Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pilot in fatal plane crash had a long disciplinary history with the Federal Aviation Administration

The pilot of a small plane that crashed earlier this month in Santa Barbara County, killing him and his passenger, had a long history of discipline by the Federal Aviation Administration and lacked the medical clearances required to fly.

Government records show that David K. Martz, 58, of San Diego lost his pilot's license three times over the years — the latest revocation occurring in 2009 after he had oral sex with an adult film actress while flying a helicopter.

Before the crash Aug. 6, Martz was facing a fourth revocation proceeding on allegations that he falsified his Federal Aviation Administration medical certificate related to two drunken driving convictions in 2013 and 2014. He surrendered the document in June during the agency's investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration issues medical certifications to pilots after doctors determine they are healthy enough to operate aircraft.

"A person needs a pilot certificate and a current medical certificate to fly legally," said Ian Gregor, an Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Los Angeles. "Mr. Martz did not have a valid medical certificate when last week's crash occurred."

Martz was at the controls of a Cessna 182F Skylane when it crashed into a steep hillside in a remote area of Los Padres National Forest north of Ojai. He reported engine trouble about 9:45 p.m., authorities said.

The plane was headed from Lompoc to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad in north San Diego County. Also killed in the crash was Greg Bacino, 56, of San Diego.

Though Martz had a lengthy disciplinary record, it can be difficult for the Federal Aviation Administration to keep reckless, incompetent or rogue pilots out of the cockpit permanently. Under federal regulations, pilots can lose their licenses for a year and get them back by successfully re-testing after the revocation period expires.

There are exceptions, however. Air transport, commercial and private pilot licenses as well as medical certificates can be revoked permanently because of drug or alcohol dependencies, serious health issues, psychological problems, lack of good moral character, criminal convictions for narcotics trafficking or knowingly installing parts in aircraft that are not Federal Aviation Administration-certified.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Martz first lost his commercial pilot's license for a year in 1986 for flying an aircraft without a valid registration and possessing a false medical certificate — the same charge he was facing before the Santa Barbara crash.

His flight privileges were revoked again in 2004 for operating an aircraft while his pilot's license was suspended and flying within 50 feet of people and property at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego.

The third revocation occurred in 2009 for recklessly operating a four-passenger Bell helicopter Martz had lent to an adult film company. While at the controls and hovering over San Diego, he was captured on videotape receiving oral sex from a Swedish porn star.

The Federal Aviation Administration also has suspended Martz's license several times starting in 2002, when he lost his flight privileges for 30 days for performing aerobatics below an altitude of 1,500 feet over a populated area. A 230-day suspension followed in 2005 after he flew passengers in a helicopter he knew was damaged.

The Federal Aviation Administration also investigated Martz in 2006 for landing a helicopter on Wattles Drive in the Hollywood Hills to pick up Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, who wanted to go to a Nine Inch Nails concert.

No disciplinary action resulted, but the Los Angeles city attorney's office charged Martz with reckless operation of an aircraft, landing an aircraft on a public road and landing an aircraft without a permit, all misdemeanors. Frank Mateljan, a city attorney spokesman, said Martz was placed on 36 months' probation and fined $1,000 after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Three years later while transporting Lee again, Martz was forced to land his helicopter at Van Nuys Airport after he reportedly flew very close to a Los Angeles police chopper. Authorities said Martz took a Breathalyzer test to determine if he was intoxicated, but it was inconclusive.

Original article can be found here:

NTSB Identification: WPR15FA236
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 06, 2015 in Montecito, CA
Aircraft: CESSNA 182F, registration: N5738F
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 6, 2015, about 2210 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 182F, N5738F, impacted mountainous terrain about 15 miles northeast of Montecito, California. The pilot operated the rental airplane from Pacific Coast Flyers, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a business cross-country flight. The pilot and one passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight had departed from the San Luis County Regional Airport (SBP), San Luis Obispo, California, at an undetermined time. The flight was destined for Mc Clellan-Palomar Airport (CRQ), Carlsbad, California. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight, and no flight plan had been filed. 

The pilot radioed a mayday call to an air traffic controller at Point Magu Naval Air Station, and indicated that he had oil on his windscreen and smoke in the cockpit. Subsequently radio and radar contact was lost. An Alert Notification (ALNOT) was issued at 2212. The airplane was located the following morning at 0430 in mountainous terrain by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and a Search and Rescue crew accessed the site, and reported that the airplane came to rest inverted about 300 feet from the top of the ridgeline. 

The National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration, and Cessna Aircraft responded to the site. The airplane had impacted the mountain about 50 feet above its final resting spot. Oil was observed from the nose of the airplane to the tail cone.

A further inspection of the airplane will take place following its recovery.

Federal Aviation Administration reviewing whether Allegiant Air filed safety reports on time

The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it is reviewing whether Allegiant Air failed to timely file safety reports detailing mechanical difficulties causing two emergency landings at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport this summer.

The airline filed the "Service Difficulty Reports" about the June 17 and July 3 emergency landings Tuesday. That came after the Tampa Bay Times repeatedly asked the FAA and Allegiant to either provide the reports or explain why they were missing.

Federal regulations require the filing of such reports with the FAA generally within four days. Allegiant declined to discuss the reports for those two flights.

An SDR for a June 8 emergency landing at the airport was filed in a timely manner.

The FAA requires airlines to quickly file safety reports on serious mechanical problems on their planes so the agency can identify potentially dangerous flaws in aircraft systems.

"The FAA is looking into the timeliness of Service Difficulty Reports that Allegiant Air filed in connection with emergency landings on June 17 and July 3," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. "The FAA is working with the carrier to improve its SDR reporting process."

Allegiant has declined to provide much detail on the three emergency landings, so the reports provide the first glimpse of the mechanical issues that may have contributed to them.

On the afternoon of June 8, Allegiant Flight 864 departed St. Pete-Clearwater for Maryland with 141 passengers aboard. Shortly after takeoff, a flight attendant reported "smoke/fumes" like burning rubber, according to the SDR.

The plane made an emergency landing, deploying evacuation slides. Four passengers and a flight attendant suffered minor injuries.

Mechanics combed the aircraft to identify a malfunction. But the FAA report filed by the airline said they were unable to find any problem.

The June 8 incident was similar to the flight of a different Allegiant aircraft a week earlier that never made the news, according to reports reviewed by the Times.

That aircraft was descending into St. Pete-Clearwater when three out of four flight attendants "claim they felt dizzy & became nauseous" due to "smells like gunpowder & a mechanic shop" in the sixth row of passenger seats, an SDR filed for the flight said. Passengers, it noted, smelled nothing.

The pilot landed safely without declaring an emergency. Allegiant mechanics, the report said, could find nothing amiss with the aircraft.

In a statement, Allegiant declined to discuss that flight in detail. "We cannot speculate on the source of an odor for which we found no evidence of the source," the airline said.

On June 17, Allegiant Flight 866 departed the Pinellas airport with 154 passengers, headed to Pittsburgh, before returning for an emergency landing. Allegiant told the FAA that air-conditioning equipment failed, resulting in the aircraft being unable to maintain pressurization. The report said the pilot was forced to descend at the "maximum rate" of 3,000 feet per minute.

An inoperative control valve was later found by mechanics.

On July 3, Allegiant Flight 977 left Asheville, N.C., bound for Punta Gorda, but was forced to divert to St. Pete-Clearwater.

An Allegiant spokesperson had previously said an indicator light in the cockpit pointed to a potential problem with the alignment of the aircraft's spoilers, which rise from the wings to reduce lift during descent.

An SDR filed on the flight confirmed that and noted the problem was simply a broken sensor, which first malfunctioned at 2,000 feet.

Original article can be found here:

D.C., New York flight delays caused by air traffic glitch, Federal Aviation Administration says

A computer problem at a Virginia air traffic control center led to significant flight delays Saturday at airports in the Washington and New York City areas, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Airports with delays included Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where departures were stalled up to two hours as of 1:15 p.m. ET, the FAA said.

An unspecified problem emerged in a computer system that processes flight plans at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, Virginia, forcing the FAA to temporarily halt departures for all planes at the D.C.-area's three major airports, the FAA said.

Flights from at least two Washington-area airports resumed in the early afternoon, said Kimberly Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

But the stoppage had a domino effect, pushing back numerous flights.

The problem also affected planes that were in the sky at the time of the computer problem, with "high-altitude traffic" diverted around the center's airspace, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

A map on flight-tracking website seemed to illustrate the effect: Very few fights were shown over large parts of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware early Saturday afternoon.

More planes were in the airspace by 1:30 p.m., with planes finally departing Washington-area airports. But planes taking off from the Washington airspace were being kept at an elevation of 10,000 feet or lower, images from showed.

Major airlines acknowledged the East Coast delays.

"We have to make last-minute adjustments to flight plans," Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant said. "Flights in and out of the three major D.C.-area airports may be delayed."

"There is an issue with air traffic control impacting all airlines' east coast flights. Please plan accordingly," American Airlines said on Twitter.

The FAA said general delays as of 1:15 p.m. ET included:

• Up to two hours at Baltimore-Washington International Airport

• Up to one hour at Washington Dulles International Airport

• 15 minutes or less at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

• Up to one hour at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport

• Up to 75 minutes at New York's LaGuardia Airport

• Up to 29 minutes at Newark Liberty International Airport