Monday, January 25, 2016

Hughes 369D, N175JL: Accident occurred April 29, 2018 in Newark, Ohio

Haverfield International Incorporated

NTSB Identification: GAA18CA249
14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load
Accident occurred Sunday, April 29, 2018 in Newark, OH
Aircraft: HUGHES 369, registration: N175JL

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.

January 25, 2016: Low Flying Helicopters Are Surveying Electric Transmission Lines

Darien police released this picture of a helicopter doing work for Eversource, the electric utility.

The Darien Police Department has been getting “hundreds and hundreds” of calls from residents concerned about low-flying helicopters in the past week, says Sgt. Jeremiah Marron, a department spokesman.

The choppers are surveying transmission lines with high-resolution cameras, according to a statement released by Eversource, formerly Connecticut Light & Power, and posted on the Internet by Darien Police. The project is “part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the power grid and increase reliability,” the utility said.

“Photographs collected during these flights will help build a more detailed record of structures, lines and other electrical equipment which will increase the efficiency of maintaining the electric system in Connecticut,” the statement reads.

The flights are expected to wrap up this week, Marron said. The utility statement said that for this week the helicopters will be flying as early as 7 a.m. and as late as dusk.

The chopper is also flying in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Westport.

Eversource added: “The helicopter assigned to this project is black with a registration number N175JL.”

In a statement posted by police on Facebook, the department said: “Please don’t call the Police Department to report it. Thank you.”

Story and photo:

Westfield Technical Academy's first aviation maintenance class advised to take advantage of new opportunity

(LtoR) Westfield Mayor Brian P. Sullivan, U.S. Rep, Richard E. Neal, D-Ma., Westfield Technical Academy principal Stefan Czaporowski, state Sen. Donald F. Humanson Jr., R-Westfield and state Rep. John Velis attended the grand opening of WTA's new aviation maintenance program Monday. 

WESTFIELD - The first students to enroll in Westfield Technical Academy's Aviation Maintenance Technology program were advised Monday afternoon to take advantage of the opportunity now available.

Dignitaries from Boston to Washington D.C. were joined at the Smith Avenue campus Monday afternoon by more than 200 parents, residents, educators and aviation industry representatives for the grand opening of the new technology program.

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., noted that "right now there are 16,000 precision jobs unfilled in New England. Each of these represent an average salary of $66,000. This new program represents the future skill set for workers right here in Westfield today."

Mayor Brian P. Sullivan advised the 14 freshmen students, the Class of 2019, to "take advantage of this opportunity we are offering. Westfield has come together like never before to provide this opportunity. It was a tremendous amount of work by a lot of people in the city. And, it will be worth it because today we celebrate putting Westfield on the map."

State Sen. Donald F. Humason Jr., R-Westfield, who is chairman of the Massachusetts Aviation Caucus called the WTA aviation program "ground breaking."

And, state Rep. John Velis said "this program is a popular subject across the state, one which has the support to grow."

Other officials attending the open house included Federal Aviation Administration Regional Administrator Amy Corbett; MassDOT Aeronautics Division Administrator Jeff DeCarlo and Christopher J. Willenborg, executive director of the state's Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force who once served as director at Barnes Regional Airport and more recently state aeronautics director.

"Massachusetts has more than 50 companies involved in aviation maintenance. This program at WTA will make sure they have qualified workers for the growth in aviation and the school now plays a very important role in meeting the future needs of aviation," Willenborg said.

DeCarlo said "This is an outstanding opportunity for high school students and is the result of industry, academia and government working together. This is the beginning of a great positive momentum for education."

WTA principal Stefan Czaporowski and Aviation Maintenance instructor Galen Wilson said the program now has a total of 8 aircraft as instructional tools for the program.

The newest is a Q200 Quickee Aircraft, a composite trainer, Wilson said. That aircraft along with a single engine Cherokee were parked in the school parking lot and served as props for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The program occupies four classrooms at WTA along with a hangar, now undergoing renovation, at Barnes Regional Airport.

Aviation Maintenance Technology is the only program offered at WTA that requires enrollment in each of the four years students attend the high school. Freshmen enrolling must remain in the program during their sophomore, junior and seniors years at the school.

Freshman Keeley J. Meyer, 15, of Granville, is one of only two female students in the first aviation maintenance program class.

"My family has some aviation background and we talked about the program and the opportunities is offers during my freshmen exploratory weeks at the school. This is an amazing program. It will be hard but so far it is really enjoyable," Meyer said.

Story and photo:

Tucson International Airport (KTUS), chamber work to lure more nonstops

Tucson airport chief Bonnie Allin really wanted to announce some new nonstop flights at the annual meeting of the Tucson Airport Authority on Monday.

That didn’t pan out, but airport officials and local business leaders are working very hard to get airlines to add new flights from Tucson to New York, Mexico and other priority destinations, Allin said at the meeting at the Arizona Inn.

“We are closer today than since 2008 to having nonstop service to New York and to Mexico,” said Allin, president and CEO of the airport authority.

Tucson and other smaller airports have suffered from diminished flight service as the airlines have consolidated and cut seats to stay aloft.

But Allin noted that last year Tucson saw some seasonal flights return and others added in 2015, including new Delta Air Lines service to Los Angeles International Airport, new nonstop service to Chicago O’Hare on United, and the resumption of seasonal nonstops to Seattle on Delta, Houston Hobby (Southwest), Minneapolis (Delta) and Portland (Alaska).

Overall, the number of available seats is up about 7 percent from last year, but the total number of passengers fell about 2 percent, mainly due to Southwest’s decision to drop one of its four Las Vegas nonstops, she said.

Still, progress on some routes is slow despite the Tucson airport’s air service incentive program, which gives airlines fee waivers and marketing support worth up to $1.4 million each for new, long-haul domestic and international flights, or up to $1 million for short-haul domestic routes.

The incentives have helped TIA add one flight, a Portland flight Alaska added in 2013, while work continues on other priority destinations such as New York, Washington, D.C., Albuquerque and Canada.

“We’ve learned after years of working with the airlines that you have to be persistent and patient,” Allin said.

The airport has been working closely with a potential start-up carrier in Mexico on flights to Hermosillo and Guaymas, but that has not been finalized, Allin said.

Local officials were pushing hard to get a new flight to the New York area in time for the winter season, but that won’t likely happen until next winter, Allin said.

The airport says local officals have been in close contact with three airlines on potential New York routes.

The effort to secure new nonstops to New York City, or nearby airports such as Newark, is being spearheaded by an “air-service task force” of the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber has amassed $3 million in member commitments for a fund as a “minimum revenue guarantee” to attract new flights by making up any revenue shortfall to the airlines.

Bill Assenmacher, who was elected to the Tucson Airport Authority board Monday, has led the chamber’s effort with Chamber president and CEO Mike Varney.

Assenmacher, CEO of the metal fabrication firm CAID Industries, said in an interview the chamber has been courting several airlines for New York-area flights, including JetBlue and American at JFK International Airport and United at Newark, New Jersey.

“We’re literally the largest city in the world that doesn’t have service to New York,” he said.

Chamber members are excited about adding United flights because the airline is expanding service to Europe, Assenmacher said. But talks stalled last year after United’s CEO stepped down and his replacement had a heart transplant, he said.

The revenue-guarantee fund is something the chamber can provide that the airport can’t offer because of its reliance on airline fees, Assenmacher noted.

“We really believe it can be a game-changer,” he said.

Chamber members, including local auto dealers and resorts, have committed money to the revenue-guarantee fund, Assenmacher said, declining to name the donors.

The guarantee funds would only be tapped if new flights fell short of expected revenues, Assenmacher said, adding, “We don’t want to use this money.”

Allin said the major problem remains competition from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, noting that about a million people drive from Tucson to fly out of Sky Harbor, though it can be faster and, with added expenses, about the same cost to fly from Tucson.

“We have a lot of people who drive to Phoenix to take a flight to San Diego,” she said.

TAA board changes

Tony Finley, chief financial officer for Long Cos. was elected 2016 chairman of the Tucson Airport Auhority, replacing Steve Cole;
David Goldstein, president of Diamond Ventures, was elected vice president;
Lisa Lovallo, a regional vice president of Cox Communications, is secretary;
Taunya Villicana, managing partner of Affinity Wealth Management, is treasurer
New members for 2016 are: Bill Assenmacher, CAID Industries; Bruce Dusenberry, Suddath Relocation Systems; Kathy Ward, GV Strategic Advisors


New England airlines in talks to replace Block Island flights

New England Airlines founder and pilot Bill Bendokas.

WESTERLY, R.I. -- The owner of New England Airlines, which runs scheduled service between Westerly State Airport and Block Island State Airport, said on Monday that he has spoken with state officials about taking over summer service between T.F. Green Airport and Block Island.

Because of a nationwide pilot shortage, Cape Air has ceased all of its summer-only service at T.F. Green, including federal-grant-backed service that allows travelers on major airlines to book flights from anywhere to Green, and then transfer seamlessly to Block Island.

New England Airlines owner Bill Bendokas told The Providence Journal that he is considering the Green-to-Block Island service.

"It depends on the numbers," he said. "How much did they have to lean on the grant support?"

If the service can't be profitable without the grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, Bendokas said it wouldn't be worth running the service short-term.

Bendokas said that the pilot shortage is also an issue. He normally has eight pilots year-round and doubles that number to handle summer demand. That has become more of an issue in recent years, he said.

Other logistics of the industry, such as aircraft availability, may also pose and obstacle, Bendokas said.

"It's not like flipping a switch," he said. "It's just not that simple."

He suggested that operating charter flights, rather than scheduled service, between Green and Block Island might make more sense financially.

He said his talks last weeks with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, the state agency that runs Green and five smaller state-owned airports, including Block Island and Westerly, were only preliminary.


Florence County, South Carolina: Sheriff's Office helicopter trial underway

Dusan Fridl (center) and Hemming Hemmingsen (left) on the first day of trial Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. The two were indicted in April for unlawfully flying a helicopter allegedly owned by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office. Also pictured is Patrick McLaughlin, Fridl and Hemmingsen's defense attorney.

FLORENCE, S.C. – A trial involving the two pilots arrested by Florence County deputies for flying a helicopter allegedly owned by the sheriff’s office began Monday.

Dusan Fridl and Hemming Hemmingsen were indicted in April on felony charges for unlawful entry of an aircraft that was allegedly owned by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the incident.

The Lake City pilots were arrested after flying the Bell OH58A helicopter, now known as Raptor 2, on April 6 without permission from the FCSO.

Fridl and Hemmingsen pleaded not guilty to the charges, and previous motions to dismiss the charges were turned down by the court.

The pilots maintain they were authorized to fly the aircraft for preventative maintenance purposes and that the machine was not officially signed into ownership of the FCSO until April 7. The defense says the Lake City Police Department had ownership of the helicopter at the time of flight.

Attorney Rick Hoefer, the state’s representative, said Monday during his opening statement that “the defendants think they were entitled to going into the aircraft, using it and removing equipment from it.”

Hoefer called two witnesses to the stand: Lake City Administrator Shawn Bell and former Lake City Police Chief Jodi Cooper.

Bell said after Fridl and Hemmingsen’s first maintenance flight in January 2015, he told the pilots not to fly it again for liability and insurance reasons.

Cooper said he was aware that Bell had wanted the aircraft grounded for insurance reasons, but to his understanding, it was allowed to be taken up for preventative maintenance purposes.

Fridl and Hemmingsen operated under the jurisdiction of the LCPD and worked for the Lake City Municipal Airport. Fridl is the chairman of the airport’s commission and, according to Cooper, played a major role in Lake City’s acquisition of the helicopter.

The pilots helped LCPD acquire the helicopter through the Department of Defense’s military surplus 1033 program.

Patrick McLaughlin, defense attorney for Fridl and Hemmingsen, said previously that the FCSO did not like the idea of a competing air unit and that pressure was applied to LCPD to give up their helicopter.

“The burden of proof is on them (the state),” McLaughlin told jurors Monday. “The defendants are not on trial, the state is.”

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Russo presided over the proceedings. The trial went into recess at 4:30 p.m. and will continue 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

If convicted, Fridl and Hemmingsen could face sentences up to 10 years.

Story and photo:

Incident occurred January 25, 2016 at Abilene Regional Airport (KABI), Texas


A twin-engine airplane skidded off the runway just before lunch Monday at Abilene Regional Airport.

According to Operations Manager Don Green, the small plane with two people on board skidded off the runway at 11:30 after it landed when its nose gear collapsed at the front of the plane.

The runway was shut down for about 30 minutes while the plane was towed to Abilene Aero.

Green said the plane had taken off earlier in the day from Abilene Regional Airport.

There were no injuries.


Wittman Tailwind W-8, N1983T: Accident occurred January 24, 2016 at Big Bear City Airport (L35), San Bernardino County, California

NTSB Identification: GAA16CA121
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, January 24, 2016 in Big Bear, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/05/2016
Aircraft: GLINES KENNETH TAILWIND W 8, registration: N1983T
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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

According to the pilot, during his approach at a non-towered airport at night, he made the descent to what he thought was the runway, but realized that it was actually the taxiway, and "slipped" right, to what he then perceived to be the runway. Upon touchdown, the airplane ground looped and nosed over. The pilot had landed and nosed over in the safety area to the left of the runway. 

The pilot reported that he had been flying for the preceding 12 hour period, and conceded to having exceeded his personal endurance limitations. The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings. 

The pilot reported that there were no mechanical failures or anomalies with the airplane prior to or during the flight that would have prevented normal flight operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's inadvertent landing off the left side of the snow-covered runway, resulting in a ground loop and nose over.

An experimental aircraft was found on its roof Monday morning, Jan. 25, at Big Bear Airport.

The pilot of the plane, authorities say, was nowhere to be found.

That is until later in the morning, when the pilot called airport and San Bernardino County Sheriff's authorities to tell them that the plane crashed about 7:30 p.m. and that nobody was hurt, according to an airport news release.

Airport authorities did not release the pilot’s name Monday. 

Plane registration records show the plane is registered to Robert Earhart of Dallas, Texas.

Airport maintenance worker Ryan Goss said the pilot attempted to land on the runway, but was unable to turn on the airport's lights. The lights are "pilot-controlled" and can be turned on by keying the microphone five times.

The plane missed the runway, and hit snow.

The wheels, which had been deployed, dug into the snow and caused the plane to flip over.

Following standard procedures, the airport temporarily closed after the plane was found and Federal Aviation Administration, police and fire authorities were contacted. 

Goss said he and other Airport workers have never come across a situation where a plane crashed and the pilot was nowhere to be found.

About 10 a.m., FAA officials gave the airport approval to remove the plane from the runway area. Airport staff, using its own equipment, righted the plane up on its wheels and towed it away. Debris was cleaned up and the airport opened back up by 10:30 a.m.

Story and photo:

A single engine airplane crashed at Big Bear City Airport sometime during the night. The pilot apparently walked away, then drove off the mountain.

The aircraft was discovered early Jan. 25 when airport personnel arrived to open the airport. As part of the opening routine, a sweep of the grounds, including the runways, is made, according to Dustin Leno, Big Bear airport manager. Staff discovered the plane on the northwest edge of the airport, just off the runway. There was no one inside, and no sign of the pilot, officials said.

The runways were immediately shut down, and emergency personnel notified, along with the FAA. According to Leno, the FAA advised the airport not to move the aircraft as the pilot was missing.

The pilot, whose name has not been released, called the Big Bear City Airport around 9:30 a.m. Jan. 25 to notify them of the accident, according to Leno. The plane, which is described as a single engine high-wing tail dragger, possibly a kit plane, was found upside down. The plane is registered out of Dallas, Texas.

Once the pilot was identified, the FAA gave permission to move the aircraft. Big Bear City Airport was re-opened by 10:30 a.m.

It's unknown exactly what happened, or when the accident occurred. It's also unknown if the pilot sustained any injuries in the crash, and whether he drove himself off the mountain.

Story and photo gallery:

New medical checks for display pilots after Shoreham air crash: Tougher risk assessments for air shows could see some events cancelled this summer, the Civil Aviation Authority says

Air display pilots will have to tell doctors during medical checks if they perform demanding aerobatics, under new rules to tighten safety after the Shoreham air crash.

Organizers will also have to complete stricter risk assessments that could see some shows near railways and busy roads cancelled, according to a new report by the Civil Aviation Authority.

A 41-page CAA action report after Britain’s worst air show crash in more than 60 years has unveiled a list of new safety measures for air show organizers and their pilots.

Measures after the August 22 crash that killed 11 include temporarily keeping a ban on vintage military jets performing aerobatics at air shows.

Tony Rapson, head of general aviation, said the CAA had looked at “every aspect of civil air display safety” after the crash.

He said: “In 2016, no air show will go ahead without being subject to an enhanced risk assessment, and having to comply with tighter requirements for training, oversight and notification.”

Under the news rules, organizers will have to reduce the risks to nearby roads, congested areas and infrastructure such as railways. Mr. Rapson said the new rules could mean organisers decide to cancel their shows.

He said: “Inevitably there’s a potential that some organizers will choose not to have shows this year.

“With the enhanced risk assessment there could be a number of locations where they cannot mitigate the risks. Safety has to be our priority.”

Shoreham has already decided it will not hold a show this year, out of respect for the victims.

The CAA said it would enhance requirements for the "skill and health of display pilots". Changes will include new medicals for pilots, with specialist doctors taking into account the physical demands of the aerobatics they are performing.

A new medical certification for display pilots will be “based on the type of aircraft being flown, the maneuvers the pilot intends to fly in displays and the risks consequent on these two factors”.

The new scheme will focus on “the increased physiological strain associated with flying under high levels of g-force, particularly during aerobatic maneuvers.”

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is still looking at what caused a 1950s era Hawker Hunter flown by display pilot Andy Hill to plough into the A27. An interim report has found the plane had expired ejector seat parts and an out-of-date technical manual. The CAA said the ban on aerobatics by vintage jets put in place immediately after the crash would remain until the AAIB findings.

Thousands of people had gathered at Shoreham Airshow to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain when the 1950s Hawker Hunter crashed into a busy bypass, hitting at least four cars – including a wedding limousine.

Mr Hill, a 51-year-old former RAF officer, had been performing a loop when he failed to pull up in time and smashed into the A27 in a fireball of burning fuel and wreckage.

He miraculously survived the crash and was dragged from the burning plane.

Story, video and photo gallery:

FlySafair Boeing 737-400, ZS-JRE: Loss of cabin pressure - two flights

A FlySafair flight had to turn back on Sunday evening due to a loss of cabin pressure - the airline's second incident in a few days.

"Flight FA103 departed from Johannesburg to Cape Town at 20:16 on 24 January 2016. As the aircraft reached approximately 32000 feet, Captain Lawrence Banda and First officer Charles Peck noted that the air pressure wasn't stabilizing as it should and that the aircraft was experiencing a very gradual loss of pressure," the airline said.

The flight crew reduced speed, lowered altitude and manually released oxygen masks as a precaution while the plane returned to Johannesburg.

This is the second time an incident of a similar nature has occurred on one of the airline's flights in a few days.

"A similar incident occurred on Friday morning where flight FA202, also from Johannesburg to Cape Town, returned to Johannesburg, with a gradual loss of cabin pressure," the airline said.

However, FlySafair said that preliminary investigations indicate that the two issues were not related despite them taking place on the same plane.

Passengers were given meal vouchers and a refund for their bookings. Most elected to fly later that evening on another flight.

However some passengers took to social media to express their frustrations, with some saying that the oxygen masks were not working properly and that there was smoke in the cabin.

Kirby Gordon, FlySafair's VP of Sales and Distribution, told Travel that at this stage all systems appear to have been working "perfectly fine".

"I think the thing to keep in mind is that people are in a distressed situation and often don't always remember back to the messages shared at the beginning of the flight," Gordon said.

"For example, some people can be under the impression that the masks did not work because the bags didn't inflate - but that's a normal element of their operation - the bags don't always inflate, [and] on post inspection the systems have all been found to have worked perfectly," he said.

"Similarly there have been concerns raised because of smoke - again this is a normal aspect of the functioning of this system as oxygen generators do let off a degree of heat when they kick into action and there can be some steam etc that rises off the devices, especially seeing that they are seldom activated."

While investigations are ongoing, no system faults have been found. Crew actions were also said to be "by the book".

"Our focus for now has been on our passengers, ensuring that they are looked after and that they get to where they need to be. We've also issued full refunds on all bookings," Gordon told

Original article can be found here:

Transaero airline files two lawsuits against Rosaviation, demands $7.6 mln

MOSCOW, January 25 (RAPSI) – One of the most troubled Russian airlines, Transaero, filed two lawsuits with the Moscow Commercial Court against Federal agency of air transport (Rosaviation), according to materials available at the court’s website.

In the first lawsuit Transaero demands 595 million rubles ($7.6 mln) from Rosaviation, in the second lawsuit the airline asks the court to find Federal agency’s actions illegal. Latter lawsuit also lists airlines “Aeroflot” and “Russia” (part of the Aeroflot group) as third parties. Both lawsuits have not been reviewed yet.

After Transaro stopped operating the flights, Rosaviation distributed the air routes between other airlines, including the largest one, Aeroflot.

Transaero found itself unable to pay its debts estimating 250 billion rubles ($3.5 billion). Government-approved plan of transferring 75% of company’s shares to Aeroflot failed. Its problems resulted in a large number of flight cancels and delays.

In October, Sberbank and Alfa Bank filed bankruptcy petitions against the troubled airline. The Commercial Court of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region initiated a bankruptcy procedure against Transaero on December 16.

Original article can be found here:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fremont Airport (14G) ground school students looking skyward

Tyler Bowes, 20, is lead instructor at the Fremont Airport's Private Pilot Ground School.

FREMONT - Since opening in 1963, area students of all ages and experience have been learning to fly at the Fremont Airport. Now with the start of a new year, another crop of eager future aviators, and a few veterans, are again looking skyward.

But before they get behind the controls and take flight, these students are learning the ins and outs of all the latest federal aviation regulations and aeronautical information in the classroom.

Topics range from aerodynamics, airplane instruments, weight, balance, weather, navigation and more.

This “ground school” is designed to prepare the students with all of the knowledge necessary to ace the written test required for their private pilot license.

It is the eighth year Fremont Airport has held its “Private Pilot Ground School,” and the second with Tyler Bowes serving as lead instructor.

This ground-only class is held in the winter, from January to March, when the Ohio weather is typically less cooperative for student flight time.

Having been flying with the local airport for over six years, Bowes, 20, is a fitting teacher. He went through the class himself many times, first as a student, later as a part-time assistant and eventually moving to the lead.

Rex Damschroder, whose been managing Fremont Airport since 2008, watched Bowes develop his entire piloting career there.

Bowes was certified as a student pilot on his birthday at 16, the earliest age allowable by the FAA. The very next year, he earned his private pilot license, again the earliest he could. The next step was a commercial license at age 18, and an instructor license followed shortly thereafter.

“He’s just been doing a fantastic job,” Damschroder said.

The class is not limited to just newcomers to aviation. Bowes described this year’s class as diverse, having a lot of varying levels of flight experience.

“We’ve got people who’ve never flown on an airplane before,” Bowes said. “And we’ve got people who already have their license. It doesn’t hurt, even if you do have your license, to get some refresher.”

Story and photo gallery:

La Crosse, Wisconsin: Pilot explains challenges to a career in aviation

La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -  Commercial airline pilots are regarded as one of the most prestigious careers out there and also one of the most stressful. 

The pressure is high, especially for airline pilots who are responsible for keeping their passengers safe, not to mention keeping flights on time despite changes in weather.

Experts in the industry will tell you there is a major shortage of pilots.

"Right now there are unprecedented opportunities with the aviation industry,” Elizabeth Bjerke, Aviation Chair at the University of North Dakota explained.

“The U.S. is facing a severe pilot shortage to fly the aircraft and that is coupled by more retirement at the major airlines. They are hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65 so they have more attrition there as well as the economy has definitely rebounded after the 2008 recession,” Bjerke said. 

Young pilots like Skyler Groenning, a commercial pilot and flight instructor at Colgan Air Services in La Crosse said he’s working towards a career flying for the airlines. But it doesn't come easy.

"There's this sense of total freedom when you are flying the airplane,” Groenning said. “For me it's something I always knew I wanted to do so that's how it is for a lot of people.”

Becoming pilot was not the first career path Groenning pursued. 

He completed a Bachelors degree in Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse before deciding he wanted to fly.  

While some complete a four year degree in aviation, Groenning took a different route to get there. First he completed his private pilot certificate, then his commercial pilot certificate, and now he's a certified flight instructor.

"There is a lot of time and money commitment to it, but usually it's the time commitment that is hardest for most people. People will find the money, they'll make it work but the time thing is hard,” Groenning said.

The FAA now requires 1,500 hours of flight time to become an airline pilot. That changed in 2013 when the requirement jumped from 250 hours to 1,500 to become a co-pilot. Airline captains we're already required to have at least 15 hundred hours.

That takes years to accomplish and there's a hefty price to pay.

"It's not unusual for a pilot to go from just entering to getting all their certificates to be $100,000 in debt,” Clint Torp, manager at the La Crosse Regional Airport said.

"You just have to be willing to make the sacrifice on the front end. Yeah you look these airlines and these guys flying these 747s and they're making a very good living but there was a lot of sacrifice that led up to that,” Groenning added.

But is it worth it? Or is the time and money unrealistic expectation for young pilots?

“In any professional career, whatever it is there are always sacrifices and I wouldn't say 1,500 would really hinder anyone who really wants to do it,” Groenning said.

“If someone really wants to do this, they are going to do it. Whether it's 1,500 hours, 2,000, 3,000 hours,” he said.

Bjerke said the aviation industry needs to find a way to attract more people to the field, but she said lowering flight time requirements is not the answer. 

"Even if  you lower the numbers, lets say from 1,000 to 700 you still have the same number of pilots. There might be an initial bubble but you still have the same number,” she said the industry needs to increase exposure. If it can increase the pilot pool coming in, that can begin to relieve the shortage. 

"We need to get more individuals interested in understanding that this is a viable career path and it's an exciting one and their are a lot of opportunities in the aviation industry right now.”

Groenning said that's something he learned long ago. 

Right now he is working toward reaching his 1,500 hours of flight time. He has 1,250 completed. Once he reaches that benchmark he can decide if he wants to pursue a career flying for the airlines. 

“I am very happy with what I am doing,” he said, “I don't feel like I go to work. I get to go here and fly airplanes."

Story and photo:

Enstrom 280 Shark, N133AB: Accident occurred January 24, 2016 near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (KPHX), Maricopa County, Arizona

NTSB Identification: WPR16LA057
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, January 24, 2016 in Phoenix, AZ
Aircraft: ENSTROM 280, registration: N133AB
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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

On January 24, 2016, about 1812 mountain standard time, an Enstrom 280 helicopter, N133AB, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a total loss of engine power after takeoff from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Phoenix, Arizona. The private pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was destined for La Cholla Airpark (57AZ), Tucson, Arizona. The helicopter was registered to, and operated by, the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilot stated that he was climbing the helicopter to an altitude of 2,000 feet after takeoff from PHX. As the helicopter climbed through 1,500 feet, he felt an "abrupt" left yaw and observed the engine rpm indication drop to zero. The rotor rpm began to decay, and the pilot conducted an autorotation to a dry riverbed, resulting in substantial damage to the fuselage and main rotor blades.

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Scottsdale FSDO-07

And there it goes. Crews have removed the chopper that went down in the riverbed.

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Fire Department said a helicopter made a hard landing in a dry riverbed near 28th and Elwood streets on Sunday evening. 

Phoenix fire said there are no injuries from the incident after the private chopper made the hard landing shortly after 6 p.m.

Officials said the helicopter, an Enstrom 280, had just left Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The pilot had just dropped off his co-pilot after flying in from Oregon and making a stop in Las Vegas.

The pilot was on his way to Tucson when the engine was lost and the chopper went down.

Only the pilot was aboard the aircraft, but he was able to escape without any injuries.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter, with the tail number N133AB, had gone down under "unknown circumstances. The FAA is investigating the incident. 

The Phoenix Fire Department said the wreckage looks like scrap metal. The chopper is mangled, but there were no fuel leaks or fires. 

Originally, officials said there were reports from the National Guard of a helicopter down in the water. 

The crash is being investigated. 

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The pilot made it out with only a few scratches after his helicopter went down.

Still hard to see...but a crew is getting the helicopter out of the riverbed now.

Photo from Phoenix Fire of the wreckage from chopper down in dry riverbed. Hard to see because it's so dark.

Fire captain tells us wreckage looks like scrap metal, but no fire. Pilot is fortunate to only have a few scratches.

No injuries, but there is a helicopter down in river bottom near 28th/Elwood streets

Pilot had just dropped off passenger at airport. Pilot was able to escape uninjured after hard landing.

Fire captain says private helicopter had just left Sky Harbor. Lost engine, made hard landing in river bottom.

Salt River bed: East of Phoenix out to the Gillespie Dam West of Phoenix.

A helicopter crashed into the Salt River bed on Sunday evening in Phoenix.

The white, private aircraft's engine failed shortly after taking off from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, then went down in the dry river bed near 24th Street, said Phoenix Fire Department Capt. Reda Riddle-Bigler.

The pilot escaped with only a few scratches on his arm, she added.

"It looks like scrap metal,'' Riddle-Bigler said, describing the scene, which was not accessible to a Republic reporter who was briefed nearby.

The pilot had just dropped off his co-pilot and was headed to Tucson when he noticed the single-engine helicopter was having problems, she said. The pilot told fire officials had never had an accident before.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating, Riddle-Bigler said.


Lawsuit filed against hot air balloon company

A woman from El Paso, Texas has filed a lawsuit in Napa County Superior Court against Balloons Above the Valley, claiming she was injured during a hard landing and dragged under the basket.

Melanie Rodriguez filed her suit on Jan. 8 against the Napa-based ballooning company. She continues to incur medical and hospital bills and suffers from lost income, the suit contends.

Due to “bad weather” over Napa Valley, passengers, including Rodriguez and her friend, took off from Winters in Yolo County on the morning of Feb. 15, 2014. The balloon was piloted by Robert Barbarick, the founder of Balloons of the Valley, according to the suit.

After an hour-long ride, Barbarick allegedly instructed the male passengers to get to the outside of the basket and the women to get in the middle as he prepared to land.

According to the suit, a worker on the ground told Barbarick not to land, saying “Don’t land – landing other baskets – can’t help you now.”

"Instead of waiting for assistance, Robert Barbarick disregarded the warning and decided to land without aid in an open field," the suit alleges, "causing (the balloon) to hit the ground and pitch the basket violently forward, throwing Plaintiff out onto the ground and into the way of the oncoming basket.

"The basket subsequently collided against her person, then dragged her underneath for a period of time before the balloon aircraft was able to lift the basket and the occupants back off the ground."

According to the suit, Rodriguez sustained "great physical and mental pain and suffering," with injuries to her "neck, shoulders, arms, back, hips, legs and feet."

She is suing Balloons Above the Valley and Barbarick for general and special damages, including the cost of medical services and supplies as well as lost income, past and future, according to the suit.

“Robert Barbarick was unfit and incompetent” to pilot the hot air balloon and Balloons Above the Valley knew, or should have known, the risk involved with allowing him to pilot the aircraft, the complaint asserts.

Barbarick is a pioneer of Napa Valley hot air ballooning. He started flying balloons in 1977 and has over 6,800 hours of flying, according to the company’s website. “He works hard and is dedicated to keeping the balloon business safe, exciting and enjoyable for every passenger that flies with Balloons Above the Valley,” it reads.

Thomas Chesus, a Balloons Above the Valley representative, confirmed that Rodriguez did fly with the company, but said he did not immediately have any information regarding the alleged incident.

Company protocol is that passengers sign a passenger awareness form before taking off, which explains the risks that may be associated with the activity, Chesus said. He also reported that the company will obtain discovery information and plans to respond appropriately.  

The ballooning company has not yet filed response to the suit.

Register attempts over two days to get comments from Rodriguez's attorney were unsuccessful. Rodriguez is represented by Eric Arevalo and Nathaniel J. Patterson of Schumann Rosenberg out of Costa Mesa. 

A case management conference is scheduled for June 16.

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European Regulators Order Safety Fixes for Airbus Helicopters: Safety mandates call for enhanced inspections, potential replacement of crack-prone parts

The directives are expected to ultimately affect more than 3,000 Airbus rotorcraft world-wide.

The Wall Street Journal
Updated Jan. 24, 2016 7:46 p.m. ET

European aviation regulators have ordered enhanced inspections and, if necessary, replacement of certain crack-prone parts on thousands of widely used AS 350 and other choppers manufactured by Airbus Group SE.

The aim is to prevent potentially dangerous structural failures related to main gearbox covers or their attachments, and “consequent loss of the helicopter.”

Safety mandates issued Friday by the European Aviation Safety Agency cover main gearbox casings and related parts on certain versions of AS 350 helicopters, which are popular for law enforcement, air-ambulance services and commercial operations. Industry officials said the four directives are expected to ultimately affect more than 3,000 Airbus rotorcraft world-wide, including about 1,000 registered in the U.S., once regulators from other countries embrace the agency’s move.

EASA’s documents don’t call for emergency fixes, and they complete safety moves the agency first proposed last summer. Airbus Helicopters previously issued a number of its own service bulletins dealing with the same issues.

European regulators are requiring stepped-up inspections—as frequently as every 10 flight hours for some older helicopters—to detect oil leaks that could be a sign of hazardous fractures.

The directives become effective early next month, and technically apply only to European-registered helicopters. Based on past practice and U.S.-European cooperative agreements, however, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to follow-up with similar directives covering fleets in the U.S.

On Sunday, an Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said the agency “will evaluate and determine if an unsafe condition exists” before deciding whether to issue its own safety directive.

Single-engine AS 350s were first delivered in the 1970s, but since then various new versions have been introduced. Friday’s mandate also covers twin-engine variants, including some AS 355 models that are no longer in production.

EASA didn’t list any accidents or incidents stemming from such problems, but each of the directives stressed that structural analyses uncovered potential cracking of the main gearbox housing or an attachment point.

Airbus and EASA have said that certification of the latest AS 350 version revealed some “critical areas which had not been identified” during safety studies and testing of earlier versions.

Results of the latest inspections by operators are required to be submitted to company experts. In one of its service bulletins, the manufacturer said it has revised stress calculations for the affected parts, resulting in new limits for “the service life of these casings.”

Last October, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an unrelated emergency airworthiness directive covering the latest AS 350 models. The agency mandated changes in certain pilot ground-test procedures to prevent inadvertent jamming of some tail-rotor controls. The FAA acted after two accidents and one incident, and it said the manufacturer was developing a permanent fix.

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Virginia Beach-based SEAL who died in accident was unconscious, never opened parachute

Petty Officer 1st Class William Blake Marston died in a parachute training accident in Florida on January 10, 2015.

An elite Navy SEAL who died in a parachute training accident in Florida last year never opened his main chute and was unconscious shortly after exiting the plane, which an investigation concluded he shouldn’t have been on to begin with because of a discrepancy over whether he was up to date with a required certification.

Why Petty Officer 1st Class William Blake Marston blacked out remains a mystery that Navy investigators said they couldn’t solve. Marston’s parachute and equipment were in good working condition.

“The most important question is unknowable, despite diligent investigative efforts,” Rear Adm. Brian Losey, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, wrote in his endorsement of the investigation’s findings. “We cannot identify why SO1 Marston was unable to operate his main chute.”

The Virginian-Pilot obtained a copy of the investigation through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Navy officials interviewed skydiving and medical experts but couldn’t pinpoint what went wrong. A witness who viewed the parachute gear said it was clear Marston didn’t grab the chute handles.

The medical review was redacted from the report, but the force medical officer noted there was a lack of evidence and concurred “there is no medical conclusion available that explains why SO1 Marston lost his ability to maintain stability and deploy his main parachute.”

Marston lived in Virginia Beach and was a member of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team 6, when he plunged to his death the morning of Jan. 10, 2015, in DeLand, about 18 miles southwest of Daytona Beach. He previously had made about 120 free-fall jumps during his six-year SEAL career and was considered an above-average skydiver by his colleagues.

The investigation says Marston was supposed to open his parachute about five seconds after exiting a small propeller plane flown at 5,000 feet by civilian contractors, with the jump focusing on improving canopy-control skills. But for some reason, that didn’t happen.

About 15 seconds into his jump, he became unconscious. In another 15 seconds, he hit the ground.

It wasn’t clear from the redacted documents how the Navy knew when Marston lost consciousness. The four skydivers who left the plane after him didn’t see his free fall. A security guard on the ground said he heard a loud noise and saw Marston unresponsive in the final seconds before he hit the ground.

Marston wore an automatically activated reserve parachute that opened at 750 feet. But investigators believe that chute’s canopy was fully open for only one to two seconds before impact.

Marston landed feet first, breaking his right leg, and was unconscious and barely breathing when emergency responders arrived.

“Stay with me, buddy! Stay with me!” shouted the security guard who saw Marston fall, according to audio from a 911 call. “I need evac now. ... He’s not conscious at all.”

Marston was quickly taken to a local hospital, where the former college baseball player and avid CrossFit athlete was pronounced dead shortly after arriving. He was 31.

Marston’s death drew significant media attention, especially in his hometown of Concord, N.H. Marston was a well-known local athlete who worked out with city firefighters when he was in town.

Gov. Maggie Hassan ordered flags flown at half staff on the day of his memorial ceremony. Remembered for his smile and loyalty, his obituary described him as “the kind of guy you’d want your children to be around.” He’s survived by his parents, three siblings and two nieces.

A copy of the investigation was released to Marston’s family. A public telephone listing for Marston’s parents rang unanswered Friday and his mother did not respond to a Facebook message.

“It did not surprise me that Blake joined the Navy SEALs because he was always an unselfish athlete and had his team’s best interest at heart,” Patrick Boen, Marston’s coach at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., said in a statement after his death. “He was a great leader and someone that we are very proud to have worn the Stonehill baseball uniform.”

Soon after enlisting in 2008, Marston was selected for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. He graduated the following year and was assigned to a SEAL team in Virginia Beach, according to his Navy service record. Marston later deployed to Afghanistan and was awarded two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals for heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service in combat. He also was awarded an Army Commendation Medal.

The investigation says there were seven largely administrative errors in the lead-up to Marston’s death, although none were considered major factors. One, though, should have kept him from jumping that day.

Investigators said Marston didn’t have a current certification for a high-altitude precision parachute system, which is required before conducting a military free-fall parachute jump. Marston’s certification expired in March 2014, although he said in a command biography that its expiration date was February 2019.

Investigators said neither of the two local high-altitude precision parachute system chambers – at Joint Base Langley and Norfolk Naval Station – had any record of Marston attending classes after March 2014. Regardless, the investigation said the lapsed certification wasn’t a contributing factor because high-altitude physiology requirements for supplemental oxygen begin at 10,000 feet, twice the altitude of Marston’s jump. Marston also was using an altimeter issued by his command that wasn’t authorized for use by the Navy, although it was found to be working.

“I concur with the opinion that these areas were not the proximate cause of S01 Marston’s death. But, we missed an opportunity to intervene that fateful day by grounding our teammate until these discrepancies were satisfied,” Losey wrote.

Marston arrived in DeLand for training the evening of Jan. 7. But the weather didn’t allow for any jumps the next two days. A witness said Marston was in good spirits, smiling and joking and passing time by throwing around a football. The weather was clear the morning of Jan. 10, a Saturday, and Marston and nine other jumpers boarded the small plane about 8 a.m. About 10 minutes later, five jumpers began exiting the aircraft.

As the plane made a second pass over the drop zone about five minutes later, Marston was the first to leave the plane. His exit was described as “clean and stable.” Investigators later found that significant fluctuations in barometric pressure were recorded in Marston’s devices beginning about five seconds into his free fall.

“Approximately 5 seconds into his jump, either at the time or just seconds before he should have deployed his parachute, SO1 Marston likely experienced a physiological event that prevented him from manipulating at least his hands and arms,” the investigation says. “At this time, he lost stability and began an uncontrolled freefall descent.”

He hit the ground about 30 seconds after leaving the plane.

“This tragedy was not caused by culpable negligence or recklessness, nor was it the result of a failure to follow orders or adhere to policy/instruction,” the commander of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, whose name was redacted, wrote in his endorsement of the investigation’s findings.

“SO1 Marston was a loyal teammate and fierce warrior who understood the risks associated with his duties and accepted them, as we all do. His potential was unlimited and we will miss him.”

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