Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cleared for landing: Crawfordsville Municipal Airport (KCFJ), Union Township, Montgomery County, Indiana

Crawfordsville’s mayor, Todd Barton, cut the ribbon on the new runway Friday afternoon.

After four years of work, the Crawfordsville Municipal Airport now welcomes larger jets that will help grow existing businesses and bring more to town. The airport added 1,000 feet of runway and taxiway to accommodate large planes. The airport celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Friday afternoon. 

Airport Board of Commissioners Treasurer Myra Abbott said though the 1,000 feet are not important for small planes, those feet are vital for the safety of large plane customers. The bigger the plane, the harder the stop. The airport runway and taxiway are now both 5,500 feet long. 

“Our 4,500 foot runway, to us and our littler airplanes, seemed like it was enough. But to jets coming in and out it wasn’t,” Abbott said. “To keep up with airports that are strong in their economic benefits and strong in their business community we needed another thousand feet.” 

Mayor Todd Barton said that Abbott and the board had already started the expansion process when he took office, and he gave them credit for their work over the last few years to make the extension a reality. He said the extension will be an extra incentive for businesses to expand in Crawfordsville. 

“When they walk in and look at that wall and this magnificent facility it says this is a community that has its act together,” Barton said. “When people talk about bringing business to the community the airport always comes up—they have to be able to get in and out of here quickly. Time is money.”

Abbott said the extension will help to enhance the Stellar plan’s benefits. The runway will make it easier to get into Crawfordsville so the city can grow even more. 

Abbott said the extension was a long time in the making and credited the board with their patience and thanked various people from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Indiana Department of Transportation aviation division as well as the airport’s engineer, Tony McMichael from NGC Engineering. 

“This has been a long, long project—over four years—with some really high notes and some really low times when we didn’t think this was going to happen,” Abbott said. 

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) sent representatives to the ribbon cutting ceremony on their behalf. Donnelly’s representative, Hodge Patel, said this project is a good example of federal dollars going to work locally. 

“We talk about our tax dollars going to Washington and not coming back, but this is an example of a couple million dollars coming back,” Patel said. “90 percent of the project, which will be used by everyone in this room, was federal tax dollars.” 

Abbott said the extension received a lot of support from the community, too. 

“It has taken this whole community to build this extension we have never not had strong support, people volunteering to help, people asking questions,” Abbott said. 

Rokita’s representative, Brittany Wallace, read a letter from Rokita that thanked Crawfordsville for the initiative they showed in expanding the airport, she also said he was happy to help Crawfordsville secure the funding. 

Wallace also said Rokita learned to fly at the Crawfordville Airport and graduated from Wabash College. 

Story, photo gallery and video:

A plane flies into the newly expanded Crawfordsville Municipal airport.

Rekindling the magic of flight at new Cargo Road viewing area • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (KMSP), Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota

Nate Wintheiser, 38, and his father, Gary Wintheiser, 67, were among the first to make themselves at home on Cargo Road watching flights take off and land. “If I could have another life, I’d be a pilot,” Gary said.

By Gail Rosenblum 

Air travelers of a certain age will remember when “romance” and “flight” were constant companions.

Long before TSA bodychecks. And community meetings to protest noise pollution. Before we could skillfully eye 3 ounces. Before shrinking overhead bins and swelling tensions.

A hint of those glory days has returned to a low-key spot adjacent to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

On an unseasonably warm and sunny day, a small group of photographers, plane spotters and plain dreamers pulled up in cars and trucks to a patch of land designated as an official — and public — outdoor aircraft viewing area. Some held the hands of small children. Others carried lawn chairs.

All came to witness the miracle that flight still is.

Cynics might smell a public relations ploy in the effort — a bone thrown by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to weary and frustrated fliers. I’d suggest they check their skepticism and pack a lunch instead.

Located on Cargo Road just past the Federal Express shipping facility, the unadorned spot includes two park benches and two picnic tables. Eventually, newly planted trees will offer shade from the vast and open skies above.

The area is accessible from dawn till dusk and is patrolled by airport police.

My own arrival on Cargo Road was largely self-serving. The nostalgic scene took me back to my youth in the Southwest, where we’d park our car (for free) and walk into the airport (no security) and straight up to the observation deck to watch flights soar above the majestic mountains.

No mountains here, but the chance to watch massive, streamlined planes power down a runway, or return to it with a bump and a thundering whoosh, still thrills.

While a barbed-wire fence separates viewers from multiple runways about 100 yards in the distance, many who visited the day I did shared my giddiness at the opportunity to stand down from our exhausting hyper-alert posture.

Really? We get to just hang out here?

Andy Johnson’s love of airplanes began when he attended a junior high school career fair years ago and learned that “pilot” was a profession. Now 34, married and the father of three children, Johnson works at the airport and stopped by to eat his lunch and watch planes take flight before his shift.

Johnson, of Shakopee, has a private pilot’s license and hopes to fly “the big ones” someday. Despite the headaches of modern flight travel, “it still feels like freedom,” he said.

Brian Dean of New Brighton, a retired Northwest Airlines employee, was there, too, huge camera in hand. Dean flew for the first time at age 20, on his way to San Diego for Navy boot camp.

Dean knows his planes. There goes a C-130 — “H model, maybe,” he said. An A319. An Airbus 320.

“It’s still magical,” he said. “This is not like going through TSA, certainly.”

Still, Dean takes issue with the notion that it’s no longer fun to fly. “If you go from here to California with a carload of kids, you’ll be more than happy to buy them something to eat in an airport instead,” he said.

Dean grew up on Minneapolis’ North Side and rarely got to MSP. A few times in the summer, though, he’d drive to spots near the airport, simply to “look up.”

“This is going to be really good for families,” Dean predicted, “to come out and see things.”

MAC chairman Dan Boivin noted at the observation area’s Oct. 17 ribbon-cutting that when MSP opened its doors for commercial air travel in 1920 as Speedway Field, people could stand right at the fence separating them from the runway. After Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) was open to the public in 1962, flight fans were treated to an indoor observation deck.

That freedom ended in 2002, when post-9/11 regulations allowed only airline passengers to access the deck.

What didn’t end was a profound and enduring fascination with flight. Even before the ribbon-cutting, folks had found their way to the site and shared the news on social media.

Wendy Carlisle of Minneapolis was one. She heard about the observation point via Facebook and brought her 5-year-old son, Declan, to see the airplanes he loves.

Nate Wintheiser, 38, and his dad, Gary, 67, both from Mankato, pulled folding chairs out of their trunk and settled in. “I’ve loved watching planes since I was a kid,” said Gary, who remembers when his dad would bring him to the airport for gazing. “You’d just park your car. There were lots of people along the fence. The thrill.”

He instilled that thrill in Nate, who had a flying lesson earlier in the day.

“Planes are amazing,” Nate said.

“Not that many years since the Wright Brothers,” Gary added. “If I could have another life, I’d be a pilot. Or I’d work for free as a flight attendant. That’s how much I love airplanes.”

MSP spokesman Pat Hogan won’t be surprised to hear that. “There used to be such magic and mystery to flying. Now, it’s become a commodity,” he said.

“This spot offers a time to stop and think about how great it is to get these huge planes up into the air.”

Dean, the plane-spotter, suggests an idea that could sweeten that deal. Two words:

Food trucks.

Story and photo:

Man earns aviation honor, inspires son to follow the same interest

Darrel W. Gibson, 82, of Eau Claire appears with his current plane, a 1946 Ercoupe 415C, on Friday at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.

Darrel R. Gibson follows in the footsteps of his father, Darrel W. Gibson.

The son is Menomonie Municipal Airport manager and owns Gibson Aviation Services in Menomonie. His father was Eau Claire Municipal Airport manager and owned Gibson Aviation Service in Eau Claire. 

“He has big shoes to fill,” Darrel R. Gibson said.

Indeed. The senior Gibson, who lives near Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire, will be inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in Oshkosh on Oct. 24.

Plaques honoring inductees hang in the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, where thousands attend the annual fly-in of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

“He had a great career in aviation,” Rose Dorcey, president of the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame, said of Gibson. The nonprofit is dedicated to preserving Wisconsin aviation history, recognizing those who made that history and promoting aviation education.

Darrel W. Gibson, a Durand native, founded Gibson Aviation in 1961 and served as Eau Claire Municipal Airport manager from 1961 to 1976.

As a youngster, Darrel W. Gibson built airplane models. He took flying lessons about the time he graduated from high school in 1951.

“It kind of gets in your blood. After you get started, it’s pretty hard to quit,” said Gibson, 82, who still flies his 1946 two-seat Ercoupe airplane.

“It’s really a privilege to look at all the terrain in the country and be able to see it all from the air.”

Gibson got his start in aviation as an aircraft mechanic. He attended an A & E (Airframe and Engine) school in Chicago where he worked for United Airlines at Midway Airport. 

In Chicago, Gibson earned his private pilot license after he and his wife, Cleo, bought a 1948 Taylorcraft BC-12D and rebuilt it in their landlord’s garage. The restoration included installing a new fabric covering of Irish linen, he said.

They moved to Eau Claire in 1959, and he worked at Badger Aviation at the airport before starting his business. 

Under Gibson’s watch, the airport made many improvements, including a runway expansion to accommodate large DC-9 jet airliners, North Central Airlines’ move into the terminal building and the purchase of military surplus equipment for airport maintenance.

“DC-9s do not even like an inch of snow on the ground,” Gibson said, so snow had to be removed almost as soon as it began falling.

Gibson Aviation provided seven-day-a-week terminal and airport maintenance service, including the snow plowing and mowing. Gibson’s six children — Patricia, Janet, Judy, Donna, Darrel and Darren — assisted with chores.

“Our business was kind of like a farm where you could use a lot of help,” Gibson said, describing his wife and children as a “godsend.”

“It was really a booming time at the airport in the ’70s. ... We really had excellent service for the city,” Gibson said, adding at least four airlines served Eau Claire.

However, the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act allowed airlines to determine which markets to serve domestically. That reduced airline services for smaller cities, he said.  

At the same time Gibson oversaw the airport, he owned a “very successful fixed base operation,” which he sold in 1989, Dorsey said.

A fixed base operation serves as a service gas station for planes instead of cars. It provides services such as fueling and aircraft maintenance.

Gibson Aviation offered flight training, charter flights, aircraft rentals and maintenance services. Many of the employees became airline, corporate or military pilots.

One of those former employees is Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Jon Kelk, who is credited with the first Iraqi MiG-29 aerial “kill,” or victory, of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991, Gibson said.

Gibson, who was a dealer for both Cessna and Piper aircraft, counts 10,000 flying hours, mostly charters. 

His son Darrel is the only one of his children who stayed with aviation. Darrel R. Gibson’s son, Corbin, just earned his private pilot license in only 28 days, continuing the legacy.

Darrel R. Gibson described his father as a “good, honest businessman,” a hard worker and an excellent pilot and mechanic.

“I’m sure going to miss calling him one day and asking him different aviation questions,” he said. “He’s always got a good answer for me.”

• Darrel W. Gibson was nominated for the Hall of Fame honor by the Rev. William Menzel of Wisconsin Rapids, a retired priest who also was a pilot and flight instructor. Several years ago, Menzel served at Gibson’s parish, St. Olaf Catholic Church in Eau Claire.

Story and photos:

Darrel W. Gibson, shown with his 1946 Ercoupe 415C, founded Gibson Aviation in 1961 and served as Eau Claire Municipal Airport manager from 1961 to 1976.

Opinion: It's time to plot new future for St. Cloud Regional Airport (KSTC), Minnesota

Brian Myres and Patti Gartland, Greater St. Cloud Development Corp. 

Although the Chicago service model was not sustainable, traditional commercial air service is just one model and one option

  • In the past 15 years, $71 million in tax money has been invested in improvements at the airport
  • While we ponder our dilemma, the aviation industry is forging ahead in reinventing itself
At this time last year, business and community interests were waging an aggressive campaign to grow use of the twice-daily air service from St. Cloud to Chicago that commenced in May in attempts to preserve it well into the future.

A federal grant and substantial funding from the local business community was attained to help offset operating losses customary with the start of new air service routes. Despite a promising start, the ridership needed to reach financial sustainability lagged.

In early fall, Greater St. Cloud Development Corp. and city representatives traveled to Utah to meet with SkyWest Airlines officials to discuss options and strategies for growing ridership. Ultimately, the news came on Christmas Eve that SkyWest was terminating service in early 2015. Ouch.

What we know

Utilization (ridership) grew month over month, then lagged. A multitude of headwinds (challenges) were encountered during the service.

Airline reliability was problematic, especially for business travelers. Changing consumer habits accustomed to traveling out of the Twin Cities airport takes a lot of time and patience. Seasoned travelers are very reluctant to transfer travel status from one airline to another. Weather and fire events at Chicago O’Hare added to reliability of service problems. Marketing scope by the airline and the region was undersized for the task at hand.

What we learned

Service reliability is vital to air travel, particularly for the business traveler. Financial and governance responsibility for the St. Cloud Regional Airport does not match the area it serves. While exclusively the responsibility of the city of St. Cloud, it serves and benefits the entire region.

A broader, deeper and more sustainable governance and funding structure is needed to more effectively grow utilization and realize the true economic development potential for our region.

The future

Although the Chicago service model was not sustainable, traditional commercial air service is just one model and one option.

In fact, since its launch in December 2012, the Allegiant service from St. Cloud to Mesa, Arizona, has been wildly successful and consistently enjoys strong utilization. Likewise, without the benefit of any advertising investment, Sun Country charters from St. Cloud to Laughlin, Nevada, consistently sell out.

Military aviation was successfully recruited to the St. Cloud airport campus in 2009 with the $37 million construction of the Minnesota National Guard Aviation Facility and the addition of 62 full-time state and federal jobs.

General aviation (think private aircraft) activity continues to grow. A recent feature in Forbes magazine is projecting private business aviation to grow to $15-$17 billion and become 14 percent of airline domestic market. It also references the current air taxi market (think Uber Air) has 2,000 aircraft, each doing about two trips per week per aircraft.

While we ponder our dilemma, the aviation industry is forging ahead in reinventing itself.

The St. Cloud Regional Airport is a significant asset in Central Minnesota. In the past 15 years alone, $71 million in local, state and federal tax money has been invested in improvements at the airport.

Air transport (passenger, freight, military) remains essential to economically vibrant regional centers by providing access to the global business community, attracting high-caliber talent, and in retaining and attracting national/multi-national and international businesses.

And, shovel ready sites at the adjacent Airport Business Park beckons aviation-related industrial development opportunities.

So, where do we go from here? We need a new game plan. We need a game plan that learns from the past and looks to the future. We need a game plan that capitalizes on what has and continues to succeed at STC and embraces the air service revolution that is underway.

To that end, the GSDC has and continues to facilitate efforts to secure funding to complete an air transport planning study to hire third party expertise to research, analyze and develop models and strategies to expand and capitalize on the highly under-utilized regional asset base of the airport.

It’s time to put the disappointment of the St. Cloud-to-Chicago air service experience behind us and figure out what the highest and best use of this regional asset really is – and then go for it!

This is the opinion of Brian Myres, Transportation Corps Chair of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corp., and Patti Gartland, GSDC president.

- Story and photo:

Give me a crack at Bader Field or I'll sue, investor Glenn Straub tells Atlantic City, New Jersey

ATLANTIC CITY — City Council tabled an ordinance last week allowing the city to sign a deal with a Bader Field developer, although officials said the delay won’t stop the company’s plans to build sports fields on the unused resort airport.

Investor Glenn Straub, however, said he wants another chance to run the property, and that he’ll sue if the city ignores him.

Straub’s threats, which he made Wednesday at the council meeting and later repeated in an interview with The Press of Atlantic City, won’t affect the municipality’s actions, officials said Friday.

On Wednesday, council members showed little patience for Straub as he spoke of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in properties such as Revel and Bader Field to rejuvenate the local economy.

“The way you can help us is bring Revel on board,” Council President Frank M. Gilliam said.

The city began fining Straub this month for leaving the shuttered casino hotel a firetrap and failing to have competent engineers oversee the property’s alarms and other emergency equipment, city officials said.

“Give me some gas, give me some heat (and) I’ll do it,” an exasperated Straub replied, blaming what he called needless governmental hurdles for blocking him from enacting his latest plan to power the building.

The city intends to move ahead with Bader Field Sports LLC, the Midland Park-based company selected earlier this year to build a series of sports fields on Bader, officials say.

Gilliam and Chris Filiciello, Mayor Don Guardian’s chief of staff, both have said the city wants more time to work out unresolved details in its lease agreement with the company. Gilliam also said the city must ensure that plans for the property meet environmental regulations.

Greg Allen, Bader Field Sports vice president, originally anticipated opening his facility early in 2016 but said the plans required more time to develop. He said Friday that he expects the deal with the city to go through and hopes for a fall 2016 opening.

Allen said he has been contacted by numerous tournament operators interested in running events on Bader.

“I would be disappointed if it did get tied up in court,” he said, referring to Straub’s comments concerning his prospective lease agreement. “The only winners would be attorneys. The loser would be the city.”

On Friday, Gilliam referenced Straub’s history of suing opponents before adding, “I don’t have confidence in Mr. Straub’s ability to be of any service to this city.”

Even so, Gilliam said he is “looking forward to sitting down and talking to (Straub) about his plans for Revel.”

Filiciello said Guardian remains “open to anyone who is serious about bringing more jobs and opportunities to Atlantic City.”

For his part, Straub didn’t seem perturbed by recent events.

“That’s what makes good families, when they have a little controversy,” he said Friday, before jokingly referencing the televised dramas of the Kardashian family. “I don’t mind arguing if I have something to argue about.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Guardian said the Bader Field Sports proposal is the best temporary use of the property. Under the likely lease agreement, the fields would generate a few hundred thousand dollars a year in revenue for the city, he said, adding that the property’s value could increase in the future, eventually leading to a sale that would wipe the municipality’s debt clean.

Straub has said he wants to use Bader for a jet airport, equestrian competitions or motorsports, depending on what regulators would allow. Under his control, the property would be guaranteed to generate $7.5 million per year in revenue for the city, if not more, Straub said.

At the meeting, Councilman George Tibbitt reminded Straub of the temporary nature of the sports fields proposal, telling him he could always bid on Bader again at a future date.

But Straub said Friday he has no interest in waiting.

Story, video and photo:

Glenn Straub inside Revel Casino Hotel which he bought for $82 million, marking the end of a sale process fraught with dissension and delay, with shifting alliances and spoiled offers. Tuesday, April 7, 2015.

Cessna A188A AGwagon, N4401Q, Rooster Aviation LLC: Accident occurred October 24, 2015 in Elberta, Utah County, Utah

NTSB Identification: GAA16CA027
Accident occurred Saturday, October 24, 2015 in Eureka, UT
Aircraft: CESSNA A188A, registration: N4401Q

NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Date: 24-OCT-15
Time: 16:30:00Z
Regis#: N4401Q
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: A188
Event Type: Accident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Substantial
Activity: Aerial Application
Flight Phase: POSTIMPACT (PIM)
Operation: 137
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Salt Lake City FSDO-07
State: Utah



ELBERTA, Utah County — A single engine plane crashed Saturday, but the pilot was able to escape with only minor injuries.

Witnesses in the Elberta area called the Utah County Sheriff's Office just before 10:30 a.m. after they saw the crash and clouds of smoke.

Rick Edward Strong, 45, of Payson, had been traveling about 75 mph performing a re-seeding operation for a company when he received a "stall warning and was unable to correct the problem," said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon. Strong, a pilot of 20 years with around 1,500 hours of fight time, lost control only a couple hundred feet into the air and crashed in "relatively rugged terrain," he said.

In what Cannon described as a "horrific crash," the plane hit the ground and spun around backwards to face the opposite direction of its flight.

Strong had little difficulty getting out of the plane and was treated on site by medical personnel, the sergeant said.

"All it would have taken is say a buckle jammed or a lock on the canopy jammed for 30 seconds or a minute and we might be having to talk about a very different outcome," Cannon said. "With what that plane did … to walk away is nothing short of a miracle."

Although Strong made it out of the crash unscathed, his plane did not. The plane took a beating from the impact but was destroyed by the flames, Cannon said.

Story and photo gallery:

A 45-year-old Payson man survived a small plane crash in southwest Utah County Saturday morning, but the plane he was flying was almost completely destroyed.  

According to Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff's Office, the small plane crashed at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Witnesses called 911 when they saw the plane go down near Elberta. 

The pilot, Rick Edward Strong, from Payson, was flying the single-engine, single-seat airplane as part of a a reseeding project, dropping seed from the plane when he heard a stall warning. 

Strong told officials that he was only flying a few hundred feet above the ground when the warning sounded. He said that he took emergency measures, including an effort to fly underneath a power line, but was unable to recover. 

The plane hit the ground, where it spun 180 degrees and stopped facing the opposite direction Strong had been flying.

"The plane itself caught fire and was almost completely destroyed," Cannon said. 

Strong was able to get out of the plane and sustained only minor injuries. 

"He was in pretty good shape given the condition of the plane," Cannon said. 

Crews from Santaquin, Eureka and Goshen, as well as the Utah County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene. 

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were alerted about the crash. They spoke to officers on the scene and to the pilot and, according to Cannon, were satisfied with the explanations of the circumstances surrounding the crash and did not respond to the scene. 

- Story and photo gallery:

Air Tractor unveils newest airplane

WICHITA FALLS, Texas - The newest series of aircraft manufactured by Air Tractor in Olney was unveiled Friday evening during the company’s annual dealer meeting.

The new aircraft, called the Air Tractor 502XP, is expected to receive its Federal Aviation Administration certification soon.

Air Tractor president Jim Hirsch said the XP stands for “Xtra Power” given the plane’s engine, a PT61-140AG from Pratt & Whitney Canada.

“The 502XP is a remarkable combination of power, stability and productivity,” he said in a news release. “It really performs and flies well with a full 500-gallon load in high and hot conditions.”

Hirsch hinted that something was coming down the pike during June’s SINDAG Convention in Brazil, an annual meeting of top players in the aviation business that focuses on agriculture. The president said they were working with Pratt & Whitney Canada on a few projects, and people driving near or on the plant’s property reported seeing a different type of Air Tractor airframe on the ramp in front of Plant 2 — the plane had a four-blade propeller compared to the traditional three- or five-blade version.

“The new PT6A-140AG engine is really well matched for the 502,” Hirsch said. “Pilots will be able to carry full loads on hot days. It will continue hauling the load all day, every day no matter the temperature. It’s got an extra margin of performance a lot of pilots will appreciate.”

Air Tractor produces eight aircraft with fuel capacity ranging from 400 to 800 gallons and are powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engines. The multi-role aircraft is used for agriculture, fire fighting, narcotic crop eradication, fuel-hauling, fighting locust plagues and cleaning up oil spills in coastal waters. Air Tractor planes are flown in more than 30 countries around the world.

Story and photos:

Mooney M20M Bravo, N243CW: Fatal accident occurred October 24, 2015 near Worcester Regional Airport (KORH), Worcester County, Massachusetts

WORCESTER - While the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the cause of a fatal Mooney M20M Bravo plane crash at Worcester Regional Airport October 24, there is additional evidence of a communications breakdown between emergency personnel.

According to the Worcester Fire Department incident report obtained by the Telegram & Gazette, a city dispatcher entered in her notes, "MASS PORT PUT THIS INCIDENT OUT AS A DRILL....MEMA CALLED US AT 0818HRS AND WERE NOTF (notified) THAT IT IS NOT A DRILL!!!"

The newspaper had requested the incident report under the state's Public Records Law, but a spokesman for City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. cited the pending National Transportation Safety Board probe of the crash as the reason for a delay in releasing the report. The incident report was not provided to the newspaper by Mr. Augustus' office.

Peter Judge of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said officials at that agency learned that someone at Massport "pushed the wrong button" while sending out an electronic notification about the crash. The faulty notice indicated the event was an "exercise," not an actual emergency. But Mr. Judge said the error was quickly corrected within two minutes and did not affect the emergency response to the crash.

A second anomaly was evident the day of the crash.

In the playback of audio recordings of the controller handling air traffic at the time, the controller repeats three times "can't reach ARFF." ARFF (Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting) is shorthand for security/fire/rescue personnel.

Seconds later, the controller said, "I am on the line with 911," indicating that she called Worcester's Fire Department to respond to the crash scene.

As the NTSB investigates the crash, the reason for the communications breakdown between the tower, ARFF and MEMA has not been released by Massport, if the reason is known.

According to Worcester Fire Department records, city fire personnel reached the crash site off Coppage Drive within six minutes. 

The crash was within sight of the airport runway.

Even though city fire crews had to travel several miles to reach the scene, they got to the crash before the airport ARFF personnel.

A Putnam man died in the crash within sight of Runway 11 and the control tower, about 100 feet outside the airport perimeter fence, but on airport property.

The crash site, although outside the perimeter fence, is on Massport land transferred to the authority by the city in 2010.

A January 2015 Federal Aviation Administration emergency plan filed by Massport is ambiguous about which agency has primary responsibility in such a scenario.

Hours after the October 24 crash, Massport spokesman Matthew Brelis said the Worcester Fire Department has primary responsibility for responding to crashes outside the airport perimeter.

But the January 2015 Federal Aviation Administration emergency plan says the Worcester Fire Department is to provide "support" services "within Worcester and within the airport perimeter fence line" for aircraft rescue and firefighting.

Worcester Fire Department Deputy Chief John F. Sullivan acknowledges the confusion in the emergency plan.

"The January 2015 plan is ambiguous in wording. The Federal Aviation Administration plan is relevant to inside the perimeter. They do not dictate outside the fence. It does not dictate the rules of engagement outside the fence," the deputy chief said.

"Our duties have never changed. It does not matter what they are doing inside the perimeter, we will support. Outside we are going to have primary responsibility," Deputy Chief Sullivan said.

While the emergency airport plan has gone through several iterations, he noted the language should be clarified.

Original article can be found here:

Dr. Gary L. Weller

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA023 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 24, 2015 in Worchester, MA
Aircraft: MOONEY M20M, registration: N243CW
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 October 24, 2015, at 0753 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20M, N243CW, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain shortly after taking off from Worchester Regional Airport (ORH), Worchester, Massachusetts. The airline transport pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The airplane was not operating on flight plan for the local personal flight, which was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Airport security cameras captured partial segments of the flight. The airplane took off from runway 11. One camera showed the airplane in flight, climbing over the intersection of runway 15, or about 1,500 feet from the departure end of the 7,000-foot takeoff runway. Using the height of the airplane's tail as a reference, the airplane was about 80 to 90 feet above the runway surface at that point, still climbing in a slight right turn.

The airplane then flew out of view, reappearing about 16 seconds later, headed in the roughly the opposite direction of takeoff. There was no radar coverage of the area, but based on the approximate height of the control tower, the airplane appeared to be about 200 feet above the ground, in a shallow, climbing right turn. The airplane's nose then began descending, and the right turn intensified. The airplane continued the right, almost nose down turn as it descended into a stand of trees.

The accident site was located in flat, wooded terrain in the vicinity of 42 degrees, 15.68 minutes north latitude, 071 degrees, 52.15 minutes west longitude at an elevation of about 975 feet. The wreckage was confined to an area extending about 100 feet. There was no wreckage path, but there was evidence of the airplane coming almost straight down through the trees. There was no evidence of smoke or fire, either in flight or at the accident site.

The three-bladed propeller and spinner were found together, but separated from the main wreckage and mostly buried in the ground. When removed, the spinner exhibited fore-to-aft crushing, and none of the three propeller blades exhibited evidence typical of engine power at impact.

All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site. The left wing was found separated from the fuselage about 4 feet from the wing root, while the right wing was mostly still attached. The left horizontal stabilizer was also separated from the airplane, while the right horizontal stabilizer remained attached. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the broken flight surfaces to the cockpit.

The engine had remained attached to the airframe, but was subsequently separated from it and taken to a maintenance garage for further examination. The starter ring did not exhibit any evidence of powered rotation at impact. The crankshaft was rotated by hand at the flange, but could only be rotated a few revolutions before it jammed, and could not be rotated in either direction.

The oil suction screen was removed and found to be contaminated with metal fragments. The accessory case housing was removed, and the No. 5 main bearing was found to be partially extruded out through the crankshaft gear. Holes were also noted in internal portions of the crankcase halves, and the No. 6 connecting rod was observed to be broken.

The engine was subsequently disassembled, and the crankshaft was found to be fractured between the No. 5 and No. 6 cheeks. The camshaft was also broken in the vicinity of the crankshaft fracture, and the interior of the case halves were gouged rotationally, consistent with the damage having occurred awhile the engine was still operating.

The crankshaft, camshaft, connecting rods, and bearings were retained for further laboratory examination.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Windsor Locks FSDO-63

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

Dr. Gary L. Weller

Dr. Gary Lee Weller of Putnam Heights, CT, former resident of Greenfield, MA, departed this earth unexpectedly on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, onto his next journey, following an accident while flying his airplane, one of his many passions.

Gary leaves behind his beloved wife, soulmate and best friend, Sharon Weller. His loving mother, Elsie Weller; his sisters, Jana (Tom) Papke, Jean Weller and Lori (Dan) Strickler; his stepdaughters, Haley Trenholm and Calista (Cody) Thompson; grandson, Colgan Thompson, and his many cherished nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind his devoted black labs, Lucy and Desi. Gary will be joining his father Duke, who left us in 2013.

Dr. Weller received his medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1979 and began practicing his craft in Michigan. Thereafter, he relocated and established a thriving dental practice in the Boston area. Concurrent with his medical training and career, he rose through the ranks as an FAA certificated pilot and began flying for various airlines including Eastern and U.S. Airways. Upon his retirement from the airlines, he relocated both his home and dental office to Putnam, CT, where, under his leadership and vision, Weller Dental Associates, expanded into one of the most recognized, modern and respected dental practices in the area.

A man of many talents and interests, Gary enjoyed flying most of all. A very accomplished and respected pilot, he never encountered a plane he couldn't fly. Whether it be one of his vintage or antique airplanes, an ultra modern Mooney, or a passenger jet, he was equally at home behind the controls. His airline colleagues dubbed him "the flying dentist," others referred to him as a "pilot's pilot," as well as a teacher and a mentor. His passing leaves a large tear in the fabric of that close knit community.

Gary loved to travel. He and Sharon had many adventures by air to so many wonderful places along with very dear friends. He also owned a BMW motorcycle and would ride frequently with his dearest friend, Bill. The two would take week-long trips over thousands of miles to many interesting places.

An accomplished woodworker, craftsman and journeyman electrician, he possessed an uncanny "MacGyver" like talent to fix almost anything and considered it a personal failure to call in a professional!

He truly was a renaissance man in every sense of the word. He taught himself how to play guitar and enjoyed (in his words) "massacring a song" every now and then and joking with friends and family to "cover their ears" when he picked up his guitar.

A great man with a sharp wit, keen intellect, and a unique sense of humor, Gary made us all laugh. A soft and giving heart, he never said no to a favor or turned away a patient in need. He had the ability to take away pain and make us healthy and whole, and the unwavering ability to make us feel welcomed and special - not just as a healer, but as a son, a husband, a father, a brother and a friend. This is what those that love him can hold on to: his zest for life and his ability to make anyone laugh. Our lives have forever been changed because of him.

Calling hours are planned for Friday, Oct. 30, from 5 to 7 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 31, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a memorial service immediately following at the Gilman Funeral Home, 104 Church St., Putnam, CT. A gathering to share memories and stories of Gary will follow at 3:30 for family, friends and close colleagues at The Putnam Elks.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be considered to the Connecticut Foundation for Dental Outreach, 835 West Queen St. Southington, CT 06489. For memorial guestbook, please visit

  WORCESTER - Authorities investigating the fatal plane crash near the Worcester Regional Airport Saturday continued to review the wreckage from the incident Sunday as they work to determine what happened.

The pilot of the plane, 66-year-old Dr. Gary Weller of Putnam, Conn., died in the crash Saturday after he took off from Worcester Regional Airport around 8 a.m. The plane, a 1996 Mooney M20M, crashed in the woods near Coppage Drive, not far from the airport.

Weller, the pilot of the single-engine plane, was the only person inside.

Investigators remained at the scene Sunday. The engine from the plane was taken from the area for inspection.

Some of the debris from the crash remained in the woods Sunday. Pieces of the plane were scattered on the ground and some pieces remained in the trees.

Paul Cox, senior air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said authorities are in the beginning stages of the investigation.

"We look at everything. We look at the man, the machine and the environment," he said. "Right now we are looking at the machine."

Cox said a preliminary report will be released in roughly 10 days. A factual report will be released in four to six months and a final report will be completed in about a year.

The Worcester County District Attorney's Office, Massachusetts State Police, Massachusetts Port Authority and the Massachusetts Aeronautics Agency are all involved in the investigation.

Paul Cox, a National Transportation Safety Board senior air safety investigator, speaks at the scene of the fatal plane crash near Worcester Regional Airport (KORH).

Patients are mourning the death of a Putnam dentist who died in a plane crash on Saturday.

Dr. Gary Weller, 66, of Putnam, was flying a single-engine plane from Worcester, Massachusetts when it crashed at about 8 a.m. Saturday and he was killed, according to Worcester District Attorney D. Early Jr.

The Mooney M20M Bravo plane veered to the right and crashed in trees near the airport, diving to one side before hitting the ground, witnesses said. The airport is 30 miles from his home in Putnam.

Weller was the only person aboard the plane. He didn't file a flight plan, so his destination is unknown.

Worcester firefighters and EMS personnel "attempted life-saving measures at the scene," according to the district attorney's office.

The office of the chief medical examiner in Massachusetts will examine the body and determine the cause of death through an autopsy.

Massachusetts state police, State Police Crime Scene Services, State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section, Massachusetts Aeronautics, the state Department of Environmental Protection, MassPort and Worcester police are investigating the fatal plane crash.

A former commercial airline pilot, Weller practiced dentistry in Putnam and also in Massachusetts for three decades.

His dental practice is located across from the United Methodist Church in Putnam. Pastor Barbara Kszystyniak said many of her parishioners are also his patients and that many were shocked to hear the news.

"I know that this is going to have an impact on a lot of people in the church this morning and we'll spend some time praying for his family," Kszystyniak said.

Kszystyniak said Weller has been "very gracious" to the church.

"Matter of fact, the signs in his parking lot say parking on weekends for church events," she said.

Upon hearing the news, patient Judith Gehrig, of Woodstock Valley, said its important to live life to the fullest.

“He was very gentle and very kind and that means a lot when you’re not really happy about going to the dentist. I was really shocked to hear what happened," Gehrig said. “In an instant, everything can change, and how precious every minute is that we’re living in. That we should live each one to the fullest.”

William Zamagni, of Putnam, said he "just couldn't believe it" and that Weller was a good friend.

"“Such a nice man. He was a real gentleman. I was devastated when I heard," Zamagni said.

Ed Vonderheide said Weller was "a wonderful man."

“It really shocked me this morning to hear the news, because he’s such a friendly man and a fine dentist, I haven’t met a finer dentist in my whole life," Vonderheide said. “I always felt good about seeing him and I’m shocked. I’m really shocked that he’s gone.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to be at the crash site Sunday to investigate the fatal accident and determine what caused it.

WORCESTER, Mass. — A Putnam dentist has been identified as the victim of a fatal single-engine plane crash Saturday morning in Worcester.

Authorities said pilot Gary Weller was the only person aboard the Mooney M20M Bravo when it took off from Worcester Regional Airport and then crashed into nearby woods.

The aircraft veered to the right after takeoff and crashed into trees on airport property, Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said. Weller didn't file a flight plan, and it was unclear where he had planned to fly the plane, Early said.

Construction worker Dylon DeBoise, who was working near the airport, said the aircraft got only slightly off the ground before crashing.

"It was very low. It looked like it was right above the trees," DeBoise told New England Cable News. "It went up a little bit and then spun over, like almost upside down, and then just went straight down."

There was no fire reported after the crash.

Weller, 66, was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy would be conducted by the state's medical examiner, Early said.

The National Transportation Safety Board will take over the investigation and determine the cause of the crash, he said after viewing the crash site.

According to a biography on his practice’s website, Weller worked as an airline pilot for both Eastern Airlines and US Airways while maintaining a dental practice in Massachusetts before settling in Putnam. He was a native of Grand Rapids, Mich, but had lived in New England for 35 years.

“Although he is retired from the airlines and is completely devoted to dentistry in his Putnam, Connecticut practice, many of his former patients and airline industry friends come to him from out of state for dental care,” the biography said.

WORCESTER (CBS) – A pilot was killed in a small plane crash near the Worcester Airport Saturday morning.

The Mooney M20M Bravo aircraft was taking off just before 8 a.m.when it went off the runway and crashed in the woods off Coppage Drive.

The pilot, Gary Weller, 66, of Putnam, Connecticut, was the only person on board. 

Gary Weller did not file a flight plan so it’s unclear where he was flying, according to the Worcester Country District Attorney’s Office.

First responders were able to pull him from the wreckage of the Mooney M20M Bravo aircraft, but State Police said he died at the scene.

Construction worker Dylon DeBoise, who was working near the airport, said the aircraft went into a nose dive.

“It was very low. It looked like it was right above the trees. Again, it went up a little bit and then spun over, like almost upside down and then just went straight down,” he told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

Deboise said the plane did not catch on fire after it crashed.

The airport remained open Saturday.

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