Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Beech V35B Bonanza, N31FS: Incident occurred May 27, 2015 at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport (KFTW), Texas

A small airplane reporting a problem landed safely Wednesday at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport. 

The issue that required an emergency landing was not known, but airport fire crews were on standby while the plane circled above the runway and then landed without incident.

The plane is a Beech V35B Bonanza registered to Strickland Corp. of South Dakota, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The pilot was the lone person on board the plane at the time.


Hiller UH-12E, N138HA: Accident occurred May 27, 2015 in Wasco, Kern County, California

NTSB Identification: WPR15LA168
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 27, 2015 in Wasco, CA
Aircraft: HILLER UH 12E, registration: N138HA
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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On May 27, 2015 about 0815 Pacific daylight time, a Hiller UH-12E, N138HA, impacted an onion field during spray operations near Wasco, California. The pilot (sole occupant) died, and the helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Slikker Flying Service Inc under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an agricultural flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from a refueling truck about 0813.

The refueler reported that the pilot had just finished spraying a field when he stopped at the refueling truck to partially fill the hopper with water. After filling the hopper, the pilot took off to empty the hopper. The refueler turned away to prepare for leaving, and when he turned around, he saw smoke rising from the field. He mentioned that he did not hear any abnormal noises from the helicopter prior to seeing the smoke. 

FAA Flight Standards District Office:   FAA Fresno FSDO-17


A helicopter went down Wednesday morning in a agriculture field west of Wasco near highway 46 and Wildwood Road. The pilot suffered burns and was airlifted to San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield.

The pilot of a crop-dusting helicopter was critically injured Wednesday morning when the rotorcraft crashed in an onion field west of Wasco. 

The helicopter crashed at 7:37 a.m. about a mile north of Highway 46 just west of Wildwood Road, sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said. 

A co-worker in the area didn’t see the helicopter go down, but noticed a plume of smoke rise from the crash site afterward.

The pilot suffered burns to 80 percent of his body and was airlifted to San Joaquin Community Hospital, He’s listed in critical condition.

Firefighters said representatives of Vince Crop Dusters Inc., the company operating the helicopter, said the aircraft was in a “wash down” phase and only carrying water at the time of the crash. 

Federal Aviation Administration investigators from Fresno will take over the investigation.


Federal Aviation Administration Group to Review Mental-Health Screenings for Pilots: In wake of Germanwings jet crash, advisory group will consider changes to screening process

The Wall Street Journal 
May 27, 2015 7:18 p.m. ET

Following the lead of European regulators reacting to the presumed suicidal co-pilot who brought down a Germanwings jet, the Federal Aviation Administration has set up an advisory group to consider possible changes in mental-health screening of U.S. commercial pilots.

The industry-government committee, which also includes labor and medical experts, can look at everything from potential regulatory changes to voluntary efforts by unions and airlines, the agency indicated Wednesday.

The move, however, comes after international groups representing pilots and carriers have warned against overreacting to the Germanwings tragedy, which killed all 149 people aboard the Airbus jetliner that went down in the French Alps in March.

The European Aviation Safety Agency formed a similar study group last month, and German regulators have launched a separate effort to re-examine mental-health assessments of airline pilots. The aviation arm of the United Nations also indicated it would re-evaluate international mental-health standards.

It isn’t clear whether any of those groups will end up urging major changes to existing screening procedures. Strict privacy laws in Germany allowed Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot, to keep his mental problems hidden from management of the airline, which is a unit of Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

Safety and medical experts have stressed the difficulty of devising a new regulatory system—even one mandating more-frequent and in-depth screenings—that can reliably identify suicidal tendencies among pilots.

Given the current limitations of testing and medical science, many psychiatrists and psychologist believe such a goal is unreasonable. The public has to “recognize this is a complex medical challenge,” according to Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, president of the top policy-making council of the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization.

The FAA has tasked its advisory committee with filing a report by the end of the year regarding pilot fitness related to emotional and mental-health issues. In a release, the agency said U.S. pilots “undergo robust medical screening,” but added that “recent accidents in other parts of the world” prompted a review of the issue.

In the U.S., airline pilots undergo routine medical screening by FAA-approved examiners once or twice a year, depending on their age. But such checks typically include only perfunctory efforts to determine mental health, generally putting the onus on pilots to self-report problems such as depression, drug or alcohol abuse and changes in medication, according to pilots and physicians. The system has remained largely unchanged over decades, except for FAA decisions several years ago allowing aviators to keep flying while on certain antidepressant drugs.

Whatever the FAA group eventually recommends, unions and carriers already have strongly urged against swift or dramatic changes.

Tony Tyler, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, the airline industry’s primary global trade group, last month warned that regulators in Europe appeared to be embracing “immediate reaction rather than careful consideration.”

Around the same time, leaders of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, representing 100,000 commercial aviators world-wide, also called for a more measured approach by European authorities, asserting they should wait for a final crash report before considering changes.

At the end of his tenure as president of the association, Don Wykoff told the group’s annual conference in Madrid: “We need to advocate together for things that work, not knee-jerk, ineffective quick fixes that only make some feel better in the short term.”

Tim Canoll, president of the Air Line Pilots Association for North America—which is participating in the FAA’s new group—said in an interview last month that after some accidents, “there can be an urge to do something quickly, right now,” but often the results “are either ineffective or completely useless.”

As an alternative to stepped-up federal screening requirements, over the years Mr. Canoll and other pilot leaders have urged continued reliance on voluntary, union-run programs to pinpoint and confidentially assist pilots with emotional or psychological problems.

Such an approach, according to proponents, is more likely to prompt pilots to acknowledge personal difficulties and seek help. Many airline officials agree that mandating tougher screening requirements may end up being counterproductive, making pilots more prone to hiding mental-health problems from managers.

Original article can be found here:

Bellanca 8KCAB Super Decathalon, N102EC: Accident occurred May 27, 2015 at Richard I. Bong Airport (KSUW), Superior, Wisconsin

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Final Report:

National Transportation Safety Board - Docket And Docket Items:

National Transportation Safety Board  -  Aviation Accident Data Summary:


NTSB Identification: CEN15LA242 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 27, 2015 in Superior, WI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/08/2015
Aircraft: BELLANCA 8KCAB, registration: N102EC
Injuries: 2 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 reported that, while climbing after a touch-and-go landing, the airplane began an uncommanded left bank. The pilot perceived that the ailerons were jammed and attempted to regain control of the airplane; however, he was not successful, so he performed a forced landing to the airport property. A postaccident examination of the airplane found a 9-volt battery jammed in the aileron bell crank. The pilot reported that the battery was the same brand he used for his headset and that he had changed the batteries in flight several days before the accident flight. It is likely that the pilot dropped the battery during that flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A stuck aileron due to a battery that had become jammed in the aileron bell crank.

On May 27, 2015, about 1405 central daylight time, a Bellanca 8KCAB airplane, N102EC, experienced a loss of control authority and impacted terrain during a forced landing near the Richard I Bong Airport (SUW), Superior, Wisconsin. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan.

According to the pilot, the flight was normal until after the second touch and go landing. The airplane was in a climb from the runway when it began an uncommanded left bank. He perceived that the ailerons were jammed and attempted to regain control of the airplane but was not successful. Additionally the pilot could not get the airplane to climb, so when the airplane was about 100 feet above ground level he performed a forced landing to the airport property. The airplane's forward fuselage was substantially damaged during the forced landing.

A postaccident examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector found a 9-volt battery jammed in the lower right aileron bellcrank. The pilot reported that the battery was the same brand that the he used for his headset. He had previously changed the batteries in flight several days earlier, but thought that he had accounted for all of the batteries.

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA242
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 27, 2015 in Superior, WI
Aircraft: BELLANCA 8KCAB, registration: N102EC
Injuries: 2 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 May 27, 2015, about 1405 central daylight time, a Bellanca 8KCAB airplane, N102EC, experienced a loss of control authority and impacted terrain during a forced landing near the Richard I Bong Airport (SUW), Superior, Wisconsin. The commercial pilot and passenger were not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan.

According to information provided by the pilot, the flight was normal until after the second touch and go landing. The airplane was in a climb from the runway when it began an uncommanded left bank. The pilot attempted to regain control of the airplane but was not successful. In addition, he could not get the airplane to climb so when the airplane was about 100 feet above ground level, the pilot conducted a forced landing to the airport property. The airplane's fuselage was substantially damaged during the forced landing.

A postaccident examination of the airplane by a responding Federal Aviation Administration inspector found a 9-volt battery jammed in an aileron bell crank.

Two people walked away uninjured after their single-engine plane crash-landed at the Richard I. Bong Memorial Airport in Superior on Wednesday afternoon.

The Superior Fire Department responded to the crash at 2:14 p.m., and the first crews on the scene found a small plane in a field behind the Upper Deck Restaurant.

The pilot reported having mechanical difficulty before the crash, fire officials said.

The red, white and blue plane’s tires left tracks in the mud leading from the runway to the plane’s resting place in the field. Its right landing gear assembly sat in pieces on the ground nearby, while the left landing gear assembly was dug into the mud, still attached to the plane. 

The blue tip of the left wing dangled from the rest of the plane. 

Mud splattered the sides of the plane and the propeller.

The names of those on board the plane were not released. According to the plane’s FAA registration, it’s a Bellanca 8KCAB Decathlon and owned by a Texas man.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause of the crash.

Corey Winn was watching planes take off and land while eating lunch at the Upper Deck with a few friends when he saw the Bellanca 8KCAB Decathlon return to the runway a few minutes after it had taken off. As the plane was going down the runway, it was going side to side and then dipped to the left, Winn said.

When he saw the wing dip, he said, he knew the plane was going to crash off the runway. A woman in the restaurant told people that the plane crashed and people went outside to see if the occupants were hurt. Winn said they saw two people walking away from the wrecked plane.

“I’m just glad they’re OK,” he said.

Story, video and photo gallery:

Cessna 337F Super Skymaster, N1732M, Wireless Systems Engineering Inc: Accident occurred May 27, 2015 at Melbourne International Airport (KMLB), Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA224
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 27, 2015 in Melbourne, FL
Aircraft: CESSNA 337F, registration: N1732M
Injuries: 2 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 May 27, 2015, at 1625 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 337F, N1732M, was substantially damaged when it struck a building and a communications antenna while taxiing at Melbourne International Airport (MLB), Melbourne, Florida. The pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was destined for Dayton Ohio. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a police report, the pilot requested a taxi clearance from the north ramp area to runway 9L. The tower controller advised the pilot that his clearance to Dayton, Ohio had expired, and instructed him to return to the ramp. According to the controller the pilot's speech was "slurred" and he did not follow any of the tower's instructions. The pilot then taxied west on taxiway kilo toward the departure end of runway 9L. Photographs of tire marks show that the aircraft veered off the left edge of taxiway kilo about 250 feet before the taxiway end. The airplane then went off the end of the taxiway and immediately turned right toward a building that was located about 200 feet away and abeam the taxiway end. The airplane impacted the building and an adjacent communications antenna. At 1626 the controller contacted the airport police and urged them to respond quickly because he "felt that the pilot may be intoxicated and they heard the screams of a young child onboard". The police arrived on scene at 1640 and detected an odor of alcohol from the pilot. A search of the airplane revealed an unopened bottle of wine, one opened bottle of liquor about 2/3 full and an opened "water" bottle that contained a clear liquid with an odor of alcohol. After the pilot refused to take an alcohol breathalyzer and field sobriety test he was taken into custody and charged under Florida State Statute with "Operation of an aircraft while intoxicated or in a careless or reckless manner".

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the airplane came to rest against a small building located along the airport perimeter fence. The leading edge of the left wing sustained substantial damage, and the front propeller tips were bent forward and gouged. The aircraft examination was completed by an airframe and powerplant mechanic and supervised by the airport operations director. Examination of the flight control systems, nosewheel steering, and brake system revealed no anomalies that could have precluded normal operation.

The pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, multiengine land (limited to centerline thrust) and instrument Airplane. He also held a third-class medical certificate, which was issued on November 13, 2014 with a limitation of "must wear corrective lenses". At that time he reported 1,238 total flight hours experience.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Orlando FSDO-15


Melbourne International Airport authorities said the 57-year-old Satellite Beach pilot who rode his plane across the grass before striking a communication tower shed "smelled like alcohol."

His 10-year-old son, also aboard the Cessna 337F Super Skymaster as it was preparing to fly to Dayton, Ohio to visit an aviation museum, suffered minor injuries but refused treatment from paramedics.

Police later found a half-empty bottle of cognac along with a plastic water bottle filled with clear contents and the smell of an alcoholic beverage, reports show.

Christopher Hall, described as an engineer, was charged with reckless operation of a vessel and child abuse without harm after airport police attempted to talk with him following the incident, reports show.

Hall, who is the principal engineer for the Satellite Beach-based Wireless Systems Engineering, posted a $4,000 bond about 9 a.m. and walked out of the Brevard County Jail Complex and got into a waiting car. Hall has an extensive career in the cellular, digital processing and flight testing arenas, according to his resume.

The incident – being reviewed by the FAA – happened about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the airport as air traffic control tower workers attempted to guide Hall's aircraft. One of the controllers told airport police that Hall failed to heed their instructions and that his speech was "noticeably slurred," reports show. He was planning to fly the craft to Ohio, taking his son to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, according to friends.

It was not immediately known if he filed a flight plan, although private pilots are not necessarily required to do so, according to the FAA.

According to Florida Today news partner Local 6 ClickOrlando, air traffic control officials could be heard on audio captured in the moments leading up to the incident. At one point, the air traffic controllers ordered Hall to roll the aircraft back to its hangar but he refused, officials reported.

"Okay, 32 Mike, where are you going, sir?" a controller asked Hall, referring to the tail number of the plane. Moments later the controller asked, "Skymaster 32 Mike, is everything alright, sir?"

Air traffic controllers also ordered Hall to turn off his engine. Moments later the left wing of the airplane crashed into a small tower shed at the end of the runway, bringing the journey of Hall and his 10-year-old son to a sudden stop.

Airport authorities said the Cessna was registered to Wireless Systems Engineering based in Satellite Beach. "We are proud of our airport operations team, especially the experienced and alert (air traffic control) professionals who denied runway access to the aircraft," said Lori Booker, a spokeswoman for the airport in a statement.

Police and fire crews quickly responded to the air strip and found the airplane sitting up against a shed next to the fence. Another person helped the child get out of damaged aircraft and reported smelling alcohol on Hall's breath. Both Hall, described as flushed and sweating, and his son sat down on a nearby golf cart and waited for authorities to arrive.

"There were minor injuries reported," said Lt. Pete Mercaldo, of the Melbourne Police Department.

Police said Hall, whose eyes were also bloodshot according to reports, seemed disoriented and refused to supply his identification card or to take a field sobriety test. An unidentified witness at the scene of the incident told police to check inside of the computer bag on board the plane to explain what happened.

Hall's wife, a local anesthesiologist, according to an associate, was contacted in Hawaii where she had taken a trip with her daughter. It was not immediately known if the Department of Family and Children were contacted but authorities turned the child over to a longtime family friend. The wife is now preparing to fly back to the mainland, friends say.

"It was a surprise to me," said Dr. Kevin Simmons, an anesthesiologist and a longtime friend of the Hall family. "(Hall's) an engineer, very meticulous, sometimes compulsive and stubborn. But I was not aware of any problems," he told FLORIDA TODAY.

The boy, in his custody, 'is fine,' said Simmons. "Obviously, he's a little shaken but he's okay."

Inside the aircraft, police found an opened, half-empty bottle of cognac and an unopened bottle of wine while a plastic water bottle filled with an liquid that smelled like alcohol, reports show. The child was turned over to a family friend.

The Federal Aviation Administration district office and local law enforcement officers are investigating the cause of the incident.

Melbourne International Airport remains open with regular flights as scheduled.

FOX 35 News Orlando

MELBOURNE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) - The pilot of a Cessna 337F Super Skymaster aircraft that veered off the runway at Melbourne International Airport while preparing to take off, has bonded out of jail.

An airport police spokesperson said the pilot later identified as Christopher John Hall was intoxicated. 

Officials say two people including Hall was on board the plane when it ran off Taxiway K and went through a ditch, before hitting a satellite dish. 

The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday on the northwest corner of airport property. 

Officials say no one was injured.

The aircraft registration number is N1732M.  

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

Hall bonded out of the Brevard County Jail around 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning. 

The pilot of the Cessna 337F Super Skymaster was taken from the airport around 10:45 p.m. Wednesday and was headed to be booked at the Brevard County Jail.

Police hunting three pilots after two flew under Kessock Bridge - Inverness, Scotland

A concerned citizen  told the police that the aircraft had performed the death-defying stunt on Tuesday afternoon.

A probe  has been launched into reports that two planes flew UNDER the Kessock Bridge in a stunt many will recognize from the video game Grand Theft Auto V.

A member of the public contacted police to say the aircraft had performed the daredevil stunt shortly after 1 pm on Tuesday.

A third plane was also said to be involved but didn't fly under the bridge.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police in Inverness received a report from a member of the public regarding an incident of possible unofficial aeronautical acrobatics when three planes were seen flying past the Kessock Bridge.

“Two of the planes were reported as having flown beneath the bridge before meeting up with the third plane and continuing on their flight path.

“Enquiries are ongoing into the matter at this time and the facts have been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority.”

Police have asked anyone has anyone with information to contact them on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Original article can be found here:

MacDill Air Force Base pilot arrested in Brevard County, Florida, during child sex sting

Captain Christopher Everding

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — A U.S. Air Force pilot is accused of driving from Tampa to Brevard County to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex, according to investigators.

 Capt. Christopher Everding was caught up in an online sting with Department of Homeland Security investigators.

At a hearing Wednesday Everding told a judge that he has hired an attorney. That attorney waved Everding's right to request bond Wednesday, so the pilot remains in federal custody without bond.

Everding is stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.

A picture posted on the Air Force's website in 2012 shows Everding after he earned an air medal for missions he flew in Afghanistan.

In 2013 he was honored by the Federal Aviation Administration for meeting exceptional aviation standards.

Department of Homeland Security investigations agents posted an ad on a website aimed at people who have a sexual interest in animals. In the ad they pretended to be the father of a 13-year-old girl.

Investigators said Everding responded to the ad, saying he was interested in meeting the girl for sex.

According to investigators, in one email Everding wrote that "he wanted to choke and pull the child's hair, because he like(s?) to be dominant."

They said that over the weekend he arrived in Brevard County with condoms and met with an undercover agent who was posing as the father of the young girl.

Investigators said that once he was confronted by agents he told them he had never before done anything like what he was being accused of.

They said he told them he viewed child pornography and had similar conversations with a child who as around 13 years old.

His attorney said he and his client would like to have a bond hearing later.

Air Force officials sent a statement saying that they are aware of the allegations and take them seriously.

Original article can be found here:

Incident occurred May 27, 2015 at Victoria Regional Airport (KVCT), Texas

A plane landed safely Wednesday at Victoria Regional Airport after the pilot reported problems with trying to deploy its landing gear.

The pilot reported the problem about 12:45 p.m. when the aircraft was experiencing electrical problems, said Victoria County Fire Marshal Ronald Pray.

An airport official declined to identify the airport tenant who owned the plane, but said it was not a Texas Sky commercial aircraft.

He said the crew aboard the aircraft hand-cranked the gear to deploy it and then flew by the airport so officials on the ground could determine the gear was deployed.

The aircraft then made a safe landing at 1:12 p.m., and no injuries were reported, Pray said.

The Victoria County Sheriff's Office, the Victoria Fire Department and the Department of Public Safety responded to the call.


Federal Aviation Administration investigating Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (KCLE) for 12 safety-related incidents

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is under investigation for 12 safety-related incidents during the past two winters, according to interviews with airport officials and public records.

After the first three events, during the 2013/2014 winter, Hopkins entered into a "snow and ice control plan" with the Federal Aviation Administration that spells out the number of field maintenance employees that must be on duty to clear runways and taxiways, depending on a color-coded ranking of weather conditions.

For example, during a yellow code -- with an estimate of greater than 1 to 4 inches of dry or wet snow -- there are supposed to be four airport operations workers and 26 field maintenance employees.

The plan was put in place in November 2014. Another nine safety-related incidents followed, involving planes that had to divert for various reasons or that reported poor or "nil"--– bad or nonexistent -- braking conditions on airfield pavement.

In an interview Tuesday, Hopkins Director Ricky Smith and Airport Commissioner Fred Szabo said the events triggered a total of four FAA "letters of investigation" -- notices that the FAA thinks Hopkins may have violated one or more federal aviation regulations. Airport officials responded to all the letters, providing information such as timelines and proof of runway surface inspections and a breakdown of airfield staffing.

Hopkins is waiting to hear back from the FAA and hopes to have the investigations closed in coming months.

In no case was the flying public at risk, nor did any of the incidents involve insufficient staffing, Smith said. Claims to the contrary are coming from a disgruntled employee who "has been on a mission to create this narrative that there are safety issues at the airport," he said.

Staffing rules "not an absolute"

Nonetheless, the airport has struggled to meet the snowfall staffing standards. On Jan. 5, for example, under a yellow code, there were 12 field maintenance employees on the second shift and 14 on the third shift, not the 26 that were supposed to be on each shift, according to a performance indicator for the month provided by an airport employee. The indicator shows that at least six times in January 2015 the airport "failed" staffing levels.

Smith said the color-code system is not an absolute, but a range. As to whether the FAA allows some leeway, Smith said, "We have not heard from the FAA that it is a problem."

Szabo said of the plan, "I would describe it more as a living document. If we need to make any modifications, we'll do it in cooperation with the FAA."

Hopkins has a self-imposed target to complete an update to its snow and ice plan by Nov. 1, Szabo and Smith said.

Diversions of planes are not unusual at cold-weather airports, Smith said. Factors other than airfield conditions, such as the type of aircraft scheduled to land and pilot familiarity with low-visibility conditions, can prompt a pilot to divert to another airport. Medical, mechanical and other emergencies also can lead to diversions.

Smith said Hopkins has made enormous progress in reducing safety incidents in the past 10 years, in part by extending one of its runways by more than 2,000 feet and reconfiguring taxiways to avoid incursions, when airplanes enter runways without authorization.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows 28 diversions at Hopkins for January through March of this year, not the 10 reported by Hopkins. Airport spokeswoman Michele Dynia said Hopkins is only aware of diversions within its air space -- a 20-mile radius around the airport -- not those that may occur en route.

Here's the BTS tally of diversions at 10 northern airports for the first three months of 2015:

Columbus -- 7; Pittsburgh -- 7; Buffalo -- 4; Cincinnati -- 3; Minneapolis -- 11; Milwaukee -- 14; Chicago O'Hare -- 55; Chicago Midway -- 86; LaGuardia -- 114; Boston -- 30.

Szabo gave these description of some of the incidents at Hopkins from the 2013/2014 winter:

December 30, 2013: The pilot of a Delta plane that landed reported nil braking on a taxiway. "In that instance we found we had proper staffing. One operations supervisor failed to close a piece of pavement that should have been closed," Szabo said. The worker was disciplined and left the airport soon after.

January 18, 2014: An aircraft rescue vehicle, driven by a 24-year veteran of Hopkins, crossed into an active runway during a training exercise. "An incursion does not mean a near miss," Smith said. Szabo noted there was no aircraft nearby. The employee was disciplined for failure to understand his surroundings.

The aircraft diversions in 2015 were:

January 21 – A United Express regional jet was diverted because of extremely low visibility. The diversion occurred during a 30-minute stretch when Hopkins had both its main runways closed to clear accumulated snow.

February 5 – Two United mainline jets and five United regional carriers were diverted during a heavy snowstorm with poor visibility and a low cloud ceiling. The diversions occurred during 22 minutes when Hopkins had both its main runways closed.

March 1 – The pilot of an Air Wisconsin regional plane that landed reported bad taxiway braking, leading air traffic controllers to cancel takeoff clearance for an Express Jet and give go-round instructions to a Delta aircraft.

Original article can be found here:

Robert Sumwalt: The Go Team • National Transportation Safety Board

Self-described “knucklehead 17-year-old” Robert Sumwalt III was growing up in Columbia’s Heathwood neighborhood in December of 1973 when, on the way to visit his girlfriend in his green Triumph Spitfire, a news bulletin came over the car radio.

“I heard that there had been a plane crash. A twin-engine corporate airplane had crashed near Old Barnwell Road. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that would be really neat to go see a plane crash.’ ”

Sumwalt said he “drove around stopping at filling stations” asking for directions and finally found the crash site “thanks to the coroner coming speeding by with flashing lights.” (The site was not far from May 23’s deadly airplane crash that took the life of Columbia businessman Bob Russell).

Sumwalt jumped out of his Triumph and caught up with the coroner who was getting out of his car, too.

“I just got up right behind him, ducked under that yellow tape with him and went to the crash site. There were no human remains that I could see, but I did see the plane wrapped around a tree. I had always been fascinated with plane crashes, and aviation as well. I remember wondering how they would piece the crash back together and figure it all out.

“That was truly a life-changing event for me because it led me down a particular career path.”

Fast forward 42 years.

On May 13, Sumwalt, one of five members of the National Transportation Safety Board, stood before a crowd of local and national media explaining what had been learned so far in the investigation of the Amtrak train derailment that had occurred the day before near the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia. Eight passengers on the train, Amtrak’s No. 188 out of Washington and headed for New York, were killed and more than 200 injured.

The investigation into the cause is continuing.

“It was very intense. Accident scenes are all so sad. I approach it as our efforts are to learn from what happened and to keep those things from happening again.”

Sumwalt said people often mistake his position as chairman of the NTSB, an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating transportation accidents, determining probable cause and issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar accidents. The assumption is likely made because Sumwalt so often appears on national television, representing the NTSB.

Sumwalt explained that the agency employs 430 employees. Of those, there’s always a small group on standby in case an accident occurs. Sumwalt calls that group “the Go Team.”

“If you’re on the Go Team and there’s an accident to be investigated, you go. The team works Monday to Monday. A board member is assigned to the team. The board member is the face of the investigation.”

And that means the board member is the NTSB spokesman.

In the case of the Philadelphia accident, Sumwalt was on the Go Team. He was in Florida when, at 10:15 p.m. on the Tuesday night of the derailment, he got the call to go. He arrived at the Philadelphia airport early the next morning, met by an FBI agent at the gate.

Sumwalt said being on site at an accident scene is “organized chaos. You’ve got local responders who are doing their thing. Our (NTSB) processes are pretty well rehearsed. We know the investigation process and we just get it done. Everybody is a specialist in their own special areas of an investigation.

“Generally speaking, the investigators are at it all day. We have a meeting at 6 p.m. every night where everybody talks about what they’ve done, what they’ve found. They are long, intense days. Full of challenges.”

The biggest challenge Sumwalt faces at an accident site is speaking to the families of the victims. “It’s the hardest thing I do.

“I pray for strength before I go into these meetings with the families,” he said. “I try to speak from the heart, not like a bureaucrat.”

Speaking of speaking, if you have an ear for South Carolina accents, you’ll note that Sumwalt’s is the real deal.

He was born and raised in Columbia, the son of Joyce and Bobby Sumwalt Jr., a successful general contractor in commercial construction throughout the state.

Sumwalt attended Brennan Elementary, Crayton Junior High and Dreher High schools.

While growing up in the capitol city, Sumwalt said learning to ride horses at two farms – Belle Grove, on Bluff Road, and Hickory Top Farm, off the Sumter Highway – had a huge impact upon his life. He noted one particular riding teacher, Betty Belser.

Belser, wife of Columbia attorney Heyward Belser, was an accomplished horsewoman and a remarkably demanding riding teacher at Belle Grove.

“I just remember my love for riding and my love and respect for Betty Belser,” Sumwalt said. “I thought the world of her and wanted to do well for her.”

On rainy days, if riding instruction was cancelled, Belser taught “theory lessons” at her brick home on Albion Road near Dreher. Students sat in a small den and had to learn a slew of horse facts, including the physiology of the animal.

Sumwalt remembered those study sessions, ticking off the parts of a horse’s leg. “Hoof, coronet, pastern, fetlock, cannon … I jumped on those theory lessons like crazy. I enjoyed the discipline of really wanting to know more about something you’re really interested in.”

Sumwalt used that same discipline when he learned to fly.

While still a teen, he took flying lessons at Columbia Metropolitan Airport. “My parents had prohibited me from doing it, but I did it anyway.”

When he entered the University of South Carolina in 1974, with a private pilot’s license in hand, Sumwalt said he “marched into the Dean of Students office and told him we needed a flying club. The dean said ‘No’ and I said, ‘Well, I just thought since Clemson has had a flying club since 1928, we should have one too.’ The dean told me to sit back down.”

Shortly thereafter, USC had a flying club and two small airplanes.

After graduating USC, Sumwalt piloted the university’s aircraft, flying school officials where they needed to go.

In 1981, he began flying for Piedmont Airlines, which later became U.S. Airways. In 2004, SCANA Corp. offered him a job managing its aviation department and in 2006, President George Bush appointed him to the NTSB board.

“During my airline career, I was really passionate about doing safety work. I had helped the NTSB with some accident investigations. All through college, I had had a passion for reading NTSB accident reports. So, I decided to go for it. Political appointments are hard to get, but in this case, a long shot worked out.”

When I asked Sumwalt where he lives these days, he laughed and said, “I’ve been trying to figure out that for years.”

Sumwalt, who is married to Anne and has a college-aged daughter Mackenzie, splits his time between an apartment in Washington, D.C. and his home here in Columbia.

He said he tries to get “home every two weeks.”

That means a lot of travel, but for Sumwalt, that’s just part and parcel of his job.

“I work for the traveling public. We try to take something tragic and learn from it. We’re always pushing, pushing, pushing to make things safer.”

Original article can be found here:

Polk County, Missouri: No downed plane found following report

Polk County 911 received a call from the reporting party at 7:53 p.m., who was actually passing through the area at the time and reported they had witnessed a plane that was in the area of the 4800 block of South 190th Road and was having engine problems; the reporting party identified it as a smaller, white plane.

The reporting party did not witness the aircraft hitting the ground and observed no other indications that the plane actually crashed.

Throughout the search we talked to residents who live in the area who had witnessed what appeared to be the same plane, but no one witnessed a crash of that plane.

We requested the Missouri Highway Patrol Plane and was able to search the heavily wooded area with nothing located.

Personnel from the Central Polk County Fire Protection District, Pleasant Hope Fire Protection District, Polk Rural Fire Department, Polk County Sheriff’s Department, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol participated in the search of the area.