Sunday, August 7, 2016

Van's RV-4, N924WZ: Accident occurred August 07, 2016 at Miles Field Airport (3KY9), Waddy, Shelby County, Kentucky

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Louisville FSDO-17

Date: 07-AUG-16
Time: 21:09:00Z
Regis#: N924WZ
Aircraft Make: VANS
Aircraft Model: RV4
Event Type: Accident
Highest Injury: Serious
Damage: Substantial
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
State: Kentucky


WADDY, Ky. (WDRB) -- A pilot called for help shortly after crashing his small plane over the weekend in a Shelby County field.

DISPATCHER: "Shelby County 911. What is your emergency?"

PILOT: "Hello, I'm in a plane crash."

Investigators released the call Monday that Steve Roberie made to 911 on Sunday.

The 59-year-old Owen County pilot said he had fueled up in Frankfort and had engine trouble shortly after take-off.

That's when he went down in Waddy near Miles Field.

During the call, it's clear the pilot has no idea where he went down.

DISPATCHER: "Do you see any houses or anything around you?"

PILOT: "No."

DISPATCHER: "No? Ok, is anyone injured?"

PILOT: "I'm injured. I'm in the airplane."

DISPATCHER: OK and um, the plane crashed?

PILOT: "Yes. Engine trouble."

The pilot is at University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington. His girlfriend says his injuries include broken bones, but he is expected to survive.

The FAA is investigating the crash.

SHELBY COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) -- Officials say a pilot has suffered several injuries after making an emergency landing at a small air strip in Shelby County.

News crews were kept far back from the scene on Grubbs Lane, near Miles Field in Waddy.

Waddy Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief James Riddle said the pilot of the small plane was able to call 911.

The pilot has not been identified but told crews he had been to Frankfort and back on Sunday, and was logging some miles in the plane.

When crews arrived they say he was confused, but alert. 

Riddle said the pilot suffered lower extremity injuries and was trapped in the plane. Crews used extrication equipment to free his legs and feet.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, but Riddle says the pilot told him he thought something was wrong with the engine. 

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to visit the crash site Monday.

Story and video:

WADDY, Ky. (WHAS11) – The FAA is investigating a plane crash just southeast of Shelbyville. It happened at the Miles Field airstrip in Waddy, Kentucky Sunday evening.

According to FAA officials, the experimental aircraft crashed 200 feet from the end of a private airstrip in Shelby County around 5 p.m. Sunday. The aircraft was taking off when the accident occurred.

Officials said only the pilot was on board the plane. He was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Hospital. Earlier Sunday evening, officials described his injuries as critical, but there's no update on his condition at this time.

As far as the investigation goes, it's still too early to say what could've led to the crash.  Officials have confirmed fuel was leaking from the plane, but the leak was contained. So, it didn't pose a danger at the crash site.

The woman who lives in a home at Miles Field said it’s been a private grass strip for years. She told WHAS11 it’s very common to hear the sound of planes outside her home. She didn’t hear a loud bang or burst when the plane crashed, just the sirens that followed. She said she’s shaken up by the accident and just hopes the pilot survives.

The pilot’s name hasn’t been released. The plane’s tail number is also not available yet, but the woman who lives at the airport said small, recreational aircraft are common at Miles Field.

The FAA will investigate the cause of the crash starting Monday morning. 


One person was taken to the hospital with serious injuries Sunday evening in a small plane crash that occurred in Shelby County.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Medical Services, and local fire departments responded to a report of a plane crash on Grubbs Lane, just southwest of Shelby County, at 5:09 p.m. The plane, a two-passenger aircraft with a single occupant, was located at the end of a private grass runway, according to a statement from Shelby County police.

The pilot of the plane, whose name has not yet been released, was flown to the University of Kentucky Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The Federal Aviation Administration has been notified of the crash and will be handling the investigation, the statement said.


WADDY, KY (WAVE) - A small plane had to make an emergency landing in a field near Waddy, according to WAVE 3 News in Louisville. 

Few details were immediately available, but a spokesperson from Frankfort's Capital City Airport confirmed that a plane that took off from there and made an emergency landing near Miles Field, a small airport in Waddy, at about 5 p.m. Sunday.

The spokesperson said the pilot was alive but unsure how severely he or she was injured.

It's not clear what caused the pilot to make the emergency landing.


SHELBY COUNTY, Ky. —Emergency crews converged on a field in Shelby County Sunday after a pilot made an emergency landing.

The pilot of the two-seat plane made the landing around 5 p.m. in the 700 block of Grubbs Lane.

First responders said the pilot left Frankfort's Capitol Airport and radioed for help shortly after takeoff.

The pilot, who was the only one in the aircraft, said he was experiencing engine trouble.

Officials told WLKY that the pilot had to be extracted from the plane. He suffered injuries to his legs and has a possible fracture.

They said he would be transported to the hospital by helicopter.

Emergency medical services personnel and firefighters remain on scene.


Ryan NAVION B, N5392K: Incident occurred September 10, 2016 in Chandler, Maricopa County, Arizona

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Scottsdale FSDO-07


Date: 10-SEP-16
Time: 16:45:00Z
Regis#: N5392K
Aircraft Make: NAVION
Aircraft Model: NAVION
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Arizona

Helicopter pilot arrested for flying feet above moving cars: Thomas Vorstman charged with operating aircraft in reckless manner

Thomas Vorstman 
 Osceola County Sheriff's Department.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Department responded to reports of a low-flying helicopter in Kissimmee.

Deputies say it was seen in the area of West 192 on Saturday.

Thirty-one-year-old Thomas Vorstman of Orlando was arrested and charged with Operating an Aircraft in a Reckless Manner and Resisting Without Violence.

The sheriff's department says that Vorstman was flying only a few feet above the tops of cars along the roadway.

They responded to Orlando HeliTours where the aircraft is registered and waited for Vorstman to return. Upon his return, he refused to power down the helicopter and wouldn't get out to speak with authorities.

Five minutes later, he met with deputies and told them he "had a heavy load" and explained why he was flying low over traffic.

Vorstman was then fired from Orlando HeliTours and arrested.

He's been booked into the Osceola County Jail.

Deputies notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the incident.

Osceola County – On August 6, Osceola County Sheriff's deputies were patrolling in the area of West 192 in Kissimmee when they observed a red helicopter flying a few feet from the tops of cars traveling both eastbound and westbound. The helicopter's proximity was so close to the cars, that if a passenger van or semi-truck were traveling the same direction, there would have been a collision with the aircraft. At one point, a motorist, who witnessed the incident, alerted the deputy to make sure he saw the helicopter, too.

Deputies responded Orlando HeliTours located at 5071 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, where the aircraft is registered, and spoke with the manager. They explained the incident they witnessed and asked to speak with the pilot, identified as Thomas Vorstman, upon his return. Deputies waited for Vorstman near the helicopter pad, but when he returned, he refused to exit the aircraft. Deputies made numerous attempts to get Vorstman to meet with them, but he would not turn off the aircraft and, for safety concerns, they were not able to approach him. Instead, Vorstman advised he could not exit and left in the helicopter with a group of passengers. 

Approximately 5 minutes later, Vorstman returned and, after finishing his safety checks and exiting the aircraft he met with deputies. He told them he “had a heavy load” and explained why he was flying low over traffic. They also spoke with the company owner who told deputies their pilots have procedures for handling matters like this which contradicted Vorstman's actions. Due to the safety concerns and Vorstman's reckless behavior, the company owner terminated Vorstman's employment immediately.

Based on the statements and evidence, Vorstman was arrested and charged with Operating an Aircraft in a Reckless Manner and Resisting Without Violence. He was booked into the Osceola County Jail. Deputies notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the incident.

Thomas Vorstman (DOB 3/1/85), 9103 Avenue Point Circle, Orlando


OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - A helicopter pilot was arrested Saturday after deputies said they spotted him flying just a few feet above cars traveling in the area of West U.S. 192 in Kissimmee.

Deputies said Thomas Vorstman was so close to the cars that if a passenger van or semitruck were traveling in the same direction, there would have been a collision with the helicopter.

Osceola County deputies waited for Vorstman at the helicopter air pad, but when he returned he would not exit the aircraft. They said due to safety concerns, they were not able to approach him.

Vorstman reportedly took off in the helicopter but returned five minutes later and met with deputies.

Vorstman told deputies he'd "had a heavy load," which was why he was flying so low over traffic, but the owner of the company, Orlando HeliTours, told deputies their pilots have procedures that contradicted Vorstman's actions.

Vorstman was arrested and charged with operating an aircraft in a reckless manner without violence. He was booked into the Osceola County Jail.

Vorstman was also terminated from the company.

Story and  photos:

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – On August 6, Osceola County Sheriff's deputies were patrolling in the area of West 192 in Kissimmee when they observed a red helicopter flying a few feet from the tops of cars traveling both eastbound and westbound.

The helicopter's proximity was so close to the cars, that if a passenger van or semi-truck were traveling the same direction, there would have been a collision with the aircraft. At one point, a motorist, who witnessed the incident, alerted the deputy to make sure he saw the helicopter, too.

Deputies responded Orlando HeliTours located at 5071 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, where the aircraft is registered, and spoke with the manager. They explained the incident they witnessed and asked to speak with the pilot, identified as Thomas Vorstman, upon his return. Deputies waited for Vorstman near the helicopter pad, but when he returned, he refused to exit the aircraft. Deputies made numerous attempts to get Vorstman to meet with them, but he would not turn off the aircraft and, for safety concerns, they were not able to approach him. Instead, Vorstman advised he could not exit and left in the helicopter with a group of passengers. Approximately 5 minutes later, Vorstman returned and, after finishing his safety checks and exiting the aircraft he met with deputies. He told them he “had a heavy load” and explained why he was flying low over traffic. They also spoke with the company owner who told deputies their pilots have procedures for handling matters like this which contradicted Vorstman's actions. Due to the safety concerns and Vorstman's reckless behavior, the company owner terminated Vorstman's employment immediately.

Based on the statements and evidence, Vorstman was arrested and charged with Operating an Aircraft in a Reckless Manner and Resisting Without Violence. He was booked into the Osceola County Jail. Deputies notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the incident.


Beech B90, Doorless Leasing LLC, N901WL: Incident occurred August 07, 2016 at Colorado Springs East Airport (CO49), Calhan, El Paso County, Colorado


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Denver FSDO-03

Date: 07-AUG-16
Time: 21:00:00Z
Regis#: N901WL
Aircraft Make: BEECH
Aircraft Model: 90
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Activity: Skydiving
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
State: Colorado


ELLICOTT, Colo. -- An airplane carrying sky divers caught fire after taking off from Colorado Springs East Airport on Sunday. There were 11 sky divers on board, including two who were first-time jumpers. The airport is about 25 miles east of Colorado Springs near Ellicott.

A bird strike on one of the plane's propellers might have caused the fire, according to Out of the Blue Skydiving co-owner John Mahan. The plane was able to return to the airport and make a safe landing.

Mahan said he was one of the two tandem jumpers who were taking out the first-time jumpers. They were a father celebrating his 60th birthday and his son.

Mahan said the impact to the left propeller happened at about 2,600 feet. The engine caught fire and the pilot shut it down. The pilot then ordered an emergency evacuation, Mahan said.

The nine solo sky divers were out of the plane within 30 seconds. Mahan said the tandem jumpers made some extra checks on the rigging for the safety of the passengers, but they were still out within a minute of the pilot's order.

He was with the father and was the last out of the plane. Mahan said he was able to see the plane head back to the airport and saw it reach the runway but didn't see the actual landing because that was out of his view.

All 11 jumpers landed safely in an area outside of their normal landing zone, so it took them a while to figure out what road to go to for crews to find them and pick them up.

Mahan said they usually climb to an altitude of 12,000 feet before jumping, but the engine caught fire just three minutes into the flight.

The industry standard is to deploy the parachute no lower than 2,500 feet, so they were close to that when they jumped at 2,600 feet.

No injuries were reported.

Story and video:

CALHAN, Colo. -  A skydiving plane had to make an emergency landing at the Colorado Springs East Airport on Sunday.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office said at around 1:46 p.m. the pilot of the "Into the Blue Skydiving" aircraft was attempting to land at the airport after an engine had caught fire. 

Officials believe a bird may have gotten into the engine, causing the fire.

Fourteen people were on board, most being clients of the skydiving company. They were all able to parachute from the plane and were later picked up by company personnel. No one was injured.

Trent Reese was on the plane when the engine went out. He said everyone heard a pop, and turned to the pilot for direction on what to do next.

"The pilot took a few seconds to assess the situation and he said 'everybody out.' And we were at a safe altitude for all of us to get out. And we all landed safely," said Reese.

Owner John Mayhan said they were three minutes into the flight when they struck the bird.

"It's an unfortunate event. Everyone is safe. We are very happy everyone is accounted for. Now we have to figure out how to mitigate the damages and get back open. Hopefully by next weekend we will be able to get back up and get flying," said Mayhan.

Mayhand said once everyone landed, it took a little while to track down all the sky divers because they were scattered in the surrounding area. He was grateful for the pilot's maneuvers under pressure.

"He did an amazing job flying the plane, and he brought it back safely," said Mayhan.

Rusty Bobby Wardlow was also in the plane when the bird struck. He was able to use his parachute, but other jumpers had to use their reserve parachutes because they were jumping too close to the ground. The skydivers normally jump at 12,000 feet but exited the plane at 2,000 feet.

"We are all skydivers. We deal with high stress situations every day. It's part of our life. So for everyone to remain calm, it's pretty normal in that kind of situation," said Wardlow.

The company hopes to have the plane fixed and reopen for business next weekend.

Story and video:

Piper PA 22-108 Cadet, N5945Z: Incident occurred May 17, 2016 at St. Lucie County International Airport (KFPR), Fort Pierce, Florida

AIRCRAFT:   1963 Piper PA 22-108 Cadet N5945Z, s/n 22-9816

The current Tach is 4899.4, and Hobbs is 5316.3. 

The last annual inspection was recorded on 12/03/2015 at 4890 Tach/4890 TTIS
ENGINE:  Lycoming O-235-C1, s/n: 6530-15

EQUIPMENT:   Com Val 760 TSO, Narco AF50A TSO Transponder
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  Aircraft was flipped over by a storm gust while taxiing at St Lucie County Airport, Fort Pierce, FL on May 17, 2016

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES:    Damage includes but may not be limited to the following:  
Left wing forward strut bent 4” forward causing wing to warp.  Fuselage to wing joint is out of shape and nav light broken

Left passenger window shattered.

The windshield is popped from frame and has a 4” crack.

Prop blades bent, prop spinner crushed

Top of rudder and vertical fin are crushed

Right wing forward strut is bent 5” forward causing wing to warp.

Right wing outer 18” is scraped and bent.

Right side of the upper engine cowl has cracks in the latches.

Engine cowls do not align properly

LOCATION OF AIRCRAFT:  Inside storage at Fort Pierce, Florida 

INQUIRIES/REMARKS:  Logs are not guaranteed to be complete.

Read more here:

Cessna 182R Skylane, North Shore Aero Club, N6453H: Incident occurred August 07, 2016 at Long Island MacArthur Airport (KISP), Ronkonkoma, Suffolk County, New York


A small plane hit a sign while taxiing at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Sunday in preparation for takeoff, officials said.

Airport Commissioner Shelley LaRose said the  Cessna 182R Skylane left the taxiway at 11:50 a.m. and that airport personnel saw the plane strike the sign.

“There are [routinely] a lot of people on the airfield watching [for planes] ... and fire rescue as well,” LaRose said. “He [the pilot] was getting ready to leave — he was taxiing out and left the taxiway and hit a sign.” She said the sign directed pilots to the ramp or runway area. “It’s a guidance sign,” she added.

“There was no transmission from the pilot involved,” LaRose said, because the aircraft did not become airborne at any time. “He didn’t radio in an emergency.”

She said the pilot was not based at the airport and was taken to the hospital, she said.

He was in stable condition and was taken by Community Ambulance Company of Sayville to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, according to an email statement sent by Jamie Atkinson, the ambulance’s vice president.

Tariq Fasheh, president of North Shore Aero Club, confirmed the tail number on the plane was one of three owned by the 60-member club. He said the other small planes include a Cessna 172 and a Piper Warrior, and that members of the nonprofit organization can reserve the planes and sign them out for noncommercial use.

Fasheh, who learned about the accident from a reporter, said, “Any of our members can take a plane and fly it if it’s available — I had that one (the Cessna 182) last week out in Wisconsin.”

The pilot was uninjured and it appears the airplane had only minor damage, Fasheh said in an email.

LaRose said she expected the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate and that perhaps the National Transportation Safety Board would also be involved in the probe.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen identified the Cessna as a Cessna 182 aircraft that she said “taxied to Runway 33 Left, then went onto the grass” and that airport emergency services responded.

Shortly afterward, two fire trucks and a police car were seen around a small plane on the runway immediately north of the main terminal. According to an FAA registry, the tail number on that plane showed it was registered to the North Shore Aero Club Inc. of Topsfield, Massachusetts, and it was described as a “fixed wing single-engine” plane.

The airport remained open.

At 1:09 p.m. the plane was hooked to a pickup truck and brought to a hangar at the west end of the airport.


PZL-Bielsko SZD-55-1, N551DR: Fatal accident occurred August 06, 2016 at Chicago Glider Club Gliderport (IL59), Channahon, Illinois

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report: 

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA W. Chicago-DuPage (NON Part 121) FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA308
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, August 06, 2016 in Channahon, IL
Aircraft: PZL-BIELSKO SZD 55-1, registration: N551DR
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 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 August 6, 2016, about 1533 central daylight time, an experimental PZL Bielsko SZD 55-1, a single-seat glider, sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain during takeoff from the Chicago Glider Club Gliderport (IL59), Channahon, Illinois. The pilot was fatally injured. The glider was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not on a flight plan. The glider departed from IL59 about 1532 on a local flight. 

The pilot of the tow airplane reported that he initiated the takeoff from runway 27 (2,000 ft by 250 ft, grass/turf) and that the takeoff was normal. The tow airplane lifted off about halfway down the runway and began climbing. He stated that when the tow airplane was about 20 ft above ground level (agl), he began to feel a "heavy increasing drag from the glider and shortly thereafter, felt the glider release from the tow." 

Witnesses reported that during the takeoff roll, the glider's right wing dropped and hit the ground after the "wing runner" let go of the right wing. The wings leveled momentarily and then the left wing hit the ground while the glider was veering slightly to the left. The witnesses stated that the pilot leveled the wings briefly before the glider pitched up approximately 30 to 40 degrees. The tow airplane was still on its takeoff roll as the glider pitched up. The glider continued to climb at a 30 to 40-degree pitch attitude until the tow rope was released from the glider, which was on a southwest heading. The glider's pitch attitude leveled out, and it appeared that the glider started a right turn, but then the glider entered a stall/spin to the left. The witnesses stated that the glider had reached 100 to 200 ft agl when it entered the stall/spin.

The glider impacted a field with tall grass in a left wing low, steep nose-down attitude about 200 ft south and 1,600 ft from the approach end of runway 27. The entire aircraft was located at the point of impact. The entire span of the left wing remained attached to the fuselage and it exhibited crushing and impact damage along the leading edge of the outboard section of the wing. The nose and cockpit remained attached to the fuselage; however, it was crushed and broken, and displaced to the right. The outboard section of the right wing was separated from the rest of the wing at the aileron bellcrank and was lying forward of the right wing in the direction of travel. The tail was broken aft of the fuselage and the tail boom and empennage were displaced to the right of the fuselage. The empennage remained intact and exhibited no damage. The wing and horizontal stabilizer attach points were attached properly and were secure. The flight controls, including the spoilers, were checked for continuity from the flight controls to their respective surfaces. Flight control cables and control tubes were traced and all breaks were consistent with overload. No preimpact flight control continuity anomalies were detected. There was no water found in the ballast tanks. The chin tow cable release was found in the spring-loaded closed position. The chin release lever was operated by hand and it moved to the tow release position. 

The surface weather observation at the Joliet Regional Airport (JOT), Joliet, Illinois, located 6 miles northeast of the accident site, was wind 330 degrees at 6 kts, 10 miles visibility, sky clear, temperature 29 degrees C, dew point 16 degrees C, altimeter 29.97 inches of mercury.

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

James M. Patton in this undated photo with his eldest granddaughter, Molly.

A 69-year-old Tinley Park man died after the glider plane he was piloting crashed into a field in Minooka over the weekend, authorities said.

James M. Patton, a former firefighter and assistant fire chief in Tinley Park, was at the Chicago Glider Club in Minooka when his plane crashed into a field Saturday, according to Will County Sheriff Deputy Chief Tom Budde. No one else was injured in the crash.

Witnesses at the club, located at 26291 W. Airport Road in Minooka, told investigators they saw one of the wings of Patton's plane dip after the glider detached from the tow plane. The glider then stalled and "nose dived" into the field shortly after, Budde said.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating the crash, Budde said.

Patton's wife, Gwen Patton, said her husband has held a pilot's license for his Cessna plane for at least 25 years. He began flying the glider plane about 10 years ago.

"He flew as often as he could," Gwen Patton said, adding he would go out on weekends to fly if the weather was nice.

"I think (he liked) the freedom and the challenge of being up there and being free like that," she said of his interest in gliders.

Patton's love for flying also included taking his 9-year-old granddaughter to the air show in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. The two would sleep in a tent under the wing of the plane, family members said fondly, adding that 9-year-old Molly Ouradnik was considered Patton's co-pilot.

Patton was a 25-year veteran of the Tinley Park Fire Department. He retired about 15 years ago and served as assistant fire chief before his retirement.

He started out as a firefighter for the Tinley Park Fire Department in 1967 and rose through the ranks to eventually be named assistant fire chief in 1976. He held that post until he retired in 1992.

He was involved in setting up MABAS — the mutual aid and box alarm system, a network that provides assistance to other departments during a major crisis situation. He also played a key role in helping computerize the fire department, Deputy Fire Chief Steve Klotz said.

"He set a real good foundation for us," Klotz said.

Though Klotz never served with Patton, Klotz said he got to know him through other events.

"He was always there to help with what he could help with," Klotz said.

Patton also owned Pattons Tire & Auto Service at the corner of 167th and Oak Park Avenue for more than 40 years. He eventually sold the property and retired from the business in 2005.

Son-in-law John Ouradnik said Patton started the business in his 20s and built it up through "hard work, blood, sweat and tears."

"That is how I learned a good work ethic," Ouradnik said.

Family members said Patton also was active in various community organizations and found ways to give back to those in need.

"He was a great man, a great friend and he was always helping people," his wife said. "He was just a good man."

Patton is survived by Gwen, his wife of 48 years; two daughters, Lisa (John) Ouradnik and Chris and two granddaughters, Molly and Carter.

Visitation will be on Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Brady-Gill Funeral Home, 16600 Oak Park Avenue in Tinley Park. Funeral services will be Friday at 10 a.m. at the funeral home.


MINOOKA – A Tinley Park man died Saturday in Minooka when the glider he was piloting crashed into a field.

The incident occurred about 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Chicago Glider Club, located on West Airport Road, according to Will County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Tom Budde.

James M. Patton, 69, was pronounced dead at 5:30 p.m. at the scene, according to the Will County Coroner's Office.

The Sheriff's Office, National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident.

NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said the crash occurred shortly after the glider detached from its tow plane. 

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford stated via email that preliminary information indicates the glider detached not long after takeoff.

Knudson said an NTSB investigator would be on scene Sunday. 

A preliminary incident report is expected in one to two weeks and it will take six to 12 months to complete the investigation, he said.

Patton's final cause and manner of death is pending autopsy, toxicological and police reports, according to the Coroner's Office. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

Smokejumpers, planes attack remote wildfires

Smokejumper Ian Cruess, who is stationed at the Pocatello Regional Airport, puts on a harness that’s part of the gear he uses during his jumps. Cruess packs as much as 100 pounds during jumps into inaccessible areas as an airborne firefighter to help contain wildfires. The plane in the background is a Twin Otter that is used to deliver the smokejumpers.

Fighting wildfires requires skilled crews, coordination and lot of money. On remote fires, smokejumpers are the first people in the fight and air tankers provide support.

Last year, wildfire management and wildfire suppression in the U.S. cost a whopping $2.1 billion, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Fire agencies utilize a wide range of specialized fire crews, aircraft and technology to minimize danger to property and people while allowing nature run its course.

Ian Cruess is one of a dozen smokejumpers currently stationed at the Air Tanker Base at the Pocatello Regional Airport.

The crew traveled to Pocatello from the McCall/Boise base last week and is waiting to be called out on the next complex fire.

Smokejumpers parachute into wildland fires when engines and trucks can’t get there.

Cruess, who hails from South Lake Tahoe, California, said the specialized crews land with their jump gear. Then additional supplies and tools can be dropped in via para-cargo.

“In a lot of cases, we’ll be the first ones on the ground,” Cruess said.

In his 100-pound pack, Cruess carries a radio and enough food and water for two 16-hour shifts, hand saws, a tent, cold and wet weather gear, extra clothes and snacks.

Smokejumpers also wear a reserve chute and carry a tape line to let themselves down if they get hung up in a tree.

Fortunately, Cruess said he’s never had to use the reserve chute.

Cruess has been a wildland firefighter for nine seasons, but this is his first fire season with the smokejumpers. His crew came to Idaho from Grand Junction, Colorado.

To qualify for the physically demanding, specialized fire crew, smokejumpers go through a six-week training course.

“It is mentally and physically exhausting,” Cruess said. “But it made sense for me. I’d been fighting fire for seven years and always wanted to fly.”

Smokejumpers are required to do seven pull-ups, 45 push-ups and 55 sit-ups in a short amount of time.

Eight members of the elite crew board a Twin Otter, a turbo-prop aircraft, to get to the fire’s location where they jump into the blaze.

Once on the ground, smokejumpers make contact with fire dispatch. The crew sets up a staging area and then assesses the fire to determine its size, potential fuels and how likely the fire is to spread.

Cruess said smokejumpers are also utilized for medical emergencies not related to wildfire such as an injured hiker stranded in remote location, and smokejumpers are often the first line of defense when infrastructure and homes are being threatened by wildfire.

“We can actually fill a lot of different roles,” Cruess said.

Those roles include mapping the fire using GPS technology and calling in air support.

Smokejumpers can be called to a wildfire anywhere in the United States.

“We are a national resource,” Cruess said.

The crews work for 14 to 21 days and then get two days off.

Cruess is 28 years old, and he’s never been injured on the job.

“I’ve had some really good leadership. I’ve never been hurt, and I’ve never had to run,” Cruess said.

Ground crews battle wildfires using shovels, chainsaws and pick axes while aircraft dump fire retardant and water to slow the fire down and help contain it.

Aircraft used for firefighting rage from a converted DC-10 capable of carrying 12,000 pounds of fire retardant to single-engine air tankers that carry only about 3,000 gallons of retardant, but have the ability to drop below 150 feet to deliver their loads.

The fire retardant is basically fertilizer dyed red so it is easily visible by air and from the ground.

Shawn Dugan, of Bend, Oregon, flies the DC-10 currently stationed at the Pocatello Regional Airport. It’s his fourth year fighting fires, but his first flying the big plane.

The plane is one of 10 tankers based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Dugan, a former airline pilot, said he flies at an altitude of about 250 feet to drop his load of retardant and it’s all accomplished by line of sight.

There are three people on the plane and three sets of eyes watching the drop while also gauging potential hazards like trees, rocks and power lines.

“It costs a lot of money, and we want to make sure that the load goes where it’s supposed to,” Dugan said.

A lead plane might flight ahead and blow a line of smoke where they want the retardant dumped, and the DC-10 can make multiple drops.

Dugan said his father was a captain for Cal Fire, and he learned the business from the right-hand seat.

The big DC-10 can only make the drops during daylight hours, and smoky conditions and poor visibility can ground the planes.

When fire season ends in the U.S., Dugan flies on wildfires in Australia.

“A lot of mornings, I can’t believe that someone is going to pay me to do this,” Dugan said.

But Dugan said his role is one of many when it comes to managing wildfire.

Pilots Mike Conlee and Jim Maxwell are also flying out of the Air Tanker Base in Pocatello.

Conlee, who is from Oklahoma, said one-pilot aircraft can work in tighter areas.

The planes fly as low as 100 feet when they drop the retardant.

Maxwell is from Lewiston, and he said if you’re scared, then you’re doing something wrong.

He said his job is to support firefighters.

“Retardant doesn’t put out fires,” Dugan said. “We provide support for the ground forces — those are the guys who contain the fire.”

The two pilots have a combined 33 years of fire management and suppression experience between them. And Maxwell said one of the biggest advantages of the small tankers is that they drop their load and return quickly to reload.

However, Conlee said severe weather and wind is a hazard for the smaller aircraft.

“We can’t fly above the storms,” Conlee said.

Occasionally, the small planes are used to provide surveillance.

The pilots don’t load their planes until they’re called to a fire.

Maxwell said during his tenure, he’s seen better fire management policies put in place.

“There are less acres burned because they get after it as fast as they can,” Maxwell said.

The small tankers burn about 300 gallons of fuel every four hours.

Gerald Martinez of Michigan is a mechanic on the DC-10 crew.

He said that because the planes make quick turn-around and make multiple landings, there is significant wear and tear on the plane’s landing gear, and he said the plane cannot land if it hasn’t dropped its load

Martinez said it costs about $30,000 each day to have the aircraft on standby.

The U.S. Department of the Interior agencies charged with wildfire management include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In the Great Basin area, which includes western Wyoming and eastern and southeastern Idaho, there are currently three large, non-contained fires, including the Pioneer Fire burning 8 miles north of Idaho City. Burning in heavy timber, that fire has consumed more than 51,000 acres

The Broad Mouth Fire in the Bear River area 15 miles northwest of Tremonton, Utah, has burned about 21,000 of sage grouse habitat, and Saturday the fire was threatening structures.

The Cliff Creek Fire burning in the Bridger Teton National Forest about 15 miles east of Hoback, Wyoming, has burned more than 31,000 acres.

Lynn Ballard with the Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire Center said that during the last three years, there has been more wildfire activity, but fewer acres have burned.

Ballard said that crews got a break Friday with no new smoke reports.

Crews were also successful containing the Rocky Peak Fire. This fire is located approximately 10 miles north of Preston and was contained at 950-acres. The cause of that fire is still under investigation.

No estimation of control has been given, and the cause of that fire is still under investigation.

There has been little change in two fires being managed in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

The Lanes Creek Fire, located 9 air miles west of Freedom, Wyoming, is being managed to meet multiple objectives, including allowing fire to play its natural role in the ecosystem by removing dense conifers and encouraging aspen regeneration.

A web camera allows fire personnel to monitor the fire constantly while firefighters on the ground have completed pre-treatments to minimize the fire’s potential impact to state and private lands. The fire has shown little activity since the last mapped perimeter of 116 acres, and an Emergency Closure Order is in effect, closing the Lau Creek Trail from the Pine Bar Campground to the confluence of Brush Creek.

The Big Elk Fire is holding at two acres burned.

Humans cause almost 62,000 fires each year, and most are started in southern and eastern states.

There are currently, 37 large fires that have burned more than 618,000 acres in 14 U.S. states. Nine new large fires were reported Friday in the Southwest, Great Basin and Northern Rockies areas.

Canada deployed a Convair 580 air tanker group to support wildland fire operations in Montana and two military C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems are deployed to Boise to support fire suppression throughout the Great Basin.


Arlington, Snohomish County, Washington: Glasair set to be state’s second-biggest plane maker

Nigel Mott, president of Glasair, an Arlington-based airplane manufacturing company.

Glasair employees Jeramy Olson, Omar Alvarez and Ken Andreason (right) talk about seat belt attachment points as they measure the right fuselage of a carbon fiber composite body for a new Merlin airplane last week in Arlington.

Glasair Aircraft Production Manager and pilot Ben Rauk gets ready to fly a four-seat, pre-production Merlin on July 12 in Arlington.

ARLINGTON — The alarm klaxon cut through the whirring noise of the airplane engine. The digital speed gauge dropped steadily toward 39 knots — the two-seat plane’s stall speed, indicating it would be going too slow to stay in the air.

As the plane stalled, its nose gently dipped toward Puget Sound about 1,500 feet below. The plane descended ever so slightly. As it lost altitude, it picked up speed. The gauge’s dial climbed above stall speed, and the plane smoothly returned to level flying. The whole thing lasted less than a minute and was hardly noticeable but for the alarm.

“The plane wants to stay in the air,” the pilot, Ben Rauk, said.

He banked the Glasair Merlin right toward Arlington Municipal Airport, Glasair’s home for more than 20 years. Rauk is a production manager and test pilot for the company.

The light sport airplane marks a major shift for the company, which has made more 3,000 kit airplanes since it began in 1979. Unlike kit planes, which are assembled by their owners, the Merlin will be sold ready to fly.

It is the first step in Glasair Chief Executive Nigel Mott’s plan to transition the company from selling kits to making turnkey airplanes.

The company is simply following the market, he said.

Private pilots increasingly want turnkey planes. While kits have never been a huge portion of small airplane sales, demand “is probably stable for now, but slowly declining” in the near future, he said.

The addition of the Merlin makes Glasair the state’s second largest airplane maker, but the roughly 45-person company is a far cry from the leader, Boeing.

The Merlin has an all-composite material body — as does the 787.

However, its production line looks nothing like the highly-automated, super-sized assembly lines at Boeing’s Everett plant.

“It’s still a fairly labor-intensive process,” Mott said.

The Merlin’s airframe is made on site using molds built by Bayview Composites, a tooling and fabrication company in Mount Vernon. The carbon fiber hardens at room temperature, so no need for a costly and large autoclave to bake it.

Glasair is still refining the plane’s production process. It’s a huge change in mindset from doing kit planes, Mott said. “With the kit side of the business, we’re really a job shop,” making plane parts on demand.

Mott hopes to have Merlin production running smoothly within 12 months. The company is shooting to deliver the first plane by October to Rainier Flight Service in Renton.

The flight school has ordered three of the $150,000 airplanes. It also is selling them for Glasair.

Training schools play a big role in the Merlin’s market, Mott said.

The plane is built to be durable and forgiving, key features for new pilots. A Glasair customer, Chuck Hautamaki was its chief designer. The plane first flew last year, and the Federal Aviation Administration certified this past spring.

Glasair had considered the Merlin for a few years before moving forward on the project in 2014, Mott said.

The decision to go ahead was backed with money for tooling and other production costs from Glasair’s owner, Jilin Hanxing Group. The industrial conglomerate is based in Jilin City in China’s northeast corner, between North Korea and Russia.

Hanxing’s owner, Fang Tieji, bought Glasair in 2012 from Thomas Wathen, a hands-off owner who had raised the airplane maker from the dead when he purchased the assets of Glasair’s defunct predecessor, Stoddard-Hamilton Aircraft in 2001.

Wathen named the new company for Stoddard-Hamilton’s oldest model airplane, the Glasair.

When Fang acquired Glasair, the company had plans to fully certify its successful Sportsman as a production airplane, rather than a kit.

However, when Cessna stopped production of its two-seat Skycatcher in 2013, “we saw an opportunity” to step in with the Merlin, Mott said.

The company plans to start this fall on the process of moving the Sportsman into production, an effort which could take three years, he said.

Beyond that, Glasair could possibly develop a six- or eight-seat production model, Mott said.

The Merlin “is a good airplane,” said Bradley Donaldson, co-owner of Rainier Flight Service. “It flies very smoothly.”

Given its durability and stability, “it’s going to be a good training airplane from what we’ve seen so far,” he said.

Glasair Merlin specs

Max speed: 120 knots (138 mph)

Cruising speed: 105 knots (121 mph)

Stall speed (full flaps): 39 knots (45 mph)

Wing Span: 31 feet, 9 inches

Length: 21 feet, 8 inches

Base price: $149,950

Height: 8 feet, 8 inches

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