Monday, April 06, 2015

Internal investigation questions safety of Gwinnett PD's helicopters

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned of an internal affairs investigation underway in the Gwinnett County’s police department concerning the safety of its two helicopters.

A former pilot and mechanic for the helicopters resigned last month, alleging his safety concerns were being ignored. 

Channel 2’s Tony Thomas went directly to the Chief of Police Butch Ayers for answers.

"What do you have to say about the safety of your aircraft?”  Thomas asked Ayers.

"The aircraft are airworthy," Ayers said. "I think the entire situation is concerning and disappointing at the same time."

Through open records requests, Thomas obtained the resignation letter from Sr. Police Officer Phil McMillan.

For the past two years, records show McMillan was the primary mechanic for the helicopters and recently also served as a back-up pilot.

In his parting letter, he wrote: "I was unjustly kicked out of the aviation unit for sticking up for safety ... I doubt that the department will have the courage to admit their mistake and keep me in the aviation unit." 

"I cannot believe the way I am now being treated by the department and do not think if someone outside of the police department was aware of the safety and liability issues that this would be happening ... It is my responsibility and duty with those certifications and as a human being with extensive mechanical knowledge to tell someone, regardless of rank, the safety issues with an aircraft."

Records obtained by Thomas show the safety allegations center around a March 2015 incident concerning the replacement of skid shoes on one of the aircraft.

McMillan didn't believe the material he installed was safe enough to fly, but his boss called the manufacturer directly and was told it was OK to take off. 

The aircraft launched against McMillan’s advice. No other safety complains by McMillan are directly mentioned.

McMillan resigned in late March after being confronted about issues his commanders saw in his performance as a mechanic.

Commanders say McMillan was hired as a mechanic but recently obtained his pilot's license and seemed to want to fly the aircraft more than service them.

Commanders say that allegedly led to the problems and resulting complaints.

Thomas also confirmed McMillan reported Aviation Manager Lou Gregoire used the department’s aircraft in November 2013 to give flying lessons to someone unapproved.

That allegation is also part of the internal affairs investigation.

"Occurred more than once or a onetime incident?" Thomas asked Ayers.

"I don’t' have that information," Ayers said. "The investigation is not complete."

Gregoire remains on duty as the internal affairs investigation continues.

McMillan’s records show he was a decorated veteran officer. He even received a medal of valor award for his involvement in a 2011 shootout with a bank robbery suspect.

But in recent months, his commander said things turned sour and the resulting internal affairs investigation is far from over.

"There may be some issues where the maintenance performed by the employee is under question," Ayers said.  "I think it has a significant impact on the unit, this guy was the chief mechanic for the unit and these pilots have to trust that mechanic."

Records show McMillan was supposed to go before commanders for a second interview with internal affairs on Monday but declined to do so.  

Thomas tried repeatedly over several days to reach McMillan for comment. Late Monday, McMillan responded saying he couldn't comment.

Original article can be found here:

Air India co-pilot beats up captain inside cockpit

NEW DELHI: Amid rising aviation safety concerns over pilots' mental health, an Air India aircraft's cockpit witnessed some tense scenes between the captain and his deputy at Jaipur on Sunday evening just before the Airbus A-320 was to take off for Delhi. While numerous airline sources said that the co-pilot abused and beat up the commander, an AI spokesman said that "there was an argument between the two and nothing more."

The heated scenes were witnessed when AI 611 was getting ready to fly for Delhi. "The commander told his co-pilot to take down critical take off figures for the flight. This involves writing critical facts like number of passengers on board, take off weight and fuel uptake on a small paper card (trim sheet) that is displayed in front of the pilots for the entire duration of the flight. The co-pilot took offence at this and reportedly beat up the captain," said a source.

"In the larger interest of the airline", the commander decided to go ahead with the flight and flew to Delhi. The normal procedure would have been to report this incident in Jaipur but that would have led to the flight being cancelled and passengers being left stranded. On landing here, the captain is learnt to have made a log entry with AI movement control after which he flew to his home base, Mumbai.

The AI spokesman said: "The two had an argument. They have settled the issue."

According to senior AI commanders, the co-pilot in question has reportedly faced similar charges in the past too. "Three years back, he asked the commander of a flight to come out of the cockpit, remove the stars on his shirt collar (appulates) and then fought with him. A year later, another commander complained about his 'rude and unbecoming' behavior in the cockpit and questioned his state of mind," said a senior commander.

"AI and DGCA should examine this latest problem in the cockpit. If the complaints about the said co-pilot's behavior are found true, then in the interest of aviation safety the authorities must act," said a pilot

Neither DGCA chief M Sathiyavathy, nor her deputies could be reached for comments.

Story and comments:

Pay to plane: A look at whether pilots should pay to use Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), Maryland

It’s a simple question with a complex answer — would landing fees help boost revenue at the Frederick Municipal Airport?

At an airport budget hearing Wednesday, Alderman Phil Dacey posed the question of fees to airport manager Rick Johnson and economic development director Richard Griffin.

It might sound logical that asking pilots to pay to use the airport would be a slam-dunk way to generate funds, but Johnson said a fee would discourage traffic, which would have serious ramifications at a learning airport.

Pilots who use the airport for flight training could easily go somewhere else, Johnson said. They would take with them money they could have spent on fuel, food and maintenance at Frederick’s airport and nearby businesses.

A study from around 2008 found that the costs of taking in fees would be greater than the benefits, Johnson said.

Dacey suggested revisiting the issue by investing in a consultant to re-evaluate the costs and benefits of landing fees and other activities.

Jon Harden, airport commission chair, said landing fees were a bad idea.

“It’s harmful to the entire aviation community, and it will be harmful to the businesses that operate at the airport,” he said, adding that the Airways Inn restaurant would probably be hit especially hard.

One complication with fees, he said, is that the airport would likely need to hire a contractor to track fights and collect money, which would take a chunk of the revenue for its work.

Harden noted that most general aviation airports do not have landing fees. They are usually reserved for airports that service scheduled carriers.

“Me, as a pilot, I would avoid them,” he said. “It just sends the wrong message to the pilot community to begin with.”

Instead, the airport should look for creative ways to generate revenue, Harden said — ways that are “pilot-friendly” to attract more activity.

Hangar leases are a key source of income in the airport’s $1,927,000 budget proposal.

Overall income from airport services has been increasing, according to the mayor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, from nearly $841,000 in fiscal year 2014 to an anticipated $958,000 this year.

Griffin chalked that up to bringing hangar rental rates in line with the market. The airport proposed a 4.4 percent increase in fees, he said.

Despite the increase, Johnson told the mayor and board at Wednesday’s meeting that he was confident no current users would be priced out.

The airport is setting aside money for a corporate hangar, he continued, which would increase rental revenue, fuel sales and maintenance income. There is already a waiting list for hangar space, he noted.

“To me, this screams public-private partnership,” Dacey said.

The airport could explore a partnership, Johnson said, but then the city would get less revenue in the long run. Frederick will have to decide whether to shoulder more initial costs for greater long-term benefits.

The airport budget’s wishlist includes two maintenance positions, and Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak asked if a further increase in fees would fund the salaries for new staff.

Johnson and Griffin said they would research that issue.

Original article can be found here: