Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ted Smith Aerostar 600, Heliblack LLC, N164HH: Accident occurred September 11, 2015 in Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia

Road to recovery: Pilot stays positive after debilitating plane crash

Jimmy Garland pets his dog, Dexter, who tags along while Garland works at the Cherokee County Airport. Garland returned to work following severe injuries in a plane crash while working on the movie, ‘Mena.’ 

The word “can’t” isn’t in Jimmy Garland’s vocabulary.

After months of in-patient rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center, where the Cherokee County Airport manager spent time relearning muscle movement, the local resident is back in the comfort of his home. His road to recovery, however, is far from over –— Garland is expected to continue outpatient rehabilitation three days a week for one to two hours each time.

“I am very happy with where I am,” he said. “The community support and all of the people who have prayed for me was just unbelievable. I did not realize how many really good friends that I had.”

In September, Garland was pulled from the wreckage of a twin-engine plane that crashed in Colombia while filming for the Tom Cruise movie, “Mena.” Garland, who is an owner of S&S Aviation, the company that is the fixed base operator of the Cherokee County Airport, shattered his T-12 vertebrate in the accident and received major trauma to his face.

“I had a concussion and my left eye socket was damaged from where my face hit the instrument panel, and they had to put a plate in my face to rebuild my cheekbone,” he said. “I broke my jawbone and lost two teeth that were loose.”

Garland also suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and broken ankles.

“We hit so hard that my internal organs were pushed up in my body cavity,” he said. “They had to reposition those and correct my diaphragm.”

The crash that critically injured Garland claimed the lives of veteran Hollywood pilot Alan Purwin and Venezuelan Carlos Berl — two individuals Garland called “friends.”

Jimmy Garland talks with coworker Evan Chumbler at the Cherokee County Airport after returning to work following severe injuries in a plane crash while working on the movie, ‘Mena.’

The crash happened on Sept. 11 as the trio were returning to the city of Medellin, Colombia, in a twin-engine Piper-Aerostar 600.

“I don’t remember anything at all from that night. I actually don’t remember that entire day or even getting up that morning,” he said. “The next thing that I recall was that I was in Grady Hospital in Atlanta. They were working to get me off of the respirator and that’s actually the first thing I remember.”

Garland spent eight days in Colombia prior to being flown back to Atlanta.

“My wife said that I would wake up, nod and shake my head, but I don’t remember any of that,” he said. “My therapist said that if I had not remembered anything by now, then I probably wouldn’t. That’s the way it normally goes.”

Although Garland was severely injured and was told that he would likely live out the rest of his life in a wheelchair, he chooses to look at the glass as being half full.
Planes sit on the tarmac at the Cherokee County Airport.

“I had the hand of God around me that night. Just to look at how much damage there was, I am amazed that I am alive,” he said.

Despite having a can-do attitude, some days are overwhelming for the avid pilot.

“They nursed me back to health physically and then they trained me to live my life in a wheelchair, and they are very good at it. I can’t say enough about the Shepherd Center and what fantastic people they are,” he said. “That’s the kind of energy you need, because some days, you go back to your room and you are overwhelmed with the change in your life.”

Simple daily things that people take for granted, Garland is having to relearn.

“Normal routine things that you think nothing about, like showering or going to the bathroom, it is completely different for me,” he said. “With an injury like this, the muscles lose all of their memory. You are basically like a child learning everything again.”

A strong will is what gets him through each day.

“I am a very determined person,” he said. “When you start getting down or feeling sorry for yourself, you can look around and see others who are in worse situations. I am pretty normal from the waist up, and I am still alive. I can still live a very good life and be very happy with that. I always look on the positive side. I believe we have the choice to live our lives happy or sad. For some people, it is easier to make that choice.”

Garland will continue outpatient rehabilitation to strengthen the parts of his body that are working. Right now, he said he has good functional control of his left thigh but cannot feel his right leg.

“There is nothing there — no muscle movement,” he said. “I can lift my left foot off the ground when I don’t have a shoe on. It is getting very strong compared to what it was. My calf muscle is just now coming alive.”

As a veteran aviator, Garland said he would like to get back into the cockpit one day, but added that it isn’t a top priority. In order to operate the airplane, he said he will need to have both legs functioning.

Story and photo gallery:

NTSB Identification: ERA15WA355
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 11, 2015 in Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia
Aircraft: SMITH AEROSTAR600, registration: N164HH
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On September 11, 2015, about 2230 UTC, a Smith Aerostar 600; N164HH was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain after takeoff from Rancho AĆ©reo Santa Fe de Antioquia Airport (SKSF), Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia. Two occupants were fatally injured, and one occupant was seriously injured.

This accident investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of Colombia. Any further information pertaining to this may be obtained from:

Accident Research Group
Unit Administrative Special Aeronautical Civil
Avenida El Dorado
# 103 - 23
Bogota, Colombia

This report is for information purposes and contains only information released by the Government of Columbia.

Hurricane Hunters fly into Winter Storm Jonas

Pilots for the Hurricane Hunters' mission into the winter storm sit in the cockpit on Saturday. The crew flew a 10.6-hour mission.

OVER THE ATLANTIC OCEAN -- A seven-member crew from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Unit -- the Hurricane Hunters -- took off from Keesler Air Force Base at exactly midnight Saturday.

During the 10.6 hours they were in the air, the winter storm pounding the East Coast dropped 19 inches of snow on Washington, caused widespread flooding in New Jersey and left 150,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina without power.

That data was relayed to 1st Lt. Leesa Froelich, the mission's on-board meteorologist, otherwise the crew would have no way of knowing any of it.

Their mission was to fly into, or rather above, what is being widely considered one of the worst storms to ever hit the Eastern Seaboard, and gather data that can help forecasters predict the storm's behavior. But at the C-130J's altitude of more than 20,000 feet, the air was largely smooth and the skies were blue. And despite the historic storm lashing away below, the mission was typical. If anything, it was smoother than expected.

"It's a completely different mission (than for a hurricane,)" Froelich said. "Here, we have a set path. With a hurricane it's more fluid. With a winter storm, we fly as high as we can."

The Biloxi-based Hurricane Hunters have been operating as a unit since the 1940s. As their name implies, they are best known for their work in hurricanes, where they fly much lower -- at 10,000 feet -- and directly into and through the eye of storms. They flew missions during and after 2005's Hurricane Katrina, despite sustaining heavy losses, and the unit starred for two seasons in the Weather Channel's reality show "Hurricane Hunters," which chronicled their work.

Flying through hurricanes is more dramatic, but meteorologists also need data on winter storms.

After takeoff, it was about a two-hour flight to reach the storm. After the plane was over the Atlantic Ocean, it followed a set trajectory that looped north to New York then south to Florida and back to Biloxi.

While in the air, two load masters deployed 10 dropsondes.

"The dropsonde is a meteorological instrument that records quite a big of data. It records temperature, pressure, dew point, depression, all sorts of interesting meteorological data recorded in the form of code that is sent from the dropsonde to the computer. Then we do quality checks and send it to the weather office," said Staff Sgt. Jesse Jordan, one of the load masters. "They do their weather-officer magic with it and send it off to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) where it is disseminated."

Jordan and Joseph Latham, the mission's other load master, deployed the dropsondes while Froelich spent the flight monitoring the devices and the data they sent back.

Also aboard were the pilots and a navigator.

By the time the mission landed shortly after 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the crew still didn't know much about what their mission had told other meteorologists about the storm. But while they were in the air the data they collected was being used, in real time, to update forecasts and help cities plan for the rest of the storm.

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General Electric's power: Key to landing JetBlue?

General Electric's recent decision to move its headquarters to Boston could play a major role in finally getting JetBlue Airways to Cincinnati, The Enquirer has learned.

But GE's deep ties to Greater Cincinnati aren't all that makes the case to bring the discount airline to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport stronger than ever. CVG has the ability to offer financial incentives for the first time in the airport's yearslong courtship of JetBlue, which has a hub in Boston.

It still doesn't guarantee that JetBlue is coming to town, but the timing has never been better for a marriage between the discount carrier and Cincinnati.

"In recent years, GE has increased its presence significantly in Southwest Ohio through its Dayton and Cincinnati operations of GE Aviation, as well as the corporation’s new global shared services operation on The Banks," GE Aviation spokesman Rick Kennedy told The Enquirer. "Collectively, this will increase demand for air travel from Cincinnati to the new GE corporate headquarters in Boston."

Kennedy declined to discuss whether GE would specifically play a role in helping to broker a deal between JetBlue and CVG, referring airline-related questions to the airport. CVG continues to recruit JetBlue, an effort that dates back to at least October 2012, when The Enquirer first reported airport officials were in talks with the New York-based airline.

“Boston remains a key focus city for CVG and our air-service development efforts," airport CEO Candace McGraw said. "Our goal is to provide competitive options in all markets, particularly key business destinations, and we are making progress in that effort."

Evendale-based GE Aviation has nearly 7,000 employees across the region. GE is expected to have more than 8,000 employees here after the Fortune 500 company's Downtown riverfront office opens this spring.

JetBlue is in expansion mode, including launching in Cleveland last year. The carrier's expansion plans appear to be going well. JetBlue's sales jumped 9 percent to $6.3 billion in the year ending Sept. 30, according an Enquirer analysis of Bloomberg financial data.

"We are always looking to expand ... however, we have no decisions regarding Cincinnati to announce at this time," JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart said.

The Motley Fool, which produces a range of financial publications along with financial services, asked in a report this week whether JetBlue should look to expand following GE's decision to move to Boston. The report noted that JetBlue's big weakness in competing for business fliers is that it doesn't go to several of the top U.S. business markets, including Cincinnati and Atlanta, where GE has major operations.

"JetBlue could have trouble competing for GE's internal corporate travel business when it doesn't serve Cincinnati and Atlanta," according to the report.

Demand appeared high for more flights to Boston from CVG even before GE's big headquarters announcement. One of GE Aviation's largest manufacturing plants is based in Lynn, Massachusetts, which is 8 miles northeast of Boston's Logan International Airport.

In a 2012 study commissioned by top regional business executives, Greater Cincinnati's 10 largest companies identified Boston as the No. 1 U.S. city that corporations desired more flights to from CVG. Airport officials used the study to develop a plan to target adding more flights to Boston and seven other U.S. cities, an effort to provide more competition to dominant carrier Delta Air Lines.

CVG has been able to add new flights to seven of the eight cities – the exception being Boston. Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Air and American Airlines have helped provide new service to some of those cities, including Las Vegas, Atlanta, New York and Orlando. Low-cost carriers Frontier and Allegiant have played a major role in lowering CVG's average ticket price and increasing the airport's passengers the past two years.

But Delta's four daily nonstop flights remain the only service between Cincinnati and Boston, where Procter & Gamble also has major operations with its Gillette grooming business. Fares remain high on nonstop flights from CVG to Boston. Many of the same companies that said they want more flights to Boston continue to have corporate travel deals with Delta.

If GE's connection to Cincinnati and Boston isn't quite enough to persuade JetBlue, perhaps a financial incentive could. CVG's new five-year contract with the airlines, which went into effect Jan. 1, allows the airport to offer such incentives – something the old deal did not.

"An incentive program isn't carte blanche," said Daniel Friedenzohn, an assistant aviation professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, and a former United Airlines network planner. "But if you’re at a tipping point, it can give that nudge to get the airline to commit.”

Delta had the upper hand on how money generated from airline operations was spent at CVG under the old contract. That deal, signed in 1974, required CVG to give back any profits generated from airline operations to the carriers at the end of each year. After 2014, for example, CVG had to give $4.9 million back to the airlines.

In the new deal, CVG doesn't have those financial constraints. It now shares profits with the airlines, and CVG's McGraw said her staff is reviewing how other U.S. airports use discretionary money for incentives.

A typical incentive program allows an airport to waive landing fees for a limited time, make gate and ticketing counter improvements, and cover some start-up costs for an airline. The federal government restricts incentive programs, and airports typically aren't allowed to offer large amounts of cash to a new airline.

CVG has been able to lure Frontier and Allegiant and increase passengers "by just pure hard work and gutting it out," McGraw said, and adding an incentive package to the recruiting toolkit could only improve the airport's chances of landing JetBlue and other new airlines.

"The most exciting part about the new deal: It lets the airport control our own destiny," she said.

Original article can be found here:

Tired pilots flying Pakistan International Airlines flights: Airline denies pilots are being made to fly beyond 100-hrs per month limit

LAHORE - PIA pilots are being made to fly beyond their duty time limits, putting the passengers’ lives at risk, said well placed sources in CAA.

The airline management has warned that those disobeying the orders will have to face termination, they said.

They added that so far 20 pilots have gone beyond Flight and Duty Time Limitations (FDTL), one of them flying for 140 hours a month, because of dearth of pilots.

As per FDTL and CAA Rules a pilot can only fly 33 hours per week, 100 per month and 1000 per year, the sources in the Civil Aviation Authority said.

In PIA, monthly hours limit are counted from 1st to the end of the month, but now on the instruction of DFO & CPT Capt Saleem Ahmed the last flight month has been shown in record as starting from 11th of Dec 2015 and ending on 11th of Jan 2016 in order to make maximum pilots’ flight hours fall within the 100 hours limit.

In December 2015, from 1st to 31st, B777 Captains & Air Bus 320 Captains crossed 100 hrs limit.

All concerned were told not to disclose this fact to anyone with a warning of dismissal from the service.

Sources in CAA said that PIA and CAA monitor the flying hours of the airline pilots but CAA management was not playing its due role in this regard.

He said that crew operating on Long Range route of Toronto (with a 14 hours flight time) was also not being given due rest of 48 hours; rather, they have to perform the duty after a rest of 24 hours.

Collective Bargaining Agent (CBA) union raised voice and some of crew refused to perform extra duty.

A pilot of PIA seeking anonymity said that airline was purchasing new aircrafts like B-777 and A-320 but number of pilots was very low.

He said the PIA at present has only 450 pilots against a need for 700 pilots.

He demanded in-house simulators of A-320 and ATR for training purposes.

PIA has in-house simulator of B-777 only.

When contacted, PIA spokesman Danyal Gillani said there was no violation of FDTL and all pilots were flying as per prescribed limitations.

He said that 100 flying hours condition is for 30 consecutive days and if a pilot takes rest after duty of few days his month will start after last day of his rest.

He said that there was not even a single case of 140 flying hours of a pilot in the PIA.

CAA spokesman Pervez George and Pakistan Airline Pilot Association (PALPA) Amir Hashmi were not available to comment, despite repeated efforts to reach them at their cell phones.


RAF fighter jets not fitted with safety systems to prevent civilian collisions despite government pledge

Less than half of Tornado jets fitted with traffic collision avoidance system despite government promising to install them almost 20 years ago.

The majority of Britain’s fighter jets have not been fitted with safety systems that would help prevent a catastrophic mid-air collision with a passenger plane, despite the Government pledging to install them almost 20 years ago, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The failure to act has been branded a disgrace by MPs, and shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry has demanded the Government now makes it a top priority.

New figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) show that less than half of Britain’s 90-strong Tornado fleet is fitted with a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS). This is a type of electronic collision warning system (CWS), which uses radar to show the position of other planes, and automatically alerts pilots. None of Britain’s 131 Typhoon fighters has it fitted, and the F-35s that Britain has ordered will not have it installed. 

This is despite repeated warnings that a TCAS should be fitted to the RAF’s fighter jets, ever since the measure was recommended in the 1998 Strategic Defence and Security Review.  There have been more than 50 mid-air collisions involving RAF jets in the past 35 years, including at least 14 Tornado jets, with more than 55 lives lost, according to the Military Aviation Authority (MAA). 

Three years ago, an MAA report into a mid-air collision between two Tornado jets above the Moray Firth blamed “financially driven decisions” for the aircraft not having a CWS. It recommended that a “comprehensive plan” be put in place to fit a CWS on military aircraft. Not to fit the systems would be an “unsustainable position”, it warned.

The number of reported near misses involving military aircraft in British airspace has risen in recent years, from 82 in 2013 to 94 in 2014.

The report comes a year after it emerged that Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, the head of the RAF, warned Defence Secretary Michael Fallon of the risk that Typhoon jets could crash into passenger planes because the fighters have not been fitted with a CWS.

Angus Robertson, SNP MP for Moray, where three RAF airmen died after a collision between two Tornado jets from RAF Lossiemouth during a training exercise in July 2012, described the delay in getting CWS installed on fighter jets as “a complete disgrace”, adding, “This a dangerous and needless shambles.”

Fitting the safety feature in Britain’s fighter jets “should be a top priority for the Government”, said Ms Thornberry. “The MoD has the technology to bring these planes up to date by fitting them with collision warning systems. Why hasn’t it done so?” 

Steve Landells, fight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association, said: “British pilots would like to see all aircraft they share the sky with fitted with some form of collision avoidance system.”

An MoD spokesman said: “The introduction of a CWS/TCAS is not, and never will, be a panacea for avoiding air collisions.”

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Clancy, Jefferson County, Montana: Don Paul talks of his hours in the air before demonstrating remote-controlled aircraft

Don Paul, of Clancy, holds an illustration he made of an unhappy child watching aircraft overhead, during a display and demonstration on Saturday of remote controlled aircraft that he brought to the Jefferson County Museum. He said as a boy he chose a career in flying after watching aircraft at the airport near his family's farm in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

At an early age, Don Paul knew he had a choice in life.

His family’s dairy farm wrapped around the airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Beyond it were the runways where the roar of commercial and military flights called to him.

“The take-offs and landings they’d come right over the house,” he said.

“There was something really exciting watching them come over,” he recalled and remembered asking himself what he wanted to do with his life: milk cows or fly.

It was an easy decision for him.

In the roughly 49 years since Paul applied for his pilot’s license after serving four years in the Air Force, 1962 through 1966 where he worked in electronics, he’s logged 10,000 hours behind the windscreens of some 80 aircraft.

Add in another 5,000 hours as an aircraft instructor.

He had time to talk about flying and his life Saturday as he was preparing for a demonstration of his remote-controlled model airplanes that he built.

Four of them sat on a table at the Jefferson County Museum in Clancy, a former two-room schoolhouse built in 1898. Paul’s demonstration that afternoon would show how the remote controls gave life to the aircraft, although none would actually leave the ground.

The display of Paul’s aircraft and seven of the 1928 Wright Aeronautical Corp. prints of original watercolors helped tell a story of aviation, as did other enlarged color photographs of Vietnam War aircraft on loan from another person.

The chance to fly for a living lured him away from a steady job with United Airlines repairing aircraft instruments just four years after leaving the Air Force.

“I wasn’t making the money, but it was ‘Wow. This is neat. I get paid for doing this,’” he said.

“It turned out to be a real love.”

Don Paul, of Clancy, displays one of the wooden pieces that come with a kit to build a remote controlled model airplane that's part of an exhibit he assembled for the Jefferson County Museum in Clancy.

A 26-year career with the Federal Aviation Administration as an aviation inspector and other duties that included pilot certification, accident investigation and roles in FAA compliance and enforcement left him with certifications to fly everything from single and multi-engine aircraft to seaplanes, helicopters, gliders and hot-air balloons.

His work took him from one side of the county to the other. It gave him passage to Guam and Saipan, where the detritus of battle could still be seen in the surf of the Pacific Ocean decades later.

At 71, Paul with his graying hair and gold rimmed glasses, hasn’t lost his passion for flying.

In an F-16 military jet, you can go like this, he said as he raised a hand and then rotated it to illustrate how the aircraft rose like a rocket and rotated in a corkscrew fashion as it carried him and the pilot years ago.

“It was a wild ride,” Paul said, his voice soft even if the memory remained vivid.

Medical issues and fewer friends who have airplanes has kept him on the ground in recent years.

But the 32-year resident of Clancy can be found many days out by the Helena Regulating Reservoir when the weather is clear. There on BLM land he and other members of the Helena Flying Tigers will have their remote-controlled aircraft buzzing overhead.

A balsa wood kit to build an airplane can be $75, plus say another $35 for an engine that will carry it along at 25-30 mph, he said. A more powerful engine will rise in price to the $100 range and speed up to perhaps 70 mph.

Aircraft designed for racing will be traveling at between 120 mph and 150 mph.

A nearly ready to fly model airplane complete with motor can be had for well under $200, Paul said.

Flying remote controlled aircraft takes your mind off everything else, he said.

“It’s kind of exhilarating.”

And this is the same word he uses to describe what it’s like in the cockpit of an aircraft.


He struggles for words to describe the sensation, what’s been his passion for so many years.

“You’re just free to move around,” he said.

“Some of the scenery that you see that people will never see, it’s quite spectacular.”

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Lynden Pindling International Airport employee arrested for drug possession

Nassau, Bahamas - Police are reporting the arrest of an adult male LPIA employee following the seizure of a quantity of dangerous drugs on Friday 22nd January 2016.

Reports are that around 1:00pm, Airport Authority Security Officers conducted a routine search of a water truck driven by the suspect at the entrance of the ramp at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) and uncovered 4 1⁄2 ounces of cocaine hidden in the truck. The police were notified and the suspect was arrested and taken into custody.


Island Birds, Piper PA-23-250 Aztec E, N54089: Incident occurred January 23, 2016 at Virgin Gorda Airport, British Virgin Islands

The airport on Virgin Gorda (VG) was temporarily closed for a short period today, Saturday, January 23 after a mishap with an airplane on the runway.

According to information, this afternoon, an Island Bird Air Charter airplane encountered a flat tire on landing.

Information suggests that no passengers were onboard the aircraft at the time. 

The small plane was arriving to collect passengers.

No one was injured; however, the incident forced a short temporary closure of the airport.

"No one was injured; it was just a flat tire, just like when your car gets a flat tire and we really did not have any passengers onboard," an official from Island Bird Air Charter briefly stated when contacted.

The airport has since been reopened.


Rex Keyes: Pre-night mission training essential for helicopter pilots

By Rex Keyes, Guest commentary

Recently there was a crash that occurred at night of two CH-53 Marine helicopters off the coast of Hawaii. There are a lot of questions that should be asked by an investigative board. This was supposedly a training mission. But in training missions, especially at night, there needs to be close oversight of the mission.

In a mission both helicopters should have known of each other’s presence and location and have been in communication on the same radio frequency. If they were flying in formation at night, did they each have their night lights on which consist of three position lights and/or a rotating red beacon? How much instrument training did they have because at night, the lead helicopter of a formation would need reference to his instruments because of hardly any outside visual reference, especially over the ocean? Also, how much night flying did the pilots have or flight simulator training instituting night simulation and/or instrument flying? Were there flight instructors or senior pilots with experience seated in the co-pilot’s seat to help in the training? This is standard procedure in the Army with its vast fleet of helicopters, but is it in the Marines?

As a prior flight simulator instructor at Fort Ord we had many Army helicopter pilots go through training flying on instruments. In the armed forces there was a mandatory amount of hours in instrument training per year each pilot had to go though. We had a few pilots from the Air Force and a couple of Marine pilots. It was essential that they got training either in an actual helicopter or in a simulator.

This helps them to fly in reduced visibility whether it be fog, clouds or at night. Without this training the chances of an incident in reduced visibility rises dramatically. One could actually see the improvement in the pilots between the time they started their recurrent training and finished.

The chances of survivability in a helicopter midair compared to a fixed-wing airplane is extremely low because of the intermeshing and or destruction of the rotor blades, the immediate loss of lift and the sequential falling out of the sky like a rock. Training of the pilots prior to a practice night mission and oversight of a night mission is essential.

Rex Keyes, who has been a flight simulator instructor at Fort Ord and a Vietnam War helicopter pilot, lives in Corral de Tierra.


Drukair dismisses poor safety rating

The national airline was one of 38 rated as having an inadequate safety score by aviation website Airline Ratings

A Drukair A319 jet on final approach to Paro airport

The national airline, Drukair has dismissed its poor safety rating by an aviation website, whose ratings of safest and unsafest airlines are being used and published by several major international media houses and travel websites.

The aviation website, Airline Ratings, ranked national airline Drukair as having a 3/7 rating.

Airline Ratings surveyed 407 airlines on a scale of one to seven. While it rated 148 airlines as having seven points, it ranked 38 airlines three points or less.

The ratings are widely available online, with several articles making it a point to highlight both the highest and lowest safety ranked airlines.

For instance, an online article published by Time magazine lists Drukair under a list of airlines to avoid, along with some other regional air carriers like Tara Air (1/7), Nepal Airlines (1/7), Nok Air (2/7), and Bangkok Air (3/7), among others.

The airlines are rated on seven categories. On three of the categories, Drukair received a point each. The three categories are having a fatality free record for the past 10 years, not being banned from entering the EU, and being endorsed by the Federal Aviation Authority of the USA.

One area where Drukair loses points is on lacking an IATA (International Air Transport Association) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification. The IOSA is an internationally and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline, it is pointed out on the IATA website.

Drukair CEO, Tandi Wangchuk, pointed out that the IOSA certification is a prerequisite to become a member of IATA. “Drukair did a study on the benefits of becoming an IATA member in 2013 and the conclusion was that there was no tangible benefit for a small airline like Drukair for the amount of expenditure needed to become a member,” the CEO said. “The IOSA certification involves recurrent expenditure besides the initial membership cost,” he added. “The fact that Drukair is not a member of IATA does not imply that Drukair is unsafe as there are other mechanisms to ensure safety.”

The other area Drukair lost points was on whether the regulator of the airline’s country, in this case, the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority, meets all eight safety parameters as required by the International Civil Aviation Organizaton (ICAO). Despite significant improvements made by the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) in recent times, Bhutan’s ICAO compliance rating is one of the lowest in the region.

While the rating does not mean that Bhutanese airlines are unsafe to fly, it does indicate that the oversight agency or check and balance mechanism is not at par with what is required by ICAO.

Lack of budget and qualified personnel have been two major weaknesses of the BCAA, among others. The BCAA was not able to respond on the rating criteria of the website and its own low rating in time for the writing of this article yesterday.

“ICAO observation is on the affairs of the national aviation authority (BCAA) and not on the airlines,” Tandi Wangchuk said. “Drukair would like to inform that our regulations are based on EASA (European Aviation & Safety Authority) which are in conformity with ICAO Annexes and SARPs (Standard and Recommended Practices),” he added.

“To ensure compliance with those requirements, in addition to the regular audits carried out by the BCAA we have our own internal audits and monitoring done by an independent quality assurance directly reporting to the accountable manager,” Tandi Wangchuk said.

With both categories weighted two points each, Drukair lost four points and therefore was rated 3/7.

“The fact that Drukair did not have any significant incident in the last 27 years of jet operation in spite of the challenging operational environment of Paro airport, is a testimony to our safety record,” Tandi Wangchuk said.

The approach into and take off from Paro airport, both carried out manually, is considered one of the most challenging globally.

“Drukair places the highest priority on safety and would like to assure all concerned that safety will always be accorded number one priority,” he added.

Private airline, Tashi Air subsidiary Bhutan Airlines was not rated by the aviation website.

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Residents express concerns about potential wind farm

Gale RoseArea resident Gary Barker expresses his concerns to the Planning Board about the quality of the roads during wind farm construction and whom he should call if there is a problem especially if its during harvest.

Pratt, Kansas --  Day two of the Pratt County Planning Board public hearing for the NextEra special use application to establish a wind generation farm in Pratt County brought fourth a number of concerns from citizens both in and out of the proposed wind farm area.


Wind generators are very tall structures, over 400 feet, and with 121 of them it’s going to impact the view. Where there was once only pasture and fields, tall turbines will block the view and create noise. Rick Holland said the peace and quiet and unobstructed views they have come to know would be gone. He was also concerned about the impact on migratory birds.

Wind generators take up a lot of space and spraying for crops would be a very serious issue, said Warren Sturgeon who owns a crop spraying service. His planes need a half-mile to safely turn around and in some places on the proposed turbine sites, there simply isn’t enough room. If they can’t do their job, it could cost jobs.

“This is not a good deal,” Sturgeon said. “People will get laid off.”

Aerial spraying is less expensive than other methods of spraying such as with a helicopter so it could cost land owners more to spray their fields. There is also a problem with wind drift for small aircraft as well as drifting insecticides and pesticides.

Ice falling from turbines has also been an issue as has blades falling off towers as they did in Barber County. Blades have come off wind turbines in Barber County, said Kevin Wager.

Construction creates a lot of truck traffic and that can cause roads to get into bad shape. Area resident Gary Barker was concerned about road maintenance and whom he would call if wheat harvest was underway and the roads needed maintaining.

Besides wind generators, a new high voltage power line would have to be constructed to move the electricity from the Ninnescah Wind project across Kingman County to a new substation in Sedgwick County.

Some of that land belongs to Berry Bortz who was concerned about the impact the lines would have on electric fences and drones used to inspect crops. He was curious why NextEra was already constructing a power line in Kingman County for a wind farm that has not been approved.

Following proper procedures for the application was an issue. Area resident Greg Bacon spoke on behalf of the non-participant landowners and said the original application BP made two years ago was not complete and the hearing for application shouldn’t even be happening.

Plans are not compliant, the turbine sites are not done, there is no fall or winter study on bald eagles, there is no decommission plan that has to be in place to make the application, Bacon said.

 Eventually, the farm will be decommissioned and NextEra said the salvage price of the turbines would cover the cost but it would take $1 million for each turbine.

NextEra has said they would make payment to the county in lieu of paying taxes. Several, including Ken Brunson, wanted to know if they would make good on their promise.

The wind farm will create many temporary jobs during construction but they will eventually go away and locals don’t get many of those jobs, said Evan McCasky.

One property owner, Ron Betzen, said he was never contacted about wind farm and he had planned on building a log cabin on his property. This lack of communication showed a lack of respect.

With all the recent earthquake activity in Oklahoma that has been felt in Pratt, there has been no study on earthquake impact on wind generators, said Ed Petrowsky.


Several spoke positively about the project. Former resident Margene McFall-Martin said she looked at this as progress to create a better way of life. It helps farmers when prices are low and it gives additional income to retired people.

Pat Brant welcomes the income from a tower and the additional money it will bring into the county. While construction does cause inconvenience, it soon goes away just as it did on the U.S. 54 expansion. No one complains about getting to Wichita faster.

Dwane DeWeese wants a tower on his property and hopes the additional tax money for the county could be used to pay for a new track and field facility.

Kent Goyen asked if the heritage in the county has been lost. Change in the past has made our forefathers more productive. The wind farm electricity will not stay here but farmers produce so much product they can’t use it all and it goes to other places.


Several NextEra people addressed these issues.

Tricia Hale, NextEra project director for wind development, spoke with Sturgeon about the crop spraying issue and said they would work with them to help solve the issues. The generator can actually be turned if necessary to give crop planes more clearance. They can also shut the turbines off if necessary so it won’t interfere with the planes.

As far as the turnaround issue, on one example, Hale said if the plane would fly further it would clear the turbines and have ample space to turn around.

John Alderness, NextEra project and construction manager, said that a fence crew would go ahead of the project and make whatever changes in fences and gates needed to be made and put up any fences they might have to take down. They would also be available by phone if a problem arose. Maintaining the roads would be a continuous process.

 Sometimes electricity does pass from transmission lines in a process called induction. However that only happens in very specific circumstances, said Jeremy Miceli, NextEra project engineer, so setting up an electric fence beneath a transmission line should be no problem.

David Gil, NextEra Energy Resources project director, covered several issues: BP submitted a decommission plan in 2013 and when NextEra bought out their leases, the plan was still in effect; there are five more turbines shown on the project map than the 121 that will be used because sometimes unexpected things are dug up a site might not be usable; one structure was missed from the air survey but it is over 2,500 feet from a tower and the survey will be corrected; also to be corrected is the number of gallons of water for the project. There was a mistake and it will not take 3.5 billion gallons but somewhere between 16 million and 30 million; NextEra has no condemnation or eminent domain authority, all leases are voluntary; NextEra has done payment in lieu of taxes before and will have a binding contract with the county; blades have fallen off generators in Barber County. It is a bonding issue that has been solved and blades on NextEra generators made during that time have been replaced.

Tim Branscom, Pratt County Planning and Zoning administrator, read several letters expressing concerns and about 50 postcards, provided by NextEra, expressing support for various aspects of the project.

Because of the amount of new information presented at the meeting, the Thursday, Jan. 21 meeting was rescheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at the Pratt County Fairgrounds. The public is invited to attend. The public hearing portion of the special use application is still in session and people are welcome to make comments.


Why did Allegiant Air's second-in-command resign? Likely over safety issues, experts say

More than a week before Allegiant Air's chief operating officer abruptly resigned, John Goglia questioned the airline's response to five emergency landings during the last week of 2015.

All five were flights departing Florida.

Goglia, a widely respected aviation accident investigator, said an identical series of incidents would warrant quick discipline against those overseeing maintenance at other airlines. Allegiant had done nothing publicly.

"A vice president of maintenance would be looking for a new job, and probably a few people with him," said Goglia, who served a decade as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. "Heads would roll."

The abrupt resignation of Allegiant chief operating officer Steve Harfst a week ago after just 13 months in the job left some industry watchers questioning whether his was the first head to roll as a consequence of the airline's highly publicized maintenance and operational difficulties during 2015.

That departure comes as the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting increased surveillance of Allegiant amid reports of multiple emergency landings and other problems, according to the Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition, which is related to the Allegiant pilots' union.

One Allegiant aircraft made four separate emergency landings from Oct. 25 to Dec. 3 after reports of smoke in the cabin, an almost unheard-of occurrence for a lone aircraft over such a short period of time, aviation watchers say.

"The FAA is all over Allegiant right now," said Chris Moore, chairman of the coalition, which has documented maintenance issues at the airline on behalf of the Airline Professionals Association Teamsters Local 1224.

Moore speculated that the COO's sudden departure was more a message to the FAA than the public that Allegiant is trying to address safety issues. The FAA would not confirm whether Allegiant is under increased scrutiny, though it said it is investigating maintenance incidents.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst, said he had little doubt that Harfst was essentially fired.

"I suspect what happened is, as they do in any kind of company, things came to a head and the CEO and perhaps the board told this guy his services were no longer needed," he said. "I'm not convinced the right person left the company. I believe part of problem stems from its CEO and the imperious way in which he runs the company."

Allegiant CEO Maurice Gallagher Jr. is the airline's biggest stockholder, with 21.7 percent of the company's outstanding shares as of April. He is firmly in control of the airline, analysts say.

Gallagher was one of the founders of ValuJet, an airline that lost an aircraft in a 1996 Everglades crash that killed 110 people.

Harteveldt noted, "As a low-cost airline, which certainly follows FAA procedure, I don't know that Gallagher pushed the airline (Allegiant) to be better in terms of aircraft maintenance. They certainly have the ability to do so."

Allegiant officials say the airline is one of the safest in the nation and have accused the pilots' union of using unfounded safety concerns as a ploy in contract negotiations. Company spokeswoman Kim Schaefer said her company would not comment on Harfst's departure.

Late Thursday, Allegiant announced the appointment of Jude Bricker as its new COO. Bricker is the company's senior vice president of planning and will retain those duties.

Allegiant carried about 95 percent of the record 1.6 million passengers at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport last year and is viewed by tourism officials as a vital cog in Tampa Bay tourism. Allegiant serves 49 cities from the Pinellas airport, and will add the 50th in June when it begins flights to New Orleans.

The airline remains one of the most profitable in the world on a percentage basis. Last fall, its 24 percent profit margin was the highest among airlines globally.

But it was nonetheless a tumultuous 2015 for Allegiant's public relations as the airline suffered through a long list of emergency landings, including three in Pinellas during the summer. A flight to Fargo, N.D., had to land at a closed airport when the pilot, a member of Allegiant management, reported he was running low on fuel.

In August, a Las Vegas flight nearly ended in disaster when an aircraft's elevator — a control surface on the tail that helps a plane ascend or descend — was jammed in one position during a takeoff roll. Goglia and others in the industry said the flight may have ended in a crash had the pilot not aborted a takeoff at 138 mph.

Earlier this month, a former Allegiant mechanic told the Tampa Bay Times that he quit the airline's Sanford maintenance operation in October after just two weeks because he thought its mechanics operated a poor safety culture.

Allegiant may have invited speculation about Harfst's resignation by releasing a fuzzy statement that might have vaguely hinted at maintenance issues.

"The company will use this leadership change as an opportunity to refocus on operational needs and areas for improvement," the company said.

Harfst has declined to talk to reporters.

Brett Synder, founder of the aviation website, said he thought operational problems at Allegiant were a reason for Harfst's resignation. But if Allegiant is trying to send a message to reassure the public, he questioned whether the public would even notice.

"People like a cheap deal," Synder said. "I think there is some amount of trust by the public that the FAA is doing its job in ensuring every carrier is safe. Whether that's misguided or not, that's embedded in people who don't follow the industry closely. I think people just look and see a good deal. They just don't notice" changes in airline leadership.

Dan Wells, president of Allegiant's pilots' union, said the resignation was odd and certainly unexpected, noting Harfst was seen working at headquarters just the day before.

But Allegiant's management has been slow to recognize or acknowledge maintenance problems, Wells said. And by not commenting about the COO's resignation, he was doubtful that Allegiant fired Harfst to telegraph anything.

"If they're saying, 'All right, we see a problem and we're fixing it,' I'd think they'd be very vocal about that," Wells said. "Sadly, given Allegiant's history, and (Gallagher's) personality, they still aren't recognizing they have a problem."

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Complimentary service: Passengers served tea in Skardu

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) started a complimentary tea service at Skardu airport on Saturday. The practice has been introduced by the Director-General CAA, who directed all managers at the airport to provide the service. The service is offered only to the departure lounge travellers.

The passengers were pleasantly surprised on finding that the tea service was free of charge. Sardar Abdullah Jamil, a traveller, said that this was a great idea for the winters since there are no tea shops or anything else at the airport. James Smith, a German tourist who came to Skardu for trekking, said that he had never come across, in any airport around the world, such a service.

He really appreciated it and commended CAA for facilitating the passengers. CAA has also set up a help desk and a free porter service for special needs and aged passengers at the Skardu airport.

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This man sent four airports across India into panic mode

Sanjay Mishra arrested by Pune ATS

The security agencies in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bhubaneshwar, and Bagdogra, near Darjeeling, spent a harrowing 24 hours as a result of a series of hoax calls made by one man - an animation artist from Pune - who claimed that bombs would go off on Mumbai-bound flights, and cars stuffed with explosives would blow up at the airports and the Pune Railway Station. 

A Mumbai-bound GoAir flight from Bhubaneshwar was diverted to Nagpur, and an IndiGo flight on the same route was delayed, while the CISF and the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officers spent nearly three hours combing the four airports and the railway station. The accused, Sanjeev Kumar Mishra, 35, made five calls between 6 pm Friday and 9 pm Saturday, when he was finally arrested from the Pune-Solapur Highway. 

The CISF said that Mishra, who appeared "disturbed", made the first call to the Mumbai Police Control Room at 6 pm on Friday while he was in the city. "He said that a white-coloured vehicle, laden with explosives, had entered the Mumbai International Airport premises," a CISF officer said. 

The already on-the-edge cops, in the middle of the crackdown against Daesh operatives in India and preparing for the Republic Day celebrations, pressed nearly 200 men into combing operations, even as the CISF, responsible for the airport security across the country, sounded a high alert. 

"The call was declared a hoax around 9 pm, and Mishra was traced to his friend's house in Mumbai. He was questioned at the Airport Police Station, where his friend produced documents that said he was on medication for mental problems, after which he was allowed to go," a CISF source said. 

The police found that Mishra, who owns an animation studio in Pune's Wadgaon Dhayari area, left for home straight from the Airport Police Station, and made a second call, at 3.20 am on Saturday, to the Mumbai International Airport Limited helpdesk, saying a cab stuffed with explosives, already parked on the airport premises, would blow up anytime. The call sparked off another round of combing operations, and every vehicle in the vicinity was screened. 

The next call was made around 8.30 am on Saturday, this time to the Bhubaneswar airport, claiming that bombs would go off on two Mumbai-bound flights. Mishra said that a passenger named Mohapatra, on one of the flights, was carrying the bomb in his hand baggage. 

There were two Mumbai-bound flights from Bhubaneshwar at that point in time, and one of them, a GoAir flight G8-243, had already taken off, resulting in a mid-air panic. The flight had 150 people on board, and was diverted to the nearest airport (Nagpur). 

"The flight had taken off at 8.20 am and made an emergency landing at Nagpur for an anti-sabotage check. An Indigo flight from Bhubaneswar to Mumbai was delayed as it was also subjected to an anti-sabotage check," a source at the Mumbai airport said. The checks lasted nearly three hours, and the passengers were asked to deplane, a GoAir spokesperson said. 

Within the next 30 minutes, Mishra called up the Bagdogra airport and the Pune Railway Station, saying both would be blown up. The Pune ATS intercepted Mishra's SUV near Daund on the Pune-Solapur Highway, and said that his "intention was to create panic". 

ACP Bhanupratap Barge, in charge of the Pune unit of the ATS, said, "He said that he was undergoing treatment for a mental ailment. He claimed that he was very angry with the police because he was harassed while returning from Bhubaneswar last Wednesday." 

Investigations revealed that Mishra was travelling from Bhubaneshwar to Mumbai on a GoAir flight last Wednesday, when he had an altercation with a co-passenger. "The co-passenger filed a police complaint saying Mishra had deliberately spilled hot tea on her child. A noncognizable offense was registered," an officer from the Airport Police Station in Mumbai said. 

ACP Barge added that Mishra's family members also appeared to be fed up with his behaviour. "After we detained him, we called up his father in Bhubaneswar, who said, 'Shoot him. We don't care'." 

Over the last fortnight, the Mumbai Airport has been fortified by the CISF and teams from the Mumbai Police's elite units, and the ATS. There is an additional deployment of over 100 jawans, and 60% of them are armed and incognito. 

At the time of going to press, the ATS was still questioning Mishra, and the process to charge him was on. Meanwhile, the Mumbai Airport received another call ,saying the airport will be blown up before February 2. Preliminary investigation revealed the call was traced to Uttar Pradesh. "The matter is being investigated by the ATS," a Mumbai airport spokesperson said.


Jan 22, 6 pm: Mishra calls the police control room claiming that a white car with a bomb was heading towards the airport. His number is traced and Mishra is brought to the police station. A friend bails him out citing mental health issue. 

Jan 22, 3.20 am: Hours later Mishra calls MIAL helpdesk to say says a Meru cab has a bomb on it. 

Jan 23, 8.30 am: Mishra calls Bhubaneswar airport and warns of Mumbai-bound flights being bombed. This leads to a Go Air flight being diverted to Nagpur, an Indigo flight is delayed to run additional checks. 

Jan 23, 8.45 am: Calls Bagdogra airport next, threatening to blow it up. 

Jan 23, 9 am: Mishra calls Pune railway station and threatens to blow it up. Pune ATS start tracking and realise that he's on the run. Eventually, he's nabbed from Pune-Solapur highway.

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