Thursday, August 06, 2015

Number of pilots dropping like a plane in a stall

WICHITA, Kansas  -- Flying evidently doesn't command the same inspiration among young people that it once did if FAA statistics are any indication. Or perhaps we simply have so many other things to distract us that we can take on as past times.

Consider these FAA statistics. At the end of 2014 there were 174,883 private pilots in the U.S. Five years earlier there were 221,619. And back in 1999 there were 258,749.

The numbers clearly show a decline alarming aviation leaders including FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. While in Wichita recently Huerta talked about the pilot shortage saying, "We are no longer in a place where we have a very large pipeline of pilots coming from the military."

"What we need to do is continue talking about aviation as an attractive career and what it represents for the future."

Veteran instructor pilot Jerry Griggs challenged me to take flying lessons at least through my first solo and share the joys and challenges of learning to fly. So I did.

I kind of think Griggs figured if the public sees an older guy like me learning to fly then they might say, 'Hey, I can learn to fly if he can.'

Griggs got his license at 16 and was giving flight lessons by the time he was 19.

We started flight lessons in his Cessna 150 from the Lake Waltanna grass strip near Goddard. We later switched to Stearman Field at Benton and into a Cessna 152 after Griggs sold his plane.

We'll be showing the progress along with talking about the issues around the pilot shortage as we continue through August and will be adding to this story. Keep watching on KAKE TV news at six Thursdays.

Story, video and photo:

STOL JA30 Superstol, N556TW, STOL LLC: Accident occurred August 02, 2015 in West Union, Oconee County, South Carolina

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Final Report: 

Docket And Docket Items -   National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -   National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ERA15CA295 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 02, 2015 in West Union, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/05/2015
Aircraft: STOL LLC JA30 SUPERSTOL, registration: N556TW
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.

The pilot stated that he and the passenger were nearing the conclusion of a local flight when the engine began to "sputter and run rough." The engine momentarily ran smooth before it began to run rough a second time, followed by a total loss of power. The pilot maneuvered the airplane for a forced landing, and stated that engine power was restored just prior to impact with trees and terrain. The airplane came to rest upright, and sustained substantial damage to both wings and the empennage. During a postaccident wreckage examination, a 1-quart fuel sample was drained from the airplane, and about half of the sample was water. The pilot stated that prior to the accident flight, he had mistakenly fueled the airplane from a container of contaminated fuel.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A loss of engine power while maneuvering due to water contamination in the fuel.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA West Columbia FSDO-13

OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. —Witnesses said a plane that crashed Sunday afternoon in Oconee County was flying low and doing aerobatics before it went down, according to Oconee County Emergency Services Fire Chief Charlie King.

Click HERE to watch video of plane flying above Lake Keowee moments before it crashed. 

Boaters reported that the plane crash about 5:45 p.m. near West Union. 

King said several people reported the plane flying low above Lake Keowee. 

He said he will pass the witness reports along to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. Both agencies will investigate the crash. 

Fire responders said the pilot was standing in McAlister Road flagging them down and led them to the crash site. 

King said the pilot told authorities that he was having engine trouble and tried to land on empty streets in a housing development that's under construction, but couldn't reach the roads. The plane went down in some trees, King said.

The pilot and the passenger were not hurt.

The small experimental plane flew out of a private runway in Walhalla and was on a flight over Lake Keowee when it crashed, King said.

King said the pilot either owns or works for JustAircraft, a Walhalla company that builds planes.

This is the second plane crash for the company this year, King said. 

Two people were injured in April when a plane crashed just behind JustAircraft. To read more on that story, click here

Story, comments and photo:

Just Aircraft Highlander, N376CG,  G-DAWG LLC: 

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA174
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 31, 2015 in Walhalla, SC
Aircraft: G-DAWG LLC JUST ACFT HIGHLANDER, registration: N376CG
Injuries: 2 Serious.

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 March 31, 2015, about 1435 eastern daylight time, an experimental Light Sport Just Aircraft Highlander, N376CG, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain at a private airfield near Walhalla, South Carolina. The private pilot and passenger were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The local business flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a witness, the accident flight was one of several flights performed to demonstrate the performance characteristics of the airplane to a potential buyer and his friend. The witness indicated that on the accident flight, the airplane was landing toward the east with a tailwind, and travelling faster than normal as it approached the runway. As the airplane descended toward the runway surface, the witness observed an increase in engine power, and the airplane subsequently "ballooned". Shortly thereafter the pilot "added full power" and the airplane began to climb and flew over a 2-story building located about 100 ft east of the runway, along its extended centerline. The airplane then struck trees adjacent to the north side of the building before it impacted the ground in a wooded ravine.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for single engine land, single engine sea, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate was issued on July 3, 2013. He reported 6,500 total hours of flight experience on that date.

Satellite imagery and geographical information system data indicate the turf field was approximately 450 ft long by 60 feet wide, and oriented roughly east-west. The elevation at the west end of the field was about 900 ft, and the east end about 950 feet.

The nearest weather reporting station was located at Oconee County Regional Airport, about 10 miles east of the accident location. About the time of the accident, it reported clear skies, visibility 10 miles, winds from the west at 12 knots gusting 21 knots, temperature 79F, dewpoint 36F, altimeter setting 29.92.