Saturday, September 12, 2015

Skystar Kitfox Series 5, N4291R: Accident occurred September 12, 2015 at Mexican Mountain Airstrip, Emery County, Utah

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items  -   National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

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

NTSB Identification: GAA15CA257
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 12, 2015 in Green River, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/05/2015
Aircraft: GLENN TIMOTHY C SKYSTAR SERIES 5, registration: N4291R
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 reported that while on short final about 20 feet above the ground, he noticed the "attitude was a little flat." He reported that the airplane lost altitude "so fast, he didn't have time to react or even think to put the nose down or add power". The airplane impacted terrain, which resulted in substantial damage to the left wing. 

The pilot reported that his conclusion as to why the accident occurred was that the airplane "flat" stalled about 15 to 20 feet above the ground because he was "so focused on hitting the front of the runway" and didn't keep the airspeed "up."

The pilot reported no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain pitch attitude, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and a subsequent aerodynamic stall/spin.

NTSB Identification: GAA15CA257 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 12, 2015 in Green River, UT
Aircraft: GLENN TIMOTHY C SKYSTAR SERIES 5, registration: N4291R
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 reported that while on short final about 20 feet above the ground, he noticed the "attitude was a little flat." He reported that the airplane lost altitude "so fast, he didn't have time to react or even think to put the nose down or add power". The airplane impacted terrain, which resulted in substantial damage to the left wing.

The pilot reported that his conclusion as to why the accident occurred was that the airplane "flat" stalled about 15 to 20 feet above the ground because he was "so focused on hitting the front of the runway" and didn't keep the airspeed "up."

The pilot reported no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

EMERY COUNTY, Utah — Both occupants of a small aircraft that made a hard landing short of an airstrip in a remote area of Emery County Saturday morning were uninjured.

According to information from the Emery County Sheriff’s Office, reports came in just before 10 a.m. that a small plane had crashed short of the Mexican Mountain Airstrip, which is in a remote area of Emery County.

The pilot, a 57-year-old man from Heber City, and the passenger, a 59-year-old man from Park City, were visiting remote airstrips in the area, and the pilot reported the aircraft stalled as they were approaching the runway, forcing them to make a hard landing about 173 feet short of the runway. The plane skidded 41 feet after touching down, according to the press release.

There were no injuries reported.

The aircraft is homemade and about 18 years old, and the plane suffered “significant damage,” according to the sheriff’s office. The wheels were snapped off, the propellers broke off, and both wings were bent as a result of the crash.

A helicopter was dispatched to the area, and both men were taken by air to Price Airport. The FAA and NTSB have been notified of the crash, according to the sheriff’s office.

The press release states: “The Mexican Mountain Airstrip is 16 miles east of Swinging Bridge, a state historical site, on the San Rafael Desert. “

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King Air E-90, N48W: Plane Registered to Oklahoma Company Seized by Immigration Officials

(KOKH)-Agents from Customs and Border Protection seized an airplane in McAllen, Texas that is registered to an Oklahoma company.

The plane was in the process of smuggling seven illegal aliens, a news release said.

Agents at the McAllen airport were doing an immigration inspection on the Beech King Air E90 that was about to depart. Agents found all seven people on the plane were in the US illegally.

The pilot, who was not identified, was released.

The airplanes tail number is registered to the Platina Investment Corporation of Oklahoma City. A search of the plane's flight history shows multiple trips between Wiley Post in Oklahoma city and McAllen and Brownsville near the border.

American Jet Charter out of Bethany shows on its website that it operates the aircraft. A call to the company wasn't immediately returned.

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Incident occurred September 12, 2015 at Smyrna Airport (KMQY), Tennessee

SMYRNA, Tenn. - A small plane had to make an emergency landing Saturday morning.

Smyrna officials said the aircraft reported some landing gear issues.

A fire crew was called to the Smyrna Airport as a precaution, but the plane was able to land with no problem.

The two people on board were not hurt. Their identities were not released.

Authorities said it was unclear where the plane originated from. 


Lakeland, Wisconsin, unveils streamlined aviation program

Lakeland senior Matt Derse performs preflight checks Wednesday Sept. 9, at Sheboygan County Memorial Airport near Sheboygan Falls.

As a young boy, Christian Gillaspie took great pleasure in watching airplanes fly over his home in southwestern Wisconsin.

It wasn't often he had the privilege, as airplanes didn't fly over his neck of the woods frequently, Gillaspie recalls. But when they did, Gillaspie said he would jump up from his seat and race outside to catch a glimpse of the soaring vehicle.

Perhaps the airplanes' sparse visits added to the intrigue of flying for the now 20-year-old Gillaspie, who is minoring in aviation at Lakeland College.

"It's something that probably most kids dream about," Gillaspie said. "Flying's my passion, I guess you could say."

A total of 20 students are now enrolled in the aviation program at Lakeland College, which is the only four-year institution in the state to offer an aviation degree.

In its fifth year, instructors say the program has undergone significant changes from when it first started in an effort to streamline students' path to graduation and to produce more quality aviators, including both recreational and commercial pilots.

The program shift comes at a time when the airline industry is facing a projected mass shortage of pilots, as large numbers of commercial pilots near retirement in the coming years, according to published reports.

And Wisconsin is the place to be if you're interested in flying, said Brandon Molina, who last year joined the Lakeland staff as an aviation instructor.

"We are in the mecca of aviation," Molina said. "You've got the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Oshkosh is only a 15-minute flight from here.

"For us (at Lakeland), being as small as we are, we can focus on making it more than just a program or a degree," Molina continued. "It's really understanding what the profession is about, and that's what I think our industry needs to take on as well."

In addition to adding Molina to the staff, Lakeland also hired a second flight instructor, Steve Vaught, who began his role with the college over the summer by teaching a course to a handful of high school students for college credit.

The school also now has classroom space on the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport grounds, and the program boasts two Cirrus SR20 aircraft, both of which include glass cockpits and Cirrus Aircraft Parachute Systems.

"These are the sports cars of aircraft," Molina said in a news release from the college.

Students interested in enrolling in the program have two paths available. The college was recently granted Federal Aviation Administration classification for its Part 141 certification, the path taken by those looking to obtain a commercial pilot license. The new certification means students' paths to obtaining their licenses will be streamlined, as fewer flight hours are required.

Lakeland also continues to offer Part 61 certification, which features fewer classroom hours but requires more flight time, according to the news release. The option is most viable for non-degree-seeking students or non-Lakeland students who want to work toward a private or commercial license.

Most of the students in the program are perhaps still undecided about whether they'll become career pilots, but the way the program is designed allows them time and the opportunity to make that decision, said Molina.

"You're not going to come out of any program and jump right into the airlines. They require a given hour amount," Molina said. "What Lakeland has said is for people who may in the future think about becoming a pilot, we're going to offer this minor, but require them to take a major so they can start a career ... and instruct and find out 'Do I want to make aviation a career or make it a hobby?'"

Gillaspie says he's still undecided about his future career. Going into the program, he never intended to become a professional airline pilot, but is interested in instructing.

Meanwhile, he's also majoring in business and said he'll weigh his options when he graduates.

"I really do enjoy the flying," Gillaspie said. "If I could get a nice job with that, that’d probably be the way I’d go."


Lakeland senior Matt Derse takes flight with Instructor of Aviation Brandon Molina Wednesday, Sept. 9, at Sheboygan County Memorial Airport near Sheboygan Falls. The two were flying to Appleton, where Derse would get some practice in dealing with a control tower.

Dreamliner snags, pilot shortage send Air India schedules haywire

NEW DELHI: A crippling shortage of Dreamliner pilots -- caused by a spate of resignations in recent months -- along with snags in this aircraft is now playing havoc with Air India flight schedules. 

The Delhi-Hong Kong-Osaka-Hong Kong-Delhi flight that was supposed to depart on Friday night had to be cancelled due to unavailability of cockpit crew to operate it. The flight finally took off on Saturday night and that too for operating only on Delhi-Hong Kong-Delhi route without going to Japan. 

Earlier this week, two Boeing 787s suffered snags in Paris on successive nights due to which they had to be grounded there for a day each. "A night departure from the west need an aircraft that is completely snag free. Because if there is a snag and rectifying that takes time, night curfew for flights kicks in those places and then we can't take off," said a source.

While Boeing is trying to address the issue of Dreamliner snags, resignation of pilots trained to fly these planes in AI is now acquiring serious dimensions. On June 19, 2015, a large number of Dreamliner pilots from erstwhile Indian Airlines had sought no objection certificate from the airline to quit over the management's continued failure to have pay parity between them and their counterparts of erstwhile and Air India even eight years after the two airlines were merged. Sources say there are about 70 pilots from IA side on the Dreamliner and most of them are in the same state of mind. 

An IA commander on the Dreamliner gets about Rs 3.5 lakh a month while his or her AI counterpart gets Rs 6.5 lakh for doing exactly the same job, thanks to the failure to have pay parity in the merged airline. "We perform the same duties as our counterparts in AI.... Even AI first officers (co-pilots) earn more than us, which is extremely humiliating and demeaning," the letter written on June 19 to the airline management said. 

AI new CMD Ashwani Lohani, in a letter to employees on Friday, assured to redress genuine grievances while seeking their full cooperation. Lohani is learnt to have made pay parity one of his priorities in the merged AI.

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Old military balloon hangar near Sausalito gets new use

A historic balloon hangar in the Rodeo Valley near Sausalito is getting a makeover after surviving various military and National Park Service uses for more than 90 years.

The hangar at Fort Barry was built as part of the U.S. Army’s very brief experiment using tethered balloons as part of the nation’s system of coastal defenses.

Constructed in 1921 and abandoned for balloon use the same year, the structure is the only surviving hangar of its type that actually housed an army balloon, and one of only two examples of its type known to survive in the country, according to a report done for the National Park Service.

Over the years it has been used for military storage, a motorpool workshop during World War II, a repair shop for antiaircraft surface-to-air missiles during the Cold War-era and more recently as a horse riding arena.

“It’s a pretty cool structure with some interesting history,” said Rich Melbostad, project manager for the park service.

In recent weeks the structure’s sheet metal coating — which was covered with asbestos — was slowly peeled away and disposed of, leaving its naked Tinker-Toy-like structure exposed. That was then covered with white tarp to trap lead paint and rust that was being blasted off the steel structure, its beams stamped “Carnegie Steel.” Epoxy paint will then be applied and new and historically accurate shell — minus the asbestos — will be put on.

“We are stabilizing this to keep it from falling down,” Melbostad said. “It’s not so much a restoration as a stabilization.”

Between construction and clean up, the work will cost about $1.8 million. It’s new use upon completion in March: storage for large park service maintenance vehicles. Not the most thrilling use, but a needed one, officials said.

The airy space is about 10,000 square feet, stands 60 feet tall and looms behind the Presidio Riding Club stables just off the road to Rodeo Beach.

“The hangar was used as a riding rink for equestrians, one of its many uses,” said Jason Hagin, historical architect for the park service.

The equestrian use was its latest incarnation. The first was as a balloon hangar, completed on June 27, 1921. It is believed the 24th Balloon Company moved its balloon into the new structure not long after.

Then the work began on how to use the balloons for military purposes.

“Experiments continued ... into 1921 on various techniques for directing artillery fire. The first method was the simplest, consisting of a single balloon with two observers in the wicker basket watching for the splash (called ‘the fall of shot’) when a shell landed near a target, and relaying corrections back to the (gun) battery,” according to the park service report.

A long telephone line was strung from the basket to the ground.

“There were no cellphones in those days,” Hagin said.

High winds would wreak havoc with the balloons on blustery Bay Area days and before the end of 1921 the balloon companies were removed from the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco, according to the park service report.

“The balloons did not last very long at all, but the building has held up all these years,” Hagin noted. “Now we are making it safe. It’s an interesting part of history.”

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Vodochody L-39 Albatros, N139RT, Float Dancer Inc: Fatal accident occurred September 12, 2015 at Scott Municipal Airport (KSCX) Oneida, Tennessee


NTSB Identification: ERA15FA353
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 12, 2015 in Oneida, TN
Aircraft: AERO L 39 ALBATROS, registration: N139RT
Injuries: 1 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 September, 12, 2015, about 1625 eastern daylight time, an Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros, N139RT, operated by a private individual, was destroyed when it impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from Scott Municipal Airport (SCX), Oneida, Tennessee. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the local airshow performance flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The single engine, two-seat, high-performance airplane was manufactured as a basic and advanced military jet trainer. It was equipped with an Ivchenko AI-25TL turbofan engine.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the accident airplane was manufactured in 1983, and purchased by the pilot on October 7, 1999. It was issued an FAA experimental special airworthiness certificate in the exhibition category on October 23, 1999.

The airplane was flown to SCX by the pilot the day prior, to perform in the Wings Over Big South Fork airshow that was being held on the day of the accident. Witnesses reported that the pilot was scheduled to be the final performer in the airshow and the airplane departed from runway 23, a 5,506-foot-long, asphalt runway. A witness located near the departure end of the runway, stated that the airplane did not appear to be climbing as quickly as other jet-powered airplanes he had previously observed. The airplane made a right turn and pitched-up to gain altitude when "the engine failed." The airplane subsequently entered a "sliding turn" and descended nose first toward the ground. Several witnesses reported that a "puff of smoke" exited the airplane's exhaust prior to the airplane's taxi to the runway. The airboss, who cleared the airplane for takeoff reported no distress calls or abnormal communications from the pilot prior to the accident.

The airplane impacted trees about 2 miles west of the departure end of runway 23, in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The airplane was severely fragmented and partially consumed by a postimpact fire. A debris path began around a group of about 75-foot-tall broken trees, and continued on a heading about 120 degrees, for about 325 feet, over sloped, uneven terrain, to the engine. Portions of all major parts of the airframe were identified in the debris path. The engine was impact and fire damaged. Visual examination of the last stage turbine assembly did not reveal any damage consistent with an internal catastrophic failure. The airplane was equipped with ejection seats. One ejection seat rocket motor was found discharged and one parachute was located in the debris path; however, its respective envelope was not inflated. The wreckage was retained for further examination to be performed at a later date.

The airplane was maintained under an FAA approved maintenance program. Initial review of maintenance records revealed that the airplane's most recent condition inspection was performed on April 2, 2015.

The pilot reported 6,000 hours of total flight experience on his most recent application for an FAA second-class medical certificate, which was issued in December 2014.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Nashville FSDO-19

Any witnesses should email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Jay "Flash" Gordon

(WBIR-SCOTT COUNTY) Crews recovered the wreckage Tuesday of a jet that crashed while performing at an air show in Scott County over the weekend, killing the pilot.

Jay Gordon, of Louisville, Kentucky, was flying a vintage military jet at the Wings Over Big South Fork Air Show on Saturday when the plane suddenly took a nose dive to the ground. He was the only person on board.

The plane crashed in a remote area of the Big South Fork River and Recreation area that can only be reached by ATV's or by walking. Crews were able to recover Gordon's body late Saturday, but it took several days to arrange to retrieve the wreckage.

On Tuesday, a helicopter flew between the crash site and the Scott County Municipal Airport, ferrying pieces of the wreckage that were attached by long cables by crews on the ground.

Gordon was well-known in the aviation world. His obituary says he was an accomplished acrobatics pilot that has performed at air shows for more than 20 years.

Gordon had logged more than 10,000 hours as a pilot, and had close calls before. In 1998, he got away with only minor injuries during a take-off and landing exercise on the Ohio River in a floatplane. He told the Courier Journal then that he found himself hanging from his safety straps, watching the river come up toward him after the plane nosed over on landing.

His friends and family will hold a memorial this weekend.


Crews recover wreckage of Vodochody L-39 Albatros plane that crashed during air show.

For a while, some in Louisville vilified Jay Gordon because he owned the company that tested cars for air pollution. 

The Louisville aerobatic pilot who died in a Tennessee plane crash over the weekend was an air quality pioneer who used flight to champion math and science with young people while giving generously to local institutions, friends and acquaintances recalled on Monday.

Jay "Flash" Gordon liked fast cars and even faster airplanes. And while  the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the accident that killed him on Saturday while he was flying a high-performance Russian jet at an air show near Knoxville, Gordon was being remembered as a visionary who used his intelligence, entrepreneurial spirit and positive attitude to build a successful business and give back to the community.

While in his 20s, Gordon took a startup company and, by the late 1990s, turned it into one of the world's largest businesses that tested motor vehicle emissions, helping cities and states comply with tightening regulations and cleaning up their air, including Louisville's. The company, Gordon-Darby, still provides those services in Arizona and also offers license sales system to state governments, according to its website.

"He was just a Kentucky boy from a hard-working family,"  said Laura Jones, an aviation consultant who said she gave Gordon his first flight lesson in 1992 and became close friends. "This is the American Dream."

She said he got an idea, and went to the bank and got a loan.  "He was a brilliant man. He was so proud of his accomplishments, and that he was doing something really good for air quality," she said.

Became "VET" villain

For a while in the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, Gordon was also vilified as the owner of the company that ran Jefferson County's motor vehicle emissions testing program, known as "the VET," as it became increasingly unpopular while cars and trucks were becoming cleaner. The Kentucky General Assembly forced the end of emissions testing in Louisville in 2003.

The Courier-Journal profiled Gordon in 1999, writing that his "fortune is built on a program that many people consider at best a hassle and at worst a waste of their money, and ever since Jefferson County officials proposed increasing the emissions-testing fee, Gordon-Darby, and its founder and majority owner, have become the focus on heated, often personal, criticism."

The news report said television news had "portrayed him as a person who buys expensive toys with profits squeezed from local residents." But the newspaper pointed out that by far most of the company's earnings came from out of state.

"Jay was a convenient whipping post for that animosity," recalled Art Williams, a Louisville attorney and retired director of the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District. "He didn't deserve the criticism."

Williams said the company's contracts with the county were always on the up-and-up. He said Gordan's financial success actually came in large part because he invented testing procedures that were widely used nationwide. He said the University of Louisville-trained engineer recognized early on that the Clean Air Act was going to force pollution reductions from motor vehicles as cities struggled to meet health standards.

Louisville's long-standing problem with smog allowed Gordon, in 1984, at just 28 years old, to help pioneer emissions inspection and maintenance programs that were later put in place in many other cities or states, Williams added.

"He was a visionary," Williams said.

In the newspaper's profile, Gordon attributed his affinity for fast cars, airplanes and other "such expensive playthings" in part to a heart attack he said he had at age 38  and heart bypass surgery in 1998. "I am playing hard because I can now," he told a reporter.

Williams said Gordon "lived his life as fully as anybody I have ever known."

Major gifts

He also shared his wealth, and expertise, friends and colleagues said Monday. Jones said he contributed to a variety of causes and local nonprofit agencies in Louisville, from math and science literacy to parks, the arts and at-risk children. She said he also saw flying as a way to raise public interest in science and math.

John Usher, who is acting dean of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, said Gordon had been on the school's Industrial Board of Advisors for at least 25 years. He said he gave the school $250,000 in 1999 to help set up a computer lab and $600,000 in 2010 to help renovate the school's Duthie Building.

"He was just such a great guy," Usher said. "He was positive, enthusiastic and charismatic. He will certainly be greatly missed."

Judy Lambert, the chief executive officer of Maryhurst, said Gordon was a good friend of the treatment center for abused and neglected girls.

"Jay's generosity for Maryhurst was very instrumental in helping Maryhurst help the most traumatized kids in Kentucky,"  she said. "When Maryhurst was building a wellness center, Jay stood up and made a $250,000 contribution so we could complete the project.”

Many Louisville residents will also remember Gordon for his two-decades long participation in Thunder over Louisville, the Kentucky Derby Festival's signature event.

Not only did he fly, but also was part of "the inner circle" that solved logistical and other problems, said Matt Gibson, vice president of the event for the festival.

The annual air show needs a center marker to help pilots like those with the Blue Angels know where they are, Gibson said. High, turbulent water in 2014 meant that a boat could not do the job. But Gordon engineered and helped build a suspended, floating marker that allowed river debris to pass safely underneath, Gibson said.

"He was always willing to go the extra mile," he added.

Outreach to children

Witnesses at the Wings Over the South Fork air show saw Gordon's L-39 Albatros go into a nose dive and not pull up, according to the Associated Press. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman said it would be a week or two before the agency issued a report.

Gordon's friend and fellow pilot, Jones, said he was a highly skilled pilot who had trained with the top aerobatic pilots in the world, who had an "excellent" airplane. She said he had logged more than 10,000 hours in the air, the equivalent of more than 400 days. She said he would be saddened if his accident discouraged others from flying.

To Gordon, flying was also an act of giving back, she added.

She said he made a point to talk with children about flying. "He'd go to air shows and reach out to the kids. The beautiful things he did in the sky. That's mathematics, that's physics."

And children wanted to see him, she said.

"He was the star of the show. He was the finale. He was Flash Gordon."

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ONEIDA, Tenn. —A Louisville pilot was killed Saturday during an air show in Tennessee. 

 According to our CBS affiliate WVLT, pilot Jay "Flash" Gordon of Louisville, died Saturday in a crash.

The crash happened at the Wings Over Big South Fork Air Show in Scott County, Tennessee.

According WVLT, the pilot's nephew, Blake Dunlap, says Gordon made the plane dive to perform a trick maneuver when the plane crashed.

Gordon was the only person on board the  Vodochody L-39 Albatros aircraft.

The Vice President of communications for the Kentucky Derby Festival released a statement regarding Gordan's death:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of longtime performer Jay "Flash" Gordon tonight.  He has flown in the Thunder Over Louisville Air Show for many years. More than a performer, Jay was a member of the Derby Festival and Thunder family. In recent years, his flying experience and engineering expertise have helped keep Thunder's air show going. His passion for flying and love of Thunder will truly be missed." - Amiee Boyd

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WLKY's Rick Van Hoose took off with pilot Jay "Flash" Gordon over the weekend.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Louisville pilot was killed when his plane crashed during an airshow in Oneida, Tennessee, sources tell WDRB News. 

Local authorities near the crash site have not released the pilot’s name, but the Aero Club of Louisville based at Bowman Field confirms to WDRB News that it’s Jay Gordon.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirms that an Vodochody L-39 Albatros aircraft crashed at 4:30 p.m. Saturday while participating in the airshow at Scott Municipal Airport in Tennessee.

According to the ‘Wings Over Big South Fork Air Show and Car Show’ website, that’s the same type of aircraft that Gordon was scheduled to fly this weekend.

The FAA says only the pilot was on board during the crash. We’re told local authorities will release the name and condition of the pilot and then the FAA will release the aircraft registration after that.

The FAA is investigating and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine probable cause.

Jay "Flash" Gordon was a staple at Thunder Over Louisville. He has flown his L-39 Albatros in the Kentucky Derby Festival event for several years.

Aimee Boyd with Kentucky Derby Festival says, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of longtime performer Jay "Flash" Gordon tonight. He has flown in the Thunder Over Louisville Air Show for many years. More than a performer, Jay was a member of the Derby Festival and Thunder family. In recent years, his flying experience and engineering expertise have helped keep Thunder's air show going. His passion for flying and love of Thunder will truly be missed."

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 Jay Gordon 
(Courtesy: Gordon-Darby Inc.) 


  An emergency helicopter takes off to assist in the rescue effort after a plane crash during an air show Sept. 12, 2015, in Oneida, Tennessee.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – A beloved Louisville pilot has died in a Tennessee air show Saturday afternoon. 

According to WBIR, Jay "Flash" Gordon's aircraft crashed at the Wings Over Big South Fork Air Show in Oneida, Tennessee.

Gordon was the only person on board the single-engine plane.

"I saw him, he was going kind of in a nose dive. First didn't think anything about it because I figured he would pull up and come on," he said. "When we saw the puff of smoke and he did not come back, my heart dropped and we just started instantly saying some prayers," Blake Dunlap, the pilot's nephew said.

Dunlap says Gordon keeps up with his plane's inspections and adds that if he feels conditions aren't right, he won't fly.

He was a longtime performer in the Thunder Over Louisville air show.

Officials with the Kentucky Derby Festival released the following statement:

More than a performer, Jay was a member of the Derby Festival and Thunder family. In recent years, his flying experience and engineering expertise have helped keep Thunder's air show going. His passion for flying and love of Thunder will truly be missed.

The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash.



Military air defense drill set for Philadelphia next week

With Pope Francis due the city in two weeks, military aircraft will conduct an airspace protection exercise in the Philadelphia area next week, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced Friday.

The "Falcon Virgo" training flights are slated to take place early Tuesday, from 12:01 a.m. to 2 a.m.

NORAD said in a statement the exercise was designed to "hone NORAD's intercept and identification operations as well as train personnel at participating locations."

The drill is part of series conducted by NORAD in response to the 9/11 terror attacks 14 years ago.

Civil Air Patrol aircraft, Air Force C-21 and F-16 aircraft, and a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter are expected to participate in the exercise.

The Federal Aviation Administration has said flight restrictions will be in place in Philadelphia's airspace during the papal visit. Drones, as well as model aircraft or rockets, parachute operations, agricultural spraying, banner towing, utility or pipeline patrols, aircraft or helicopters operating from ships or private yachts, flight training and some other types of operations will be prohibited during the event.

A NORAD spokesman could not immediately say whether the timing of the exercise was related to the papal visit.

If there is inclement whether on Tuesday, the exercise will be conducted Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.


In Minneapolis, mobile team to address complaints about unfair no-fly listings, screening

MINNEAPOLIS — With ticket in hand and friends at his side, Abdirizak Ali went to the Minneapolis airport in 2012, eager to make a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca. Instead, he was turned away at the ticket counter, escorted outside by security and — without explanation — told he couldn't fly.

"If I knew I was up to something, I would have understood it. But the fact that I was innocent, that I didn't do anything wrong ... that killed me," Ali said, crying as he talked about the ordeal more than three years later.

Scores of Muslims with no ties to terrorism have had similar issues in Minnesota, and on Sunday, a mobile team from the Department of Homeland Security will visit Minneapolis in an effort to resolve their concerns as quickly as possible.

It's an idea borne of a wide-ranging Department of Justice pilot project to counter terrorism recruiting in Minnesota, which has the nation's largest concentration of Somali residents. More than 22 young men have left the state over the last decade to join the terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia, and in recent years about a dozen Minnesotans have left to join jihadist groups in Syria.

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said it's the first time such a team — called a mobile redress team — has traveled to a U.S. city.

Luger heard many stories like Ali's as he met with Somali community members last year. In one case, he said, a man's file was held up because his photo ID appeared fuzzy. The problem was quickly resolved once the man got one-on-one attention from the Transportation Security Administration, Luger said.

That's the goal of the mobile team: personal attention with a goal of resolving issues for as many people as possible.

A flier about the meeting says it will provide an opportunity for people to apply for "redress," a process where they can resolve travel screening issues. The meeting will also give Somali community members a chance to ask questions about security screening, border crossing or making the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca required of every Muslim who can afford and physically make the journey.

Ben Petok, a spokesman for Luger, said his office is thrilled at a "really important" effort to confront the issue.

"Whatever problems that can be resolved will be resolved. The folks at TSA are really good at this," he said.

TSA officials had no comment on the mobile redress team. But agency data give some perspective on the number of people who run into problems. The agency got 19,500 applications for redress in the last fiscal year to resolve issues pertaining to air travel, border crossings and visas, among other things.

The TSA said 98 percent of the aviation cases stemmed from misidentification, in which someone who wants to fly has the same or similar name and birthdate as a person on the terrorism watch list. When redress cases involve TSA only, they can often be resolved in just over a week.

Ali, now 52, didn't find relief so quickly. He said he tried to fix his problem, but got a letter 45 days later that said he wasn't able to travel. He called it one of the most devastating moments of his life. His friends made the trip without him and now won't talk to him because they think the government was after him, he said.

Last year, he began working one-on-one with a TSA official and he finally got a letter saying he can travel freely.

Omar Jamal, a community advocate who worked with Ali, said government bureaucracy created unnecessary human suffering in this case. Jamal said Drew Rhoades, TSA's assistant director for mission support in Minneapolis, met with Ali many times and was instrumental in getting the issue resolved.

"We need to see people like Andrew connect with the community on a person-to-person level. To get down to earth and connect with them and develop relationships and trust," Jamal said.

Rhoades confirmed that he helped Ali, but he referred further questions to headquarters.

"I hadn't been able to sleep until I got that letter," Ali said through Jamal, who was interpreting. Being denied travel, he said, was "like someone being sent to prison without telling them why he's in prison." 


Inside the little-known Berkshire firm tasked with clearing up the Germanwings plane crash

When catastrophe strikes – from tsunamis to oil spills – a team of experts from the unknown British company Kenyons are called to deal with the crisis 

Robert Jensen, co-owner and CEO of disaster management company Kenyon International.

On the morning of March 24 this year, Robert Jensen was absorbed arranging boxes in the warehouse of Kenyon International Emergency Services, the disaster management company he co-owns, just outside Bracknell, Berkshire. He was moving from his Wokingham home to a rented house in Houston, Texas, near the company’s US office, and was using the warehouse to store boxes for shipping.

Someone came down the corridor, then opened the door. Jensen looked up. The BBC wanted an interview. They’d heard reports of a plane crash in the French Alps. A minute later he took a call on his mobile. It was a senior executive from Luft-hansa. Within a few hours, Jensen had pulled a bag and some clothes out of a metal locker (senior staff have individual lockers in Kenyon’s warehouse, with a range of outfits ready to go, from flip-flops to steel-capped boots) and was on a flight to Frankfurt for a meeting convened by the senior managers of Lufthansa’s crisis management team.

Catastrophes are Jensen’s business. As CEO of Kenyon he has been involved in nearly 100 disasters. Not simple train crashes or road accidents but mass fatalities, violent deaths, planes that fall out of clear blue skies, detonated bombs. ‘I’m 50 years old and I’ve been to two events that killed a quarter of a million people in a matter of minutes – the Asian tsunami and the Haitian earthquake. We’ve worked on every type of fatality you can imagine,’ he tells me when I meet him in April. Within hours of American Airlines 11 and United Airlines 175 being flown into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, Kenyon was there. He was in New Orleans when at least 1,833 people died in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and most recently in the resort of Sousse, Tunisia, when 38 tourists were killed in a terrorist attack.

The aim of Kenyon is very simple: to provide practical help at a time of shock, incredulity and confusion. Services include recovering and identifying human remains; repatriating bodies to families; and setting up a centre close to the incident, where bereaved families can gather to receive information and support. Provision includes counsellors as well as teddy bears and gaming consoles to occupy children. The company also returns personal belongings gathered from the debris, a process which combines detection – working out what belonged to whom – with the practicalities of cleaning (if required), archiving and mailing. Objects are photographed and displayed on a secure online site, and circulated among relatives who may chance upon things they recognise. Personal effects from Swiss Air Flight 111, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1998 killing all 229 on board, included Pablo Picasso’s The Painter. All that survived were fragments of its frame.

It’s unlikely you’ll have heard of Kenyon. While many organisations might be able to cope with a flood or small fire, a mass fatality is of a different order. Firstly, it requires people who know what they’re doing; secondly, equipment. ‘Many organisations don’t have the resources, so you back-fill them with someone like Kenyon who has a large team they can call on,’ says Ian Marshall, chairman of Kenyon’s UK aviation emergency planners group. 

Also there are certain rules, he points out. Employers cannot, for example, wilfully traumatise their staff by exposing them to human remains. ‘So that has to be subcontracted,’ he says.

Nearly 500 companies, from airlines and county councils to travel and oil companies, have Kenyon on a retainer at a cost of anything from $2,000 to $100,000 a year. ‘When they deploy to a crisis they deploy as you [their client],’ Marshall explains. British Midland, British Airways or Thomas Cook, for instance. ‘So you won’t really hear much about them at all.’ The cost of managing a disaster can reach millions (and is recouped from insurance). Whenever a new client signs up, Jensen shakes the hands of senior executives and says he hopes he’ll never see them again.

Kenyon has offices around the world: Bracknell, Houston, Beirut, plus a call centre in the Dominican Republic and a warehouse in Sydney. Yet it has a full-time staff of only 25 – minuscule by the standards of most multinationals. But it also has 1,700 ‘team members’ on standby, from forensic pathologists and anthropologists to mental- health experts and civil engineers, each with an agreed daily rate, and prepared to put their life on hold at a moment’s notice.

At 10am (local time) on March 24, 2015, Flight 9525, operated by Germanwings, a low-cost airline owned by Lufthansa, took off from Barcelona-El Prat airport for Dusseldorf airport in Germany. Flying time was an hour and 56 minutes. After 30 minutes in the air, while the Airbus A320 cruised over the French Alps, Captain Patrick Sondenheimer left the cockpit.

Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot, locked the cockpit door and took control of the plane. Seconds later, he changed the selected altitude on the flight control unit from 38,000ft to 100ft. An air-traffic controller in Marseille saw that the plane had descended from its assigned altitude and was beginning a rapid descent. He radioed the co-pilot but there was no response.

Most of what is known about this flight comes from the flight-data recorder, which registers basic information such as airspeed, heading, and degree of pitch and roll, and from the cockpit voice recorder that notes the pilots’ conversation and other cockpit sounds. Noises similar to a person knocking on the cockpit door were recorded on six occasions between 10.35 and 10.39am. At 10.37am, a muffled voice asked for the door to be opened. What sounded like violent blows on the cockpit door were recorded five times between 10.39 and 10.40am. Seconds before Flight 9525 hit a mountain in the Prads-Haute-Bléone region in the French Alps at a speed of 400mph, Lubitz's breathing was clearly audible. All 150 people on board died on impact.

Some 70 minutes after Flight 9525 went down, Mark Oliver, 49, operations director and a Kenyon team member since last September, received a ‘Breaking News’ alert on his BBC app. ‘I stopped and read the details and wondered if I’d get a call,’ he told me recently on the phone.

A former senior investigating officer for Humberside police, and a specialist in disaster victim identification, Oliver had been deployed by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) on such missions as the exhumation and identification of hundreds of civilians massacred in Kosovo, on behalf of the UN’s International Criminal Tribu­nal, in 2000; and to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, in 2013.

He first came across Kenyon after the crash of Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 in Tripoli, Libya, in 2010, where 103 people were killed. He’d been sent by the FCO and worked alongside Kenyon helping to draft processes for identifying human remains for the Libyan authorities. He was impressed by Kenyon’s approach – getting things done by collaboration, with polite persistence – and contacted them when he retired last September.

At around 2pm on the day of the crash, Oliver was in a meeting in Louth, Lincolnshire, where he lives with his wife and his two grown-up daughters, when his phone rang. ‘When they [Kenyon] call, the first thing they ask is, “Are you available?”’ he said. By 7am the next day he was in Bracknell for a briefing in Kenyon’s crisis management centre – a room equipped with computers, phones (with a dedicated number for team members), and white boards with updates on the incident – where a newly activated Kenyon team was working around the clock to help Lufthansa manage the crisis.

As the meeting drew to a close, the team members departed on their separate missions. Some went to the crash site. Others went to Frankfurt. Oliver headed off to Barcelona to meet the command team from Germanwings and set up an information centre in a hotel in Barcelona for bereaved families (51 Spanish nationals were among the victims), before flying to Liverpool to work 12-hour shifts in Lufthansa’s existing call centre, which was now assisting distraught relatives. Kenyon’s call centre in the Dominican Republic provided back-up. ‘If you know your loved one was on that plane, you want to know what happened and what is going to happen next,’ Oliver says.

‘You need to reassure them that they can call you on this number 24 hours a day, and there will always be a person to answer their call in their own language.’ There were citizens from at least 15 countries on the flight, including Colombia, Japan, Kazakhstan and Iran.

On May 11, Oliver, who speaks French, flew to Marseille. With a colleague from Kenyon, he inspected the facilities of various undertakers. They settled on Pompes Funèbres Générales (PFG), a funeral parlour near the airport – a place they would inhabit for up to 14 hours a day over the coming eight weeks.

In the meantime, the recovery of body parts was taking place. The French government was in charge of the process and led the investigation. Recovery was difficult because the crash site was on the southern side of a mountain peak called Tête du Travers, in an area known as Ravin du Rosé, two miles east of Le Vernet, a small Alpine village with around 100 inhabitants. There was no road nearby, so at first the only way in was by helicopter provided by the French Gendarmerie. (Later the authorities began to fell trees and dig down into the mountainside to build a road.)

The plane had hit the ground nose first, the fuselage breaking in two, just behind the wings, as it absorbed the great impact of the crash. Chunks of charred metal, fragments of the aircraft, and remnants of flesh unrecognisable as human bodies lay on a sloping rocky ravine in a debris field of four hectares. Forensic experts from the Gendarmerie disaster-victim identification unit had the job of identifying those on board Flight 9525 from the remains.

When the plane came down, it was travelling at 400mph an hour. The engines were still running at the moment of impact. ‘The impact is enormous,’ says Jensen. ‘Our bodies cannot handle it.’ The French authorities would gather around 3,000 body parts, including two nearly intact bodies, and other fragments smaller than a postage stamp.

Contrary to media reports, Jensen believes most of the passengers on Flight 9525 were unaware they were plummeting to the ground. ‘Having heard the cockpit voice recorder and seen the timeline [a reconstructed video sequence of the flight], it’s my belief that very few, if any, would have been aware of what was going on.’

Back in Marseille, Robert Rowntree, vice-president operations at Kenyon, was looking after bereaved friends and relatives. Based in Bracknell, he flew to Frankfurt on the day of the crash and had a briefing with Lufthansa’s crisis management team the following morning. ‘We discussed where best to support the families,’ he recalls. They decided on a family information centre in Barcelona, where the plane took off, and the main centre in Marseille, which was the closest accessible city to the crash.

Rowntree, 53, a veteran of the funeral business, having been a divisional manager for the Co-operative in the north-east of England for nearly 23 years, joined Kenyon in 2001. His wife, Gail, a senior lecturer at Bucks New University, specialising in organisational psychology and disaster management, is a volunteer mental-health team member with Kenyon. She deployed with her husband to Marseille and stayed for 10 days.

Finding a hotel at short notice – one that could accommodate 100 or more families, as well as having space that could serve as briefing rooms, a supervised children’s area and a quiet room, was not easy. Rowntree settled on the InterContinental in Marseille, and families started arriving from around the world on Saturday, four days after the crash. He knew from previous operations that relatives would want to visit the crash site. ‘It’s part of the grieving process,’ he explains. ‘It’s part of wanting to be where their loved one lost their life.’ The actual site was still off-limits; the nearest accessible place was Le Vernet, where the French authorities had erected a memorial. Rowntree arranged a coach for daily visits (a seven-hour round trip), packed lunches, flowers for families to lay at the memorial, coats for mountain weather, blankets, tissues, and a car to follow the coach, should anyone change their mind. He would also forewarn the authorities of the nationality of each visiting family, so the appropriate flags could be laid at the memorial.

Robert Jensen later explained the underlying principle of Kenyon. ‘When you work on a plane crash or a mass fatality the best you can do is zero. We can’t undo it. I can’t uninjure you. I can’t bring back the dead. The only thing I can do is not make it worse, not make it harder.’

When I visited Kenyon’s office, on an anonymous-looking industrial estate on the edges of Bracknell, on April 23, it was nearly a month after the crash of Flight 9525. Kenyon had just had another incident: a company in North Africa, concerned about a worsening security situation, wanted to evacuate all its staff. ‘It’s stabilised now,’ Jensen says, ‘We’ve built a plan, set up a call centre. It’s in hold mode.’

Jensen is tall, big-boned and smartly dressed in chinos and a jacket. It is an open day for around 100 of Kenyon’s clients, and Jensen is surrounded by representatives from such companies as Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, First Great Western, Cornwall Council and Eurostar International. Open days are held once every two years but Kenyon often holds training sessions with clients.

‘If you don’t have a contract with us and something happens, we won’t respond,’ Jensen says to the representatives. He explains that he needs to know a company’s philosophy. ‘I have to know the CEO of the company is going to be willing to talk to the families.’

The son of a builder, Jensen grew up in California. He studied criminology at California State University and also worked in the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, California Department of Justice, and as a deputy sheriff for Fresno County, California. Aged 20, he became a commissioned officer in the US army, rising to captain, and went on to command the mortuary affairs unit. He left the army in 1999 to join Kenyon.

Jensen still has the mannerisms of the military: buzz-cut, straight back, physically fit (his hobbies include shooting and scuba diving); and conducts work with regimented systems. Yet he was unsuited to the army. ‘I was not a “yes” man,’ he explains.

I ask whether he was a nervous flier, given what his business entails. On the contrary, he replies. ‘I can sit on a plane and fall asleep before we even leave the gate.’ Sleeping pills? ‘No, not a pill guy.’ He says he gets impatient queuing and so only goes to the airport at the last moment. ‘I’ve only ever missed a plane once and that was because I failed to reset my watch when the clocks changed.’

Whenever I ask about the Germanwings disaster, he answers by talking about previous crashes. This is partly out of loyalty to his client, but also evidence of his encyclopaedic mind. ‘I don’t have a photographic memory but it’s probably near photographic. It’s not a blessing to be able to remember tons and tons of stuff.’

As a CEO he is driven and can be ‘quixotic’. ‘He has a new idea and it’s got to be in place. People have to run after him to keep up with him,’ says a colleague. Everyone admires the way he looks after not only the dead (he frequently uses the words ‘respect and dignity’) but also the living. ‘He really cares about the families,’ one colleague says. Jensen visibly shudders at the thought of an airline not returning a deceased’s belongings (‘How things should not be done’).

A key event in Jensen’s life was his parents’ divorce when he was five; he has been estranged from his father since his late teens. ‘Every once in a while he’d try and talk to me and I’d ignore him and then I’d try and talk to him and he’d ignore me. So we both tried and then we stopped.’

And then in 2013, having led the life of a straight man for decades – he was with his wife for 25 years and has a 24-year-old daughter – he married Brandon Jones, a former HR director with Airgas and current chief operating officer of Kenyon (and owner with Jensen; together they have a 70 per cent share in the company). ‘I just fell in love with Brandon,’ he explains. ‘And I hate labels.’ The couple divide their time between a house in Houston and a flat in Wokingham.

Kenyon Emergency Services was founded more than a century ago when Harold and Herbert Kenyon, the son and son-in-law of James Kenyon, creator of the JH Kenyon funeral business, were called to a boat train which had derailed at high speed near Salisbury railway station on July 1 1906. Twenty-eight people were killed, many of them wealthy New Yorkers travelling from the port of Plymouth to London. Just over two weeks later, Herbert Kenyon accompanied five of the deceased back to New York on the Cunard steam ship Campania.

Herbert Kenyon may have been the first to recognise mass fatalities as a growth industry. More than half a century later, Kenyon Emergency Services had the monopoly on disasters and was assisting in such high-profile emergencies as the Munich air disaster (1958), the King’s Cross Underground fire (1987) and the Zeebrugge Ferry disaster (also 1987).

In the mid-1990s, JH Kenyon was acquired by Service Corporation International (SCI), the large US-based provider of funeral goods and services. The newly named Kenyon International Emergency Services was moved to Houston (also the head­quarters of SCI). In 2000 SCI sold off most of its foreign holdings, except Kenyon International Emergency Services. Jensen joined in 1998, became CEO in 2003 and owner in 2007.

Jensen joined Kenyon at a time of transition. Prior to his arrival (‘PB – Pre Bob’), the company had been employed by insurance companies, and there was, says Jensen, a growing disquiet about its use of bureaucratic language – ‘It’s one thing to write to me very coldly about my life insurance policy, another to write to my husband when I’m dead using the same tone’ – and that, as a business, it was managed by numbers.

A soft toy didn’t cost much but was, for example, says Rowntree, of enormous value to the sole survivor from the crash of Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 in Libya, in 2010. A nine-year-old boy from Holland had travelled with a Winnie the Pooh toy and asked if Kenyon staff could find it. They searched the debris at the crash site near Tripoli airport, and returned it to him. Jensen regards this as an argument for not being employed by insurance companies. ‘They may concentrate on jewellery and credit cards and forget about the little teddy bear,’ he says. In about 1997 Jensen’s predecessor started the switch to being employed by individual companies instead.

Another shift happened at around this time. In the early 1990s US airlines hit the media for a string of poorly handled plane crashes. One of the best known is USAir Flight 427, which crashed outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in September 1994, killing all 132 on board. Among the complaints was the time it took for USAir to break the news to relatives. ‘At 2.30am, seven hours after the plane went down, I received a phone call. 

Even though they knew immediately when they arrived at the site that there were no survivors,’ a bereaved wife told a support group. Some weeks later, families learned that 38 caskets of unidentified human remains had been buried without the families’ knowledge.

‘Ninety five per cent of my husband’s remains are buried in Sewickley Cemetery and we were not told,’ another wife remonstrated. A further troubling issue was the discovery, six months after the crash, of personal belongings dumped in a skip outside the hangar in Pittsburgh where the wreckage from the plane was stored. A coroner visited the site and drew up an inventory, which included a woman’s gold ring, a Casio calculator, a pink hairbrush, Speedo goggles, two grey golf-club-head covers, the novel Forrest Gump and a self-help book called Food Addiction: The Body Knows by Kay Sheppard.

Families began to petition for the establishment of a ‘family advocate’ for the victims of mass disasters. And in 1996 the US Congress passed the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act, which outlined the responsibilities of air carriers to family members. ‘The legislation gradually filtered around the world to the point where a lot of countries have codes of practice now, which are based on the American system,’ Ian Marshall says. ‘And along with that came the need for a service provider who could look after the dead – and the living.’ ‘Mass fatalities are a complex blend of science, emotion and a lot of different processes,’ Jensen remarks. ‘Somebody has to look after the whole picture.’

On May 22, 2015, the French authorities released the identified remains of the crash victims of Flight 9525. Rolling convoys of 20 hearses at a time carried them under cover of darkness from the Gendarmerie Nationale headquarters in Marseille to the Pompes Funèbres Générales (PFG), the undertakers at Les Penne Mirabeau, near Marseille airport. The large number of bodies would have overwhelmed the facilities of PFG, so three refrigeration units (powered by five generators) had been installed in the garden, a quiet square of fig trees, evergreens and oleander. A fenced enclosure was built around the perimeter of the site to keep the media out, and security guards with shaven heads and aviator shades protected the entrance.

Now it fell to Kenyon to prepare 150 bodies for repatriation. The job required an organised team of eight people from Kenyon, two from the French Embalming Institute and 12 local staff from the funeral directors. The team started to prepare the bodies as soon as consent forms from the families were received via the call centre in Liverpool. Using an autopsy table in the laboratoire privé, a windowless, high-ceilinged room, they checked the contents of each body bag. Whether there were two fragments or 50, each represented a mother, father, friend, daughter or son, Oliver says. ‘We wanted to make sure the right person went home to the right place.’

The force of a plane crash at high velocity creates a distinctive effect. Matter compresses like an accordion. The person sitting in front and the person behind are smashed into each other, so you can have a mixing of fragments. It is one of the challenges Kenyon was alert to.

Regulations also called for the body parts to be cleaned and over the next few days small aircraft parts, bits of twigs and sometimes jewellery were found among the remains. Any personal items were cleaned and put in a special box to be returned with the coffin to the family.

Oliver and the team went through this process with every fragment. ‘What motivates me is we are working together to help the families,’ he says, ‘and in a way I would expect if this was my daughter or wife.’

He says they would never, for example, weigh down a coffin with sand or stones to suggest an actual body rather than the fragments of one. ‘The only thing we do is make sure the weight of the coffin is even,’ he continues. ‘If you have a small fragment you put it in the middle and you keep it in position with a kind of foam.’

The team concluded their care by laying the coffins in a chapel of rest at the parlour. ‘These remains had been through a lot: the crash, recovery, the mortuary, examinations. We wanted to give them a moment of peace,’ Oliver explains.

On June 10, the remains of 44 repatriated victims arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany. On June 16, 32 victims were repatriated to Spain. ‘Then, each and every day, they were going out, one, two, five,’ Oliver recalls. But there were still a great many remains that could not be identified because they contained insufficient DNA: 12 purpose-built, box-shaped coffins, each weighing about 19 stone, in all.

Burying these became Kenyon’s next priority. The French authorities had arranged a ceremony in honour of the flight’s victims, in St Marthe’s church, Le Vernet, at 3pm on July 24. The plan was to bury the coffins during the night ahead of the ceremony.

On July 23 a discreet Peugeot Boxer drove out of the gate of PFG carrying the final unidentified remains of those on board Flight 9525 to Le Vernet. The last generator was switched off.

In the early hours of July 24 representatives from Lufthansa, along with Kenyon’s Jensen and Rowntree, stood in the graveyard of St Marthe’s church, as an ethereal fog draped the village.

Gravediggers had spent all day immersed in the business of transporting the coffins and excavating three marble vaults. Jensen made a point of thanking them. At one point he even rolled up his sleeves to help. At around 2am the last coffin was lowered into the marble structure. Jensen called for a minute’s silence, and for a while everyone lowered their heads and stood in a kind of shared trance.

But the work of Kenyon International didn’t end there. Jensen knew other body parts would be recovered over time. ‘In many cases after a freeze or a flood and a change in the soil,’ he says. Kenyon had set aside two coffins and space in the vault in anticipation of this happening. The personal effects were still in the process of being returned. Jensen, meanwhile, had been dealing with another event: a small plane had crashed in Alaska leaving one person dead. There had also been the terrorist attack in Tunisia. Who knew what lay ahead? ‘I would be really happy if we had a magic pill and we could live for ever and have no more sorrow or sadness,’ he says. ‘That is probably not a reality.’

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