Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pakistan International Airlines, Civil Aviation Authority take no action against violators of air safety law

KARACHI: Despite a lapse of over six weeks, no action has been initiated by the aviation regulator as well as by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) against the influential pilot, Qasim Hayat, who violated air safety laws and put the lives of over 350 Toronto-bound passengers at risk, it is learnt here reliably.

According to highly placed sources, the PIA, succumbing to the pressure of the influential pilot, has put the issue which it earlier considered “sacrosanct”, on the back-burner, while the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the aviation regulator, did not even bother responding to queries by Dawn about it.

The sources said that Islamabad-based pilot Mr Hayat had not taken the mandatory 24-hour rest before he operated the Toronto-bound flight PK 789 on April 7, 2015.

The mandatory rest is prescribed in the CAA’s laws so that the air crew is not tired during flight duty, as a fatigued crew can result in a disaster.

Sources said that PIA, following the 24-hour mandatory rest requirement in mind, had scheduled Mr Hayat to fly from Islamabad to Lahore on April 5, take rest at a Lahore hotel for two days, and then operate the Canada-bound flight on April 7.

Instead, Mr Hayat did not fly from Islamabad to Lahore as scheduled on April 5, and stayed back overnight and then flew to Lahore on the evening of April 6, reaching Lahore late at night, and then operated the Toronto-bound flight early on April 7, after hardly taking seven to eight hours rest.

Sources added that out-of-station crew members of the flight operated by Mr Hayat be also included in an inquiry as to why they did not raise objections knowing that the pilot had not taken the mandatory rest; the crew had also taken rest in the same hotel.

The names of the crew members, as filled in the list by pilot Mr Hayat are: pilots Anwar, Navid and Zain. Cabin crew included Anwer Sultana, Syed Kashif, Uzma Furqan, Sheema Khan, Saima Arshad, Asim Soomro, Aamir Niaz, Sana Aziz, Qudsia Hassan, Samreen, Kanchan, Anila Iftikhar, Ambar Hasan and Yawar Shehzad.

Previously responding to Dawn, PIA spokesperson Aamir Memon had said that “your query highlights the concern PIA considers sacrosanct. We are verifying the matter in all areas of airline operations and will conduct a thorough inquiry and take appropriate action.”

However, responding to the newspaper on Sunday, a couple of weeks after the issue was highlighted in the media and around six weeks after the incident, Mr Memon said the inquiry had not even been initiated yet as Mr Hayat was on vacation.

To another question that every information — his travel to Lahore from Islamabad and then his travel to Toronto from Lahore, his stay at Lahore hotel etc — was a matter of PIA’s own record and could be verified by the airline without Mr Hayat being present, Mr Memon insisted that Hayat’s presence was necessary.

To a question by this reporter, the CAA spokesperson Pervez Geroge did not respond though he was contacted repeatedly through telephone as well as email. Mr Pervez always said that he would ask the officials concerned — in this case deputy director general as well as director of flight standards — but he never gave any reply whether the CAA had initiated an inquiry into this serious violation of air safety law committed by PIA pilot Mr Hayat.

The sources said that PIA and CAA did not take any action if the violator was an influential person, as apart from Mr Hayat, another influential PIA pilot, Amir Hashmi, who is also president of the Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (PALPA), had violated the same 24-hour rest law.

A few months back he flew from New York to Pakistan and in another incident flew from Lahore to Canada without taking the required duration of rest before operating these Trans-Atlantic long haul flights putting the lives of hundreds of passengers at risk.

The sources said that it was high time the federal government launched a high-level inquiry into the affairs of PIA as well as CAA to investigate why no probe by either organizations was conducted against the violators of air safety law when the issues were highlighted by the media.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2015


Man caught flying drone during Phillies game

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Stadium security and police were called after a man was caught flying a drone during a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia.

It happened around 4:00 Sunday afternoon.

Authorities say it was spotted flying near third base but it's not clear how high the drone actually went.

Phillies staff saw the drone from inside the ballpark but it landed outside.

The man cooperated with authorities.

The drone was confiscated by Eagles security but will be returned sometime Sunday evening.

Police say they still need to investigate where the man was standing when he controlled the drone. It has to stay within a controller's line of sight.

It's also not clear which stadium property he was standing on - Lincoln Financial Field or Citizens Bank Park.

Police say security from both stadiums are allowed to stop or detain someone for flying a drone.

Action News reached out to the man but he declined to speak with us.

While no charges will be filed it's still possible that the man will face an Federal Aviation Administration penalty or even a fine.

There are restrictions about flying drones over stadiums, large gatherings and near airports.

Police plan to follow up with the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday.

Story and video:

Cessna 207 Skywagon, Yute Air, N1653U: Accident occurred May 30, 2015 in Bethel, Alaska

NTSB Identification: ANC15FA032
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 30, 2015 in Bethel, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 207, registration: N1653U
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 30, 2015, about 1130 Alaska daylight time, a Cessna 207, N1653U, sustained substantial damage after impacting trees about 40 miles southeast of Bethel, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by Yute Air, Bethel, Alaska as a visual flight rules (VFR) postmaintenance flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions were reported in the area of the accident, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The accident flight originated at the Bethel Airport, Alaska about 0830, with an expected return time of 1200.

About 1415, flight coordination personnel from Yute Air in Bethel notified the Director of Operations (DO) that the accident airplane was overdue. About 1435 the DO notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who issued an alert notice (ALNOT). About 1532, an aerial search was initiated by Yute Air, Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Air National Guard as well as other air operators and Good Samaritans. On May 31, about 1730 searchers discovered the airplane's submerged and fragmented wreckage in a river slough. 

On June 1, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), along with an additional NTSB investigator, an inspector from the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), and members of the Alaska State Troopers, traveled to the accident scene by helicopter and river boats. 

The main wreckage was located submerged in a fast flowing braided river that was surrounded by trees. An area believed to be the initial impact point was marked by a broken treetop, atop about a 30 foot tall birch tree. From the initial impact point the airplane traveled northbound, about 350 feet, coming to rest on its left side, and in the fast moving river water. The engine separated from the airplane and it was located submerged upstream and in the main river channel. The pilot's body was discovered still restrained within the submerged fuselage. 

An on-scene documentation of the debris field was completed, and a detailed wreckage examination is pending following recovery of the airplane. 

The accident airplane was equipped with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology. In typical applications, the ADS-B capable aircraft uses an ordinary Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to derive its precise position from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) constellation, and then combines that position with any number of aircraft parameters, such as speed, heading, altitude, and aircraft registration number. This information is then simultaneously broadcast to other ADS-B capable aircraft, and to ADS-B ground, or satellite communications transceivers, which then relay the aircraft's position and additional information to Air Traffic Control centers in real time.

A preliminary NTSB review of ADS-B data archived by the Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) showed that the accident airplane was transmitting data for portions of the accident flight. At the last recorded ADS-B position, which was about 6 miles southwest from the accident site, the airplane was flying at an altitude of approximately 475 feet mean seal level (msl), while traveling in an easterly-northeasterly direction. A detailed NTSB analysis of the archived ADS-B data is pending.

The airplane was equipped with a Continental Motors IO-520 engine. A detailed NTSB examination of the engine is pending.

The closest weather reporting facility was Bethel, about 40 miles northwest of the accident site. At 1053, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) was reporting, in part: Wind 210 degrees at 10 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few at 12000 feet, scattered at 2000 feet; temperature, 16 degrees C; dew point, 9 degrees C; altimeter, 30.12 inHG.

FAA FSDO:  FAA Anchorage FSDO-03


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The body of a missing Yute Air pilot was found inside the upside-down wreckage of a small plane that had just been equipped with a new engine, Alaska State Troopers said Tuesday.

 Responders tentatively identified the body found in the Cessna 207 on Monday as 47-year-old Blaze Highlander of Olympia, Washington. The aircraft was found in the Kwethluk River about 40 miles southeast of Bethel, but challenging conditions are slowing efforts to recover the submerged body and wreckage.

Highlander, who survived an earlier Yute Air plane crash, was last seen leaving Bethel Saturday morning. Troopers said he was breaking in a new engine for the plane. He was the only person on board.

The wreckage was spotted by another Yute Air pilot Sunday evening, but recovery efforts have been stymied by adverse weather and river conditions. Responders on the scene found the plane in pieces and submerged in up to 8 feet of water, according to Clint Johnson, head of the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska office.

"This is a very fast-moving river," Johnson said. "And when there's a fair amount of rain upstream, there's pretty much a wall of water."

Johnson said it's unclear if the plane broke apart because of the impact or the river conditions, Johnson said.

Yute Air's Bethel station manager Andrew Flagg referred questions to company operations manager Dan Knesek, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

In December 2011, Highlander survived a plane crash near Kwigillingok, escaping with only minor injuries. Highlander was the only person on board the Yute Air-owned Cessna 207 when the crash occurred about 80 miles southwest of Bethel.

The cause of that crash was determined by the NTSB to be the pilot's decision to continue flying in bad weather that iced up the wings.

It's too early to say what caused the weekend crash, which occurred when the weather was clear and calm, at least in Bethel, according to Johnson. He said weather is not a top priority in the investigation at this point. NTSB investigations also look at pilot error and mechanical problems as possible causes.

Yute Air serves more than 22 communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of southwest Alaska, providing scheduled air service and charters.

Update, 10:30 a.m. Monday: A Yute Air plane missing after flying out of Bethel Saturday was found crashed in the Kwethluk River at 6:45 p.m. Sunday, according to the Alaska National Guard. 

"Wreckage was initially spotted by a Yute Air pilot who was flying a company aircraft during the search," said National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead Monday. "The Civil Air Patrol flew over the area moments later and were able to confirm the aircraft wreckage."

Rescue and recovery efforts are underway, authorities said. 

A preliminary FAA incident report posted Monday says that the missing Cessna 207 was found 40 miles from Bethel.

The preliminary data says the status of the pilot -- the lone person aboard the Cessna -- is "unknown." 

Olmstead said that Alaska State Troopers headed to the scene in a jet boat early Monday morning, along with a trooper helicopter and  investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA. 

Original story: A major search is underway in Western Alaska for a Yute Air pilot who didn’t return from a post-maintenance check flight out of Bethel on Saturday.

The pilot, flying a Cessna 207, left from the regional airline’s hub in Bethel Saturday morning at about 8:30 a.m., said Clint Johnson, Alaska chief for the National Transportation Safety Board.

The pilot planned to head east of Bethel for a three-and-a-half hour flight, said Daniel Knesek, director of operations for Yute Air.

“He was considered overdue at 12:30 p.m. and we have been actively searching for him and the aircraft thereafter,” Knesek wrote.

The pilot was the only person aboard the aircraft.

Johnson said it was too early for his agency, which investigates aircraft accidents, to be actively involved.

“We don’t know if it’s an accident yet,” Johnson said.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center is heading up a search, said Alaska State Troopers spokesman Tim Despain, with trooper aircraft assisting Civil Air Patrol and military aircraft in the search.

Several local air carriers and pilots operating in Western Alaska have also joined the search.

“Hageland Aviation, Grant Aviation, Ryan Air and Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures and the State Troopers have all provided pilots and aircraft to help since the search began,” Knesek said. "Our efforts will continue." 

Yute Air serves more than 22 villages in the area of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, with scheduled air service and charters on a fleet of Cessna 207 and 172 airplanes.


Naples Municipal Airport (KAPF) To Enlist Help for Executive Director Search

The City of Naples Airport Authority has issued a Request for Qualifications for firms qualified to assist in the search for a new executive director. Ted Soliday, who has served in the position since 1994, has announced plans to retire in April 2016.

The Airport Authority’s Consultant Selection Committee will evaluate the proposals, interview the firms, rank them, develop a scope of work and, at the June 18 meeting of the Board of Airport Commissioners, recommend hiring one of the firms.

Naples Municipal Airport, a certificated air-carrier airport, is home to flight schools, air charter operators, car rental agencies and corporate aviation and nonaviation businesses as well as fire/rescue services, mosquito control, the Collier County Sheriff’s Aviation Unit and other community services.

During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the airport accommodated 95,120 takeoffs and landings.

All funds used for the airport’s operation, maintenance and improvements are generated from activities at the airport or from federal and state grants; the airport receives no property tax dollars. The Florida Department of Transportation values the airport’s economic impact to the community at $283.5 million annually.

Naples Municipal Airport operates as a general aviation airport but complies with the same Federal Aviation Administration standards and safety guidelines as airports with commercial airline service, maintaining the same level of security and adhering to all Transportation Security Administration and FAA directives. During a recent annual inspection, the FAA found the airport 100 percent in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations Part 139 requirements.

The Birdmen and their buzz wagons

In August 1918, pilots from Payne Field, U.S. Army Air Service, flew to a barbecue in Artesia and landed in a field near the Methodist Church. The late Sam Kaye found photographs of the barbecue, including this one of the Payne Field pilots, in his mother's scrapbook. 
Photo by: Courtesy photo/Carolyn Kaye

By Rufus Ward

May 30, 2015 11:37:19 PM

Just 10 years after the Wright brothers had delivered the first airplane to the newly formed U.S. Army Air Service, aircraft were playing an important role in World War I. With the need to rapidly increase the number of pilots, the Army Signal Corps began establishing pilot training based around the country. In 1917 West Point, Mississippi, was selected as the site for one of those training bases. The field was constructed on 533 acres of open prairie about four miles north of town and named Payne Field.

The pilots at Payne Field trained in Curtiss JN-4 airplanes which were called "Jennys." The Jenny had a top speed of 75 mph and a ceiling of 11,000 feet. The first squadron arrived on March 10, 1918. By May 1 the field was fully operational with 125 Jennys soon in the air. Eventually, about 1,500 pilots would train at the field.

Most people around West Point had never seen an aircraft before and called the Jennys "buzz wagons." The aviators were called "birdmen." The aircraft were used for pilot training and missions related to base operations. Planes did flyovers at public events such as Liberty Bond drives. In 1918, after Aviation Cadet Joseph Peters, of Columbus, was killed in an air crash at Kelly Field in Texas, his funeral was at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus. Pilots from Payne Field flew over the funeral service dropping flowers as Peters' body was lowered into his grave.

However, there apparently were many flights by pilots that were under the radar -- if they had even had radar back then. One which was authorized but out of the ordinary was newspaper delivery. on Aug. 21, 1918, a base newspaper, the Payne Field Zoom, was established. It was announced that area towns that had at least 50 subscribers would receive weekly delivery of the paper by airplane. The towns in the coverage area included Macon, Artesia, Columbus, Starkville, Okolona, Tupelo, Aberdeen and Brooksville. Payne Field planes would land near each town and bundles of papers would be picked up by post office personnel for delivery.

In September 1918, a Payne Field story made national news. Wardie Dawson was a "paralyzed crippled boy" living in Okolona whose brothers were in the military but be was unable to serve and lived at home. He wrote Lt. Col. Jack Heard, the field commander, a letter asking if a plane might land at his house so that he could see it. Heard wrote back a letter of encouragement but that there was no place for a plane to land. Heard then had a plane deliver the letter by flying at tree top level over the boy's house and drop the letter to him.

While those uses of aircraft are such as the Air Force might do today, others were not. I heard family stories about my grandfather, T.C. Billups, who lived at Billups Gate near Artesia. In the fall he had dove hunts and pilots from Payne Field would be invited. They would fly down, land in a pasture and then go hunting. After the hunt and after the hunt party was over, they would fly back to the base. On Aug. 16, 1918, there was a big barbecue and Brunswick stew picnic in Artesia. It was said that almost 1,000 people attended. The barbecue was held next to the Methodist Church and a number of pilots from Payne Field flew down and landed in an open field near the church. Pictures of the event with the pilots and their planes were taken. Several years ago the late Sam Kaye found those photos in his mother's scrapbook.

Probably the most unusual flights, though, left no record. In 1918, Columbus Police Chief John Morton, Payne Field Intelligence Officer Lt. McClean and Federal Revenue Agent Fry raided a bootlegging/moonshine operation on the Pickensville Road, 12 miles southeast of Columbus.

The raid was based on information that pilots from Payne Field may have been flying down, landing in a field near the location of a still and buying moonshine. The raid turned up 2 gallons and one quart of moonshine but only "some evidence" that there had been a still there. The moonshiner was found guilty by Justice of the Peace G.D. McKeller and sentenced to pay a fine of $50 and spend 30 days on the County Farm. It is interesting that only evidence there had been a still was found and that it was the Columbus Police Chief and not the sheriff who participated, though, the raid was in the county, not the city.

The early days of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Air Service must have been very interesting.

Thanks to Carolyn Kaye for help with this column.

Story, comments and photo: