Sunday, June 21, 2015

Scroggins Aviation: Las Vegas company specializes in mangling planes for Hollywood

In the trailer for the new “Terminator” movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger says “Ah’ll be back,” then launches himself from one helicopter into another like a human missile.

This explosive action sequence wouldn’t have been possible without a strong supporting performance by a little-known character actor from Las Vegas.

The helicopter that gets terminated in the scene was provided by Scroggins Aviation Mockup & Effects, a small, valley-based company making a big splash in Hollywood.

Scroggins Aviation supplies cockpits, passenger cabins and entire aircraft for movies and television productions. They also provide on-set technical assistance to change or repair any of their mock-ups.

Business has been so good lately that the 5-year-old operation recently traded its old 4,000-square-foot warehouse near the North Las Vegas Airport for triple the space at an office park near Decatur Boulevard and Russell Road.

That’s where you’ll find the heavily modified Eurocopter EC-130 featured in “Jurassic World.”

“When you see the wide shot of the helicopter flying and the mini-gun firing, that’s our helicopter,” said Doug Scroggins, the company’s founder and president. “And it never left the ground.”

The copter was placed on a moving platform and filmed against a green screen. Everything from spinning rotors to the marauding dinosaurs was added later by special effects wizards.

When the helicopter was returned to Scroggins, there were a few stray shell casings from the minigun rolling around in it.

The aircraft has since been immortalized in toy form as part of the omnipresent promotional tie-ins that go along with a summer blockbuster.

“We’re a Lego, funnily enough. They made a Lego out of it,” Scroggins said.


He found the Eurocopter in a barn in Hawaii, after an accident that left one side of the machine mangled. When it comes to aviation, even a wreck can be expensive. Scroggins said you can easily spend $100,000 or more on “a pile of garbage” that used to be a helicopter.

None of his rentals are in flying condition — many of the machines are missing key parts such as engines, tails or rotors.

Film productions rent Scroggins’ mock-ups for up to 60 days at a time. But unlike a Ford Focus you might get from Hertz, this rental agreement allows for the vehicles to be painted, modified or even wrecked on purpose.

Prices vary based on the size of the production, how long the aircraft is needed and what level of damage it might see.

“As you can imagine, it can be in the thousands (of dollars) per week,” Scroggins said.

If that’s too rich for your blood, his company also rents out the guts of scrapped aircraft and other random junk — from cables to small electronic panels — for what’s known in the movie industry as “gak.” (You know all those wires and gadgets you see covering the walls of space ships in sci-fi movies? That’s gak.)

The mock-up and effects business represents something of a homecoming for Scroggins.

When he was a kid, the Las Vegas native found work dragging cables and loading trucks on film sets. He eventually worked his way up to camera operator, then director of photography and finally producer and director for a handful of cable network shows before leaving the industry to pursue full time his love of aviation.

Scroggins ran an aircraft salvage and recycling business for a decade before show business drew him back in.

His first job was a big one: Haul a Boeing 767 in pieces deep into the California desert and reassemble it for a crash scene in the short-lived NBC series “The Event.”

That led to feature film work on “Final Destination 5” and extensive contributions to ABC’s “Pan-Am.”


The company’s biggest job to date was providing an entire MD-80 jetliner for the 2012 Denzel Washington movie “Flight.”

Scroggins said they had to cut up two aircraft, including one still in flying condition, to make wreckage.

“We chewed it up with excavators to give it that crunched look,” he said. “It was sad, but they were willing to pay a lot of money for it.”

The weirdest thing they’ve been asked to supply so far was a Russian Soyuz space capsule for a low-budget sci-fi thriller. With little to go on and not much time to work, they managed to piece together something out of wood that looked convincing, Scroggins said.

Some detail work is left to the movie studio’s art department, but the Scroggins team prints out decals or pieces together displays and control panels from spare parts. Some things, like knobs, are fabricated using a 3-D printer.

For authenticity, they work off of photographs or schematics of the aircraft, which they often have to buy directly from the manufacturer.

During the production of “Flight,” Scroggins and company not only supplied the crashed aircraft but most of the stuff inside it, including safety placards, barf bags and disposable coffee cups bearing the logo of the movie’s made-up SouthJet Airlines.

“When you’ve got a movie that’s over $100 million there’s a level of detail they want to get right. We’ll try to help them with that,” Scroggins said. “If you think about it, anything we do is for seconds. They pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for seconds on the screen. It’s mind-boggling.”

All the work is done by eight people — four in the shop, three in the office and Scroggins drifting between the two, often with a cellphone to his ear.

They have to be mechanically inclined and creative. They also have to be ready to solve problems and fill requests from fickle directors on the fly.

When they delivered their helicopter to the set of “Jurassic World,” for example, they found out the production needed the machine to have two sets of controls for a scene involving a flight instructor and his student.

Working from Las Vegas, they quickly cannibalized parts from another helicopter and fabricated the pieces they didn’t have. By 1 p.m. the next day, the copter on set had two control sticks and two sets of rudder pedals, even though it came from the factory with a single pilot’s seat, Scroggins said.


In the shop right now are three Bell UH-1 Iroquois — better known as Hueys — the Eurocopter AS 350 from “Terminator Genisys,” and two Eurocopter EC-130s — the one from “Jurassic World” and another Scroggins bought after it crashed and sank in the Hudson River. No one was killed in the accident.

“We wouldn’t touch anything that has a fatality attached to it,” Scroggins said, though his Hueys all saw action during the Vietnam War and bear scars from bullet strikes.

The warehouse also contains the cockpits and fuselage sections from two Boeing 737s and two 767s. One of the 767s played a recurring role in the ABC series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” until the “character was killed off,” Scroggins said with a smile.

No matter. The cockpit soon landed a big-screen part in the upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” sequel.

The helicopter Scroggins provided for “Terminator Genisys” has already landed its next role in Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War.” (Spoiler alert: It plays a helicopter.)

The company also stores aircraft mockups, including three full-size jetliners, in Mojave, Calif., and Louisiana, not far from the growing film production hubs of New Orleans and Atlanta.

Each of Scroggins’ aircraft represents an investment of several hundred thousand dollars, first to purchase the scrapped flying machine and then to restore it as a convincing prop.

Scroggins said restoration can cost as little as $20,000 or as much as “a couple hundred grand” depending on the aircraft, its condition and how much of it is needed. On the parts market, a single damaged helicopter door can cost as much as $10,000.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said, but it’s also intoxicating.

“I love this business. I really do. It has a lot of ‘wow factor’ to it,” the 49-year-old said.

Scroggins Aviation will soon expand its services to include an array of miniature model aircraft with the help of a modeler who formerly worked for visual effects giant Industrial Light &Magic.

Scroggins said his business is based in Las Vegas because he is — he’s lived here all his life and has no plans to relocate.

And he’ll stay in Las Vegas even as he burrows deeper into the movie industry. He just launched a production company, Blue Gate Films, and he’s in the early stages of producing his first feature. He said the project already has a screenplay and working title, and he expects it to feature at least one name actor.

He doesn’t want to reveal too much about the story just yet, but it involves a plane crash.

Story and video:

Incident occurred June 21, 2015 at Westchester County Airport (KHPN), White Plains, New York

WHITE PLAINS - A small plane that was experiencing issues with its landing gear managed to land safely at the Westchester County Airport Sunday.

The incident happened at around 4 p.m.

The aircraft was carrying two people.

Authorities had to clear air and runway traffic to make sure the small plane was able to land without any problems.

Story and video:

de Havilland Canada DHC-8-200, Commutair, N363PH

NTSB Identification: ENG15IA024
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 121: Air Carrier operation of CHAMPLAIN ENTERPRISES INC (D.B.A. CommutAir - United Express)
Incident occurred Friday, June 05, 2015 in Windsor Locks, CT
Aircraft: BOMBARDIER INC DHC 8, registration: N363PH
Injuries: 37 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 traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft incident report.

On June 5, 2015, about 1215 Eastern daylight time (EDT), a Bombardier DHC-8-202 airplane, N363PH, had an in-flight cockpit fire during approach into Bradley International Airport (BDL) Windsor Locks, CT. The crew donned masks, declared an emergency, and landed without incident. There were no injuries to the passengers or crew. The airplane sustained minor damage. The aircraft was registered to Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA Trustee and operated by Champlain Enterprises, Inc. (doing business as CommutAir - United Express, flight 4776) under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 as a scheduled passenger flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. the flight originated from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Newark, New Jersey, at 1134 EDT.


A commercial plane with 37 passengers and three crew members aboard was forced to make an emergency landing Sunday afternoon when smoke filled the cockpit and passenger cabin, authorities said.

According to Canandaigua Fire Chief Mark Marentette, a Bombardier Dash 8 twin turboprop operated by United Express, the regional branch of United Airlines, was enroute from Newark, N.J., to the Rochester International Airport when smoke began filling the cockpit a little after 2 p.m.

A flight attendant also saw smoke in the plane’s bathroom. As a precautionary measure, said Marentette, the attending emptied two fire extinguishers in the bathroom and closed the door.

The plane was 10 miles out of Canandaigua when the pilot requested an emergency landing at Canandaigua Airport, where emergency crews from Canandaigua, Victor and East Bloomfield responded, with Canandaigua on the scene within three minutes of the call.

“He had to put it on the ground right away,” said Marentette. “It (the landing) went great,” he said. “The crew did an excellent job.”

By the time they arrived, the pilot had already landed the plane without incident, and all emergency doors were open and passengers out, he said. Canandaigua Emergency Squad members responded to the airport and determined passengers and crew members were fine.

Original plans were for the passengers to board another plane and head to Rochester, he said, but that was scrapped in favor of auto. Some were picked in Canandaigua, while others were taken on to Rochester, he said.

Federal Aviation Administration officials were on the scene on Sunday to determine a cause of the smoke. It appeared it may be electrical in nature, said Marentette.

The chief noted that had the Canandaigua Airport not undergone its recent expansion, it’s unlikely the aircraft could have landed there. The plane might have had to land at Penn Yan’s airport, he said.

Canandaigua crews have been undergoing training for just such incidents, he said.


Pilot's death inspires wire safety campaign

Whanganui helicopter pilot Dean Lithgow has launched a national Let's Get 'Em Down advertising campaign to remove dangerous wires on farms.

Whanganui helicopter pilot and farmer Dean Lithgow thought about giving up flying after the death of fellow pilot and friend Peter Robb, who was killed when his helicopter struck a wire late last year.

"He was a colleague, he was a mate, he was a well-respected and very experienced helicopter pilot," Lithgow said.

With a young family of his own, Lithgow was seriously shaken by his friend's loss and during a long walk around his farm on the evening of the accident he came up with a plan to do something constructive to draw attention to the high risk of pilots hitting unseen wires on farmland.

He has since launched a national Let's Get 'Em Down advertising campaign which has the backing of two well-known sporting stars and fellow helicopter pilots, All Black captain Richie McCaw and motor racing champion Greg Murphy.

Lithgow said on behalf of the aviation industry, he wanted to personally thank the pair for their support of the campaign.

Wire strikes posed a huge risk for all pilots, he said, not just helicopter or agricultural pilots. Pilots of private aircraft, balloons, gliders and microlights were all at risk of wire strikes when they were forced to fly somewhere they did not want to be in bad weather. 

According to aviation industry statistics, 160 agricultural pilots had died on New Zealand farms to date, 27 of which were caused by wire strikes. In the two years before Peter Robb's accident, there were 15 wire strikes reported to the authorities, not all of them fatalities.

Lithgow is well aware of the risks, having had several close calls himself, including hitting an electric fence wire "I didn't know was there".

For helicopter pilots, he said safety was a huge issue because most of their agricultural work was done at low levels, such as crop or weed spraying.

"As ag pilots that's what we do, from North Cape to the Bluff," he said. "And as you know, there are not many of us to start with."

Lithgow said the aim of the campaign was for farmers and their pilots throughout the country to work together over the next 12 months to remove or lower all wires to conventional fence height.

He said not much could be done to shift power lines. Pilots were generally well aware of them and they were usually more obvious because of the visible hardware of towers, telegraph poles and cross-arms supporting them.

The real concern was less obvious wires, such as electric fence wires spanning gullies or disused television aerials, some of which were up to two kilometres long running from hill tops to homes in many remote valleys to improve television reception.

These wires were capable of bringing down any aircraft and especially helicopters working at low levels.

"They may only be five metres above the ground, but if they don't need to be there, they could be dropped to conventional fence height and the problem goes away," he said. "It's not going to happen tomorrow, but I'm sure we can achieve it."

As a dairy, sheep and beef farmer himself, Lithgow said most of his flying was farm-related and he and his colleagues had developed a strong rapport and personal connection with their clients because of the need to work together.

"Collectively, we want to work together with farmers to remove the risk."


Mooney M20K 231, N1168Z: Accident occurred June 21, 2015 in Sheboygan Wisconsin

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA279
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, June 21, 2015 in Sheboygan, WI
Aircraft: MOONEY M20K, registration: N1168Z
Injuries: 1 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 June 21, 2015, about 1130 central daylight time, the pilot of a Mooney M20K, N1168Z, made a forced landing in a wheat field 5 miles south of Sheboygan (KSBM), Wisconsin. The pilot, the sole occupant on board, was not injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed and activated. The flight originated from KSBM at 1113 and was destined for Elkhart (KEKM), Indiana.

Preliminary information indicates that shortly after the airplane departed, the pilot advised he was returning to KSBM due to low oil pressure. The pilot made a forced landing in a wheat field 5 miles south of the airport. A Federal Aviation Administration inspector who examined the airplane reported finding no oil in the crankcase. He reported the rear bulkhead was wrinkled and the empennage was twisted.


TOWN OF WILSON, Wis. — A pilot has survived an emergency plane landing in eastern Wisconsin after his engine lost power.

The Federal Aviation Administration notified the Sheboygan County sheriff's office just after 11:30 a.m. Sunday that a plane had crashed in southern Sheboygan County.

Shortly afterward, the pilot, identified as a man from Cleveland, Wisconsin, called to say his Mooney airplane had lost engine power and he had to make an emergency landing in a farm field in the Town of Wilson.

Deputies and emergency responders went to the scene. The man was not hurt, and his plane was intact with no fuel leakage.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.


Jamul, California: Skydive Instructor Killed in Jump

Andrei Penz

An expert skydive instructor with a passion for adventure and a love of life was killed after a hard landing at the Skydive San Diego facility in Jamul, California, Friday when his parachute failed.

The experienced skydiver - identified by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office as Andrei Penz, 30 – jumped at 1:30 p.m. at the facility on 13531 Otay Lakes Road, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

A witness watching from below told officials that as the man got closer to the ground, they could see him moving the parachute's toggles. However, it did not slow him down, and he hit the ground hard.

The witness said the parachute appeared to be partially collapsed upon the skydiver's approach to the ground.

Paramedics and a medical chopper were called in, and despite CPR efforts, they were not able to revive the victim.

Penz was working as a contracted skydive instructor at Skydive San Diego.

Buzz Fink, owner of Skydive San Diego, told NBC 7 the charismatic Penz was a master of his craft and was loved by many.

“Andrei was a great guy. He loved skydiving. He loved his fellow skydivers. He loved the sport; he loved adventure. He loved life,” said Fink.

Fink said Penz was a senior parachute rigger with the Federal Aviation Administration and was able to work on his own parachutes. He had been working on his equipment before the accident and Fink said there was an issue with how the parachute’s line length was “trimmed,” which impacted how it flew.

When Penz came in for turns, the parachute wasn’t working as smoothly as it should have been, Fink said.

“When he came in yesterday to land, for some reason, as he turned, the entire parachute turned underneath itself and collapsed, so he ended up falling over 100 feet,” Fink explained.

Fink said Penz had logged more than 1,500 jumps a year for the past several years and was an “extremely experienced, expert skydiver and instructor.”

Unfortunately, Fink said, more experience often means more accidents in the world of skydiving.

“In the sport of skydiving, generally the injuries and accidents are with the more highly-experienced skydivers because the more experience you get, the smaller canopy you get, and the faster you go,” he explained.

However, with more experience, comes more expertise when it comes to handling parachutes, Fink added.

He said this accident had nothing to do with Penz’s skills, rather an equipment malfunction that ended in tragedy.

“Andrei was an expert canopy pilot. He did not do anything wrong: he did not set up his approach wrong, he did not turn wrong. It happened to be something with the equipment he had on at the time that happened to fail on him. That’s what caused it. It was not his skills. He was an expert parachutist,” Fink said.

Fink said most of Penz’s family lives in Brazil, but he does leave behind a girlfriend and sister in San Diego.

Besides skydiving, Penz loved to surf, hike and travel.

“He would do a little bit of everything. He just lived life to the fullest,” Fink said. “I think [skydiving] made him feel alive, jumping out of an airplane at 120 mph, feeling the rush of the air in your face.”

Fink said fellow jumpers and his company will work together with the victim’s family to plan a memorial service down the line.

He assured skydiving is a safe sport – more so, in his opinion, than driving a car.

“I feel safer doing a tandem skydive than I would driving on the road. I do think the most dangerous part is actually driving to and from the skydiving center. When done right, [skydiving] is very safe,” he said.

Skydive San Diego does approximately 16,000 tandem jumps a year in San Diego.


Cessna T303 Crusader, HK-4677G: Accident occurred June 20, 2015 near Alto Baudó, Colombia

 Nelly Murillo is put on a trolley as she and her baby arrive in Quibdo, Choco department in Colombia on June 24, 2015, after the aircraft in which they were traveling crashed four days earlier in the forest

Bogota (AFP) - A mother and her infant son who disappeared in a plane crash in the dense jungles of northwestern Colombia several days ago were found alive and well in what authorities called a "miracle."

Nelly Murillo, 18, and her son Yudier Moreno, not yet one year old, were near the site where the Cessna 303 crashed on Saturday in thick brush.

"It's a miracle. It is a very wild area and it was a catastrophic accident," Colonel Hector Carrascal, commander of the Colombian Air Force in Antioquia department, told AFP on Wednesday.

"His mother's spirit must have given him strength to survive."

Murillo and her baby were taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital with minor injuries, said Carrascal, adding that he was stunned they were alive.  

"The lady has injuries and minor burns and apparently the child is unharmed," the Colombian Air Force said in a statement.

The plane's pilot, Captain Carlos Mario Ceballos, died in the crash and rescuers found his body in the aircraft.

They discovered the doors of the plane ajar and suspected that survivors may have clambered out.

A 14-person search-and-rescue team scoured the dense forest for several days before finding the mother and child.

The plane was traveling between Nuqui and Quibdo in northwest Colombia when it crashed.

Investigators were looking at the cause.

Original article can be found here:

En horas de la tarde se reportó la avioneta como desaparecida mientras sobrevolaba en el Chocó con 3 ocupantes quienes se dirigían desde Nuquí hasta Quibdó. En el momento los organismos de rescate se desplazan hasta la zona selvática del Chocó donde fue confirmado el accidente de la aeronave de placas HK4677G. El Secretario del Interior departamental de Chocó Bismark Calimeño Mena aseguró que en la avioneta se desplazaban las personas identificadas como Maria Eleni murillo, el piloto Carlos Mario Ceballos y un niño de brazos quienes fueron buscados en las horas de la tarde por la Fuerza Aérea y compañeros del piloto desaparecido.

  Bogota, Jun 21 (Prensa Latina) Helicopters of the Air Force of Colombia today are tracking the mountainous areas close to Quibdo, capital of Choco department, in search of a Cessna 303 aircraft that went missing yesterday with three people on board.

Reports coming from the western area of the country -near the coast of the Pacific Ocean- stated that the aircraft was operating the route from the resort town of Nuqui to Quibdo.

The Civil Aviation gave the first warning alert for the lack of location of the aircraft yesterday 18:10 (local time) and 00:56 on Sunday it was declared missing in a place located approximately 30 kilometers from Quibdo.

The mayor of Nuqui Felix David Moreno told the media that rescue teams have not been able to reach the site of the accident to check for survivors, but he identified the pilot by the name of Carlos Mario Ceballos.


Yeti Airlines, BAe Jetstream 41, 9N-AHW, Flight YT-426: Incident occurred June 21, 2015 at Dhangadi Airport

KATHMANDU, JUN 21 - A Yeti Airlines plane made an emergency landing at the Dhangadi Airport on Sunday.

The BAe Jetstream 41, en route to Kathmandu from Dhangadi, landed two minutes after the take off at 10:30 am this morning.

The aircraft lost power to its left engine forcing the pilot to make the emergency landing.

All the passengers onboard are safe.

This is the second time in four days a Yeti Airlines plane made an emergency landing.

On Wednesday, a Jetstream-41 jet of the airlines landed at Biratnagar Airport after a bird strike.

The jet had just taken off when the bird hit the engine of the jet. Pilots made a successful landing despite the damage.


Complaint alleges Federal Aviation Administration violations at Mount Airy-Surry County Airport (KMWK), Mount Airy, North Carolina

As previously reported, the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority has found itself in litigation with former authority board member Billy Hicks. The meter is still running on attorney’s fees that will eventually be shouldered by the Surry County taxpayer, as the authority works to refute Hicks’ claims. 

The Surry County Board of Commissioners has appropriated $78,999 to cover legal fees associated with the litigation, and the Airport Authority requested an additional $32,220 from the county to cover attorney fees related to the Hicks cases.

Concurrent to his federal court case alleging violations of his constitutional rights, Hicks has also filed a complaint against the airport with the Federal Aviation Administration in early May.

Hicks’ lease for hangar space at the airport was terminated due to a painting incident in which the property of other airport tenants was damaged. In January the District Court granted the authority’s motion for summary ejectment after Hicks refused to vacate his hangar space at the airport.

Hicks lost a subsequent appeal on the summary ejectment ruling. However, the former airport authority board member has filed two actions against the airport authority. One action is a federal court case in which Hicks claims his constitutional rights were violated, and another ongoing complaint was filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Since the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport is funded mainly by federal dollars, the airport and its authority must abide by FAA guidelines. Hicks is alleging that the authority violated ten of the FAA’s guidelines.

Many of the alleged violations revolve around the airport’s fixed-base operator (FBO), which was and remains a company run by John Spane known as Ra-Tech. The airport’s FBO is contracted to provide services such as fueling, aircraft maintenance, managing hangars and flight instruction.

One such alleged violation is that airport authority Chairman John Springthorpe interfered with an audit of fuel usage by Ra-Tech at the airport. Hicks states that he called for the audit, which would have covered fuel usage and rent payment, in 2011 after Hicks suspected “excessive fuel use by the FBO had not been properly accounted for by the FBO.”

In short, Hicks claims that Springthorpe interfered with the audit by changing it to an “advisory report.” Hicks also claims that Springthorpe told other board members that Hicks “was not a team player.” In Hicks’ complaint he states that he is unaware of any audit being conducted either while he was on the airport authority or after his resignation from the board.

Hicks’ FAA complaint, like his federal court case, references a 2012 situation regarding Ra-Tech’s flight instruction and the flight instruction provided by local pilot Michael Venable. In a 2012 letter from Ra-Tech’s John Spane to Springthorpe, Spane asks Springthorpe to no longer permit Venable to provide flight instruction at the airport.

Spane’s letter, which Hicks uses as an exhibit in his FAA complaint, states that Venable’s operation “has turned into a competition that we can no longer compete against.” The letter went on to state that Venable was offering a lower fee for instruction to students. Spane blames increased costs due to a requirement that Ra-Tech maintain a full-time office for Ra-Tech’s inability to compete with Venable in the market.

The airport authority ultimately decided that Venable could no longer provide flight instruction because he had not asked for permission to do so from the authority. The authority then made Ra-Tech the sole flight instruction program at the airport, according to Hicks’ complaint.

Hicks also calls to question the bidding procedure for the FBO contract at the airport. In short, Hicks’ complaint alleges that Ra-Tech’s bid was the lowest bid for the contract “only because Ra-Tech’s proposal was missing costs for items the airport authority were already paying for or providing exclusively to Ra-Tech.”

Another violation that Hicks alleges regards the upcoming expansion of the runway at the airport. Hicks claims that the authority received grants for the expansion before acquiring property necessary for the expansion. If true, Hicks states that this would be a violation of an FAA assurance called “good title.”

More alleged violations stem from the authority’s relationship with Pike Electric Corp. and one of the company’s former pilots and airport authority board member, Nolan Kirkman. Hicks alleges that Pike was allowed to use the airport free of charge via a “through the fence” agreement. Hicks also alleges that the runway expansion at the airport will directly benefit board members and companies with whom they are associated.

According to Springthorpe the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority has yet to file its response to Hicks’ FAA complaint. Springthorpe stated that the authority has until Aug. 3 to file the response, which he said will include exhibits proving the false nature of Hicks’ complaint.

Springthorpe said that the allegations in Hicks’ FAA complaint will be “entirely refuted” by the forthcoming response from the airport authority.


Aircraft owner suing  Mount Airy-Surry County Airport (KMWK) officials

A local pilot and former member of the Mount Airy airport governing board is suing its present members alleging that he wrongfully was forced off the group and ordered to relinquish his hangar space.

Documents filed this month in federal court on behalf of plaintiff William Alfred “Billy” Hicks Jr. say this stemmed from Hicks’ support of an independent flight instructor at the airport who was competing with the pilot-training school based there.

Listed among various allegations in the suit is a claim that one defendant, John Springthorpe III, longtime chairman of the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority, controls that group in “a czar-like fashion” to reward those he favors.

On the other hand, the lawsuit— filed in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem — alleges that the group has waged a vendetta against Hicks over his support of Michael Venable, the independent flight instructor, who earlier sued over his treatment by airport officials.

Others named as defendants, along with Springthorpe, are fellow members of the authority, Vice Chairman Donald L. Holder, Greg Perkins, Nolan Kirkman, Harold Thomas Taylor, Dr. Thomas Jackson and Victor Zamora.

The 14-page lawsuit alleges that the defendants “have engaged in a pattern of conduct that, at best, reflects arbitrary and oppressive government power without checks or balances on their authority.”

Springthorpe did not respond a voice-mail message left Thursday seeking his reaction to the lawsuit allegations.

Competing Interests

Hicks, a lifelong Surry County resident who owns H & H Auto Sales in Mount Airy and Galax, Va., said Thursday that he began flight lessons in 2008. He later bought two planes that have been hangared at the local airport, a twin-engine Beechcraft and a single-engine Cessna, and is now an instrument-rated general aviation pilot.

He also ascended to a leadership role at Mount Airy-Surry County Airport by being appointed to the airport authority in June 2010.

But the situation began to nosedive when Hicks took a position in favor of Venable, whose instruction of would-be pilots competed with flight instructors employed by the fixed-based operator at the airport, Ra-Tech Aviation.

Based on the court documents and statements from local aviation community members, novice pilots were comfortable with Venable compared to other instructors available because of his “passion,” and in one’s view he is “more friendly and down-to-Earth.”

“He had great customer service.”

However, Venable’s success in attracting students was looked upon in disfavor by the airport leadership due to the lost business, with the controversy said to have developed in April 2012. Venable was instructing 11 regular flight students around that time.

Hicks’ lawsuit refers to a memo by Springthorpe, the authority’s chairman, stating that the airport was not big enough to support competing flight-training operations.

This led to a decision to forbid Venable from providing instruction out of the facility, which Hicks opposed, and Venable’s filing of a lawsuit over his right to compete.

A settlement later was reached in Venable’s case, Hicks said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Hicks’ support of Venable during that process caused problems for him, the lawsuit claims, including being pressured to resign from the airport’s governing board by others.

“They did not like to be challenged on anything,” Hicks said Thursday, mentioning that he also had ruffled feathers by asking that an audit be done to make sure public funds allocated to the airport were being spent properly,

After being “ambushed” by a request to leave the authority, Hicks did so about a year before his four-year term was up and was replaced by another member in February of 2014.

“I went ahead and resigned,” Hicks said Thursday. “I saw no sense in them kicking me off.”

Yet there also was more to the alleged vendetta, with the suit claiming that Hicks’ lease on an hangar was terminated and his name removed from the waiting list for a second hangar. The basis for this was a supposed inspection that uncovered purported safety violations in the hangar leased by Hicks, although court documents point out that other hangars had violations that were not addressed.

“Until (the) plaintiff opposed Chairman John Springthorpe and the other airport authority members, (the) plaintiff experienced no difficulty in the use of his aircraft, use of his hangar or threats of expulsion from the airport authority,” the suit states.

“No hangar tenant had ever been refused a hangar renewal except for non-payment of hangar rent.”

As it stood Thursday, Hicks said he no longer will have a hangar after 10 days.

The lawsuit alleges that the actions by Springthorpe and others have denied Hicks equal protection and due process rights under the Constitution.

“This is a public trust,” the local pilot added Thursday of the airport and how its leadership should serve the flying community and treat everyone equally.

Hicks’ suit seeks an unspecified sum for damages to be determined by a jury and for his hangar lease to be renewed and the lease for the second hangar to be granted, along with other requests to the court.

“I hate this is going on,” Hicks said Thursday regarding the lawsuit, but added that he believed it was needed.

“I’m for what’s right.”

Original article can be found at:

Airplane museums are worth a visit

The Nicholas-Beazley-3, (NB-3) was one of the first planes to have an aluminum skeleton which allowed it to be light and fuel efficient. This one is on display at the Nicholas Beazley Aircraft Museum in Marshall, Mo.   -  photo by Jim Winnerman

• By Jim Winnerman, Post-Dispatch

Perhaps you are familiar with several of the larger airplane museums in the United States such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington or the National Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. However, there is a preponderance of smaller air museums worth a visit, including several in Illinois and Missouri.

Many have only a few planes and exhibits, but they are probably run by experienced pilots and volunteers eager to talk to visitors. All are destinations for aviation aficionados, but each also offers an opportunity for the public to learn about flying. Many offer volunteer opportunities to help restore historic aircraft. Below are brief descriptions of several air museums just a short drive from St. Louis.


Rantoul, Ill.;

Situated in a hangar and spread out over the airport tarmac on the deactivated Chanute Air Force Base, this museum is home to more than 40 planes and numerous exhibits. “Most are military on loan from military museums,” curator Mark Hanson said.

A popular plane for visitors is the P51 H Mustang used in World War II. “With an elongated, bulbous front nose and impressive wartime record, it is a cool plane,” Hanson says. “Another historically significant plane is our XB47 Stratojet, the forerunner of the B-52. Only two were built, and the museum has the one remaining.”

Displays are devoted to the history of flight before the Wright Brothers, civilian aviation, the Korean War, the Tuskegee Airmen, and POWs and MIAs.

Hanson says the mission of the airport is to preserve the civilian and military history of Illinois and Chanute Air Force Base. “The base was opened in 1917 and was the location where over 2 million technicians were trained to work on military aircraft,” Hanson says. “We are off the beaten path, but a great place to visit.”


Bloomington, Ill.;

Halfway between St. Louis and Chicago, this museum is home to eight planes, three helicopters and numerous exhibits on such topics as float planes, women in aviation, aerobatic planes and blimps. The main attraction is the F-14 used in the movie “Top Gun” with Tom Cruise.

Once a month throughout the summer an “open cockpit” day gives visitors the opportunity to climb into the pilot’s seat of the planes on display and talk to someone who either flew the plane or has in-depth knowledge about the aircraft.

“We are a very family-friendly museum,” spokesman Mike Sallee said.



This museum is quite different than most, including its location in “Hangar 2,” a 1929 historic brick structure at the St. Louis Downtown Airport (formerly Parks Airport.) Early aviators associated with the building include Charles Lindbergh, Jimmy Doolittle, Albert Lambert, Oliver Parks, Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart.

Notable is the library collection of more than 250,000 photographs of airplanes and their detailed descriptions. The information is used by aviation historians worldwide. Also in the museum collection are several wind tunnel models of airplanes made by the former McDonnell Douglas.

The collection of 11 aircraft on display includes a World War II-era LK10 sail plane and the original trailer used to move the plane.

“The airport is also home to planes that pull advertising banners above the St. Louis metropolitan area,” says museum curator Mike Burke. “Lucky visitors might witness a plane pick up the banner on a hook, or see it dropped at the end of a flight.”

Many visitors include summer school groups and Scout groups working on their aviation merit badges. Through the Young Eagles chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association the museum arranges free flights for youth 8 to 18 interested in aviation.


Maryland Heights;

Behind the uninteresting doors of four hangars at Creve Coeur Airport are what Mike Burke, curator of the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum, describes as “an unknown national treasure from the golden age of flight.” The collection includes 65 vintage biplanes and other historical aircraft. All date between 1917 and 1954 and most are in flying condition with oil pans under the engines catching dripping oil that keeps the motors lubricated.

Three of the planes exhibited were flown by Charles Lindbergh. A 1916 restored “Jenny” (JN-4) is one of only two known to exist. A Zenith Z6a biplane has an eight-passenger compartment in the fuselage, but the pilot flew the aircraft from a cockpit outside and on top of the plane.

Also on display is a 1930 plane made in St. Louis known as the Super Cardinal. The logo painted on the tail is virtually the same as the St. Louis baseball Cardinals’, except that the birds are perched on a propeller instead of a bat.

“Many of the planes are all that is left of that particular model,” says curator Al Stix.


Marshall, Mo.;

In 1923 area residents Howard Beazley and Russell Nicholas formed the Nicholas-Beazley Airplane Co. in Marshall and began selling planes produced by others. The men also established a flying school in town that trained more than 3,600 pilots between 1924 and 1931.

By 1927 the company was manufacturing planes, producing the Nicholas-Beazley-3. When most planes were still wooden biplanes, the single-wing NB-3 was one of the first to have an aluminum skeleton, which allowed it to be light and fuel-efficient.

Townspeople purchased the last remaining NB-3 in 2005, and the plane was the catalyst for the establishment of the Nicholas Beazley Aviation Museum, which opened in 2008 where it is displayed.

Also on display is a “Flying Flea.” Built in 1935 in the then-shuttered Nicholas-Beazley factory, it was among the first home-built kit airplanes in the world.

Several large display cases contain more memorabilia about the airplane industry in Marshall, including Nicholas’ flying license signed by Orville Wright. Young adults can experience what it is like to be a pilot in a cockpit simulator.


Kansas City;

Commercial airline passengers who flew from the 1940s through the 1970s are probably familiar with the planes on display at this museum. Included is a four-propeller Super G Constellation, or “Connie,” distinguished by its triple tail design.

Also on display is a DC-3, the plane that replaced long-distance train travel after World War II. The aircraft’s legendary ruggedness is embodied in the often-repeated phrase that it is “a collection of parts flying in loose formation.”

The museum also exhibits a 400-seat, L-1011, by far the largest airplane to be on display in the bistate area.

Displays include a huge collection of photographs, artifacts, printed material, and audio/visual displays that present an authentic insight into an era in passenger aviation history. Uniforms, galley items, logbooks, personal mementos and much more bring the propeller-driven era to life.


St. Charles;

This museum is one of more than 72 “wings” of the Commemorative Air Force. Located at airfields throughout the United States, the organization’s objective is to honor the men and women who built, serviced and flew all World War II aircraft by preserving a complete flying collection of all the planes used in the conflict.

The World War II planes stationed at the Smartt Field in St. Charles include:

• A North American B-25J Medium Bomber, one of 10,000 that had been built, each capable of carrying 3,000 pounds of bombs.

• A T3M-3E, the same model plane President George Bush was flying when he was shot down and then rescued.

• An Aeronca L-3 Observation Plane, which was used for enemy reconnaissance and to direct artillery.

For information on all air museums by state and worldwide, visit these websites:

Original article can be found here:

The P-51 H Mustang on display at the Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul, Ill. 
photo by Jim Winnerman

Yakovlev Yak-52, DOSAAF: Accident occurred June 21, 2015 in Yalutorovsk, Russia

Two airplanes were reportedly stolen from Tyumen in Russia on Sunday, one of which force-landed after taking off, while the other one was still missing.

Russian news agency TASS reported that some unidentified persons stole the "small" planes from Ishim, Tyumen Oblast (Siberia).

The small planes belonged to a Russian paramilitary air club -  DOSAAF.

One of the planes, a Yakovlev Yak-52, forced-landed due to technical reasons at the city of Yalutorovsk. The other small aircraft, GY-80-160, was still not traceable. 

TASS reported that the occupant of the YAK - 52 was picked up by his accomplice in the stolen GY-80-160 before taking to the sky.

According to reports, the Russian authorities said that the missing plane was last seen heading towards capital Moscow.

All the airports in Russia were put on alert following the incident.

More details were awaited.

Два частных спортивных самолета были угнаны с аэродрома авиа-спортивного клуба ДОСААФ города Ишим Тюменской области. Об этом сообщает ТАСС со ссылкой на Наталью Гунькину, старшего помощника уральского следственного управления на транспорте Следственного комитета России. 

Со взлетно-посдочной полосы были угнаны самолеты Gardan GY-80-160 и Як-52. Воздушные судна, отстраненные от полетов, произвели несанкционированные взлеты.

«Впоследствии пилот воздушного судна Як-52 из-за технической неисправности самолета совершил аварийную посадку на аэродроме авиа-спортивного клуба ДОСААФ города Ялуторовск, допустив столкновение с инженерно-техническими сооружениями аэродрома», — указали в ведомстве.

Источник в правоохранительных органах региона рассказал ТАСС, что второй угнанный самолет движется по направлению к Москве. «Из-за технических проблем Як-52 был вынужден приземлиться в городе Ялуторовске. После чего, на этом же аэродроме сел второй самолет Gardan GY-80-160, забрал соучастника и направился в сторону Москвы», — указывал собеседник агентства.

В пресс-службе регионального СУ на транспорте в разговоре с Интерфаксом указали, что в настоящее время «говорить об угоне самолетов нельзя». Представитель ведомства уточнил, что силовые структуры начали проверку, по итогам которой будет принято процессуальное решение.

Источник РИА Новости, в свою очередь, оценил произошедшее как попытку угона. Тем не менее, он указал, что ее удалось пресечь на взлетно-посадочной полосе.

Позднее собеседник ТАСС в военных структурах региона сообщил, что Gardan GY-80-16 движется в сторону Перми. По его словам, угонщики прибыли в Ишим 20 июня на собственном самолете.

«К ним возникли вопросы со стороны правоохранительных органов и они, видимо, решили сбежать, прихватив с собой второй самолет — Як-52, принадлежащий авиа-спортивному клубу ДОСААФ», — сказал собеседник агентства. Он уточнил, что из-за неисправности угонщики посадили Як-52 на аэродроме в Ялторовске, а оттуда « на своем самолете полетели, по предварительным данным, в Пермь».

Как отмечают различные СМИ, Gardan GY-80-160 не сможет долететь до Москвы без посадки. Расстояние от Москвы до Тюмени превышает 2000 км, что является слишком большим расстоянием для этого типа воздушного судна.

На аэродроме клуба ДОСААФ в Ялуторовске совершил аварийную посадку Як-52, угнанный вместе с самолетом Gardan GY-80-160 со взлетно-посадочной полосы аэродрома авиаспортивного клуба ДОСААФ города Ишима. Оба самолета были отстранены от полетов.

ЕКАТЕРИНБУРГ, 21 июн — РИА Новости. Следствие начало доследственную проверку по факту аварийной посадки в воскресенье в Ялуторовске спортивного самолета, угнанного с аэродрома Ишима в Тюменской области, сообщает Уральское следственное управление на транспорте СК РФ.

"Двадцать первого июня 2015 года на аэродроме авиаспортивного клуба ДОСААФ города Ялуторовска совершило аварийную посадку воздушное судно, допустив столкновение с инженерно-техническими сооружениями аэродрома. По данному факту Уральским следственным управлением на транспорте Следственного комитета Российской Федерации проводится доследственная проверка", — говорится в сообщении.

По предварительным данным, 21 июня около 04.50 местного времени (02.50 мск) со взлетно-посадочной полосы аэродрома авиаспортивного клуба ДОСААФ города Ишима на отстраненных от полетов частных самолетах Gardan GY-80-160 и Як-52 произведены несанкционированные взлеты.

Впоследствии пилот воздушного судна Як-52 из-за технической неисправности самолета совершил аварийную посадку на аэродроме Ялуторовска, столкнувшись с сооружениями аэродрома. Сообщается, что далее пилот самолета Як-52, пересев в Gardan GY-80-160, улетел в неизвестном направлении.