Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chopper World Pushes Specific Safety Steps: Industry embraces techniques that major airlines have relied on since the 1990s

Helicopter makers are striving to improve their spotty safety record. A tour helicopter crashed in Hawaii in mid-February.

The Wall Street Journal
Feb. 28, 2016 4:28 p.m. ET

The global helicopter industry is striving to improve its spotty safety record, largely by embracing equipment and techniques major airlines have relied on since the 1990s to achieve today’s record-low accident rates.

From voluntary incident reporting to greater reliance on advanced simulators, to an increased focus on pinpointing potential hazards by downloading information from flight-data recorders, the chopper world is turning to tried-and-true safety enhancements.

But widespread adoption of such methods is proving elusive, partly due to the complications of an array of large and small operators engaged in vastly different types of flying.

“We’ve taken a broad approach to reducing accident rates, rather than a very targeted approach at specific industry segments,” said to Lindsay Cunningham, head of flight safety for the U.S. helicopter unit of Airbus Group SE. But now, that is one of the strategies in the process of changing.

For starters, rotorcraft accident-prevention experts are determined to collect more accurate data on the total number of hours flown by nonmilitary choppers in various countries. Without such up-to-date statistics, industry leaders have been frustrated in accurately tracking annual changes in global, or even regional, accident rates.

In addition to gains in the U.S., the latest numbers show some improvements in Canada, Brazil and other countries, according to industry officials. “But the focus is now on the regulatory agencies” to provide accurate data everywhere, said Matthew Zuccaro, chief executive of the industry’s largest international trade association.

Another emerging trend is proactive use of flight-data recorders to dissect dangerous incidents and identify safety hazards. While many new choppers are equipped with the necessary equipment—and easily can obtain software to analyze downloaded information—only a minority of operators are aggressively using those tools.

“Most customers simply don’t do that,” Ms. Cunningham said in an interview last week. At this point, she added, even the majority of law-enforcement agencies use such systems “in a very reactive manner, if at all.”

Mechanical malfunctions are the primary culprit in only about 5% of serious helicopter accidents, according to safety experts. At the same time, the industry continues to rank accidents during training flights as one of the top two categories of all crashes.

Moreover, there is still considerable ambivalence among operators about increasing the use of the most expensive ground-based simulators.

Above all, however, experts agree the human element is the most important variable in boosting safety.

For years, training programs, videos and industrywide slogans have highlighted the mistaken decisions of some chopper pilots to push ahead even in low visibility and other questionable conditions.

A central training principle is encouraging aviators to be more disciplined and cautious when weather or other factors suddenly change, instead of automatically continuing the trip and “making so many decisions on the fly,” according to Bruce Webb, the Airbus helicopter unit’s chief pilot. The aim is to ensure aviators “get over the bravado and machismo” that frequently leads to crashes, he said in an interview.

Compared with helicopter fleets, airlines have a much longer and more successful track record emphasizing the importance of strict adherence to rules and standard operating procedures.

When it comes to instilling professionalism, chopper pilots have to understand more clearly the dangers of intentional violations, according to David Bjellos, a helicopter pilot who runs a corporate-flight department and is active in industry safety groups. But too often, he said, “we don’t know how to fix that.”

Original article can be found here:

Florence Regional Airport (KFLO) fixed-base operator to pay $77,000 a year to Pee Dee Regional Airport Authority

Several aircraft await repairs on Friday in a maintenance hangar at Florence Regional Airport. This particular aspect of airport operations will be taken over by Precision Air on March 1.

FLORENCE, S.C. – Under the terms of a contract that will take effect Tuesday, the Pee Dee Regional Airport Authority will be paid $77,000 annually for 15 years for use of the general aviation component at Florence Regional Airport.

Leasing the fixed-base operations is Precision Air Inc., which has its principal office in Manning and acts as the fixed-base operator at the Santee Regional Airport under a long-term contract with Clarendon County. Precision Air is also a subsidiary of Tumeq LLC, an Alaskan native company.

Sam Boyle, the chief executive officer of Tumeq LLC, said the general aviation component of the airport is underused.

“And there’s opportunity to grow,” he said. “We want to grow the services and service larger aircraft. It’s a very nice airport with long runways.”

Last fall the authority put out requests for proposals for contracting with a third party to handle fixed-base operations – ground handling, maintenance and fueling – with the idea that an independent entity could be more efficient and better equipped to turn a profit.

The general aviation component of Florence Regional Airport will be controlled by Precision Air on March 1 under a 15-year lease.

One of the stipulations of the contract has Precision Air being responsible for the costs associated with building a new fuel farm within two years, as fuel sales will likely be the primary revenue driver. The airport authority will be responsible for removing the current 40,000-gallon fuel farm and any associated remediation costs.

Boyle said he thinks construction for the new fuel farm will get done “relatively quickly” and he doesn’t foresee that project taking “very long.”

For each gallon of fuel sold, Precision Air will pay .06 cents under the fuel flowage fee; after a five-year period, that fee can be renegotiated based on market conditions, the contract shows. Precision Air will also pay 3 percent of all gross revenues, fees and charges derived from the provision of aircraft airframe and engine maintenance and repair as well as line (ground) services, whether provided by Precision Air or subcontracted.

Leased premises include six aircraft shade hangars, 22 small T-hangars and eight large T-hangars. For aircraft storage, maintenance, servicing and fueling facilities, Precision Air will be in charge of a 12,000-square-foot maintenance hangar; a 2,500-square-foot terminal area; the 40,000-gallon fuel farm; a 60,000-square-foot transient aircraft parking apron; an 8,000-square-foot aircraft hangar and a 7,200-square-foot hangar with adjoining office building. An additional 8,000-square-foot storage/maintenance hangar and use of the adjacent parking apron are included.

Basic services Precision Air is expected to provide for 16 hours a day and seven days a week include aircraft marshaling, ramp parking, baggage handling, tie-down services and equipment, nitrogen services for tires, catering services, mobile ground power assistance, aircraft lavatory and cabin cleaning services, aviation grade in-flight oxygen refills, passenger and crew customer service assistance and support to include rental car and ground transportation service and aircraft storage.

Under the contract Precision Air has the option to provide, via a third party, flight training and ground school, aircraft rental and chartering, and the sale of aircraft and avionics parts and accessories.

“It’s all up in the air” as to what services may be provided or facilitated, Boyle said. “We’re still trying to figure out the best way to implement those things and we kind of want to take it one step at a time.”

The general aviation component of Florence Regional Airport will be controlled by Precision Air at the beginning of next month under a 15-year lease with Precision Air.

After five years, the rent will increase by 3 percent; another 3 percent increase will take effect in 2026.

Glen Greene, chairman of the airport authority, said Friday that the 15-year term was at least partly driven by the authority but was the best one available for potential lessees as seen during the request-for-proposals period. There’s no timetable or discussion as of yet about how much or how long it will take to remove the fuel farm, but he’s open to pursuing grants to offset costs.

“We’ll have to put it out for bid,” he said. “I don’t anticipate any problems there.”

While the fixed-base operator will operate independently, it’s still part of the airport, he said.

“We need to be good business partners and they need to be good business partners,” he said. “We anticipate it being a beneficial relationship.”

Boyle, for his part, is optimistic about the potential of the fixed-base operations at Florence Regional Airport.

“We certainly want to see economic growth across the board,” he said.

Original article can be found here:

Cessna 182K Skylane, N2861R: Accident occurred February 28, 2016 near Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV), Alachua County, Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA16LA114 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, February 28, 2016 in Gainesville, FL
Aircraft: CESSNA 182, registration: N2861R
Injuries: 2 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 February 28, 2016, about 1200 eastern standard time, a Cessna 182K, N2816R, experienced a total loss of engine power and performed a forced landing to a road near Gainesville, Florida. The commercial pilot and passenger incurred minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight, which originated at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), Fort Lauderdale, Florida, around 1000. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot. The cross country flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 and had an intended destination of Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV), Gainesville, Florida.

According to the pilot, he performed a preflight inspection and engine run up with no anomalies noted. The takeoff, climb, and beginning of the descent phase of flight were "uneventful." The pilot was cleared to land on runway 7 when the engine began to run "rough." He unsuccessfully attempted to alleviate the rough engine noise by enriching the mixture and then reducing the power. The engine began shaking, oil sprayed onto the windshield of the airplane, and then the engine lost total power. The pilot declared an emergency, and elected to land on a road. After touching down on the paved surface, the left wing of the airplane impacted a palm tree and the airplane came to rest on the road.

A postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the wings and fuselage were substantially damaged. In addition, the engine cowling was removed to facilitate an engine examination, and a hole was noted in the top of the crankcase in the vicinity of the No. 4 cylinder. In addition, the No. 4 cylinder connecting rod was located on the top of the engine. The engine was retained for further examination.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the airplane was manufactured in 1967, and registered to the pilot/owner in 2014. In addition, the airplane was equipped with a Continental Motors IO-550 D series, 300 hp engine. According to the pilot, the engine had accumulated 2,135 total hours of time, and had approximately 130 hours since the most recent annual inspection, which was signed off on November 3, 2015.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Orlando FSDO-15

A pilot and passenger were injured when their private single-engine plane crashed while attempting an emergency landing on a Gainesville road Sunday afternoon.

The victims were taken in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries to the hospital after the small Cessna crashed about noon in the 1900 block of Northeast Waldo Road. The pilot, who’d reported a fire in the cockpit, was able to avoid hitting any people or cars on the ground. However, the plane struck a tree in the road’s median, according to Gainesville Fire Rescue.

Firefighters quickly put out the fire. But the road remained closed from 16th Avenue through 23rd Avenue for several hours as investigators examined the scene before the plane could be removed, Gainesville police said.

Authorities didn’t release the victims’ names.

However, the four-seat aircraft – built in 1967 – is owned by a Scottsdale, Az. private pilot, according to the Federal Aviation Administration Registry. That pilot couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday evening.

The aircraft had taken off from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport at 10:15 a.m. Sunday en route to Gainesville Regional Airport. The crash site is just south of the Gainesville airport. On Saturday, the plane was flown Stella Maris, Bahamas to the Fort Lauderdale Airport, according to, an online flight tracking website.


GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Shortly after noon Sunday a small plane crash landed on Waldo Road according to the Gainesville Police Department.

Police tell News4Jax the pilot reported a fire in the cockpit. The pilot and a passenger were transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The plane, a single-engine Cessna that federal records show is owned by a man in Scottsdale, Ariz., went down just south of Gainesville Regional Airport. 

According to, the plane left Fort Lauderdale Executive airport at 10:15 a.m. Sunday. 

Records show the plane left  Stella Maris, Bahamas on Saturday.  NE Waldo Road is closed between 16th Avenue and 23rd.

Story and video:      

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A small plane crashed in Gainesville after reporting a fire in the cockpit Sunday afternoon, authorities said. 

Two people were injured in the crash and transported to a local hospital, according to the Gainesville Police Department.

The crash occurred shortly after noon on the 1900 block of NE Waldo Road.

Authorities said they believed Waldo would be closed down from 16th Avenue to 23rd Street for some time.

Original article can be found here:

Aboard the gilded ‘Trump Force One,’ every seat is first-class

A member of the uniformed Secret Service stands in front of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plane as he prepares to depart after speaking at a rally at Millington Regional Airport in Millington, Tennessee, on Saturday, February 27, 2016.

Washington Post

BENTONVILLE, ARK. --   As a few thousand people waited for Donald Trump to arrive for a campaign rally in an airplane hangar in northwest Arkansas on Saturday afternoon, the theme song from the 1997 movie “Air Force One” began to play.

In the cloudless blue sky, the billionaire businessman’s jet appeared. It swooped past the hangar and disappeared as hundreds of phones recorded the spectacle.

“Oh my God, there it is – wow!” a middle-aged woman said, as she recorded a video she would later post on Facebook. A 66-year-old retiree wearing a camouflage-style campaign hat burst into tears at the sight and declared the plane “more impressive than Air Force One.” Two women wondered what Trump was saying onboard and if he even knew which state he was in on his whirlwind tour. “Here we go,” a dad said to his young son, who was sitting atop his shoulders. A young couple debated whether the lettering spelling “TRUMP” was gold leaf or just paint.

Given that personal wealth has dogged so many presidential candidates eager to connect with voters, a personal Boeing 757 jet is the sort of thing many politicians would hide as soon as they launched a White House bid - or would never own in the first place.

What does Trump do? He flaunts his immense wealth and rolls up in “Trump Force One” at campaign rallies at small airports in eastern Iowa, the Phoenix suburbs and remote Arkansas. In a campaign so dominated by the businessman’s personality and featuring few supporting characters, Trump’s jet has quietly taken an outsize role.

The plane is Trump’s gold-plated flying office and home, allowing him to commute from New York to early-voting states while his rivals have to travel in recreational vehicles, on commercial flights or, if they can afford it, chartered planes. It’s his traveling reception hall, a luxurious place where he invites reporters for impromptu news conferences, potential endorsers he’s trying to woo and, on a whim, Iowa children who wanted to explore.

The plane is opulent and over-the-top - and very, well, very Trump. It symbolizes his campaign promise to make the country rich again.

Early in life, the plane was far less richly appointed, joining the fleet of a low-cost Danish airline company in 1991. Three years later, it briefly moved to a company based in Mexico City, but soon after it was purchased by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The two spent more than 15 years together - until 2011, when Trump took possession and spent heavily on lavish renovations that are documented in a 3 1/2-minute video posted on You Tube.

“Hi, I’m Amanda Miller, and I’m standing inside Mr. Trump’s luxurious, new 757,” said Trump’s receptionist, who was made famous by his reality game show, “The Apprentice.” “I’m here to give you an inside look at traveling Trump style.”

The plane can accommodate 43 passengers, fly for 16 hours and can go more than 500 miles per hour, thanks to Rolls-Royce engines. Onboard: a wood-paneled galley, “first-class sleeper area” with oversize light-colored leather seats, dining area, main lounge with a 57-inch television screen and “sound system of a top Hollywood screening room,” VIP area, guest bedroom with a full-size bed and “Mr. Trump’s bedroom,” which is decorated with “yards and yards of gold silk.”

“You’ll notice the seat belts, as well as everything else, are 24-carat gold plated,” Miller says, as the camera zooms in for a look. The Trump family crest is also featured throughout the plane.

As Trump Force One landed Saturday in Arkansas and rolled up to the hangar, Brenda Cowden shook her head and said: “Look at that. Look at it.”

Cowden first saw the plane in the sky a couple of months ago in Dallas. She was visiting, and he was in town for a rally.

“I was on the freeway, so I pulled over and shot a photo of the plane as it went over,” said Cowden, a retiree who lives in Greenwood, Ark., and plans to vote for Trump on Super Tuesday because she said he will improve the quality of life for veterans like her husband. “I trust him.”

The door of the plane opened. Trump appeared, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed Trump on Friday and, therefore, was allowed to travel with the Republican front-runner for a day - the same honor bestowed upon former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. last month ahead of the Iowa caucuses. (Falwell marveled that Trump served Wendy’s burgers on board.)

The two men waved, descended a staircase and spoke to the crowd for more than an hour. Few could see either man on the stage, but most could see the plane - black and white with a bold red stripe and a windswept “T” on the tail.

“It’s the only thing I could see,” said Jordan Baker, 27, of Rogers, Ark., who posed for a photo with the jet after the rally rather than trying to elbow her way through the crowd for the chance to shake Trump’s hand.

Trump will often speak at length about his beloved jet, especially when it’s standing behind him, like a silently supportive life partner. He says it’s one of his only campaign expenses - unlike his rivals who have spent tens of millions of dollars on television ads, internal polling, fundraising and consultants. Trump’s campaign reimburses his airline company, TAG Air, for use of the plane. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission in 2015 show that the campaign paid TAG Air $2 million last year and another $537,436 in January.

“Do you like the plane?” Trump said to cheers. “Made in the United States. Boeing. Made in the United States.”

The plane lingered on the runway for more than four hours. Long after the rally ended, Trump reboarded and invited a few local reporters onboard - warning them to not scratch his expensive woodwork. Late in the afternoon, the plane rolled away, headed to a rally at a hangar in Tennessee.

Story, video and photo gallery:

Aircraft accidents add to woes

Passengers board a Twin Otter plane operated by state-run Nepal Airlines on an unpaved airstrip at Suketar in Taplejung district in northeastern Nepal.

KATHMANDU -- Just as the bodies of those killed in an air crash in Nepal two days earlier were being recovered, another plane crashed last week in a mountain village.

The two crashes left 25 people dead, raised safety concerns and have dealt a new blow to Nepal's tourism sector just recovering from several powerful earthquakes last year.  

On Feb. 24, a Tara Air Twin Otter carrying 20 passengers and three crew members crashed into a hill in central Nepal, killing all on board.

On Feb. 26, a single engine 9N-AJB plane operated by Kashthmandap Air, one of Nepal's dozen private airlines, crash landed in a field of a remote village in the northwest, killing the pilot and co-pilot. The nine passengers of the chartered flight survived with minor injuries. Initial reports suggest the pilots made an emergency landing after the crew discovered a technical fault.

In largely mountainous Nepal, private airlines serve as lifelines to isolated, rural communities. They also cater to tourists attracted by the country's snow-capped mountains and rugged terrain.

But following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake last April, the number of tourists has dropped. Around 800,000 tourists arrived by air in 2014, but last year the number fell to 300,000. The government estimated that earthquake damage to tourism infrastructure, including hotels, trekking trails and heritage sites, amounted to 43 billion Nepali rupees ($391 million).

"Most places that tourists visit are in the remote areas of our country, so small planes cater to those places. But with one after another crash, it is going to hit us hard," said Raj Gyawali, a tour operator in Kathmandu.  

"While the impact of the earthquake was huge and devastating, the air crashes have different sort of implications. We often blame our topography for plane accidents, but if you want to operate airlines here, you have to do so within the parameters," Gyawali added.

A newly built unpaved road in the mountainous district of Taplejung in northeastern Nepal. Although the country has expanded its road network in recent years, small planes serve as lifelines to the remote and isolated communities.

Poor safety record

Nepal has a poor record on aviation safety. On average, one accident has occurred every year since the arrival of air services in 1960.

A series of fatal accidents occurred in the country's earthquake-ravaged northeast regions last year. In May, 13 people, including six U.S. marines, were killed when a U.S. Army Huey helicopter delivering aid crashed into a mountain in Dolakha district. Two weeks later, a helicopter returning from another aid mission crashed in central Nepal, killing all four people on board.

In December 2013, the European Union blacklisted Nepal's airlines, citing lack of safety standards. The EU's decision came a year after 19 people, including seven Britons and four Chinese, were killed in a crash minutes after the plane took off from the airport in Kathmandu.

Despite official assurances that the country's airlines have raised safety standards, the EU is yet to lift the ban, which prohibits Nepal's airlines flying into EU member countries, although none of the Nepali carriers fly into the region.

Meanwhile, Nepal has imposed a moratorium on flights by airlines of single engine planes after the latest air crash.

Dorji Tsering Sherpa, a tourism entrepreneur and former executive director of Kashthamandap Air, defended the use of the New Zealand-made aircraft involved in the crash.  

"This is the best aircraft for our terrain because it can land even in rough places and is cheaper than Twin Otter. We must be grateful to the two pilots who saved passenger lives by sacrificing their own," Sherpa told the Nikkei Asian Review. He added the crew members had taken the right decision to make a forced landing.

"It's unfortunate that our government is restricting operators from flying this plane. Will the government also ban all Twin Otter planes since one of them crashed [recently]?" he asked.

Trekking is one of the major attractions in Nepal, where tourism is among the few foreign currency earners.

Major setback

Sherpa said the latest crashes were "the final nail in the coffin" of the tourism industry, and added that the sector would suffer further losses.

"These multiple crashes mean the insurance premium for Nepal's airlines will skyrocket. I am not sure how our operators will be able to run airlines in such a tough market."  

Gyawali worried that the rise in accidents would not only discourage tourists from visiting Nepal, but also reduce access to regions they want to visit.

"This will lead to a decrease in flights to places which are beautiful, but remote. How am I going to book my clients if there are no flights? There's a lack of understanding on the close link between domestic airlines and the tourism business," he said.

The tourism sector contributes 7% to the country's gross domestic product, but the industry has suffered from several crises in recent years.

For three consecutive years, climbing expeditions on Mount Everest have been cancelled. In 2013, a brawl between Sherpa climbers and three European alpinists led to the cancellation of the season. In 2014, an avalanche above the mountain's base camp, which killed 16 Nepali climbing guides, prompted calls for reform and led to the suspension of operations. Last year, an earthquake-triggered avalanche left 17 climbers dead on Everest, one of the worst disasters in its history.

The tens of thousands who go trekking in the country's two most popular routes -- the Everest trek and Annapurna Circuit -- begin their journey after flying to the nearest airport.

Sherpa said there is little chance of reform in the aviation sector, which is mired in corruption and lacks skilled personnel. "Civil aviation is one of the most corrupt industries in Nepal. When I was running the airlines, I had to bribe government officials to operate it. The officials of regulatory body are hand in gloves with private operators. They don't have sufficient human resources. The industry is in a mess. It's a daunting task to reform it so that it can perform well," he said.

Original article can be found here:

Cirrus SR-20, Air Akhtar Heating & Air Conditioning LLC, N477TC: Fatal accident occurred February 28, 2016 near Navasota Municipal Airport (60R), Grimes County, Texas


NTSB Identification: CEN16FA111
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, February 28, 2016 in Navasota, TX
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR20, registration: N477TC
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On February 28, 2016, about 0850 central standard time, a Cirrus SR-20, N477TC, collided with the terrain following a loss of control in Navasota, Texas. The airline transport rated pilot/certificated flight instructor and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to Air Akhtar Heating & Air Conditioning LLC and was operated by an individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from the David Wayne Hook Airport (DWH), Spring, Texas, at 0817.

The last air traffic control contact with the airplane was at 0821, shortly after its departure from DWH. A still photo from a security camera at the Navasota Municipal Airport (60R), an uncontrolled airport, showed the airplane heading north on the taxiway at 0847. A pilot, who was practicing touch and go landings at 60R, reported seeing the wreckage southeast of the airport around 0900. He subsequently reported the accident to local authorities. This pilot stated he did not hear or see the accident airplane in the area prior to seeing the wreckage, but that he had been in the area only long enough to have performed two touch and go landings. Runway 17 was being used for takeoffs and landings at 60R at the time of the accident.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Houston FSDO-09

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

GRIMES COUNTY, TX (KTRK) -- A Houston mother and father are grieving over the loss of their children who died yesterday in a plane crash in Grimes County.

Jessicka, 11, and seven-year-old Erika Argueta were among the four killed when the plane went down near the Navasota Municipal Airport. They were flying with their mother's boyfriend, 40-year-old Amjad Sultan. He was taking flying lessons and hoping to become a pilot, according to his family. Also killed in the crash was the instructor, 67-year-old Russell Reina.

Investigators say the wreckage was only located by another pilot who spotted it and called it in to authorities.

Christina Argueta, who speaks only Spanish, told Eyewitness News in an exclusive interview that she had just been flying with Sultan on Saturday. During that flight she took her two youngest girls, age three and four. There wasn't enough room to fit the older children during that trip. They flew Sunday. Argueta says her girls loved Sultan like a second father.

Morris Ayala is the biological father of the girls and says he never would have let them fly with an inexperienced pilot. He and Argueta are separated. He didn't find out about the death of his children till he came to Argueta's apartment to pick them up Sunday afternoon.

The NTSB is still investigating. So far authorities can't say what caused the crash.

Story and video:

Amjad Sultan, Student Pilot and Aircraft Owner

NAVASOTA, TX (KTRK) -- FAA and NTSB officials continue to investigate a plane crash near Navasota Municipal Airport that killed four people.

There were difficult steps for Jeff Akhtar to take just before sunset Sunday. He was about to take his first look at the plane wreckage where his younger brother, Amjad Sultan, lost his life.

"He was the American dream," Akhtar said of his brother.

Sultan, 40, was a successful businessman who lived the American dream after moving from Pakistan 30 years ago. Yet there was still a goal the father of four longed to accomplish like his brother had, learning to fly.

"I want to fly the plane before I die so last month he bought it and this month he died," Akhtar said his brother told him.

He says his brother was learning to fly his own plane and was with his flight instructor Sunday morning. He'd been training about two months. His girlfriend's two young daughters were along for the ride when the plane crashed. Investigators say there was no call for help to give them any clues as to what might have happened.

Another pilot and student team spotted the wreckage near the Navasota Municipal Airport a couple of hours after they took off from Hooks airport near Spring.

"No citizens saw it that we know of," Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said. "Thank goodness there's no homes in the area, it's a rural area, not a habituated area."

Akhtar says his brother was always helping others from people who couldn't afford air conditioning to those who didn't have money to fly back to Pakistan to visit family. But whatever went wrong happened so quickly, there was no time for him to call for help.

"It's an accident, nobody's fault. I hold nobody responsible for that, not even him. That's why we pray," Akhtar said.

Investigators will be at the Grimes County scene this week to try and find the cause of the crash.

Story and video:

Two men and two young siblings from the Houston area were killed when their single-engine plane crashed Sunday near the Navasota Muncipal Airport, prompting a federal investigation by the NTSB and FAA.

The pilot was teaching the plane’s owner how to fly, but it wasn’t known who had control of the Cirrus SR-20 when it went down in a partially-wooded area roughly half of a mile south of the landing strip.

Russell Reina, a 67-year-old Montgomery resident, was instructing 53-year-old Houston businessman Amjad Sultan, who was working on  his pilot’s license. He brought with him his girlfriend’s daughters — Erika Ayala Argueta, 7, and her older sister, Jessika Delmira, 11.

Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said the plane, which had four seats, took off from David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport in Spring at about 8:20 a.m.The wreckage was spotted by another pilot and his student, based out of Easterwood Airport in College Station, as the pair prepared to practice landing at the Navasota strip at about 9 a.m., Sowell said, adding that it wasn’t known exactly when the plane crashed not far from Texas 105.

“There was no mayday or anything like that,” Sowell said, adding that there’s not a traffic control tower at the Navasota airport. “It’s unknown right now if they were trying to land or there was a mechanical issue. It was a fairly new plane and there was an open field right near the airport. No homes, no businesses.”

The National Transportation Safety Board investigators are expected to arrive from Chicago on Monday, while officials with the Federal Aviation Administration were at the site Sunday afternoon. Emergency crews with the sheriff’s department and the Department of Public Safety used ATV’s to reach the scene, which was pinpointed by a pilot with an air ambulance helicopter from CHI St. Joseph. All four were pronounced dead at the site, Sowell said.  Roughly 20 to 30 members of Sultan’s family came to the Navasota airport to be near where their loved ones died.

“It’s a very sad, sad situation,” Sowell said. “It’s horrible enough that four people were killed, but those two young children ... that’s not supposed to happen.”

Original article can be found here:

Addressing the media 
Jimmy Morgan, left, who serves as public information officer for the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, and Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell address the media late Sunday afternoon after a Cirrus SR-20 crashed 1 ½ miles southeast of Navasota Municipal Airport Sunday morning killing all four passengers.

Discussing the facts 
Jimmy Morgan, front, who serves as public information officer for the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, and Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell address the media Sunday afternoon.

Cirrus SR-20 crash scene 
A Federal Aviation Administration investigator, left, looks over the crash scene located 1 ½ miles southeast of Navasota Municipal Airport Sunday afternoon. A Sunday morning crash of a Cirrus SR-20 claimed the lives of four individuals.

NAVASOTA, Texas 11:20 p.m. UPDATE: The Grimes County Sheriff's Office released the names of the four people killed, ranging from 7 to 67 years old:

Russell Reina, 67, Montgomery
Amjad Sultan, 53, Houston
Jessicka Argueta, 11
Erika Ayala Argueta, 7

4:25 p.m. UPDATE: The FAA has confirmed it was a single-engine Cirrus SR-20 plane which was discovered about 9:20 a.m. a half-mile southeast of Navasota Municipal Airport Sunday morning.

The wreckage was originally spotted by another plane flying in the traffic pattern at the Navasota airport.

The plane originally departed from David Wayne Hooks Airport in Houston at 8:17 a.m. local time.

The tail number of the plane is N477TC and it was registered to Air Akhtar Heating & Air Conditioning LLC in Houston.


Four people are dead after a plane crash near the Navasota Municipal Airport, according to law enforcement.

Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell told News 3 the four-seater aircraft is about a mile south of the airport in a wooded area. Two adults and two children are the victims.

In clarifying a timeframe for the crash, Sowell says the crashed plane was spotted shortly before 10:00 a.m. Sunday, but it is unclear when it went down, and that it's possible it crashed late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

ATVs are being used to get to the crash site. Sowell says a CHI helicopter assisted in locating the aircraft. Numerous agencies are working together at the scene, including the Grimes County Sheriff's Office and DPS. The FAA arrived on scene Sunday afternoon as well.

As of 11:30 a.m., crews were working to remove the bodies from the aircraft.

Navasota's airport is located off Highway 105 on the west side of the city.

No other information on the crash has been made available at this time.

According to KBTX's Pinpoint Forecast Team, in the late night and early morning hours, winds were sustained around 15 miles per hour, gusting to 20-25 from the south.

Original article can be found here:

Data shows the Cirrus-modeled planes have a long history of crashes, dating back to 2001, with more than 280 recorded crashes. Since then, more than 200 people have died in accidents involving a single engine Cirrus model plane worldwide, including 158 in the US. The map shows the location of each accident, based of Federal Aviation Administration data.

Four people, including two children, were killed in a plane crash near the Navasota Municipal Airport on Sunday morning, Grimes County Sheriff Donald Sowell confirmed. 

The crash involved a  Cirrus SR-20, a small aircraft seating four people, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Lynn Lunsford. The plane was discovered at around 9:20 a.m. by a pilot flying near the Navasota airport, who spotted the wreckage in a partly wooded area about a half-mile southeast of the airport's runway, Lunsford said.

All four passengers were confirmed dead, Sowell said, and their identities have not been released. 

According to the FAA's registry, the plane is registered to Air Akhtar, a Houston heating and air conditioning company. Navasota is about a half-hour southeast of College Station.

The cause of the accident is still undetermined pending an investigation, but data obtained from the FAA shows the Cirrus-model planes have a long history of fatal crashes, dating back to 2001, with more than 280 recorded crashes.

Since then, more than 200 people have died in accidents involving a single engine Cirrus-model plane worldwide, including 158 deaths in the US. According to the data, Cirrus-modeled planes has the sixth most accidents among single engine planes within the last 10 years. 

 The plane departed from David Wayne Hooks Airport in Houston at 8:17 a.m before crashing nearly an hour later in a wooded field just off a winding asphalt road that leads to a quiet open field.

The stillness is only interrupted by gusts of wind and zooming single-engine planes soaring from a barely visible runway over the open pastures and above a gate that leads to marshy golf course.

Past the gate and off what starts as a gravel path far off from the runway are the remains of the destroyed plane, hidden behind the trees and barricaded by yellow tape. 

Not much can be seen except the tip of the tail, and depending on the angle, a little of the plane's fuselage.

Read more here:

Two adult males and two female children died in a Sunday morning plane crash nearly 1 ½ miles southeast of Navasota Municipal Airport in a partially wooded area in a pasture on ranch land, according to Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell.

The single-engine Cirrus SR-20 plane is registered to Air Akhtar Heating & Air Conditioning LLC in Houston. The crash scene was discovered by a plane attempting to land at Navasota Municipal Airport, according to Jimmy Morgan, who serves as public information officer for the Texas Dept. of Public Safety.

“At approximately 9:19 a.m. (Sunday) morning, we had a pilot flying over the airport at the municipal airport here in Navasota who spotted an airplane down in a pasture,” Morgan said. “They reported the airplane to Easterwood Airport somewhere around 9:53 a.m. The sheriff’s department did locate an aircraft downed and found the four deceased occupants of the airplane.”

The names of the four who died in the crash are being held until the next-of-kin are notified. The bodies of the deceased were removed Sunday morning by Grant Holt and taken to Nobles Funeral Chapel, according to Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell. He also said Justice of the Peace John LeFlore was on the scene.

According to Morgan, the last contact the plane had with air traffic controllers was shortly after takeoff from David Wayne Hooks Airport.

“We understand they left Hooks Airport out of Spring, Texas somewhere around 8:17 a.m. (Sunday) morning,” Morgan said. “The last contact they had with the plane was somewhere around 8:21 a.m. (Sunday) morning.”

Sheriff Sowell said his department was notified of the downed plane “a little after 9 o’clock.”

According to Sheriff Sowell, Federal Aviation Administration investigators are working to determine the plane’s flight path and its where it was traveling to at the time of the crash.

FAA investigators arrived on scene around 2:30 p.m. Sunday and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are scheduled to arrive in Navasota on Monday, according to Sowell.

“(Monday) morning, the NTSB investigators will be here,” Sheriff Sowell said. “They are flying here from Chicago. We will be sitting on the scene all night. When (the NTSB investigators) arrive they will be conducting their investigation.”

Sheriff Sowell said “nobody saw the plane crash” and “nobody had any reports” of the crash until it was discovered by the plane attempting to land at the airport.

According to Sheriff Sowell, the crashed plane had a 30-minute flight to Navasota.

“We don’t know what their flight plan was,” Sheriff Sowell said. “That is being investigated by the FAA. No citizens saw it that we know of. It is in a rural area, and that is the good thing that it was not in an inhabited area.”

Sheriff Sowell described the crash as a “hard crash-landing” and “there is lot of debris.” The veteran law enforcement official said the cause “could be one thing or 20.”

“The only eyewitnesses we have would be after-the-fact being a pilot and he had a student pilot with him,” Sheriff Sowell said. “They were fixing to land at the Navasota airport. I assume they were doing recon and were trying to land and saw the wreckage. They reported it to the airport in College Station and we tracked it down from there.”

Morgan said “there were no reports of any plane having problems” and his department was not “aware of” if the plane made any call for help.

Original article can be found here:

NAVASOTA, Texas - Two adults and two children were killed in a plane crash near Navasota Municipal Airport, according to the Grimes County Sheriff's Office. The children's ages are from 5 years old to 12 years old.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the single-engine Cirrus SR-20 aircraft was spotted in the trees around 9:20 a.m. Sunday by the pilot of another aircraft. The pilot called authorities.

Investigators say it appears it was a hard landing in a wooded area about half a mile from the airport's landing strip.

Family members said one of the victims was Amad Sultan, 40.

“He started screaming and yelling that, 'Before I die, I want to buy a plane and I want to fly the plane before I die,'” said Sultan's brother Jeff Akhtar. “Last month, he bought it. This month he died.”

Akhtar said Sultan was learning to fly when his Cirrus SR-20 crashed. Sultan, his girlfriend's two daughters and a flying instructor died.

“It's just an accident. I hope nobody else is held responsible but him,” said Akhtar.

Another pilot spotted the wreckage in a wooded area about a half a mile from the runway and called for help.

“The only eye witnesses we have would be after the fact. He had a student pilot with him and they were to land at the Navasota airport,” said Grimes County Sheriff Donald Sowell.

A father of four, Sultan was born in Pakistan, but lived in the United States for 30 years. His brother said he worked hard, owning several businesses and helped others.

“He was the American dream,” said Akhtar. “We lost him, but we also lost somebody who probably had children, as well. Tragedy for our country. Tragedy for people in the community. It's so sad. I wish we could've done something about it.”

The FAA said the aircraft originally departed from David Wayne Hooks Airport in Houston at 8:17 a.m., but are not sure when the airplane crashed.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

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