Friday, September 18, 2015

State Fines Crop Duster

The Office of the Indiana State Chemist has leveled $250 fine against a pilot who sprayed a group of two dozen detasselers with pesticide.

The Bi-State Helicopters Inc. pilot was spraying fungicide on a field near Williamsport.

Some of the chemicals drifted onto a neighboring field where corn detasselers were working.

They were taken to a hospital to be decontaminated.

No severe injuries were reported.

The pilot told investigators he didn’t see the detasselers.

Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (KCLE) to hire snowplow operators in wake of Federal Aviation Administration fine for runway safety violations

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Three days after the Federal Aviation Administration heavily fined Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for under-staffing its airfield maintenance crews during snowstorms, the city is trying to fill those positions.

According to a news release Friday, the city will begin accepting applications for maintenance workers, field unit leaders, airport operations agents and heavy-duty technicians this Saturday, at a previously scheduled public forum called "How to Navigate the City of Cleveland's Hiring Process."

The event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., at Cleveland Public Auditorium on Lakeside Avenue.

City spokesman Dan Williams said in an interview Friday that most critically, the city must hire seasonal snowplow operators, who are called upon to keep runways and taxiways free of snow and ice during winter storms.

The airport currently has 25 part-time snowplow drivers from last season ready to be deployed, Williams said. But the airport needs 46 to meet minimum staffing requirements established by an agreement with the FAA, he said.

The agency slapped the airport with $735,000 in fines this week for violating that agreement to adequately staff snow removal teams and deice runways.

In four letters sent Monday to Acting Director of Airports Fred Szabo, FAA officials listed dozens of dates when staffing at Hopkins fell far short of requirements, leaving inches of snow and ice uncleared from the taxiways and runways and forcing planes to divert to other airports.

In an interview Wednesday, the former airfield maintenance manager who blew the whistle on the runway safety issues said that the airport is woefully unprepared for the winter season and has run out of time to train new employees before the snow begins to fall.

Abdul-Malik Ali told the Northeast Ohio Media Group and Plain Dealer Publishing Co. that the airport has only 20 of the 35 full-time airfield maintenance workers it needs to keep runways safe this winter.

Ali added that it would be impossible to hire and train enough new employees by Dec. 1. He described a laborious hiring process that involves an international background check and extensive training to understand airport communications.

The only way to meet the staffing requirement in time for winter would be to call upon recently retired workers to return for seasonal employment, Ali said.

On Friday, Williams said that's untrue. All but one of the budgeted fulltime maintenance positions have been filled, he said.

Asked whether the city can train the new seasonal workers in time for snowy weather, Williams said he's "not confident in anything until it's done."

But he added that many of the applicants under consideration have worked similar jobs at other airports, know the airport signage and FAA rules, and won't need to be trained.

"I wouldn't have gotten hired to this position if they had to train me to do it," Williams said. "Most of the people we hire already have the skill set. We don't have time to train them. They have to have the skills coming in."

The posted job description for airport maintenance workers, however, does not require prior airport experience. Rather, it calls for applicants to have a high school diploma or GED, experience operating heavy-duty equipment, a commercial driver's license, basic communication skills and a flexible schedule.

Original article can be found here:

‘Armed with a stick,’ a man attempted to steal a Learjet: Waco Regional Airport (KACT), Texas

A man with a history of mental health issues crashed through an airport gate in Waco and tried to steal a Learjet, according to authorities.

The man, whose name was not immediately released, used a vehicle to barrel through the gate at the Waco Regional Airport about noon Thursday, according to a Waco Police Department statement. After crashing through the security gate, police say, the suspect tried to get into a Learjet that was parked at the airport.

He was spotted by Texas Aero employees, who alerted an off-duty officer working security at the airport.

“Our officer approached the suspect who was armed with a stick and refused to cooperate with the officers instructions,” the department said in the statement. “The suspect was tazed [sic] several times with no affect, forcing our officer to have to physically restrain him. Texas Aero employees saw the officer struggling with the individual and came to assist.

“Those employees helped the officer subdue the individual and all were able to handcuff him.”

In a statement posted on Texas Aero’s Facebook page, the company said it “couldn’t be prouder” of its employees.

“Our line professionals questioned the individual and when he became belligerent were on point alerting law enforcement,” the company statement said. “When the individual failed to cooperate with law enforcement, our line professionals and operations manager assisted Waco Regional Airport and Waco PD in subduing him. The flying public was never in any danger, and operations were not affected.”

Police noted that they were familiar with the man, who, they said, might have been the “under the influence of narcotics” at the time of the incident. He was taken to a local hospital afterward, and was expected to be charged after his release.

Story, video. photos and comments:

Steve Chrisman: Growth at Pendleton range slowed by Federal Aviation Administration

By Steve Chrisman
Eastern Oregon Regional Airport Manager
Published:  September 18, 2015 2:05PM

In 2013, Eastern Oregon Regional Airport was designated as an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Test Range for the use of drones. The UAS industry is projected to generate 104,000 jobs nationwide and attract $82 billion in investment in the next 10 years, according to industry sources.

The test ranges were intended to play a vital role in developing a process for UAS businesses to gain the ability to use their technology commercially. Thus, nationwide the acquisition of an FAA-approved range became a rare and highly sought after designation. The city invested over $500,000 of funds they had received in the sale of an industrial building to develop the necessary rules, regulations and infrastructure to meet the needs of future customers.

What has been the holdup?

The biggest one is that the FAA has given no indication of what the path to commercialization will be for vehicles heavier than 55 pounds. The primary motivation of most UAS companies is getting their vehicle approved to fly in the National Airspace System (NAS), so that they can make money.

They are understandably reluctant to spend money without knowing they are working towards some achievable goal (commercialization). The city and many industry insiders believe that path will eventually follow a similar form to what already exists in manned aviation, but only the FAA can make that determination. Until that happens, most companies will wait.

The FAA has approved over 1,300 Section 333 exemptions, which has allowed those companies to do limited commercial operations without using the test ranges.

Almost all of those exemptions are for vehicles under 55 lbs., operating with many restrictions, and for only two years. Despite being temporary, the 333 exemption has only served to further muddy the waters and give industry a false belief that this is their long term solution.

Also, process for public operations is unwieldy. Because we are structured under the University of Alaska in the Pan Pacific Test Range Complex, the process requires private UAS companies to sell or lease us their vehicle for a minimum of 90 days before they are able to fly. These companies have been flying on military bases and overseas, and are not accustomed to this leasing requirement. It adds time and expense to a process that they are not even 100 percent sure they need yet.

Do we have any customers? Why do we have customers based on what was said above?

Yes, we have seven companies/organizations actively seeking operations in the Pendleton UAS Range. We are close to signing our first contract with a well-known organization. This should at least get some bodies on the range and get some vehicles in the air.

What this organization wants — as well as several others — is a safe, controlled environment to train their people to do operations. They are currently conducting research in far-off places, and would like an area much closer to home (and much less expensive) to train their people.

The other two areas we are seeing interest in is the training of customers that have purchased U.S.-made vehicles/sensors, and in companies needing very unique terrain or infrastructure (mountains, wind turbines, etc.). Though this interest is encouraging, these are a much smaller niche markets. The best outcome will be getting the FAA to establish the true path to commercialization and then driving all that business through the test sites.

Can we afford to keep this going? How long can we afford this to keep dragging out?

We have not been paying our contractor, Peak 3, since last winter, so our costs are minimal. Our contractor only makes money if they get people under contract and flying here in the range. At present, our marketing is primarily tradeshow, website and direct salesperson contact, which is relatively inexpensive. There are really no other costs associated with the range.

Currently, the market landscape and path to commercialization are still very nebulous. The industry demand is very real, but it will require an FAA-approved pathway to be established. Since Congress’ intent with the test sites was to expedite NAS integration, so the U.S. could capitalize on this $82 billion economic opportunity, we are confident that path will eventually be established.

It’s difficult to dispute that UAS are the future of aviation. As industry demand builds and the technology proliferates, air space safety alone will mandate the need for clear vehicle certification and flight training standards. Many industry insiders believe the role of the test ranges will be vital in that endeavor, and the Pendleton UAS Range is very well positioned amongst those ranges.

Steve Chrisman is the Airport Manager and Economic Development Director for the city of Pendleton. He can be reached at his office at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport or by calling him at 541-276-7754.


Incident occurred September 18, 2015 in Taneytown, Carroll County, Maryland

A Taneytown man is being treated for injuries he sustained Friday morning when his ultralight aircraft crashed near his home soon after take off, according to Maryland State Police.

Ronald O. Bonnette, 66, is undergoing treatment at the Carroll Hospital Center, according to an MSP news release. There were no passengers on board.

Troopers at the Maryland State Police Westminster Barrack were dispatched to a reported plane crash in the 3200 block of Kump Station Road near Taneytown shortly before 11:30 a.m. Friday. Fire and EMS personnel had also responded to the scene.

Bonnette housed his Rans Coyote ultralight aircraft at the home of a neighbor, who has a grass airstrip, according to police. He told investigators he was taking off from the grass strip this morning when the aircraft suddenly lost power, according to the news release. He descended and landed hard on the landing gear.

There was no fire. No one was injured on the ground.

The Federal Aviation Administration was notified and an FAA investigator responded to the scene, according to police.


Drone Sighting Reports Skyrocket on Long Island

Twice as many drone sightings were reported to authorities on Long Island than previously thought, revealing local reports skyrocketed in a fivefold increase since last year, new Federal Aviation Administration data shows.

A half dozen reports of drones last year on LI quintupled to 34 for the first eight months of this year, bringing to at least 40 the number of increasingly popular radio-controlled unmanned aircraft reported by pilots, air traffic controllers and citizens in Nassau and Suffolk counties in the past two years, the Press has found. The Press reported last month that at least 20 such cases in LI skies had been reported to the FAA and local police since 2013.

“Because pilot reports of unmanned aircraft have increased dramatically over the past year, the FAA wants to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal,” the FAA said last month in a statement when it released a list of 764 sighting reports from Nov. 13, 2014 to Aug. 20. “Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.”

The local increase in drone sighting reports suggests that LI is outpacing the estimated nearly threefold national increase in sightings of drones and other suspected unmanned aerial system (UAS) reported to the FAA since last year.

The new data comes as Suffolk lawmakers recently passed drone regulations. Nassau lawmakers are discussing a similar proposal, as are the towns of Huntington and Hempstead, plus the Village of Saltaire on Fire Island, where statistics show a third of Suffolk’s drone sightings were reported on the barrier island south of LI. The FAA is also drafting national drone rules expected to be released next year.

Four drone sightings were reported last year over Nassau while 13 were reported there Jan. 1 through Aug. 20 of this year, according to Nassau police and the FAA. In Suffolk, two drone sightings last year rose to 21 through last month, according to stats compiled by the Press from the FAA, Suffolk police, the Ocean Beach village police on FI and East Hampton Town Police. The other four East End town police departments either didn’t receive any drone reports, don’t track such incidents, or didn’t return calls for comment.

Some said the data needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The Academy of Model Aeronautics, an Indiana-based hobby aircraft group, released a report this week critical of the FAA’s data, arguing that the agency overstated the number of near misses that planes have had with drones, included drones that appear to have been flying within the permissible 400-foot altitude and also included non-drones sightings that may have been balloons, birds or other airborne items.

“The FAA fueled inaccurate and sensational headlines claiming that all drone reports involve ‘close calls,’ which even a casual review of the FAA’s data shows is inaccurate,” AMA said Monday in its report, A Closer Look at the FAA’s Drone Data. “In the absence of any operator identification, and given the heightened interest in commercial applications, it is inappropriate to assume, or to report, that a drone was operated by a ‘hobbyist.’”

Although none of the newly released drone sightings over LI indicate a close call, 16 were well above the 400-foot ceiling set by the FAA and four were within a five-mile radius of an airport, which is also a violation of federal rules. Two of those cases were both above the 400-foot limit and within three miles of an airport. But one was of a model airplane, not a drone.

Nassau police had said last month that they received nine reports of drones between April 28, 2014 and Aug. 2 of this year, but the new FAA data indicated that the agency had been notified at least three additional times during that time span than the police statistics showed. They include a JetBlue pilot spotting a drone two miles southeast of John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 19, 2014, another JetBlue pilot eyeing a drone five miles southeast of JFK on Jan. 30 and the pilot of a single-engine Cirrus SR22 reporting a drone passing 300 feet below the aircraft while flying at 2,000 feet three miles west of Republic Airport in East Farmingdale on May 23, records show.

A Nassau police spokesman confirmed that they received those reports, but could not say why they were not included in their tally. He added that there have been no additional drone sightings reported since last month.

In addition, the Press found three other reported sightings in the FAA data that appear to have occurred over Nassau but Nassau police don’t appear to have been notified. They include a JetBlue pilot spotting a UAS at 1,800 feet, three miles southeast of JFK at 11:40 a.m. June 29, a helicopter pilot seeing a white drone 100 feet above the aircraft while flying at 500 feet eastbound along the South Shore three miles south of JFK at 12:40 a.m. Aug. 5, and another JetBlue pilot encountering a drone between 500 and 800 feet while flying eastbound along the beach after departing from JFK at 5:20 p.m. Aug. 7, records show.

Suffolk police have said they don’t keep drone sighting stats, but the Press independently found four incidents this summer between June 30 and Aug. 27, all on Fire Island, two of which were over U.S. Coast Guard Station Fire Island at Robert Moses State Park. The FAA data shows Suffolk police were notified of drone sightings 10 times between Feb. 22 and Aug. 19 of this year.

Suffolk police didn’t appear to be notified of an 11th sighting listed in the FAA data in which a citizen reported a dark-color, four-propeller UAS flying at 400 feet near Sunrise Highway about two miles southwest of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma shortly after 7 p.m. July 24.

The 10 drone sightings in which the FAA said Suffolk police were notified include:

Feb. 22, 2015: Pilots for different jetliners reported a UAS—one at 8,000 feet, the other at 6,000 feet—five miles south of MacArthur Airport shortly before 4 p.m.

Feb. 24, 2015: A single-engine Piper PA46 pilot reported a black-and-silver drone hovering at 5,000 feet five miles north of the Calverton Executive Airpark at 9:35 a.m.

Feb. 25, 2015: A single-engine Piper PA28 pilot reported UAS at 600 feet two miles south of MacArthur Airport 1:58 p.m.

April 21, 2015: A JFK-bound Delta jetliner pilot reported a cylindrical gray-and-white, 3-foot-wide UAS with a hole in the middle that passed “a wingspan away” from the left side of the jet at 10,000 feet in the vicinity of Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach at 11:30 p.m.

May 24, 2015: A JFK-bound Delta jetliner pilot reported a drone at 7,000 feet eight miles southwest of MacArthur Airport at 2:15 p.m.

June 10, 2015: A JFK-bound Delta jetliner pilot reported spotting a white, four-engine drone flying at 1,800 feet over Robert Moses State Park on Fire Island at 2:57 p.m.

June 26, 2015: An experimental aircraft pilot reported spotting a dark-colored quadcopter UAS come within 500 feet of the aircraft while flying at 3,000 feet 20 miles southeast of JFK at 8 p.m.

July 4, 2015: A Delta jetliner pilot reported spotting a yellow UAS fly 500 feet below the aircraft while flying at 4,000 feet about 23 miles east of JFK at 10:55 a.m.

Aug. 5, 2015: A single-engine Piper PA28 pilot reported a remote-controlled model airplane with a 5-foot wingspan flying at 1,500 feet one mile south of Republic Airport at 8:25 p.m.

Aug. 9, 2015: A single-engine Cessna pilot reported spotting a UAS flying at 2,500 feet five miles southwest of East Hampton Airport at 4:40 p.m.


Cessna P206B Super Skylane, N8615Z: Fatal accident occurred September 18, 2015 in Spring Hill, Florida


NTSB Identification: ERA15FA361 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 18, 2015 in Spring Hill, FL
Aircraft: CESSNA U206E, registration: N8615Z
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 18, 2015, about 0855 eastern daylight time, N8615Z, a Cessna U206E floated-equipped airplane, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain near Spring Hill, Florida. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Keystone Seaplane, LLC, Odessa, Florida, and operated by the pilot. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Page Airport (FMY), Fort Myers, Florida, about 0727.The personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

A preliminary review of air traffic control communications provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed the pilot's original flight plan was from FMY to the Lake Keystone Seaplane Base (57FL), Odessa, Florida, where the airplane was based. When the pilot arrived at 57FL, he told air traffic control that he had the seaplane base in sight and cancelled his IFR flight plan at 0833. A preliminary review of radar data revealed that the airplane then made a series of turns in the vicinity of the seaplane base before the pilot requested an IFR clearance to the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport (BKV), Brooksville, Florida. The pilot was cleared by air traffic control for the ILS RWY 9 instrument approach into BKV. Radar data revealed the airplane was established on the approach until reaching the final approach fix, when it descended below the glide-scope and radar contact was lost about a mile from the airport. There were no distress calls from the pilot.

Several witnesses observed the airplane right before it impacted the ground. One witness stated that he first heard the airplane's engine "cut out." When he looked up, he saw the airplane come out of the clouds and it "started to spiral down" over his house. The airplane then veered to the north before the sound of an impact was heard. A second witness said he heard the airplane approaching and the engine "got extremely loud, almost at full throttle" just before it came into his view. The witness said the airplane was at an "extremely angled" nose-down pitch and was at a high rate of speed. He did not see the impact due to trees.

The airplane came to rest in the backyard of a private residence. An on-scene examination of the airplane revealed that all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the site and there was no post-impact fire. The point of initial impact was a stand of trees that were about 80 feet tall. The airplane then collided with a fence and the ground before coming to rest about 75-feet from where it initially struck the trees. Scattered along the wreckage path were severed tree limbs, the left elevator, the left elevator tip fairing, a nose-wheel tire, and a propeller blade. The main wreckage included the propeller, engine, fuselage, tail section and both pontoons. Several of the severed tree limbs exhibited flat, 45-degree fracture surfaces with black paint transfer.

Examination of the main wreckage revealed it was twisted, crushed and partially lying on its right side. Flight control continuity was established for all major flight control surfaces. The flaps were fully retracted and the landing gear was extended. The elevator trim tab was in the 10-degree down position.

The left wing remained attached to the fuselage and sustained impact damage. The fuel tank was breached and first responders reported fuel draining from the wing upon their arrival at the scene. The right wing also sustained impact damage and had separated from the fuselage at the wing root. First responders reported fuel draining from the right wing's tank; however, about 5 gallons of 100LL fuel was drained during the recovery process. The two header tanks appeared to be undamaged. The fuel selector valve was selected to the right tank. The firewall fuel strainer remained attached to the firewall and the bowl was full of fuel. Some fuel was also found in the engine-driven fuel pump and fuel manifold valve. No evidence of water or contamination was observed.

According to a fuel provider at FMY, the pilot had requested the airplane be topped off with fuel and purchased 36.5 gallons of 100LL the day before the accident.

The weather conditions reported at BKV, at 0853, included wind from 030 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, overcast ceiling 500 (with it variable between 400 and 800 feet), temperature 24 degrees C, dewpoint 22 degrees C, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.84 inches of Hg.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, single-engine sea, and instrument airplane. His last FAA second class medical was issued on August 11, 2014. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that as of September 17, 2015, he had accrued a total of 559 total flight hours, of which 320.7 hours were in a single-engine seaplane. He also had 55.5 hours of simulated instrument time and 15.8 hours of actual instrument experience.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Miami FSDO-19 

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

Cessna P206B Super Skylane, N8615Z

Cessna P206B Super Skylane, N8615Z

Gary Cohen
A year before Gary Cohen crashed his Cessna 206 in a Hernando County neighborhood, federal aviation authorities learned he had a history of drug abuse and had been institutionalized for mental illness. 

Yet Cohen was allowed to keep flying and died in the Sept. 18 crash that narrowly missed a Spring Hill man’s house. A medical examiner’s report obtained through a public records request showed Cohen had cocaine in his system, likely taken the day of the crash.

It is not clear why officials with the Federal Aviation Administration failed to seek an emergency revocation of Cohen’s FAA medical certificate, which would have grounded him. FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen declined to comment, saying the agency does not answer questions about pilot medical certificates.

Records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act show FAA officials were aware in September 2014 that Cohen had twice been institutionalized for suicidal tendencies. An internal FAA memo shows the agency’s Tampa office contacted Dr. Susan Northrup, FAA Southern Region Flight Surgeon, about Cohen’s forced commitment under Florida’s Baker Act in June 2007.

The memo, dated Oct. 17, 2014, quoted Northrup saying if she had legal documentation of the Baker Act action against Cohen, she could initiate an emergency revocation of his medical certificate.

An email chain obtained by the Tribune shows a resident from the Lake Keystone area where Cohen lived and parked his amphibious airplane sent a copy of the Baker Act documentation to the FAA flight surgeon in September.

To get a medical certificate necessary for an airman’s certificate, the applicant must meet certain standards, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. The applicant can have no established medical history or clinical diagnosis for a number of mental disorders, among them personality disorders or psychosis that manifests itself in delusions, hallucinations or grossly bizarre or disorganized behavior.

Substance abuse also is a reason to refuse a medical certificate, the federal regulations say, unless there is “established clinical evidence” that the applicant has recovered, including total abstinence for not less than the two preceding years.

Cohen, who was 56 when he died, was a pharmacist in New York before moving to Florida in 1985. In 1993, he settled in a house on Lake Keystone in the Odessa area of northwest Hillsborough County.

Neighbors describe Cohen as a vigorous if eccentric man who often jogged at a neighborhood park with his two Dobermans, Zeus and Cerberus. In videos he posted on YouTube, Cohen is shown shooting a .50-caliber sniper rifle and wakeboarding on the lake.

On June 9, 2007, the normally tranquil neighborhood around Lake Keystone was disrupted when a Hillsborough County sheriff’s SWAT team surrounded Cohen’s home. Someone had called the sheriff saying they heard gunshots in the house, according to incident reports. Cohen’s girlfriend, Ericka Ciancarelli, told deputies Cohen had “smoked or snorted cocaine” and barricaded himself in a closet with a handgun. According to Ciancarelli’s remarks in the sheriff’s report, Cohen started “talking crazy,” saying things that made her think he wanted to kill himself.

Cohen was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital under the Baker Act. Deputies reported numerous holes in the wall and spent shell casings. Two assault rifles, a .50-caliber sniper caliber rifle and a Glock handgun were confiscated, according to the report.

Cohen’s son, Randy, told deputies at the time his father was depressed over his divorce from Randy’s mother, Robin Cohen.

“He was in a bad place at that time but he was in a very good place at the time of his death,” Randy Cohen said in a recent interview.

Less than a year later, Cohen got a temporary airman’s certificate, allowing him to fly a single-engine airplane. FAA records show Cohen had to reapply for the certificate after failing the practical portion of the test on the first try. The practical test is a flight with an examiner who passes or fails the applicant, said Bergen, the FAA spokeswoman.

Sometime in 2013, Cohen’s flying maneuvers around the lake began to alarm nearby residents. They contacted local and federal officials, claiming Cohen was “buzzing” residents’ homes at low altitudes and taxiing the seaplane back and forth across the lake at high rates of speed.

Adrian Higgins, a Lake Keystone resident and former air traffic controller in the Navy, said Cohen violated a host of accepted aviation regulations and customs, such as failing to clear trees and houses with a proper safety margin. Cohen also failed to maintain safe distances from boaters and skiers when he was taxing, Higgins said.

“I observed him breaking all kinds of rules like that,” Higgins said. “I think he was flying too low even when he wasn’t taking off and landing. I don’t think he was making good decisions about when he would land and take off with the number of boaters and skiers that were on the lake.”

Residents complained to the FAA in December 2013, according to records, but the agency decided no federal aviation regulations were violated.

The next year, Cohen filed a lawsuit against the Lake Keystone Property Owners Association, alleging that association members were persuading his neighbors to make erroneous complaints about his flying. Despite having a clean flying record, the lawsuit said, Cohen drew complaints that he flew too low and took too long to land.

In September 2014, Lake Keystone association members Jim Swain and Mark Eberbach filed a counter-lawsuit against the pilot. The two men restated their complaints about Cohen’s “reckless actions” in the lawsuit, saying his flying habits constituted a “public nuisance” and caused the plaintiffs “anxiety and emotional distress.”

Cohen dropped his lawsuit soon after the counter-suit was filed.

The FAA received another complaint about Cohen’s flying on Aug. 13, 2014. An agency investigator again found no violations.

The reports of Cohen’s drug use and mental issues raise questions about what caused the crash two months ago. He took off that day from Page Airport in Fort Myers at around 7:27 a.m. His flight plan was to fly from Fort Myers to his seaplane base in Odessa. He was supposed to fly from there to Orlando.

When he got to Odessa, however, Cohen made a couple of turns around the seaplane base, and then requested clearance to fly to Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport, according to an initial accident report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Cohen was cleared by air traffic control for an approach using the airplane’s instruments to the Brooksville airport. Cohen’s certificate included the higher-level instrument rating, needed for flying at night and in certain adverse conditions.

Radar data showed the airplane had established its path to the airport until the final approach, when it started descending below radar contact. Cohen made no distress calls to air traffic controllers, according to the NTSB report.

A witness told NTSB investigators he first heard the plane’s engine “cut out.” When he looked up, the witness saw the plane come out of the clouds and start to “spiral down.”

A second witness said the plane’s engine “got extremely loud, almost at full throttle” just before it came into view. The plane was at an “extremely angled,” nose-down pitch and was traveling at a high rate of speed, the witness said.

The plane crashed into a stand of trees 80 feet tall, the NTSB said. There was no post-impact fire. The airplane’s flaps, which are extended when landing, were instead retracted. The landing gear, however, was extended to land.

Randy Cohen said he is sure his father did not intend to kill himself by crashing the plane. The personal problems that led to Cohen’s involuntary commitment in 2007 had lifted, he said.

“He had gotten over that part of his life,” Randy Cohen said. “He was actually in a very good place. He was building a business, fixing up his house. He had found a new passion in flying.”

The son, who is a firefighter and fire inspector in Colorado, said his dad proved he had his wits about him that day by his choice of a crash site. The plane came to rest in a large backyard that was bordered on three sides by trees. The yard is surrounded by a densely populated residential neighborhood.

“He tried to put that plane in someone’s open backyard,” Cohen said. “There are no trees in this person’s backyard. As a pilot that is where you are trying to put the plane down to limit the loss of life.”

The NTSB is conducting an investigation into the cause of the crash. An agency spokesman said the results will be released sometime next year.

Story and comments:

Gary Cohen

Gary Cohen and his fiance Ericka Ciancarelli with his plane at Bartow Municipal Airport (KBOW), Florida.

Gary Cohen and his fiance Ericka Ciancarelli

An Odessa man whose flying habits led to a long-running feud with his lakefront neighbors died Friday morning when his plane crashed into a yard in Spring Hill.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Gary Cohen, 56, of Odessa, was flying a Cessna 206 amphibious floatplane that crashed just before 9 a.m. in the backyard of a home at 13088 Little Farms Drive in Spring Hill. 

The accident site is west of the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and two blocks south of John D. Floyd Elementary School.

No one on the ground was injured, authorities said, but the plane was demolished, with pieces of the aircraft scattered throughout the backyard. Cohen was the only person onboard.

Cohen was traveling from Odessa to Orlando and was in contact with the airport before the crash, sheriff’s officials said. The agency did not release any information about what Cohen and air controllers talked about.

Neighboring homes were temporarily evacuated, but the nearby school was not evacuated and classes were not affected. Crews from Hernando County Fire Rescue used foam to contain the fumes from the fuel.

Kristie Young lives a couple of houses down from where Cohen crashed. Young said she heard the plane’s engine cycling off and on for about 10 seconds before the motor failed.

“I heard it crash, and then me and the neighbors went to see if he was alive,” she said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is examining the wreckage to determine the cause, officials said.

Cohen, a licensed pilot, had feuded for years with neighbors over his use of his plane on and near Lake Keystone. A resident of the neighborhood and former board member of the Lake Keystone Property Owners Association, he filed suit against the association in 2014, saying association members were persuading his neighbors to make erroneous complaints about his flying. Despite having a clean flying record, the lawsuit says, neighbors complained he flew too low, took too long to land and suggested he could crash.

In 2007, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call at Cohen’s home after he snorted cocaine, told his girlfriend he no longer wanted to live and barricaded himself in a closet with a handgun, according to sheriff’s office reports.

Responding deputies found holes in the walls and bullet casings on the ground, the reports stated. Cohen was taken into custody under the Baker Act, which allows authorities to take someone for a mental health evaluation if they are a danger to themselves or others.


SPRING HILL — The pilot of a small plane died Friday morning when the aircraft crashed in a residential neighborhood of Spring Hill, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

He was identified as 56-year-old Gary Cohen, who lived in the upscale Lake Keystone neighborhood in Odessa.

The plane, a Cessna 206 Amphibian with pontoons, crashed in the back yard of a home at 13088 Little Farms Drive, north of Spring Hill Drive near the intersection of Coronado Drive and Whitewood Avenue. Neighboring homes were temporarily evacuated, but there were no injuries on the ground.

The crash happened several blocks from J.D. Floyd K-8 School. School district officials reported the school was continuing normal operations.

The Sheriff's Office reported that the plane was en route from Odessa to Orlando when it crashed, but had been in contact with Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

Rob Gomez, 47, of 13110 Little Farms Drive, was home when the plane crashed and said it sounded as if the aircraft was having engine trouble.

"Then all of a sudden we heard like the engine was stalling, and then within a few seconds we heard a crash," Gomez said.

He said he ran out to try to look for the pilot, but could not find anyone. He said he saw two seats, both empty — one still inside the plane and one outside.

Cohen, who was executive director of the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, was involved last year in a nasty dispute with neighbors  in Lake Keystone over the noise of his plane, which was worth between $200,000 and $300,000.

The seaplane, some neighbors said, made the lake its personal runway, buzzing homes and treetops, forcing boats to swerve, shattering the tranquility of this wealthy, waterfront enclave.

The dispute came to a head when Cohen sued his primary adversary, the fiction writer Jim Swain who was also president of the neighborhood's homeowner association. Swain countersued, records show, but the suit was later dismissed.

On Friday, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said his office received a call at 8:56 a.m. and had deputies and rescue personnel on the scene within three to six minutes.

"We unfortunately found a pretty horrific crash," Nienhuis said. "It's hardly recognizable as an airplane."

He said the pilot was attempting to land at the nearby Hernando airport when the plane crashed.

The sheriff said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were on their way to Spring Hill to take over the investigation.

Weather "was not an obvious contributor," the sheriff said, adding that it was "miraculous" that there were no injuries on the ground and minimal property damage.

Scott Hechler, Hernando's public safety director, said there was no fire in connection with the crash, but that fuel had spilled. Firefighters used foam to make sure the fuel did not ignite.


Feud over seaplane makes waves far beyond Lake Keystone
March 30, 2014 

ODESSA — The seaplane is so loud, the author said, it scared his wife's horses.

It rattled the orthodontist's new hurricane-resistant windows. It woke the plastic surgeon on a Sunday, just after he returned from vacation in India.

For months, a feud has raged on Lake Keystone. The seaplane, some say, makes the lake its personal runway, buzzing homes and treetops, forcing boats to swerve, shattering the tranquility of this wealthy, waterfront enclave.

Nine government agencies and two Hillsborough County commissioners have been involved. None has come to the aid of complaining neighbors.

The plane's owner has flight logs and global positioning system records he says refute complaints. He's the victim, he says, of the homeowners association president, who he asserts has lorded over Lake Keystone for years.

Last week, this characteristically Floridian feud took an inevitable turn: the plane owner sued. But there's more at stake than legal damages or a man's recreational aviation habits. Life on Lake Keystone may never be the same.

• • •

In 1990, Jim and Laura Swain moved onto Keystone, a roughly 430-acre lake in northwestern Hillsborough. Jim, a mystery author, is the longtime president of the Lake Keystone Property Owners Association.

The Swains have made fighting nearby development an avocation. Over the years, they have protested or demanded input on a proposed housing development, expanded roads, the design of a new strip mall, a new carwash and a new elementary school.

Neighbors credit them with preserving the rural charm of Keystone, where empty lots sell for seven figures.

"People trust him to be our eyes and ears," said Dr. Mark Eberbach.

"They wield a lot of power up here," said Jim Griffin.

Late last year, neighbors started calling Jim Swain, 57, about the seaplane. Besides noise, some worried about safety. What if it crashed? What if it hit a boat or a swimmer? Would it scare away the eagles?

• • •

Gary Cohen sat recently in an airport hangar, in designer jeans and a monogrammed shirt, explaining why complaints made by Swain and others are absurd.

"He thinks it's Lake Swain," Cohen said, "and he's acted that way for years."

Parked behind Cohen was his six-seat, white-and-blue 1971 Cessna 206 Amphibian. Cohen, executive director of the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, declined to say how much he paid for it last year. The plane is worth between $200,000 and $300,000, he said.

Cohen, 54, moved to Keystone in 1993 and raised three children there with his then-wife. He's now engaged to Ericka Ciancarelli, 36, who's learning to fly.

A conversation with Cohen is an exercise in the art of polite interruption. He speaks quickly and at length, with a thick Brooklyn accent. He had prepared a white three-ring binder with 75 pages of evidence: FAA regulations, emails with Tampa Port Authority officials and a propeller manufacturer, and copies of his flight logs.

He read aloud emails complaining about him, listing what he calls inaccuracies. In one, Swain alleged Cohen took off 14 times on a Saturday, starting at 7:30 a.m. Cohen took off four times that day, he says his logs show, starting at 11:11 a.m. He was giving rides to neighbors.

A boat has never had to swerve to avoid his plane, Cohen said, and he does not buzz homes or tree tops. He pulled up GPS logs tracking his plane's elevation. Typically, as he clears the lake's edge, he's between 250 and 400 feet up, or at least 100 feet above trees, they show.

"He's a fiction writer. He lives in a fiction world," he said of Swain. "This stuff is somewhere between Harry Potter and Star Trek."

• • •

Swain and others have contacted the following about the plane: the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Tampa Port Authority, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and offices of County Commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman.

The FAA investigated and found nothing wrong. The DOT said it couldn't do anything, but county government could.

County Attorney Chip Fletcher disagreed. Florida Statute 330.36 (2) says a "municipality" can regulate seaplanes. A county is not a municipality, he said.

Swain turned to the Port Authority, which owns the land under the lake. A port official gave the same answer: The port is not a municipality.

Word reached the national Seaplane Pilots Association in Lakeland. Executive Director Steve McCaughey routinely deals with complaints about seaplane noise and safety, when he's not on the road lobbying.

Safety concerns are overblown, McCaughey said. Florida, home to about 650 seaplane owners, is among the most seaplane-friendly states in the country. Statistically speaking, he said, boats are more dangerous. There were 662 boat accidents and 50 fatalities in Florida in 2012, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The FAA does not keep statistics for seaplane accidents, but a review of newspaper articles from 2012 shows three seaplane accidents in Florida, none fatal.

A colleague of McCaughey's flew with Cohen in December, when the complaints started.

"I can absolutely assure you this pilot's not doing anything wrong," said McCaughey.

He acknowledged his bias.

"I try to be as objective as possible in these situations," he said. "I don't want my operators making headline news. I don't want them being bad neighbors."

• • •

In the past month, another complaining neighbor has taken the lead: Richard "Skip" Hirsch, 66, a retired orthodontist. Hirsch measured the plane at 95 decibels using an app on his smartphone, he said, putting it between a passing motorcycle (90 db) and a pneumatic drill (100 db).

"When the yard people come to do the yard, until they're right up near the house, I can't hear the mowers," said Eileen, Hirsch's wife. "This plane, I can hear it when it's out on the lake."

On March 6, Hirsch emailed a port official who, months earlier, told Cohen the port had no problem with his seaplane.

"You and the Port Authority have forever changed the status quo of our lake," Hirsch wrote. "Your two sentences of implied permission have enabled Mr. Cohen to threaten our way of life."

The official — Phil Steadham, environmental affairs director— sent Hirsch's email to a port attorney with this introduction: "This is absolutely preposterous."

• • •

On Jan. 29, Cohen's attorney sent a letter to Swain, advising him to stop "all defamation of Gary Cohen's character and reputation." Cohen has asked Swain to resign as president of the property owner's association.

Swain declined to meet in person with the Tampa Bay Times. In phone interviews, Swain said the situation has been resolved, and he's not resigning.

"I consider this a dead issue," he said.

Cohen doesn't. Friday, he sued, alleging Swain led an "ongoing, personal crusade" against him consisting of "fraudulent reports and complaints."

The conflict has already shaken up the association's board.

As tensions mounted last year, Swain asked longtime treasurer Tom Werner — Cohen's next-door neighbor — to step down until the dispute was resolved.

"He said it would be best for all parties involved," said Werner. He decided to quit.

"Personally, I think the plane is really neat," Werner said.

A few weeks ago, Werner said, he was standing on his dock when Skip Hirsch pulled up in his wakeboat.

"Is that your plane?" he said Hirsch asked.

"No," Werner recalled saying, "It's my neighbor's. What's the problem?"

Hirsch said he wanted to get the plane banned.

"I told him, 'Well, I don't like your boat. Maybe I'll try to get that banned,' " Werner recalled.

Wakeboats create waves that cut into his shoreline. He said Hirsch looked at him, puzzled.

"He said 'Are you kidding me?' " Werner recalled. "He thought I was being ridiculous."


In Formal Step, Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission Puts Manager on Paid Leave

Airport manager Sean Flynn appeared with his attorney Friday morning.

Airport manager Sean Flynn has been placed on administrative leave with pay, following a Friday morning closed-door session with Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission.

The decision to place the embattled manager on leave was confirmed by commission chairman Myron Garfinkle at the conclusion of the 45-minute executive session. Mr. Garfinkle said the meeting was called to “discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal” of an employee. Mr. Flynn has been on the sidelines since August 10 when he began an unscheduled vacation. At the time Mr. Garfinkle said the manager would not return to work, that the airport commission was negotiating an amicable separation agreement and that a search would begin for Mr. Flynn’s successor. But with no apparent successful outcome to the mediation talks, the airport commission on Friday morning took formal steps as outlined in Mr. Flynn’s contract.

Mr. Flynn was present for the meeting with his attorney. The airport commission was represented by its Cambridge attorney David Mackey.

The commission is now following a disciplinary procedure outlined in the contract. The commission must give Mr. Flynn 30 days advance notice of any vote to terminate his contract; additionally, the manager is entitled to a hearing before an independent hearing officer, and the right to formally respond to any decision that emerges from that hearing.

Mr. Flynn has served as airport manager since 2005. In February, the airport commission renewed his contract for three years, effective July 1, at a starting annual salary of $138,822. The new contract calls for cost of living increases, and a two per cent raise in each successive year of the agreement, based on a positive annual performance review.

His base salary at the beginning of his previous five-year contract, signed in 2010, was $115,756, with similar provisions for cost of living adjustments and annual raises.

While under his previous five-year contract, the airport commission could terminate Mr. Flynn for cause by majority vote, the current contract adds detail to the process.

Mr. Flynn is entitled to a detailed accounting of the nature of the grounds for cause 30 days before any vote on termination, along with the opportunity to rectify any deficiencies during that time. He has the right to a hearing before an impartial hearing officer 10 days in advance of any vote to terminate his contract.

Where cause was defined in the previous contract as a material breach of his contract, willful or gross neglect of his duties, or engaging in conduct that was “materially injurious to the airport,” the new three-year contract expands the definition of cause to include any admission or conviction of a misdemeanor materially or adversely affecting the airport commission, conviction on any felony charge, fraud, or misappropriation of airport property.

Also spelled out in the new contract are some additional rights for Mr. Flynn, including the right to be represented by a lawyer at a hearing, to exchange copies of evidence and witness lists with the airport commission at least 48 hours in advance of a hearing, and to formally respond to any findings of a hearing officer.

The new contract also includes provisions for regular working evaluations of Mr. Flynn’s job performance by the personnel subcommittee of the airport commission, and detailed provisions prohibiting the manager from disclosing confidential airport information, during his employment, or after termination for any reason.

The new contract was approved by the airport commission in a 5-2 vote in February of this year. Former commissioners Constance Teixeira and James Coyne, who voted for the contract renewal, were replaced a month later by the Dukes County Commission, which appoints the airport board. A third commissioner who voted in favor of the new contract, Denys Wortman, did not seek reappointment.

Of the seven airport commissioners serving in March 2014, six had been ousted by the county commission by March 2015, during a contentious year in which the two boards sued each other in superior court and clashed repeatedly over control of airport operations.

Mr. Flynn’s management style and job performance have been criticized in recent years. He, along with the airport commission and the county commission are the subject of an ongoing workplace discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee. On June 18, 2014, Mr. Flynn was granted an eight-week medical leave of absence.

This summer, Mr. Garfinkle and airport commission vice chairman Robert Rosenbaum told the Gazette that following a scheduled inspection and follow up surprise inspection, the FAA raised questions and demanded action on several issues involving airport operations. The FAA said failure to quickly correct the deficiencies could result in a loss of the airport’s license to operate as a commercial facility.

The airport commission and the FAA have declined to provide copies of the FAA inspection reports or other communications with Mr. Flynn, citing an ongoing FAA investigation.

- Story and comments:

Commission voted to go into executive session.

Rockwell Collins Forecasts Tough Business Aviation Conditions • Company forecast a mid-single-digit decline in sales for the segment

The Wall Street Journal
By Doug Cameron and Chelsey Dulaney
Updated September 18, 2015 at  10:42 a.m. ET

Rockwell Collins Inc. on Friday said it expected its corporate jet business to shrink over the next year, marking another setback in the sector’s sluggish recovery from the financial crisis in seven years ago.

The weakness in sales of smaller business jets has spread in recent months to larger planes, and flight activity has stalled in many markets, with U.S. domestic operations offering one of the few pockets of growth.

Rockwell Collins, which makes avionics, communications systems and other parts for business jets, said it expected a mid-single-digit decline in sales to the sector in its fiscal year to Sept. 30, 2016, from a year earlier. The company’s 2016 financial guidance also fell short of analysts’ expectations.

Global business jet shipments fell 4.1% in the first half of 2015 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, a U.S.-based trade group. While shipments rose 6.5% last year, the total of 722 planes was barely more than half the record 1,317 moved in 2008.

Rockwell said it expected production cuts to be focused among smaller and mid-sized jets. Its downbeat outlook comes as business jet makers such as Bombardier Inc., Gulfstream, Embraer SA and the Textron Inc. finalize their production plans for 2015. Bombardier, the market leader by revenue, has already cut production of some models and shelved a planned new jet, laying off around 1,000 staff.

General Dynamics Corp, which owns second-ranked Gulfstream, has been more bullish on its order pipeline in recent months, though it may shift production resources to new models such as the large-cabin G650 that have long waiting lists.

The slowdown in emerging market economies has hampered sales of new and used jets in markets including Russia and China, but the big U.S. domestic market has also been sluggish in recent months, with the number of flights rising 2.4% in the 12 months to end-July, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We came into the year expecting that flight activity would continue to recover at last year’s rate and unfortunately, it just hasn’t,” Rockwell Collins Chief Executive Kelly Ortberg said on the company’s quarterly earnings’ call in July.

Rockwell, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is traditionally the first big aerospace company to provide full-year guidance in the fall, and investor sentiment towards the sector has waned in recent months, due to concern about a potential oversupply of jets and weak sales of spares.

“While the decline in business aviation will make for a challenging year for our commercial systems business, we remain focused on executing the business to drive long-term growth in both operating margin and cash flow,” Mr. Kelly Ortberg said in a statement on Friday.

“We will be taking action through the first half of fiscal year 2016 to right-size our business to these new market conditions.”

The company reiterated its 2015 guidance, and forecast earnings next year of $5.20 to $5.40 a share, including a 10 to 15 cent restructuring charge. Analysts had forecast per-share profits of $5.45. Rockwell’s forecast revenue of $5.3 billion to $5.4 billion was just shy of expectations.

Rockwell Collins shares were recently down 1.6% at $83.89. 

Original article can be found here: