Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cirrus SR22, N88AX: Accident occurred April 19, 2015 at Pine Shadows Airpark (94FL), Fort Myers, Florida

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

National Transportation Safety Board  -  Docket And Docket Items:   http://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

National Transportation Safety Board  -   Aviation Accident Data Summary:   http://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

ALPHA X-RAY LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N88AX 

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA192 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 19, 2015 in Fort Myers, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/21/2015
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N88AX
Injuries: 4 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot stated that he checked the weather at a local airport and subsequently chose to land on a runway at his destination airport with a quartering tailwind and gusts to 20 knots. While the pilot was performing a steep approach to the runway, a crosswind “push[ed]” the airplane to the left. Further, the pilot did not flare the airplane, and, during the landing, the airplane touched down on the runway and bounced. The pilot added full throttle in an attempt to perform a go-around, but the airplane slid off the runway. He then retarded the engine throttle and attempted to “straighten” out the landing roll; however, the airplane struck a tree, became airborne again, struck more trees, and finally came to rest upright near a house. The pilot reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation. In addition, he stated that the accident could have been prevented if he had flown over the field, evaluated the wind sock, and conducted a longer approach flight pattern.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's improper decision to land the airplane with a quartering, gusting tailwind and his subsequent failure to flare the airplane and maintain directional control after it bounced, which resulted in a runway excursion.

On April 19, 2015, about 1455 eastern daylight time, a Cirrus Design Corp. SR22, N88AX, was substantially damaged when it impacted a parked airplane, a house, and trees during the landing at Pine Shadows Airpark (94FL), Fort Myers, Florida. The private pilot and three passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated at Key West International Airport (EWY), Key West, Florida.

According to the pilot, he listened to the weather information at Page Field Airport (FMY), Fort Myers, Florida, which was about 9 miles to the south of the accident location and elected to land on runway 09, a 3,200-foot-long, 50-foot-wide asphalt runway. He made visual contact with the runway about 1 mile from the airport. During the final approach leg of the traffic pattern, the airplane had a "steeper angle descent" to the runway when a crosswind "push[ed]" the airplane to the left. In addition, during the landing he did not flare the airplane, which resulted in a "bounce." The pilot added full throttle in an attempt to perform a go-around maneuver, but the airplane was off the runway "sliding towards [a] road and hangar." Then the pilot retarded the engine throttle, attempted to "straighten" out the landing roll, however, the airplane struck a tree, a parked airplane, a house, became airborne again, struck more trees, and finally came to rest upright near a house. All four occupants egressed without injury.

The 1453 automated weather observation at FMY, included winds from 210 degrees at 13 knots, gusting to 20 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 29 degrees C, dew point 22 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.91 inches of mercury.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration inspector that responded to the accident location, the airplane came to rest approximately 2,500 feet from the initial touch down point. The fuselage and wings were substantially damaged in the accident sequence. In addition, the empennage was separated from the fuselage.

The pilot reported in the NTSB Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report, Form 6120.1, that there were no mechanical malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation. In addition, under the Operator/Owner Safety Recommendation section of the form, he stated that he would "fly over the field, evaluate wind sock, and longer approach flight pattern."

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA192
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 19, 2015 in Fort Myers, FL
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR22, registration: N88AX
Injuries: 4 Uninjured.

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


On April 19, 2015, about 1455 eastern daylight time, a Cirrus Design Corp. SR22, N88AX, was substantially damaged when it impacted a parked airplane, a house, and trees during the landing at Pine Shadows Airpark (94FL), Fort Myers, Florida. The private pilot and three passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated at Key West International Airport (EWY), Key West, Florida.


According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector who interviewed the pilot after the accident, the pilot stated that he did not have visual contact with the runway until approximately a mile from the airport. Then, the landing was "extremely hard," the airplane bounced, and the pilot added full power in order to recover from the bounced landing. The airplane veered off the runway, struck a parked airplane, trees, and a house prior to coming to rest. All four occupants egressed without injury.


