Monday, June 27, 2016

Air disaster of 1927 involved bi-plane built in Bristol Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Kathryn's Report:

In the 1970s, the 3M Airport sat just off Route 13 near the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

By Carl LaVO, columnist

In the 1970s, I used my lunch hour at the Bucks County Courier Times to drive over to the 3M Airport just off Route 13 near the Pennsylvania Turnpike to watch local pilots bore holes in the sky.

I had no idea until recently the airstrip had a significant niche in aviation history, now lost in the rumble of industrial, commercial and commuter traffic that has replaced the runway.

The Keystone Aircraft Corporation founded the airfield in the 1920s to test fly 200 U.S. Army bi-wing bombers built in a construction hangar located nearby on the Delaware River.

“Keystone Welcomes You” and “Bristol, Pa.” were painted on the roof. The company’s 45-acre sod airfield served Keystone between 1927 and 1932. That first year, workers put finishing touches on a unique plane intended to be the first to fly non-stop from New York to Paris.

The K-47 Pathfinder, emblazoned with “American Legion” for its sponsor, was a canary-yellow biplane powered by three powerful engines. The plane had a wingspan of 67 feet and a 47-foot-long fuselage that could carry additional fuel or 10 passengers.

The U.S. Navy’s top two fliers, Lt. Cmdr. Noel Davis and Lt. Stanton Wooster, would fly the craft. With Keystone’s reliable design, they were eager to prove non-stop trans-Atlantic flight was possible for the first time in human history. In doing so, the "American Legion" was favored to win aviation’s Holy Grail, the long-sought Orteig Prize.

In 1919, French-born New York hotelier Raymond Orteig offered to pay $25,000 for the first successful non-stop flight between New York and Paris in either direction. That would be worth about $350,000 today. Advances in aviation technology put the prize within reach by 1925. The first to try in 1926 was World War I French flying ace Renee Fonck in a three-engine Sikorsky S-35. Grossly overloaded with a sofa and a refrigerator, the plane crashed on takeoff from New York’s Roosevelt Airport and burst into flames. Fonck escaped. Two crewmen perished.

Next up were Davis and Wooster in the spring of 1927. After test flights at Keystone’s airfield, the plane departed for Virginia’s Langley Field where Time magazine described the aircraft as “a gigantic yellow bird.”

The two pilots opted for less powerful but more fuel-efficient Wright engines, two mounted on the lower wings astride the cabin and a third on the nose. On the morning of April 26, the aviators loaded the weight equivalent of 11,000 pounds of fuel into the fuselage and prepared for a final test flight before departure for New York to begin the Atlantic crossing.

Asked whether a U.S.-made flying machine was capable of such a flight, Davis replied, “A few years ago we held all the aviation records. We have lost nearly all of them. We make as good planes and motors as any country in the world, and we have as good pilots. I want to see some prestige in the air return to our country.”

“No two aviators are better prepared,” Davis continued, noting, “I have never piloted a better plane.”

With the weather clear for takeoff, "American Legion" roared to life. Davis accelerated down the quarter-mile runway but struggled to get aloft. The plane barely cleared pine trees as it zoomed out over Back River. Realizing their craft was too heavy, Davis circled back for an emergency landing. In doing so, the plane lost altitude and came down in marshlands on the river’s edge. The plane skidded along grass reeds, skated across a pond, then came to rest nose down in the muck. The impact tore away the forward engine and smashed the flight cabin. Both pilots died instantly.

Gruesome details made headlines around the world. The deaths made for high drama just four weeks later. Obscure U.S. Mail pilot Charles Lindbergh took flight in his single-wing “Spirit of St. Louis” for a solo crossing of the Atlantic. A storybook landing in Paris made boyish “Lucky Lindy” immortal.

Back home, "American Legion" was pulled from the swamp, rebuilt and entered passenger service in the Carribean. Keystone folded after five years and became Fleetwing aircraft company. The Keystone hangar is long gone.

Today, the airstrip is amazingly wide Runway Road, gateway entrance to bustling Edgely Industrial Park. The only sense of flying is just off the road at Sky Zone. There you can occasionally find me and my grand kids in our “Sky Socks” soaring on trampolines.

Sources for this column include Time’s “Yellow Giant” news story published on May 9, 1927 and “Abandoned and Little Known Airports” by Paul Freeman on the Web at

Carl LaVO, a retired Calkins editor, is the author of 4 books for the Naval Institute Press at the U.S. Naval Academy. He can be reached at Twitter: @underCs2. Blog:

Story and photo gallery:

Naval Air Station Jacksonville runway reopens

Kathryn's Report:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's a big day for Naval Air Station Jacksonville. The base is finally set to reopening its runway that’s been closed for a year.

This has been a long-time coming. The closure of the runway for the past year meant that around 1,800 military personnel and nearly 40 aircraft were relocated to Cecil Airport.

There will be several upgrades. The biggest one is an extra one thousand feet added to the existing runway. This $50 million project first started last year. This is the first major renovation for NAS Jax's runway in half a  century. According to Navy officials, the runway had bad cracks and there were problems with water pooling during rainstorms. Several aircraft were damaged as a result.

The ceremony for the opening starts Monday morning at 8 a.m. There is a lot of excitement about having our fixed wing squadrons and our 2,000 Sailors return to NAS Jax after their temporary relocation to Cecil Airport last June. 

Original article can be found here:

Reading Regional Airport (KRDG) Authority encouraged to promote facility

Kathryn's Report:


The Reading Regional Airport Authority is being urged to market the airport's outstanding features because the facility is an invaluable economic asset to the community and region.

"It's the best little airport in PA, but people don't know what's here," board member Paul J. Prutzman said.

According to Fran F. Strouse, director of Aviation Technological Services at L.R. Kimball & Associates Inc., Harrisburg, "You have an absolutely top-notch airport when compared to others in the region, and you need to promote it."

Strouse presented the third of eight workshops on the airport's business planning that is expected to result in attracting more corporate and private jets to the facility, plus increased aircraft operations and fuel sales.

He emphasized Tuesday that the airport's safety and security-related features include a control tower, trained aircraft rescue and firefighting capabilities, military presence, fast snow removal from its two long runways, plus precision instrument approaches and an approach-lighting system, features often lacking in other airports.

Also, Reading Regional has the largest terminal building and parking facility, two charter services and the lowest average fuel prices, he said.

And it has the benefits of being classified by the Federal Aviation Administration as an FAA General & Aviation National Airport, with most others within its 30-minute service area classified as local, municipal or regional airports.

Strouse urged the authority's seven-member board to expand the airport's community and business outreach by holding special events there, promoting the airport as a venue for large outdoor activities and working with county and city economic and industrial development agencies, among a range of other initiatives.

"That would provide business growth/opportunity to build the local economy," he added.

With respect to the recent 26th annual Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's World War II Weekend, the board had only exceptional praise for the event's programs, organization and many volunteers.

"We were blown away," said Randall Swan, board vice chairman.

Terry P. Sroka, airport manager, noted that plans are underway for the 2016 Reading Air Fest on Sept. 9 and 10, with a full night show, fireworks and a Harrier jump jet demonstration.

Original article can be found here:

Piper J3F-65 Cub, N29042; accident occurred June 27, 2016 near Front Range Airport (KFTG), Denver, Colorado -Kathryn's Report

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Denver FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA239
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, June 26, 2016 in Strasburg, CO
Aircraft: PIPER J3F 65, registration: N29042
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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

On June 26, 2016, about 1950 central daylight time (CDT), a Piper J3F-65, N29042, experienced a partial loss of engine power and subsequent loss of lift after the initial climb out from a touch and go landing at Front Range Airport (KFTG), Watkins, Colorado. The pilot made an emergency landing into a wheat field near Strasburg, Colorado. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left wing strut and fuselage longerons when the airplane became inverted during the landing sequence. The private pilot, the sole occupant, suffered minor injuries. The airplane was privately registered and operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no instrument flight rules flight plan was filed.

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — Arapahoe County deputies say a 51-year-old pilot suffered only a minor injury to his leg after his plane went down Sunday evening near Strasburg, east of Denver. Responders found the plane upside down in a ditch, and the pilot walking toward them.

The plane is a Piper J-3 Cub; the cause of the crash has not been determined. The pilot was the only person on board.

Original article can be found here:

ARAPAHOE COUNTY - A pilot sustained minor injuries making an emergency landing in a field about 10 miles east of Front Range Airport Sunday evening. 

The pilot was the only person aboard, according to the FAA. The plane was a single-engine Piper Cub. 

The FAA says the plane flipped over after landing southeast of Interstate 70 and Strasburg Road at around 7:50 p.m. 

Authorities say the pilot was taken to the hospital, but expected to survive. 

There’s no word yet on what caused the crash.

Original article can be found here:

Universal Stinson 108, N9063K; accident occurred June 27, 2016 near Houston, Alaska -Kathryn's Report

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: ANC16LA035
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 25, 2016 in Big Lake, AK
Aircraft: UNIVERSAL STINSON 108, registration: N9063K
Injuries: 2 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

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 June 25, 2016, about 1800 Alaska daylight time, a Stinson 108 airplane, N9063K, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing, following a loss of engine power near Big Lake, Alaska. The airplane was registered to, and operated by, the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 when the accident occurred. Of the three people on board, the certificated private pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries, and one passenger was uninjured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Merrill Field, Anchorage, Alaska, at about 1725.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge on June 26, the pilot stated that the purpose of the flight was to take two family members, who were visiting from out of town, on a sightseeing flight. About 35 minutes into the flight, while circling a friend's cabin at about 550 feet above ground level, the engine began to sputter followed by a total loss of engine power. He made a forced landing in an area of densely populated spruce and birch trees. During the forced landing the airplane sustained substantial damage to the wings and fuselage.

The airplane was equipped with a Continental Motors O-470R engine. 

The closest weather reporting facility was Wasilla Airport, Wasilla, Alaska, about 19 miles east of the accident site. At 1756, a weather observation from Wasilla Airport was reporting, in part: wind from 080 degrees at 4 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few clouds at 4,600 feet, scattered clouds at 5,500 feet, broken clouds at 7,500 feet; temperature 66 degrees F; dew point 48 degrees F; altimeter 29.89 inHg.

An examination of the engine is pending.

HOUSTON, Alaska (KTUU) - Two people sustained minor injuries in a small plane crash near Houston on Saturday, Alaska State Troopers say.

According to a dispatch posted online, the 1949 Super Stinson lost power and crashed about a mile and a half North of Butterfly Lake. Three people were onboard the aircraft: a pilot and two passengers. Troopers were notified of the crash at around 6:15 p.m.

“Another aircraft in the area was able to land at a nearby lake and transported all occupants to Anchorage where they received treatment for their injuries at Providence Medical Center,” troopers wrote.

The pilot has been identified by troopers as 44-year-old Rusty Kline from Anchorage. The two passengers have been identified as 68-year-old Arthur Cordova and 69-year-old Ruth Cordova, both from Colorado Springs.

Brice Banning, a senior aircraft accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said that two of the aircraft’s occupants sustained minor injuries while the third person was uninjured.

According to Banning, the aircraft took off from Merrill Field on a sightseeing tour and was scheduled to return to Merrill without stopping. About 35 minutes into the flight, the aircraft sustained a loss of engine power and crashed.

Original article can be found here:

An Anchorage pilot and his two passengers survived a Saturday plane crash near the Nancy Lake State Recreational Area with minor injuries, according to investigators.

Pilot Rusty Kline, 44, of Anchorage and his passengers Arthur Cordova, 68, and Ruth Cordova, 69, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, were flying in a four-passenger 1949 Stinson airplane when the taildragger plane lost power and crashed near Butterfly Lake, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Butterfly Lake is south of the boundaries of the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area, northwest of Houston.

The plane had taken off from Merrill Field for a sightseeing trip and had been in the air for about 35 minutes when it ran into engine problems, said National Transportation Safety Board senior investigator Bryce Banning Sunday.

Troopers were notified of the crash at 6:15 p.m., according to an online dispatch posted Sunday.

"Another aircraft in the area was able to land at a nearby lake and transported all occupants to Anchorage where they received treatment for their injuries at Providence (Alaska) Medical Center," troopers wrote in an online dispatch Sunday.

Two of the people in the plane sustained minor injuries and a third was unharmed.

What exactly caused the plane to lose power is still under investigation, Banning said.

Original article can be found here:

50 years of flight: Joel Buckner takes award for decades as pilot

Kathryn's Report:

Pilot Joel Buckner, standing Friday beside one of the Civil Air Patrol’s planes, received the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wright Brothers master pilot award for his 50 years of flying.

Joel Buckner's 50 years in aviation can best be summed up as quality over quantity.

Although the North Little Rock resident has logged an average of 64 hours a year over that time, about what a weekend recreational pilot might log, he was presented the Federal Aviation Administration's Wright Brothers master pilot award during a presentation Friday at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field in Little Rock. He is one of 37 pilots in the state to earn the honor since its inception in 2005.

"This award is named after the Wright Brothers, the first U.S. pilots, to recognize individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft as 'Master Pilots,'" according to the FAA.

Few of his hours in the air have come on so-called $100 hamburger runs, aviation slang for when a recreational pilot flies to another town, eats a meal at that airport and then flies home.

Buckner made his hours flying count.

A large portion of the 3,200 hours he has logged -- an estimated 1,950 -- came as a naval aviator at the controls of a Grumman E-2 Hawkeye, a twin-engine airborne warning and control system aircraft distinguished by the 24-foot-diameter rotating radar dome mounted above its fuselage and wings.

He tallied most of those hours during two tours in Vietnam from 1965 to 1971, during which he flew 300 missions launched from an aircraft carrier deck.

"He doesn't have a lot of hours, but he has a lot of experience," said Heather Metzler, an official with the FAA's flight standards district office in Little Rock.

Fifty years after he flew solo for the first time at the controls of a Beechcraft T-34B on March 1, 1966, from Saufley Field, which was part of the U.S. Navy flight school at Pensacola, Fla., Buckner continues to make his time in the air count.

Now, at age 72, he is a mission pilot and check ride pilot for the Civil Air Patrol, a largely volunteer nonprofit organization that is the official auxiliary of the Air Force, with a mission to offer aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services, which include search and rescue for missing aircraft.

Buckner, who is the husband of Pulaski County Treasurer Deborah Buckner, has loved flying since he was a boy in Prairie County, where he could ride his bicycle to a nearby field to watch Boeing Stearman biplane crop-dusters fly and, now and again, hop in one for a ride. He even would occasionally take the controls, though he had had no formal instruction.

"It enthralled me," Buckner recalled. "There was no fence, no TSA [Transportation Security Administration]. You could just walk out there."

It wasn't until he got to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville that his dream of flying regularly could be realized, courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

"I knew back in the 1960s, you were going to go in the military," he said. "The question was where."

A Navy recruiter approached him on the campus and said he could complete Officer Candidate School over the summer and enroll in flight school after graduation. Buckner wondered how much it would cost. The recruiter said he would be paid.

Buckner was shocked. "I would get paid to fly?"

Not everything the Navy told told him was true, though. Especially the part about being assigned to fly in the Mediterranean Sea to monitor the Soviet Union during the week and "chasing girls" in a Mediterranean country on the weekends.

"I haven't seen the Mediterranean yet," he said.

Instead, Buckner was assigned to an aircraft carrier named -- fortuitously enough given his new honor -- the USS Kitty Hawk and soon sailed for the coast of Vietnam.

Buckner flew the Grumman C-2 Greyhound, which was a variant of the E-2 and was used to haul cargo and personnel between the carrier and shore. But soon enough he was in the cockpit of the Hawkeye. It carried a crew of five: two pilots and three other crew members who operated the systems aboard the aircraft.

The Hawkeye, an updated model of which is still in service today, provides all-weather airborne early warning and command and control functions for the carrier battle group. Its array of radar and sensors also can provide surface surveillance coordination, strike and interceptor control, search and rescue guidance, and communications relay. It is basically an eye in the sky to identify threats to the carrier and its aircraft.

"It was the Star Wars of the day," Buckner said of the aircraft and its electronic warfare missions.

He described his patrols up and down the coast of North Vietnam as a walk in the park for the pilots, while the other three crew members did all the work. But taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier at night in all weather wasn't for the faint of heart. During his career, he took off from a total of 17 different aircraft carriers.

"I can't imagine landing on a moving target," said Metzler, who is also a Civil Air Patrol pilot and has been flying for 26 years.

Other Civil Air Patrol pilots say that, to this day, Buckner carries his experience in the Navy on every flight.

"It's always fun to fly with Joel," Doug Wood said. "You always do carrier takeoffs and carrier landings."

But Buckner's professionalism as a pilot has made him a trusted mission crew member for the Civil Air Patrol, which has nine small, single-engine Cessna aircraft in its Arkansas Wing. Buckner is a lieutenant colonel in the organization and has served several roles, including twice as a vice commander.

Henry Lile, a fellow Civil Air Patrol pilot and recipient of the Wright Brothers award, said he estimated he has flown 50 missions with Buckner, including reconnaissance missions over south Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

"We were born to fly together," he said in a roomful of 45 family members, friends and Civil Air Patrol colleagues during Friday's presentation. "As Joel says, we never make the same mistakes at the same time.

"Knowing the dedication, commitment and your skills, it's no surprise to me you're receiving this honor."

Before joining the Civil Air Patrol, Buckner said his post-Navy career in mortgage finance and real estate appraisals, including a stint as president and chief executive officer for Worthen First Mortgage, was aimed at not only supporting his family but helping him have enough money to indulge his passion for flying.

"It was the only thing I wanted to do and, the truth is, it was the only thing I was ever good at," he said.

Original article can be found here: