Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I-Team: Federal Aviation Administration documents show plan to cut jobs in Portland, Bangor - Maine

PORTLAND (WGME) - The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to cut jobs and close weather observation offices at the Portland Jetport and Bangor International Airport, according to internal planning documents obtained by the I-Team.

Weather observers say the proposal will make flying in and out of Maine's airports dangerous for pilots and passengers.

The airports in Portland and Bangor use an automated weather observing system, but the National Weather Service says the system has limitations so right now the FAA uses five trained and certified weather observers in Portland, seven in Bangor, working around the clock, to ensure your safety.

Weather observers contracted by the FAA help make sure pilots are getting good weather information for each take off and landing. They're a manual backup and supplement automated and computerized weather system information.

According to FAA documents, the agency has plans to cut those jobs in Portland, Bangor and 55 other cities.

"I think it's irresponsible and dangerous the FAA would propose to sacrifice public safety to save a few bucks in the budget," Senior Weather Observer Megan Lumsden said.

The National Weather Service jointly runs the automated observing system with the FAA and explains the sensor system isn't designed to report things like ice, blowing snow, and any weather around the airport that hasn't yet encountered a sensor; its eyes only see directly overhead.

In a statement to the I-Team, the FAA said it's committed to having human backup at all airports and would transition weather observing duties to its air traffic controllers.

"FAA controllers and its contract tower controllers already provide critical weather reporting services at more than 390 airports.  The agency will conduct safety reviews at the 57 sites to evaluate the potential transfer of weather reporting to controllers," the statement said.

Safety reviews in Portland and Bangor are expected to happen this year. Jetport Director Paul Bradbury told CBS 13 he doesn't have a position on the FAA proposal.


Did Van Nuys aviation firm put ‘profits over safety’? Ex-saleswoman claims she was fired for complaining about threats

A former top saleswoman for a Van Nuys-based aviation firm was fired for complaining that a high-ranking FBI agent/client was harassing her and threatening to harm her family members, an attorney told a jury Wednesday, but a lawyer for the company said the woman lied about a previous relationship with the G-man.

The attorneys offered their opening statements to a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of Doreen Olson Mackey’s lawsuit against Helinet Aviation Services LLC. The firm was founded by pilot Alan Purwin, who died in a Sept. 11 plane crash in Colombia during shooting of the upcoming film “Mena,” which stars Tom Cruise.

Helinet provides helicopter services to a variety of clients such as celebrities, filmmakers, television stations and law enforcement, including local agencies as well as the FBI, according to the company’s attorney, Tracey Kennedy.

According to Mackey’s attorney, Victor George, his client joined Helinet in 2010 and eventually generated millions of dollars for the firm while handling the FBI account. Victor Grant, the unit chief of the FBI’s hostage and rescue team, was Mackey’s contact on the account and he helped her get the job after speaking with Helinet executives at a trade show, George said.

The FBI account was the most lucrative one for Helinet and Mackey, but she also earned money for the company through dealings with other law enforcement agencies, George said. She worked for Helinet from her Minnesota home and traveled extensively to generate more business, George said.

But Mackey, a divorced mother of two who had previously broken off a relationship with Grant, eventually asked to be taken off the FBI account after Grant threatened her father and ex-husband in September 2012, George alleged. He said two top Helinet executives were aware of the alleged harassment.

“They saw his behavior, they saw how he bullied Ms. Mackey,” George said.

But the executives, knowing how much income the FBI account generated, did not want to lose it and they never fully looked into Mackey’s claims, George claimed.

“They did absolutely nothing,”  George said. “Helinet put profits over safety.”

Nine weeks later, Mackey was told she was being laid off, George said. A six-figure earner at Helinet, Mackey was forced to take a minimum-wage job for a while at Target, according to George. She has been unable to get similar work since losing the Helinet job, George said.

But Kennedy told jurors that the case was about “secrets and lies.” She said Mackey never told her Helinet bosses about her previous romantic relationship with Grant. She also never said anything about sexual misconduct by Grant toward her, Kennedy said.

Helinet acted quickly when Mackey complained and the FBI agent was told to stay away from her, Kennedy said. Emails show that Mackey was pleased with Helinet’s actions, according to Kennedy.

Mackey sued Helinet in August 2013. Grant and the FBI are not defendants in the case.


Hawaii investment group buying controlling interest of Ellison’s Island Air

Billionaire Larry Ellison is relinquishing control of Island Air to an investor group headed by Hawaii venture capitalist Jeffrey Au.

Two affiliates of PacifiCap, a Honolulu-based investment firm, are acquiring a controlling interest in the state’s third-largest airline, Island Air announced today. The purchase by PaCap Aviation Finance LLC and Malama Investments LLC is subject to approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Au is the founder and managing director of PacifiCap.

Neither a purchase price nor the percentage of the controlling interest was disclosed.

Ellison’s Ohana Airline Holdings LLC, which bought Island Air from Charlie Willis of San Francisco-based Gavarnie Holding LLC in February 2013, will retain a non-controlling interest and will continue to partner with the new local owner as the airline moves forward with its expansion plans.

Island Air CEO Dave Pflieger and former Island Air executive Les Murashige will aid in the transition. Spokesman Russell Pang said “for the time being” that Pflieger will remain as CEO.

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to partner with Mr. Ellison and his team to create a strong second airline for Hawaii,” Au said. “Like Hawaii itself, we may not be big, but we can be great. We believe that having local owners and managers will allow us to provide the kind of reliability, seat availability and service that our fellow kamaaina deserve.”

Ellison bought the airline in February 2013 less than a year after buying about 98 percent of the island of Lanai, which Island Air serves, from Castle & Cooke owner David Murdock for a reported $300 million.

Last April, Island Air announced it was cutting 20 percent of its workforce, reducing service and indefinitely postponing a decision to bring in a new fleet, It has just two routes remaining: Honolulu-Maui and Maui-Lanai. The airline has lost money for 10 straight quarters and as of Sept. 30 was in the red by $45.9 million since Ellison bought the carrier. The airline’s market share has now dropped to 3 percent to rank the airline third behind Hawaiian Airlines (92 percent) and Mokulele Airlines (4 percent), according to the latest data from the state Department of Transportation.

Passenger traffic and revenue also have dropped sharply. The 19,946 passengers that Island Air carried in September — the latest data available from the DOT — were the fewest in a month since the carrier transported 14,261 in April 2013. The $5.5 million in third-quarter revenue was the lowest in any quarter since Ellison purchased the airline for an undisclosed price.

Pflieger said Island Air, which operates with five 64-seat ATR-72 turboprop aircraft, plans to add additional ATR-72 to its fleet.

“We recognized that committed local ownership would serve Island Air’s best interests in the long term, and are very pleased that such a well-regarded investor group as PacifiCap, with deep roots in Hawaii, is now taking the helm,” said Island Air Chairman Paul Marinelli.


Appleton International Airport (KATW) warns of military jet flyovers in Fox Valley, Wisconsin

APPLETON — Back in October, a series of military jet flyovers had some Fox Valley residents confused.

Even law enforcement agencies didn't know what was going on.

Sgt. David Lund with the Appleton Police Department said, "At the time when the military flyover took place, there was a lot of confusion."

So the Appleton International Airport  wanted to take matters into its own hands. Airport officials kept an eye on the National Guard's distribution list to stay ahead of the curve for the next flyover, which is taking place Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoon.

Abe Weber, the Appleton International Airport Director, said, "I think the biggest difference between what occurred last October and what we sent out yesterday, was our feeling that we had a duty to communicate this out. After the comments we received in October, we really wanted to learn and be more proactive."

The airport's proactive approach was well received, with many positive comments on social media

Weber said, "We really are surprised, there were a number of concerns raised back in October. This time it's all been very positive reactions and that's really great. It leads us to believe we did the right thing in getting it out."

According to the Department of Military Affairs, it's the 115th Fighter Wing doing routine training exercises this week here in the Fox Valley skies.

A spokesperson for the 115th Fighter Wing said it usually only needs to tell local FAA air traffic control when training is taking place, not the airport itself. But Appleton International caught it anyway.

Weber said, "We felt like it was our duty to communicate that information to the community."

Benefiting not only the community, but the law agencies too.

Lund said, "It's good just to alert people that there's nothing to worry about. It makes law enforcement's job easier, it puts people at ease."

The airport says it plans to continue these alerts in the future.

Story and video:

Flying Like A Bird On A Wing


First, we tried feathers and wax.

Then Leonardo specified linen and wood.

No matter the mythology, method, or machinery, the dream has always been the same.

We’re flying.

Floating over fields and streams, unstuck, untroubled, and cut loose from the dust beneath our feet.

For Jim and Brett Ross, the methodology is a dichotomous mix of canvas and prop, a combination of the wind furling through a parachute canvas while a 100-horsepower machine propels them through the air, soaring through space.

Icarus, meet Buck Rogers.

The father and son were on hand at the Ponca City Aviation Foundation’s first Fly-In Breakfast of the New Year at the Ponca City Municipal Airport, sharing their enthusiasm and displaying their flying machines.
Jim, retired from Conoco and now 72 years old, led the way into the sport after first taking up paragliding while working in Norway some 20 years ago.

“I was over there for a project with Conoco, and it was a stressful time. And I saw guys paragliding and thought I needed to do that and took some lessons,” he says.

Upon returning to the Ponca City area the following year, a certain element of that sport went missing — the elevation provided by mountainous terrain.

“Since this is flat ground land, and because they hadn’t really started building para-motors yet at that time, I was kind of grounded for a while,” Jim says. “Then I saw an article in a magazine about a para-motor, and I ordered one, waited for months and months for it to arrive, and then spent about a year or so trying to build up a frame around it.”

Those initial efforts were less than successful. Jim likened the results to the infamous massive wooden airplane once build by Howard Hughes.

“It was like the Spruce Goose. I could just not get it off the ground, it was too heavy and not powerful enough,” he says. “So about 2000 or so, I took a trip back to Norway and there was a club over there that was selling these units that were built in Poland. So I bought one and brought it back with me as excess baggage on a commercial plane! I don’t think they’d allow that today.”

Powered parachutes are a niche alternative to conventional flying. No government license required, with a relatively short training period and an affordable cost paling in attraction compared to the unfettered freedom of flying and not falling beneath a nylon canvas umbrella.

Sometimes called paraplanes, the conveyance is essentially a type of ultralight aircraft that consists of a parachute with a motor — wheels optional — but with a parachute instead of fixed wings supplying the lift.

The aircraft airspeed is typically about 25–35 mph. PPCs operate safely at heights ranging from a few feet off the ground (while ground skimming, a popular use of the aircraft) to altitudes as high as 10,000-plus feet.
More typical operating heights are between 500 and 1500 feet (150–500 meters). Equipped with the standard 5 or 10 gallon fuel tank, PPCs can typically be flown for about three hours.

Brett Ross, Jim’s son, explains that their propulsion comes via 210 cubic centimeter 2-stroke engines that put out just over 20 horsepower apiece. One uses a 42-inch propeller the other a 48-inch prop. The flyers build their own propellers.

Brett took a few more years before first following his father into the air. Now 48, he first tried the sport for himself a decade ago in 2005.

“I started out by helping dad, and one day I decided I wanted to do it myself — and I’ve been hooked on it ever since,” Brett says.

“The first time he flew, he just went right over my head and shouted down ‘how do you land this thing?’ and I just kind of laughed and yelled back up ‘you’re doing good, just keep on going!’,” Jim smiles. “And he did, and he still is.”

And just as it started out as a form of stress relief for the father, so it remains for the son.

“I get home from a rough day, and I’ll go flying and it makes everything all good. My wife knows I’m going, and she knows I’ll be in a better mood when I get back,” Brett says.

“You go off and fly, and you just feel good,” says Jim.

“It’s probably the closest form of true free flight that you can get... to what people probably originally envisioned when they first dreamed of flying,” enthuses Brett.

“Flying like a bird,” says Jim.

FLYING HIGH over the fields of Oklahoma -- though certainly a safe distance below the jet stream in the background -- is Ponca City's Brett Ross, one-half of a father and son who are proponents of Powered Parachute flying. Brett and his father Jim displayed their machines, chutes, and other equipment at a presentation at last Saturday's Ponca City Aviation Foundation Fly-In Breakfast fundraiser at the Ponca City Municipal Airport.

FLYING BY parachute, say Jim and Brett Ross, is as close to flying like a bird as we can get.

WITH THE machine shown above left, the pilot sits on a small seat and takes off and lands with the original equipment landing gear known as your own two feet, as practiced by Brett Ross. His father Jim used to fly this type of craft, but has more recently switched to a trike chassis as shown above right. The wheeled frame was fabricated entirely by Jim and Brett. "Brett still flies off his feet, but I've converted to wheels. Wheels are wonderful," Jim jokes. "I can see now why they invented them!"

BRETT ROSS demonstrates how he "assembles the wing on the runway" at the Fly-In Breakfast. Ross explained that the various lines attached to the parachute are color coded and coordinate specific flight controls, controlling brakes and directional changes along with ascents, descents, and other aerial maneuvers. 

AS PART of his demonstration, Brett Ross lets 4-year-old Hayden Driver and brother 7-year-old Rylan Driver "take the controls" of his parachute under the watchful eye of grandfather Mark Wilson. 

Story and photo gallery:

Biggest obstacle for delivery drones isn’t the technology: It’s you and me

A drone developed by a company called Flirtey was used to drop medical supplies in Wise, Va., in July 2015, marking the first government-sanctioned drone delivery in the United States. 

When Missy Cummings thinks about self-flying delivery drones — the kind that tech companies have been touting as being just around the corner — she likes to imagine the reaction of her 8-year-old son to a drone landing in her back yard.

“He’d like to throw rocks at it — because it’s there,” said Cummings, a Duke professor and director of its Humans and Autonomy Lab. “It’s just human nature.”

Others might fire potshots at the unmanned aerial vehicles, just for fun, as they do at rural traffic signs, Cummings said. Pet dogs could be expected to run straight for drones. Curious children would try to grab them. So would adults: A video clip popular in drone circles shows singer Enrique Iglesias bloodying his hand as he grabs for a helicopter-like drone at a concert in May last year.

Cummings, one of the nation’s top drone researchers, doesn’t doubt the technology. She believes these autonomous machines already possess the ability to accurately and reliably do their jobs. They could fly today. The technical issues have been solved.

The biggest hurdles — and there are a colorful assortment of them — are what Cummings calls “socio-technical.”

People are the problem. And people present massive, often glossed-over stumbling blocks for delivery drones ever getting off the ground. While small drones already have been a retail hit — selling an estimated 700,000 units last year alone — some experts fear that people problems could delay the widespread adoption of more advanced, autonomous delivery drones by several years, dwarfing what many think of as the final obstacle for commercial drones: federal airspace regulations, which are expected later this year.

“I’m just not that optimistic,” Cummings said.

Drone researchers call these challenges the problem of “the last 50 feet,” said Parimal Kopardekar, principal investigator for NASA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management program.

A drone, like any aircraft, is most vulnerable during takeoffs and landings, Kopardekar said. But airplanes use defined airports. Drones will probably enjoy similar protections when taking off from a warehouse, for example. But landing will be a very different story — and one that changes with each residence.

Not only are people unprepared for drones, but the infrastructure needed to accommodate small flying delivery vehicles also is missing. Houses today have mail slots and curbside mailboxes to accommodate the traditional flow of mail and packages. Nothing yet exists to make the drone’s job easier.

How is a drone going to deliver to a high-rise apartment building?

Researchers are working on answers, “but I don’t think any of this is foolproof yet,” Kopardekar said.

The potential solutions are fanciful, revealing just how much work remains. Kopardekar suggested 10-foot-tall mailboxes — perfect for landing drones where people and their fingers won’t interfere. Or transforming chimneys into delivery chutes for drone-dropped packages. Others imagine installing delivery lockers on the roofs of apartment buildings.

The companies pushing hardest to use delivery drones are tight-lipped about their plans. Amazon, Google and a start-up called Flirtey all declined to comment for this article. They prefer to drop hints through promotional videos showcasing the technology — online ads that are devoured by millions eager for the service to arrive.

But these clips also reveal the technology’s shortcomings.

The filmed test flights from all three companies were staged in suburban or rural settings. The landing zones were unobstructed. Dense urban landscapes still appear too challenging. That’s why drone experts expect that when delivery drones do eventually appear, they will begin in small towns or suburbs, turning the usual tech-adoption pattern (cities first, with outward expansion) on its head.

“In the short term, I think that’s going to be the answer,” said John Greene, associate director of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.

Companies are testing different methods for cracking the problem of the last 50 feet.

Google Project Wing’s drone used a tether to lower a package of dog treats to a customer in Australia’s outback, a backdrop almost comically devoid of obstacles. In the same vein, a video from Flirtey showed a drone using a wire tether to drop medical supplies to a remote clinic in Wise, Va., last summer, marking the first government-sanctioned drone delivery in the United States.

Only Amazon Prime Air’s drone showed a suburban landing.

The clip, seen by 5.6 million people on Youtube alone, was released in late November, a full year after Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said that regulation, not technology, was the project’s biggest problem. The Federal Aviation Administration has banned commercial delivery drones while it hashes out the rules for their operation.

In Amazon’s latest video, a homeowner placed a special mat on the grass as a landing target. The drone was shown making an uneventful flight from the warehouse. Meanwhile, the homeowner was prompted to make sure her yard was clear for delivery. The drone then safely landed on the mat, dropping off a box of soccer cleats and flying away.

It looked like magic.

Matthew Waite was among the millions who watched the clip. He runs the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. And he has an acute interest in drone technology and the FAA’s regulations, which grounded his lab’s drones in 2013. He expects that one issue for delivery drones will be air rights. Homeowners are generally assumed to own the airspace above their properties. So can an Amazon drone fly low over your neighbor’s back yard to get to your house?

It remains unclear, Waite said.

Watching the video, he was caught by the homeowner signing off that her yard was clear.

“I want to see the terms of service on that,” Waite said.

He imagined the legalese precluded holding Amazon accountable for an accident or mishap.

But, Waite said, any number of things could go wrong, from curious children to nosy neighbors. And what if you have a dog?

“You know darn well a dog is not going to leave that thing alone,” he said. “Amazon is going to lose a drone, or a dog is going to lose a snout.”

The machines seem ready to perform flawless automated flights, a stunning advancement — if only people and pets and pranksters stay out of way.

“It captures the imagination because it feel like the future,” Waite said. “But the future is a lot harder than they make it out to be.”

Story and comments:

United Airlines Boeing 737, N38268: Incident occurred January 05, 2016 at Spokane International Airport (KGEG), Spokane, Washington

Date: 05-JAN-16

Time: 13:57:00Z
Regis#: N38268
Aircraft Make: BOEING
Aircraft Model: 737
Event Type: Incident
Damage: Unknown
Activity: Commercial
Flight Phase: TAXI (TXI)
Aircraft Operator: UAL-United Airlines
Flight Number: UAL812
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Spokane FSDO-13
State: Washington


SPOKANE, Wash. -

Spokane International Airport was temporarily closed Tuesday morning after a United Airlines plane slid off the taxiway.

The plane, United Airlines Flight 812 bound for Denver, slid off around 6 a.m. from the southern end of the holding area of Taxiway A. No injuries were reported among the 175 people aboard.

A stairway was brought out to the aircraft and all passengers exited the plane.  plane and were bused to the terminal.

“It was kind of an early morning flight like any other, I have taken many," passenger Austin Ola said.

Ola was supposed to be heading to Denver on United Flight 812, the first leg of his journey to Nicaragua to do some missionary work. First the flight was delayed before it even left the gate.

“Said it was a little bit icier than usual and they were putting de-icer down," Ola said.

But, the deicer wasn't enough and, as the 737 taxied to its runway its wheels lost traction and the aircraft ended up sliding into the snow.

“It was kind of like drifting an airplane," Ola said. “When an airplane takes off it shakes a lot. It was kind of the same feeling. Or like when you push on the brakes and you are in a car and you are on ice and it just starts to sputter along a little bit."

“Oh we are sliding, then we stopped and it was like okay. And then we just kept watching TV and they had said we had hit a snow bank," passenger Sharon Brumly said. She was traveling to the East Coast to celebrate her sister's 50th birthday.

After the passengers were transported back to the terminal, they flooded the United service counter, where they tried to book alternate flights out of Spokane International to make their connections. Brumly, like the other passengers aboard United 812, was stressed about trying to get to her final destination.

“I had about an hour layover in Denver and then get on a plane to Washington, DC, but I had a two and a half hour in DC to get to Providence so I was okay if I was going to be a little late," Brumly said.

The ripple effect was already underway as delay after delay posted up on airport flight arrival and departure monitors, then came the cancellations as the runway was shut down for nearly three hours.

United eventually sent another jet from San Francisco to Spokane to get their passengers to Denver.

“As long as I can get to Houston today, my plans will still be on track," Ola said.

The airport resumed normal flight operations at 8:45 a.m.

Story and video:

Cessna 150G, N2643J: Incident occurred January 04, 2016 in Burton, Washington County, Texas

Date: 04-JAN-16
Time: 22:30:00Z
Regis#: N2643J
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 150
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Activity: Instruction
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Houston FSDO-09
State: Texas


American Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82(MD-82), N501AA: Incident occurred January 05, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri

Date: 05-JAN-16
Time: 12:15:00Z
Regis#: N501AA
Event Type: Incident
Damage: Unknown
Activity: Commercial
Flight Phase: STANDING (STD)
Aircraft Operator: AAL-American Airlines
Flight Number: AAL322
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA St. Louis FSDO-62
State: Missouri



Socata TBM-700, N850GL, GLDS Enterprises, LLC: Incident occurred December 24, 2015 in Carlsbad, San Diego County, California

Date: 24-DEC-15
Time: 01:20:00Z
Regis#: N850GL
Aircraft Make: SOCATA
Aircraft Model: TBM700
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Minor
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA San Diego FSDO-09
State: California



de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300, Atlantic City Airlines - Allegheny Commuter, N101AC: Fatal accident occurred December 12, 1976 near Cape May County Airport (KWWD), Wildwood, New Jersey

Preserving memory of 1976 Cape May County plane crash 

LOWER TOWNSHIP — John Brier remembers yelling at somebody to put a match out as aviation fuel poured out of the commuter plane that had just crashed in the swampy woods short of the runway at Cape May Airport.

“I remember yelling at him, and then I must have passed out,” Brier said.

The Timber Lane resident was reliving a memory from a foggy night on Dec. 12, 1976, when he was a 36-year-old flight commander on the Atlantic City Airlines-owned commuter plane that ran between Philadelphia and the shore.

Steven Gross, a 20-year-old Maryland resident returning to his U.S. Coast Guard post in Cape May, had kicked out the emergency exits, managed to get out and lifted survivors onto the wreckage to get them out of the swampy waters near the Fort Apache Campground that were quickly filling with aviation fuel.

It was Gross who was lighting the match. He had soaked a paperback book in fuel and was lighting a torch to successfully signal a Coast Guard helicopter looking for the crash site. His actions likely saved the lives of several injured passengers.

Brier only recently learned about this from a group of volunteer firefighters in Erma working to preserve the memory of Allegheny Airlines Flight 977. The group has found the site, where the trees still bear the scars, and put up a plaque remembering the four who lost their lives and the six survivors whose lives were changed forever.

“May Flight 977, its crew and passengers, never fall from our memories,” reads the plaque.

The effort is led by John Piggott, an Erma firefighter and dispatcher for the Lower Township Police Department. An aviation buff, Piggott has studied the National Transportation Safety Board report and feels the pilots, Brier and Capt. Jon Scheaffer, 31, of Somers Point, who was actually piloting the plane going from Pomona to Cape May, have been unfairly blamed. Both were experienced pilots who landed at the Cape May Airport many times at night.

“They know a lot more about wind shear now. There were 20-30 mile per hour winds, dense fog and the ground crew at Atlantic City Airport in Pomona mishandled the luggage. The captain said they were fighting to keep the nose up the whole trip,” Piggott said.

It was one of the worst aviation disasters in Cape May County history, taking the lives of Scheaffer, retired Wildwood Crest Judge Maurice Hayman, his wife, Rita, and James Simmons, of West Wildwood.

The crash also left six survivors, some with serious life-long injuries. Brier spent the next year in the hospital and still suffers aches from the many bones he broke when the DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed into the trees.

“I never went back. This happened and life goes on. I flew for another 15 years. The first time you throw the throttles forward you feel apprehensive. After that, it’s just like riding a bike,” Brier said.

Brier also had injuries to his shoulder, arm and face. He still has a scar on one finger and remembers that when he was on the stretcher somebody was trying to get the ring off it. He kept the ring but never did find out what happened to his watch.

He said he also remembers getting no attention at the hospital and finding out why.

“I heard somebody say don’t worry about him, he won’t make it through the night,” Brier said.

Fuzzy memories

Piggott met Brier recently and was able to draw out some fuzzy memories. The most significant was not mentioned in the NTSB report.

“There was another airplane there shooting the approach, probably illegally. I occasionally see in my mind an airplane above us. The reaction is you don’t want to hit him, so go lower,” said Brier.

Did another plane drive them into the trees 3,900 feet short of the Runway 19?

While there is no record of another airplane in the air, a worker at the Wildwood water utility on Route 47 reported hearing the sound of intermittent airplane engines, which could have been two planes or one with engine issues. Brier said a weather observer at the airport said another plane went over the airport just before Allegheny 977 arrived. He theorized it could have been military.

Brier said he has “slight flashes of another airplane” but admits his memory is fuzzy and they “were in the soup” with almost no visibility. They couldn’t even land at the normal stop at Bader Field in Atlantic City due to the conditions and had to drop those passengers off in Pomona.

Even if another plane was in the air, Brier said Allegheny 977 should not have crashed.

“Obviously we were too low. We should never have hit the trees,” Brier said.


The NTSB blamed the pilots for “lack of altitude awareness” that brought the plane below a “safe approach profile” for landing. There was also debate on whether the altimeters were working properly.

The report also said visual references were degraded by fog while the airplane’s descent increased due to wind shear. An FAA meteorologist identified two distinct layers of wind shear in the area as a cold front replaced a warm front. It concluded wind shear probably induced a “higher than desired” rate of descent. The NTSB found the company had not provided the required training on wind shear.

Atlantic City Airlines was blamed for improper procedures on pilots calling out the altitudes on approach. Brier can’t remember if they did this or not.
It also blamed the forward center of gravity being off due to improper loading of luggage. The plane discharged five passengers in Pomona and all their baggage came from the rear compartment. All the baggage from the remaining passengers was left in the forward compartment, creating what the NTSB called “a forward condition.” The FAA received some blame for inadequate monitoring of weight and balance computations.

The last radio transmission from the Atlantic City Airlines station manager at Cape May Airport reported decreasing visibility due to fog and a low ceiling.

“Are you sure you want to give it a try?” he asked at 11:17 p.m.

Several minutes later he went outside and saw conditions were even worse. The one-mile visibility had dropped to half a mile. He said he didn’t radio Flight 977 again because it was already on its final circling approach. At 11:26 p.m. he heard explosions north of the airport.

At 11:40 the fog lifted and visibility increased to three to four miles as northwest winds at 20 to 30 knots arrived with the cold front.



Reporters from The Press of Atlantic City were at the scene and carried eyewitness accounts from survivors. They reported a series of collisions and noise as the plane hit the trees for about 10 seconds before the fuselage came to rest. Then there was yelling and screaming. The plane never did catch fire.

Steven Gross, 20, from Maryland, was so airsick during the turbulent ride that he had his head between his legs. He was relatively unscathed with only lacerations to the forehead and nose. Survivor James Daniels, of Avalon, was also airsick and had his seatbelt on tight and his head between his knees. He only suffered a scalp laceration.

“That’s probably what saved me,” Daniels said.

Gross said the plane kept gaining and losing altitude. He said the pilots blamed it on cold front moving into the area. The FAA said visibility was down to the one-mile safety minimum due to thick fog and a low cloud ceiling.

Scheaffer died instantly as the cockpit crashed in on him. Rita Hayman, 60, of Wildwood Crest, had no seatbelt on and died in the crash, while her husband, Maurice, 71, never regained consciousness and died one month later. They were returning from a vacation in Puerto Rico. James Simmons died two days later at Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital.

NTSB Identification: DCA77AA006
14 CFR Part 135 Scheduled operation of ATLANTIC CITY
Aircraft: DEHAVILLAND DHC-6, registration: N101AC
 FILE    DATE          LOCATION          AIRCRAFT DATA       INJURIES       FLIGHT                        PILOT DATA
                                                               F  S M/N     PURPOSE
3-4171  76/12/12   WILDWOOD,NJ         DEHAVILLAND DHC-6   CR-  1  1  0  COMMERCIAL                ATP,FLIGHT INSTR., AGE
        TIME - 2326                    N101AC              PX-  2  6  0  COMMUTER AIR CARRIER      36, 7428 TOTAL HOURS,
                                       DAMAGE-DESTROYED    OT-  0  0  0  AIR TAXI-PASSG S-D        5200 IN TYPE, INSTRUMENT
          PHILADELPHIA,PA             WILDWOOD,NJ                  ATLANTIC CITY,NJ
        TYPE OF ACCIDENT                                         PHASE OF OPERATION
           UNDERSHOOT                                               LANDING: FINAL APPROACH
           COLLIDED WITH: TREES                                     LANDING: FINAL APPROACH
        SKY CONDITION                                            CEILING AT ACCIDENT SITE
          OBSCURATION                                               400
          1 MILE OR LESS                                           NONE
          FOG                                                      250
        WIND VELOCITY-KNOTS                                      TYPE OF WEATHER CONDITIONS
           6                                                       IFR

Pilot shortage the reason for recent Cape Air flight cancellations

Cape Air officials said Tuesday that a pilot shortage is the cause of a spate of recent flight cancellations at Billings Logan International Airport.

Hyannis, Mass.-based Cape Air provides $52 flights between Billings and five other Montana communities — Sidney, Glasgow, Glendive, Wolf Point and Havre. According to its online schedule, five daily flights are offered from Billings to Sidney, and two each to the other four destinations.

Trish Lorino, Cape Air’s vice president for marketing and public relations, said 16 flights have been cancelled in recent days due to the pilot shortage. The airline has brought in pilots from other markets it serves and is teaming with Jet Blue and seven universities to get pilots the hours they need to receive certification aboard Cape Air Cessna aircraft.

“We are sorry for the impact this has had on the community,” she said. “We have had some challenges here. The pilot shortage is truly a significant one — not only for Cape Air, but for all carriers. It is definitely something that has affected our completion rates.”

Lorino said she’d just completed a conference call with the company’s pilot group and others to discuss the continuing ramifications of higher co-pilot qualification standards implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration following a 2009 crash near Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people.

Ensuing rule changes designed to boost safety have increased the qualification requirements for first officers, also known as co-pilots, who now must earn an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and have logged 1,500 hours total time as a pilot.

Before the rule, announced in 2013, first officers were required to have a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.

It can be arduous for young pilots to log that much flight time, Lorino said.

“It is truly leading to pilot attrition,” she said. “People don’t want to pursue it because it is expensive and time-consuming.”

As part of the federal government’s Essential Air Service program, Cape Air and others have been, since airline deregulation in 1978, subsidized to provide air service to what would otherwise be underserved communities.

Kevin Ploehn, the city’s aviation and transit director, said that low salaries paid by the nation’s smaller, regional carriers “are a disincentive for people to go get their (commercial pilot’s) license.”

“Flight school might cost you $200,000, but you start at $20,000 a year,” Ploehn said.

He said Essential Air Service airlines put a premium on not cancelling their flights.

“If they are not flying, they are not getting paid the subsidy,” he said, “and that’s way more than the ticket price.”

A recent study projects more than 14,000 pilots reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 between 2015 and 2022, Ploehn said.

“The good news is that the major airlines are making tons of money,” so they’ll be able to fill those retirements, Ploehn predicted.

“The bigs can fill those, but it’s killing the regionals,” he said. Some pilots at smaller providers, he said, will elect to move into the cockpits of the nation’s major regional airlines, including SkyWest Airlines and Republic Airways.

Cape Air flights in Montana always have a first officer on board, Lorino said.

The airline’s Gateway Program partnership with Jet Blue allows first officers to log the time they need on Cape Air flights before going on to a career at Jet Blue.

“We did it proactively,” Lorino said, “in light of the shortage coming on hard.”

In some cases, management pilots have “left their desks” to help fill the pilot gap, and some officers have been allowed to pick up extra flights on their day off, she said.

People concerned about pilot shortages should write their congress member, Lorino said.

“Write your congressperson and ask them to take a look at first officer qualifications,” she said. “It is so limiting. It’s affecting the big carriers and it’s putting a crimp on air travel.”

Story and comments:

Birdstrike: Piper PA-28-161, N2135BA; accident occurred December 30, 2015 at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport (KFTW), Texas

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fort Worth, Texas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Fort Worth, TX
Accident Number: GAA16CA095
Date & Time: 12/30/2015, 1230 CST
Registration: N2135B
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-161
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Birdstrike
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional


The flight instructor reported that while in the left downwind, a bird impacted the right leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer. The flight instructor further reported that he landed without further incident.

A post-accident examination of the wreckage revealed substantial damage to the stabilator.

The flight instructor reported that there were no pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
An inadvertent collision with a bird while on downwind in the airport pattern.


Environmental issues
Animal(s)/bird(s) - Effect on equipment (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Approach-VFR pattern downwind
Birdstrike (Defining event)

Flight Instructor Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 22, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/12/2012
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/25/2015
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 1500 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1400 hours (Total, this make and model), 1400 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 400 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 80 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1.5 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

Student Pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 30, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:  
Instrument Rating(s):  None
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 11/03/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:   (Estimated) 21 hours (Total, all aircraft), 21 hours (Total, this make and model), 0.4 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 21 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 21 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0.4 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N2135B
Model/Series: PA 28-161
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 28-7916110
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 12/16/2015, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2325 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 7483.5 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: C91 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-320-D3G
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 160 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Pilot School (141) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KFTW, 706 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1853 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 34°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 8 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 350°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.25 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 10°C / 4°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Fort Worth, TX (FTW)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Fort Worth, TX (FTW)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 1200 CST
Type of Airspace: Class D

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 710 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 16
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 7502 ft / 150 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop; Touch and Go; Traffic Pattern

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 32.814444, -97.364722 (est)