Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Drones spotted near Charleston airport part of growing national trend, Federal Aviation Administration says

Drones are a growing concern among pilots and regulators nationwide as more encounters with “unmanned aerial systems” around airports or as high as 11,000 feet are reported, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Nearly all of the hundreds of documented drone encounters listed in a new FAA report were sightings that did not require quick action to avoid a collision. However, some pilots said that a drone passed too quickly to react. One pilot described putting his plane into a 35-degree bank to create more distance between his aircraft and a nearby drone.

Charleston International Airport made the latest list of places where a drone encounter was reported. There were two such events, both described as minor.

Nonetheless, the airport takes the issue seriously.

Paul Campbell, the Charleston County Aviation Authority’s executive director, said a drone can pose a safety hazard around the airport.

“It’s an issue that’s going to continue to grow and become larger,” said Campbell, who also is a Republican state senator from Charleston. “Some of the drones, especially some of the larger drones, are metal and they can be sucked into a jet engine and cause an issue.”

In March, a helicopter pilot reported a drone about 2 miles east of the airport flying at about 100 feet. In July, the pilot of a six-passenger business jet traveling at 4,000 feet said there was an object that could have been a drone off his right wing about 16 miles southwest of the airport, the FAA report states.

In Greenville, a much closer brush with a drone was reported when a pilot told authorities that the remotely controlled aircraft was flying only 200 feet below his plane, which was traveling at an altitude of 7,500 feet.

Joe Bustos of Mount Pleasant, a pilot and flight instructor, said that if a drone were to hit the small Cessna that he flies, it would go right through the windshield. A drone sucked into a jet engine could prove catastrophic, he said.

“It’s something that I think is going to have to be regulated for the safety of airplanes and people on the ground,” he said.

Bustos said he has seen only one drone while flying, and that was in Florida.

Campbell said he favored restrictions on drone use to protect air safety but did not want to unduly limit them for recreation or business uses, such as aerial photography or surveying.

“I do think that the folks who want to use drones either commercially or privately need to be aware of air traffic control and keep them away from any area where you might encounter an aircraft,” he said.

On Friday night, the FAA released its list of pilot, air traffic controller and citizen reports of possible encounters with drones for the time period from November to August.

“Because pilot reports of unmanned aircraft have increased dramatically over the past year, the FAA wants to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal,” the FAA said in a statement.

“Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time,” the agency said.

In addition to air travel concerns, the news has been buzzing with drone stories, ranging from people who shoot them to towns that ban them. The U.S. Forest Service has tallied 13 wildfires in which suspected drones interfered with firefighting aircraft this year — 11 since late June — up from four fires last year and only scattered incidents before. A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection helicopter pilot told The Associated Press in a story earlier this month that he narrowly avoided a collision with a drone.

The FAA is evaluating more than 4,500 comments it has received on proposed rules for unmanned aircraft, or drones, weighing less than 55 pounds. The agency expects to complete its review and issue the new drone regulations early next year, said spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

In the meantime, more than 1,000 FAA Section 333 exemption requests have been approved for companies that want to use drones. Government and nonprofit organizations are not subject to the FAA rules for commercial drone use. Charleston County has a drone.

The FAA reported more than 500 drone encounters. Most involved pilots, but sometimes a concerned citizen contacted authorities about a drone hovering nearby. The pilot of an inbound airliner at New York’s LaGuardia Airport reported seeing a drone pass under the nose of the plane. The same thing happened to another commercial flight making its final runway approach in Boston, the FAA said.

One airline captain told authorities that a drone passed 100 feet above his aircraft, which was traveling at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Another said that a drone was 200 feet above during a 2-mile final approach at landing. A cargo plane reported a drone 60 feet away while the aircraft was in the midst of a climb to 11,000 feet.

The pilot of a small private plane reported a near-collision with a drone “orbiting” at 8,000 feet in altitude. In another instance, a pilot reported that a drone “passed across his windshield.” A medical helicopter service told authorities that a person flying a drone nearby kept it from taking off.

Source:  http://www.postandcourier.com

Chowchilla Airport (2O6) warehouse location causes angst

  • Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t like the location of building
  • Warehouse was built near runway in a safety zone for airplane takeoffs
  • Madera County planning director said the building shouldn’t have been allowed

Chowchilla Municipal Airport is drawing some scrutiny by the Madera County Board of Supervisors as it works toward updating its plan for aviation facilities.

The Madera County Airport Land Use Commission is in the process of updating land use plans for Madera County airports. Madera County Planning Director Norm Allinder, who is also a commission member, informed the supervisors of the status of the proposed update earlier this month. During the presentation it was revealed that a warehouse building, apparently not approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, was placed near the Chowchilla airport’s runway.

In a telephone interview, District 2 Supervisor David Rogers said he expressed concerns about the building more than a year ago.

“This was brought to my attention as the building was being built and the former city administrator (Mark Lewis) insisted that the FAA had approved it,” Rogers said. “The FAA doesn’t approve.”

The warehouse is in the safety zone for take-offs. Rogers said he has written a letter to the Chowchilla City Council informing them of his concern.

“The main thing is that public safety is a priority,” Rogers said.

Allinder said the building should not have been allowed.

“It wasn’t discussed with us,” Allinder said. “That should have come to us and we would have said, ‘no, that’s not an appropriate building on that site.’”

Allinder said Lewis also told him the FAA approved the building.

“When I approached the city (administrator) at that time, he was defensive and said, ‘oh no, the FAA said it was goood.’ My response to that was, ‘I don’t care what the FAA said. I have an Airport Land Use Plan I have to implement.’”

Allinder said he spoke with FAA officials who did not want the building there.

Rogers said Chowchilla’s leadership needs to rectify the issue.

“We had a city administrator pushing stuff through and I just don’t think that was appropriate. We need some kind of assurances as a community that somebody’s watching the store,” Rogers said.

Source: http://www.mercedsunstar.com

Prescott, Arizona: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student killed in vehicle crash

Khrystyna Gavryushenko in 2013 at the Youth Aviation Academy at the Camarillo Airport.

An Oxnard High School graduate from Crimea was killed Tuesday in a six-car accident in Prescott, Arizona, authorities said.

Khrystyna Gavryushenko, 19, was identified by Prescott police as the victim of Tuesday morning’s crash. Gavryushenko, a 2014 graduate of Oxnard High, was a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott.

Embry-Riddle officials said she was entering her sophomore year and majoring in aviation business administration.

Investigators said the car driven by Gavryushenko collided with another vehicle traveling in the same direction in an adjacent lane. The two cars veered into oncoming traffic, with Gavryushenko’s vehicle colliding head-on with a sedan and then getting hit by a pickup.

Police said Gavryushenko was pronounced dead at the scene.

The drivers of two other vehicles were taken to different hospitals for treatment of serious injuries.

Police believe excessive speed may have played a role in the crash.

Gavryushenko was born in the Crimean city of Yalta, and she and her mother moved to the United States in 2009, according to a Web page she developed before college. She wrote that her goal was to become a commercial airline pilot, and she attended the Youth Aviation Academy at the Camarillo Airport in summer 2013.

Gavryushenko played junior varsity volleyball for Oxnard High in her freshman and sophomore years, but after realizing she wasn’t going to be a starter on the team, she decided to quit to focus on her studies, said Pat Casey, Oxnard’s volleyball team coach.

Casey said Gavryushenko was a “smart, nice young woman” and a “good athlete.”

He repeated those sentiments to students in his freshman English class last year when Gavryushenko visited her alma mater to say hello to some former teachers. During the visit, Casey joked that Gavryushenko was probably the most popular person at Embry-Riddle by then, he said

“She was very well-liked,” Casey said.

At Embry-Riddle, Gavryushenko was president of an archery club and a member of the Air Line Pilots Association’s collegiate club, the university said in a news release on its website.

“Khrystyna was a bright student and a very popular young lady on campus,” Dean of Students Larry Stephan said in the release. “Her tragic accident is a tremendous loss to our students and our faculty and staff who knew and respected Khrystyna. Our deepest sympathy goes out to her family and friends.”

Embry-Riddle is planning a campus memorial service, the release said.

Source:   http://www.vcstar.com 

On Tuesday August 25th, 2015 at approximately 0730 Prescott Police Officers and emergency medical personnel responded to the 2500 block of Willow Creek Road for a report of a collision involving several vehicles.

Officers learned that a total of six vehicles were involved in the accident. Based on witness statements and evidence on scene, investigators determined that a Mazda Sedan, driven by 19 year old Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Student Khrystyna Gavryushenko of California was traveling northbound on Willow Creek Road when it collided with a Volkswagen Jetta traveling in the same direction in the adjacent lane. As they collided, both vehicles entered into the oncoming (southbound) lanes of traffic. Gavryushenko’s vehicle collided head on with a white Honda Sedan driven by a 28-year-old Prescott man. He sustained serious injuries and was flown from the scene to a Flagstaff hospital for treatment. His current condition is unknown.

[Editor's note: According to verified information, the victim flown to the Flagstaff hospital is a Prescott High School teacher. He has a severely broken leg, but no life-threatening injuries. It was expected that he will need surgery today.]

Gavryushenko’s vehicle was then struck on the driver’s side by a Chevy pick-up truck. The driver of the pick-up truck was transported to Yavapai Regional Medical Center West in Prescott with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries. His current condition is unknown.

Unfortunately, Gavryushenko sustained major injuries and was pronounced deceased on scene as a result of the collision. 

Related: Embry-Riddle Prescott Mourns Loss Of Student Following Accident

After the initial impact, the Jetta continued to travel northbound in opposing traffic, striking several other vehicles in the roadway. None of the drivers or occupants of the other vehicles sustained major injuries that were reported at the time.

Willow Creek Road was closed in both directions immediately following the crash while the incident is under investigation. At this time the roadway remains closed and will be closed for at least several more hours.

Members of the Prescott Police Department Traffic Safety Section are investigating the collision and will study the scene and the evidence to determine the cause and contributing factors of the collision. However at this time, it is believed that excessive speed may have played a role in the cause and severity of the crash.

Source:  http://www.prescottenews.com

United flight lands safely in Austin after fuel emergency

2:10 p.m. update: A United flight has landed safely after calling in a fuel emergency to the Austin airport.

The flight triggered an alert after the pilot notified the airport that the plane only had about 30 minutes of fuel remaining as it approached, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport spokesman Jim Halbrook said. The airplane was 30 miles from the airport when the pilot made the report, which was easily close enough for the plane to land safely.

The plane landed on runway 35 Right, approaching from the southeast. All other recent take offs and landings were using the airport’s other runway, Halbrook said.

Earlier: Austin firefighters are responding to an aircraft emergency near the airport, officials said Tuesday afternoon.

The incident was reported around 1:50 p.m. at 10185 Hotel Drive, a few blocks from the Hilton Austin Airport hotel, officials said.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

State sells surplus planes

SPRINGFIELD - More than a year after former Gov. Pat Quinn floated the idea as a populist cost-cutting move, Illinois has sold the last of its surplus aircraft.

In an announcement Tuesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced four planes and one helicopter were sold at a price reduced from last year's failed attempt to sell part of the fleet.

The total take of more than $2.5 million was lower what had been sought during Quinn's tenure, but Rauner said the state would save an estimated $1 million by avoiding the cost of inspections and repairs.

"The successful sale of the state's surplus aircraft is some much needed good news for taxpayers," Rauner said in a statement.

Under Quinn, nine of the state's aircraft were ordered to be sold. But, after three auctions, five of the aircraft remained unsold.

Although Rauner credited the latest sale to improved marketing of the aircraft, the lower price tag on some of them also may have helped.

For example, a 2000 Beechcraft King Air was sold for $1.7 million, down from the $2.49 million is was being offered for in 2014.

A 1991 Sikorsky helicopter sold for $515,161, down from last year's minimum bid of $933,000.

"The new sales plan helped maximize the return on investment for Illinois taxpayers, pushing total revenues from the sales of the aircraft to more than 90% of the estimated average value, for a total value of more than $2.5 million," a statement noted.

Other planes sold include: a 1979 Cessna C337H for $56,000.00; a 1986 Cessna C182R for $54,161.00; and, a 1985 Cessna C421C for $181,140.00.

Source:  http://herald-review.com

Plane Crash in Christiana was just a rumor

A rumor of an unfounded plane crash in Rutherford County was just that, a rumor. 

News Channel 5 reported that a call was made to 9-1-1 on Tuesday morning that led authorities to Christiana where someone reported seeing two small ultra-light aircraft's flying side by side. Channel 5 said the caller reported one of the two planes spiraled to the ground, but could not tell dispatch exactly where it crashed.

WGNS confirmed with Lisa Marchesoni at the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office that the incident was only a rumor. No plane crash actually occurred.

Source:  http://wgnsradio.com

CHRISTIANA, Tenn. – An investigation is underway in Rutherford County after a witness reported seeing a small plane crash over the weekend. So far, no wreckage has been found.

An eye witness told NewsChannel 5 that he was driving along Highway 231 near Christiana, when he spotted two small aircraft flying closely to one another.

He said it appeared they bumped into one another and then one spiraled down out of control in a plume of smoke. At that point, he called 911.

Deputies responded to the general area, but have not yet found any wreckage.

The official dispatch report indicated the aircraft could have originated in Shelbyville. However, air control has not reported any missing planes.

It's possible some pilots may have taken off without filing any flight plans. Investigators are working to piece together what may have happened.

Anyone with information was asked to contact the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.

Story and video: http://www.scrippsmedia.com

Tullahoma Regional (KTHA), Tennessee: Airport Authority Well Prepared

(L to R): TAA Chairman Sam Crimm, Commissioner Randy Boyd, TAA Member Col. Jim Apple at the Clayton-American City Bank Terminal at the Tullahoma Municipal Airport

Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd made a brief site visit to the Tullahoma Municipal Airport last week to discuss with airport officials and economic and community development staff the impact of recent legislation affecting Tennessee’s airports and their capital improvement programs.

Airport Authority Chairman Sam Crimm and Authority member Jim Apple briefed the commissioner on the progress that had been made at the Tullahoma airport in the area of economic development and Apple stressed the importance of maintaining a strong facility improvement program for Tennessee’s general aviation airports. 

Tullahoma Area Economic Development Corporation (TAEDC), Executive Director Thom Robinson gave an overview of aviation and aerospace projects and facilities in Tullahoma.

“We have one of the top 5 general-aviation airports in the state,” said Airport Authority Chairman, Sam Crimm. “It’s a facility we are extremely proud of, and gives the city an edge in recruiting businesses.”

Commissioner Boyd noted the many improvements that had been made in Tullahoma and stated that the Tullahoma Airport Authority was very well prepared.

Source:  http://www.thunder1320.com

A New (Cheaper) Frontier Airlines, With More Fees and Less Legroom: Carrier’s money-saving tactics pay off, but customers aren’t happy

The Wall Street Journal
By Jack Nicas
Updated Aug. 24, 2015 9:46 p.m. ET

DENVER—Executives behind the rise of ultradiscounter Spirit Airlines Inc. are now transforming this city’s hometown carrier—Frontier Airlines Inc.—into a Spirit copycat, part of the rapid expansion of a business model that is introducing millions of U.S. fliers to lower fares, more fees and less legroom.

Since the investment firm of Bill Franke, Spirit’s former owner and chairman, bought troubled Frontier in late 2013, the new owners have ousted Frontier’s chief executive, outsourced more than a quarter of its workforce, packed more seats onto planes, removed seat-back TVs, and started charging for carry-on bags, seat reservations and soft drinks. This month, Frontier jettisoned its toll-free number to save money.

The moves have paid off. Boosted in part by cheap fuel, the closely held carrier earned more last year—$129 million—than in the entire decade prior. Now Frontier is embarking on an expansion that aims to more than double its fleet to at least 114 jets by 2022. Mr. Franke is also weighing a public offering for the carrier next year.

But the airline’s customers aren’t happy. This year through June, nearly one-third of Frontier flights were at least 15 minutes late and almost 1% were canceled, its worst first-half rates in at least a decade. One of every 10,000 Frontier customers has complained to the Transportation Department this year for issues including customer service, baggage handling and refunds, 10 times Frontier’s rate in 2012. Only one U.S. carrier’s delays and complaint rates have been worse this year: Spirit.

In Denver, where the Frontier brand was founded in the 1950s, the backlash has been sharp. The hometown carrier had been known for friendly service, leather seats and animal mascots painted on its planes. Flight attendants sometimes handed out warm cookies in the coach cabin.

David Hubbard, a software consultant from Highlands Ranch, Colo., who has flown Frontier for decades, said the new management is ruining the carrier with unreliable operations, uncomfortable seats and a paltry loyalty program. “They’ve already lost the loyal business travelers like myself,” said Mr. Hubbard, who recently stopped flying the carrier. “They bring in people on their reputation and then they’re burning them so badly that they don’t ever want to hear the word Frontier again.”

Barry Biffle, the former No. 2 executive at Spirit whom Mr. Franke hired to ultimately run Frontier, said the carrier recently removed elite-flier perks like complimentary checked bags and free alcohol because “customers were receiving more than they were paying for.” Frontier was losing tens of millions of dollars and was nearing liquidation before Mr. Franke bought the airline, current and former executives said.

Customers are upset, but many are starting to understand, said Mr. Biffle about the changes. “It’s like the stages of grief: there’s shock, denial, and so forth. You eventually move to acceptance, and we’re pretty close,” he said.

Don Moore, a Frontier flight attendant since 2010, said he is still unsure about all the changes. Tighter seating and more outsourced workers are upsetting fliers, but he enjoyed the profit-sharing check he recently received as a veteran employee. “I want to take management’s side but I also want to understand customers,” he said. “As an employee, who am I to say don’t turn a profit?”

In two years, Frontier has pulled about two-fifths of its flights from Denver, which once accounted for half its network, because the market is highly competitive. Frontier is using those planes to expand in cities such as Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and Cleveland.

The moves set up a face-off between Frontier and Spirit, pitting two friends against one another: Mr. Biffle and Spirit Chief Executive Ben Baldanza. They joined Spirit from US Airways in 2005 and became ultradiscount protégés of Mr. Franke after he bought Spirit a year later.

Messrs. Baldanza and Biffle cut costs and fares at Spirit, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing and most profitable airlines, by adding denser seating, flying more each day and selling tickets that include little more than a seat on the plane. In the process, Spirit gained notoriety for irreverent ads, garish yellow planes, seats that don’t recline and a $3 fee for water.

But now Messrs. Franke and Biffle say their thinking on the ultradiscount model has evolved. The men are trying to position Frontier as a mainstream alternative—with friendly service, free cups of water and slightly wider, more cushioned seats—in a bid to attract a broader set of customers who can spend more than the bare minimum.

“You can charge for bags, but you would like people to actually have bags,” said Mr. Biffle, a 43-year-old Texas native who drives a Ford F-150 truck to Frontier’s one-story headquarters.

Mr. Baldanza has long criticized Frontier’s aim to be an ultradiscounter, and he is skeptical of its attempts to adapt the model. In a June interview, he said that Spirit cuts costs ruthlessly to offer cheap fares and that spending more to please customers “is a slippery slope.”

In an interview earlier this month, Mr. Franke, his former boss, said, “I can accept the fact that Ben would disagree because I trained Ben to disagree with what I’m telling you. But that said, I now think there is a kinder, gentler way.”

Mr. Biffle, Frontier’s president, spends a lot of time making that pitch. In a recent meeting at Frontier headquarters, he strategized on how to explain to local reporters a new discounted bundle of extras, including two bags, extra legroom and no change fees.

He compares the extras to toppings on a pizza—the bundle is officially called “the works”—so he hand-delivered two dozen supreme pizzas to local news organizations. “If you only sell cheese pizzas, you can’t make as much money as if you sell a lot of toppings,” he said.

Corrections & Amplifications

One of every 10,000 Frontier Airlines Inc. customers has complained to the Transportation Department this year for issues including customer service, baggage handling and refunds. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said one of every 100 Frontier customers has complained.

Original article can be found here:   http://www.wsj.com

Drone danger: Analysis reveals four near-misses in Las Vegas skies

In February, a Robinson R44 helicopter observed a drone flying 100 feet underneath it near the Bank of America building in Downtown Las Vegas. A few months later, in July, a Eurocopter EC35 traveling at 3,000 feet nearly collided with a drone flying 1,000 feet away about a mile north of the Rio.

These incidents represent two of the four reported incidents in the valley in which drone aircraft nearly crashed with manned aircraft, according to an analysis of FAA data since November.

The reports include sightings in which manned aircraft came into close proximity of a drone or were at risk of colliding with one.

Last Friday, the FAA released data about the time, place and location of sightings since November. The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College analyzed that information, finding that there were 295 incidents in which there was a risk of collision across the country.

In the Las Vegas Valley, there were four near misses, all with helicopters, and one sighting from a small plane. The one sighting in the valley occurred this May, when a light-sport Flight Design CTLS observed a small black drone operating at about 3,650 feet near the North Las Vegas Airport.

As the FAA has loosened its restrictions on drones in recent months, the agency has reported that the number of close calls with manned aircraft has soared across the country. In 2014, manned pilots reported 238 sightings to the FAA. By Aug. 9 of 2015, that number had nearly tripled to about 650.

Unmanned aircraft collisions, particularly if the drone collides with a helicopter rotor, could be fatal for pilots and their passengers.

Source:  http://lasvegassun.com