Saturday, September 24, 2016

Man arrested after berating Sheriff Clarke on flight

Milwaukee County sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.

Preston Bluntson 
(Photo: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)

A Milwaukee man was arrested and charged with intoxication and disruptive behavior on Saturday after berating Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. throughout a two-hour flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte, N.C.

Keith Trietley, a spokesman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, confirmed that Preston Bluntson, 36, was arrested and booked by police at around 7:10 p.m. Eastern time. He was being held late Saturday in the Mecklenburg County Jail. Trietley said a police report on the incident was not yet available.

But a passenger on the American Airlines flight, who asked not to be named, said Bluntson talked throughout the plane ride, becoming increasingly loud and obnoxious and directing many of his comments at Clarke, who was on the back of the small plane.

The plane, which left Milwaukee around 4:10 p.m., had about 12 rows on it.

“The guy was very abusive,” the passenger said. "Probably the last 20 minutes it really escalated and focused on Clarke."

According to the passenger, Bluntson, who is African-American, repeatedly used a racial epithet, accused Clarke of “closing our parks” and said the sheriff is “not one of us.”

A number of people tried unsuccessfully to engage Bluntson — who appeared to be drinking throughout the flight — and to get him to calm down but without success, the passenger said. He added that Clarke responded only once, telling the man to “shut up.”

“In all my years flying, I’ve never seen anything like it,” the passenger said.

“The sheriff handled himself extremely well. It could have gotten a lot worse because the guy was not backing down.”

When the plane landed, Clarke held Bluntson down, and a Charlotte police officer then came on board and handcuffed the Milwaukee man, according to the passenger. Three or four other officers then met Bluntson when he left the plane, and Clarke filled out paperwork on the incident.

Clarke, who travels regularly to speaking and media events and to promote the candidacy of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, was apparently on his way to New Hampshire, where he is the featured guest for the Cheshire County Annual Republican Shoot on Sunday.

The event, which is held at the Cheshire Fish & Game Club in Keene, N.H., runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Clarke could not be reached for comment late Saturday. A call to Bluntson’s house was not returned.


Piper PA-22-108 Colt, N4920Z: Accident occurred September 24, 2016 near Pearland Regional Airport (KLVJ), Brazoria County, Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Houston, Texas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Pearland, TX
Accident Number: CEN16LA394
Date & Time: 09/24/2016, 1305 CDT
Registration: N4920Z
Aircraft: PIPER PA 22-108
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (partial)
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On September 24, 2016, about 1305 central daylight time, a Piper PA-22, airplane, N4920Z, registered to the pilot, sustained substantial damage during impact with terrain while maneuvering to make an emergency landing near the Pearland Regional Airport (LVJ), Pearland, Texas. The private pilot sustained serious injuries and his passenger sustained minor injuries. The local flight was being conducted under the provisions of Federal Code of Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The flight originated from LVJ about 1300.

The pilot reported that he had completed a preflight and topped off with fuel prior to taxiing to runway 14 for takeoff at LVJ. During the pre-takeoff run up, the engine instruments indicated about 1,800-1,900 RPMs. After liftoff, about 100-200 feet AGL, the pilot noticed that the engine RPMs were not increasing beyond 1,800 and that the airplane was not gaining altitude. The pilot turned back toward the airport and tried to maneuver to make an emergency landing in a field. During the approach to the field, the pilot avoided a house and a barn before the left wing of the airplane struck a tree and the airplane impacted the ground nose first. The pilot and passenger exited the airplane and were transported to the hospital.

The FAA inspector that examined the airplane wreckage at the accident site did not find any obvious pre-impact anomalies with the engine or the airframe. Fuel was present in the fuel tanks.

LVJ METAR: SPECI KLVJ 241802Z AUTO 21006KT 3SM RA BKN027 BKN034 OVC043 28/25 A3001

According to the Icing Probability Chart, with a temperature of 28 degrees and dew point of 25 degrees, the aircraft engine could have been susceptible to light carburetor icing at cruise or descent power, or borderline serious icing at descent power.

After the accident, the pilot reported that he did not use the carburetor heat during takeoff. The pilot also stated that the airplane had been running smoothly in recent flights.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 61, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/11/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 05/28/2015
Flight Time:  177 hours (Total, all aircraft), 170 hours (Total, this make and model), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N4920Z
Model/Series: PA 22-108 108
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1961
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 22-8509
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/01/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1649 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 3200 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3269 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT:  Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-235 SERIES
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: LVJ, 44 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1302 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 180°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  3 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 2700 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 210°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.01 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 25°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Pearland, TX (LVJ)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Pearland, TX (LVJ)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1300 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class E 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:   29.508889, -95.233056 (est)

NTSB Identification: CEN16LA394
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 24, 2016 in Pearland, TX
Aircraft: PIPER PA 22-108, registration: N4920Z
Injuries: 1 Serious, 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 September 24, 2016, about 1305 central daylight time, a Piper PA-22, airplane, N4920Z, registered to the pilot, sustained substantial damage during impact with terrain while maneuvering to make an emergency landing near the Pearland Regional Airport (LVJ), Pearland, Texas. The private pilot sustained serious injuries and his passenger sustained minor injuries. The local flight was being conducted under the provisions of Federal Code of Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The flight originated from LVJ about 1300.

The pilot reported that he had completed a preflight and topped off with fuel prior to taxiing to runway 14 for takeoff at LVJ. During the pre-takeoff run up, the engine instruments indicated about 1,800-1,900 RPMs. After liftoff, about 100-200 feet AGL, the pilot noticed that the engine RPMs were not increasing beyond 1,800 and that the airplane was not gaining altitude. The pilot turned back toward the airport and tried to maneuver to make an emergency landing in a field. During the approach to the field, the pilot avoided a house and a barn before the left wing of the airplane struck a tree and the airplane impacted the ground nose first.

The pilot and passenger exited the airplane and were transported to the hospital.

PEARLAND, Texas - A husband and wife from Alvin were injured after their plane crashed in a field near Pearland Saturday afternoon, according to officials with the Department of Public Safety.

The couple took off from Pearland Regional Airport around 12:20 p.m. A mechanical issue with one of the wings was detected immediately, officials said.

The pilot crashed in a nearby field, purposely avoiding homes in the area.

A nearby homeowner, Robert Kettle witnessed the crash.

"Saw the plane come behind my house," said Kettle. "It veered right over the edge of my house and came straight over a bunch of trees and hit a row of trees, and that's when it flipped." 

Kettle and his grandson helped rescue the couple inside the plane.

"My grandson was with me and I told him, if these people are dead, just don't panic...We'll just go from there." said Kettle. 

He and his grandson used an ATV to transport the couple from the plane to his driveway so emergency crews could easily reach them.

"One of her arms was broken and he had damage," Kettle said. "The whole side of his face was swollen."

DPS Sgt. Stephen Woodard said the pilot purposely picked the field in order to avoid striking nearby homes.

"You know, today's a good day." said Woodard. "Two people landed or crashed in a field, from a plane, from the sky...and they're alive."

The man and his wife were taken to Clear Lake Regional Hospital. They are expected to be OK. 

Story and video:

A married couple was injured Saturday when their plane crash landed in a field in rural Brazoria County, law enforcement authorities said.

The pilot officials the plane experienced problems with its left flap shortly after its noon takeoff from Pearland Regional Airport Saturday.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Stephen Woodard said the pilot told authorities that he intentionally crash landed the plane in a field rather than striking a nearby house.

A landowner heard the crash and helped free the pilot, Hector Ramon, 61, and his wife Maria Ramon, 56, from the wreckage, Woodard said.

The couple was transported to Clear Lake Regional Hospital, where they were being treated for injuries that did not appear life-threatening.


Akron’s ‘Flying Bank Robber’ passes into history

The stolen airplane that Frank Sprenz abandoned near Coshocton after robbing a bank in this 1959 Associated Press photo. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted flyer from February 25, 1959, features Frank Lawrence Sprenz, who was born in Akron. 

Nobody seemed to notice, but one of Akron’s most notorious criminals died a month ago at the age of 86.

The obit was a mere eight sentences long.

It said he died in his sleep, but it didn’t say where.

Turns out Frank Sprenz took his last breath at the Grafton Correctional Institution.

Which is preferable, I supposed, to at least one of his previous residences — Alcatraz, where he was inmate No. 1414.

As criminals go, this guy was top-of-the-line. He not only made the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, but eventually worked his way up to the most-wanted man in the land. Legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover personally took over the hunt.

Sprenz’s death came exactly one month after he was denied parole in Columbus.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh argued against him during a hearing before the Ohio Parole Board, saying he “has not shown any remorse or taken responsibility for what happened. He is a lifelong criminal and needs to remain in prison.”

Well, that’s not exactly true. His criminal record didn’t start until the ripe old age of 11, when he wound up in juvenile court after throwing rocks at another kid in his East Akron neighborhood.

Sprenz started making headlines in 1958 when, after robbing a bar, he led an escape from the Summit County Jail by fashioning a key to his cell out of a piece of metal. He and four others then fled after throwing hot coffee on a guard.

Within a week, the other four were accounted for — one killed by police, the rest captured. By contrast, the slippery Sprenz was able to stay at large for a year and three days.

During that period, he used 35 aliases and countless disguises, and stole 29 cars and three airplanes.

While on the lam in October 1958 — after two months on the FBI’s Most Wanted list — he had the audacity to land a pontoon plane in Baltimore Harbor, taxi to a pier, tie up and walk into a bar. When a patron suggested the act was so unusual they should call the newspaper, he quickly departed.

Four months later, he stole a plane in Scranton, Pa., and flew to Vermont, crash-landing on a snow-covered strip to elude authorities.

Law enforcement was chasing him all over the country, earning comparisons to a Keystone Cops routine.

Earns nickname

In March 1959, Sprenz robbed a bank in the southwestern Ohio city of Hamilton, snagging $26,000 and escaping in a stolen plane. That’s when newspapers started calling him “the Flying Bank Robber.”

His flying time ran out after he used bank-robbery money to buy a second-hand Piper Cub in North Dakota and fly it to Mexico. Shortly after arriving, he took an acquaintance on a ride and hit a cow and a tree while landing.

An American pilot flying overhead reported the damaged plane, and authorities were able to track Sprenz to Cozumel.

Sentenced to 25 years in Alcatraz, he was transferred to Atlanta when the infamous prison closed in 1963 — the last prisoner to leave.

The stolen airplane that Frank Sprenz abandoned near Coshocton after robbing a bank in this 1959 Associated Press photo.

After nine years in federal custody, he was sent back to Ohio to serve time for the holdup of a local bar and a junkyard, three car thefts and the jailbreak.

Partly because of a legal technicality, his Ohio sentence was commuted and Sprenz was paroled in 1971.

But he couldn’t stay away from banks.

Back in business

In 1976, Sprenz helped two other men rob the Harter Bank and Trust Co. branch near Belden Village Mall, escaped via a commercial flight out of Akron-Canton Airport, then rented a plane and flew into a private landing strip in Vermont, dodging authorities who were expecting him to land in Burlington.

He was busted for that one only a couple of weeks later.

Residents of little Richmond, Vt., were shocked when they learned that Sprenz and his wife, Sandy (from Stow), had been living there quietly for four years. The town of 2,500 had known him as a friendly, unassuming TV repairman — a skill he learned in prison.

After serving three years for his minor role in that robbery, he remained in Vermont until at least the mid-1980s before returning to Akron.

The last part of Spenz’s Sept. 9 obituary, written by a best friend identified only as “Bud,” read: “Flaps and wheels up and head to Heaven to get your wings forever.”


But there’s nothing funny about Sprenz’s worst crime, which came much later in life.

In 1996, he was convicted of paying a man to “scare” an Akron prostitute he was extorting money from. An employee at a massage parlor he helped run on Arlington Road, she drew his wrath by keeping a log of customers and prices.

The man he hired, Ramon Wright, did a lot more than scare the woman. He set fire to her house, killing her and a 15-year-old girl, and seriously injuring the girl’s stepmother, who broke her back jumping out a second-story window.

Sprenz was still serving time for that offense when he was denied parole.

Talks to Beacon

Throughout his many decades in the headlines, the Flying Bank Robber talked to only one reporter: William Schlemmer of the Beacon Journal.

During the first interview, a lengthy Q-and-A conducted in prison in 1970, Sprenz came across as bright, well-educated and humble, but not particularly repentant.

In Alcatraz and Atlanta, he studied things such as plane trigonometry, differential calculus and advanced engineering math.

He also took up oil painting and cartooning and produced some impressive work.

When asked how he mentally survived prison, he said the key was looking forward and not just sitting around.

“Why, I might spend a whole day working on one calculus problem to keep me busy,” he said.

As for his flying career, “I did enjoy being up in the air, the feeling of it. But all that’s in the past now. You should hear the ribbing I take from other convicts about that ‘Flying Bank Robber’ stuff.”

In the end, he was completely off the radar.

Story and photo gallery:

Department of Transportation promises quick replacement process after SeaPort departure

A sign on the SeaPort ticket counter at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport advises customers that the airline has ceased operations.

Commercial air service to Pendleton’s Eastern Oregon Regional Airport now has a long-term and a short-term problem.

In the long term, the city of Pendleton must justify to the U.S. Department of Transportation why it should keep its Essential Air Service subsidy after provider SeaPort Airlines’ boarding numbers were low enough to push the airport above the $200 per passenger subsidy cap.

From October 2014 to September 2015, SeaPort collected its $1,797,333 annual subsidy while boarding 8,422 passengers, meaning it cost the federal government $213 per passenger to fund air service in Pendleton. The DOT has threatened to pull the EAS funding at the end of the year.

In the short term, the city needs to find an air provider to fulfill SeaPort’s contract through the rest of 2017 after the Portland-based airline grounded its planes and began the process of liquidating its assets.

The DOT has already taken steps toward helping Pendleton with its short term problem, issuing an emergency request for proposal to find an airline to fill the gap between now and the end of 2016, when SeaPort’s contract was supposed to end and Boutique Air will take over.

The DOT filed the request on Wednesday, a day after SeaPort grounded its planes and the same day it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a move meant to restart air service at SeaPort’s remaining routes in Pendleton and Arkansas.

The request calls for airlines to submit a proposal that includes a description of the service and a subsidy amount by Oct. 12.

The proposal has to be comparable to the service SeaPort was providing before its closure, meaning the airline has to provide about three trips per day in a nine-seat aircraft to a medium or large hub airport.

A summary of the bids will be provided to city officials, with their final comments expected shortly after the bid deadline.

Because the Pendleton City Council has already recommended Boutique to handle flights in 2017, the request states it will handle Pendleton’s selection process “expeditiously.”

Pendleton Airport Manager Steve Chrisman said Wednesday that he had been in contact with Boutique about taking the emergency contract. Boutique project manager Greg Roberts did not return a request for comment Friday.

SeaPort’s closure interrupts activity for an airport that’s had a history of providing commercial air service going back eight decades.

After the city opened an airport two miles east of town four years earlier, Pendleton moved its airport to its current location in 1934 so United Airlines could put the town on its Portland to Chicago route.

Fearing airline deregulation would end air service to small communities, the federal government established the EAS program in 1978 and included Pendleton as one of its original communities. Pendleton changed its EAS provider in 2008 when it selected SeaPort over the incumbent Horizon Air, Horizon changed its direct flight to Portland to a one-stop flight to Seattle, but otherwise service went uninterrupted until SeaPort took over.

The loss of air service from Pendleton is a blow to some business and organizations that used SeaPort to save on trips to the Willamette Valley.

InterMountain Education Service District Superintendent Mark Mulvihill said he negotiated a bulk ticket price with the airport to send his employees on flights to Portland, a cheaper alternative than paying the costs of mileage and motel rooms.

Mulvihill saw it as a way to help SeaPort boost its business while providing a more efficient way for his employees to travel to meetings and conferences in Salem.

He even stationed a car for his employees at the Portland International Airport before he saw the writing on the wall with SeaPort’s bankruptcy and pulled it out.

“I’m very open to negotiations with Boutique, if we find a similar kind arrangement that’s a win-win,” he said.

Even if Pendleton officials can secure an airline for the rest of the year, they still have to convince the DOT that awarding Boutique a contract for 2017-2018 air service won’t continue to produce low boarding numbers.

The city is currently putting together a waiver petition explaining the circumstances surrounding those numbers, which is due to the DOT by Sept. 28.


Zenair CH 601 Zodiac, C-FSDN: Fatal accident occurred September 24, 2016 near Guelph Airpark, Ontario

The man killed Saturday when his small airplane crashed near the Guelph Airpark is being remembered for his dedication to his family, his field of research and his community.

Alfred Brunger, 63, was the sole occupant of the ultralight plane that crashed in a treed area off Watson Road in Puslinch Township.

Many members of the congregation at his church, Waterloo’s Mount Zion Lutheran Church, learned of his death from their pastor at Sunday morning’s service – prompting what Karen Gastmeier described as a “stunned silence” from the crowd.

“It was like this news was just simply incomprehensible,” she said. “We cannot figure out what it’s going to look like around here without him.”

Gastmeier is the chair of Mount Zion’s church council. Brunger was its vice-chair, involved in everything from its guitar choir to its community garden and tree-planting programs.

The environmental initiatives were a natural extension from the nearly 40 years he spent researching solar energy.

Doug McLennan, who now lives and works in Ottawa, says he and Brunger started their research careers together in 1977.

“They were only looking for one research engineer, but fortunately they changed their mind and decided to hire two people,” he said.

After eight years working together at the University of Toronto, Brunger left for the University of Waterloo, where he spent years as a professor.

But he and McLennan kept in touch and remained friends, often turning to the other for professional assistance.

“I knew I could always rely on Alfred for technical advice on just about anything,” McLennan said.

As McLennan tells it, Brunger’s passion for solar projects ranged from the scientific – helping develop a test standard now used around the world, for example – to the consumer-focused, like a device that cooked hot dogs using solar energy.

The Transportation Safety Board continues to try and determine exactly what caused the crash that killed Brunger.

A three-person team arrived in Puslinch on Sunday, and was expected to continue its work around the site for several days.

Ewan Tasker, the TSB’s regional manager of air investigations for Ontario, says investigators have already determined that nobody could have survived the crash.

The questions left to answer surround the moments before the aircraft apparently lost control, entered a “very steep” descent and struck a number of trees before coming to rest.

“Sometimes there are pieces of the aircraft missing, but in this case there was nothing obviously out of place,” Tasker said.

As of Monday morning, investigators had not figured out if the plane was built by its manufacturer, or if Brunger put it together himself. Neither scenario is uncommon.

Story and video:

Wellington County OPP is investigating an ultralight plane crash that killed the pilot Saturday afternoon.

Police say, Alfred Brunger, 63, of Waterloo was the lone occupant of the aircraft and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash happened around 3:45 p.m. in the area of Watson Road between Arkell Road and Stone Road, in Puslinch Township, not far from the Guelph Air Park Airport.

Raymond Burigana lives nearby and says he was in his backyard when the crash happened. 

“The sirens were crazy for 20 minutes, 25 minutes there were just more and more and more sirens," says Burigana.

Along with OPP, Guelph Wellington EMS, and members of the area fire department responded to the crash.

Wellington County OPP Constable Kevin Martin says they're not sure yet if the plane was trying to land or had just taken off.

The manager of regional operations for the Transportation Safety Board Ewan Tasker, says their initial findings indicate that the plane came in quite steep. 

“The aircraft came in very steep and very fast which would suggest it was out of control at that point,” says Tasker.

Investigators have removed the engine, propeller and a number of avionics. Tasker says those pieces have been taken back to TSB office in Richmond Hill for further investigation.

Their next step will be interviewing the witnesses who saw the plane go down as well as Brunger’s family.

David Woodhall, a friend speaking on behalf of the family, says they believe Brunger was on his way home to land at the Region of Waterloo International Airport.

Woodhall says the 63-year-old was an early pioneer in solar power and started the Midnight Sun Solar Car Team at the University of Waterloo.

He says Brunger was a mechanical engineer who built the ultralight plane himself, and would often time fly the plane to the family cottage.

Woodhall says Brunger was a brilliant, innovative and inventive person, with a love for life.

A member of the Mount Zion Lutheran Church in Waterloo says it was Brunger who managed the finances for the refugee program.

Brunger is survived by his wife Joan and their three adult children Elizabeth, Grace and Dan.

Wellington County OPP has confirmed that the sole occupant of an ultralight plane died in a crash Saturday afternoon.

The incident happened around 3:45 p.m. in the area of Watson Road between Arkell Road and Stone Road not far from the Guelph Airpark.

Along with OPP, Guelph Wellington EMS, and Guelph Fire responded to the crash.

Wellington County OPP Constable Kevin Martin says they're not sure yet if the plane was trying to land or had just taken off.

According to Martin the Transportation Safety Board has been notified and will be coming to the scene to assist with the investigation.

OPP have called in their Forensic Identification Unit to collect as much evidence as possible.

The identity of the person is being withheld pending notification of family.


Puslinch Fire and Rescue and Wellington County OPP are on the scene of a small plane crash southeast of Guelph.

An OPP Forensic Identification Unit is also on scene.

There are unconfirmed reports that one person is dead.

The small plane went down approximately half km into the brush just east of Watson Road South, half way between Stone Road and Arkell Road.

Emergency services are using ATV to access the site.


No glider crash found in Salem Township, Champaign County, Ohio

SALEM TWP., Champaign County — UPDATE @ 3:38 p.m. Sept. 25

Champaign County authorities launched a search for the crash of an ultralight glider, but no crash scene was ever found, a dispatcher at the sheriff’s office said today.

The dispatch center received a report that a glider had crashed Saturday afternoon in the 2000 block of Kennard-Kingscreek Road. But those search efforts apparently did not result in any crash being found, contrary to information we had on Saturday.

UPDATE @ 7:45 p.m. Sept. 24

The search for the operator of an ultralight glider that crashed this afternoon was called off.

The crash was reported in the 2000 block of Kennard-Kingscreek Road in Salem Twp., but this evening there were no authorities on scene and it wasn’t known where the aircraft was taken.


The operator of an ultralight glider aircraft that crashed this afternoon is not accounted for, according to the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.

The crash was reported around 3:40 p.m. in the 2000 block of Kennard-Kingscreek Road in Salem Twp., between Bellefontaine and Urbana.

CareFlight, another ultralight glider and a drone all conducted a grid search in the area but were not able to locate the operator. The glider’s owner also has not been identified, according to the sheriff’s office.

The crash is under investigation by the sheriff’s office, and so far deputies have not been able to reach the Federal Aviation Administration.

Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar said at that time the nearest weather station to the crash site in Bellefontaine was reporting winds out of the northwest at 6 mph with mostly cloudy skies. Visibility at ground level was clear, at 10 miles.


Schleicher ASG 29, C-FYLO: Fatal accident occurred September 24, 2016 near Roland-Désourdy Regional Airport (ZBM/CZBM), Bromont, Quebec

La mort de Jacques Fontaine dans un écrasement de planeur samedi à l'aéroport de Bromont a pris par surprise le monde des affaires. L'homme de 60 ans était considéré comme l'un des pionniers de la géothermie au Québec.

En plus d'être un pilote reconnu et expérimenté, Jacques Fontaine était le président fondateur de Géothermie Boréale, une entreprise offrant des pompes à chaleur géothermique pour le chauffage, la climatisation et la récupération d'énergie. 

Il cumulait en tout une trentaine d'années d'expérience dans le domaine de l'environnement. Il avait également été le président fondateur de Gestion Environnementale Éconord, une entreprise de récupération des matières résiduelles à Montréal, en plus d'être vice-président à l'environnement et aux projets spéciaux chez Sani-Mobile Montréal. 

Il avait déjà été aussi chargé de cours en environnement à l'École polytechnique de l'Université de Montréal,

« On avait toujours de bonnes discussions parce que c'est un passionné de l'environnement, tout comme moi », a confié le directeur général de la Foire écosphère, Éric Ferland. 

Son ami Pierre Tremblay n'avait aussi que de bons mots.  Jacques, c'est un homme de coeur, un homme de passion. Ça me touche beaucoup, c'est une grande perte personnelle, mais c'est une grande perte pour tout le monde autour, a-t-il réagi. 

Story and video:

The pilot of a glider plane that crashed in Bromont, Que. Saturday afternoon has died.

He has been identified as Jacques Fontaine, 60, from the Bromont area.

The crash happened at around 4:30 p.m. ET at the Roland-Desourdy airport in Bromont, roughly 85 km east of Montreal.

According to Pierre Gavillet, an investigator with  the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), Fontaine was in the last phase of landing when the crash occurred.

Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau with the Sûreté du Québec, confirmed the pilot was the only occupant on board.

He was rushed to hospital where he later died of his injuries.

Fontaine was an experienced pilot and is being remembered as a pioneer in the field of “free flying.”

Gavillet said the type of plane involved in the crash was a German-made Schleicher ASG 29 glider.

“It’s a high-performance glider,” Gavillet said. “It’s used for racing and it’s a highly popular model.”

According to Gavillet, preliminary information gathered on site indicate that Fontaine was coming back from a four-hour flight.

Gavillet said electronic devices on the plane will allow investigators to gather information on the plane’s trajectory.

TSB personnel were dispatched to Bromont Saturday. Their investigation continues.

Story  and video:

 A man is dead after his small plane crashed Saturday afternoon close to Bromont's Roland-Désourdy Regional Airport.

The man, who was the pilot, was the only person onboard the plane when it came down near Bromont's Scientific Park around 4:30 p.m. 

Robert Blais, the director general of the airport, said an employee called police after he saw the plane lose control and crash behind a building. 

"What will probably come out is that it was an unfortunate accident," he said. "It's a beautiful day that ended badly, unfortunately."

The pilot, who has not been identified, was experienced and it's not clear what caused the crash, according to Blais.

"There are days that are a little less windy, but these conditions were normal," he said.

An investigation is underway by the Sûreté du Québec and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.


Former Navy pilot heads Albany airport’s fixed-base operations: Alan Mathis makes customer service focus at Albany, Moultrie airports

Alan Mathis’ 8-year-old son, Haden Lee, serves as the former Navy pilot’s co-pilot during a recent flight. 

ALBANY — The Alan Mathis who insists that pilots and passengers who are tended to by his Eagles of America staff at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport get the best customer service possible is not the same Alan Mathis who, 20 years ago, made bombing runs in support of NATO-sanctioned military action in Bosnia.

A Top Gun-trained Navy pilot who left the military 10 years into his career after he’d “done everything I said I wanted to do,” Mathis is now the consummate businessman, in charge of fixed-base operations at Albany- and Moultrie-based airports. But spend a little time talking with Mathis about his flyboy past and his future business plans, and you gradually realize that the same passion that drove him as a defender of America is the one that drives him now.

“I was on the low end of cocky when I was a Navy pilot, but that was over the top in the civilian world,” Mathis, a Moultrie native who returned home after his military service, said. “I had to throttle myself way back, get rid of that Navy attitude. It took divine providence — and a few words from my wife — to remind me that I’m not the center of my universe.

“My wife (Dena) reminded me that the airport is not the cockpit of a fighter plane.”

Mathis’ tempered passion has served him well in the 12-plus years he’s managed operations at the Moultrie airport and the six in Albany. He’s taken over operations that, in the case of Moultrie, he was told had “maxed out” its business potential and, in Albany, had been losing as much as $20,000 a month. And he’s turned both operations around.

