Friday, June 26, 2015

Judge upholds 2 key anti-noise regulations in East Hampton

A federal judge Friday upheld the Town of East Hampton's right to restrict aircraft noise at its airport in Wainscott, clearing the way for officials to begin enforcing most of the new laws in time for the July Fourth holiday.

U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert's ruling allows the town to impose two of the three year-round curfews the town board passed in April: a mandatory 11 p.m.-7 a.m. nighttime curfew and an extended 8 p.m.-9 a.m. curfew on noisy aircraft. They will take effect July 2 at 12:01 a.m.

Seybert, ruling in Central Islip, issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting a one-trip-per-week limit on noisy aircraft from going into effect. The restriction was to be in place between May and September.

In affirming the town's actions, Seybert wrote in her ruling that "it cannot be argued that the Town lacked the data to support a finding of a noise problem at the Airport."

Friends of East Hampton Airport, a coalition of helicopter operators and their allies, sued the town April 21, arguing the rules are illegal because the federal government regulates air traffic. They asked the court for an injunction to stop the laws while the case is argued.

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the coalition, said Friday that the group is reviewing its options.

"We are gratified that the court enjoined the one-trip limit, finding it to be drastic and unreasonable," he said. "We are carefully reviewing the decision and appellate options regarding the curfews."

Town officials lauded the ruling.

"We're pleased the judge has acknowledged that the Town was justified in adopting restrictions to provide relief to the growing number of people who are negatively affected by aircraft noise,"

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a news release after the ruling. "Although we regret that one of the key laws cannot be enforced for the time being, we are gratified that the Court recognized that the law allows the kind of restrictions that are essential to protect the residents of this Town."

Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez Friday called the ruling an "important first step," but cautioned that the fight is not over.

"Our opponents are well funded and will not give up easily," she said in a news release. "In light of today's ruling, however, we encourage our opponents to rethink their strategy. It's time to do what's best for the Town and adapt aircraft operations to fit our reasonable restrictions."

Original article can be found here:

Iraqi embassy releases photos of pilot killed in Arizona crash

Brigadier General Rasid Mohammed Hasan in the cockpit of his F-16.
 (Source: Iraqi embassy)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tucson News Now has obtained exclusive pictures of the pilot killed in the F-16 crash on June 24.

The Iraqi embassy sent these pictures of Brigadier General Rasid Mohammed Hasan to Tucson News Now on Friday afternoon, with the explanation that there are two ways to spell his name. Rasid Mohammed Sadiq is the other.

Authorities are trying to figure out why his plane went down in Cochise County during a training mission.

The pilot was training with the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing.

The Air Force has established an interim safety board to investigate the incident.

Related links

Iraq confirms its pilot died in Arizona military plane crash: 

Iraqi fighter pilots training in Tucson:

Video: U.S airmen train Iraqi F-16 pilots:

F-16 crashes near Douglas; search for pilot continues: 

Original article can be found here:

Source: Iraqi embassy

Teen starts rumor on Facebook that plane had crashed: Far Eastern Air Transport is to file a lawsuit against the 16-year-old • If he is found guilty, he could face up to three years in prison

A Facebook post yesterday claiming that Far Eastern Air Transport Flight FE-107 bound for Tianjin had vanished in the mountainous areas of New Taipei City’s Pinglin District was proven false by the airline, the police said.

Far Eastern Air Transport said it has contacted its lawyers and plans to file a lawsuit for slander and breaching the Civic Aviation Act against the person who posted the rumor, adding that it would not settle out of court or retract the suit.

According to police, an aviation enthusiast surnamed Kung yesterday at about noon said on Facebook that Flight FE-107 was only flying 7,000 feet (2,134m) above Pinglin and had sent out a “Mayday” call before disappearing from the radar.

Kung, 16, went to Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) and asked Far Eastern Air Transport ground crew whether any of its aircraft had been involved in an accident, causing the baffled staff to contact the Aviation Police Bureau (APB) to request that they look into the matter.

The airline also received calls from the media trying to confirm details, as news of an accident had been circulating on the Internet, causing the company to directly contact the pilot of the aircraft to ascertain its safety and status.

According to Article 105 of the act, spreading false information that might endanger flight safety is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to NT$1 million (US$32,121), the bureau said, adding that violation of Article 30 of the Criminal Code is also punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to NT$1,000.

Kung said he re-posted the information from other sources, adding that it was why he went to Songshan airport to confirm the information and he had no intent of spreading misinformation.

The company said Kung’s explanation was unacceptable, and it would proceed with the case against him.

Original article can be found here:

Drone over massive San Bernardino County fire ‘could’ve killed everybody in the air,’ official says

Mike Eaton, a United States Forest Service Aviation Officer, was on an "air attack" mission when they encountered the drone. 

SAN BERNARDINO -  As if four years of drought, thousands of acres of decades-old brush and more than 25,000 acres up in smoke weren’t enough for entrenched fire crews, Southern California’s first major wildfire of the year brought a man-made hazard to the skies that could have cost lives: Drones.

Firefighters battling the massive Lake Fire deep in the San Bernardino Mountains found themselves waging war Thursday against the remote-controlled flying machines, in this case civilian drones that halted aerial fire-suppression efforts on Wednesday and contributed to the spread of the fire and threatened lives, officials said.

“We got law enforcement out there. If it’s launched again, we’ll be on you,” said Mike Eaton, forest aviation officer for the U.S. Forest Service and air tactical group supervisor on the Lake Fire, during a news conference at the U.S. Forest Service Air Tanker Base in San Bernardino.

Eaton said the orange or red drone with a 3-to-4-foot wingspan cut between two planes, flying at elevations of 12,500 feet and 11,500 feet, at 5:35 p.m. Wednesday. The drone was flying at an elevation of about 12,000 feet, he said.

One air tanker was tailing the two planes and preparing to drop retardant near the eastern flank of the fire while another tanker orbited above, preparing for a second drop, when the drone forced the pilots to terminate the mission, Eaton said.

But only three of the four planes were grounded, while the fourth stayed in the air in search of the drone and its operator, Eaton said.

“We wanted to continue monitoring the situation,” Eaton said. “We were hoping to find the source (of the drone).”

While returning to the tanker base at San Bernardino International Airport, the pilots spotted a second, rotor-blade drone hovering above Heaps Peaks, in Lake Arrowhead, at an elevation of 700 feet — far above the 400-foot altitude restriction for drones, Eaton said.

Wednesday’s drone encounter in the San Bernardino Mountains forced the air tanker pilots to jettison a total of about 2,000 gallons of retardant at a cost of roughly $15,000, U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Miller said. It also forced the grounding of three aircraft, including two air tankers preparing to drop retardant along the eastern flank of the fire.

“More importantly, it could’ve killed everybody in the air,” Miller said at the news conference, which was held specifically to address the drone situation.

And it wasn’t just the pilots in the air who were imperiled, he said.

“The purpose of today is to try to drive the message home to the American public that this is a serious life-safety threat, to not only our pilots and crews in the air but to firefighters and residents on the ground,” Miller said.

Authorities were looking for the person responsible for operating the drone that grounded firefighters.

“We’re working closely with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to try to determine where these (drones) came from and who was operating them,” Miller said. “One of the things we’re asking from the public is if they did see anything, definitely to give us a call or give the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s (Department) a call, and then we’ll take it from there.”

He said the biggest message authorities were trying to convey to drone hobbyists is to stay out of restricted airspace whenever there’s a wildland fire or law enforcement activity occurring.

“We want to reinforce the message to the hobbyists out there that they have to think before they fly, and if they fly, we can’t,” Miller said.

“We all have seen the rapid growth in the use of these things for a multitude of different uses. It’s something that a couple of years ago we didn’t have to deal with.”

Donold Baligad, a 37-year-old Yucca Valley resident and drone enthusiast who has been capturing video footage of the Lake Fire on his Yuneec Q500 rotor-blade drone, says he is always mindful of what he is doing and tries to keep his aircraft out of harm’s way.

“In certain situations, such as when a fire is going on, I can understand when somebody’s got a job to do,” Baligad said. “I don’t want my drone to be ran into by another aircraft, or somebody to be in danger by my stupidity.”

He said his motivation to fly his drone over the fire is the perspective it offers from its video camera.

“I actually got back from vacation up north and the first day that fire started, got it up in the air,” Baligad said. “Who else can take a photo at 500 feet of anything at all? It puts a view of something in a new perspective.”

Of Wednesday’s encounter with firefighting planes, he said: “I am not the guy.’’

Eaton said drones will likely continue to be an issue for public safety officials as their use proliferates.

“There’s a lot of people buying them, and there’s a lot of people flying them,” Eaton said, adding that drones are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and people can fly them now for longer durations and at higher altitudes.

He said drones are an unnecessary, and potentially life-threatening, distraction for firefighters and law enforcement officials.

“The pilots need to be able to focus on flying the aircraft. We’ve got to watch for power lines and other planes,” Eaton said. “Now, all of a sudden, we have a moving hazard that we don’t know where it’s going to appear and when it’s going to appear. We just can’t plan for it, and they’ll pop up at the worst instant.”

Though Wednesday marked the first time firefighters in San Bernardino County encountered drones in their airspace, the unmanned aerial vehicles have surfaced during other wildland fires.

In April, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources enacted rules requiring that drones be kept at least 5 miles from active fire zones.

The agency enacted that rule to avoid collisions because drones were flying at the same height as firefighting helicopters.

And in July 2014, the pilot of an unmanned aircraft filming the Sand Fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento was told cease his flight. Authorities said the flight was a potential danger to firefighting planes.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations on model aircraft and drones put a flight ceiling on the machines at 400 feet, with a weight limit at 55 pounds.

The regulations also require notification when drones are to be flown less than 5 miles from an airport. And they must be operated in accordance with a “community-based” set of safety guidelines.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department does not use drones as part of its own firefighting arsenal.

Nor has it had an incident with drones interfering with its firefighting efforts, said Randall Wright, a spokesman.

“It is one of the new technologies we will be monitoring,” Wright said.

The San Bernardino National Forest does not use drones in a firefighting role either, a spokesman said.

Experts have already begun monitoring the situation, given the growing number of clashes between the technology and real-life efforts such as fighting fires.

Drone technology will continue to evolve with new uses that will create safety and privacy issues — something lawmakers will need to address, said Dan Nabel, interim director of the Intellectual Property & Technology Law Clinic at the USC Gould School of Law.

Technologies exist so that aircraft could send out a signal to shut off drones if they approach too closely, said Vincent Nestler, a professor of Information and Decision Sciences at Cal State San Bernardino.

These beacons, which would “drop drones out of the sky,” could be placed on emergency service aircraft and helicopters — or all aircraft and helicopters for that matter, said Nestler, who has been tinkering with drones for more than decade.

He uses them to teach a cybersecurity class at the Cal State campus.

Jason Jeffery, a Long Beach-based flight instructor and pilot, said that when flying into the Long Beach airport, he dips as low as 200 feet above houses.

From his standpoint, the 400-foot ceiling for unmanned aerial vehicles is too high.

“There needs to be more regulations,” Jeffrey said. And there should be mandatory training for future amateur drone pilots, he said.

Just as most states require hunters to complete a hunter safety course before purchasing a hunting license, prospective hobby drone purchasers should be required to take a course and pass an exam, he said.

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