According to the FAA inspector that responded to the accident location, the fuselage and wings were substantially damaged. In addition, the empennage was separated from the fuselage.






 



LEE COUNTY, FL - We have confirmation from the Tice Fire Department that North Fort Myers responded to a plane accident at Pine Shadows Airpark in North Fort Myers.

The community is gated and limited public access. We were told everyone is okay and that someone "put a plane down." The activity is beyond our access point. Many of the homes have driveways that allow light planes in the neighborhood.

The plane landed and wind sheer caused it to bounce. The plane clipped another plane and part of a house. No reports of injuries according to the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

The FAA says a Cirrus SR22 aircraft struck a parked plane, some trees and a house after landing at the Pine Shadows Airport and they will continue to investigate.





A small plane crashed at a private North Fort Myers airpark Sunday causing significant damage to the craft but leaving the pilot unhurt.

The Federal Aviation Administration was en route to investigate the crash at the Pine Shadows Airpark in North Fort Myers according to a spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

Units from the sheriff's office, the Lee County Port Authority and the North Fort Myers Fire Control District were at the scene late Sunday.

The identity of the pilot was unavailable.

Two residents, a man and a woman, at the gated residential airpark, who declined to give their names, confirmed that a plane had crashed and that the pilot was unhurt.

The male resident said the plane, a Cirrus SR22, suffered significant damage and then declined further comment.

Homes at the airpark have attached hangars for aircraft.

A section of the property near the east end of the runway could be seen cordoned off by police tape but access to the private property was denied to news media.

A woman working in a building near the end of the runway but outside the airpark said she heard a plane at the site sputtering shortly before the crash, around 4 p.m.

Margaret Cruz, who said she was working at her husband's "man cave" Sunday off U.S. 41 and Runway Street near the airpark, said the planes are a common site there.

"We see them all the time," she said.






NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FAA is investigating after a plane crashed Sunday afternoon near Pine Shadows Airpark.

The crash happened around 3 p.m. along Runway Street. 

Our crew on scene said the plane landed then clipped a home.

It is still unclear what lead up to the crash. 

No one was hurt in the crash.

Skydiver suffers leg injury: Freefall Adventures at Cross Keys Airport (17N), Williamstown, Monroe Township, New Jersey

MONROE TWP. -- A skydiver was apparently injured late Saturday morning and suffered a broken femur bone, according to police dispatch.

The incident at Freefall Adventures, the Williamstown-based skydiving facility, was reported shortly before 11 a.m., according to emergency scanner reports, which indicated a fall victim needed to be airlifted from the site off North Tuckahoe Road.

A police dispatcher said Saturday afternoon that someone "took a hard fall," during the accident, but additional information was not available.

Freefall Adventures declined comment when reached by phone. Additional information will be added if released by authorities.

Almost exactly one year ago, an experienced skydiver from New York with 350 completed jumps died in an April 20, 2014 accident.

In October 2014, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which typically allows businesses to reorganize financial assets while remaining open for business. 

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

Flight Design CTSW, N684CT: Accident occurred April 18, 2015 at Newport State Airport (KUUU), Newport, Rhode Island

NTSB Identification: GAA15CA045
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, April 18, 2015 in Newport, RI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/09/2015
Aircraft: FLIGHT DESIGN GMBH CTSW, registration: N684CT
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

The pilot reported that about 700 feet into a landing roll, the left wing came up suddenly, and the airplane turned left. The airplane departed the runway to the left, flipped over, and subsequently sustained substantial damage to the left wing, right wing, and the empennage. The pilot stated he believes a left crosswind gust was present during the landing roll which resulted in a ground loop. 

The pilot reported no pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain directional control during landing.

The pilot reported no pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

FAA FSDO: FAA Boston FSDO-61

PAUL G.  LAURIENZO: http://registry.faa.gov/N684CT



A small plane flipped over at Newport State Airport in Middletown Saturday morning after it ran off the end of the runway upon landing.

The pilot was not harmed and was able to get out of the damaged plane safely, according to the Rhode Island State Police.


Middletown Firefighters said that the plan suffered damage to its wings, propeller and landing gear.


The plane reportedly went off the side of the runway and its nose dug into the ground, causing it to flip over.


The incident occurred around 11:45 a.m.


Officials from the Rhode Island Airport corporation responded to investigate the cause of the crash.


No fuel was spilled as a result of the crash. 


The Fire Department was on scene for about two hours as the plane was flipped back over and towed away.


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


MIDDLETOWN, RI_ Rhode Island State Police responds to an aircraft incident where a plane flips upside down. 


Officials say they responded to an aircraft incident at 11:45 am on April 18 at Newport State Airport. The aircraft went off the side of the runway as it was landing.


The aircraft dug its nose into the grass causing it to flip on its roof and sustained considerable damage to the landing gear, wings, propeller and roof.


The pilot made it out safely and did not suffer any injuries.

Fire Officials say fuel did not spill and they stayed until the plane was right side up. 


Original article can be found here: http://www.abc6.com

Edgar County Board gives involuntarily dissolved entity use of Airport • Edgar County Airport (KPRG) Paris, Illinois

Edgar County, IL. (ECWd) –

It appears the Edgar County Board lacks any common sense whatsoever.

This month, the board, through the Edgar County Airport Advisory Board (which holds no power and cannot make any decisions) has stated it will allow the “Edgar County Airport Booster Club” use of the airport, with the approval of the main hangar lease holder, to hold a “fund raiser” consisting of a pancake and sausage breakfast.

The problem with this, and I informed the board of this over a year ago, is that the “Edgar County Airport Booster Club” does not exist – and has not existed for well over 15 years.

On February 1, 1990, the Illinois Secretary of State involuntarily dissolved the club and it has remained involuntarily dissolved for over 15 years – while still conducting business at the airport – with the knowledge of the county board that the organization does not legally exist.

Additionally, the booster club puts itself out as a nonprofit raising funds through donations for small projects at the airport – but this designation requires registration with the Illinois Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Bureau and that database shows no registration for this entity – ever.

The remaining questions are: 1) How will this [nonexistent] entity obtain insurance to operate their fundraiser at the airport, and, 2) How can the Edgar County Health Department perform a food safety inspection on an entity that does not exist, and, 3) Does this put any liability on the county and county taxpayers should something go wrong since the county board is fully aware they are not registered to do business, and, 4) Will the Attorney General shut them down?

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


Germanwings crash families could seek damages in the United States - lawyer

FRANKFURT, April 19 (Reuters) - Families of the victims of the Germanwings crash are considering filing a claim for damages in the United States if they cannot reach agreement with parent airline Lufthansa in Germany, a lawyer representing the families said on Sunday.

Compensation talks with Lufthansa are expected to start soon and the lawyer, Elmar Giemulla, told Reuters he hoped the company would agree to pay damages commensurate with the emotional harm caused by the crash.

"If the airline is not prepared to do so, however, we will look seriously at making a claim in the United States," said Giemulla, adding that he was representing 21 families including those of the German school children who died.

All 150 people on board the airliner were killed in the crash on March 24. Investigators believe the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had a history of depression, deliberately steered the plane into a mountain in the French Alps after locking the captain out of the cockpit.

Giemulla said his clients could join the families of two U.S. citizens who also lost their lives in the crash in seeking damages through a U.S. court.

He said he was already working closely with lawyers representing the U.S. families, adding that it would be at the discretion of the judge in the United States whether to allow damage claims by the other families as well.

There are precedents for such cases, Giemulla said.

In air crashes, the amounts awarded for pain and suffering vary by country, with victims from the United States tending to receive higher payouts than in Germany because U.S. courts recognize compensation for emotional harm.

EMERGENCY AID PAYMENTS

In Germany, damages are calculated based on a victim's lost earnings and other financial consequences from the loss, such as travel costs, and there is typically no separate award for pain and suffering, according to Giemulla.

This means that revelations by Lufthansa that its flight school knew of Lubitz's depression may not influence the level of payouts in Germany as they could under U.S. law.

Giemulla said he is considering seeking 1 million euros ($1.1 million) per victim.

So far, Lufthansa has paid 111 families emergency aid of 50,000 euros each, a company spokesman said on Sunday, adding that the airline aimed to make payments to the remaining families as quickly as possible.

The spokesman declined to comment on the possibility of damage claims being made through a U.S. court.

Nearly half of the victims of the Germanwings Barcelona to Duesseldorf flight were German, with the remaining passengers hailing from a range of countries, including Spain, Australia and Argentina.

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

Pilot Rob Pavan believed dead as authorities find plane wreckage north-west of Gympie: Jabiru 258, 19-7621

Wreckage of the light plane belonging to missing Queensland pilot Rob Pavan has been found in southern Queensland.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said Mr Pavan could not have survived the high speed crash, but by late Monday afternoon they were yet to locate his body.

AMSA media coordinator Andrea Hayward-Maher said a farmer found Mr Pavan's crashed Jabiru near the town of Woolooga, about 39 kilometres north-west of Gympie.

When a rescue chopper had trouble accessing the mountainous crash site, the farmer drove to the scene with police in four-wheel drives.

Authorities eventually confirmed the wreckage, strewn across the mountain over several hundred metres, was that of Mr Pavan's plane.

Ms Hayward-Maher said Mr Pavan did not issue a mayday call before the crash and his personal locator beacon was not activated, which made the search difficult.

"He hasn't made it too far, unfortunately, before this crash occurred," she said.

"He hasn't survived the high-impact crash. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the pilot.

"This has been a really tough few days for them."

It is not known what caused the crash but there had been reports of bad weather in the area.

AMSA said five fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters took part in the third straight day of searching for Mr Pavan's plane, which disappeared on Saturday.

The solo pilot, an experienced aviator, had just completed a trip around Australia.

He took off from Gympie on Saturday morning en route to a small airstrip about 90 kilometres west of Gladstone, in central Queensland.

AMSA was alerted when Mr Pavan failed to arrive and a search began about 4:15pm on Saturday.

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au

http://kitplanes2.com

Rob Pavan has not been seen since taking off from Gympie Saturday.






An extensive air search will resume today for a recreational pilot who vanished during a solo flight at the weekend.

Rob Pavan has not been seen or heard of since taking off from Gympie at 9.30am on Saturday for Dixalea, 87km west of Gladstone.

Thirteen helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft scoured the flight path yesterday but found no sign of the missing plane.

The air search focused on an area of 5740sq km northwest of Gympie and southeast of Monto.

Mr. Pavan had been due at a private airstrip at Dixalea at about 11.30am on Saturday.

Authorities say weather conditions were not ideal when the enthusiast took off on what should have been a straightforward two-hour flight.

Mr. Pavan was piloting a Jabiru, a popular light recreational kit-form aircraft manufactured in Bundaberg.

Late last year the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority invoked flying limitations on planes with Jabiru engines because of a “heightened risk” of engine failure.

Jabiru must only operate during the day, avoid populous areas and passengers must sign statements saying they have been warned of the risks of engine failure.

Gympie Aero Club president Gary Haynes said Mr Pavan was an experienced aircraft builder and pilot.

An online post from 2011 indicates that he assembled the Jabiru J258 kit plane. Mr.  Haynes said club members were concerned for Mr.  Pavan because it was unusual for a pilot to alter a flight plan without alerting family or friends.

“You usually don’t land somewhere else if you don’t tell somebody about it,” said Mr.  Haynes.

“We are all concerned because when one of your members has gone missing and you can’t find him that is a worry.”

Mr.  Haynes said the missing pilot had a hangar which housed two planes at the Gympie Airport.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is coordinating the search.

Anyone who saw a light plane operating to the north west of Gympie between 9.30am and 11.20am on Saturday should contact AMSA Search and Rescue on 1800 815 257.

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


One of two helicopters seen in the Coalstoun Lakes area this afternoon searching for the missing plane.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority has focussed their search for the missing light plane today between Gympie and Monto.

30 years after deadly plane crash, family memorialized at Outdoor Discovery Center: Cessna 310R, N1334G, accident occurred April 19, 1985 in St. James, Charlevoix County, Michigan

The Vander Meulen's pose for a family portrait in 1985 not long before a plane crash claimed the lives of Robert (top), Linda (right) and Joshua (second from left). Sisters Sarah (bottom, on Linda's lap) and Rachel (far left) have worked together to honor their family 30 years later. Contributed



Holland, Mich.

Sarah Westenbroek's life has come full circle since a plane crash 30 years ago.

On April 19, 1985, a plane crash claimed the lives of seven Holland residents — shocking the community — including Westenbroek's father, mother and big brother.

While many Holland residents still remember the tragedy, Westenbroek wanted a more permanent memorial to her parents, Bob and Linda Vander Meulen, and her brother Joshua. That memorial is Fillmore Discovery Park, a recent addition to the Outdoor Discovery Center located on land where the Vander Meulen family lived.

“So far it’s been a great place for us to go," Westenbroek said. “It’s fun to see my own kids play on the same land I played on.”

The park is a fitting tribute for her parents, who Westenbroek says were avid nature lovers who regularly went on hunting and fishing trips.

“We still have a head of a deer mounted somewhere that was one of mom’s,” said Rachel O’Banion, Westenbroek's sister.

The Vander Meulens were on their way to a fishing trip on Beaver Island when their plane encountered heavy fog and crashed. Also killed were Holland Community Hospital physicians Eli Coats and Steve Zonnebelt, local businessman Richard Wierenga and Wierenga's son, William.

Westenbroek and O’Banion, who were 3 and 5 years old at the time, were raised in Virginia by their uncle and aunt, David and Doris Vander Meulen. O’Banion has lived in St. Louis for the past nine years, while Westenbroek moved back to Holland 11 years ago to marry her husband, Ryan. The move back to Holland was when Westenbroek realized how many people were affected by and still remembered the crash. She said she was greatly impacted by how many people recognized her by knowing her parents.

“It’s been fun to be here and find connections I never knew I had,” Westenbroek said.

Westenbroek has made numerous connections since moving back. When she attended a graduation party for one of her husband’s friends, she met her mom’s best friend from high school, who told Westenbroek she looked a lot like her mother. Another person had a picture of Westenbroek and her brother, Joshua. She even found out she was attending the same church with one of her third cousins.

“I love hearing stories about my parents,” said Westenbroek. “It’s been fun being able to know and meet my parents through other people.”

Westenbroek said she has also connected with surviving family members of the other victims of the plane crash. She lives on the same street as Kim Vandenheuvel, who is the daughter of Richard Wierenga. Other surviving family members no longer live in the Holland area, but Westenbroek said they try to maintain contact with each other.

“We’re all connected by what happened and we try and stay in touch,” Westenbroek said.

Westenbroek also took an interest in the family’s old property. After the crash, the family’s property was divided; the 6-acre lot that is now Fillmore Discovery Park had been vacant since 2002 before being bought a few years ago by Fillmore Township. The township then gave control of the property to the Outdoor Discovery Center.

Westenbroek and O’Banion found that the center was planning on developing a park on the property and decided to get involved with the project.

“We were wanting it to be somewhat connected with the family,” O’Banion said.

Westenbroek said the center was very open to the Vander Meulens being a part of the park. The two sisters helped the center raise funds for the project with letter writing and talking to family and friends.

The park is now a natural playscape, with log balance beams, trees to climb on and two fishing ponds — which were dug by Bob Vander Meulen. There is also a sign at the park with a picture and the history of the old Vander Meulen home.

The Outdoor Discovery Center is planning on developing the park more.

“It’s probably phase 1 or phase 2 of a 3 to 4 phase plan,” said Travis Williams, executive director of the center. “We want to build a pavilion or a restroom. We’re open to a lot of things; we haven’t closed the book on it.”

Whatever development happens, Williams said that honoring the Vander Meulens will be a part of it.

“We’ve tried to honor them and what was there,” he said.

For the 30th anniversary this weekend, Westenbroek and O’Banion will be planting a tree at the park. Westenbroek said she feels blessed that she and others are able to enjoy the land that her parents once enjoyed.

“My life came full circle,” she said. “Born here, raised far away, and now coming back to Michigan. I’m happy to be raising my kids here.”

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

NTSB Identification: CHI85MA169
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 28504.
Accident occurred Friday, April 19, 1985 in ST JAMES, MI
Aircraft: CESSNA 310R, registration: N1334G
Injuries: 7 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

DURING A NIGHT ARRIVAL, THE PLT REPORTED THAT HE HAD THE ARPT IN SIGHT & CANCELED HIS IFR FLT PLAN. A WITNESS SAW THE LIGHTS OF THE ACFT AS IT CIRCLED THE DESTINATION ARPT. HE REPORTED THE ACFT HAD TURNED LEFT TO A SOUTHERLY HEADING, & SHORTLY THEREAFTER, HE SAW A FLASH OF LIGHT. THE WITNESS WENT TO THE ARPT & OBSERVED THAT THE ARPT LIGHTING WAS ON. ALSO, HE NOTED THAT THERE WAS NO GROUND FOG & HE COULD SEE STARS OVERHEAD. A SEARCH WAS INITIATED, BUT THE ACFT WAS NOT FOUND UNTIL 0950 EST THE NEXT MORNING. THE ACFT HAD COLLIDED WITH TREES ABOUT 3000 FT SOUTHWEST OF THE WEST END OF RWY 9/27, THEN CRASHED & BURNED. INITIAL IMPACT WAS WITH A 70 FT TREE AT AN ELEVATION OF ABOUT 690 FT MSL WHILE THE ACFT WAS ON A SOUTHERLY HEADING. THE ARPT ELEVATION WAS 670 FT MSL. NO PREIMPACT PART FAILURE OR MALFUNCTION WAS FOUND. APRX 32 MI EAST AT PELLSTON, MI, THE 2150 EST WX WAS, IN PART: 5000 FT SCATTERED, 10,000 FT BROKEN, VISIBILITY 4 MI.

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

PROPER ALTITUDE..NOT MAINTAINED..PILOT IN COMMAND

Contributing Factors:
LIGHT CONDITION..DARK NIGHT
DESCENT..INADVERTENT..PILOT IN COMMAND
VISUAL/AURAL PERCEPTION..PILOT IN COMMAND
OBJECT..TREE(S)

Montana man recounts seabed search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight

Working for the Whitefish-based deep-sea survey company Hydrospheric Solutions, Missoula's Spencer Paddock spent 31 days as a sonar technician searching the floor of the Indian Ocean hoping to find the missing Malaysian airliner presumed crashed there.




MISSOULA, Mont. | The unexplained disappearance of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 – which vanished March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board after taking off from Kuala Lumpur – is one of the most shocking and sad mysteries in the history of aviation.

This past January, a Missoula man spent a month aboard a 300-foot boat looking for the lost aircraft, using sonar to scan the bottom of an unexplored expanse of the desolate southern Indian Ocean.

Spencer Paddock, 27, works for Geo-Marine Technology Inc., a Missoula company that specializes in marine geology, hydrographic and geophysics consultancy services.

For the search, Paddock was hired as a sonar technician by Jay Larsen, who owns Whitefish-based Hydrospheric Solutions LLC. That company specializes in deep-sea surveying.

Paddock had heard that Larsen built some “cutting-edge synthetic aperture sonar technology” with Raytheon and other investors.

“I called him about maybe mapping some lakes in the Seeley-Swan Valley just for a laugh, and he came back with, ‘Well, that sounds awesome, I’d love to do it, but I’m pretty busy with this airline thing,’ ” Paddock said.

Larsen had teamed up with a Maryland company and gotten a contract to conduct the search for Flight MH370. He told Paddock he needed experienced workers.

“It turned into six months of work for five guys from Missoula, all out there on this boat on 31-day hitches,” Paddock explained. "We flew into Perth, Australia, over New Year’s Eve. I woke up on Jan. 2 and we met up with the boat and headed 1,100 miles offshore. A lot of times, we were the only boat out there looking within 800 miles, so we were really hoping nothing went wrong.”

The boat, called the GO Phoenix, had 30 crew members.

“So the 10 marine crew were from Crimea, which was interesting because half of them were ethnic Russians and half of them were ethnic Ukrainians, so it was kind of like, ‘If you guys were at home right now, you’d probably be shooting at each other,’ but because we’re all on the same boat, literally and figuratively, they kind of get along,” Paddock recalled. “And then we had 10 Indonesians and 10 guys from North America, and four or five of them were from western Montana, which was pretty cool.”

Paddock worked 12-hour shifts, sitting in a room and interpreting data coming in from the sonar equipment, which was towed 7 kilometers behind the boat with a special cable and recorded information at depths of up to 5 kilometers.

“We were running the equipment, running the winch, flying the sonar and looking at the data,” he explained. “And we were kind of the first pass. So the data comes in in 70-second frames, so every 70 seconds it generates a new image. So you look at it and say, ‘Well, that’s not the plane’ and then you kind of wait. And another 70 seconds goes by, and you say, ‘Well, that’s not the plane.’ ”

The men had to be vigilant to keep the sonar from crashing into undersea formations.

“Basically, it’s like flying a kite underwater in reverse – trying to keep it up off the seabed,” he explained. “Like when you fly a kite, if there’s certain wind and you’re trying to keep it under a powerline. We had to make sure we kept the right altitude.”

The data they collected was also passed off to government representatives and geoscientists in charge of the search to make sure nothing was missed.

At nights, the guys would play poker, watch movies or go to the gym.

“The big joke is that working at sea is kind of like going to jail with a higher chance of drowning,” he said. “A couple days we had nice enough weather to play soccer on the back deck. You’re sitting in a container part of the time and the rest of the time you’re sleeping or walking on the deck doing preventative maintenance.”

The same company hired four other guys from western Montana to perform the same work, Paddock said.

Needless to say, they never saw the airplane – or anything else for that matter.

“It’s a pretty desolate stretch of ocean,” Paddock said. “It’s never really been used for shipping or anything like that. Where they think the best guess to where the plane is, is way away from anything. The thing is, the data they get out of that sonar is so good that if we went over that plane crash, we would know for sure.”

There are many conspiracy theories surrounding the disappearance of the airplane. Satellite data shows that it flew for at least six hours after the last voice contact with air traffic control, but the Malaysian government has said that its flight path ended in the southern Indian Ocean and that all lives were lost.

“It’s definitely out there,” Paddock said. “There’s guys from western Montana that are out there looking for it right now, and they may have come across something interesting in the past two months.”

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

NTSB Identification: DCA14RA076
Scheduled 14 CFR Non-U.S., Commercial
Accident occurred Saturday, March 08, 2014 in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
Aircraft: BOEING 777 - 206, registration:
Injuries: 239 Fatal.
The foreign authority was the source of this information.

The Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has notified the NTSB of an accident involving a Boeing 777-200 that occurred on March 8, 2014. The NTSB has appointed a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the Malaysian DCA investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13 as the State of Manufacturer and Design of the airplane.

All investigative information will be released by the Malaysian DCA.