Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grumman American AA-5A Cheetah, Wright-Hanger Aviation Inc, N26886: Fatal accident occurred May 21, 2015 near Wendell H. Ford Airport (KCPF), Hazard, Perry County, Kentucky

Robert Bookman

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Louisville, Kentucky
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 

Aviation Accident Final Report -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Wright-Hanger Aviation Inc:   

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA220 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, May 21, 2015 in Rowdy, KY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/08/2017
Aircraft: GULFSTREAM AMERICAN CORP AA-5A, registration: N26886
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.

The noninstrument-rated private pilot was nearing the destination airport at the end of a cross-country flight. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) were widespread in the vicinity of the destination, and several witnesses stated that the weather conditions were misty, foggy, and rainy at the time of the accident. However, the extent to which the pilot had familiarized himself with the weather conditions along the route of flight before takeoff could not be determined, as there was no record of a weather briefing from an official, access-controlled source. Radar data showed the airplane on a northerly heading at a cruise altitude about 7,000 ft above ground level (agl). The airplane passed west of the airport as it continued north, then entered a descending right turn in the direction of the airport. The airplane conducted a series of descending right and left turns east of the airport until radar contact was lost at an altitude about 5,600 ft agl in the vicinity of the accident site. The pilot did not contact air traffic control at any time during the flight. 

The airplane came to rest in heavily wooded, hilly terrain and was highly fragmented. There was no evidence of an in-flight breakup, or of pre- or postimpact fire. Several angularly-cut tree branches along the wreckage path indicated that the engine was producing power at the time of impact. A postaccident examination of the airplane and the engine revealed no evidence of any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. 

It is likely that the pilot was operating in visual meteorological conditions above the clouds until he neared the destination airport, at which time he attempted to descend through IMC in order to land. The fact that the pilot did not hold an instrument rating and had received only minimal training in instrument flight significantly increased his susceptibility to the sensory illusions associated with instrument flight. Given the reduced visibility conditions and the radar flight track of the airplane, it is likely that the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and a subsequent loss of control as he attempted to descend through IMC and locate the airport.

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

The noninstrument-rated pilot’s decision to continue visual flight rules flight in instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a loss of control due to spatial disorientation.  


On May 21, 2015, about 1854 eastern daylight time, a Gulfstream American Corp AA-5A, N26886, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Rowdy, Kentucky. The private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed Aiken Municipal Airport (AIK), Aiken, South Carolina, at an unknown time, and was destined for Wendell H Ford Airport (CPF), Hazard, Kentucky. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

Radar data obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed a track of visual flight rules (VFR) targets correlated to be the accident airplane. About 1830, the airplane was established on a track of about 345 degrees towards CPF at an altitude of 8,300 feet mean sea level (msl). The airplane passed west of the airport, then about 1845, about 2 miles northwest of the airport, the airplane began a right, 180-degree turn and descended to about 7,700 feet msl as it tracked south. At 1848, on an approximate right base position in relation to runway 32, the airplane began another right turn and descended to about 7,500 feet. Over the next several minutes, the airplane completed a series of turns about one mile east of CPF, with altitudes varying between 7,500 and 6,800 feet. The last radar target with recorded altitude, at 1853:38, placed the airplane about 700 feet west of the accident site at 6,800 feet. There was no record of the pilot having contacted any air traffic control (ATC) facility during the accident flight. It could not be determined whether the pilot made any radio transmissions on the common traffic advisory frequency for CPF.

The airport manager at CPF stated that he was flying a helicopter in the area on the afternoon of the accident, and described the weather conditions as poor. Cloud ceilings were between 400-800 feet above ground level (agl), and in some locations the clouds were "all the way down to the ridge." He stated that several "bands" of weather had moved through the area that afternoon, at times reducing the visibility to around 2 miles. 

Two witnesses stated that the weather conditions at the time of the accident were daylight, with mist and fog. They heard the sound of impact and ran outside to see what had occurred. 

Two other witnesses near the accident site reported that they observed the airplane smoking as it impacted the ground. One of these witnesses reported that he saw the airplane come from the direction of the airport.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. He did not hold an instrument rating. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued July 15, 2014. Review of the pilot's personal logbooks revealed that he had accumulated a total flight time of about 220 hours, with about 143 hours in the accident airplane, including about 20 hours in the 90 days before the accident. According to the logbook, the pilot had accumulated 3.6 total hours of simulated instrument flight time.

In an interview conducted by the FAA, the owner of the airplane stated that he was friends with the pilot and had flown with him often. He and the pilot had spoken about the flight earlier on the day of the accident, and had discussed the weather conditions for the flight. The owner also stated that the pilot did not like talking on the radio, and did not normally file visual flight rules (VFR) flight plans or request VFR flight following services from ATC. Additionally, the owner and the pilot had agreed that the pilot would not fly the airplane at night.

The airport manager at CPF stated that the pilot had flown into the airport several times prior to the accident, and that the accident flight was "not the first time" the pilot had flown to CPF under VFR when the weather was IMC.


The airplane was manufactured in 1979, and was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series, 150 hp reciprocating engine. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed August 1, 2014, at a total aircraft time of 2,136.75 hours.

According to the owner, the airplane was equipped with Garmin 430 and 496 units, and was capable of receiving XM satellite weather information. The airplane was also equipped with an autopilot that "did not work well" and "would put the airplane into a bank." According to the owner, the pilot was aware of the limitations of the autopilot and was likely not using it during the flight.


The 1745 weather observation at CPF included wind from 310 degrees at 7 knots, 5 statute miles visibility, a broken cloud layer at 1,000 feet, an overcast ceiling at 1,500 feet, temperature 12 degrees C, and dew point 11 degrees C.

The 1845 weather observation at CPF included wind from 330 degrees at 4 knots, 3 statute miles visibility, light drizzle, scattered clouds at 800 feet, a broken cloud layer at 1,400 feet, and an overcast ceiling at 2,100 feet.

The 1905 weather observation at CPF included wind from 320 degrees at 4 knots, 3 statute miles visibility, drizzle, broken cloud layers at 800 feet and 1,200 feet, an overcast cloud layer at 2,000 feet, temperature 11 degrees C, and dew point 11 degrees C.

The 1848 weather observation at JKL, located about 13 nautical miles (nm) north-northwest of the accident site, included wind variable at 5 knots, 5 statute miles visibility, mist, clouds broken cloud layers at 800 feet and 2,500 feet, and an overcast ceiling at 3,000 feet. The cloud ceilings were reported variable between 400 feet and 1,100 feet.

The 1853 weather observation at JKL included wind from 310 degrees at 5 knots, 5 statute miles, mist, broken cloud layers at 800 feet and 2,700 feet, and an overcast ceiling at 3,500 feet. The cloud ceilings were reported variable between 400 feet and 1,100 feet.

A terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF) for JKL, issued at 1320, forecast conditions at 1800 with visibility better than 6 statute miles and an overcast layer at 1,500 feet.

Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) Sierra, issued at 1645 and valid at the accident time, was the only AIRMET valid for the accident site at the accident time. AIRMET Sierra forecasted mountains to be obscured by cloud cover.

An area forecast issued at 1445 and valid for the accident time forecast occasional visibility down to 5 statute miles, mist, and an overcast ceiling between 2,000 and 2,500 feet mean sea level (MSL) with cloud tops between 6,000 and 8,000 feet MSL.

An Area Forecast Discussion issued by the Jackson, Kentucky National Weather Service office at 1537, discussed IMC, including low-level cloud cover and areas of drizzle, to continue through the afternoon and evening. Dense fog was forecast to develop as the cloud ceilings lifted overnight and in the pre-dawn hours.

There was no record of the pilot receiving a preflight weather briefing from a Flight Service Station or through the DUAT system.


Wendell H. Ford Airport (CPF) was located about 1 statute mile southwest of the accident site at an elevation of 1,256 feet msl. The airport was comprised of two asphalt runways, oriented 14/32 and 06/24. Runway 14/32 was 5,499 feet long by 100 feet wide. Runway 06/24 was 3,246 feet long by 60 feet wide. Runways 14 and 32 were equipped with pilot-controlled lighting, which included precision approach path indicator lights for each runway.


The wreckage was located about 1 nm east of CPF in heavily wooded, hilly terrain. The airplane's initial impact point was identified as a tree, passed which the wreckage path extended on a heading of about 084 degrees magnetic. Several angularly-cut tree branches were identified along the wreckage path that exhibited paint transfer consistent with propeller contact. The main wreckage came to rest about 70 feet passed the initial impact point, and was destroyed by impact. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene.

The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft. The spinner was impact separated and only the spinner back plate remained. Both propeller blades exhibited significant s-bending, leading edge gouging, and chordwise scratching. One blade tip was impact separated approximately 22 inches from the hub.

The engine was separated from the airframe and heavily impact-damaged and covered with dirt and vegetation found near the accident site. All engine accessories, with the exception of the base of the engine driven diaphragm fuel pump and a lever arm, were separated on impact. The #1 cylinder head was impact-damaged which revealed the top of the piston, exhaust valve, and intake port. The #2, #3, and #4 cylinders were inspected using a digital video borescope and revealed no anomalies. Due to impact damage, the crankshaft could not be rotated via the prop or with a spline gear tool inserted at the vacuum pump drive. The vacuum pump was intact, and examination revealed no anomalies. Impact damage precluded examination of the flight instruments. There was no evidence of any pre- or post-impact fire.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot's remains by the Office of the Associate Chief Medical Examiner, Frankfort, Kentucky. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries. The FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology testing on specimens from the pilot, and no drugs of abuse were detected.


Spatial Disorientation

The Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A) stated, "…the VFR pilot is, in effect, in IMC anytime he or she is inadvertently, or intentionally for an indeterminate period of time, unable to navigate or establish geographical position by visual reference to landmarks on the surface. These situations must be accepted by the pilot involved as a genuine emergency, requiring appropriate action…If the natural horizon were to suddenly disappear, the untrained instrument pilot would be subject to vertigo, spatial disorientation, and inevitable control loss."

The FAA Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, chapter 16, "Aeromedical Factors," stated, "Under normal flight conditions, when there is a visual reference to the horizon and ground, the sensory system in the inner ear helps to identify the pitch, roll, and yaw movements of the aircraft. When visual contact with the horizon is lost, the vestibular system becomes unreliable. Without visual references outside the aircraft, there are many situations in which normal motions and forces create convincing illusions that are difficult to overcome…Unless a pilot has many hours of training in instrument flight, flight should be avoided in reduced visibility or at night when the horizon is not visible."

NTSB Identification: ERA15FA220
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, May 21, 2015 in Rowdy, KY
Aircraft: GULFSTREAM AMERICAN CORP AA-5A, registration: N26886
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 May 21, 2015, about 1854 eastern daylight time, a Gulfstream American Corp AA-5A, N26886, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Rowdy, Kentucky. The private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed Aiken Municipal Airport (AIK), Aiken, South Carolina, at an unknown time, and was destined for Wendell H Ford Airport (CPF), Hazard, Kentucky. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

The owner of the accident airplane stated that he had spoken with the accident pilot about the flight to CPF earlier in the day, and that they had discussed the weather conditions. According to Lockheed Martin Flight Service, there were no records of the pilot having obtained a weather briefing through a Flight Service Station or through the DUAT service. There were also no records of the pilot having contacted any Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control facilities during the flight. 

Preliminary radar information obtained from the FAA showed a target approaching CPF from the south at an altitude of about 8,300 feet, beginning about 1830, displaying the standard visual flight rules (VFR) transponder code of 1200. The target passed west of CPF about 1844, and continued north before beginning a descending right turn toward the southwest about 1846. About 1849, the target began a series of turns about 1 mile east of CPF, with altitudes varying between 7,400 to 6,700 feet. The last two radar returns were at 1853:38 and 1854:02, with altitudes of 6,800 feet and 0 feet, respectively. The last radar return was located about 550 feet southwest of the accident site. 

The accident site was located about 1 nautical mile east of CPF in heavily wooded, mountainous terrain. The initial impact point was identified as a tree, past which the wreckage path extended on a heading of about 084 degrees. Along the wreckage path, several angularly-cut tree branches were identified that exhibited paint transfer consistent with propeller contact. The main wreckage came to rest about 70 feet past the initial impact point, and was destroyed by impact. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The engine was separated from the airframe and heavily impact-damaged. Both propeller blades exhibited significant s-bending, leading edge gouging, and chordwise scratching. 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration third class medical certificate was issued in July 2014. Review of the pilot's logbook indicated that he had accumulated about 220 total hours of flight experience. The pilot did not possess an instrument rating. 

The airplane was manufactured in 1979, and was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series, 150 hp reciprocating engine. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on August 1, 2014, at a total aircraft time of 2,136.75 hours. 

The 1905 weather observation at CPF included wind from 330 degrees at 4 knots, 3 miles visibility, drizzle, broken clouds at 800 feet, broken clouds at 1,200 feet, overcast clouds at 2,000 feet, temperature 11 degrees C, dew point 11 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.08 inches of mercury. 

LOST CREEK, Ky (WYMT) - UPDATE: An official with Perry County Coroner's Office has identified the man killed in Thursday's plane crash as Robert Bookman, 59, of Grovetown, GA.

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to release a preliminary report on the crash within a week.

Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are trying to figure out what caused a plane crash Thursday night in the Lost Creek Community of Perry County.

One man, the pilot, is dead. Investigators are not releasing his name but Wendell Ford Airport Manager Jeff Hylton believes he knows the man that died.

Friday's blue skies were ideal for flying but Thursday's rain was a different story.

"At about the time of the accident, we had had some rain showers move through the area. The visibility was probably two to four miles," said Hylton.

Hylton said those conditions might have led to the crash that left one man dead.

"I imagine that he was trying to get down to the surface of the runway and at some point, he just lost control of the airplane," said Hylton.

That is what investigators are now tasked with figuring out. Local, state and even federal agents descended on the scene Friday to look for clues along Lost Creek Road.

Senior Air Safety Investigator Brian Rayner tells WYMT the search has already yielded some results.

"We were able to recover the pilot's log book. So I will have an opportunity to review that here on scene and going forward, we hope to recover the maintenance records for the airplane," said Rayner.

Crews will also examine the engine and look at weather conditions at the time of the crash.

Martie Miller lives around the corner from where the plane went down.

"I just did not like what I saw. So I just turned around and went back home," said Miller.

He said things like this like just do not happen in their community.

"Just really nobody knew he was out there and he had been in here four or five times previously. I think he was just meeting somebody here and I did not realize until his friend showed up here to check on him and see where he was," said Hylton.

He believes the man came from Georgia or South Carolina.

The NTSB plans to release a preliminary report on the crash within a week.


LOST CREEK, Ky. (WYMT) - UPDATE: 11:30 p.m. - One person died in a plane crash near the Perry-Breathitt County line Thursday night.

The scene is not far from the Wendell Ford Airport.

The small plane went down in the Lower Lost Creek area around 6:30 p.m.

We do not know a whole lot at this point about the moments before the crash and what might have caused it. However, WYMT was on scene with investigators since right after the crash happened, as they combed through the wreckage, and tried to figure out what caused the plane to go down.

Police and firefighters from several agencies are gathering as much information as they can about this deadly crash and are also taking precautions to make sure fuel spilled from the plane does not catch fire.

Silas Miller lives nearby and rushed to the wreckage when he heard the plane go down.

Miller said, "It's just a mangled mess, it is spread out for about probably 30 yards, just sheets of metal".

Pieces of the aircraft were visible in trees and on the ground, but investigators are not sure if clipping a branch is what caused the plane to crash.

Perry County Deputy Coroner John Collett added, "Right now we are waiting for NTSB and FAA to show up at the scene. Kentucky State Police are going to secure the scene for the evening. We have one confirmed dead at this time. But we are reserving any more information and will release it as follows".

Three boys say they were playing outside when they saw the plane streak through the sky with smoke behind it.

Colin, Jackson, and Ace Miller witnessed the crash. They said, "It was a white plane with a black stripe down it. We were down there shooting ball and it came down through the air and zigzagged and spun in circles and hit the bank".

FAA investigators are expected to arrive here Friday morning.

Until FAA gets to the scene, we probably will not know who the victim was, how many victims there are, and what kind of plane it was.

Firefighters do not think the plane was carrying more than 40 gallons of fuel, so it was a small plane.

Police are on scene of a plane crash in Perry County in the Lower Lost Creek community near the Breathitt County line.

We have confirmed that the wreckage has been found and at least one person is dead. Two deputy coroners and emergency crews are responding to the scene.

The scene of the crash is near the Wendell Ford Airport, but officials at the airport would not comment at this time. The accident happened some time around 7:00 p.m. We do not have any information on the type of plane and how many people were aboard.

Perry County 911 dispatchers tell us that the 8000 block of Lost Creek Road and Gearl Valley Drive in Barger Bottom will be closed until further notice due to the crash.

Accident Investigation Bureau Releases Four Accident Reports

The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) on Thursday released the final reports of the investigations carried out on four air accidents that occurred within the Nigerian airspace. The report is coming six years after the last accident had occurred.

According to the final reports, which was downloaded from its website, include that of Beechcraft 1900D with registration 5N-JAH belonging to Wings Aviation Services Air, Cessna Citation 560XLS with registration 5N-BMM belonging to Bristow Helicopters, Boeing 737-500 with registration 5N-BLE belonging to Aero Contractors and AS 350 B2 with registration 5N-BHU belonging to OAS Limited.

AIB's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Felix Abali, who signed the report however said its outcome is not to apportion blame to any individual or stakeholder involved in the crash but to make recommendation against future occurrence and for air safety purposes.

He said: “At the Accident Investigation Bureau we are committed to enhancing aviation safety by conducting thorough and unbiased investigations into aircraft accidents and serious incidents.

“We are currently working hard to release more accident reports in the shortest possible time.’

Analyzing the Wing Aviation air craft which crashed 6 years ago in Cross River state, the report revealed: “The Beech 1900D registered as 5N-JAH and operated by Wings Aviation Limited as flight TWD 8300, which was on a revenue positioning flight on 15th March 2008 crashed at about 0920 hours in mountainous terrain at Bushi Village, Obalinku Local Government Area of Cross River State. The investigation identified two causal and three contributory factors and made five safety recommendations. The Bureau had on 29 March, 2009 issued an interim report on the accident.

The report also  added that the Bristow Helicopters’ Cessna Citation 560XLS,  registered 5N-BMM departed Lagos at 1856 hours for Port Harcourt on an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and estimated Port Harcourt at 1940 hours.

On final approach the crew had visual challenge but continued the approach, crash landed and exited the runway. The investigation identified one Causal and three contributory factors. Six safety recommendations were made.  

Aero Contractors Flight 210, a Boeing 737-500, registered 5N-BLE, which departed Lagos on 21st of August, 2010, skidded off the threshold of Runway 28 while landing on approach into Yakubu Gowon Airport, Jos, Plateau State. The investigation identified one causal and three contributory factors. Two safety recommendations were made.

Explaining how the OAS Limited aircraft 5N-BHU (Helicopter) occurred, it added that it departed Lagos at 0713 hours on 10th November, 2010 under Special Visual Flight Rules (Special VFR). The helicopter could not continue the flight to Port Harcourt due to bad weather and was returning to Osubi airstrip when it collided with high tension cables belonging to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) located along the road to Delta Steel Company, Ovwian, Aladja, Delta State. The investigation identified one causal and two contributory factors while five safety recommendations were made.


Skydive operator indicted in Colorado marijuana bust • Westside Skydivers Houston, Sealy, Texas

Joe Johnson

Apparently things got a little too high for the owner of a local skydiving company.

Joe Johnson, 43, and Westside Skydivers Houston, located east of Sealy, were indicted in March in Colorado following the bust of an organization that produced marijuana crops there and transported it to Minnesota and Texas where Johnson owned skydiving companies.

Johnson was one of 32 people indicted by a Colorado grand jury on 52 felony counts that include cultivation and distribution of marijuana, racketeering, tax evasion, money laundering, conspiracy and attempt to influence a public servant.

The indictments allege that Johnson used skydiving planes from his businesses in Winsted, Minn., and Sealy to transport marijuana and cash for a Colorado-based drug trafficking organization (DTO). Most of the shipments went to Minnesota.

Ironically, Johnson was caught on the ground in Kansas last June while driving a rented car back to Colorado from Houston with $330,000 in cash and 66 pounds of marijuana that had been rejected by a Texas buyer. The illegal drugs were part of a 100-pound shipment that Johnson had flown down here.

According to the indictment, “Johnson witnessed the prospective Houston customers refuse more than 60 pounds of the total marijuana load, rejecting it on the basis of its poor quality. Johnson received instructions from the DTO to return the remaining marijuana to Colorado. In order to save on the cost of airplane fuel, Johnson rented a car and drove back to Colorado to deliver cash proceeds and the remaining sixty or so pounds of marijuana to the DTO’s leadership.”

After getting caught, Johnson reportedly began cooperating with authorities.

“In attempts to mitigate future punishment, Johnson began working with DEA agents and made a variety of surreptitious recordings of his co-conspirators’ discussions of drug trafficking and money laundering activities,” the indictment says.

The law enforcement investigation was called “Operation Golden Go-fer.” Johnson’s involvement began in 2013 when “a skydiver client … introduced him to Cuyler Gerbich. Gerbich then introduced Johnson to Tri Nugyen at a restaurant in Denver,” the indictment says.

The two men offered Johnson $250 for every pound of marijuana he transported. Johnson figured he would need to ship at least 100 pounds at a time to make it profitable.

“Ultimately realizing the potential of having access to airplanes to transport marijuana, Gerbich and Tri Nguyen conspired with Johnson to transport hundreds of pounds of marijuana virtually undetected from the Denver warehouse grows to Thomas “C.T.” Dispanet in Minnesota,” the indictment says.

Johnson made the first of nearly 10 trips using his skydiving planes sometime in late October or early November of 2013, flying into the Boulder, Colo., municipal airport. Authorities allege Johnson and his two skydiving businesses transported more than 1,500 pounds of marijuana and over $2 million in cash proceeds between Minnesota and Colorado from October 2013 through June 2014.

After getting caught and later making secret recordings of his co-conspirators for authorities, he was approached by officers for further interviews about the organization.

“When questioned about the location of the nearly $100,000 cash Johnson had received from the DTO, Johnson became evasive with interviewing agents,” the indictment says. “Moreover, Johnson attempted to deceive the three investigators and described burying the $100,000 in a particular location Mr. Johnson later confessed that he had never buried the money but instead spent it to pay bills and prop up his skydiving business.”

His local skydiving business was closed in March and a new one has opened in its place at the Gloster Aerodome. The new company, Bayou City Skydivers, is owned by Kristin Merritt and has nothing to do with Johnson.   

“We retained a few employees and we have some new staff,” Merritt said.

She said Westside Skydivers Houston operated most of the last year without Johnson around. She also said the airport is owned and operated independently from the skydiving businesses.

“Johnson is no longer welcome at the airport,” she said.

Merritt said she is still working on the marketing side of the business, but does have it open for clients. Her website will go active soon at It can also be found on Facebook.

A date for Johnson’s trial has not been set yet. According to Merritt, he was not jailed due to his cooperation with authorities.


John W. Faunce PA-11, N710JF: Accident occurred May 21, 2015 at Morrisville-Stowe State Airport (KMVL), Morrisville, Vermont

NTSB Identification: GAA15CA084 
Accident occurred Thursday, May 21, 2015 in Morrisville, VT
Aircraft: PIPER PA-11, registration: N710JF

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

Date: 21-MAY-15 
Time: 18:15:00Z
Regis#: N710JF
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA11
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Vermont


MORRISTOWN, Vt. (AP) — Police say a small plane overturned as it was landing at the Morrisville-Stowe State Airport in Vermont.

The pilot told police that while landing in a crosswind on Thursday, the wind direction shifted — causing him to lose control of the aircraft once he had touched down. 

Authorities say the wind and emergency braking system caused the aircraft to pitch forward and roll on its roof at the edge of the runway.

Police say the experienced pilot, 68-year-old Leonard Wing, was uninjured and outside of the aircraft when police arrived.

Judge rules in favor of Mile-Hi Skydiving in Longmont noise trial: Court denies all claims made by plaintiffs and Citizens for Quiet Skies • Vance Brand Airport (KLMO), Colorado

A Boulder District Court judge today denied every claim brought by the plaintiffs in a high-profile noise lawsuit against Mile-Hi Skydiving, which operates out of Longmont's Vance Brand Municipal Airport.

Seven individual plaintiffs living in Longmont and in unincorporated Boulder County, as well as the group Citizens for Quiet Skies, claimed in the lawsuit that Mile-Hi owner Frank Casares was being negligent and a nuisance by flying what they said were unusually loud planes over their homes.

The plaintiffs especially took issue with the purple-and-white Twin Otter plane, claiming that it was much louder than the others, and that Mile-Hi flew frequently over residents' homes when the plaintiffs were trying to enjoy their backyards and porches during summer weekends.

Mile-Hi, meanwhile, argued throughout the year and over the course of the lawsuit that Judge Judith LaBuda could not issue a ruling superseding federal aviation law.

In a 13-page written ruling, LaBuda sided with the skydiving company, denying all claims and expressing hopes that both sides and the community move on.

“The Court recognizes that this case has produced tension among community members,” LaBuda wrote in her ruilng, noting that supporters of both sides filled the courtroom during the trial. “It is the Court's hope that following a week-long trial, in which both parties were given an opportunity to present their evidence, that the parties, as well as the community members, will accept the ruling of the Court and move forward in a manner that demonstrates courtesy, respect and consideration for one another.”


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Drug Plane From Venezuela Crashes off Colombia's Coast

Una avión tipo Hawker 800, aparentemente cargado con drogas, transitó ilegalmente el espacio aéreo colombiano y luego de la persecución por parte de aviones de la FAC, se accidentó. Se recuperó un cadáver. 

BOGOTA, Colombia — May 20, 2015, 7:10 PM ET

A small plane from Venezuela with more than a ton of cocaine on board has crashed into the Caribbean while being pursued by Colombia's air force.

Video released by the air force shows how fighter jets intercepted the Hawker 800 aircraft after it entered Colombia's airspace Wednesday and ordered it to descend. 

After the pilot moved to escape, one of the plane's engines apparently failed and the aircraft crashed off the coast of Puerto Colombia.

Colombia's coast guard says the body of the pilot, whose nationality was unknown, was found among the wreckage along with 1.2 metric tons of cocaine.

Venezuela has become a key transit country for narcotics. Much of the cocaine moves north to Central America on a dog-legged path to avoid entering Colombian airspace.

 Tras la operación de interdicción aérea que permitió al Sistema de Defensa Nacional detectar en el espacio aéreo colombiano un avión Hawker 800 que cayó al mar cuando huía en una persecución de aviones de la Fuerza Aérea Colombiana, el Coronel Farid Kairos, Comandante del Comando Aéreo del Norte reveló que la aeronave provenía de Venezuela.

Judge tosses lawsuit over Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN) flyovers

EWING — A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed against the Federal Aviation Administration arguing that flyovers from the Trenton-Mercer Airport have negatively impacted the lives of residents in three Pennsylvania towns.

In his one-page order, U.S. Judge Peter Sheridan ruled the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case filed by Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management (BRRAM), setting back the Lower Makefield, Upper Makefield and Yardley residents' quest to have the FAA review the impact of rapid flight expansion at the airport.

"It's a major disappointment but it doesn't necessarily mean that the game is over, that the contest is done," said BRRAM attorney William Potter. "We have the right to appeal and I'll discuss all options with my clients."

BRRAM now has 60 days to file an appeal with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

BRRAM filed suit in April 2014 in the midst of rapid expansion by Frontier Airlines at the Trenton-Mercer Airport, arguing that flyovers negatively impacted their livelihood with unwanted noise.

In the suit, Potter argued the FAA should have conducted a review and prepared an environmental impact statement considering the effect expanded use of the airport would have on neighboring residents.

The original complaint named the Mercer County freeholder board and Frontier Airlines as defendants, but Sheridan in March approved a motion to dismiss the case against them.

"We always felt that we had done nothing wrong and, as we made improvements at the airport, we went by the book," Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said on Tuesday. "Along with the airline and the FAA, we followed all the guidelines.

"Hopefully this will put the genie back into the bottle," he said.

At a May 6 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Andrew Ruymann argued that the FAA was not required to conduct additional environmental impact studies after granting approval for Frontier Airlines to begin servicing Trenton-Mercer Airport.

The FAA's approval also allowed the airline to add as many flights as it wanted, Ruymann said.

"(Frontier Airlines) requested to add Trenton as a carrier on its operation specifications," Ruymann said. "The FAA approved that request and, per the Airline Deregulation Act, Frontier was then permitted — using their best business judgment — to increase the flights. And they've done that."

At the hearing, Ruymann argued that BRRAM's challenge of the FAA approval came well beyond the 60-day deadline and that federal law maintains it should be heard in Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Frontier Airlines has taken that very limited approval from the FAA and expanded it into approximately 60 flights per week over my clients' homes, schools, businesses and recreational areas," Potter said at the hearing.

Both Mercer County and Ewing officials have rallied around the recent turnaround at the airport, with freeholders recently approving contracts to sell advertising at the airport and create a "branding strategy."

The airport was briefly closed in 2013 for runway and parking lot improvements. In February, Hughes said the county was committed to replacing the airport's 48-year-old terminal.

"I want to ensure that our airport is prepared to take advantage of future opportunities and the economic impact that could result," Hughes said during his annual state of the county address. "The return on investment for our region will be huge."


A dangerous attitude

After one final cough, the propeller ceased to spin and the engine went to sleep. As the fuel was cut off from the carburetor, so did the adrenaline in the young pilot’s system. While the remnants of the adrenaline ebbed away, his legs began to shake. He tried to stop the shaking, but failed miserably.

The ground crew waiting outside irritated him with their presence. He did not want to keep them waiting, but he had this urgent need to stay in the cockpit for a few minutes more.

The pilot had just come from a tense and exhausting cross-country training flight. Caught between two thunderstorms, he had to deal with near-zero visibility while going through pouring rain. Sudden gusts, updrafts and downdrafts alike, also joined the mix.

In itself, it is a nerve-wracking experience to fly through a thunderstorm in a large jetliner. What more in a small-engine, twin-seat trainer plane? More often than not, large aircraft will veer away from terrible weather even if they are equipped to handle it. With both the alternate and destination airfields socked-in, the pilot had no choice but to fly through an unfamiliar mountain pass in steadily deteriorating weather to be able to get home. It was no joke. It was a risky endeavor. Losing sight of the terrain and getting lost could lead to a violent rendezvous with the mountains. An engine failing at this point would also have plane and pilot ending up with a similar fate.

In flight school, instructors always repeat this mantra: The superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations that require the use of his superior skills. But at that moment, the young pilot was far from being a superior pilot; he was, rather, a scared fool. A truly dangerous attitude for an aviator is the macho, I-can-do-anything attitude. It was what the young pilot had until that day. Fortunately, the harsh lesson that fate was teaching him had an ending that, after a grueling hour which felt to him like it would go on forever, put him safely back on solid ground.

He made it through that mountain pass unscathed, managing to find a hole in the dark mass of angry cumulonimbus clouds. It took all his strength to keep the small aircraft upright as it was steadily battered by the violent mountain winds, holding on with the sheer willpower and stamina of youth.

The pilot has since changed his wicked ways and moved on to bigger things in his career. But from time to time, he goes back in his mind to that day to remind himself of the importance of not taking things for granted and of not mindlessly pushing the envelope of safety, not just in flying but in life as well.

It’s a story that I will not readily forget. It’s a straightforward tale with a moral that can be readily applied to our daily existence, pilot or not. There’s this YOLO attitude among today’s youth, which caused the memory of this story to resurface. “You only live once” had the original message of grabbing every opportunity that comes one’s way, but it has morphed into something more similar to social-media-approved recklessness.

Another lesson that we may pick up from this story is that, although it ended well that time, Lady Luck may not always be on our side.

Paolo Francesco P. Maceren, 24, a private pilot, studied at the University of the Philippines Diliman.


Trouble in the Skies

Millions of Americans are about to fly to summer vacations unaware that some of the air traffic controllers guiding their planes may have cheated on a key test to get their jobs. A six month investigation by the FOX Business Network into the hiring and training of air traffic controllers raises troubling questions about the nation’s air safety and the men and women the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, hires to staff airport control towers.

It takes several years of study to acquire the complex skills necessary to become an air traffic controller, or ATC.  It’s considered among the highest pressured jobs in America.  The path for new ATC recruits begins with questions like this, “The number of different high school sports I participated in was A) 4 or more… B) 3…  C) 2…  D) 1…  E) Didn’t play sports.”  It was on the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2014 new and controversial exam called the Biographical Questionnaire or BQ. The FAA says it created the BQ to promote diversity among its work force. All air traffic control applicants are required to take it.  Those who pass are deemed eligible and those who fail are ruled ineligible.

In 2014, 28,000 people took the BQ and 1591 were offered jobs.  FOX Business, as first reported on FBN’s “The Willis Report”, has uncovered evidence that FAA employees’ including some within the agency’s human resources department may have helped applicants cheat on that test.

Air traffic control applicants take the BQ at home, on their personal computers, without any supervision. The agency’s web site says the BQ is “… proven to be a valid instrument for assessing experience work habits, education, and dimensions that are related to success on the job.”   Other questions on the 2014 BQ included,   “How would you describe your ideal job? What has been the major cause of your failures? More classmates would remember me as humble or dominant?   26-year-old Matthew Douglas, a Native American from Washington State, took the BQ last year and failed. “How does this relate to the job? How does this determine what’s gonna make a successful candidate?” he asked.

It’s a good question and one the FAA is reluctant to answer. The federal agency will not reveal what the BQ specifically measures or how the exam determines eligibility to become an air traffic controller because it is worried that would compromise the test.   But what really upsets Douglas is until January 1st,  2014, he was the kind of person the FAA considered incredibly eligible and gave preference in hiring to become an air traffic controller.

Matthew Douglas is an energetic young man who had a good job working for Google Maps when a friend invited him to tour the FAA’s control center in Seattle.  “I was hooked.  The work was fascinating and I knew this was my calling,” he said.  Douglas decided to throw caution to the wind, left his job, loaded his dog into the car and made the 2200 mile trek north to the University of Alaska Anchorage, UAA, where he set out to obtain a degree in air traffic control. He says, “I opted for the UAA because they had simulators and a well-respected program.”  Like several other young men and women pursuing air traffic control degrees, Douglas borrowed thousands of dollars, $30,000 in his case, to earn an FAA accredited degree from programs the FAA calls Collegiate Training Initiative or CTI Schools.  The FAA created the CTI program more than 20 years ago to provide the agency with a reliable source of qualified air traffic control applicants.

The FAA knew back in the early 1990s, that it would face a shortage of qualified air traffic controllers as old timers began to retire. The FAA requires controllers to stop working at 56 years of age and the predicted shortage is now developing.  The agency says it needs to hire 1000 new air traffic controllers a year for the next ten years to replace those it’s losing to retirement.  Air safety and the U-S economy depend on it.  Air traffic controllers are the backbone of a system that routes 87,000 flights daily in North America and contributes $1.5 trillion annually to the US economy according to the FAA. 

Between 1994 and 2006, the FAA recruited colleges and universities nationwide to establish CTI programs, on their campuses, to teach potential air traffic controllers the basics.  At its peak the CTI program was offered at 36 two and four year institutions.  And until last year, the FAA WEB page advised people like Douglas that the CTI program was the way to become an air traffic controller.  Things were looking good for him when he graduated from UAA’s CTI Program in 2013.

Matthew Douglas earned a perfect score, 100, on the FAA’s old screening test called the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam, or AT-SAT.  The FAA says the AT-SAT is an eight hour computer based test that measures, “aptitude required for entry-level air traffic control positions.”  Douglas calls it a rigorous measure of cognitive ability.  He said, “There is time speed distance equations that you do in your head, actual control scenarios, games that test your ability to multitask; all skills that are essential to this job.”  His perfect score earned him the designation of “well qualified” a status in the FAA’s old hiring nomenclature given to anyone with a score on the AT-SAT above 85.  “Well qualified” CTI graduates were considered the best of the best according to a source at the FAA who wishes to remain anonymous.

The FAA used to give hiring preference to CTI graduates, like Douglas, who achieved the “well qualified” designation on the AT-SAT, successfully earned a degree from a CTI program and obtained a recommendation from the CTI program’s administrators.  Douglas had it all as he awaited the FAA’s 2014 bid for jobs.  It appeared, to him, that he was at the front of the FAA’s line to be hired as 2013 came to a close. “I finished my air traffic control program with a 4.0 and I interned for the FAA.  I think that I had a decent chance, absolutely,” he said.

But just as Matthew Douglas prepared for a new year and a new life, the FAA dropped a bomb.  On December 30, 2013 the FAA threw out his AT-SAT score, CTI diploma and recommendations from his CTI program administrators. In fact, the FAA threw out the AT-SAT scores and CTI qualifications  of an estimated 3000 CTI graduates and military veterans who were all previously designated “well qualified” to become air traffic controllers.  The FAA told them all to start over.  But this time, when they applied for a job, their college degrees and previous military experience would mean nothing. They would now compete with thousands of people the agency calls “off the street hires”; anyone who wants to, can walk in off the street without any previous training and apply for an air traffic control job.  The FAA’s only requirements, to apply, are be a U.S. citizen, have a high school diploma, speak English and pass the FAA’s new BQ, Biographical Questionnaire.  What Douglas and thousands of other CTI graduates didn’t know was that the FAA was planning these changes long before the agency made them public.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta announced pending changes to the Air Traffic Control hiring process in April 2013, several months before Douglas and the other CTI graduates were discarded.  But Huerta made no mention of what the agency actually planned to do as Douglas and his CTI classmates were preparing to graduate. An FAA press release issued in April 2013 says, “Administrator Michael Huerta has made an historic commitment to transform the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) into a more diverse and inclusive workplace that reflects, understands, and relates to the diverse customers we serve.”

The FAA made those changes based on a barrier analysis started in 2012 which identified, “… four of seven decision points in the air traffic controller hiring process that resulted in adverse impact to applicants from at least one demographic group.” In other words, the agency’s analysis determined there were barriers for minority applicants to obtain the FAA’s air traffic control jobs.  The FAA then hired Atlanta based APT Metrics to further analyze those barriers and recommend solutions.  APT Metrics issued its report, Extension to barrier Analysis of Air Traffic Control Specialist Centralized Hiring Process on April 16, 2013.  It says that while the CTI schools appear to be a preferred applicant source, the program “…tends to have very little diversity.”  This is a conclusion the Association of Collegiate Training Institutions, a group representing the 36 CTI schools, fiercely disputes.

Doug Williams, a spokesperson for the association says the barrier analysis and APT Metrics report were flawed because they considered CTI enrollment at 4 year schools and failed to include enrollment data from two year schools, like community colleges, which have much larger minority enrollments. The APT Metrics report also took aim at the AT-SAT as a screening tool for air traffic control candidates and it’s well qualified scoring preference saying, “One potential solution to the issue is to replace the use of the AT-SAT…with a measure that can differentiate candidates without increasing adverse impact.” That replacement became the Biographical Questionnaire which Matthew Douglas failed.

As a Native American, Matthew Douglas is the kind of diverse candidate you would think the FAA wants and he’s in favor of diversity. “It generates a better atmosphere when you have people from different backgrounds I completely agree with it,” he said.  30 year old Moranda Reilly also agrees with diversity. She graduated from the CTI program at the Community College of Baltimore County, Maryland in 2013.  Reilly spoke exclusively with FOX Business about her experience applying for a job with the FAA and taking the BQ.

Moranda Reilly is eager to become an air traffic controller.  She was the aviation club president at her community college, won the National Air Traffic Controller Association’s contest explaining the role controllers play in aviation and excelled in her classes. Reilly is hooked on aviation and now getting her private pilot’s license.  “I think it’s fascinating. This industry is a unique one,” she said.  At first, the FAA’s hiring changes didn’t worry Reilly who scored 86 on her AT-SAT, lower than Matthew Douglas scored, but still considered “well qualified.”  And Reilly had something Douglas didn’t; access to the BQ test and the right answers.   “I was shocked when I first heard it,” she told FOX Business.

Moranda Reilly says friends in the CTI program encouraged her to join an organization called the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees or NBCFAE.  It’s one of several organizations which offer membership to people of color and minorities who work for the FAA.  Reilly says her friends told her joining the NBCFAE, as a female applicant, would help improve her chances of being hired.  The NBCFAE WEB page says it has 1000 members and advocates on behalf of 5000 African American and minority FAA employees. “For over 35 years, NBCFAE, a nationwide network, has been dedicated to promoting equal employment for African Americans, female and minority employees; improving employee-management relations and providing an effective liaison amongst FAA employees and the community at large.”   Reilly signed up just as the FAA launched a new round of hiring in February 2014.

Reilly told FOX Business that she received a recorded voice text message from FAA employee and air traffic controller Shelton Snow a few days after the FAA hiring process started and applicants began taking the BQ.  Candidates were, and still are, allowed to take the test unsupervised, on their own time and on their home computers over a two week period.

Snow is an FAA employee and president of the NBCFAE’s Washington Suburban Chapter. He has recently been promoted to be an FAA Front Line Manager at the FAA’s New York Center.

Moranda Reilly says Snow sent her and other ATC applicants a recorded message on February 12, 2014 as they were preparing to take the Biographical Questionnaire test.  Reilly shared the recording exclusively with FOX Business.

Snow Voice Text Message:

“I know each of you are eager very eager to apply for this job vacancy announcement and trust after tonight you will be able to do so….there is some valuable pieces of information that I have taken a screen shot of and I am going to send that to you via email.  Trust and believe it will be something you will appreciate to the utmost.  Keep in mind we are trying to maximize your opportunities…I am going to send it out to each of you and as you progress through the stages refer to those images so you will know which icons you should select…I am about 99 point 99 percent sure that it is exactly how you need to answer each question in order to get through the first phase.”

Snow refused to discuss the recording with FOX Business and has declined several requests for interviews telling FOX Business, “Journalists must stop contacting me.”  When confronted on camera by FOX Business about the allegations of cheating and providing answers to the test, Snow declined to comment.  On his recorded message, Snow discusses the screen shots and icons applicants should select. Snow goes on to refer to “one of my HR representatives” and giving them “the opportunity to sign off on it before you actually click it.”  The recording was sent to NBCFAE associate members when it became clear some of them were failing the BQ test.

Snow Voice Text Message:

“People have been getting rejection notices and those rejection notices have been coming after about 24 to 36 hours after clicking submit and I want to avoid that so what we are going to do is we are going to take our time and we’re going to make sure that everything we click on, and you going to even have to go back to your resume and make some changes because one of our members and I have caught something and we want to go back and want to fine tune those details…”

NBCFAE National President Paquita Bradley also declined repeated requests from FOX Business to discuss the recording and accusations that NBCFAE members helped applicants cheat.  The FAA rejected requests from FOX Business to grant interviews with FAA employees about the BQ but in a written statement about the cheating said, “No individuals have made credible allegations to the FAA about this issue.” Reilly says, “I want to talk about it because I joined the NBCFAE and when I saw what was going on, I knew that I had to stand on the right side of the fence.”

Reilly says Snow and other NBCFAE officials conducted workshops showing NBCFAE associate members, applying for FAA jobs, the correct answers to select on the BQ as well as key words to use on their resumes in order to be selected by FAA hiring personnel who were also NBCFAE members. Reilly insists that she didn’t cheat.  She failed the BQ. “It breaks your heart to work so hard for something and for someone to say that you’re not eligible because of a personality exam” she said.  Disappointed but not deterred, Reilly decided to do something about what she says she witnessed.

Reilly went to her CTI advisor with the recording she got from Snow.  The advisor told Reilly to contact aviation lawyer Michael Pearson a retired air traffic controller who now practices law in Phoenix, Arizona.  “I believe the flying public has a right to know this is going on. I believe the people engaged in this behavior need to be held accountable,” he said.

Pearson represents Moranda Reilly and several CTI graduates who may sue the FAA if they can obtain class action status.  As of now, they’ve filed an equal employment opportunity complaint with the FAA’s Equal Employment Opportunity office.  But Pearson suspects something more egregious is taking place. “You had social engineering in my belief, my opinion, going on.  It was driven by two arms of the FAA, two different organizations.  One was a human resources group and I believe there was another group for different motives were engaging in what I believe is discrimination against qualified candidates,” he said.  At the center of the accusations is the BQ which Pearson says is being misused to disqualify worthy job applicants like Moranda Reilly and Matthew Douglas.

The FAA, responding to questions from FOX Business, insisted the BQ was professionally developed and “…validated based upon years of extensive research...”  The new hiring process was implemented “…to ensure the FAA selects applicants with the highest probability of successfully completing our rigorous air traffic controller training program and achieving final certification as an ATCS (Air Traffic Control Specialist).” 

Applicants who pass the BQ and subsequent FAA hiring review are sent to the agency’s training academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Course work there lasts 13 weeks but it takes another two to three years, during which trainees apprentice at air traffic control centers across the country, for an applicant to achieve Certified Professional Controller status or CPC.  It can cost as much as $420,000, on average, to fully train an air traffic controller and the FAA tries to select candidates based on the likelihood they will successfully complete their training.   But, CTI School advocates say the old program saved the FAA time and money.

Data from the FAA indicates CTI graduates complete their FAA academy course work five weeks sooner than off the street hires.  And, CTI advocates say CTI graduates are more likely to achieve certified professional controller (CPC) status which saves the FAA money since the CTI graduates complete the program at greater rate than applicants hired off the street.  FOX Business obtained a never made public FAA report that supports those claims. Studies of Next Generation Air Traffic Control Specialists II: Analysis of Facility Training Outcomes by Recruitment Source was written in October 2014 by Dana Broach, Ph.D. a researcher at the FAA’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The report concludes, “Overall, larger proportions of…CTI hires achieved CPC (Certified Professional Controller) status than did general public hires.”

The FAA refused to let Broach talk to FOX Business but called his report “inconclusive”.  His unpublished report however speaks loudly and recommends preferring, “…CTI hires over general public hires…” because it “… could produce more net CPCs (Certified Professional Controller) than a policy of equal or no preference for recruitment sources.”  It’s just one of several reports Broach has authored questioning the FAA’s current hiring procedures.

Broach co-authored another report last year which questions the FAA’s use of biographical data to predict training success; one of the reasons the FAA says it now uses the BQ. Using Biodata to Select Air Traffic Controllers, October 2014 says, “…the evidence for using these biodata items for controller selection is weak.”  The report recommends additional research is needed to validate items predictive of success in training.  The FAA declined requests to discuss Broach’s research. Moranda Reilly finds it all very troubling. “They just base an entire hiring force on biographical data and now they’re saying that it’s weak so how can you stand behind what you, what you’ve put in place?”  Matthew Douglas says it makes no sense. “Where’s the logic behind it? If it’s weak then why would you use it?”

Congress asked the same questions last year during hearings on the hiring changes.  The FAA has not yet fully responded but has said publicly, “Disclosure of the Biographical Assessment items and the basis for scoring and weighting given to each question would diminish the validity and utility of the instrument for the selection of persons into the ATCS (Air Traffic Control Specialst) occupation.”  Congressman Randy Hultgren (R) Illinois doesn’t believe it. “I just fundamentally disagree with that.  You might get lucky in finding a few people that are qualified and able to do this, but again what I’ve seen from CTI programs, you’ve got passionate people willing to commit themselves.”  When FOX Business played the Snow voice text message for Hultgren, he called it “cheating.”

Hultgren is cosponsoring the Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Act of 2015 to force the FAA to abandon the BQ and restore preferred hiring status for CTI graduates and military veterans who score high enough on the AT-SAT to be designated “well qualified”. “The biggest objective is to make sure that our air travel is still the safest in the world and air traffic controllers are a big part of that,” he said.  The bill also requires the FAA to let the 3000 CTI graduates whose lives were disrupted by the BQ’s implementation, reapply for air traffic control jobs even if they are older than the 31 year age cutoff. 

But the FAA continues to stand behind the controversial BQ saying it helps select, “…those applicants with the highest probability of success in the FAA’s rigorous air traffic controller training process.  Of the 1591 cleared to be hired in 2014, 742 have been sent, as of May 2015, to the Academy with 564 passing their basic training. The 24 percent washout rate is consistent with failure rates under the FAA’s old hiring guidelines according to a FAA source who wishes to remain anonymous.

Moranda Reilly doubts a new law will help her. “I will never be an air traffic controller and it’s heart breaking, it really is,” she said.  Matthew Douglas is more optimistic and he has a message for the FAA. “You’re toying with lives.  You’re toying with students who invested so much time and effort into this and you’re also toying with aviation safety.  There’s 3000 of us who are more than willing to do the work so if anyone wants to reach out to us please do, we’re ready, we’re passionate and we want to work.”

Additional reporting by Pamela Browne, Gregory Johnson and Mallory Edmondson

Adam Shapiro joined FOX Business Network (FBN) in September 2007 as a New York based reporter.

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