplane."

Every flight must be preceded by multiple checks by the pilot to make sure the copter is safe and ready to fly, he said.

Acknowledging the company founded by his father in 1973 is second to Bell in fatal crashes, Robinson said they are two of the world's leading manufacturers of helicopters known for pilot and passenger safety.

The Robinson company sold its first helicopter in 1979 and has built about 11,000 more.

Bell built its first helicopter in 1942 and has sold more than 35,000 to military, government and private buyers, according to records and interviews.

'Linguini blades'

The Robinson helicopters are the most affordable brand, ranging in price from about $250,000 to $850,000, records show.

But critics, including aviation law firms, say low prices mean Robinson does not provide the safety features and durability of more expensive brands.

"People who really want to fly can afford to fly them," said attorney Ilyas Akbari, who works with the California-based law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman. "It's the cheapest by far in comparison to any competitor."

The law firm has handled nine lawsuits involving 17 deaths and five injuries in Robinson helicopter crashes since 2001. Six ended in confidential settlements, and the other three remain in court.

As an example of the questionable safety features, Akbari cited the company's rotor blades that were so light and flexible they became known as "linguini blades" and sometimes struck the helicopters, causing crashes.

On Jan. 15, the FAA ordered the owners of 2,643 Robinson R22 and R44 helicopters registered in the U.S. to replace their blades with safer models over the next five years at a projected total cost of $122 million, records show.

Akbari said another example is a rubber drive belt in Robinson aircraft engines that is the same belt used in some lawn mowers.

Pilots are supposed to check the belt closely during the first 50 hours of operation to make sure it doesn't slip or slide off track, he said.

The firm's cases involving confidential settlements included an Aug. 2, 2007, crash of a Robinson R44 II that killed the pilot and three passengers in Oregon.

After the tail rotor allegedly malfunctioned, the pilot tried to land safely, but the helicopter caught fire and 485 acres burned for several days, according to court records.

The Robinson Helicopter Co. has received NTSB recommendations for safety improvements.

Last year, NTSB recommended that the FAA require Robinson to install flexible fuel tanks on older-model helicopters, after a number of the aluminum fuel tanks ruptured and caused deadly fires.

The FAA declined to mandate the replacements, according to NTSB records.

Robinson started outfitting new models in 2006 with the safer tanks, but some owners of older helicopters continue to fly with rigid tanks.

In July 2006, Robinson issued a safety notice to owners that anyone riding in its helicopters should consider wearing fire-retardant Nomex flight suits to reduce "the likelihood of severe burns" in case of a crash.

Enthusiastic helicopter fliers

Many owners of Robinson helicopters are enthusiastic.

"These helicopters are robust, well-built and among the safest helicopters in the industry," said Nicole Vandelaar, 31, operator of Novictor Aviation in Hawaii. "They're built so the average person can fly it."

Her company has four Robinson helicopters to take tourists on flights around the islands.

A pilot with about 2,400 flight hours, Vandelaar said regular maintenance is a must for all helicopters along with pre-flight checks and testing engine functions before liftoff on every flight.

She said the causes of most crashes are either pilot error or poor maintenance.

HQ Aviation LLC is the Orlando flight school where Bruce Teitelbaum, pilot on N30242's final flight, received his private pilot's license Aug. 8 last year.

It's unknown how many flight hours Teitelbaum had flown.

Friends described him as passionate about flying and recalled him taking his wife, Marsha Khan, on flights to the beach for lunch at a seaside restaurant.

The couple and their friend Harry Anderson died in the crash.

Teitelbaum, 48, failed to obtain his pilot's license from two other flight schools, according to interviews.

"His behavior was too risky for a couple of reasons," said MaxFlight Helicopter Services President Austi Tarter, who dismissed him last May from the Kissimmee flight school. "I told him, 'Bruce you're going to hurt somebody someday.'"

The decision was reached after two flight instructors criticized his judgment and repeated errors after 35 hours of training, said Tarter.

She would not say whether she had spoken with federal crash investigators.

Tarter said Teitelbaum told her that he had tried to get his license at a flight school in Volusia County before attending the Kissimmee flight school.

Christopher Bull, operator of HQ Aviation LLC, has not responded to several requests to speak about the accident.

The flight school was founded in 2012 in Orlando.

Bull identifies himself in advertising as a successful entrepreneur "who sold two leading online media companies by the age of 25" and followed his passion for flying.

The March 22 crash that killed Teitelbaum and his two passengers was the first fatal crash that involved an HQ Aviation helicopter.

Original article can be found here:

Searey, Paradise Landings LLC, N692JM: Incident occurred April 04, 2015 in Lake Orienta, Altamonte Springs, Florida


A small aircraft flying over Lake Orienta in Altamonte Springs on Saturday morning capsized in the lake and had to be fished out of the water, authorities said.

Seminole County Fire Rescue Division Chief Robert Beck said the pilot who was not injured was having trouble with the plane and had to land in a different part of the lake than he normally does. He had to contend with boats in the area and pulled out the hard landing gear designed to make landings on the ground, Beck said.

When he landed, the gear got caught in the water, causing the plane to capsize, said Beck.

A boater retrieved the pilot out of the water and to safety. The pilot, who lives on the lake, was not identified.

The aircraft was an amateur-built SeaRey plane, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

No fuel spilled from the plane, and the engine remained above the water, police said.

Fire rescue towed the plane to the shore and emptied the water out of the cabin.

The FAA will investigate the incident, Bergen said.

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. —An SeaRey plane sank on Lake Orienta in Altamonte Springs on Saturday morning.

Authorities with the Seminole County Fire Department said no one was hurt during the incident, which happened about 11 a.m.

Officials said the plane was near the east shore of the lake, and work is underway to get the plane back to the surface.

Authorities are working to determine what caused the plane to sink and how many people were aboard the aircraft.

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ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. — Altamonte Springs police are investigating after a SeaRey plane crashed in Lake Orienta Saturday.

Police said the pilot didn’t bring up the plane’s landing gear, causing the nose of the aircraft to go under water, partially submerging the plane.

The pilot wasn’t injured and got out of the lake safely.

A boater in the area helped pull the plane to shore.

The Seminole County Fire Department pumped water out of the plane and got it out of the water.

Fire officials responded to the scene about 11 a.m.

The identity of the pilot has not been released.

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Simon Spencer-Bower: Helicopter pilot sets high farming and flying standards

Safety goes hand in hand for flying and farming, says Simon Spencer-Bower.

As a boy Simon Spencer-Bower would crane his neck to the sky to watch the crop dusters flying over his family farm at Eyrewell.

The deep  impression their aerial feats made on the youngster was to set him on a lifetime of flying with a healthy mix of farming.

As soon as he left school he gained his fixed-wing pilot license in 1967, aged 18.

Nearly 48 years later the master pilot, 66,  has won acclaim as as one of nine winners in this year's Helicopter Association International (HAI) Salute to Excellence Awards. Spencer-Bower was awarded the flight instructor of the year award at the HAI annual Heli-Expo in Orlando, Florida last month.

Back in Wanaka, the magnitude of being honoured internationally is still sinking in.

He says his family deserve credit as without their support none of the achievements would have been possible.

"I'm extremely proud of winning something like this. It's good recognition for New Zealand and to recognize someone from New Zealand is something special."

Spencer-Bower says New Zealand pilots deserve to be recognised for their high flying ability as they are working around the world and sought after for their can-do, "fix it with No 8 wire" attitude.

Many of those pilots owe their good training to Spencer-Bower. Over decades he has guided them from the family farm at Claxby for the first 15 years and latterly the small Central Otago airport at Wanaka, now home to him and his flying family.

Since switching from fixed wing aircraft to becoming a helicopter pilot in 1980 and going on to become a helicopter flight instructor in 1984 Spencer-Bower has logged about 21,000 hours.

When he wanted to get his instructor paperwork this proved to be more difficult than it sounded with only a handful of civilian pilots qualified to do the job. He realized the lack of civil helicopter training presented an opening and soon had aspiring aviators asking him to teach them to fly.

About 12,500 of his total flight hours have been in helicopter dual flight instruction and he has trained nearly 600 pilots to a private, commercial or instructor level.

Hovering a helicopter over the beaches of the Gold Coast requires skill, but flying over the South Island with its challenging topography below takes flying to another level.

The harsh, mountainous terrain and swirling air currents are testing and helicopter pilots from around the world come to the family's Wanaka Helicopters business for mountain flying training courses.

"New Zealand has an island climate rather than a continental climate which is more volatile. Pilots learn different skills to cope with the changeable weather this climate produces and become very versatile."

Spencer-Bower has the only mountain training course in advanced helicopter flying approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.

He has seen many pilots pass through his guidance and takes pride in passing on his flying knowledge.

"I'm passionate about producing good helicopter pilots with above average abilities rather than run-of-the-mill pilots.  The intention has always been to produce a pilot with more skills than just to pass a flight test. I don't want to produce a robot I want to produce a thinking pilot."

Wanaka Helicopters is a family run operation. Wife Carolyn is integral to the business and their son Peter flies helicopters in Haast for another family company, Greenstone Helicopters. Their other son Chris is a helicopter pilot, newly married in the United States and daughter Charlotte is a graphic designer and does a lot of marketing and design work for the business.

The family has four Robinson R22 two seaters and two Robinson R44 four-seaters at Wanaka with another extra-light, composite built two seater - a French model- due to arrive in June. An Airbus AS350 Squirrel is a seven seater.

About 60 per cent to 70 per cent of flying hours are spent training pilots and the rest with commercial work such as scenic flying.

Spencer Bower is no longer called out to assist with rescues - largely tied up in contracts today unlike the old days when emergency calls commonly went out to operators.

He says rescue work is thought to be dangerous, but should be routine.

Flying operations should  be conducted with safety margins so there is always a "way out" option.

"Safety is a word everyone uses and is sometimes over-used. Safety is really a culture and to me means doing it right all the time."

There was a time when he used to instruct high country farmers so they could use helicopters to run their large stations.

"Initially in the early days there were a lot of farmer and business type clients, but the nature of this has changed in recent years with the advent of student loans enabling people from all walks of life to complete their helicopter pilot training."

Among his many hours of air time is a good sprinkling spent in aerobatic flying in a Tiger Moth.

His route to this came about in a curious way. He was on a bulldozer clearing trees from the big wind of the early 1970s when a tree "whacked" him on the head leaving him deaf in one ear and with a loss of balance.

To rectify his balance he would stand on the back of a farm truck feeding out hay and also began performing aerobatic manoeuvres in a Tiger Moth he has owned since 1974. He perfected this enough to win 15 national vintage aerobatic titles in the aircraft.

After working in farming full time to his 30s  it still has a place in his life.

"I was brought up on a farm and have been farming all my life and flying as well. My brother is on the original family farm at Eyrewell and this is split between him and myself.  Considerable time is spent between Wanaka and Eyrewell especially at the moment because of the development going on there."

Claxby has been in the family for 150 years, a once dryland wool stronghold increasingly being surrounded by dairy farms.

The established 1623 hectare property has joined this movement and is being converted to dairying and pastoral production.

Gone already are the halfbreds that took pride on the farm during the stint of his late father, Marmaduke Spencer Bower who carried on running the farm into his 90s.

The prized halfbreds were replaced by lamb-bearing ewes with less emphasis on wool and the march of farming change will continue with dairy cows to overtake them.

Both families are pragmatic enough to know Claxby must adapt to the times.

The border-dyke irrigation that was developed at the farm in the 1970s by their innovative father is being replaced by modern spray irrigation.

"In this day and age we have to be more efficient and spray irrigation does a much better job than border dyke. We have converted the farm to spray irrigation and sheep and cropping to a dairy farm. We are the last I think in the district to change. One of the saddest things for me is knocking out all the trees we put in growing up for sheep and lamb shelter for the pivots. But we have a robust programme around the edges for low growing species."

He says the frustrating part of sheep farming was receiving low prices despite producing the best wool or lambs.

Even allowing for the low milk payout this season dairying provides more income and a better cashflow.

"It's no different from wool prices going up or down and you take the highs and lows. I love farming and flying as well and to be living in both occupations is tremendous. You create your occupation. People say you are lucky, but it's not luck, it's hard work."

Flying has given him the satisfaction of passing on his skills to other people and to see places that people might only visit once in their lifetime.

Spencer-Bower, awarded the Queen's Service Medal in 2010 for services to aviation, has no plans for retirement despite being of pension age.

"My idea of retirement is to do what you want when you want and not what you have to. Why would you retire when you enjoy your job?"

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Peter Weber Jr: Flawless flight for 95-year-old pilot could put him in record book

Peter Weber Jr. pushes back his plane after his flight on March 30, 2015, in Placerville, Calif. His bid to establish the Guinness World Record as the oldest living active pilot went flawlessly, taking to the skies over Placerville on a sunny morning. The 95-year-old flew three laps in a Diamond DA20

SACRAMENTO —  flew a plane for about 20 minutes on a recent Monday. The flight was nothing fancy, just three looping circles around an area airfield. But it could nonetheless snag a Guinness world record for him.

Weber, 95, told reporters gathered to witness the event that the Monday flight qualifies him as the oldest active pilot.

“I feel great,” the retired U.S. Air Force veteran said after landing and turning in the keys of the rental plane. “It was a short flight, but it was all the (Guinness) requirements.”

For the record: Weber was 95 years, 4 months and 23 days old at the time of the flight.

Weber and his son, Pete Weber III, who also flies, started looking into the record after they wondered whether the elder Weber was the oldest pilot in California.

Guinness lists Cole Kugel as the oldest pilot ever. Kugel, who lived in Longmont, Colo., flew for the last time in 2007 at age 105. He died the same year.

Weber, who exchanged emails with Guinness over many weeks, said the record keepers have designated a new category: Oldest qualified pilot still licensed and flying solo.

Weber’s record attempt comes as most people his age consider giving up driving a car, said Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Forty percent of Californians over the age of 85 are licensed drivers, according to DMV and census records. Weber is one of them.

Private pilots over 40 are required to have medical exams every 24 months. The number of pilots over 90 with valid medical clearances totaled 106 as of June 2013, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pacific Division.

“If somebody passes me up, I’ll call them up and congratulate them,” Weber said.

On the potential record-setting flight, he flew alone in a rented Diamond DA20. It’s one of 37 plane models he’s flown in his 72 years as a pilot.

Weber’s military career began in the Army’s combat engineers unit. However, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he passed the test to be an aviation cadet and started his flying career in the Army Air Corps, forerunner of the U.S. Air Force.

During World War II, he flew P-38 fighters in the South Pacific, was an instrument flight instructor during the Korean War and flew an AC-130 gunship in Vietnam.

Weber, who began military service as a private, retired from the Air Force in 1970 as a lieutenant colonel. Since then he has flown for fun.

“I like to fly,” he said. “I fly at least twice a month. I like to observe and take anybody up for a ride who wants to go.”

He said that his good health, mental acuity and long life can be traced in part to his diet.

“My wife, Ruth, is a good cook,” he said. “We’ve been married 72 years. I was a cadet in primary flight training when we got married.”

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