Monday, September 14, 2015

JetBlue pilot: Drone in flight path at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (KFLL), Florida

A JetBlue flight reported a small drone flew near its approach path while landing at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Monday morning.

The pilots didn't have to take evasive action and the twin-engine jetliner landed safely, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The plane had taken off from Pittsburgh.

"The crew of JetBlue 2007, an Airbus A320, reported seeing a unmanned aircraft system on approach to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 9:37 a.m. today," the FAA said in a statement. "The FAA will investigate."

The incident occurred about 15 miles west of the airport, while the pilots were in contact with Miami Approach Control. According to the Broward Sheriff's Office, the drone was about 1,000 feet above the airliner at the time.

The Sheriff's Office dispatched its helicopter to search the approach area but didn't spot the drone. Although the drone wasn't in violation of any airspace restrictions, BSO notified the FBI.

The incident was one of the first in South Florida involving a drone near a commercial airport or major event. In March, a drone was seen hovering near a West Palm Beach golf course, where President Barack Obama was getting in around, according to WPLG Channel 10.

Nationally, drones are becoming an increasing problem for airports.

So far this year, there have been almost 700 incidents where pilots reported seeing drones near airports, almost triple the number in 2014, according to FAA statistics.

Many of those were near New York City or Washington, D.C. airports. On March 22, a U.S. Airways regional airliner almost collided with a drone near Tallahassee.

Since June 1 alone, there have been 25 incidents were an airliner came close to hitting a drone, according to The Washington Post. However, there has yet to be a collision between the two.

Most of the drones are small, camera-equipped models commonly used by hobbyists and photographers. Although they usually weigh less than 10 pounds, aviation safety experts say if a drone were to be sucked into a jet engine or strikes a propeller, the larger plane could easily be put in jeopardy.

"The potential for catastrophic damage is certainly there," Fred Roggero, a retired Air Force major general who serves as a consultant to companies seeking to fly drones commercially, told The Washington Post.

In response to the growing dangers of drones, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, proposed much tighter reins on drone use to keep them clear of major airports.

He would like to see drone manufacturers implement technology to prevent them from coming within two miles or 500 feet above airports, parades and sporting events.

His bill also would encourage the FAA to enact policies forbidding drones to come near other "sensitive locations," such as important government buildings.

"God forbid a drone was sucked into the engine of a passenger airline that was flying, it'd be a huge tragedy," Schumer said. "And it's a matter of time before that happens."

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Memorial for plane crash victims open to public: Cessna 414A Chancellor, N789UP, fatal accident occurred April 07, 2015 in Bloomington, Illinois

NORMAL IL. -- A memorial at Illinois State University is now open to the public, in remembrance of those who died in a plane crash in April.

The memorial is located on the north entrance of Redbird Arena.

Seven water fountains represent the seven men who died, along with a plaque and wall that lists the victims names.

Friday night the athletic department revealed the memorial to family members in a private ceremony.

"As the families started to drift away we noticed there were smiles, there were hugs, the kids were having fun. It was really good to see because we think it helps turn a page, that's what our hope is," said Director of Athletics Larry Lyons.

This year all athletes will wear uniform patches and staff members will wear lapel pins to honor the seven victims.

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NTSB Identification: CEN15FA190
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, April 07, 2015 in Bloomington, IL
Aircraft: CESSNA 414A, registration: N789UP
Injuries: 7 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 April 7, 2015, about 0006 central daylight time (all referenced times will reflect central daylight time), a Cessna model 414A twin-engine airplane, N789UP, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain following a loss of control during an instrument approach to Central Illinois Regional Airport (BMI), Bloomington, Illinois. The airline transport pilot and six passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was owned by and registered to Make It Happen Aviation, LLC, and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 while on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight that departed Indianapolis International Airport (IND), Indianapolis, Indiana, at 2307 central daylight time.

According to preliminary Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control (ATC) data, after departure the flight proceeded direct to BMI and climbed to a final cruise altitude of 8,000 feet mean sea level (msl). According to radar data, at 2344:38 (hhmm:ss), about 42 nautical miles (nm) south-southeast of BMI, the flight began a cruise descent to 4,000 feet msl. At 2352:06, the pilot established contact with Peoria Terminal Radar Approach Control, reported being level at 4,000 feet mean sea level (msl), and requested the Instrument Landing System (ILS) Runway 20 instrument approach into BMI. According to radar data, the flight was located about 21 nm south-southeast of BMI and was established on a direct course to BMI at 4,000 feet msl. The approach controller told the pilot to expect radar vectors for the ILS Runway 20 approach. At 2354:18, the approach controller told the pilot to make a right turn to a 330 degree heading. The pilot acknowledged the heading change. At 2359:16, the approach controller cleared the flight to descend to maintain 2,500 feet msl. At 2359:20, the pilot acknowledged the descent clearance.

At 0000:01, the approach controller told the pilot to turn left to a 290 heading. The pilot acknowledged the heading change. At 0000:39, the approach controller told the pilot that the flight was 5 nm from EGROW intersection, cleared the flight for the ILS Runway 20 instrument approach, issued a heading change to 230 degrees to intercept the final approach course, and told the pilot to maintain 2,500 feet until established on the inbound course. The pilot correctly read-back the instrument approach clearance, the heading to intercept the localizer, and the altitude restriction.

According to radar data, at 0001:26, the flight crossed through the final approach course while on the assigned 230 degree heading before it turned to a southerly heading. The plotted radar data showed the flight made course corrections on both sides of the localizer centerline as it proceeded inbound toward EGROW. At 0001:47, the approach controller told the pilot to cancel his IFR flight plan on the approach control radio frequency, that radar services were terminated, and authorized a change to the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). According to radar data, the flight was 3.4 nm outside of EGROW, established inbound on the localizer, at 2,400 feet msl. At 0002:00, the pilot transmitted over the unmonitored CTAF, "twin Cessna seven eight nine uniform pop is coming up on EGROW, ILS Runway 20, full stop." No additional transmissions from the pilot were recorded on the CTAF or by Peoria Approach Control.

According to radar data, at 0003:12, the flight crossed over the locator outer marker (EGROW) at 2,100 feet msl. The flight continued to descend while tracking the localizer toward the runway. At 0003:46, the airplane descended below available radar coverage at 1,500 feet msl. The flight was about 3.5 nm from the end of the runway when it descended below radar coverage. Subsequently, at 0004:34, radar coverage was reestablished with the flight about 1.7 nm north of the runway threshold at 1,400 feet msl. The plotted radar data showed that, between 0004:34 and 0005:08, the flight climbed from 1,400 feet msl to 2,000 feet msl while maintaining a southerly course. At 0005:08, the flight began a descending left turn to an easterly course. The airplane continued to descend on the easterly course until reaching 1,500 feet msl at 0005:27. The airplane then began a climb while maintaining an easterly course. At 0005:42, the airplane had flown 0.75 nm east of the localizer centerline and had climbed to 2,000 feet. At 0005:47, the flight descended below available radar coverage at 1,800 feet msl. Subsequently, at 0006:11, radar coverage was reestablished at 1,600 feet msl about 0.7 nm southeast of the previous radar return. The next two radar returns, recorded at 0006:16 and 0006:20, were at 1,900 feet msl and were consistent with the airplane continuing on an easterly course. The final radar return was recorded at 0006:25 at 1,600 feet msl about 2 nm east-northeast of the runway 20 threshold.

At 0005, the BMI automated surface observing system reported: wind 060 degrees at 6 knots, an overcast ceiling at 200 feet above ground level (agl), 1/2 mile surface visibility with light rain and fog, temperature 13 degrees Celsius, dew point 13 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.98 inches of mercury.

Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA Springfield FSDO-19


Staten Islanders rattled by sound of 'very low-flying plane'

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A number of residents have taken to Twitter and made calls to the Advance to report a loud sound resembling a "very low-flying plane" Monday morning.

While initial reports came from Westerleigh and Willowbrook residents and readers now report hearing the sound practically Island wide.

"It sounded like there was a plane just hovering over my house," said Louise Barraco, who called the Advance just minutes after hearing a noise over her Dora Street home around 10:30 a.m.

"And it lasted about four minutes," she added.

Ms. Barraco said a friend of hers from Willowbrook who contacted her heard it as well.

"It was scary," said Nina Lambert of Westerleigh. "This sound made you stop dead in your tracks and just stand there waiting for something to blow up."

"The extreme jet exhaust sound was constant for at least 30-45 seconds," said David Engelson, who was walking with his one year-old near Forest Avenue and Bement Avenue in West Brighton at the time. "There came a point when the sound was so severe that I actually took cover with my child."

"I heard it, looked up, and seen a fighter jet making a beeline straight up from Newark," said Mark Vaiano. "Anyone who has lived near a military base, or someone who has been in the service would know the sound."

At this time, the NYPD and FDNY have no information on the origin of the sound.

Did you hear the sound? Did you see a plane? Or possibly something else? Feel free to leave us a comment with any details on what you think the sound could be from.

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St. Cloud Regional Airport (KSTC) officials look to extend runway by 500 feet

Airport official are hoping to move forward on a project that will extend the main runway at St. Cloud Regional Airport by 500 feet.

St. Cloud City Council is expected to take action Monday night on a resolution declaring the city’s intent to accept a $3 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration that would fund about 90 percent of the runway extension.

The project, which also includes the extension of the taxiway and additional lighting, is an effort to improve safety aspects at the airport and possibly attract new airlines.

“It’s really a safety piece. Anytime an airplane is landing or taking off, they want as much runway as possible,” said Bill Towle, airport director. “Especially in our environment up north where there is rain and snow and ice, additional runway length will make it safer.”

Airplanes are being designed larger and more powerful than ever before and require increasingly longer runways, Towle said, noting when the airport was built in 1970, airplanes such as the Boeing 737-800 or McDonnell Douglas MD-80 didn’t exist.

While airport officials are currently not in talks with any airline companies regarding additional service in St. Cloud, the runway extension could make the airport more appealing to airlines.

“It makes it where we could handle larger and faster airplanes. Which ones? It really depends on the performance of them,” he said. “(The extension) will certainly allow us to go out and talk to more airlines. If we’re looking to attract (airlines) to St. Cloud, this will have more capabilities for more airplanes.”

St. Cloud’s airport has two runways; the main runway is 7,000 by 150 feet, and the second runway is 3,000 by 75 feet. A major reconstruction to the main runway and its parallel taxiway was completed in 2001, with the local share of the project funded by local-option sales tax revenue.

Planes currently flying in and out of St. Cloud Regional Airport are the Allegiant Airbus A319, which has 156 seats, and the Sun Country Boeing 737-800, which has between 162 and 174 seats.

Allegiant provides service to Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona. Sun Country provides service to Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport in Arizona, as a chartered airplane for Riverside Resorts in Laughlin, Nevada.

United Airlines, which previously provided flights to Chicago, discontinued service at the airport in February.

If the FAA grant is accepted, it would provide about $3 million for the project. The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s aeronautics office has committed to pay for 5 percent of project costs, about $169,000.

The city is required to pay the remaining 5 percent ($169,000) of project costs.

City Council approved at its July 27 meeting the low bid on the project from S.M. Hentges & Sons of Jordan, contingent upon receiving state and federal funds. The bid of $3.65 million includes a base bid of about $2.14 million for runway construction, a base bid of about $271,000 for additional lighting of the extended runway, and an alternate bid of $1.23 million for the extension of the taxiway parallel to the main runway.

Buffalo Grove police to pull plane for Special Olympics

Police with the Buffalo Grove Police Department kept fielding the same question during the recent Buffalo Grove Days festival: "What makes you want to do something crazy like this?"

Specifically, they wondered why seemingly normal police officers would want to roll up their sleeves and try their hand at tugging a plane. That's right, a plane.

The Buffalo Grove police are the latest to team up and join the Plane Pull taking place at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at O'Hare International Airport. Some 17 teams from law enforcement agencies will be facing off with either a UPS Airbus A300 or United Airlines 737 aircraft for the benefit of Special Olympics Illinois.

Other suburban departments crazy enough to participate include: Deerfield, Morton Grove, Niles, Park Ridge, Rosemont, Round Lake, Woodstock and the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The event is in its seventh year, and is one of a series of fundraisers that comes under the heading of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Last year, the plane pull alone raised $150,000 for training and equipment for Special Olympians in Illinois and the overall Law Enforcement Torch Run events raised a whopping $4 million.

Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steven Casstevens has been raising money for Special Olympians since his days with the Hoffman Estates Police Department, though he concedes he never pulled a plane to do it.

"It just sounded like fun. It's something challenging and different," Casstevens says. "It's one more way to show our support for these Special Olympic athletes."

The rank and file agreed. The team is limited to 20 members, and Casstevens says he had no trouble filling it.

Buffalo Grove combined with Hoffman Estates police to help design a recent truck convoy event -- another Law Enforcement Torch Run event -- which routed 67 trucks from the Sears Centre down I-90 west to Route 47, and back. It raised $19,000 for Special Olympics Illinois. A similar event will take place Oct. 10 in Tinley Park.

The plane pull brings out a supporters willing to put everything on the line.

"We're excited to see them test their strength against a 90-ton airplane," says Matt Johnson, Special Olympics Illinois Vice President -- Development & Donor Relations. "It's just great to see people supporting Special Olympics programs in Illinois."

Since first responders and their respective agencies began participating in Law Enforcement Torch Run events nearly 30 years ago, they have raised $35 million, officials say, while increasing awareness of Special Olympics Illinois athletes and their accomplishments.

Every year, Special Olympics Illinois offers year-round training and competition in 19 sports for nearly 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities, as well as nearly 21,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities.

The mission of Special Olympics programs is to enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence and social skills, while encouraging family and community support.

Ultimately, officials with Special Olympics believe their programs change lives by empowering people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential -- in sports and in life.

From the sounds of the plane pull, it appears the organization and its athletes are having that kind of effect on its supporters. Let the tug of war begin!


Chennai airport working overtime for smooth landing

CHENNAI, SEPTEMBER 14:    Officials at the Chennai airport are praying that no untoward incident should happen in the next nine months till the resurfacing of the 3.65-km main runway is completed.

“Fingers crossed,” said an airport official on the long haul ahead; re-carpeting work started on August 21.

His worry is understandable. Ten days back, an aircraft was slightly damaged due to the presence of debris on the runway from the resurfacing work. The runway had to be shut for nearly two hours and ten flights were diverted to Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

Frequent flyers are perplexed as to why it should take nine months for a project that is like re-laying a highway.

It is not quite a simple project, the official replied. A functioning airport with a single runway has many challenges. Every day, the runway is closed for nearly seven-and-half hours and a meticulous planning is done with various stakeholders, especially airlines, to ensure that there is no trouble during this time.

Depending on the available length of runway and the restricted facilities during the work period, airlines change the type of aircraft they use, limit the take-off load or change their schedule to co-ordinate with the work period, says Chennai Airport Director Deepak Shastri.

Other airports too faced similar challenges when doing runway resurfacing work.

For instance, from May 1, the Kozhikode international airport has been partially shut for runway repair, which will take 15 months to complete. Wide-bodied aircraft such as Airbus 300, Boeing 747 and 777 will not be allowed for eight months and for seven months after that, they will be allowed only for certain hours every day.

The Bengaluru airport was closed for nearly seven hours to all flight operations from March 11 to April 3 for resurfacing of its sole runway. In the next two phases, the runway was partly closed during till May 1, he said.

A runway at the Newark airport in the US was closed for five months early this year for resurfacing.

In major airports abroad the resurfacing is done in two-three months as they have parallel runways and closure of one does not affect operations.

Why resurfacing?

As planes take off and land, the rubber deposits left behind by the tires build up. Also, oil condensation from the engine’s exhaust gets deposited on the runway during take off. All this makes the runway slippery, requiring periodical resurfacing, says B Govindarajan, Chief Operating Officer, Tirwin Management Services, a Chennai-based aviation training consultancy firm.

Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety consultant and a former instructor pilot of Boeing 737 specializing in wet runway operations training, said that during the resurfacing, the available distance of the runway will be short.

Pilots should be well aware of this fact and land the aircraft accordingly.

In 2009, while the recarpeting work was going on at the Mumbai airport, an aircraft overran the runway.

“It could be dangerous if the aircraft is not flown accurately in the short runway,” he said.


Now arriving: Airport Control Towers With No Humans Inside

NEW YORK -- Passengers landing at remote Ornskoldsvik Airport in northern Sweden might catch a glimpse of the control tower - likely unaware there is nobody inside.

The dozen commercial planes landing there each day are instead watched by cameras, guided in by controllers viewing the video at another airport 90 miles away.

Ornskoldsvik is the first airport in the world to use such technology. Others in Europe are testing the idea, as is one airport in the United States. While the majority of the world's airports will, for some time, still have controllers on site, experts say unmanned towers are coming. They'll likely first go into use at small and medium airports, but eventually even the world's largest airports could see an array of cameras mounted on a pole replacing their concrete control towers.

The companies building these remote systems say their technology is cheaper and better than traditional towers.

"There is a lot of good camera technology that can do things that the human eye can't," says Pat Urbanek, of Searidge Technologies, "We understand that video is not real life, out the window. It's a different way of surveying."

Cameras spread out around an airport eliminate blind spots and give controllers more-detailed views. Infrared can supplement images in rain, fog or snow and other cameras can include thermal sensors to see if animals stray onto the runway at the last second.

None of those features are - yet - in the Swedish airport because of regulatory hurdles.

Ornskoldsvik Airport is a vital lifeline for residents who want to get to Stockholm and the rest of the world. But with just 80,000 annual passengers, it can't justify the cost of a full-time control staff - about $175,000 a year in salary, benefits and taxes for each of six controllers.

In April, after a year and a half of testing a system designed by Saab, all the controllers left Ornskoldsvik. Now, an 80-foot tall mast housing 14 high-definition cameras sends the signal back to the controllers, stationed at Sunvsal Airport. No jobs have been eliminated but ultimately such systems will allow tiny airports to pool controllers.

Old habits are hard to break. Despite the ability to zoom in, controllers instinctively grab their binoculars to get a closer look at images on the 55-inch TV screens. And two microphones were added to the airfield at Ornskoldsvik to pipe in the sounds of planes.

"Without the sound, the air traffic controllers felt very lost," says Anders Carp, head of traffic management for Saab.

The cameras are housed in a glass bubble. High pressure air flows over the windows, keeping them clear of insects, rain and snow. The system has been tested for severe temperatures: 22 degrees below zero and, at the other extreme, a sizzling 122 degrees.

Niclas Gustavsson, head of commercial development for LFV Group, the air navigation operator at 26 Swedish airports, says digital cameras offer numerous possibilities for improving safety.

Computers can compare every picture to the one a second before. If something changes - such as birds or deer crossing the runway - alerts are issued.

"Maybe, eventually there will be no towers built at all," says Gustavsson.

Saab is currently testing - and seeking regulatory approval - for remote systems in Norway and Australia and has contracts to develop the technology for another Swedish airport and two in Ireland.

Competitor Searidge is working on a remote tower for the main airport in Budapest, Hungary. That airport serves 8.5 million passengers annually and, within two years, controllers could be stationed a few miles from the airport.

Now, Saab is bringing some aspects of this technology to the United States.

Leesburg Executive Airport in Virginia is a relatively busy airport with 300 daily takeoffs and landings. Just a few miles from Dulles International Airport, Leesburg does not have its own control tower. A regional air traffic control center clears private jets into the airspace and then pilots use an established radio frequency to negotiate the landing and takeoff order. That often leads to delays.

Saab has built a system for Leesburg and on Aug. 3 started a three-month test with the Federal Aviation Administration. FAA controllers will, at first, familiarize themselves with the technology and just observe the planes operating as they already do today. If the FAA approves, the next phase would be to start clearing planes onto taxiways and to take off and land.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says it is participating in the testing.

Towers for large commercial airports are expensive. They need elevators, air conditioning and heating, fire suppression systems plus room for all the controllers. A new tower in Oakland, California that opened in 2013 cost $51 million. Towers at smaller airports are cheaper. Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport opened a new one in February at a cost of $15.4 million. Saab won't detail the cost of its system except to say it is "significantly less." There is no need for a tower and elevator.

The companies see a giant market: The vast majority of U.S. commercial airports - 315 of 506 - have control towers. However, only 198 of the 2,825 general aviation airports have manned towers.


Giving students flight lessons important due to openings in aviation

Fargo, ND (WDAY/WDAZ TV) - A class at Concordia called adventure, exploration and risk is doing just that. Sending new students to new heights, 14,000 feet high to be exact, by teaching them how to fly a plane. Becoming a pilot now may be better than ever.

Different people learn in different ways. Some enjoy learning in a classroom while others enjoy a more hands on approach.

Rebecca Elliott, "When I woke up this morning, I was really nervous with the whole concept of me flying a plane."

Once their feet are back on the ground, everything that they did sinks in.

Allison Ross, "I just flew a plane. I'm really excited."

Rebecca and Allison are freshmen at Concordia. They are not going to school to become pilots, but the experience may have placed the thought in their heads.

Ross, "It's a definite possibility. I mean, it'd be pretty cool to get your license, so maybe someday I'll be flying up in the air."

Many say experience is the best teacher and some students are learning that first hand at the Fargo Jet Center. They're taking off and learning how to fly which is important because there is a need for commercial airline pilots.

Jonathan Katuin, "There has been a shortage of pilots. There's definitely a lot of them out there, but there's a mandatory retirement age of 65. So, there are pilots retiring and there aren't enough to keep filling up that void."

Flight experts say approximately 20,000 pilot jobs will open up in US airlines by 2022.

Katuin, "Right now, there's a big hiring and if you have the experience and qualifications it's a lot easier to get a job right now."

Flight instructor Jonathan helps some aspiring pilots meet those qualifications. He has taught many people how to fly.

Katuin, "You're either flying with kids that are 15 or 16-year-olds or someone who's 65 to 70 who always wanted to learn to fly and now they're retired so they have the time to do that."

If you've ever thought about being a pilot, now may be a good time.

Jonathan just accepted a job as a commercial pilot and will start training as an airline pilot next month.

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Progressive Aerodyne: Pilot makes historic flight in Tavares-made plane

Australian pilot Michael Smith is shown in his Searey plane, manufactured by Progressive Aerodyne of Tavares.

Australian pilot Michael Smith, 47, has been flying solo around the world in a two-seater Searey plane manufactured in Tavares, and he’s not done with his epic journey just yet.

His adventure has included 261.1 hours of flying during 105 days of travel. He has landed his light sport amphibious aircraft at 62 airports and 10 water bases throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Along the way, he has relished experiencing and posting on his travel blog the culture, customs, foods and sights of 45 cities.

Smith is currently in Tavares for maintenance on his plane at Progressive Aerodyne in preparation for the rest of his trip. He was welcomed Friday by city leaders, Progressive Aerodyne officials and aviation buffs.

“I love adventure and I have been sailing since I was a kid,” he said. “And when I started flying, I naturally gravitated toward the Searey, because it was the best of both worlds.

“I enjoy flying and the adventure is what it’s really all about … The Seareys are an amazing little plane where you can get out there and have some fun.”

Smith began his trip in March with the goal of following a 1938 route used by the Qantas Imperial Airline.

His planned route home will explore more of the United States, flying to New Orleans and then traveling north, via the Mississippi River, and west to Oregon, Alaska, across the Aleutians to Russia, south to Japan and the Philippines, then on to Indonesia and Australia.

“I’m still waiting on some airways clearances and permissions,” Smith said. If clearances are not granted, he will have to ship his plane home.

Reflecting on his landings in different countries, the pilot has fond memories of people who treated him with kindness.

“I’ve found that while I am comfortable with my own company for several hours of long flights, and as determined as I am, it’s the generosity of strangers helping on the ground that makes the trip possible and enjoyable,” Smith said. “Our most valuable commodity is time, yet time and time again, through Asia, Europe and even the Middle East, people were offering to help in many ways.”

In the Australian Outback, people offered their own cars for Smith to get around. In Patna, India, he was given a ride on the back of a motorbike to find food.

“Regardless of the politics of nations, the average citizens are good-hearted people who are only too pleased to help their fellow man,” he said.

The pilot has found Lake County residents eager to hear about his journey, too.

“How exciting is it that a seaplane manufactured here in Tavares, America’s Seaplane City, has flown around the world and has landed back here in Tavares?” Tavares Mayor Kirby Smith said. “This is phenomenal — a phenomenal feat.”

Tavares City Administrator John Drury said Smith’s journey also is exciting for Searey, which has expanded from Tavares to its certification and sales office in Shanghai, China.

“We’re exporting in China, so that’s a reversal of what we usually see,” Drury said, interrupted by applause.

“Made in Tavares,” yelled one man in the crowd. “Made in Tavares,” echoed Drury.

“This is an incredible trip and not very many people would be able to do that totally solo and unassisted,” said Kerry Richter, founder of Progressive Aerodyne, manufacturer of the Searey.

“But, it’s a very rugged airplane and it’s very capable.”

Richter learned months ago that Smith wanted to make the solo flight, but the pilot wanted it kept quiet.

“He said, ‘I don’t want anybody to try to talk me out of it,’” Richter recalled. “It was his dream that he wanted to do. I was impressed that he had the willingness to do it and the nerve to do it.

“It may be a record,” he said.

Story and photo gallery:

Australian pilot Michael Smith flies his Searey plane, manufactured in Tavares, over icy waters near Greenland.   Smith is currently in Tavares for maintenance on his plane before continuing his journey.

General Aviation Pilots: Save The Date, Maybe Save Your Life

By John Goglia

With 253 fatal general aviation accidents in 2014 – up 14% from the prior year – it’s time for private pilots (and those who fly with them) to seriously look at opportunities to keep themselves from becoming a part of a stubborn statistic in aviation: the number of fatalities involving GA pilots.   So here is an offer from the National Transportation Safety Board that no private pilot should refuse.  And that is a forum on the most common type of fatal accident in general aviation: loss of control.  As I’ve written about before, preventing loss of control accidents has been a major focus for the NTSB, the FAA and general aviation groups this year.

The NTSB forum, titled Humans and Hardware: Preventing Inflight Loss of Control in General Aviation, will be held on October 14 from 9 am to 5 pm ET at the NTSB’s headquarters in Washington DC, 429 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W.  The forum is free and open to the public.

If you’re nowhere near Washington DC and don’t plan to be on October 14th, no problem.  The entire forum will be broadcast live on the web at:  That date and those times inconvenient for you?  No worries.  The webcast will be archived and posted for 90 days for viewing at your leisure.

But view you must.  According to NTSB Member Earl F. Weener, who will preside over the event, “Every GA pilot gets training in loss-of-control events, such as aerodynamic stalls, yet about 40 percent of GA fatal accidents involve loss of control. We want to know what can be done to better address this stubbornly recurrent safety challenge.”

According to the NTSB’s press statement: “Topics addressed will include: an overview of the various types of loss of control accidents, human performance and medical issues, potential training improvements, and technological enhancements that can reduce loss of control accidents. The forum will feature presentations from pilots, instructors, general aviation advocacy groups, the Federal Aviation Administration, and manufacturers of potential technological countermeasures, among others.”

While, of course, it’s up to pilots themselves to take advantage of training such as this, I feel that educated friends and family that fly with them can make a difference by understanding the types of issues that can contribute to loss of control accidents.  Family and friends can be a major source of support in promoting training like this and also in educating themselves on the types of issues that can lead to loss of control – including weather, fatigue, medications and pressure to get home.

Original article can be found here: