Thursday, October 22, 2015

Teenager sues pilot over ferris wheel plane crash which has left her with fear of show rides: Morgan Aeroworks Cheetah Sierra 200, 24-7634

A teenage girl who was on a ferris wheel when a light plane crashed into it is suing the festival, the council and the pilot for psychological harm saying she now has an intense fear of show-rides and has even attempted suicide.

Amber Arndell, then 13, was seated with her little brother Jessie, then 9, when a Morgan Aeroworks Cheetah Sierra 200 crashed into the ferris wheel close to their gondola, at the Old Bar Beach Festival, on the mid-north coast on October 1, 2011.

The children weren’t physically harmed in the freak crash but they remained trapped in their gondola for hours in the cold until they were eventually rescued by crane.

The pilot Paul Cox, 54 and his 32-year-old son-in-law John Rowan amazingly survived the crash and were rescued with minor injuries.

Ms. Arndell, now 18, has lodged a claim for up to $750,000 in damages in the Sydney District Court against the Old Bar Beach Festival for allowing the ferris wheel to be erected close to the airstrip where Mr. Cox was attempting to land his plane. She is also suing Greater Taree Council, for approving the event, and Mr. Cox for failing to observe and operate the plane to avoid the ferris wheel.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cox is suing the council, the festival and the Old Bar Heritage Airport Management Committee, while Mr. Rowan is suing his father-in-law and the festival.

Ms. Arndell’s lawyer, Justin Stack said his client was struggling to cope following the accident.

“Amber has had a really hard time since the accident she suffers from depression, anxiety, has panic attacks and is struggling to get on with her life after what happened. Some sort of compensation is definitely owed to her,” he said.

The Statement of Claim says the ferris wheel was set up 161m south of the center line of the airstrip, and “infringed into the obstacle clearance area for take-off and landings” as set out by the Australian Civil Aviation Authority.

An investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau concluded Mr. Cox was not skilled enough for the environment he was flying in.

The ATSB also found that the Old Bar Beach Festival Committee was ineffective in managing the risk of aviation operation at the event.

The report says since the crash the festival and airstrip committee have agreed to suspend flights during the festival.

The three civil suits were adjourned until February 25 for further directions.

- Source:

What happened:

On 1 October 2011, the pilot of a Morgan Aero Works Cheetah Sierra 200 aircraft (Sierra), registered 24-7634, was attempting to land at the Old Bar Airstrip after conducting a private flight from Taree Airport, New South Wales.

The pilot commenced a go-around after touching down. During the climb out the aircraft collided with a ferris wheel that was part of a group of amusements located at a beach festival, adjacent and to the south of the airstrip.

There were two persons on board the Sierra and four occupants of the ferris wheel at the time of the collision. There were no reported injuries from the occupants of the ferris wheel, and the passenger in the Sierra reported receiving a minor injury.

What the ATSB found:

The ATSB found that the management of risk in relation to flight training operations by Recreational Aviation Australia Incorporated (RA-Aus) was adequate; however, it had been circumvented in a number of areas during the training of the pilot. That resulted in a pilot operating in the aviation environment who did not possess the required competencies to exercise the privileges of a private pilot certificate.

The ATSB also found that the approach to the management of risk by the Old Bar Beach Festival Committee, specifically relating to aviation operations at the beach festival, was ineffective and resulted in a level of risk that had the potential to impact on the objectives of the festival.
What's been done as a result

RA-Aus have taken steps to ensure that the flight training facility that undertook the pilot’s training and its staff are aware of the requirements imposed upon them by the RA-Aus Operations Manual, and that RA-Aus staff at the facility have the required skills and knowledge to carry out flight training operations. The pilot underwent a flight review that established the need for additional training.

The festival and airstrip committees reported that in future the airstrip will be closed and aviation operations suspended when the festival is taking place.

Safety message:

The management of risk in aviation requires diligence and structure to be effective. In particular, when aviation activities are part of a public event the supporting procedures, processes and guidelines need to be carefully developed and applied to manage risk to those choosing to participate in the aviation environment and to others external to the aviation activity.

Van's RV-10, N62DN: Fatal accident occurred May 31, 2014 in Toledo, Oregon

NTSB Docket and docket items:

NTSB Identification: WPR14FA218
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 31, 2014 in Toledo, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/07/2015
Aircraft: NEBERT VANS RV-10, registration: N62DN
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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.

The pilot, who was also the builder of the experimental kit airplane, departed for a cross-country flight from his home airport. The passenger reported that, following a normal departure, the airplane continued the takeoff climb through some cloud wisps and ascended above a lower cloud cover with an overcast layer above. Suddenly, the engine experienced a total loss of power. The pilot maneuvered the airplane toward the closest airport, but, when he realized that the airplane would not be able to glide to the airport, he attempted to make an off-airport landing. The airplane stalled and then collided with terrain in an open area of a paper mill. Ground scar analysis and wreckage fragmentation revealed that the airplane descended in a steep, near-vertical, nose-down, left-wing-down attitude before it impacted terrain. The pilot installed a fuel flow transducer about 2 to 3 weeks before the accident and used heavy applications of room temperature vulcanization (RTV) silicone to seal the fuel lines. A friend of the pilot, who was also a mechanic, reported that he had observed the pilot about a year earlier using heavy applications of RTV silicone to seal parts during a condition inspection and that he had mentioned to the pilot that this was an improper practice. A bead of RTV silicone was found in the fuel line, and it is likely that it blocked the inlet of the transducer and starved the engine of fuel. Additionally, subsequent to the loss of engine power, the pilot failed to maintain sufficient airspeed while maneuvering to locate a suitable off-airport landing site and flew the airplane beyond its critical angle-of-attack, which resulted in a stall and loss of airplane control.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation because of a blocked fuel line that resulted from the pilot’s improper maintenance practices and the pilot’s subsequent failure to maintain adequate airspeed while attempting a forced landing, which led to the airplane exceeding its critical angle-of-attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall. 


On May 31, 2014, about 1620 Pacific daylight time, a single-engine experimental Nebert Vans RV-10, N62DN, experienced a loss of power and departed controlled flight while the pilot was maneuvering for a forced landing in Toledo, Oregon. The airplane was substantially damaged. The private pilot and four-year old passenger were fatally injured; the adult passenger sustained serious injuries. The airplane was registered to and being operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The personal cross-country flight departed Newport Municipal Airport, Newport, Oregon, with a planned destination of Seattle, Washington. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed.

Numerous witnesses located in Toledo reported observing the airplane flying at a low altitude from the north. The witnesses reported hearing no sound from the airplane's engine and saw it progressively descend in altitude. The airplane approached the Georgia Pacific paper mill and made a steep turn to the left. The airplane subsequently made a rapid descent and impacted terrain in a nose-low, near-vertical attitude.

The surviving passenger recalled the flight, although was heavily medicated during the recounting of the events that transpired. She stated that she was in the aft right seat and her daughter was buckled in a car seat positioned in the aft left seat. Luggage was strapped in the front right seat in an effort to compensate for the aft weight. The departure seemed normal and the pilot commented that the engine sounded better than it had in awhile. The airplane continued the takeoff climb through some cloud wisps and ascended above a lower cloud cover, with an overcast layer above.

The passenger further stated that suddenly the engine experienced a total loss of power, which she described as the airplane stopping forward motion, and there was no engine sound. An alarm sounded, and shortly thereafter all of the airplane's electrical system failed. She recalled observing the screen in front of the pilot flickered and then went blank. The pilot was busy pressing buttons and maneuvering levers, and indicated that they were going to land at the closest airport [which was the Toledo State Airport]. The airplane descended through clouds heading toward the airport. The pilot stated that they were going to make it to the airport, and that he was looking for a place to land. The airplane made an alert sound, which she thought indicated the airplane was moving too slow. The pilot made a left turn and tried to pull up, but the airplane spiraled down harder to the ground.


A review of the airmen records maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) disclosed that the pilot, age 51, held a private pilot certificate with airplane rating for single-engine land, which was issued in March 2008. He additionally held a Repairman Experimental Aircraft certificate. His most recent third-class medical was issued on January 04, 2013, with no limitations.

According to the pilot's flight logbook he had about 785 hours of total flight experience, of which about 375 was amassed in the accident airplane. Based on the airport identifiers listed in the logbook for flight origin and destination points, the pilot accumulated the majority of his flying hours around Newport, his home airport and where the airplane was based. The pilot recorded having flown 6.4 hours in the preceding 30 days, which was accumulated over 6 different flights.

The pilot was a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) since August 1991, and had numerous EAA technical counselor visits during the building process.


The Vans RV-10 is an amateur-built experimental airplane that is sold as a kit. The low-wing airplane was equipped with four seats, fixed tricycle landing gear, and traditional flight control surfaces. The accident airplane, serial number (s/n) 40546, received a special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category for the purpose of being operated as an amateur-built aircraft in August 2010; the pilot purchased the kit in October 2009. The airplane was equipped with a Lycoming O-540-B4B5 engine, s/n L-7862-40C, and, according to the manufacturer, is rated at 235 shaft horse power (SHP). The powerplant contained a data tag labeling it as a Lycoming O-540-B1AB, which contained the vibropeened identification next to the stamp of "B4B5."

The airplane's test flight hours were completed in September 2010. Thereafter, the logbooks indicated that the pilot estimated that the airplane's stalling speed in the landing configuration (Vso), at a weight of 1,858 lbs and a CG of 108.5 inches aft of datum, was 58 knots.

Fuel System Design

The airplane's fuel system was a gravity-fed design where fuel flowed from the metal tanks in the inboard section of each wing, through a selector valve, and continued to a fuel filter. From the filter, the fuel was routed to an electric fuel pump and then to a transducer where it was plumbed through the firewall to the gascolator. Thereafter, the fuel was directed to the engine-driven fuel pump, and finally enter into the carburetor.

The Van's Aircraft build manual states in section 37, Fuel System, "When installing fluid fittings with pipe threads do not use Teflon tape. Use instead, fuel lube or equivalent pipe thread sealing paste."


According to the aircraft maintenance records and the recording tachometer in the cockpit, the airplane had accumulated a total time in service of 375.4 hours. The most recent condition inspection was recorded as completed by the pilot on October 4, 2013, 71.5 hours prior to the accident. Examination of the logbook revealed that the last maintenance that had occurred was an oil change and the tightening of the left magneto on February 09, 2014 at a total time of 354.2 hours.

From the pilot's photographs on his website blog, the original build, the pilot did not install the fuel transducer.

A friend of the pilot, who was also a FAA certified mechanic, stated that about two to three weeks prior to the accident, the pilot had installed the fuel transducer. The pilot commented to him that he had not installed the unit previously because it needed a certain amount of space (needed to be about seven to nine inches from the filter) and he would have to bend some of the fuel lines to make it fit. The pilot borrowed a flaring tool from him to complete the installation. The friend noted that earlier in the year, when the pilot was performing a condition inspection and the airplane's cowling was removed, he observed that the pilot had used heavy applications of red/orange RTV(room temperature vulcanization) silicone to seal everything, including the area around the airbox (oval-shaped) where it attaches to the carburetor (square-box-shaped). He mentioned to the pilot that this was an improper practice.

Another friend of the pilot stated that the pilot had installed a fuel transducer about one to two weeks prior to the accident flight, and noted at the time that the unit did not have a bypass. The friend also observed that the pilot had not connected the electrical wires for the transducer to be operational, but had installed the unit.

Lycoming Manual

According to the engine's maintenance manual, the rated horsepower was 235 at 2,575 rpm. To obtain the maximum recommended service life of the engine, the manual recommends that the cylinder head temperature be maintained below 435 degrees Fahrenheit (F) during high-performance cruise operation, with a maximum temperature of 500 degrees F. The Lycoming manual additionally stated that the fuel pressure requirements were a minimum pressure of .5 psi and a maximum of 8 psi.


A routine aviation weather report (METAR) generated by an Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) in Newport reported that at 1635 there was an overcast cloud layer at 1,900 feet above ground level (agl) with 5 miles visibility. It recorded the temperature at 52 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


No record exists of the pilot, or a pilot using the airplane's registration number, contacting any Air Traffic Control tower, or Common Traffic Advisory Frequency, during the duration of the flight.


The accident site was located in the paper mill adjacent to the Yaquina River in Toledo, Oregon, with the debris confined to the immediate area near the main wreckage. The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates for the main wreckage were approximately 44 degrees 36 minutes 53 seconds north latitude and 123 degrees 56 minutes and 14 seconds west longitude, at an elevation about 10 feet mean sea level (msl). A complete pictorial of the wreckage location and surrounding terrain is contained in the public docket for this accident.

The closest airport to the accident was in Toledo, Oregon and was located 0.7 nm from the accident site on a heading of 192 degrees. The wreckage came to rest in a flat area, which was a portion of dirt road on the perimeter of the mill. Surrounding the site were 20 foot (ft) high stacked bales of crushed cardboard boxes, and a railroad track with parked train cars. Additionally, a northwest-southeast oriented 12 ft-diameter tubular conveyer was observed near the accident site that was about 70 feet high and 1,625 feet long. The airplane departed from Newport, Oregon which was located 5.6 nautical miles (nm) from the main wreckage on a heading of 248 degrees.

The main wreckage, which consisted of nearly the entire airplane, came to rest on a heading of 310 degrees. The initial point of impact consisted of a ground scar and disrupted dirt located about 25 feet and on the heading of 220 degrees from the cockpit section of the main wreckage. Embedded in the dirt were fragments of red lens and shards of paint and fiberglass, consistent with the left wing impacting first.

From the red lens fragments there was disrupted dirt and ground scars up to blue paint rub marks on an adjacent woodpile. On an exposed yellow pipe embedded in the ground were numerous blue paint transfer marks, which at 16 feet from the red lens, was consistent with being a signature of the undercarriage contacting it (the airplane's wingspan was about 32 feet). In a ditch just below the pipe was a 7-ft section of the inboard left wing from the leading edge at to about the spar. From the pipe, on a heading of about 020 degrees, was engine casing debris and lower engine pieces, including the oil drain plug.


The Lincoln County Medical Examiner completed an autopsy of the pilot and passenger. The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) performed toxicological screenings on the pilot. According to CAMI's report (#201400089001) the toxicological findings were negative for carbon monoxide and tested drugs.


A detailed examination report with accompanying pictures is contained in the public docket for this accident.


The main wreckage cockpit area was open, with the engine and firewall twisted toward the right wing. Most of the upper cabin area had broken free from the airframe; the section that remained attached consisted of fiberglass on the aft right side about four feet forward of the bulkhead.
The throttle, propeller, and mixture control levers were bent in their respective control quadrant, which was consistent with them being in the full-forward position at the time of impact.

The right wing remained attached to the fuselage at all attach points, and the flap and aileron control surfaces remained attached to their respective hinges. The right wingtip aft section and fragments of a blue/green lens were located just below the right wing adjacent to a concrete divider. Around the divider was evidence of blithe, and numerous areas of vegetation had been crushed, which was consistent with fuel exposure. The right wing sustained major skin deformation crushing from the aft outboard tip to about three feet inboard; this was consistent with the size and orientation of the concrete divider that was located immediately below it. The wing sustained aft crush deformation, with the bottom leading edge skin folded into itself, giving it an accordion-type appearance. The crush was nearly uniform through the entire length of the wing. The leading edge displayed characteristics consistent with hydrodynamic deformation. Control continuity was confirmed in the right wing up to the crush deformation in the cockpit area.

The left wing was attached to the fuselage at all attach points, and the flap and aileron control services remained attached to their respective hinges. The left flap was attached to the two inboard respective hinges and creased at the center hinge in an upward crush. The left aileron was found wedged underneath the main wreckage cockpit area. The leading edge displayed characteristics consistent with hydrodynamic deformation. Control continuity was confirmed in the left wing up to the crush deformation in the cockpit area.

The right and left horizontal stabilizers and elevator remained intact with creasing noted on some of the surfaces; continuity to the cockpit was established. The vertical stabilizer and rudder remained intact with a slight crease on the rudder control surface about six inches from the top and consisted of a four inch bend. The rudder was attached to its control cables and continuous to the rudder pedals and secured. The elevator was attached to the push-pull tube, which was continuous up to the cockpit area. Both control sticks were attached and safetied.


The engine mount support tubes were severed by investigators between the engine and firewall, which essentially separated the engine from the airframe. An external visual examination of the engine revealed that it had sustained crush damage to the bottom of the crankcase, with the majority of damage to the left side. There were dark stains to the left of the upper spark plug holes, which was consistent with oil staining.

The spark plugs were removed and no mechanical damage was noted; the electrodes and posts exhibited a light ash white coloration, which according to the Lycoming representative was consistent with a very lean operation(s). The ignition harnesses were attached from both magnetos to their respective spark plugs. The right magneto was secured to its respective mounting pad. Upon rotation, investigators observed spark produced at all posts. The left magneto sustained varying degrees of damage that rendered the unit inoperative and therefore, could not be functionally tested.

The crankshaft was rotated by hand utilizing the propeller. The crankshaft was free and easy to rotate in both directions. "Thumb" compression was observed in proper order on all six cylinders. The complete valve train was observed to operate in proper order, and appeared to be free of any pre-mishap mechanical malfunction. Normal in uniform "lift action" was observed at each rocker assembly. Clean, uncontaminated oil was observed at all six rockerbox areas. Mechanical continuity was established throughout the rotating group, valve train and accessory section during hand rotation of the crankshaft.

The cylinders' combustion chambers were examined through the spark plug holes utilizing a lighted borescope. The combustion chambers remained mechanically undamaged, and there was no evidence of foreign object ingestion. The valves were intact and undamaged. There was no evidence of valve to piston face contact. The chambers and valve faces all displayed little combustion signatures and there was a whitish light ash coloration; the exhaust valve faces were slightly darker, exhibiting a white-orange-coloration. This white residue/soot was additionally seen throughout the remainder of the exhaust system.

The Hartzell propeller, model HC-C2YK-1BF, serial number 40546, remained attached to the engine crankshaft. All propeller mounting bolts remained in the hub and exhibited no signatures consistent with shear stress. The propeller blades remained attached at the hub. The spinner was displaced from the propeller hub. The propeller blades were straight and did not show any evidence of rotational forces applied at the crankshaft at the time of impact. Removal of the propeller governor disclosed that the screen was free of contaminants.

Fuel System

The fuel selector was found with the handle pointing to the "LEFT" tank position. Later, it was confirmed by a friend of the pilot that the handle was installed with the handle giving a reverse indication, which meant that the fuel would be selected in the "OFF" position. The position of the fuel selector valve, manufactured by Andair, LTD, was off with both lines shut off. The selector was found in several pieces: the handle (which was still attached to the airframe), the extender (which was located loosely in the wreckage adjacent to the pilot seat), the upper coupling (which had broken free from its remaining core and was found loosely in the wreckage), the valve (which was found loosely in the wreckage near the firewall). There was no evidence that the extender had been safetied to either couplings.

The fuel filter, manufactured by Airflow Performance, was disassembled and the screen was found to be clean. Investigators located a Facet automotive electric fuel pump within the wreckage and upon supplying power source the pump was found to activate. The transducer, a FloScan 201 A-6 flow sensor (s/n 179922), was found in the wreckage. The fuel line from the electric fuel-pump to the transducer was separated at the pump's B-nut fitting as a result of post impact forces. An approximate one-inch portion of the line remained attached on the inlet side of the transducer and the end was crimped tightly together and bent. Investigators pried open the crimped section and found an oval bead of red/orange RTV that measured about 0.25 inches in length. According to the manufacture, the inlet hole (metering orifice) is reamed to approximately 0.114 to 0.116 inches. Removal of both the inlet and outlet fittings revealed that RTV was in the threads of both the nipples and the surrounding casing.

The upper cap section and mounts of the gascolator remained attached to the firewall; the metal bowl was located under the right wing and there was no evidence it had been secured/safetied to its attachment arm/ thumb-tightening screw; the screen was additionally found loose under the right wing and was clean. The engine-driven fuel pump was displaced from the engine. Disassembly of the fuel pump revealed that is was free of internal mechanical malfunction and obstruction to flow; the diaphragm was intact. Liquid contained in the body was collected and tested for water; there is no indication water was present.

The carburetor was not attached at its forward mounts; it had remained attached to the aft mounts, coming to rest bent aft with the body flush against the case, and partially embedded in the oil sump casing. The casing of the carburetor had been broken apart and the plastic floats were in pieces.


All occupants appeared to have had both their lap and shoulder belts secured during the accident sequence. The child passenger was seated in Graco booster seat, model 1781044 (s/n 0784129). According to the manufacture, the seat is designed to sustain g-loading as specified in Federal Safety Standard 213. This includes a space envelope of 32 inches for the head and 36 inches for the knees. The seat's manual specifically prohibits usages in aircraft, which states is due to the limitation of no shoulder harnesses available.

by Mike Danko

Experimental amateur-built aircraft crash more often than those assembled in a factory. 

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that, when compared to factory-built aircraft used in similar flight operations, amateur-built aircraft crash three times as often. 

Our own National Transportation Safety Board studied the amateur-built accident rates and made similar findings.

One might expect that, because they are built by an amateur, an experimental aircraft’s wings would tend to fall off more often than those of a factory-built aircraft. 

But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Most experimental aircraft are structurally sound. 

Rather, according to NTSB data, the biggest issue is engine failure, often because of fuel flow problems.

And that’s exactly what brought down an experimental Van’s RV-10 aircraft in Toledo, Oregon, in June 2014. 

The aircraft lost power on takeoff, killing the pilot and his 4 year-old passenger. 

The NTSB concluded the engine failed because it wasn’t getting fuel. 

Investigators found broken fragments of sealant in the aircraft’s fuel line where, of course, it wasn’t supposed to be.   

There are no statistics on how often the companies who sell kits get sued, but it’s hardly ever.  

After all, who is responsible for the defect in the aircraft’s manufacture or design that caused the crash? 

The company who sold the kit? 

Or the guy who spent several years putting the kit together in his garage? 

While some builders follow the kit maker’s directions to the letter, many do not, taking it upon themselves to modify at least some portion of the aircraft. 

That's allowed by regulations and seems to be part of the fun of building the aircraft. 

For example, John Denver was killed years ago when the amateur-built aircraft he was piloting crashed off the California coast.  

The amateur who put the kit together thought he had a better way of doing it and installed the aircraft fuel valve in a place other than as recommended by the kit's seller.  

The NTSB ultimately determined that it was that modification that led to the crash. 

But even if the victim’s lawyer proves it was the kit maker, and not the builder, who was responsible for the defect, few kit makers carry insurance. 

That means a verdict against the aircraft company may be impossible to collect.

Despite the hurdles, the family of the girl killed in the Toledo crash has filed suit against Van’s Aircraft Inc., blaming it for exploiting FAA “loopholes” that allow it to sell aircraft  that have not been properly tested and are thus unproven and unsafe.  

The suit goes on to allege that not only are Van’s aircraft designs untested and unsafe, but its assembly instructions are also inadequate and unsafe.

The suit goes on to allege that the fuel flow transducer that Van's supplied with the kit was dangerous because it was not capable of dealing with a blockage, as would be required of on a fuel flow transducer mounted on a factory-built aircraft.

We can expect Van’s to argue that their experimental aircraft are just that – experimental. 

They are not intended to have all the safety features included with factory-built aircraft.  

That is why the word “experimental” is required by law to be prominently displayed inside each one.  

Largest U.S. Air Ambulance Operator Embraces Satellite Data, Simulators • Federal Aviation Administration has allowed Air Methods to rely on weather data from satellites rather than onboard radar

The Wall Street Journal
October  22, 2015 7:18 p.m. ET

Air Methods Corp. is setting the pace for the U.S. air ambulance industry in satellite-based weather data and simulator training for pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year authorized the Colorado-based company to identify hazards from storms by relying on weather information streamed from satellites, instead of using traditional onboard radar systems.

That gave Air Methods, the country’s largest operator of emergency medical helicopters, the first all-weather fleet able to routinely use such satellite data without running afoul of comprehensive new safety regulations that went into effect months ago. The regulations and subsequent interpretation by FAA officials mandated various radar and onboard sensors to ensure flight safety in stormy weather or low visibility.

As a consequence, a big chunk of the company’s fleet was barred for months from operating under instrument flight rules. “Each day that passes without relief unnecessarily restricts public access to air medical transportation,” the company said in its request.

Earlier this year, Air Methods persuaded the FAA to grant it an exemption to resume such operations, partly arguing that meteorological conditions and forecasts transmitted by satellites are comparable to information gleaned from radars; and that the company’s enhanced pilot training and advanced operational control center offer additional safeguards for pilots, patients and medical personnel.

Operating in 48 states with more than 400 total rotorcraft and fixed-wing medical transport aircraft, Air Methods by that measure is comparable in size to Southwest Airlines Co.

Roughly one-fourth of the helicopters at Air Methods will benefit from the FAA exemption, which is currently being requested by some competitors. Calstar, a California-based trauma air rescue organization, received a similar exemption to resume flights under instrument rules, though months after Air Methods.

In an interview, Mile Allen, president of domestic air medical services for Air Methods, laid out the strategic advantages of satellite downloads and emphasized the company’s commitment to simulators.

“The satellite data is actually more suited to our type of operations,” Mr. Allen said, “because it gives pilots better situational awareness.”

Eventually, he said “we would like to be able to provide simulator training for all of our pilots once every year.”

For now, Air Methods has contracted with Flight Safety International to provide simulators for the majority of its pilots, starting in the second half of 2016.

Mr. Allen said simulators for some of the company’s aircraft types didn’t exist previously, and Air Methods has participated in verifying their fidelity through test flights.

Leading helicopter fleets serving the offshore oil and gas industry also have invested heavily in simulators. But when Air Methods started down this path two years ago, it was bucking the sentiments of many other operators of emergency medical helicopters.

In late 2014, Aaron Todd, the company’s chief executive, said “we are excited to have the opportunity to have full-motion simulators available.”

Satellite weather data typically is updated every few minutes. From a financial standpoint, it also is favored by operators because it reduces the weight and maintenance costs associated with helicopter radars.

Airlines and business jets are installing ever more sophisticated weather radar, designed to pinpoint thunderstorms, icing and different categories of storm activity.

But Mr. Allen said the technology isn’t necessary for helicopters, because crews are trained to steer well clear of any storms or icing conditions. “We operate under a strict avoidance principle,” he said.

The FAA’s comprehensive safety rules, mandating tougher training standards and beefed-up safety equipment, were issued in early 2014. Some enforcement deadlines were extended to April 2015 and beyond.

The regulations were prompted by stubbornly high accident rates for helicopters in general, and air ambulances in particular. The National Transportation Safety Board also urged steps to tighten safety requirements. And over the past few years, operators and manufacturers have instituted their own stepped-up safety initiatives.

Progress in reducing fatal accident rates, however, has been slow. The overall U.S. accident rate for civil helicopters was 3.6 events per 100,000 flight hours in 2014, roughly the same as in 2010 and 2011, according to the government-industry team leading the safety campaign. That rate was about one-third higher in 2012 and 2013.

To reach the industry’s voluntary 10-year goal of an 80% reduction in the domestic civil helicopter accident rate by 2016, the 2014 rate needs to be slashed by more than half.

- Original article can be found here:

Federal Aviation Administration changes at Monterey Regional Airport (KMRY) are putting more aircraft near homes

When Carmel Valley attorney Zan Henson was flying his small plane back from Mexico in November 2008, a mechanical failure caused him to crash near the entrance of Monterey Pines Golf Course, less than a mile from the runway at Monterey Regional Airport. (Henson and his friend survived.)

In 2013, shortly after a small private plane took off from Monterey, its passenger door came off and fell clean through the roof of El Castell Motel on north Fremont Street.

At a Monterey Peninsula Airport District board meeting Oct. 15, a handful of residents were on hand with a clear message: There may have never been an incident on the runway, but there have been plenty outside the airport.

Safety concerns of nearby residents – particularly in the Casanova/Oak Knoll neighborhood (CONA) just to the airport’s north – have come to a head in recent months after the Federal Aviation Administration implemented new flight paths for the Monterey Regional Airport last spring. Unlike the old flight paths, the newer ones can put planes right above densely populated neighborhoods shortly before takeoff and landing.

Aside from creating safety concerns, the new paths have increased noise.

The FAA-imposed changes were the subject of the recent airport board meeting, and the question at hand was: What can be done about it?

The changes stem from the U.S. Congress’ Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act of 2003, which aimed to upgrade the airspace system by, among other things, converting flight navigation from radio – to GPS-based.

Congress pressured the FAA to complete the upgrade by 2025, and the FAA has been changing flight paths nationwide since. Among the legislation’s goals are reductions in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, which has caused the curves on some flight paths to straighten out, putting them above homes.

At the meeting, board chair William Sabo made clear it’s not only Monterey that’s dealing with the problem.

“It’s going on everywhere,” Sabo said. “In Phoenix, they’re on the streets with pickets and torches.”

Airport Executive Director Mike La Pier added that the FAA never contacted airport officials about the changes, and they only learned of them after they were implemented.

Requested changes in flight paths usually take 18-24 months. La Pier suggested that Sabo send a letter to the office of U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, to use his leverage to speed the process.

Residents, in public comment, suggested the letter emphasize safety.

“There are times I’m wondering if [planes] are going to clear my house,” said CONA resident Karen Conger.

The letter was sent to Farr Oct. 15. Airport officials continue to encourage the FAA to tell pilots to avoid densely populated areas after takeoff, La Pierre says. (Arrival paths are tightly regulated while departures allow pilot discretion.)

CONA residents are hoping that cooperation comes soon: Mike Brassfield says birds are a huge issue in the neighborhood. He once counted 2,000 crows in one hour, which makes low-flying planes just overhead harrowing.
If just one bird gets sucked into an engine, he says, “we would [be] eating airplane parts.”

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NTSB Identification: WPR09LA046
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, November 25, 2008 in Monterey, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/23/2009
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-180, registration: N2383R
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that after an uneventful flight he entered the traffic pattern for the active runway. As he turned from downwind to base leg, the engine lost power. The pilot stated that he realized that he "had forgotten to switch the fuel tanks and had run the right fuel tank dry." He immediately switched to the left fuel tank and noted that he already had the fuel boost pump on in anticipation for landing. Despite his efforts, the engine did not restart and the airplane descended into trees and subsequently impacted the ground. The pilot stated that, "if I had used my landing checklist, I would have not run the right tank dry because I would have turned to the fullest tank for landing." Examination of the airplane revealed that it came to rest in a vertical position within a parking lot. The right wing was partially separated from the fuselage and exhibited structural damage. The horizontal stabilator was also structurally damaged. During removal of the airplane, recovery crews reported that they drained 24 ounces of fuel from the left wing fuel tank and 8 ounces of fuel from the right wing fuel tank.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's inadequate fuel system management and inflight planning that led to a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to use the landing checklist.

On November 25, 2008, about 1745 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-28-180 airplane, N2383R, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and subsequently terrain following a loss of engine power while on final approach to the Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY), Monterey, California. The airplane was registered to private individuals and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot sustained minor injuries and his passenger sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The cross-country flight originated from Calexico International Airport (CXL), Calexico, California, about 1430 with an intended destination of MRY.

The pilot reported that after an uneventful flight, he entered the traffic pattern for runway 10 left. As he turned from downwind to base at an altitude of about 800 feet above ground level (agl), the engine lost power. The pilot stated that he realized he "had forgotten to switch the fuel tanks and had run the right fuel tank dry." He immediately switched to the left fuel tank and noted that he already had the fuel boost pump on in anticipation for landing. Despite his efforts, the engine did not restart and the airplane descended into trees and subsequently impacted the ground. 

The pilot further reported that prior to departure from CXL; he had topped off the airplane with fuel in Mexicali, Mexico. He then flew 15 minutes to CXL where he underwent an inspection by the US Customs and Border Protection for re-entry into the United States. 

The pilot added in the Operator/Owner Safety Recommendation section of the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report Form, "if I had used my landing checklist, I would have not run the right tank dry because I would have turned to the fullest tank for landing." 

Examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the airplane came to rest in a vertical position within a parking lot. The right wing was partially separated from the fuselage and exhibited structural damage. The horizontal stabilator was also structurally damaged. During removal of the airplane, recovery crews reported that they drained 24 ounces of fuel from the left wing fuel tank and 8 ounces of fuel from the right wing fuel tank.

Gov. Scott Walker approves improvement project at La Crosse Regional Airport (KLSE), Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker on Oct. 22 announced $2,628,445 in funding to complete the final phase of the terminal building rehabilitation at La Crosse Regional Airport.

Wendy Hottenstein, project manager with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), said the project will rehabilitate the passenger boarding bridges for the airport terminal building.

 Improvements will allow the existing bridges to be used for the new second floor gates that were previously located on the first floor.

Pre-conditioned air units will also be installed to enhance ventilation and passenger comfort on the boarding bridges.

The funding breakdown is as follows:

State $207,222;
City of La Crosse $221,223;
Federal Aviation Administration $2,200,000.

The project is set to begin this fall and should be complete by July 2016.

La Crosse Regional Airport is one of 98 facilities included in the Wisconsin State Airport System Plan, which makes it eligible for state and federal funding. 

Airport improvement projects are administered through WisDOT’s Bureau of Aeronautics.

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Detroit congressman questions Federal Bureau of Investigation chief on spy plane that circled Dearborn, Michigan

 DETROIT, MI -- U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, questioned FBI Director James Comey during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Thursday on a the use of surveillance aircraft, including one that circled over Dearborn and other Southeast Michigan communities in August.

Comey testified on a number of topics Thursday, including cybersecurity, counterterrorism and terrorist propaganda and training on the Internet. The full hearing can be viewed here.

Conyers, who is the longest-serving member of Congress and the committee's ranking member, asked Comey to explain to the public how FBI aircraft are used.

"We've received reports that a single-engine Cessna, operated by the FBI and mounted with surveillance equipment, has flown multiple times over Metro Detroit, including two lengthly flights over Dearborn, where many citizens feel reason to distrust the FBI because of their religious or ethnic background," Conyers said.

"You've been forthcoming to my staff about some of the details of the program. Can you give the public a similar overview here?"

Comey said the flights are conducted as parts of individual criminal and counterintelligence investigations, and not watch for mass surveillance.

"When we investigate criminals or spies or terrorists, a key tool is surveillance, to follow them," the FBI director said. "We follow them a lot in cars. We follow them on foot. There are plenty of circumstances where both of those options don't work so well, and so, since the Wright brothers, we have used airplanes to follow people in our investigations. If a spy is going out to meet somebody and it's in an area where we can't park cars, we'll sometimes try and get a small plane up to be able to get eyes on that meet with their contact...

"And I hope this shouldn't surprise the American people. I think I should be in trouble with them if we're not doing this. We use planes in our predicated investigations to conduct surveillance of people who are under investigation. We do not use planes for mass surveillance. And so the good folks in Michigan who saw a plane in the air, I think a lot of them had a chance to meet with my SAC (special agent in charge) out there, and have him explain: 'Look, this is what we do in criminal cases. It should make sense, if you understand how we use it in individual cases.' So we have a small number of airplanes — I actually wish we had more — that we use to follow people in places where it's hard to follow them on foot or in a car."

Detroit FBI officials met with Arab American and Muslim community leaders in Dearborn after the Detroit News first reported the surveillance flights in August.

The News used an online flight tracker to determine that the path of the plane when it flew over Metro Detroit on Aug. 1.

The plane appeared to circle over west Dearborn several times before circle east Dearborn once, flying through Detroit and later zigzagging over Macomb County.

The website is no longer revealing the plane's path.

The report came after the Associated Press earlier in the year traced at least 50 low-flying aircraft seen circling over U.S. cities to the FBI.

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Spectacular autumn views with Shelburne Airport (VT8) in Chittenden County, Vermont

Shelburne Airport co-manager and head flight instructor Paul Potter checks the fuel in his 2010 KitFox Super Sport on Oct. 15. 

Charlie Robitaille, 90, of Shelburne with his 1975 Cessna 150. He took his first solo flight at the age of 50. With 26 grand- and great-grandchildren his vintage ride is aptly named GrampAir.

Champlain Valley Union High School grad Kate Songer took a solo flight in a Cessna 150 for her graduation challenge project last year. She flew alone for the first time March 16, 2015. A day she will never forget. “There are no words to describe what it’s like to solo,” she said. “I’ve heard old pilots talk about how they search for that feeling the rest of their lives. To look to your right and see no one there. It’s absolute freedom and beauty.”

Shelburne Airport Co-Manager and Chief Flight Instructor Paul Potter taught her how. Songer said she had absolute confidence in herself because of him. “He’s so patient and forgiving,” she said. “When I first soloed, the only thing I heard was Paul’s voice guiding me safely to the ground like he had hundreds of times before.”

Songer is now a full-time student at St. Lawrence University who is majoring in Biology or Neuroscience. She comes home every couple of weeks to recharge with a flight, she said. “My long-term goals would be to provide medical aid and supplies around the world, perhaps responding to natural disasters.”

The first lesson of flying is wind. Aircraft fly with lift from the wind, Potter said. And they make their own wind with the thrust of the propeller. “That is called relative wind, and the ambient wind is the wind that is blowing outside,” he said. “It’s the combination needed to get up and go.”

One man with an extreme amount of get up and go is Charlie Robitaille, 90, of Shelburne. He’s got a 1975 Cessna 150 at the airport. He took his first solo flight at the age of 50. With 26 grand and great-grand-children his vintage ride is aptly named GrampAir.

Robitaille knows Potter well. “Paul is an excellent instructor and a real good guy,” he said.

Potter is co-manager of Shelburne Airport with owner Barbara McGee. It was established in 1984. McGee mows the runway all summer and Potter is getting ready to plow it this winter. About eight private planes are housed on site. That’s down from 20 since the economic downturn. People can’t afford to own planes anymore, Potter said.

Shelburne Airport adds value to the town, Potter said. “There are a lot of people who come here to visit the Teddy Bear Factory and to visit friends. People come in and out of here all of the time.”

People of all ages want to learn to fly. Potter teaches about 16 clients annually to the tune of about $10,000 each. He’s been teaching since 1998.

Being a stay-at-home dad to his two children, William and Claire, wasn’t as exciting as Potter had anticipated while his wife, Sarah, built her career as a human resources director. So, he took to the skies … with the kids.

The kids are almost adults now but Potter has fond memories of raising them. “I would put their car seats in back of the plane and take them for trips to Martha’s Vineyard for lunch,” he said. “They loved it.”

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Does Williston, North Dakota, really need a new airport? County Commissioner suggests Sloulin Field International Airport (KISN) runway be lengthened instead

WILLISTON — A Williams County Commissioner is questioning the necessity of relocating Williston’s airport, and has raised a series of questions about it in a letter sent to a series of state and federal lawmakers.

County Commissioner Martin Hanson said he believes the city should keep the airport at its current location and just lengthen it instead.

“My job as an elected county county commissioner is to do what is best for my district, and believe me, this is not in the best interest of either the district or the county as a whole,” Hanson wrote in the letter. “I would hope you would consider both sides of this issue, not only what the media feeds you.”

In the letter Hanson outlines several reasons he believes the existing location is the best one for the airport, including decreased costs and preservation of farmland.

“With a 6-inch asphalt overlay, the current location will be fully adequate with at least $100,000,000 less cost,” Hanson writes. “Their proposed site requires at least 1,400 acres of prime farmland to be sacrificed (sold) for this project. Why is a nine-hole golf course more valuable than 1,400 producing farm acres? Why should local farmers be required to sell land, some of which has been in their family for generations, and plan to pass on to future generations, to build a totally unnecessary project as a show place for Williston?”

Hanson said the costs will undoubtedly exceed the KLJ estimates of $254 million, and questioned who will wind up responsible for the costs of operating future access to the airport.

“Will the Williams County taxpayers pay the burden of maintenance? If the affected farmers won’t sell willingly — and I certainly wouldn’t — will the city use eminent domain to condemn the land for this waste of taxpayer dollars?”

Hanson said if a new airport were needed, it ought to be built in McKenzie County as a regional facility to serve Watford City, Sidney and Williston, rather than north of Williston. He also accused KLJ of making lucrative work for itself.

“Remember there is a lot more money to be made in designing and engineering a new airport than upgrading an existing one, and they know that,” Hanson wrote.

He believes figures the city released supporting the need for a new airport have been misleading. They compare peak enplanements to pre-boom years, but enplanements of late have already dropped, he says, and will continue to do so as the workforce moves from transient to more permanent.

“The airport was adequate for the biggest numbers, and it will certainly handle a 50 percent reduction from that, which will happen,” he wrote. “That would only be 40 boardings per hour for a 10-hour day. That does not require a $254 million boondoggle to pacify the city of Williston’s vanity and enrich the coffers of KLJ.”

Airport Director Steven Kjergaard said keeping the airport at its current location was one of several options the city explored when it was deciding what to do about the airport.

“It’s not what Mr. Hanson said, that we could just add a 6-inch overlay at the existing airport,” Kjergaard said. “We would need a complete reconstruction of the runway and we’d have to widen it from 100 to 500 feet. We would also need to lower the northwest end. If you did the minimum plan, it’s 40 feet and if you did the correct plan, it’d be more than 90 feet. The taxiway is also too close to the runway.”

All of these things, Kjergaard said, are coming from FAA requirements to continue operating. The current airport has, in fact, been operating above published weight limits, Kjergaard said, and most of its runways don’t meet current safety standards for the aircraft landing on them.

“FAA is allowing us to continue operating because we are planning to do something,” he said.

In the scenario where the airport is left at its present location, the price tag to meet most of the FAA requirements adds up to $237 million. There would still be some non-compliant areas, but the FAA would allow them.

Moving the airport costs $21 million more than that — but allows the city to decommission the old airport and sell the land, which is in a prime commercial location. It also allows continuous airport operation, so that no revenue is lost from downtime. Those two factors make it the cheapest option, once lost revenue is considered.

A reconstructed airport at the present location cannot meet all the FAA design standards, Kjergaard added. It will also impose significant restrictions on future growth and development in areas surrounding it, particularly the two end portions where FAA rules require keeping approaches clear for between 1 and 2 miles.

“We’d have a height restriction where we couldn’t allow buildings there,” Kjergaard said.

That runway protection zone would also extend over the existing highway, limiting the ability to expand that roadway in the future.

“Moving the airport allows us to meet all FAA design standards with no disruption to air service, and we can sell the property, which will further reduce the cost involved,” Kjergaard said.

The concept of a regional airport in McKenzie County was looked at in the site selection process.

“If you are going to invest a quarter of a billion dollars and the FAA is going to fund a big chunk of that, they require you to study what the best location is going to be,” Kjergaard said.

Sites toward the south, however, ran into major wildlife attractants such as the Missouri River, as well as oil wells and hilly terrain that was going to substantially increase costs.

“We did look down (Highway) 200 down into McKenzie County,” Kjergaard said. “But we found basically no sites other than one that was too close to the river. We needed 2 miles of flat ground, without major transmission lines, towers or oil wells in the way, away from wildlife attractants, while semi-close to a major roadway, infrastructure and a population center.”

A population center ensures emergency services are within a reasonable distance for response times in the event of fire or other issues.

“We did find you start being limited as you look further to the south,” Kjergaard said. “Terrain becomes problematic. It’s hillier and there are more draws through it, which would also have meant the installations of more culverts. We couldn’t find one that would work without oil wells in the way, and relocating even one of those would cost upwards of $150 million, per well.”

KLJ, Kjergaard added, is the city’s engineer of record.

“FAA requires qualification-based selection of consultants and that’s something the city does every five years,” he said. “The state assists us, and we are doing it again next year. We haven’t assured KLJ in the future that any work will go to them. They are our engineer of record for now. If next year, we went with someone else, all incomplete contracts could be changed. In fact, we could do that now. We could do it at any point in time.”

The complexity and expense of the airport project has prompted Kjergaard to have independent fee reviews for KLJ’s work, to ensure the city is getting a fair price. The city hired TKDA, an engineering firm out of Minneapolis, to provide these estimates. Their last of a $914,000 contract for site grading landed within 3 percent of KLJ’s estimate.

“It was not KLJ’s idea anyway,” Kjergaard added. “It was, in fact, a rather large surprise to KLJ and the FAA when we sat down and had the discussion with them the first time. It was our idea because we saw the handwriting on the wall that this facility isn’t going to work any more for us.”

Kjergaard said while the city’s enplanements are down 8 percent the past month, on a year to year basis the city is still 5 percent ahead of last year and hasn’t seen the kind of drop-offs that other airports in the state have.

“To me that doesn’t mean we are declining massively,” he said. “We are basically holding steady. Even at a 50 to 60 percent reduction, we’d still be at 70,000 passenger enplanements in a terminal that was only designed to handle 10,000.”

As far as the impact on farmland, Kjergaard said some of the land will be allowed to remain as farmland even after it’s been purchased. There may be some rules and guidelines on crops that could be grown there, which will be spelled out in a lease agreement with the airport, but agricultural use is considered compatible.

“We want to treat the landowners as fairly and equally as we can,” Kjergaard said. “It’s fully our intent to make sure they are compensated to the best of our abilities. We will follow the Real property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970.”

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Missouri developer backs out of $15 million land deal near Louisville International Airport (KSDF), Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Missouri company has dropped plans to buy land near Louisville International Airport viewed as a potential site for one of the city’s largest industrial buildings.  

NorthPoint Development in suburban Kansas City, Mo., was to spend $14.8 million on 110 acres in a business park near Outer Loop, under a letter of intent with the Louisville Renaissance Zone Corp., an agency with the same membership as the Louisville Regional Airport Authority.

Airport leaders approved the sale in February. But the deal fell apart earlier this month after NorthPoint wasn’t able to resolve “facilities and soil issues” on the site, said Skip Miller, the airport authority’s executive director.

“They had a number of issues that came up during their due diligence period that they had not thought about before they went into the decision to buy the properties,” Miller said.

A NorthPoint official didn’t immediately return a phone message left Wednesday afternoon.

Miller, who also serves as president of the Louisville Renaissance Zone Corp., said the company abandoned its plans to buy the land Oct. 9. He wasn’t aware if NorthPoint intends to pursue other property in the Louisville area.

Miller said earlier this year that the site can handle a 1-million-square-foot building and described the property as comparable in size to Amazon's distribution center at the River Ridge Commerce Center in Jeffersonville, Ind.

The deal, based on a price of $135,000 per acre, would have been among the most lucrative for the airport, bringing in $12.7 million after transaction and other costs, Miller told authority and corporation members in February.

The land includes three parcels near Interstate 65 and the Gene Snyder Freeway not far from Ford and UPS.

Miller said no potential buyers have emerged since NorthPoint’s exit, but the airport has already begun its marketing efforts.

“We call our friends that are real estate brokers and say, ‘We’ve got 100 acres out here of prime development land close to the airport. Do you have any folks that might be interested in it?’”

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