Friday, July 24, 2015

Residents protest new flight path during private Federal Aviation Administration meeting

SOQUEL >> More than 100 bothered residents living underneath a new flight path rallied Friday afternoon at Anna Jean Cummings Park in Soquel.

Lining Old San Jose Road, the protesters brandished picket signs, waved American flags, handed out ear plugs and chanted, “Too loud, too low, too many.” When passing drivers honked in support, they cheered. Many pledged to participate in a national No Fly Day on Oct. 24 in protest.

It was their latest salvo in their campaign, which began when planes began flying the new path in March, against the Federal Aviation Administration’s nationwide plan called NextGen to change flight routes, including at San Francisco International Airport.

The transition from a ground-based air traffic control system to a satellite system is aimed at reducing air traffic congestion with more direct and condensed routing into airports.

“I used to wake up to the birds, now I wake up to planes,” said Kathleen Nestler, a Summit resident. “Day and night, it’s just constant. There’s really no break.”

Meanwhile, at Loma Prieta Elementary School on Summit Road, representatives from the FAA met with leaders from the neighborhood group Save Our Skies Santa Cruz and local elected officials and their aides in a private meeting. Neither the public nor the press were allowed to attend the meeting. From the FAA, regional manager Glen Martin and his assistant Steve May, vice president of Mission Control Elizabeth Ray and FAA spokesman Ian Gregor attended the meeting.

“We found the FAA much more responsive than we thought they might be,” said Patrick Meyer, co-founder of Save Our Skies. “They listened to our concerns and talked about a timeline in terms of getting back to us on a number of things.”

Regarding the speed breaks, the FAA said that’s something it could start working on now. As for raising the altitude of descending planes, the FAA said it would get back to Save Our Skies in about six months.

The FAA also expressed interest in a future public meeting.

“The meeting was productive. It’s a good first step,” said Alec Arago, district director for Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel. “I think the congressman feels this is the dialogue that should have preceded the decision to move the route.”

Save Our Skies wants the FAA to rescind the new path and revert back to the old one until the FAA holds a public hearing and conduct an environmental impact report. This point has drawn criticism from other residents in the county who see their complaints as NIMBYism.

Members say, however, the old flight path differs significantly than the new one, which is more condensed with new decent procedures. Other communities across the nation, from Phoenix, New York and the San Francisco Peninsula, have decried NextGen.

“We listened to their concerns, received a number of suggestions and are committed to evaluating potential short- and long-term options that could help address their concerns,” the FAA’s Gregor said.

“We woke up on March 5, and our lives were changed,” said Denise Stansfield, who started Save Our skies. “With no notice public hearing, nothing.”

The FAA held public meetings in San Jose, San Mateo, Oakland and Sacramento in 2014. In the Santa Cruz area, there was no community outreach beyond notifying county, state and federal representatives.

Since the new flight path’s roll out, members of Save Our Skies have flooded the SFO noise abatement office and elected officials with complaints, requesting that the FAA come to Santa Cruz to hear their concerns and to talk about solutions.


Boutique Air To Offer Flights From Phoenix To Show Low

Boutique Air's website advertises the Show Low flight.

A small San Francisco-based airline will start offering round-trip service between Sky Harbor and Show Low next month. 

Boutique Air was awarded the Essential Air Service contract for the route — that’s a federal program that helps ensure air service to smaller communities. 

This is among a few such routes Boutique Air has. Shawn Simpson, the carrier’s CEO, talks about who he expects to see on the flights.

Serving smaller communities with flights is a national requirement, but according to aviation expert Robert Mittelstaedt, the costs in Arizona can really stand out.

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Colt Balloons 160A, Damn Yankee Balloons, N976TC: Accident occurred July 19, 2014 in Clinton, Massachusetts 
NTSB Identification: ERA14LA347
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 19, 2014 in Clinton, MA
Aircraft: COLT BALLOONS 160A, registration: N976TC
Injuries: 3 Serious, 4 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 July 19 2014, about 2000 eastern daylight time, a Colt Balloons 160A, N976TC, impacted powerlines in Clinton, Massachusetts. The pilot and four passengers were uninjured, and three passengers were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local sightseeing flight that departed from a field, approximately 7 miles to the south of the accident location. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Video recordings show the accident balloon approaching the backyard of a house at approximately 50 feet agl. As the balloon approached powerlines, the pilot engaged the burner; however, the balloon did not gain altitude and subsequently struck the powerlines resulting in an electrical discharge. The balloon then continued in a controlled descent to the landing area.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for lighter-than-air balloon, and private pilot privileges for airplane single-engine land.

An Federal Aviation Administration inspector takes pictures of the ill-fated balloon after it caught fire July 19, 2014, and landed in the yard of the home at 103 Brooks St., Clinton, Massachusetts.

CLINTON – It’s been a little more than a year since a flaming hot-air balloon landed in a backyard on Brook Street, and while an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is still ongoing, a preliminary report says the pilot held a proper license and the flight followed federal regulations.

The balloon, piloted by Derald Young, owner of Damn Yankee Balloons of Dixfield, Maine, hit power lines near Brook and Greeley streets around 8 p.m. July 19, 2014, caught fire and went down in a yard at 103 Brook St. Three of the six passengers on board, a family group from Rhode Island celebrating a birthday, suffered burns, but were released from a hospital the next day.

The passengers were identified as Kathleen A. and Leon Plouff and Alyssa Plouff, all of Cumberland, R.I.; Amy Plouff of Easthampton, Mass., Ann M. Guibeault and Nicholas Suffoletto, both of Woonsocket, R.I. The Plouffs and Mr. Suffoletto did not return telephone calls requesting information about the accident. Ms. Guibeault has an unlisted telephone number. It is unclear which of the six suffered burns. The pilot was not injured.

According to the NTSB preliminary report, the Colt Balloons 160A called “Raspberry Ripple” took off from a field about 7 miles south of the accident site. The report says video recordings show it approaching the Brook Street back yard – and the power lines - about 50 feet above ground level. As Mr. Young turned up the burner, the balloon did not gain altitude and hit the power lines, causing an electrical fire and an explosion. It continued to descend into the yard, where residents and neighbors tried to help the passengers, and called emergency crews from cellphones. Many had also taken cellphone videos of the balloon descending and landing.

According to an NTSB spokesman, Mr. Young holds a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for lighter-than-air balloons (hot-air balloons); and private pilot privileges for single-engine airplanes.

The spokesman said a final report is expected in a month or two.

According to Federal Aviation Administrative records, the balloon was made in 1989.

Police at the time said Mr. Young missed his intended landing site and flew over the Wachusett Reservoir; he was planning to land in a field off Route 110 near Clinton Middle School.

Mr. Young said Thursday he could not comment on the incident, because of a gag order imposed by his insurance company. He told a reporter the balloon did not “crash.” The NTSB report describes it as a “controlled descent.”

According to Mr. Young’s Damn Yankees Balloons website, he began his flying career in the 1960s while attending the University of Maine and got his first pilot’s license in 1970. He served in the U.S. Navy as a naval flight officer and founded his hot-air balloon company in the 1980s. In 1985, Mr. Young set a record as the first hot-air balloon pilot to cross the Northumberland Strait, between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, Canada. He flew 13 miles over ocean and landed on Prince Edward Island's cliffs.


Aero Vodochody L-39C, N6175C, Momentum Foundation Inc: Accident occurred May 28, 2015 in Grand Junction, Colorado

NTSB Identification: GAA15CA096
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, May 28, 2015 in Grand Junction, CO
Aircraft: AERO VODOCHODY L39, registration: N6175C
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

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

According to the pilot, while flying over a river at an altitude of about 100 feet above water and ground level, at 250 knots, the airplane impacted unmarked power line wires that spanned the river. The power line wires are clearly identified on the Visual Flight Rules Sectional Aeronautical Chart. The pilot immediately established a climb and returned to the airport without further incident. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the nose, left wing, and vertical stabilizer.

The pilot reported that there were no pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Salt Lake City FSDO-07


The pilot who buzzed De Beque Canyon two months ago was on a non-military flight on his way to Alabama, federal officials told Mesa County officials and representatives for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

The pilot could lose his pilot certificate if an investigation warrants such a step, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The pilot, who remained unidentified, was on a non-military ferry flight returning to the civil operator’s home base in Alabama at the time of the incident, according to officials with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane, an Aero L-39 Albatros, which was designed as a fighter trainer for Warsaw Pact nations, had recently been operated in support of the U.S. military, according to a report by the FAA.

Officials with the agency spoke on the telephone with Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis and a Tipton representative, and on Thursday provided them with notes from the meeting, as well as answers to some of the questions that were raised.

“The pilot held the appropriate civil authorizations to fly the aircraft and was acting in a civil aviation capacity as a commercial pilot. His employment status was not relevant to our investigation,” wrote Diane Fuller, senior adviser to the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region.

While the pilot was identified by the FAA, the passenger in the co-pilot’s seat was not, Fuller wrote.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board both are investigating the incident, Fuller wrote, noting that the FAA investigation typically takes a year.

So far, however, the FAA has concluded that “pilot competency was not a factor” in the incident.

An air-safety investigator with the NTSB said Wednesday that his report is to be released “ASAP.”

Earlier this month, the Albatros was trucked away from Grand Junction Regional Airport and taken to Gadsden, Alabama.

It had been stored at the airport since it landed safely after it sheared seven power cables in the canyon near the Colorado Highway 65 intersection.

The pilot told the Colorado State Patrol that he was eastbound up the canyon when the jet struck cables, shearing off a portion of the right wing.

Two westbound vehicles on Interstate 70 were struck by cable whipping through the air, the patrol said. Others vehicles that were eastbound also may have been struck.

The pilot pulled up out of the canyon and circled the Grand Valley for about 45 minutes, burning off fuel, before landing without further incident.

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The identity of the jet pilot who barreled up De Beque Canyon at 300 mph or more and sheared off seven power cables more than six weeks ago will come out in a final report this month, a federal official investigating the case said.

The final report also will identify a second person in the Aero L-39C Albatros jet, said Michael Hicks, an air-safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, on Monday.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., meanwhile, is set to inquire with the Federal Aviation Administration “to try to get a more complete accounting from the FAA of what happened and who is liable for damages,” his office said.

The jet, which lost a portion of its right wing in the collision near the confluence of the Colorado River and Plateau Creek on May 28, was broken down into several pieces and shipped from Grand Junction Regional Airport last week to Gadsden, Alabama.

“Our investigation is not complete,” Hicks said. Some details remain to be collected and the final report written before details are made public, he said.

The final report is to be reviewed by John DeLisi, director of the Office of Aviation Safety, and another accident investigator, Larry Lewis, is to approve it, Hicks said.

Tipton’s office, along with Mesa County officials, will discuss the incident next week in a conference call with FAA officials, Tipton’s office said.

Among the details to be included are the identity of a second person aboard the jet, Hicks said.

While the pilot isn’t being identified because the investigation is continuing, “I can say he was qualified to fly the aircraft,” Hicks said.

The pilot, who was interviewed by the Colorado State Patrol soon after the incident, questioned a state trooper about why the power lines were unmarked.

The towers from which the cables were strung stand 65 feet tall. Aviation regulations require that aircraft fly no lower than 500 feet above the ground.

In an interview with the State Patrol, the pilot told a trooper that he was traveling east up De Beque Canyon, looking at the Grand Valley roller dam, when he struck the cables.

He pulled up after the collision and, with much of the right wing sheared off, circled the Grand Valley to burn off fuel, then landed at Grand Junction Regional Airport, which was where he took off originally.

His passenger left immediately, the patrol said.

No state charges are being pursued by the State Patrol, and officials didn’t get the pilot’s identity.

Steve Reynolds of Glenwood Springs, whose car was damaged by the high-tension cables as they snapped, said the FAA told him his insurance company would be reimbursed for its payment to repair his car.

“By the grace of God, I’m fine and my car’s repaired and that’s all I’ve heard,” Reynolds said.

Red Bluff, California, trucker Stan Kolbert, who loaded the plane onto his flatbed to take it to Alabama, said he simply answered a call for a pickup.

The disassembled jet was an item of interest all along the trip, Kolbert said, with many motorists taking photos along the way, especially from cars with Colorado plates.

“It was probably about the coolest thing I ever hauled,” Kolbert said.

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L-39 N6175C from Matt Cawby on Vimeo.
L-39 N6175C taxi test at Paine Field May 8, 2010.

A WestStar Aviation ground crew tows an Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros aircraft across the tarmac to a hanger at Grand Junction Regional Airport on May 28.

A jet that sheared through at least one power cable in De Beque Canyon on Thursday should have been no lower than 500 feet above the Colorado River, federal rules suggest.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, a spokesman said, noting that he couldn’t elaborate.

In addition to setting a minimum altitude for flying in “other than congested areas,” Federal Aviation Regulations also prohibit operating aircraft in a “careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

According to another section of the regulations, when flying over uncongested areas, pilots are required to maintain “an altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.”

The regulations also prohibit flying at an indicated airspeed of 250 knots, or 288 mph, at less than 10,000 feet in altitude.

The regulations list no penalties for violations of its provisions. The FAA, however, is the licensing agency for pilots.

State officials are not pursuing investigations of the incident, in which a jet that later landed safely at Grand Junction Regional Airport, cut through power cabling in De Beque Canyon near the Colorado Highway 65 exit.

One snapped cable damaged several passenger vehicles and a semi-trailer. No injuries were reported, though witnesses said the semi driver’s face was bloodied in the collision that shattered the front windshield of the truck.

The jet, an L–39C Vodochody, is owned by a Tennessee foundation and a person answering the telephone there said it had been leased to the federal government and that all questions were being referred to the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force has offered no response to inquiries about the incident.

A truck belonging to Monument Transportation was hit by a power line and dragged nearly a quarter mile along Interstate 70 near the exit to Colorado Highway 65 in De Beque Canyon around 1 p.m. Thursday.

UPDATE 2 p.m. An Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros allegedly made contact with an overhead power line near the intersection of I-70 and Colorado Highway 65, causing the line to snap, fall and break the windshields of several cars and a semitrailer traveling on I-70, according to Colorado State Patrol. The break in the line apparently caused the power to go out around 1 p.m. for about 30 people who live off Canal Road about 1 mile west of Cameo. Xcel energy is at the scene making repairs. Xcel energy estimates power will be restored shortly after 3 p.m.

UPDATE 1:49 p.m.: Pilot has landed plane safely at Grand Junction Regional Airport.

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.: According to scanner traffic, the plane is a Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros plane with one soul on board. The plane is at 16,000 feet and burning off fuel, according to scanner reports, and has wing damage.

12:55 p.m.: The exit along I-70 in De Beque Canyon that connects Colorado Hwy 65 is closed, and at least one lane of the interstate is shut down, on a report of debris from a plane striking a number of vehicles in the roadway.

Radio traffic indicates that a low-flying plane may have clipped a power line in the area. Emergency crews are working to free a wire from the roadway, and numerous vehicles have stopped and reported damage, according to initial reports from the scene.

Earlier radio calls indicated that debris from a plane is what the caused the vehicles to stop. Witnesses at the scene report no plane down in the area, but an effort has been launched to sweep the area from the air.

Most of the activity is near mile marker 49 along I-70, according to dispatch reports.

What is being described as a 'military style' plane over emergency dispatch traffic, made an emergency landing at Grand Junction Regional Airport Thursday afternoon "without incident" according to Amy Jordan, with the airport.

The call first came in around 1 p.m. Witnesses reported the plane hit a power line and possibly some cars in the area of the Roller Dam along Interstate 70 in the Debeque Canyon.

Witnesses reported seeing debris along the roadway and river bank from the plane's wing.

The plane, circled the area for about 20 minutes to burn off before landing at the airport and being checked out. It appears the two people on board the plane were not injured.

There are traffic impacts along I-70 as of 2 PM this afternoon, the right lane of both East and West bound have been shut down by CDOT.

The plane, is now in a private hangar on private property. The airport says they do not have the authority to show us the condition of the plane.

Plane crash reports in Morrisburg appear false: Ontario Provincial Police

CORNWALL, Ontario - Reports of a plane crash near Morrisburg appear to be false, OPP said Friday night.

OPP Const. Tylor Copeland told Seaway News there was a report of a plane crash, perhaps a glider, near Highway 401 between 6 and 7 p.m.

But search crews, including search and rescue aircraft out of CFB Trenton, combed the area and could find nothing.

"It looks like it's nothing. No one is overdue," said Copeland. "Everything has been looked at, at this point."

Tweets and Facebook posts expressed concern about a potential aircraft crash, and there were videos of search planes and helicopters flying over the area.


Study does not affect wind farm plan progress

CORPUS CHRISTI - A hypothetical layout for a planned wind farm near Chapman Ranch was deemed hazardous by the Federal Aviation Administration this month.

Apex Clean Energy filed a plan of hypothetical wind turbine locations with the administration to collect information for the development of the project design, said company spokeswoman Dahvi Wilson.

The turbine locations in the filing are outdated and the project has since changed, she said, adding the plans were submitted to the federal agency before Apex's decision to withdraw all wind turbines from the Corpus Christi city limits last year.

"Since that time, our plans for the project layout have evolved, and a revised and much smaller layout, consisting of significantly fewer wind turbines, will be filed with the (administration)," she said.

The project has been in the works for more than five years.

Before City Council adopted a formal resolution opposing its construction, and annexed 16 square miles at the proposed site to gain regulatory authority, the company hoped construction would be complete by the end of this year.

The earliest proposed project — construction of about 175 turbines on about 20,000 acres with capacity to power 100,000 homes — would have kicked off in March.

Findings of the aeronautical study Apex filed the plans for indicate that 175 of the wind turbines on the layout exceed obstruction standards and are presumed to be a hazard to air navigation, according to the hazard notices posted on the Aviation Administration's website.

Details about the revised plan were not available Friday.

But Apex is moving forward with the project, Wilson said.


County unveils new airport business center dedicated to former Watertown aviator • Watertown International Airport (KART), New York

WATERTOWN — Moments after the ribbon-cutting at Watertown International Airport’s new business center Friday, a jet plane roared down a runway and took flight over the airport — a well-timed sound-off to the airport’s latest addition.

The new Fixed Base Operator will provide a new place for traveling businessmen and -women to hold meetings and conferences. The 19,000-square-foot facility contains new administrative offices, a conference center and a hangar.

The business center also is constructed to be sustainable and is equipped with a specialized roof to provide natural lighting and minimize heat.

Besides the ribbon-cutting, the ceremony had a second purpose: the center’s dedication to the late Mary C. Cox, a Watertown aviator who served as a pilot in World War II.

To James C. Cox, one of Mrs. Cox’s four children, naming Watertown International Airport’s new business center after his mother is recognition she has long deserved.

“It’s hard to put into words how wonderful this place is and how proud she would be, as humble as she was.” Mr. Cox said.

Mrs. Cox served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPS, during the war. When she returned to Watertown, however, Mr. Cox said, the role she played, along with many other women of the WASPS, was mostly forgotten.

Following the war, Mrs. Cox was a flight instructor at the airfield near Dexter that would later become Watertown International Airport. Mrs. Cox died in 2009 at age 85.

Philip N. Reed, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators General Services Committee, said the new business center is just a piece of the airport’s effort to create a self-sustaining source of revenue to cut costs and to benefit the county economically.

“We have cut operating costs in half by building an enterprise fund,” Mr. Reed said. “Now that we have the state of the art FBO facility to add to our inventory, we will be able to attract more business and increase fuel sales and hangar fees, which should reduce costs to local taxpayers.”

From 2008 to 2014, Mr. Reed said, airport enplanements grew from 3,000 passengers to more than 18,000 per year. Enplanements account for only the number of outbound passengers who board an aircraft at a specific airport. Mr. Reed noted that total passenger traffic from 2008 to 2014 grew from 5,000 to 39,000 per year. The Federal Aviation Administration grants $1 million in funding to airports that exceed 10,000 outbound passengers per year. Mr. Reed said the money will help contribute to the airport’s growing enterprise fund.

The FBO is the latest of a few projects the airport has in store for the rest of the year and beyond. Airport Manager Grant W. Sussey said construction will begin soon on a new terminal expansion, which will create more room in the passenger screening area. A runway expansion will be completed sometime before 2016, allowing larger aircraft to use the airport in winter conditions.

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Piper PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage, N92884: Accident occurred July 24, 2015 at Yampa Valley Airport (KHDN), Hayden, Colorado

Date: 24-JUL-15 
Time: 17:38:00Z
Regis#: N92884
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA46
Event Type: Accident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Substantial
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Colorado



No one was injured Friday after a private plane landed and went off the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

YVRA Airport Director Kevin Booth said the pilot was practicing approaches when, for an unknown reason, the aircraft went off the right side of the runway and across two taxiways.

“They were having directional control issues,” Booth said.

Booth said the pilot did not know of any issues with the plane when he landed.

The plane’s nose landing gear was partially retracted, causing the nose of the plane to dip down into the dirt where the plane stopped.

The Piper Malibu, single-engine aircraft, is registered to Icarus Management out of Great Falls, Montana. Booth said it was his understanding the plane had been purchased about six months ago and was now based at Steamboat Springs Airport.

Booth said the runway was closed for about 15 to 20 minutes so officials could make sure there was no damage or debris on runway or taxiways.

YVRA and West Routt firefighters responded to the incident. The plane was put in a hanger, and the incident was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB releases info on 2014 crash

The National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday released the probable cause for a Aug. 9, 2014, plane crash on Rabbit Ears Pass.

Instructor William Earl Allen, 62, and his student, Terry Stewart, 60, were killed in the crash. Stewart was concluding a mountain flying training course with a five-leg, cross-country flight. The final leg of the flight was from Steamboat to Boulder.

The NTSB determined probable cause for the accident was the “pilot’s inability to maintain a climb while attempting to cross over a mountain pass in high-density altitude conditions that degraded the airplane’s climb performance. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to attempt the flight in mountainous terrain and to enter the pass in such a way that an escape maneuver was not possible.”

The NTSB did not determined who was flying the plane at the time of the crash and found no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.


A helicopter carries the fuselage of a plane that crashed August 9th on Rabbit Ears Pass.

NTSB Identification: CEN14FA414
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, August 09, 2014 in Steamboat Springs, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/23/2015
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28R-201, registration: N3509M
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The flight instructor and private pilot-rated student were flying a five-leg, cross-country flight to conclude a mountain flying training course. The final leg of the flight was intended to cross over the mountains near a popular mountain pass, which was frequented by local pilots because of the landmarks and highway below. When the flight was overdue, a search was conducted. The wreckage was located in a mountain pass about 2 miles south of the mountain pass that the pilots had intended to cross during the final leg. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

The density altitude around the time of the accident was calculated to be about 11,200 ft, which would have degraded the airplane’s performance. According to the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, at a density altitude of 11,200 ft with the landing gear and flaps retracted, the airplane would have had an expected climb rate of between 175 and 200 ft per minute (fpm). Documents about mountain flying found onboard the airplane stated that flight in mountains should not be attempted unless a climb rate of at least 200 ft per nautical mile (300 fpm) is available. Therefore, it is likely that the airplane could not attain a sufficient climb rate to clear mountainous terrain and that the pilot did not enter the pass at an appropriate entrance angle, which reduced the possibility of a successful escape maneuver.

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

The pilot’s inability to maintain a climb while attempting to cross over a mountain pass in high-density altitude conditions that degraded the airplane’s climb performance. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to attempt the flight in mountainous terrain and to enter the pass in such a way that an escape maneuver was not possible.


On August 9, 2014, about 1200 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA 28R-201 airplane, N3509M, impacted mountainous terrain southeast of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to VSP Aviators LLC and operated by Journeys Aviation Flying Club under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an instructional flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed. The cross country flight originated from the Steamboat Springs Airport (SBS), Steamboat Springs, Colorado, about 1145 and was en route to the Boulder Municipal Airport (BDU), Boulder, Colorado.

An Alert Notice (ALNOT) was issued at 1720 when the flight was overdue. A search for the airplane was initiated and the wreckage was located at 2146 in a mountain valley about 12 miles southeast of SBS.

Email correspondence between the private pilot and the flight instructor revealed that the intended route of flight for the day was from BDU, to Eagle, Colorado (EGE), to Glenwood Springs, Colorado (GWS), to EGE, to SBS, and terminating at BDU. The flight instructor was providing instruction to the private pilot to complete a mountain flying training course. The final leg of the flight was intended to start at SBS, continue over Milner Pass and finish at BDU; the exact route of flight was not discussed.

According to local pilots, when flying over the mountains from SBS, a popular place to fly over is Rabbit Ears Pass because of the landmarks and the highway below. There was a second mountain pass south of Rabbit Ears Pass which did not follow a highway. The main wreckage was found near the second mountain pass about 5 miles southwest of Rabbit Ears Pass and about 2 miles south of the highway.


The flight instructor, age 62, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for single engine, multi-engine land and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate for single engine, multi-engine and instrument airplane. On November 30, 2012, the instructor was issued a limited second class medical certificate with the limitation to wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision. At the time of the medical certificate application he reported his flight experience as 3,310 total hours and 800 hours in six months preceding the examination. The pilot's total flight time was estimated to be 4,000 hours.

The pilot under instruction, age 60, held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. On October 31, 2013, the pilot was issued a third class medical certificate without waivers or limitations. At the time of the medical certificate application he reported his flight experience as 73 total hours and 0 hours in the six months preceding the examination. According to the pilot's logbook, he had accumulated about 134 total hours and about 32 in the accident airplane make and model. He had logged 19 total hours in the last 30 days, 16 of which were in the accident airplane make and model.


The Piper PA 28R-201 was a low wing, four place, retractable landing gear airplane manufactured in 1978. The airplane was powered by a 200-horsepower, normally aspirated, fuel injected Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 engine, which drove a two bladed constant speed McCauley propeller.

On May 21, 2014, at a tachometer time of 4,315.1 hours and an aircraft total time of 4,315.1 hours, a 100 hour/annual inspection was completed for the airframe and the airplane was returned to service.

On August 7, 2014, at a tachometer time of 4,413.99 hours and 1,585.29 hours since last major overhaul, a 100 hour/annual inspection was completed for the engine and the airplane was returned to service.

The investigation did not reveal any evidence of the airplane being refueled at SBS.


At 1154, the automated weather report at SBS, 12 miles northwest of the accident site, reported wind from 210 degrees at 7 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 68°F, dew point 46°F, and altimeter setting 30.32 inches of mercury.

The private pilot received standard weather briefings from ForeFlight for each leg of the trip. The final leg was planned for a cruise altitude of 12,500 feet and a cruise speed of 135 knots.

Calculations of the above meteorological data for the accident flight revealed that the density altitude was about 11,200 feet near the accident location.


Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane impacted trees and mountainous terrain about 12 miles southeast of SBS at an elevation of 9,100 feet above mean sea level (msl). The initial point of impact was identified by a pair of damaged tree tops on the edge of an open grassy field on the mountainside. A 120 yard path with several damaged trees was identified on a heading of 240 degrees. A large impact crater was noted 105 yards from the initial tree strike. The fuselage came to rest 15 yards southwest of the impact crater on its right side and was oriented on a heading of 350 degrees.

The left and right wings separated from the fuselage and came to rest in the debris path. The outboard section of the left wing was separated near the initial tree strike. The leading edge contained two distinct leading edge circular impact impressions. The left aileron had separated near mid span. The inboard section of the left wing was found 75 yards through the debris path and exhibited signs of thermal damage; the respective landing gear remained attached to the wing and was fully extended.

The outboard section of the right wing was also found near the initial tree strike and contained a large leading edge circular impact impression. The inboard section was found separated from the fuselage and near the initial tree impact area. The landing gear remained attached to the wing and was extended about 45 degrees.

The top of the fuselage was fractured near the cockpit; the first responders further opened the top of the fuselage to allow access during rescue operations. The empennage remained partially attached to the rear fuselage. The stabilator was twisted and bent upward 90 degrees. The vertical stabilizer and rudder were deformed and fractured near the rear fuselage.

The engine and propeller remained partially attached to and situated under the fuselage. The propeller nose cone was oriented on a heading of 180 degrees.

A postaccident examination of the wreckage was completed by the NTSB investigator-in-charge and a representative from Lycoming Engines, at Beegles Aircraft Service, Greeley, Colorado on October 15, 2014. The examination revealed the following:

The engine was separated from the firewall and hung from an engine hoist for the examination. The propeller was removed and the blades were labeled Blade A and Blade B for identification purposes only. Blade A was bent slightly aft with minor leading edge damage. Blade B was bent 90 degrees aft with leading edge damage, the blade tip was twisted and a portion was missing from the trailing edge. The fuel pump, vacuum pump, magnetos, valve covers and top spark plugs were removed. The spark plugs appeared normal as compared to the Champion Aviation Check-a-Plug Chart AV-27. The crankshaft was rotated by hand and suction and compression was established on all cylinders. Engine drive train continuity was established throughout. The cylinders were examined with a lighted borescope and no anomalies were noted. Engine control continuity was confirmed throughout. The left magneto was rotated by hand and produced a spark at each lead. The right magneto was rotated by hand and no spark was observed from any lead. The magneto was disassembled and no visual damage was observed. The right magneto was sent to Continental Motors' analytical department for examination and a bench test. The magneto was reassembled and the contact points were cleaned. With a slave harness attached the magneto produced a spark at each lead. The magneto wobbled slightly during the test; the discrepancy was attributed to impact damage. The oil pick up screen was found free of contamination. The fuel servo exhibited no signs of visual damage. The fuel servo brass plug was found tight and secured. The fuel inlet screen was found clear of contaminants. The fuel flow divider was found clear of contaminants and the diaphragm was intact and in good condition. The fuel injectors were found clear unobstructed. The engine driven fuel pump discharged fuel when operated by hand. The examination revealed no evidence of any pre-impact engine anomalies.

The rudder and stabilator control cables were cut near the cockpit area during the on scene recovery. The rudder cable was found pulled from the rear ball end and was continuous to the cockpit area. The rudder cable was continuous from the rudder pedal attach points to the cockpit area. The stabilator control cable was continuous from the flight controls to the cockpit area and also continuous from the cockpit to the stabilator attach points. The stabilator trim cable was separated and exhibited signs of tension overload. The stabilator pitch trim setting was found near neutral. The left aileron control cable was found wrapped around a tree about 50 feet high and exhibited signs of tension overload. The left aileron bellcrank was pulled through the wing skin and remained attached to the control cable. The right aileron control cable was separated outboard of the fuselage and exhibited signs of tension overload. The right aileron bellcrank remained attached to the right aileron control cable inside the wing. The flap chain and associated control cables were found loose in the wreckage and the cables exhibited signs of tension overload.

The cockpit instrument panel remained attached in the cockpit and the primary flight instruments appeared in good condition. The airspeed indicator read 0 knots. The altimeter's Kollsman window indicated a setting of 30.32. The clock stopped at 1159.

The throttle lever was found near mid-range. The mixture and propeller levers were found full aft. The left control yoke remained intact and was rotated about 90 degrees to the right. The right control yoke was bent downward at the firewall and the handle was rotated about 90 degrees to the right. The landing gear lever was found in the down position and locked by the detent. This airplane was not equipped with the automatic landing gear extension feature. The following switches were found in the ON position: master switch, fuel pump, landing light and beacon. The pitot heat was OFF. The circuit breakers were all in and secured; the auto pilot circuit breaker was labeled INOP.


An autopsy was performed on the instructor pilot by the forensic pathology consultant of Routt County, Colorado, on August 10, 2014. The cause of death was blunt force injuries. The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute completed a Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report which revealed no significant findings. The instructor pilot sustained distinct injuries to both hands.

An autopsy was performed on the pilot receiving instruction by the forensic pathology consultant of Routt County, Colorado, on August 10, 2014. The cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries and the manner of death was an accident. The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute completed a Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report which revealed no significant findings. The private pilot sustained distinct injuries to one hand.


Electronic Devices Onboard

The following electronic devices were found in the wreckage and sent to the NTSB Recorders Laboratory, Washington, DC for examination and download.

A Garmin GNS 530, s/n: 78412859, which sustained major impact damage. External power was applied and the device did not respond. No data was recovered from the device.

An Apple iPad Mini (1), s/n: DLXLV31PFLMP, which sustained major impact damage. The internal circuit board was removed and cleaned. The circuit board was placed in a surrogate iPad mini. Several attempts to power the surrogate unit with the accident circuit board were unsuccessful. No data was recovered from the device.

An Apple iPad Mini (2), s/n: F4KLV34SFLMN, which sustained major impact damage with noticeable bending throughout the device. An interior examination revealed the circuit board containing the device's memory had sustained deformation from flexure damage. Due to the impact damage, no recovery could be attempted and no data was recovered from the device.

A Go Pro Hero 3, s/n: unknown, which received minimal impact damage. The internal micro SD card containing the device's image data was located and removed. Two picture files were located and dated after the accident date and time; the pictures were determined to be from responders to the accident scene. No data pertinent to the investigation was found.

Density Altitude

According to an FAA safety document, FAA-P-8740-2 – AFS-8 (2008), density altitude is pressure altitude corrected for nonstandard temperature variations. A high density altitude means that air density is reduced, which has an adverse impact on aircraft performance. Altitude, temperature and humidity are factors that contribute to a high density altitude. An increase in density altitude can result in increased takeoff distance and a reduced rate of climb.

Mountain Flying

A Colorado Mountain Flying document was recovered from the wreckage and revealed the following information.

The Do's of Mountain Flying: Consult POH for takeoff, climb and ceiling capabilities of the aircraft before flown. When calculated climb rates are less than 200 feet/NM, do not depart. A high density altitude may prevent you from reaching the altitude listed in the POH as the service ceiling.


Plan to cross all passes and terrain with a minimum 1,000 foot clearance. Know these elevations and use the altimeter – DO NOT GUESS. Monitor the rate of climb when climbing across terrain; shuttle climb if necessary. Cross all passes at a 45 degree angle so a turn toward lower terrain can be accomplished with 90 to 120 degrees of turning (Escape Maneuver). Reach pass crossing altitude (1,000 feet above pass terrain) 3 miles before reaching the pass.

Climb Performance

According to the airplane's pilot operating handbook (POH), at a density altitude of 11,200 feet with the landing gear and flaps retracted, the pilot could have expected a climb rate of 175-200 feet per minute. Based on the mountain flying information above and the airplane groundspeed speed of 90 knots, the required rate of climb would have been 300 feet per minute.

Sikorsky Faces U.S. Criminal Probe, $148 Million In Fines, In Parts-Overcharging Case

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation and is seeking damages totaling $148 million from Sikorsky, in two actions stemming from allegations that the helicopter maker overcharged the government for spare parts in training aircraft from 2006 to 2012.

Sikorsky parent United Technologies Corp. disclosed the criminal probe and the amount the government is seeking in a civil case in documents filed with securities regulators Friday. The civil lawsuit over the spare parts pricing started with a whistleblower complaint and was reported last August.

Sikorsky said at the time, and UTC repeated in the filing, that the company acted properly.

"Sikorsky and its subsidiaries intend to cooperate fully in the investigation," the filing said.

The case centers on Sikorsky's billing for spare parts sold to the Navy for T-34 and T-44 fixed-wing turboprop training aircraft, by a Sikorsky subsidiary called Derco Aerospace. Derco, in Wisconsin, sold the parts through another Sikorsky business, Sikorsky Support Services Inc. — after adding a 20 percent markup, according to documents.

Mary Patzer, a former compliance officer at Derco, said in a 2011 lawsuit that she had raised objections about overcharging within the company in 2010, and that she had been fired soon afterward, and that the company called the termination a reduction in force.

The lawsuit was unsealed last year when the Department of Justice intervened.

"The government's complaint asserts numerous claims for violations of the False Claims Act, for breach of contract and for unjust enrichment," UTC said in the Friday filing.

In April, the government told UTC it's seeking damages of $45 million, subject to tripling as a penalty, plus statutory penalties of $13 million, according to UTC's filing.

"We believe that Derco was lawfully permitted to add profit and overhead to the cost of the parts, and maintain that [Sikorsky Support Services Inc.] did not submit any false certificates."

UTC announced Monday it agreed to sell Sikorsky to Lockheed Martin for $9 billion.

Story and comments:

New York is Almost Open for Flying: A Sales and Use Tax Update

Original article can be found here:

Cessna 172RG Cutlass, N5199U: Incident occurred July 24, 2015 at Vance Brand Airport (KLMO), Longmont, Colorado

Date: 24-JUL-15
Time: 17:34:00Z
Regis#: N5199U
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 172
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Minor
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Colorado



A single-engine airplane landed at Vance Brand Municipal Airport in Longmont this morning without using its landing gear.

Longmont police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said no one was injured.

Satur said Longmont police and fire responded to the scene to verify no one had been injured, and there had been no fire or smoke associated with the hard landing.

Airport Manager David Slayter said the pilot was the only person in the plane and had landed with the landing gear still up. He added that the plane suffered minor damage, and the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating. 

So far, officials have not released the pilot's name. 

The plane had been removed from the runway by early afternoon.

Story and photo:

Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II, Air Evac Lifeteam, N335AE: Accident occurred October 04, 2014 in Wichita Falls, Texas

A picture of Erasmus “Johan” van der Colff IV and his flight suit were displayed at a memorial service for him.


WICHITA FALLS - A report from the National Transportation Safety Board released Thursday blames pilot error for the crash of a medical helicopter near United Regional Health Care System in October.

Three crew members on the Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter were burned in the Oct. 4 crash. Two of them later died and only the pilot survived.

“... it is likely that the pilot did not adequately account for the helicopter’s low airspeed when he applied power to go around, which resulted in a sudden, uncommanded right yaw due to a loss of tail rotor effectiveness,” the NTSB said.

The helicopter crashed Grace Street when the pilot was attempting to land on a pad on 10th Street across from the hospital.

In a separate “Safety Recommendation” also released Thursday, the NTSB said the crash could have been survivable and blamed the deaths of the two crew members on the fuel system on the Bell 206L1+ helicopter.

“... the impact forces were survivable for occupants but fatal or serious injuries occurred because of a post crash fire that resulted from an impact-related breach in the fuel tanks,” the report concluded.

The report also concludes a patient found dead in the wreckage “likely” died prior to the crash from gunshot wounds he had suffered earlier.

Flight paramedic Erasmus “Johan” van der Colff IV and flight nurse Leslie Stewart died from their injuries days after the crash. Pilot Zechariah Smith was the only survivor.

The helicopter was preparing to land at the hospital after picking up gunshot victim Buddy Rhodes in Waurika, Oklahoma, when it crashed.

In reporting on the cause of the crash, the NTSB said, “The pilot reported that he was making an approach to a hospital helipad into light wind at night when he chose to go around because he felt that the approach was too high and fast. The pilot lowered the helicopter’s nose, added power, and raised the collective, and the helicopter then entered a rapid, ‘violent’ right spin. A review of the last 43 seconds of the helicopter’s flight track data revealed that, as the helicopter approached the helipad, it descended from 202 to 152 ft (sic) and decelerated from a ground speed of about 9 to 5 knots before it turned right. The pilot attempted to recover from the uncommanded spin by applying left antitorque pedal and cyclic, but he was unable to recover, and the helicopter then spun several times before impacting power lines/terrain.”

The agency found no mechanical failure caused the chopper to go down.

“Post accident examination of the helicopter and the engine revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have caused the helicopter’s uncommanded right spin. The helicopter was under its maximum allowable gross weight at the time of the accident, and the wind was less than 4 knots.”

But NTSB blamed the resultant deaths on the fuel system.

“This helicopter was manufactured in 1981 and did not have a crash-resistant fuel system as currently required by 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 2 airworthiness standards for normal-category rotorcraft” the NTSB said in its recommendation. “... the circumstances of the accident illustrate that the impact forces alone during certain helicopter accidents are survivable if a post crash fire can be prevented or its severity reduced.”

The NTSB recommended the Federal Aviation Administration “Require, for all newly manufactured rotorcraft regardless of the design’s original certification date, that the fuel systems meet the crashworthiness requirements of 14 Code of Federal Regulations 27.952 or 29.952, ‘Fuel System Crash Resistance’.

Story and photo gallery:

 Pilot  Zechariah Smith

Flight Nurse Leslie Stewart

Flight paramedic Johan van der Colff IV

NTSB Identification: CEN15FA003
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Saturday, October 04, 2014 in Wichita Falls, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/23/2015
Aircraft: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON 206L 1, registration: N335AE
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that he was making an approach to a hospital helipad into light wind at night when he chose to go around because he felt that the approach was too high and fast. The pilot lowered the helicopter’s nose, added power, and raised the collective, and the helicopter then entered a rapid, “violent” right spin. A review of the last 43 seconds of the helicopter’s flight track data revealed that, as the helicopter approached the helipad, it descended from 202 to 152 ft and decelerated from a ground speed of about 9 to 5 knots before it turned right. The pilot attempted to recover from the uncommanded spin by applying left antitorque pedal and cyclic, but he was unable to recover, and the helicopter then spun several times before impacting power lines/terrain. Postaccident examination of the helicopter and the engine revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have caused the helicopter’s uncommanded right spin. The helicopter was under its maximum allowable gross weight at the time of the accident, and the wind was less than 4 knots. 
Federal Aviation Administration guidance states that the loss of tail rotor effectiveness could result in an uncommanded rapid yaw, which, if not corrected, could result in the loss of aircraft control. The guidance further indicates that, at airspeeds below translational lift, the tail rotor is required to produce nearly 100 percent of the directional control and that, if the required amount of tail rotor thrust is not available, the aircraft will yaw right. Therefore, it is likely that that the pilot did not adequately account for the helicopter’s low airspeed when he applied power to go around, which resulted in a sudden, uncommanded right yaw due to a loss of tail rotor effectiveness. 

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to maintain yaw control when he applied power to execute a go-around at a low airspeed in dark, night conditions, which resulted in a rapid, uncommanded right yaw due to a loss of tail rotor effectiveness.


On October 4, 2014, about 0155 central daylight time, N335AE, a Bell 206L1+ helicopter, was destroyed by post-impact fire after it impacted terrain while on approach to the United Regional Hospital helipad, in Wichita Falls, Texas. The commercial pilot was seriously injured and the flight nurse, paramedic, and patient died. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Air Evac EMS, Inc, O'Fallon, Missouri. A company visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the patient transfer flight that departed Jackson County Hospital, near Waurika, Oklahoma, about 0133. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the air medical flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135.

A witness, who was a photojournalist for NBC News 3 in Wichita Falls, TX, was driving southbound on the central freeway and was passing over Maurine Street when he first saw the helicopter. He said it appeared to be flying toward the "north" and its spotlight was turned on. As the witness continued to drive south toward downtown Wichita Falls, he realized the helicopter was hovering over 10th and Grace Streets and he thought it was odd that the helicopter had not landed yet and maybe he was waiting for someone to clear off the helipad. The witness said the helicopter was hovering at a height that was equal to the height of the top of the hospital, about 100-120 feet. The witness said that when he reached 9th Street, he saw the helicopter begin to spin to the right and move from its position over 10th and Grace Streets south toward the helipad. He said the helicopter entered the spin slowly and began to descend as soon as it started to spin. Initially, the witness thought the helicopter was going to land, but it continued to spin and descend. The helicopter then disappeared from his view behind a building. Shortly after it disappeared from his view, the witness saw sparks. He called 911 and drove the scene. Once he arrived on-scene the police and first responders were already there.

According to the pilot, he and his Duncan, Oklahoma, based medical crew had just returned from a flight to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, when he received a call from company dispatch to pick-up a patient in Waurika and transport him to United Regional Hospital in Wichita Falls. The pilot accepted the flight, but told dispatch that they needed 15 minutes on the ground to prepare for the flight since they had just landed.

The pilot stated that he, along with the paramedic and flight nurse, re-boarded the helicopter, performed the necessary checklists, called dispatch and filed a flight plan. The flight to Waurika was uneventful. After landing, the pilot stayed in the helicopter for about 20 minutes with the engine running while the patient was prepped and loaded. The pilot and medical crew then departed for Wichita Falls. The weather was clear and the wind was three knots or less. The pilot said he used night-vision-goggles (NVGs) while en route, but flipped them up as he approached the hospital due to intense ground lighting. Upon arriving in Wichita Falls, the pilot said he performed a "high recon" of United Regional Hospital's helipad and called out his intentions to land. He performed the pre-landing checklists, and started the approach to the helipad from the northwest at an altitude of 700 feet above ground level (agl). Both of the hospital's lighted windsocks were "limp" but were positioned so they were pointing toward the northwest. The pilot, who said he had landed at this helipad on numerous occasions, said the approach was normal until he got closer to the helipad. He said he felt fast "about 12-15 knots" and a "little high," so he decided to abort the approach. At this point, with about ¼ to ½ -inch of left anti-torque pedal applied, he added power, "tipped the nose over to get airspeed," and "pulled collective." The pilot said that as soon as he brought the collective up, the helicopter entered a rapid right spin. He described the spin as "violent" and that it was the fastest he had ever "spun" in a helicopter. The pilot told the crew to hold on and that he was "going to try and fly out of it." The pilot said he tried hard to get control of the helicopter by applying cyclic and initially "some" left anti-torque pedal "but nothing happened." The pilot said he added more left anti-torque pedal, but not full left anti-torque pedal as the helicopter continued to spin and he was still unable to regain control. He also said the engine had plenty of power and was operating fine. The pilot recalled the helicopter spinning at least five times before impacting the ground inverted. He said smoke quickly filled the inside of the helicopter, so he unbuckled his seatbelt assembly, took off his helmet, punched out the windshield and exited the burning helicopter.

The pilot also said that he did not hear any unusual noises prior to the "tail coming out from underneath them" and he did not recall hearing any warning horns or seeing any warning/caution lights. When asked what he thought caused the helicopter to spin to the right so quickly, he replied, "I don't know."

The helicopter was equipped with a handheld Garmin GPS 396 and Sky Trac ISAT-100 flight-tracking software. The SkyTrac system recorded position every 5 seconds versus the GPS that recorded position every 60 seconds. Data was successfully downloaded from each unit. The data between the two units was fairly consistent and revealed that after the helicopter departed Waurika, it flew on a south-westerly heading until it crossed Highway 447 in Wichita Falls. It then flew on a westerly heading until it reached Highway 287, where it then turned on a north westerly heading. As it proceeded to the northwest, the helicopter flew past United Regional Hospital to the east before it made a left, 180 degree turn about 1 to 1.5 miles north of the hospital. The helicopter then proceeded directly to the helipad on a south-easterly heading. A review of the last 43 seconds of the recorded Sky Trac data revealed that as the helicopter approached the helipad, it descended from an altitude of 202 feet to 152 feet and decelerated from a ground-speed of about 9 knots to about 5 knots before it turned to the right. Over the next 10 seconds, the helicopter traveled back toward the northwest as it descended to an altitude of 54 feet and increased to a ground-speed of about 17 knots before the data ended at 0155:14. The location of the last recorded data point was consistent with where the helicopter impacted the ground. 

A portion of the accident flight and impact were captured on one of the hospital's surveillance cameras. A review of the surveillance tape revealed the helicopter approached the helipad from the north with the spotlight turned on (the pilot said that he used the spotlight during the approach). The helicopter then climbed and went out of frame before it reappeared in a descending right hand turn then hit the ground. The time of impact was recorded at 0154:56. About 6 seconds later, there was a large explosion.

Another Air Evac flight crew (pilot, paramedic, and a flight nurse) was based at United Regional Hospital, and were in their quarters near the helipad when the hospital-based pilot heard the helicopter. The crew was preparing to assist the inbound crew with the patient transfer. The hospital-based pilot stated that when he opened the door to their quarters, he heard the helicopter arriving from the north. As the helicopter got closer, he heard "a change in rotor noise" followed by the sound of a "snap then bang then silence." The hospital-based pilot yelled to his crew that the helicopter may have crashed. All three immediately responded to the accident site where they found the helicopter upside down, facing west, and on-fire. The hospital-based pilot said the flight nurse, who was seated in the rear right seat, was lying about 6-feet away from the helicopter. She was on fire and most of her Nomex flight suit had burned away. The hospital-based pilot also saw the paramedic, who was seated in the rear, left seat, crawling out of the wreckage and the pilot was crawling out of the front of the wreckage. Due to the intense fire, there was no way to assist the patient.

The hospital-based paramedic stated that he was asleep when he was alerted of the inbound flight. He heard the helicopter approaching "then nothing." The lights in their crew-quarters then flickered for about 10 seconds. The hospital-based pilot then came in and said the helicopter had crashed. The hospital-based paramedic said that when he got to the accident site, the flight nurse was lying on her back on the sidewalk. The paramedic was on fire and about 10 feet away from the helicopter in the street. A bystander was using his shirt to put out the flames on the paramedic. The hospital-based paramedic then ran over to the injured paramedic. He said the paramedic was alert and was aware that he was involved in an accident. The hospital-based paramedic said he picked the injured paramedic up, placed him on a gurney and took him to the emergency room. He did not talk to the flight nurse or pilot.

The hospital-based flight nurse stated he was in bed, but had not fallen asleep. He heard the hospital-based pilot say that a company helicopter was inbound and he could hear it approaching the helipad. The flight nurse said he was putting on his jumpsuit when he heard the helicopter "power-up" followed by silence then the sound of a "crash." He and the two others immediately responded to the accident site. When the hospital-based flight nurse arrived on scene, he saw the flight nurse and thought she was deceased until she started screaming for help. The pilot was crawling through the front windshield and his foot was stuck. There was a "winding noise" coming from the helicopter so he helped him get out and away from the burning helicopter. He asked the pilot if he was ok, and he responded, "I don't know." The hospital-based flight nurse then saw the hospital-based paramedic dragging the injured paramedic away from the helicopter. He immediately realized the injured paramedic was a good friend and his flight partner. The hospital based flight nurse immediately went over to him and found the injured paramedic was alert. The injured paramedic said they were on final approach to the helipad when the helicopter started to spin, but he wasn't sure why.

The hospital-based flight nurse later asked the pilot what happened, and the pilot said "he wasn't sure." When he told the pilot that the paramedic said that the helicopter had spun, the pilot responded, "yeah."

The patient died in the accident but the flight nurse and the paramedic survived and were treated for severe burns. However, they both succumbed to their injuries within a month after the accident.


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate for rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument rotorcraft-helicopter. The operator reported his total flight time as 1,810 hours. About 1,584 of those hours were in helicopters, of which, 214 hours were in the Bell 206 series helicopter. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical was issued on May 13, 2014, without limitations or waivers. The pilot was also a chief warrant officer with the United States Army. He attended Army flight school and was trained in the CH47D Chinook helicopters.

According to time-on-duty records provided by the operator, the pilot came on duty October 2, 2014, at 1810. This was the start of his first shift after having the previous 6 days off. He had only made one flight prior to the accident flight.

The pilot was hired by the operator on June 9, 2014. At that time, he reported a total of 1,755.6 total hours, of which, 159.1 hours were in the Bell 206 model helicopter. A review of his training records revealed he started initial/new-hire training on June 10, 2014, and satisfactorily completed ground school and 10.9 hours of flight training. The training included normal and emergency procedures, including loss of tail rotor effectiveness. On June 22, 2014, the pilot passed a flight crew-member competency/proficiency check- Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 135/NVG check ride. 

The pilot also completed "Initial Orientation-Flight" training at his assigned base in Duncan, Oklahoma. The training involved 5 flight hours and included cross country flights to the local area hospitals and landmarks; 2 hours of night flying for the same purpose; day and night approaches to hospital and elevated helipads; familiarization with all hazards, terrain and man-made, identified on the Duncan, Oklahoma base hazard map. This training was completed on July 8, 2014.


Weather at Sheppard Air Force Base/Wichita Falls Municipal Airport (SPS), about 5 miles north of the accident site, at 0152, was wind from 140 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 51 degrees F, dewpoint 33 degrees F, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.24 in HG.


The United Regional Hospital's ground-level helipad was located directly across the street from the hospital's emergency room entrance. The final approach/take-off area (FATO) was 60-foot-wide by 60-foot-long and was privately owned and operated by United Regional Health Care System. At the time of the accident, the hospital based flight crew's helicopter was in the hangar and the helipad was clear of obstacles.


The single-engine, seven-place helicopter was manufactured in 1981 and equipped with a Rolls-Royce C-250-30P turbo shaft engine. It was configured for air medical transport; one pilot, two medical crew, and one patient. The operator reported that at the time of the accident, the airframe had about 18,378.6 hours total time and the engine had about 3,546.2 hours total time.

The helicopter was retrofitted with Van Horn Aviation (VHA) after-market composite tail rotor blades (Supplemental Type Certificate No. SR02249LA). According to VHA's website, this install helps reduce overall aircraft noise and produce more tail rotor authority. 

The estimated gross weight of the helicopter at the time of the accident was 4,274 pounds, or about 176 pounds below the maximum gross weight of 4,450 pounds.


An on-scene examination of the helicopter was conducted on October 4-5, 2014, under the supervision of the National Transportation Safety Board Investigator-in-Charge (NTSB IIC). The helicopter collided with power lines and came to rest inverted between two trees that lined a public sidewalk about one block northwest of the helipad. All major components of the helicopter were located at the main impact site. Small sections of the helicopter were found strewn within 100 feet of where the main wreckage came to rest.

The helicopter was recovered and taken to a salvage facility where a layout examination was conducted on October 6, 2014. The above mentioned party members were in attendance for both the on-scene and salvage yard exams.

The helicopter wreckage was extensively burned and fragmented into large and small sections. These sections were laid out in a manner that was consistent with how they would have been situated prior to the accident. The tail rotor and portion of the empennage sustained the least amount of impact and fire damage.

The tailboom had separated from the main body of the helicopter just aft of where it attached to the fuselage.

Both tail rotor blades exhibited minor leading edge damage and there was some de-bonding on the trailing edge. The pitch control tube to the gearbox to the 90-degree bend and forward to where the tail boom had separated from the fuselage was intact. The tail rotor gearbox magnetic plug was clean and there was no fluid observed the tail rotor gearbox sight-glass.

The right horizontal fin remained attached to the tailboom and exhibited some thermal damage. The left horizontal fin was folded under and burned.

The tail rotor driveshaft was relatively intact, but damage was noted to the Thomas couplings, which were splayed, and the hangar bearing between #1 and #2 was out of alignment.

The aft short-shaft was separated and exhibited thermal damage. The forward end of the short shaft was burned. The shaft did not rotate due to thermal damage. The oil cooler blower housing had mostly melted away.

The front end of the oil cooler blower shaft and spines were intact. The forward short-shaft was attached to the aft end of the freewheeling unit located in the engine accessory gear box. But the aft end that attached to the forward end of the oil cooler blower shaft was separated. The splines were intact.

The freewheeling (FW) unit rotated, but did not turn due to thermal damage.

The flex frames on both ends of the main drive shaft were fractured. There was no twist in the shaft. The engine to transmission adapter on the aft of the transmission was rotated and continuity was established to the main rotor system.

Control tubes were fractured and thermally damaged, but continuity was established for the throttle control and collective to the broom closet. Continuity for the cyclic was also established, but the cyclic control had fractured and was found in the wreckage.

The left anti-torque pedals (co-pilot side) dual control pedal assembly was installed, but the linkage had been disconnected and the pedals were locked by the operator to prevent someone from inadvertently depressing the pedals. 

Continuity was established for the right anti-torque pedals. An impact mark was observed on a section of the anti-torque pedal assembly where it ran through a lightning hole in the lower fuselage. A measurement from the center of the bolt that secures this tube to the location of the impact mark was taken. Then, the measurement was used to determine the position of the pedal at the time of impact by lining the mark up with an exemplar helicopter. The measurement revealed the right pedal was displaced about 50-75% at the time of impact.

The rotating and non-rotating sections of the swash plate were fractured and burned, and the control links were fractured and thermally damaged. Extensive thermal damage was noted to the transmission.

Both of the main rotor blades exhibited impact and fire damage. Blade #1 had fractured outside of the doublers. About 6 feet of the outboard blade exhibited impact damage and about 24-inches of the blade tip had separated and was not burned. A section of the blade tip exhibited impact and striations marks consistent with it striking a cable.

Blade #2 was also fractured at the doublers. The after-body was missing due to fire. The tip of the blade was partially attached with a small unburned section being completely separated.

Though the helicopter sustained extensive thermal damage, continuity for all the main flight control systems was established and no pre-mishap mechanical anomalies were observed that would have precluded normal operation prior to the accident.

It was also observed that the two main fuel lines that transfer fuel from the forward fuel tanks to the main tanks were separated at their rear fittings just aft of the broom closet. According to the FAA and Bell, there are no break-away fittings or mechanism (sensor) that would have sensed a separation and stopped fuel flow after the accident if power was applied. If the engine continued to run after the accident, raw fuel would have continued to be pumped into the aft cabin area from the forward tanks. Fuel may have also drained from vent lines due to the helicopter being inverted.

The engine sustained extensive thermal damage. The engine was separated into sections and no pre-mishap anomalies were noted that would have precluded normal operation prior to the accident.

The annunciator panel was examined by the NTSB Materials Laboratory for the presence of any stretched light bulb filaments. Each annunciator light was x-rayed to determine the status of the two bulbs inside. While there was some evidence of age-related sagging, no stretched filaments were found in any of the annunciator lights.


A toxicological examination was conducted on "first-draw" blood specimens taken from the pilot when he was admitted to United Regional hospital's emergency room after the accident. These specimens were subpoenaed by the NTSB and shipped to the FAA's Accident Investigation Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results of the testing were negative for all items tested.


The FAA issued Advisory Circular (AC) 90-95, Unanticipated Right Yaw in Helicopters, in February 1995. The AC stated that the loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE) was a critical, low-speed aerodynamic flight characteristic which could result in an uncommanded rapid yaw rate which does not subside of its own accord and, if not corrected, could result in the loss of aircraft control. It also stated, "LTE is not related to a maintenance malfunction and may occur in varying degrees in all single main rotor helicopters at airspeeds less than 30 knots."

Paragraph 8 of the AC stated:

"OTHER FACTORS...Low Indicated Airspeed. At airspeeds below translational lift, the tail rotor is required to produce nearly 100 percent of the directional control. If the required amount of tail rotor thrust is not available for any reason, the aircraft will yaw to the right."

According to the FAA Rotorcraft Flying handbook (FAA-H-8083-21A), "Loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE) or an unanticipated yaw is defined as an uncommanded, rapid yaw towards the advancing blade which does not subside of its own accord. It can result in the loss of the aircraft if left unchecked. It is very important for pilots to understand that LTE is caused by an aerodynamic interaction between the main rotor and tail rotor and not caused from a mechanical failure. Some helicopter types are more likely to encounter LTE due to the normal certification thrust produced by having a tail rotor that, although meeting certification standards, is not always able to produce the additional thrust demanded by the pilot."

"LTE is an aerodynamic condition and is the result of a control margin deficiency in the tail rotor. It can affect all single rotor helicopters that utilize a tail rotor of some design. The design of main and tail rotor blades and the tail boom assembly can affect the characteristics and susceptibility of LTE but will not nullify the phenomenon entirely." 

This alteration of tail rotor thrust can be affected by numerous external factors. The main factors contributing to LTE are:

1. Airflow and downdraft generated by the main rotor blades interfering with the airflow entering the tail rotor assembly.

2. Main blade vortices developed at the main blade tips entering the tail rotor.

3. Turbulence and other natural phenomena affecting the airflow surrounding the tail rotor.

4. A high power setting, hence large main rotor pitch angle, induces considerable main rotor blade downwash and hence more turbulence than when the

helicopter is in a low power condition.

5. A slow forward airspeed, typically at speeds where translational lift and translational thrust are in the process of change and airflow around the tail rotor will vary in direction and speed."

"If a sudden unanticipated right yaw occurs, the following recovery technique should be performed. Apply forward cyclic control to increase speed. If altitude permits, reduce power. As recovery is affected, adjust controls for normal forward flight. A recovery path must always be planned, especially when terminating to an OGE hover and executed immediately if an uncommanded yaw is evident. Collective pitch reduction aids in arresting the yaw rate but may cause an excessive rate of descent. Any large, rapid increase in collective to prevent ground or obstacle contact may further increase the yaw rate and decrease rotor rpm. The decision to reduce collective must be based on the pilot's assessment of the altitude available for recovery. If the rotation cannot be stopped and ground contact is imminent, an autorotation may be the best course of action. Maintain full left pedal until the rotation stops, then adjust to maintain heading."