Friday, May 27, 2016

$4.3M center aims to draw international flights: Austin Straubel International Airport (KGRB), Green Bay, Wisconsin

Kathryn's Report:

ASHWAUBENON - Local, state and federal officials said Friday’s opening of a $4.3 million international arrivals terminal at Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport will boost the airport’s long-term economic impact.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility gives agents a dedicated location for processing charter flight passengers and international travelers for whom Austin Straubel Airport serves as the initial point of entry into the country. Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said local officials spent five years lobbying federal agencies to fund the project.

“We really do truly appreciate the significant efforts that came forward to make this project a success,” Streckenbach said.

Customs officers now occupy the former airport fire station building following extensive upgrades to the building, parking lot and tarmac. About $3 million of the project cost was funded by the federal government. The remaining $1.3 million came from the state and county.

Airport Director Tom Miller said Customs officers previously worked in the airport’s terminal building, where it was difficult to process charter flights that account for much of the airport’s international travel.

“It didn’t provide them the security or space they needed to operate efficiently,” Miller said.

International flights into Austin Straubel are primarily private and corporate aircraft. Officials are optimistic the new facility will help expand international traffic.

He said the new building will enable more secure operations and more capacity to handle international operations whether it be Canadian pilots flying into the country for EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh or the Green Bay Packers’ return from a game in England.

“Customs has already agreed that if the Packers play a game in England, they could return straight here rather than have to stop at another entry point,” Miller said.

Now that the facility is built, local officials will continue to push for federal funding to hire five more Customs officers at the airport. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she’s introduced legislation to fund the positions.

“One challenge facing Austin Straubel Airport is the need for additional Customs and Border Protection officers to meet the growing customs demand and help expand international service,” Baldwin said.

Original article can be found here:

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, PT-17 Inc., N1345B: Fatal accident occurred May 27, 2016 in New York, New York

Kathryn's Report:

PT-17 INC: 

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Teterboro FSDO-25

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 27, 2016 in New York, NY
Aircraft: REPUBLIC P 47D, registration: N1345B
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On May 27, 2016, about 1930 eastern daylight time, a Republic P-47D, N1345B, ditched in the Hudson River following a reported loss of engine power. The commercial pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was substantially damaged. The experimental, exhibition-category airplane was registered to a corporation and was operated by the American Airpower Museum under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an aerial observation flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The local flight originated from Republic Airport (FRG), Farmingdale, New York, about 1900.

The accident aircraft was part of a three-ship formation and the pilot was participating in a photo shoot. During the flight, the pilot made a distress call to Newark air traffic control tower and subsequently ditched the airplane in the Hudson River, south of the George Washington Bridge.

The airplane impacted the water and sank. Attempts by first responders to rescue the pilot were unsuccessful. The wreckage was recovered from the river the following day and was transported to the West 30th Street Heliport, New York, New York. An initial examination of the wreckage revealed that the airframe was generally intact. The engine remained attached to the airframe. A cursory examination of the engine revealed that the number 18 cylinder on the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 radial engine was damaged, consistent with an in-flight occurrence. Oil was present on the exterior of the engine. 

The airframe and engine were retained for further examination.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land, airplane single engine sea, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane ratings. He also held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate. The pilot held a FAA second class medical certificate and reported 6,400 total hours of flying experience on his medical certificate application that was dated August 5, 2015.

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

Air show pilots performed an aerial salute (pictured) on Saturday to their comrade Bill Gordon.
Bill Gordon

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)– People paid tribute to the beloved and respected pilot who was behind the controls in the moment a World War II fighter jet slammed into the Hudson River Friday evening.

Jones Beach air show viewers remembered pilot Bill Gordon at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale on Saturday, CBS2’s Raegan Medgie reported.

The air shows is usually the kick-off to Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start to summer. However, after yesterday’s tragic death of Gordon, part of the show honored the warbird pilot by keeping a spot empty in the sky.

Among the intricate routines that decorate the sky during the show was a missing man formation to honor one of its own. Those who saw the show called it beautiful and moving.

“He lived and breathed aviation,” pilot Scott Klyman, who flew with Gordon, told CBS2.

“Warbirds were always his passion… as it is for all of us here who love doing what we do,” Kylman said.

Gordon was killed yesterday during a photo-shoot over the Hudson River when something went terribly wrong. The 56-year-old was a veteran pilot with over 25 years of experience.

“What we know of Bill, he did everything right. When he realized he was facing a catastrophic situation, he quickly got the aircraft down in the safest place possible away from many structures and population,” Klyman said.

The missing man formation was done for a second and final time over the American Airpower Musuem where Gordon stored his P-47 Thunderbolt and P-40 Warhawk.

Arnold Wadley is a private pilot and familiar with Gordon’s flying, calling it “pretty moving” and saying “he does a good show that makes you think about the sacrifices veterans made to keep our country free.”

As the missing man formation left a hole in the sky for the experienced aviator, it also left a hole in the aviation community.

“We are proud to have called him one of our own,” Klyman said. “This loss is crushing to all of us here and many outside New York area. We’re going to miss him so much.”

Gordon’s team did not perform today. They’re expected to be part of the air show on Sunday.

Story and video:

The former chief pilot and chief mechanic at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook was found dead Friday after the vintage World War II plane he was flying crashed into the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey.

The NYPD at 7:29 p.m. Friday responded to a plane in distress in the Hudson River, near the 79th St. Boat Basin, a police spokesperson said. Emergency workers found a small, single-seat plane submerged in the water, the plane was secured and rescue divers searching for the pilot found 56-year-old Bill Gordon.

Police divers and Army Corps of Engineers personnel retrieved the wreckage of the plane today. It was loaded on to a barge Saturday and taken to a heliport in lower Manhattan, where investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board can examine it as part of their investigation.

Gordon, whose body was found about three hours after the crash, remained active at the Aerodrome after serving as chief pilot and chief mechanic for years. He had been a resident of Ancramdale, Columbia County, though the NYPD said he lived in Key West, Florida.

An investigation into the crash is ongoing.

“He was a great guy,” said Michael DiGiacomio, a board member and museum president at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

The single-seat P-47 Thunderbolt crashed on a part of the river near where a US Airways commercial jet carrying 155 people splash-landed safely in 2009 in what became known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

As chief pilot at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, which stages air shows and offers plane rides, Gordon was in charge of other pilots and safety, DiGiacomio said. Gordon, who worked as a commercial pilot, was the Aerodrome's primary pilot for rides and participated in air shows.

Gordon's formal affiliation with the Aerodrome ended several years ago, but he continued to volunteer.

"He was an amazing pilot, one of the best in the business," DiGiacomio said.

Gordon was a veteran air show pilot with more than 25 years of experience, according to promotional material for a Key West air show last month. The website for the April 2-3 air show says Gordon was an "aerobatic competency evaluator" who certified performers to perform low-level aerobatics.

"The FAA will determine the reason for the inflight failure but we know this much. Bill was a nationally respected pilot and we were lucky to call him one of our own," Clyman said in a statement.

Police divers today were expected to begin raising the wreckage of the P-47 Thunderbolt, according to the Associated Press. The tragedy occurred during a promotion for the American Airpower Museum, which is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the P-47 this weekend.

Scott Clyman, flight operations pilot for the American Airpower Museum, called Gordon "an extraordinary pilot who understood the powerful message our aircraft represent in telling the story of American courage and valor."

A witness to the crash, Hunter College student Siqi Li, saw smoke spewing from the plane and thought it was doing a trick.

"It made kind of a U-turn, and then there was a stream of smoke coming from it," Li told the Daily News. "It was tilting down toward the water. I thought they were doing some sort of trick. I didn't realize it at first, but it was a plane crash."

The Federal Aviation Administration said the aircraft was among three planes that had departed from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, on Long Island, just east of New York City. The other two aircraft returned to the airport and landed safely.

Museum spokesman Gary Lewi said the plane was kept at the museum and was taking part in an air show at nearby Jones Beach this weekend.

The P47-Thunderbolts were the heaviest single-engine fighter planes used by Allied forces in World War II. They first went into service in 1942, with the 56th Fighter Group based on Long Island.

The one that crashed in the river flew periodically, including to other air shows, Lewi said.

A vintage World War II plane was plucked Saturday from the Hudson River as investigators sought an explanation for the stunning wreck that killed its veteran pilot.

Veteran pilot Bill Gordon couldn’t find another miracle inside his cockpit.

The longtime aviator, killed in the Hudson River wreck of a vintage World War II plane, survived a similar terrifying crash during a 2009 upstate air show, his stepbrother said Saturday.

“He just loved flying,” said sibling Fred Schneeberger, 57, of Ancramdale, N.Y. “He died doing what he loved. There’s no question about it.”

Gordon, 56, who recently relocated to Key West, Fla., was flying solo inside a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter when the plane started spewing smoke Friday night south of the George Washington Bridge.

The craft appeared mostly intact 16 hours later when hoisted nose-first out of the river, and Schneeberger expressed surprise that his lifelong friend Gordon had died.

“If anyone could have landed that on the water short of Chesley Sullenberger, I'm here to tell you it's him,” said Schneeberger, of Ancramdale, N.Y. “I rode with him for years.”

Gordon escaped with his life seven years ago when the engine of a World War I-era biplane stalled in mid-air, sending the aircraft crashing into a swamp near the Old Rhineback Aerodrome.

When rescuers reached the plane, Gordon has already escaped on his own and refused medical attention.

“He was the type of guy, when he got into a crisis, his hair didn’t stand up and he didn’t start screaming,” said Schneeberger.

Gordon, a 25-year cockpit veteran, died in the Hudson River wreck that occurred as a photographer took publicity shots for a Memorial Day weekend air show on Long Island.

The 13th annual Bethpage Air Show went off as scheduled Saturday, with a half-dozen World War II Navy planes flying in a missing man formation to honor their well-respected colleague.

The P-47 Thunderbolt was loaded onto an Army Corps of Engineering boat on the morning after the wreck and moved to a helipad on the southern tip of Manhattan.

Gordon’s body was found inside the plane by NYPD scub divers about three hours after the craft went down.

Schneeberger said Gordon left behind a son, a daughter and three grandchildren. The pilot was well-known and well-respected throughout the aviation industry.

"You ask anybody who worked with him, he was an airplane mechanic, certified, helicopter-rated, jet-rated, instrument-rated,” said Schneeberger. “This wasn't your backwood woodpecker.”


The pilot of a World War II-era plane from a Long Island museum died Friday night when his vintage plane crashed into the Hudson River, officials said.

The pilot, William Gordon, 56, of Key West, Florida, was identified early Saturday by the NYPD.

Officials said Gordon's plane crashed during an attempted emergency landing after its engine failed.

A major search aided by police boats and divers located the single-seat P-47 Thunderbolt fighter in the river near Edgewater, New Jersey, authorities said. The pilot's body was recovered late Friday night, an NYPD spokeswoman said at about 11 p.m.

An earlier erroneous tweet by New Jersey State Police had a male pilot being rescued with minor injuries and taken to a hospital.

The NYPD said the cause of the crash is being investigated by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board.

The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt had been displayed at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, but it departed Friday with another vintage plane and a photo plane for a photo shoot, said museum spokesman Gary Lewi. It was supposed to perform in an air show this weekend, he said.

“Apparently the aircraft suffered an in-flight engine failure and the pilot put it into the Hudson,” Lewi said.

Jeffrey Nager said he and his wife, Carla, were on the terrace of their condo in Edgewater, New Jersey, when they heard a plane sputter, then saw it plummet.

Nager said the pilot attempted to make a controlled landing on the water, about a half-mile from shore,

“I saw an old-time plane essentially going down,” said Nager, a former Great Neck resident. “It was amazing to see. He came very close to the end of our complex. It looked like he was ditching the plane in the river, doing a Sully.”


A vintage WWII fighter plane crashed into the Hudson River Friday night — and the pilot’s body was pulled from the wreckage about three hours later.

The P-47 Thunderbolt suffered a possible mechanical failure at about 7:30 p.m. and went into the river near the Intrepid Museum at West 46th Street, cops said.

“I saw the plane flying really low and I was thinking ‘what is this guy doing?’ ” witness Frank Piazza, 44, told The Post. “Then it bounced two times and then it went straight under — I don’t think he made it.”

Horrified onlookers at the ­Waterside Restaurant in North Bergen, NJ, said the pilot, later identified as 56-year-old Bill Gordon of Key West, Fla., desperately tried to escape.

“He opened the cockpit but he couldn’t get out,” said Johnny Flores, 25. “When he tried to get out it started sinking really fast.”

Witness Joanne Stolfo, of Ridgewood, NJ, said, “It was a very solemn feeling because we knew we were watching someone die.”

Gordon’s body was recovered by NYPD scuba divers at around 11 p.m.

He had been flying in air shows, performing aerobatic maneuvers, for 25 years and was the lead pilot of a team that toured throughout the US and Central America, according to a bio on his webpage.

The one-seater left from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, LI, with another other vintage aircraft and a plane carrying a photographer taking promotional shots for this weekend’s air show at Jones Beach.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that the plane sent a distress call and went down about two miles south of the George Washington Bridge.

The aircraft was owned by the American Airpower Museum at Republic.

A spokesman for the museum, Gary Lewi, said the plane was doing a promotional shoot for this weekend’s air show at Jones Beach.

“It would appear that the aircraft suffered a mechanical problem,” Lewi said. “And [the pilot] elected to put it down in the Hudson.”

The other two other planes returned safely.

New Jersey State Police initially said the pilot was rescued with minor injuries, but later said it was a Good Samaritan swimmer who was trying to help.

Story and photo gallery:

Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX) continues to court commercial flights: ‘One of our highest priorities’

Kathryn's Report:

Commercial travelers can’t fly directly to the Telluride Regional Airport (TEX) — instead they must land in Montrose, Durango or elsewhere and catch a bus or other transportation to the box canyon. 

Airport leaders and other advocates aren’t promising that will change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

“It’s the question I’m asked the most in the community: When are we going to have commercial service in Telluride?” said Jon Dwight, chairman of the Telluride Regional Airport Authority Board. “Commercial flights into Telluride (are) one of our highest priorities.”

That’s easier said than done. 

As airlines have moved away from turbo-prop planes and toward larger jets in the past few years, fewer and fewer companies have the sort of equipment that can fly into Telluride, Dwight said. 

“The airline industry has changed dramatically in the past few years,” Dwight said. “There is very little equipment flying today that can access Telluride.”

To address that issue, the airport and its supporters have been working on upgrading the approaches to accommodate larger planes.  

“At this point, it’s almost impossible to put a timeframe on when this all happens,” Dwight said. “We’re dealing with multiple parties — the Federal Aviation Administration, the airlines — so a lot of it is out of our hands, but we as an airport are putting every resource we can at trying to bring commercial service to the airport.” 

The Colorado Flights Alliance is a consortium of regional governments and businesses that advocates for more flights to the area, particularly at Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ), but it also works to bring commercial service back to TEX. Matt Skinner, Colorado Flights’ chief operating officer, said he’s met with regional commercial airlines, charter carriers and private individuals in recent months to discuss bringing commercial service of some kind to Telluride.

“In the past 18 months, we’ve talked to approximately 15 different potential partners. We’re continuing to search in every corner to find something viable and sustainable for the airport,” Skinner said. 

Both Skinner and Dwight said the first targets for commercial flights from TEX would be to Denver and Phoenix. 

“Most people would like to have some level of scheduled or commercial service into TEX, but the workhorse will continue to be MTJ,” Skinner said. “We have not taken our focus off this one bit, and we will continue to push on this until we exhaust all possibilities.”

Skinner said his organization has had “some very positive conversations” in the past two months, and that they are currently in talks with three different potential partners.

Skinner will give his annual update on the Colorado Flights Alliance’s work to the Telluride Town Council at its Tuesday meeting. Skinner’s update is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., and the meeting is at Rebekah Hall. 

Original article can be found here:

North Jersey lawmaker proposes slots at Atlantic City International Airport (KACY)

Kathryn's Report:

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP A North Jersey lawmakers is hoping that travelers at Atlantic City International Airport will soon be able to try their luck while waiting for their flights.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace, a Democrat from Bergen County, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow slot machines at the Egg Harbor Township airport. The bill was introduced on May 19. No date has been set for a hearing on the proposal before the Assembly’s Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee. The proposal was meet with criticism from officials, including a South Jersey Transportation Authority Board of Commissioners member who did even know about the plan.

In order for the proposal to become law, the legislature would have to approve it and then send it to voters in a referendum.

“This would be a revenue creator,” Eustace said Wednesday.

The airport is a little over 10 miles from downtown Atlantic City. The proposal comes as voters around the state are set to vote in November on expanding gaming outside of Atlantic City.

The South Jersey Transportation Authority, the operators of Atlantic City International Airport, declined to comment on the proposal. In 2015, the airport had 1,089,277 scheduled passengers, while in 2014, the airport had 1,082,206 scheduled passengers, according to authority records.

The proposal leaves many key aspects up to lawmakers, including the number of slot machines and how the revenue from the machines is distributed.

Slot machines are only permitted in two Nevada airports: Reno-Tahoe International and McCarran International in Las Vegas. Over the years, several states have floated proposals to bring slots to O’Hare and Midway airports, Indianapolis International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and others.

“This is the first that I’m hearing about it,” said James “Sonny” McCullough, township mayor and a member of the South Jersey Transportation Authority Board of Commissioners. “I think that it’s a terrible idea.”

Anthony Marino, an independent transportation analyst and former Atlantic City Expressway executive, said that over the years he has heard talks of slots machines at the airport.

“Every once and a while you see someone float a trial balloon,” Marino said. “As for creating revenue, I just don’t see it. Most of the people who are using the airport are locals going on vacation. If they want gamble they will go to Atlantic City.”

Under the plan, slot machines would be located beyond the security checkpoint, Eustace said.

“You are not going to have people coming to the airport just to play slots, this is going too specifically for people using the airport,” Eustace said. “This will give someone waiting for a flight a chance to pass time, while creating revenue.”

Original article can be found here:

Aeronca 7AC Champion, N2675E: Accident occurred May 27, 2016 at Pine Mountain Lake Airport (E45), Groveland, Tuolumne County, California

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Fresno FSDO-17

NTSB Identification: GAA16CA311
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 27, 2016 in Groveland, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/31/2016
Aircraft: CHAMPION AERONCA 7AC, registration: N2675E
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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

The pilot of a tailwheel-equipped airplane reported that during the landing roll, a "strong gust" of wind lifted the left wing and the airplane veered off the runway to the right. During the runway excursion, the airplane impacted a concrete barrier wall in the ramp area. The firewall sustained substantial damage.

The pilot did not report any mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation. 

The nearest automated weather observing station 15 nautical miles away from accident airport, about the time of the accident, reported the wind at 210 degrees true at 4 knots. The airplane landed on a 270 degrees magnetic heading.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain directional control during the landing roll in gusty crosswind conditions, which resulted in a runway excursion and a collision with a concrete barrier wall.

Pine Mountain Lake, CA — Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Deputies are on the scene of a crash landing that left a woman pilot injured.

The crash happened just before 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Pine Mountain Lake Airport in Groveland. 

Sgt. Andrea Benson states the Aeronca 7AC Champion was attempting to land when the aircraft swerved off the runway.

The plane then smashed into a wall at the fuel depot. Luckily, there was no damage or rupture of the fuel tanks, according to Sgt. Benson.

The pilot, 61-year-old Charleen Beam from Groveland, suffered an ankle injury and was taken by ambulance to an area hospital for evaluation.  

Sgt. Benson notes that Beam told deputies that “heavy crosswinds caused the aircraft to veer off the runway.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified of the downed plane and will be investigating the accident.

This is the second plane crash at the airport in a month, as previously reported on May 10 a Beech B24R Sierra crashed just after takeoff. The pilot and passenger were not injured in that crash but one did have a cut to his hand.

Original article can be found here:

Groveland, CA  --   Around 1:28 P.M., a plane crash at the PML Airport in Groveland was reported to the Sheriff’s Office. 

It appears that while making a landing, the plane veered off the runway and crashed into the wall at the fuel depot. 

Fire, ambulance, and Sheriff’s Deputies responded to the crash site. 

The fuel tanks were not ruptured or damaged. 

Charleen Beam a 61 year old female from Groveland was reported to have an ankle injury and is enroute to the hospital for evaluation.

The plane is a Aeronca 7AC Champion registered out of Groveland.

The crash was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board who will be investigating the accident.

The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Deputies are currently at the site and we will be providing an update as more information becomes available.

Original article can be found here:

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: WPR16LA105 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, May 10, 2016 in Groveland, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/06/2017
Aircraft: BEECH B24R, registration: N2052L
Injuries: 2 Minor.

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

The passenger, who was a student pilot, recently purchased the airplane in an estate sale. He and the airline transport pilot, both of whom lived in Mississippi, had traveled to California to retrieve the airplane and fly it back to Mississippi. Before the purchase, the airplane had not been maintained, operated, or flown in almost 11 years. Following the purchase, the owner contracted with a mechanic in California to ensure the airplane was in airworthy condition, which the mechanic reportedly did. The day before the accident, the pilot and owner took the airplane for its first flight after its dormant period and flew one uneventful circuit in the airport traffic pattern, as planned. The following day, the pilot and owner planned to fly the airplane for some systems evaluations. During that takeoff attempt from runway 9, the airplane became airborne but failed to climb and struck trees and terrain beyond the runway end. Although the pilot believed that he was taking off into the wind, witness statements and other evidence indicated that the takeoff was attempted with an approximate 5-knot tailwind. The first 1,000 ft of the runway was level, but the remaining 2,000 ft was sloped uphill. Although the Pilot’s Operating Handbook specified using 15° flaps for takeoff, and the pilot reported that he used that setting and did not alter the flap position during the flight, the flaps were found to have been fully retracted at impact.

Surveillance camera imagery captured about 2 seconds of the flight, when the airplane was about midfield and 4 ft above ground level (agl). Review of that imagery and audio data indicated that the ground speed was about 68 knots and that the engine speed was about 2,640 rpm; both values were consistent with normal takeoff values. However, the exact winds (and thus airspeed) were unknown, and because the propeller was a constant-speed model, nominal takeoff rpm could be achieved even if the engine was not developing full-rated power.

Detailed examination of the airplane, including the engine, revealed that, although its condition was not in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration and manufacturer guidance, none of the observed deficiencies could have caused or contributed to the loss of climb performance, except for one magneto that was found to be mistimed to the engine by 7°. Evidence suggested that this was likely a result of the accident but that could not be determined with certainty. Performance calculations conducted by the airplane manufacturer, which accounted for most of the known takeoff conditions, including fully retracted flaps, indicated that the distance to 50 ft agl was slightly more than the available runway. The estimated airplane takeoff weight was about 300 lbs (11%) below the maximum takeoff weight that was used in the calculations, which would yield better performance than the calculated results. However, those calculations did not account for off-nominal values of the many other variables that could adversely affect takeoff performance, including pilot technique, airframe and engine deterioration, and inaccurate or improperly set instrumentation and controls. Thus, although a successful downwind takeoff with no flaps was unlikely, it might have been possible, but there were too many other unknowns to determine its likelihood with greater certainty.

The reason(s) for the retracted flaps could not be determined. It is possible that the pilot forgot to extend them or that they were inadvertently and unknowingly retracted. Given the location of the flap control switch and its design (momentary, paddle-type), it is possible that the pilot extended the flaps to the proper takeoff setting of 15° but that they were subsequently retracted when the nonpilot passenger inadvertently contacted and actuated the flap control. The size and location of the flap position indicator gauge, combined with the location of the flaps (behind the pilot on the low-wing airplane), minimized the possibility that the pilot would notice that they had been retracted.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's decision to conduct an upslope, downwind takeoff combined with an improper flap setting, which resulted in the airplane's inability to clear trees beyond the runway end. The reason for the improper flap setting could not be determined.

Beech B24R Sierra, N2052L: Accident occurred May 10, 2016 at & Pine Mountain Lake Airport (E45), Groveland, Tuolumne County, California

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Fresno FSDO-17

NTSB Identification: WPR16LA105
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, May 10, 2016 in Groveland, CA
Aircraft: BEECH B24R, registration: N2052L
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 May 10, 2016, about 1215 Pacific daylight time, a Beech B24R Sierra, N2052L, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain during an attempted departure from Pine Mountain Lake airport (E45), Groveland, California. The pilot and the passenger/owner received minor injuries. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

The passenger, who was a student pilot, recently purchased the airplane in an estate sale. Both the pilot and owner lived in Mississippi, and had traveled to E45 to retrieve the airplane, and fly it back to Mississippi. The airplane was domiciled at E45, and reportedly had not been maintained, operated, or flown in at least 5 years, and possibly 10 or more. The airplane's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registration expired in 2011. Subsequent to the purchase, the owner contracted with a mechanic at E45 to conduct maintenance on it, in preparation for the flight to Mississippi.

The day prior to the accident, both fuel tanks were filled, and the pilot and owner took the airplane for its first flight after its dormancy. The airplane departed on runway 27, and flew one circuit in the pattern, as planned. That flight was uneventful. The next day, they planned to again fly the airplane, this time departing the area for some systems evaluations before returning to E45. This takeoff attempt, which terminated in the accident, was conducted on runway 9. The pilot reported that the first part of the takeoff roll and liftoff "appeared normal but during or at gear retraction the aircraft started losing power." He stated with about 1,000 feet of runway remaining, the engine "was not producing enough power to climb or accelerate," and that it was apparent the airplane not going to clear the trees beyond the runway end. The pilot focused on attempting to climb, while simultaneously avoiding a stall. 

The airplane struck trees and a utility pole, and then thick underbrush and the ground. The airplane came to rest about 1,800 feet beyond the end of the runway, at a point slightly north of the extended runway centerline. The fracture-separated outboard right wing was located adjacent to the utility pole, and the engine had separated from the fuselage. The fuselage was slightly crumpled and otherwise deformed, but the cabin retained its normal occupiable volume. There was no fire.

The pilot reported that for both flights, he was seated in the left seat, and was the sole manipulator of the controls. He held an airline transport pilot certificate, and reported about 22,800 total hours of flight experience, including about 4,310 hours in single engine airplanes. Prior to his flight in the airplane the day before the accident, the pilot had no experience in the accident airplane make and model. His most recent flight review was completed in May 2015, and his most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in January 2015.

FAA information indicated that the airplane was manufactured in 1976, and was equipped with a Lycoming IO-360 series engine.

E45 was equipped with a single paved runway, designated 9/27, which measured 3,624 by 50 feet. The airport elevation was listed in the FAA database as 2,932 feet. Runway 9 threshold elevation was 2,895 ft, and runway 27 threshold elevation was 2,932 ft.

The Navy has a shortage of fighter jets — will it hurt our ability to fight future wars?

Kathryn's Report:

A Navy captain from Virginia Beach was testifying before Congress Thursday about the shortage of flyable fighter jets at Oceana Naval Air Station. As he spoke, word came to military officials seated behind him:

A pair of F/A-18F Super Hornets from Oceana had “a mid-air mishap” off the coast of North Carolina, forcing four aviators to eject, and sending their $57 million aircraft hurtling into the Atlantic Ocean.

Capt. Randy Stearns, commodore of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, was briefed on the training accident involving two of his fleet's jets during a short recess from the hearing, then returned to the U.S. House committee room to answer additional questions about the difficulty of keeping aging aircraft flying – and pilots ready – after 15 years of relentless combat deployments.

Although the cause of Thursday’s accident is still being investigated, its timing put an exclamation point on recent warnings from naval officers and defense analysts that demands for Navy aircraft have outpaced the service’s resources, threatening its ability to respond to future conflicts – and making training riskier.

“I cannot connect today’s incident with that,” Rep. Randy Forbes said of  Thursday's crash, hours after leading the House Armed Service subcommittee hearing on Navy readiness struggles. “We do have huge concerns … Our pilots are not getting all the training that they are supposed to get.”

The problems facing naval aviation have been building for years, according to data obtained this week by The Virginian-Pilot and the Investigative Reporting Program. The stats reveal a downward trend in the number of mission-ready naval aircraft over the past decade.

On an average day last year, according to the data, fewer than half of the Navy’s fighter jets were listed as “mission capable,” a status that indicates an aircraft is available to fly for training. That's down almost 30 percentage points from 2006 and far below the Navy’s goal of keeping about three out of every four aircraft mission capable at all times.

There are many reasons for the aircraft shortage, according to Stearns and other Navy officials. Among them: years of heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan, cuts in funding for military operations beginning five years ago, a growing backlog of aircraft maintenance, and massive delays and cost overruns for replacement weapons systems, like the embattled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. In addition, some defense analysts say the Navy can better manage the resources it already has.

All of that means the Navy has aging aircraft flying years longer than planned – with fewer available parts and skilled workers to keep them going – at a time when the fleet is dropping a record number of bombs on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

While Navy officials stress that squadrons deployed in conflict zones overseas are getting the resources needed to complete their missions, the steady decline in flyable naval aircraft is putting a strain on sailors back home. That means crews readying for deployment are left with scarce resources to prepare for the war ahead – forcing maintenance workers to cannibalize parts from downed aircraft and leaving pilots short on flight hours.

“We are in the middle of resetting the naval aviation force in stride as we continue flying combat missions,” said Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Forces, after providing the readiness data in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. “In short, reduced funding is forcing us to take greater risk.”

Retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Harmer, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, had a tougher assessment.

“Bottom line,” Harmer said after reviewing the data. “We're screwed on maintenance. We're screwed on readiness. We need more aircraft. We need more parts. We need more people. ... And if something doesn't give, at some point we're approaching a complete free fall in readiness.”

The aircraft readiness gap “absolutely has an impact on safety,” Harmer said. Fewer mission-ready planes means pilots are flying fewer training hours between deployments than they were 10 years ago.

“If you have fewer aircraft to fly over an extended period, you're going to have more mishaps, because pilots aren't getting enough consistent flight time to stay sharp,” he said. “Any aviation safety analyst would tell you that. There's a direct correlation between flight hours and safety, and I think you're seeing that play out.”

Numbers provided Friday by the Naval Safety Center seem to support the claim. So far in the fiscal year that began in October, Navy fighter jets have been involved in 29 accidents that have resulted in at least $50,000 worth of damage, a rate of 25 mishaps per 1,000 flight hours. That’s 66 percent higher than in 2006, when there were 15 mishaps per 1,000 flight hours, though it’s not clear from the data how much of the uptick is the result of pilot error or mechanical failures.

What is clear is that pilots are flying less when they’re not deployed. Navy fighter pilots have been getting only 18 flight hours a month in the ramped-up training period immediately before deployment, more than six hours short of what the Navy estimates they need, according to information provided to members of Congress.

“The irrefutable truth is, the more flight time you get, the less likely you are to have a mishap induced by pilot error,” Harmer said. “If you go six or seven days without flying and try to do a close-formation flight, that's a very hard thing to do.”

To address the problem of inconsistent flight hours, Stearns told lawmakers Thursday that the Navy is considering shutting down an entire carrier air wing for four months to help ensure squadrons that are deploying sooner get the training time they need.

The shortage of mission-ready aircraft isn't limited to fighter jets.

Between 50 and 60 percent of the Navy’s MH-60 Seahawk helicopters were mission capable on most days last year, down more than 20 percentage points from a decade earlier, even as the newer MH-60R remains in production.

The MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter had a mission capable rate of 18 percent last year, by far the lowest of any aircraft. The minesweeping heavy-lift chopper was slated for retirement a decade ago, but problems with development of the littoral combat ship’s suite of mine-clearing systems is forcing the Navy to keep the Cold War-era helicopters flying through at least 2025.

“I can tell you that after corrective actions were taken and focus and priority given to recovery of our MH-53E fleet, we have seen consistent mission capable rates of 44 to 55 percent for the past several months,” Groeneveld said, acknowledging that’s still well short of the Navy’s target.

Forbes and other congressional Republicans have sought to highlight military readiness shortfalls in recent months. During the hearing Thursday, a Navy official said the service has an estimated $848 million shortfall in its operations and maintenance accounts, leading to all sorts of challenges preparing surface ships, submarine forces and aviation assets for deployment.

Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Fleet Forces command in Norfolk, told lawmakers the operational funding gap “means accepting less readiness across the whole of the Navy, less capacity to surge in crisis and in wartime, or perhaps living with reduced readiness in our ships and submarines that would keep them from reaching the end of their service lives. In any case, recovering from these situations will cost us more in time and money in the future.”

Forbes, who’s running for election in the 2nd Congressional District, had scheduled a subcommittee hearing earlier this week aboard an aircraft carrier in Norfolk, but instead took a private tour on base after the Pentagon raised concerns about a public display weeks before his contested June 14 GOP primary with state Del. Scott Taylor and attorney Pat Cardwell.

Forbes argues the problems facing every branch of the military are the fault of the Obama administration.

“We are now getting the data that we need to say we need to turn this ship around,” Forbes said.

Mandy Smithberger, a defense budget analyst with the Project on Government Oversight, said Congress shares the blame for underfunding military operations and maintenance. And she challenged the notion that the U.S. isn’t spending enough on defense on the whole. She noted that the House voted recently to shift money from an operational war account to buy additional F-35s and other new weapons systems that the Pentagon hadn't even requested.

“It’s like when we used to have school levies and officials would always threaten to cut middle school sports, because they knew people would be upset and vote to pass the levy,” Smithberger said. “So the people who are arguing for defense spending point to readiness and say, ‘We need to spend more.’ But then when they're actually making budget decisions, they take money from readiness and spend it on weapons systems.”

Not all of the readiness problems can be blamed on funding, said Todd Harrison, director of budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. After reviewing the mission capable data obtained by The Pilot, Harrison pointed out that readiness began declining years before budget cuts started in 2011. And for some Navy airframes, like the MH-60S Seahawk, mission capable rates bottomed out in 2008, when the budget was stable.

“It looks like they had major management issues in the maintenance of their aircraft before (the budget cuts), and that's just exacerbated the problem,” Harrison said. “If they try to view this as only an issue of sequestration, they are missing a bigger systemic issue with how they manage their aircraft.”

Groeneveld, the Navy spokeswoman, said the service has taken steps over the past few years to improve maintenance efficiency and planning to ensure replacement parts are available when they’re needed.

On Thursday, Stearns told lawmakers that the shortage of mission-ready fighter jets will make it difficult to respond if a new conflict emerges. A few years ago, he said, it would have taken the Navy about 90 days to get another air wing ready for deployment. Now, it would take up to a year, he said.

“There is no chance of getting those ready,” Stearns said. “There is nothing to pull from in the back, we’ve already put everything forward. There’s nothing left.”

The problems aren’t only with equipment, Stearns added.

Because of the shortage in training hours – and because some experienced sailors are getting burned out and leaving the Navy – Stearns said if he loses “one experienced maintenance chief” before a deployment, he has no one to replace him.

That’s playing out right now as the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower prepares to deploy next week, he said:

“So I have to reach back on not only parts and planes, I reach back into people. I mean, there’s last-minute saves just to get the Ike out the door.”

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