Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pilot Larry Ashcraft has logged 27,000 hours flying everything from Cessnas to 767s

Polson pilot Larry Ashcraft, who started his flying career at Johnson Flying Service in Missoula, has logged more than 27,000 hours in the cockpit and was recently honored with a Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from the FAA.

POLSON – The passengers on the Chicago-to-L.A. flight felt something quite odd as their plane cruised along at 30,000-plus feet. Then the pilot’s voice came over the intercom.

They’d lost an engine, Larry Ashcraft told them, and they’d have to make a forced landing in Las Vegas.

What they didn’t know was that Ashcraft had deliberately pulled the throttle back too fast, causing what’s known as a compressor stall. It was enough to probably cause the people in the plane to glance at each other with quick looks of concern.

What they also didn’t know was that, earlier on the TWA frequency, Ashcraft and his co-pilot had been informed that two potential hijackers were believed to be on board the flight.


This was before the 9-11 attacks on America and increased airport security, but in an era when hijackings did occur. Ashcraft, the First Officer, told only one other member of his crew.

“She was a senior flight attendant, had a real cool head, and I had her start looking for anyone she thought seemed suspicious,” Ashcraft says.

She returned to the cockpit and said it might be two brothers sitting in the first row of first class.

Ashcraft turned the plane over to his co-pilot, unbuckled his seatbelt and headed into the cabin – something he did often when his planes reached cruising altitude, to chat with his passengers.

He spoke casually to the two men, and continued down the aisle, asking people how the flight was. In the last row of first class sat another TWA pilot. Ashcraft bent over and whispered to him what was happening, and told the other pilot to keep an eye on the two men.

“I’d asked for a description, and once we got it, we were pretty sure those were the two,” he says.

Soon after, he put the plane in the compressor stall, made up the story about losing an engine, and then began descending into McCarren International Airport.


As he taxied toward the terminal after touching down, Ashcraft said he could see armed law enforcement “behind every piece of equipment” and worried that the two men might notice it too.

They brought stairs out to the plane and the senior flight attendant told the brothers in the first row, “This is going to be a mess, you’ll want to get off first so you don’t get caught up in it.”

They did. The second they were out the door and on the stairs, the flight attendant stepped in front of the rest of the passengers and swung the door shut as the FBI took the brothers into custody.

“To this day, I’ll never know if they were going to hijack the plane,” Ashcraft says. “But they did find $30,000 worth of stolen airline tickets on them.”

Ashcraft, 73, tells the story from his retirement home in Polson. Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration honored him with its Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

And what’s that for?

“Being old,” Ashcraft says with a laugh.


Actually, it’s “in recognition of your contributions to building and maintaining the safest aviation system in the world through practicing and promoting safe aircraft flight operations for more than 50 consecutive years.”

Ashcraft thinks it’s pretty remarkable that only about 3,000 people have ever gotten the Master Pilot Award, and three of them live in Polson. Chuck Jarecki and Glen Timm are the other two.

Ashcraft – who learned to fly as a teenager in Helena and got his first job in aviation at Johnson Flying Service in Missoula – has logged more than 27,000 hours as a pilot.

That’s the equivalent of more than three years of his life spent in the sky, round-the-clock, every day, with airplanes strapped to him.

He’s flown everything from Cessnas to jumbo jets, and flew for TWA from 1966-2002.

His retirement certainly didn’t ground him. He operated Osprey Aero until 2012, taking people on scenic flights over the Bob Marshall Wilderness in his seaplane. He’s served as president of the Aviation Organization of Montana, president of the Montana Seaplane Pilots, president of the Montana Pilots Association’s Mission Valley Hangar, is a member of Recreation Aviation Foundation and is an advisor to Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s ALERT air ambulance.

If that’s not enough, he’s also served as president of the Flathead Lakers, president of the Lake County Pachyderm Club, chairman of the Polson Board of Adjustment, and sits on the city’s Golf Board.

“And I’m incoming president of Rotary,” he says, moments after wondering if he maybe shouldn’t start scaling back on his commitments.


When he was 15 years old, and in high school in Helena, the aeronautics school there allowed juniors and seniors to enroll in a program from 7 a.m. to noon that led to an aircraft mechanic’s license.

“I wasn’t smart enough to do that,” Ashcraft says, “but I did take a science class called ‘Pilot.’ You got 10 hours of instruction and ground school – it basically took you up to the point you could solo.”

Ashcraft earned his private pilot’s license, not that it did him much good then.

“I had no money to fly,” he says. “I’d go to the airport and stand around looking forlorn, hoping maybe somebody would give me a ride.”

Bill Wyman, the pilot for Montana Gov. Tim Babcock, took young Ashcraft under his wing.

Ashcraft, who joined the Army Reserves out of high school, enrolled at Western Montana College in Dillon for two quarters, where he played basketball, then transferred to the University of Montana.

“I still wasn’t flying, I still didn’t have any money,” he says. “So I started smoke-jumping. I did that for three years, and hung out with the pilots a lot. Some of them would give me some stick time.”


Meantime, Ashcraft, a marketing and advertising major at UM who “hated statistics,” got a job offer when we finished college.

“It was sitting at a desk in Newark, New Jersey, all day doing statistics,” he says. “I thought, ‘This is not going to work.’ ”

Jack Hughes, chief pilot for Johnson Flying Service, had told the smokejumper if he ever wanted a job flying to come see him. Ashcraft did.

“I didn’t really know you could make a living flying,” says Ashcraft, who returned to Helena, got his instructor’s rating, and came back to Missoula.

“I want you checked out on everything,” Hughes told Ashcraft, who stood looking at Johnson’s fleet of Ford Trimotors, Stearmans, Travel Airs, C46s and Cessna 180s.

“It was like being in a toy shop,” Ashcraft says. “I think about those Johnson pilots who took me under their wing, and how important they were to me. These were guys who basically wore airplanes. I got time in everything.”

They also encouraged Ashcraft to apply with the airlines; they were hiring.


“I just wanted to hunt, fish and fly for Johnson Flying Service,” Ashcraft says. Northwest Airlines offered him a job; Ashcraft turned it down.

“The other pilots got on me,” he says, and when TWA offered him a job in 1966, Ashcraft accepted.

He was 23.

“I scored high enough on the tests to skip flight engineer,” Ashcraft says, and he moved to New York and became a co-pilot on Lockheed Constellations – the last prop planes TWA would use.

From there, he became a First Officer and moved up – to 707s, 727s, DC-9s, 747s, MD80s, 757s and 767s. There was also a move to Los Angeles, then, in 1973, to Lake Tahoe – “I missed the mountains,” he says – and finally, to Montana in 1978, where he bought a cherry orchard on Flathead Lake.

Ashcraft commuted to New York for his job, where he served as a “check airman” for the last 16 years of his 36-year career with TWA. A check airman is a pilot who checks out other pilots when they begin flying an aircraft new to them, including flights with passengers.

Early on in his career, he flew flights to Vietnam, when the U.S. military used commercial airlines to transport troops and cargo.

He flew international flights for much of his career. The old Hong Kong airport was one of the most challenging to land at – Ashcraft calls it “exciting” – because you approached the city from the water, descending straight toward a “wall” of mountains, and curved back through the city’s skyscrapers to land.

“You were right next to apartment buildings,” he says, and bad weather often added to the obstacles. LaGuardia in New York could also be tricky because of strong winds and fairly short runways, he says, but adds that airports with such reputations are often pretty safe because pilots are especially tuned in because of the challenges.


On Sept. 10, 2001, Ashcraft flew a TWA flight from Paris back to the U.S. The next morning, he went to take his FAA physical.

“I was sitting around waiting, watching the TV, and all of a sudden they’re showing the Twin Towers,” he says. It was before anyone knew what had happened. There was the hole in one of them, some smoke wafting out, and like many, Ashcraft wondered if a small plane had struck the building.

As the horror unfolded and a second passenger jet crashed into the second tower, the sick feeling in Ashcraft’s stomach was of a different sort than most Americans had.

“I lost so many friends that day,” he says. No TWA planes were involved, but Ashcraft knew several of the crew members on the four airplanes involved in 9-11.

It took him back to July 17, 1996, when TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, 12 minutes after departing New York.

Ashcraft knew not only most of the crew on that plane, but other pilots who were “dead-heading” to other flights, and yet another whose wife was working as a flight attendant. He was tagging along so they could spend a few days in Paris together.

The government blamed it on an explosion of flammable fuel and air vapors in a fuel tank, the explosion’s cause unknown, but to this day Ashcraft – and others – believes the 747 was shot down.

“I don’t think you’ll find anyone in aviation who believes it was anything else,” he says. A good friend, another pilot, was on the plane just behind TWA Flight 800 as they taxied out for takeoff.

“Let 841 go,” the Flight 800 pilot radioed the tower. “He’s carrying human organs.”

“And so they let him go first,” Ashcraft says. Flight 800 followed, and 12 minutes later, 230 people were dead.


The two days of disasters are the worst memories, but most of the rest are grand.

None can really top his brief time with Johnson Flying Service, Ashcraft admits, back when he was the youngster behind the controls but his own smokejumping days gave him a pretty good feel for how to fly planes when he was dropping jumpers over fires.

These days, Ashcraft pilots a Cessna 182, having sold his seaplane when he quit doing charter flights over the Bob. He and wife Dorothy, who he married 12 years ago, have seven children and seven grandchildren between them, and he looks forward to teaching any of those grandkids with an interest how to fly.

And he’s still accumulating flying stories. Before he sold the seaplane, Ashcraft took Dorothy on a camping trip near the Arctic Circle in it.

It took two long days of flying to reach the quite large but equally isolated Great Slave Lake, and even though they appeared to be the only humans within a million miles or so in the sky, Ashcraft of course got on the radio, identified his plane, and announced his intention to land in a sheltered bay in a blind call.

So he was shocked not only when someone replied, but replied with this:

“Larry, is that you?” came a voice over his radio.

It was a pilot from St. Ignatius, Bob Kembel, camping at the other end of the 291-mile-long lake.

They rendezvoused. Probably swapped some flying stories around the campfire.

After 58 years in the cockpit, Larry Ashcraft has one or two.

Original article can be found here:

"I just wanted to hunt, fish, and fly for Johnson Flying Service," says Ashcraft, who ended up taking a job with with TWA in 1966 and went on to a 36-year career with the airline.

Thousands pack Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort for final day of 2015 air show

Andrew McGowan, 5, clutched his model Blue Angel in his hands as he dozed Sunday afternoon despite the planes thundering overhead at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

But when his mom tried to gently pry the toy from his hands, he woke with a start and clutched it tighter.

The Blue Angels, he confided, were his favorite, but he only wants to watch them, unlike his older brother, Will, who dreams of being a pilot.

The McGowans came from Savannah for the boys' first air show along with thousands of other attendees to see the second and final day of the MCAS Beaufort Air Show.

The weekend went great, said Gary Cassevah, CEO/director of Marine Corps Community Services, and he was impressed with the turn out, which he thought was bigger than the last show, in 2011.

"This is absolutely incredible," he said. "And we were all worried about the Saturday weather, and we had the chaplain working on that all week."

Between two dry days -- at least until the show ended each afternoon -- more acreage and a four-year gap between shows instead of the usual two, Cassevah said participation was great.

After two of the Blue Angels were grounded for repairs Saturday, all seven, including one reserve plane, were up and running Sunday to wow the crowd with stunts.

Cassevah's personal favorite, however, was the F35-B because this was the first show for the new fighter jets.

"Just watching how it could hover in place -- I could just stare at that for 30 minutes," he said.

In addition to military planes and vehicles on display, some private plane owners brought their personal aircraft to show off.

Landon Throne, of Bray's Island, grinned at a little boy as he asked if Bray's Cessna O-1/L-19 had any guns.

"No, but it has rockets," he said, pointing to the wings as the boy scooted over and looked up with a "wow" face and a ready iPhone for pictures.

"One of these little kids is going to want to be a pilot one day," Thorne said. "Of course, some of the biggest kids here are 50 years old."

Thorne said he dreamed of owning one for years before buying it from a man in Florida and then flying it home to South Carolina.

"I flew in these airplanes as what they call a backseat observer in Vietnam, and so I developed an affection for this airplane," he explained.

Mary Jane McGowan got her love of planes from her father, a pilot, and instilled that love in her boys.

"Airplanes are definitely a big thing for my family, so they love this," she said as the Blue Angels finished pulling back up to the runway after their display.

But the show isn't over for the McGowan boys. As they shepherded the tired little ones towards the gate, their father, Wayne, said they have a carpet at home designed like a runway.

"I assure you, we'll be at home with the Blue Angels taxiing down the runway and taking off," he said.

Story and photo gallery:

Piper PA-31T1 Cheyenne, N119RL, Aircraft Guaranty Corp Trustee: Fatal accident occurred April 12, 2015 near Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (KFXE), Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA181
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 12, 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Aircraft: PIPER PA-31T1, registration: N119RL
Injuries: 4 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 12, 2015, about 1625 eastern daylight time (EDT), a Piper PA-31T1, N119RL, collided with terrain on final approach to runway 13 at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire. The airplane was registered to a private company and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The local flight originated from Orlando Executive Airport (ORL), Orlando, Florida, about 1520.

According to information obtained from air traffic control, the pilot checked in with FXE tower personnel and initially did not report any problems with the flight. N119RL was cleared to land on Runway 9. A short time later, the pilot reported to the local controller that he had smoke in the cockpit. The controller cleared N119RL to land on any runway. The pilot responded that he would take runway 13, and the controller cleared him to land on runway 13. The pilot then called out "mayday" several times before the airplane crashed approximately ¼ mile from the approach end of Runway 13.

The pilot, age 51, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine, multi-engine, and instrument airplane ratings. He reported 1,221 hours total flight time on his most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate, dated February 18, 2015. Records recovered from the wreckage also indicate that he completed a PA-31 initial training course one week prior to the accident.

The 7-seat airplane was manufactured in 1979 and was equipped with two Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-11 turboprop engines. The aircraft maintenance records indicated that an annual inspection of the airframe, engines, and propellers was completed on April 3, 2015.

The wreckage was located inside a fenced nature preserve within the boundary of the airport. The main wreckage was located directly under the extended centerline for runway 13. The wreckage debris field was about 167 ft in length and about 50 ft wide, oriented on a heading of about 112 degrees. All major structural components of the aircraft were found within the confines of the debris field. Both engines were separated from the airframe and both propeller assemblies were separated from the engines during the accident sequence.

Any witnesses should email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Raw Video: 

Plot John Patrick Van Ommeren completed an initial training course to fly a Piper Cheyenne just one week before his plane crashed near Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, killing all four on board.

That was one of the details in a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report released Thursday. Although NTSB will investigate all aspects of the April 12 accident, pilot experience likely will become a primary focus.

Also killed in the accident were Monique Van Ommeren, 49, Sacha Van Ommeren,15, and Sharissa Van Ommeren, 13, all residents of Paramaribo, Suriname.

John Patrick Van Ommeren, 51, initially mentioned no problems to air traffic controllers after taking off from Orlando.

While approaching Fort Lauderdale, he reported smoke in the cockpit and was told he could use any runway. After lining up to land on the diagonal runway, he called out "mayday" several times before the plane plummeted.

It crashed a quarter mile short of the runway into a nature preserve, broke apart and erupted into flames at about 4:25 p.m. on that Sunday.

Records showed Van Ommeren had 1,221 hours of total flight time and was authorized to fly multi-engine airplanes and on instruments, the NTSB report said.

Although that is a fair amount of experience, investigators will try to determine how many hours of training Van Ommeren had in the seven-seat Cheyenne, a complex aircraft.

Records also showed the twin-engine Cheyenne, built in 1979, had received a comprehensive maintenance inspection on April 3, nine days before the accident.

Republic of Suriname thanks South Florida investigators for help with plane crash investigation

The pilot and three passengers who perished April 12 in a Fort Lauderdale plane crash turned out to be citizens of Suriname.

The South American country's embassy in Washington, DC sent along a statement about the crash. In addition to naming the victims -- John Patrick van Ommeren, 51; Monique van Ommeren-Wilmink, 49; Sacha van Ommeren, 15 and Sharissa van Ommeren, 13 -- it thanked the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office, Fort Lauderdale police detectives and the Broward Sheriff's crime lab for their work.

LISTEN: Pilot yells 'Mayday' in radio transmission

Fort Lauderdale police identified the victims as John Van Ommeren, 51, his wife, Monique Van Ommeren, 49, and their two daughters, Sacha Van Ommeren, 16, and Sharissa Van Ommeren, 13. They lived in Paramaribo, Suriname, on the northeastern coast of South America. 

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The victims who were killed when a plane crashed into a nature preserve Sunday in Fort Lauderdale were identified Thursday as a family of four from South America.

Fort Lauderdale police identified the victims as John Van Ommeren, 51, his wife, Monique Van Ommeren, 49, and their two daughters, Sacha Van Ommeren, 16, and Sharissa Van Ommeren, 13. They lived in Paramaribo, Suriname, on the northeastern coast of South America.

The fatal crash occurred Sunday afternoon in a wooded area just north of Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ralph Hicks said the pilot of the twin-engine Piper PA-31 was about two miles from the runway when he reported smoke in the cockpit.

The plane departed from Orlando Executive Airport.

Witnesses said the plane banked sharply before nose-diving into the ground.

Federal Aviation Administration records show the plane was built in 1979 and had recently been re-certified. It was registered to a company in Onalaska, Texas.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified four people who died in a plane crash near Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport earlier this month. 

Using DNA and dental records, the ME determined the four people in the plane were John Van Ommeren, 51; Monique Van Ommeren, 49; Sacha Van Ommeren, 15 and 13-year old Sharissa Van Ommeren.

The Van Ommerens were from Paramaribo, Suriname.

The crash happened April 12th around 4:30 p.m. in a wooded section in the 2400 block of NW 62nd Street.

According to Federal Aviation Administration the Piper PA-31T had taken off from Orlando and was bound for Ft. Lauderdale. An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said as the pilot approached the airport, he reported a problem.

“When he was about two miles from the runway he reported smoke in the cockpit. Shortly there after he made a transmission, it was an emergency type transmission, we don’t have the exact details of it, but it was a distress call before the crash,” said NTSB investigator Ralph Hicks.

The pilot was cleared for an emergency landing. The plane never made it. It went down about a quarter mile from the runway.

Several people in the area, who saw the plane go down, ran toward the crash site to see if they could help.

“We tried to get over there as fast as we could. We all jumped a bunch of fences, got back there. Probably got about five feet away from it but everything was already in flames,” said Elyssa Service.

The wreckage was taken to Ft. Pierce where NTSB investigators will re-assemble it to try and determine what caused the plane to go down.


As federal investigators piece together what remains of a plane that crashed Sunday near Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, local authorities are struggling to identify the pilot and three passengers who all perished in the fiery wreckage.

The Broward Medical Examiner's Office was unable to obtain fingerprints from the remains of the four bodies and must follow other paths the evidence may provide.

Investigators are having difficulty getting dental records because the foursome is believed to be from Suriname and there is a language barrier, the office said Wednesday.

It is working with that South American country's embassy in Washington, while at the same time trying to process victims' DNA, an official said.

Meanwhile at the St. Lucie County International Airport in Fort Pierce, the National Transportation Safety Board was laying out wreckage from the 36-year-old, twin-engine Piper Cheyenne plane.

The pilot was about two miles from landing at the airport and had reported smoke in the cockpit of the plane before it fell from the sky and plunged into woods on the north side of the airfield around 4:30 p.m.

The crash site, where a safety board investigator said the aircraft had fragmented into more than 100 pieces, was near the 2400 block of Northwest 62nd Street, opposite Calvary Chapel.

"We do a reconstruction on the ground of sections of the airplane," said Ralph Hicks, a senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. He was at its Fort Pierce hangar, where wreckage from other crashes is stored. "A lot of it is burned away."

Hicks said what was left of the plane would be reassembled in sections "to document all the factual evidence. That's the first part of the investigation process."

The pilot was rated to fly in multi-engine aircraft and on instruments, Hicks said Monday.

The safety board will look into all aspects of the flight, including the plane's maintenance history and the pilot's experience. It usually takes more than a year to determine a likely cause for a crash.

Contractor claims they paid aviation permanent secretary $100,000

Aviation permanent secretary Francis Lomo and his property manager David Kona are in hot water.

This was after a contractor revealed in a report Mr Lomo and Mr Kona received funds that were meant for refurbishment of the Civil Aviation control tower at Henderson Airport.

LB Construction & Joinery, which was engaged by the Central Tender Board (CTB) to repair the tower, said in its report:

“Mr Lomo demanded $200,000 but was given only $100,000, while Mr Kona received $20,000.”

This was from the $936,633.80 allocated in the national budget in 2013 for the project.

LB Construction submitted its report carrying the allegation to the Ministry of Communication and Aviation this week.

Mr Lomo yesterday rejected the allegation.

Work on the tower, which was estimated to be completed within six months, remained incomplete to this day.

According to the LB Construction report, they won the tender to refurbish the Aviation tower after submitting their bid to the CTB in 2013.

The report said following their winning bid, the first progressive payment of $240,000 was released by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, at the request of the Ministry of Aviation, to LB Construction.

The report said of this amount, $100,000 was paid to Mr Lomo after he demanded $200,000; $20,000 was paid to Mr Kona, also at his demand; while the contractor used the remaining $120,000 for mobilization, site preparation, safety equipment, wages, transport, and other materials required to commence work.

The report said a second progressive payment (amount not disclosed) was made, which the contractor used to pay for glasses overseas for the tower.

But Mr Lomo told the Solomon Star the allegation was simply untrue.

“I knew nothing about this huge amount of money. In fact I just cannot believe such allegations. This is ridiculous,” he said.

Mr Lomo said this is not the first time allegations such as this was leveled against him.

“There are right avenues to raise such allegation. The contractor should report this to the police with facts.

“The fact about this project is simple. The contractor simply failed to comply with the signed agreement.

“The ministry raised the first progressive payment and the contractor supposed to purchase materials, including glass that are of aviation approved standard.

“The glass isn't available in the country, so the ministry sought the contractor to order them overseas.

“On arrival, the contractor asked the third progressive payment be paid to cover costs of hiring a crane, which the ministry made it clear that it will not make the payment. Not until the work is done.

“Find funds and finish the project, then third progressive payment will be made immediately; what the contractor requested was not the ministry’s responsibility,” Mr Lomo said.

He added it’s not the allegation the contractor made that delayed the completion of the project, but the time taken to order the glasses and its installation.

However, a spokesman for LB Construction told the Solomon Star the alleged demand for payment by Mr Lomo at the first place was a major contributing factor to the delay.

“We waited since progressive work started off in 2013 and if only PS Lomo and the property manager did not demand money at first place, work would have progressed smoothly.

“We had a shortfall of what was allocated fund for the project, so we requested that the third progressive payment be made so we can proceed.

“Probably Lomo refused the third progressive payment because we did not give in to the $200,000 demand he asked for. So he refused and avoided as most of the time.

“He would only assure us that payments will be paid after the government budget is approved,” the LP Construction spokesman said

He added the property manager Mr Kona also demanded that they produce a report on how they spend the funds already paid to their company, which they gladly did.

 According to a progressive report on the control tower produced recently by Manager Air Traffic Service (ATS), Alfred Pita’a, the control tower’s condition was gradually deciphered and urgently required intensive servicing and maintenance since 2010.

Mr Pita’a said in the report in 2010, they secured $2.5 million in the development budget for refurbishment of the control tower but the allocation was later diverted by those responsible to other non-budgetary projects.

In 2011, Mr Pita’a said they made another provision under the development budget for $2 million but only $1 million was allocated.

But later, they realized only $900,000 was released for the refurbishment project.

Mr Pita’a said it is his view that the contractor must continue to complete the project as it has already procured materials for the finishing and completion of the project.

He said in the report that the tactical delay and prolonging of the project was due to the ministry’s failing to honor the agreement and technical delays in payments for contractor as agreed to in the agreement.

“This report identified some contributing factors such as diversion of funds allocated under the control tower project,” Mr Pita’a said.

Original article can be found here:

Schempp-Hirth Standard Cirrus, Prescott Soaring Society, N352D: Fatal accident occurred April 11, 2015 in Prescott Valley, Arizona

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Aviation Accident Final Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items  - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA144
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, April 11, 2015 in Prescott Valley, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/02/2016
Aircraft: SCHEMPP-HIRTH STANDARD CIRRUS, registration: N352D
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.

A glider club member reported that the accident glider had been flown twice earlier in the day with no anomalies noted. He added that, before the accident flight, he advised the pilot that the glider had a “touchy elevator” and that things seemed to happen fast in a fiberglass glider. He observed the glider launch and noted that the glider appeared to be moving slowly with an increased angle of attack. When the glider reached about 800 ft above ground level, he observed it enter a left stall/spin before impact. 

The ground-tow winch operator stated that the accident pilot made a standard radio call that he was ready to launch and that he requested a reference speed of 65 mph. The operator then added power and saw what appeared to be a normal takeoff and initial climbout, during which the pilot called his speed as “65,” which indicated that the winch power setting was as desired for the tow. The operator added that he heard the pilot call what sounded like “more power,” which is not a standard call; a normal call would be one that indicated power needs, such as needed airspeed above or below the desired reference speed. The operator began to add additional power, but almost immediately thereafter, he saw the glider’s nose drop as the glider entered a spin. Several other witnesses at the airport reported similar accounts of the accident sequence. 

Postaccident examination of the glider and the tow winch system revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Therefore, based on the witness statements, it is likely that the pilot failed to maintain adequate airspeed during the initial climb and exceeded the glider’s critical angle-of-attack, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall/spin and subsequent impact with terrain in a steep nose down attitude.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed and his exceedance of the glider’s critical angle of attack during the initial climb after a ground-tow launch, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall/spin.


On April 11, 2015, about 1525 mountain standard time, a Schempp-Hirth, Standard Cirrus glider, sustained substantial damage after impact with terrain following a winch-tow-launch and initial climb at the A.C. Goodwin Memorial Field Gliderport (AZ86), Prescott Valley, Arizona. The private pilot, who was the sole occupant of the glider, sustained fatal injuries. The glider was registered to and operated by the Prescott Soaring Society, Prescott, Arizona. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and a flight plan was not filed. The proposed local flight, which was being operated in accordance with 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, was originating at the time of the accident.

Several witnesses to the accident provided written statements to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge. One witness, who was also a pilot with the glider club, reported that the accident aircraft had been flown twice earlier in the day. The witness stated that prior to the accident pilot departing, he advised him of the difficulties in flying the Standard Cirrus, in that it had a "touchy elevator", and that things seemed to happen fast in a fiberglass glider. The witness further stated that the pilot launched using the winch launch in the normal fashion, and had called ahead and requested a speed of 65, which he called out/verbalized. The witness opined that while watching the launch, it appeared the glider was going slower with an increase in angle of attack; a few seconds later he reported hearing a call [on the radio] of "more power." The witness reported that the glider was about 800 feet above the ground (agl), when he turned to go to the radio to advise the pilot that he was too slow, which is when he heard another witness say "Oh no"; when he looked back he observed the glider in a stall spin to the left prior to impact with terrain.

Another witness reported that the launch was slightly bumpy, and that during the climb he observed the wings begin to flutter and then stalled. The left wing [then dropped], followed by the glider spinning two full times at about a 75-degree angle prior to impact with terrain.

A third witness reported observing the glider launch, climb to about 800 feet agl, slowed below stall speed, and then spun between two and one-half and three times before impact with terrain.

A fourth witness stated that the launch appeared to be a very smooth transition into the climb, at what he estimated to have been about 800 feet agl, when the glider appeared to fly through a thermal. The witness stated that at this point the glider's wings wobbled, first to the right, then to the left. Shortly thereafter, the pilot gave out a speed reading of 65 mph, shallowed out his climb, and then call for "more power." The witness stated that at this time, he estimated that the glider was between 1,200 to 1,300 feet agl, when the aircraft stalled then spun two and one-half times to the left at an angle of between 70 to 80 degrees before impact with terrain was observed.

The individual who was operating the tow winch at the time of the accident reported that the winch is located about a mile down the main runway from the initial takeoff point. The operator opined that the pilot made a standard radio call that he was ready to launch, and that he requested a reference speed of 65 mph. The operator stated that he then added power and saw what appeared to be a normal takeoff and initial climb out, during which the pilot called his speed as 65, which indicated that the winch power setting was as desired for the tow. The operator added that he heard the pilot call what sounded like "more power," which according to the operator is not a standard call; a normal call would be one which would indicate power needs by calling an airspeed above or below the desired reference speed. The operator stated that he began to add additional power, but almost immediately saw the nose of the glider drop as the glider entered a spin. The operator reported that at this point he cut the power on the winch, and put the transmission in neutral to release any tension on the tow line. He concluded by saying that he did not see the glider impact terrain, as there was a small hill between the winch and the impact point.


The pilot, age 74, possessed a private pilot glider rating. The pilot's initial glider flight under dual instruction was on November 10, 2005; he soloed on March 6, 2006, following 15.4 hours of instruction. The pilot received his private pilot glider rating on March 21, 2015, at a total time of 132 hours. All pilot time logged was exclusively in glider aircraft.

A review of the pilot's personal logbook revealed that at the time of the accident he had accumulated a total time of 134.8 hours, 87.7 hours as pilot-in-command, with 9.4 hours in make and model; there was no record to indicate that the pilot had received instruction in make and model. It was further revealed that the pilot had made a total of 222 ground tow launches, 168 which were performed as pilot in command, and 54 performed while having received dual instruction. Additionally, it was revealed that the pilot had made a total of 13 ground tow launches in make and model, all of which were in the accident glider as pilot in command. Prior to the accident, the most recent ground tow launch in make and model was performed on March 23, 2014, which was in the accident glider.


The glider, serial number 126, was issued its standard airworthiness certificate in September of 1971. A review of the aircraft's maintenance records revealed that the last annual inspection was performed on March 26, 2015, at an airframe total time of 1,144.6 hours.


At 1545, the weather reporting facility at the Ernest A. Love Field (PRC), Prescott, Arizona, which was located about 7 nautical miles west-southwest of the accident site, reported wind variable at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 21 degrees C, dew point -9 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.94 inches of mercury.


A survey of the wreckage site revealed that the glider had impacted flat, desert-type terrain in a steep nose down attitude, about 215 feet west of runway 21, the departure runway, and about 2,490 feet from the point where the takeoff run had commenced. The glider came to rest on its left side on a measured magnetic heading of about 170 degrees. The first point of impact was evidenced by a relatively shallow depression, which measured about 6 inches in depth, and located about 30 feet east of the main wreckage. The direction of the first point of impact could not be determined.

The carry-through wing remained intact and upright laying on top of the cabin/cockpit area, with its entire leading edge facing aft, having rotated about 180 degrees during the accident sequence, and oriented nearly perpendicular to the aft fuselage.

The forward fuselage and cockpit area was crushed rearward. The aft fuselage was observed intact to the empennage, where a circumferential fracture was observed in the fiberglass. The vertical stabilizer was intact, with the rudder having remained attached to the stabilizer at all attach points. The left stabilator, which was attached to the top of the vertical stabilizer remained attached at all attached points. The right stabilator was observed separated from the vertical stabilizer, and located about 20 feet north of the main wreckage.

The outboard one-third of the left wing was observed intact, with moderate damage due to impact forces. The inboard two-thirds of the wing was not damaged. The left aileron was not damaged, and remained attached to the trailing edge of the wing at all attach points. The left spoiler was observed in the deployed position.

The inboard one-half of the right wing, both upper and lower surfaces, was substantially damaged due to impact forces. The outboard one-half of the wing was intact, with only minor damage observed. The right aileron was intact, not damaged, and remained attached to the wing's trailing edge at all attach points. The wing's spoiler was observed in the deployed position.

The single-place cockpit was destroyed as a result of impact forces. Flight control continuity was verified to the rudder and ailerons. Additionally, stabilator control through the fuselage via stabilator pushrods to the vertical stabilizer was verified.

An examination of the tow rope attachment revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Additionally, the tow winch operator reported no anomalies with the tow winch system, which had been used to launch several flights on the day of the accident.


On April 12, 2015, an autopsy on the pilot was performed at the Yavapai County Office of the Medical Examiner, Prescott Valley, Arizona. The results of the autopsy revealed that the pilot sustained fatal injuries as a result of multiple blunt force trauma.

Toxicological testing was performed on the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Review of the toxicology report revealed no carbon monoxide detected in Blood, no ethanol detected in Vitreous, and testing for cyanide not performed. Tests for drug revealed Flecainide and Tamsulosin detected in Liver and Blood.

Flecainide is a medication used to treat certain types of irregular heartbeat, and commonly known as an anti-arrhythmic drug.

Tamsulosin is an alpha-blocker that relaxes the muscles in the prostate and bladder neck, making it easier to urinate.

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA144
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, April 11, 2015 in Prescott Valley, AZ
Aircraft: SCHEMPP-HIRTH STANDARD CIRRUS, registration: N352D
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 11, 2015, about 1525 mountain standard time, a Schempp-Hirth, Standard Cirrus glider, sustained substantial damage after impact with terrain following a winch-tow-launch and initial climb at the A.C. Goodwin Memorial Field Gliderport (AZ86), Prescott Valley, Arizona. The certified private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. The glider was registered to and operated by the Prescott Soaring Society, Prescott, Arizona. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and a flight plan was not filed for the proposed local flight, which was being operated in accordance with 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The personal flight was originating at the time of the accident.

Witnesses reported that they observed the glider being launched from a winch tow line to the southwest. During the initial climb at an altitude of about 500 feet above ground level, the left wing dropped, followed by the glider descending in a steep nose-down attitude prior to impact with terrain. A postaccident examination of the glider revealed that all components necessary for flight were accounted for at the accident site. It was also reported that the glider had been winch-tow launched three times that day prior to the accident.

At 1545, the weather reporting facility at the Ernest A. Love Field (PRC), Prescott, Arizona, located about 6 nautical miles west of the accident site, reported wind variable at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 21 C, dew point -9 C, and an altimeter setting of 29.94 inches of mercury.

Any witnesses should email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email


The pilot who was killed in this plane crash has been identified as 74-year-old Robert Bauman of Prescott.

 Clarification regarding launch mechanics – The glider is launched while connected to a tow cable powered by a stationary winch, not a vehicle as previously reported, which pulls the glider up to speed while gaining altitude. At approximately 1000 feet, the tow line disconnects to allow free flight. NTSB personnel were on scene this past Saturday gathering evidence for their investigation. Further details on the cause of the crash will be issued by NTSB.

April 11. 2015 - PRELIMINARY INFORMATION- At approximately 3:30PM, YCSO deputies were called to an aircraft down on Morning Star Ranch Road, east of Coyote Springs Road in Prescott Valley. EMS personnel were already on scene from the Central Yavapai Fire District and pronounced the male pilot deceased.

The glider was launched while connected to a vehicle with a tow line. Once altitude is gained behind the moving vehicle, the tow line will be released allowing the aircraft to operate on its own. At some point during takeoff/tow and after gaining altitude, the aircraft appeared to lose control and descend rapidly, striking the ground and killing the pilot. There were several witnesses to the crash. Specific cause is unknown.

Identification of the pilot is being verified. The NTSB has been notified. Investigation is ongoing. Updates when available.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Proposed change targets airport improvement fund: Murfreesboro Municipal (KMBT), Tennessee

MURFREESBORO –   Construction began last week on Murfreesboro Municipal Airport's runway extension, but projects like this may be in jeopardy if a proposed change in the amount businesses are required to pay for improvements becomes state law, airport officials say.

The nearly $5.1 million project is most funded through the state's aviation tax fund, but a proposed change to the fund could cut it in half, explained Chad Gerke, director of the Murfreesboro airport.

The Haslam administration wants to cap the amount a single person or business will pay into the Tennessee Equity Fund, which is funded by aviation fuel taxes. The Equity Fund is distributed in the form of grants for improvements at large and small airports across the state, like those at Murfreesboro Municipal Airport.

"It will basically take money airports use for maintenance and improvements and cut it in half," Gerke said.

The city's total grant includes more than $4.4 million from the Tennessee Equity Fund, $328,000 from the federal government and $295,090 from airport debt and interest payments covered by airport revenues from fuel sales and leases.

The legislation would reduce the size of the funding pool that general aviation airports can pull from for maintenance projects and upgrades. It is currently making its way through the committee process in Nashville with nods from the Transportation and Ways & Means committees in both the state House and Senate.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said the state was stuck between a rock and a hard place with how the fund is funded.

On one side, he sees the value of local airports to economic development, but, on the other hand, one of the state's largest employers was threatening to fill up its plane's gas tanks in other states.

"It put us in a tough spot," Tracy said.

According to an Associated Press report, the cap will benefit Memphis-based FedEx that on average pays annually up to three-quarters of the $48 million fund.

According to testimony in committees this week, no other taxpayer exceeds the proposed cap. Southwest Airlines comes closest at $6 million per year.

Cash in the fund results from a 4.5-cent-per-gallon tax on aviation fuel collected by the state each year.

Of the surrounding states, North Carolina's fund comes closest at $20 million with a $0.053 effective tax rate and $2.5 million cap. Indiana has the smallest fund with a $1.2 million estimated annual revenue with a $0.10 a gallon rate and exemptions for airlines and FedEx, according to data from Tracy's office.

Under Haslam's proposal, FedEx's aviation fuel tax liability would be capped at $10.5 million — down from the $32 million the company paid last year. The cap would begin July 1 and be phased in over four years.

Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority Executive Director John Black said he thinks the cap will have a detrimental effects on the state's network of airports.

"While we value our existing business, we also must balance the maintenance and growth of all of our airports through the mechanism (Tennessee Equity Fund) that has worked so well since 1988," Black said.

"Airports are much more than runways and taxiways, they are the front door and economic engines of our communities," he continued.

Tracy said he spent time talking to airports from across the state and was pleased when his committee amended the bill to create a task force to oversee the changes to the fund.

While airport administrators say there's no plan to replace the money, Tracy said he has hope the task force will find a way to keep fuel tax money flowing to general aviation airports.

"The Equity Fund has worked very well for us and the taskforce needs to develop a long-term plan to continue it," Tracy said, adding general aviation airports are important to economic development.

Both Black and Gerke said they fear that economic development opportunities may be damaged if airports have less funding for upkeep.

Gerke said getting the runway project is important, but the Murfreesboro airport terminal, which dates back to the 1950s, needs an overhaul. But that may not happen anytime soon if the Equity Fund is reduced.

"We may never have a jet based here, but we do have corporate executive who come here," he said.

He said now the airport will have to reassess its future plans.

Nonprofit group pushes for growth, welfare of Taunton Municipal Airport (KTAN), Massachusetts

Mike Dupont flies his restored 1946 Piper Cub at Taunton Municipal Airport.

TAUNTON — Taunton Municipal Airport is getting a boost in interest with the recent formation of a nonprofit group of pilots and other supporters of the city-owned, airplane facility.

The Taunton Pilots Association will promote the use and growth of the city-owned TMA, also known as King Field, which got its start in 1919 when Henry King established his own airport in East Taunton.

“We’ve been talking about it for a close to a year,” said TPA president and pilot Melinda Paine-Dupont.

“We wanted to provide a unified voice,” she added. “There are a lot of pilots and a lot of interest in the airport.”

Paine-Dupont said a somewhat-contentious public meeting in December at Taunton City Council chambers that focused on developing a new master plan was not the sole catalyst to establish the TPA — which she said has been around for about a month and has both a dedicated website and Facebook page.

But she said that night’s central issue of finding a way to bring into compliance the airport’s turf-and-gravel runway — the shorter of TMA’s two runways — was an important factor to get the TPA up and running.
“It got us motivated,” she said.

Paine-Dupont said the TPA now has 71 members, including eight pilots from Brockton who share a single plane at the Taunton airport and belong to the Brockton Flying Club, which got its start at King Field in the 1930s.

She said the association is open to pilots and nonpilots alike. Paine-Dupont also said the group is currently in the process of gaining 501 (c)(3) nonprofit status with the state.

More than 100 owners of planes lease hangar space and close to another 20 pilots pay to have their planes tied down outside, according to airport manager Daniel Raposa.

Paine-Dupont also said the TPA in no way will compete or oppose the interest of the TMA’s seven-member commission — which will hold a public meeting Wednesday night at City Hall, to provide residents with an update on what will be the first new master plan in more than a dozen years.

A viable master plan is vital in terms of a small, municipal airport qualifying for capital-improvement grants from both the Federal Aviation Administration and the state’s MassDOT Aeronautics Division.

Wednesday’s meeting will include a presentation by James Miklas, director of aviation planning for Woburn-based Airport Solutions Group LLC, which has been retained by the airport commission to form a new Master Plan.

Paine-Dupont said she foresees more involvement in the TPA and is optimistic for the advocacy it will provide to enable the airport to keep up with the times and become more of an aeronautic player in the southeast region.

 “You can’t complain if you don’t voice your opinions,” she said.

Original article can be found here:

Taunton Pilots Association president and pilot Melinda Paine-Dupont is seated in the 1946 Piper Cub.