“We’re fortunate to have someone like Alan running our fixed-base operations,” city of Albany Transportation Director David Hamilton said. “The services they provide are top-of-the-line, and Alan has helped us realize the potential that exists at the airport. I think the partnership we’ve developed with Alan and Eagles of America is one of the reasons we’re seeing renewed interest in our airport.”

Mathis left Moultrie for the Air Force Academy when he graduated Colquitt County High School in 1984, and he was one of six airmen from the Class of ‘89 selected for cross commission into the Navy.

“I wasn’t much into boats — I always wanted to fly — but it was something of an honor to be selected for the commission,” Mathis said. “I knew I wanted to go into aviation, and it may sound funny but Navy training is actually more about classical aviation. In the Air Force, you study things like aerodynamics and a lot of engineering. Air Force training is also very structured, where, in the Navy, they kind of put it on a platter and say, ‘Come and get it.’

“For a self-starter like me, that was more in line with the way I liked to do things.”

Mathis was selected to pilot the F18 after completing training in Pensacola. He was halfway across the Atlantic Ocean on the USS America when word came that his skills were needed in Bosnia.

“The bolts were rattling on that ship as we headed full-speed for combat,” Mathis said. “We didn’t even stop once we entered the war zone. We went directly into air combat.”

After a decade in the Navy, Mathis decided it was time to pursue other interests.

“I never fully intended to make the military a career,” he said. “I wanted to fly, and I wanted to serve my country in the cockpit of an airplane. I just didn’t have the taste to make it a career.”

And while he did remain in the Navy Reserves for another decade, going through Top Gun school in Miramar, Calif., and serving as an instructor in Virginia and Florida, Mathis returned home with Dena, a school teacher, and found a new calling in the business world.

“I learned in November of 2003 that the operator of the Moultrie Municipal Airport was retiring, and after I asked around about the position I was encouraged to submit a bid package (to take over the operations),” Mathis said. “I think I may have been the only one to submit a bid, but I got it and started running operations on Jan. 1, 2004.”

Mathis did not step into a particularly promising position.

“I had a hangar at the airport, and I talked with the former operator about the position,” Mathis said. “He told me there was little money to be made, that business was maxed out. But one of the things Dena and I had done over the years as we’d traveled was to catalog the things that got our attention when we flew. Most of it focused on customer service.

“Maybe sometimes it just takes someone dumb enough to try new things, but we basically lived at the airport over the first couple of years as we tried to get things going. We focused on customer service, listened to the things that pilots and passengers said, and we tried to make everything available that they wanted. Maybe we got lucky, but we’ve increased business in Moultrie 3 1/2 times what it was.”

In dealing particularly with hunters who flew into Southwest Georgia for the season each year, Mathis had regular dealings with officials at Albany’s airport. He learned that the nation’s largest fix-base operator, Landmark, which has locations at 44 airports worldwide, was ready to write off the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport as a losing proposition.

“Landmark had a bloated budget in Albany — I think they were trying to operate it the same way they did other, larger airports — and they’d gotten to the point where they pretty much ignored Albany,” Mathis said. “When I talked with officials there about taking over operations, they told me they were losing around $20,000 a month.

“They basically said, ‘If you can make a go there, good on you.’ I put together a package to run operations there and got it. We started Feb. 1 of 2010.”

Mathis did the unexpected when he took over operations at the Albany airport: Lowered fuel costs and gave employees more money.

“We’re not a destination place, so we couldn’t use that kind of model,” he said. “People come through here to quail hunt or to refuel on their way from the Midwest and Northeast to Florida. We started advertising our competitive prices on a fuel-shopping website, and we started getting more of the business.”

And, given Albany and Southwest Georgia’s eminence as the quail-hunting capital of the world, both the Albany and Moultrie airports are regular destinations during hunting season.

“We’ve put tens of thousands of our own dollars into upgrades, and the city of Albany has been gracious enough to renew its interest in helping us provide top-notch facilities at the airport,” Mathis said. “We’ve made significant upgrades, and both (former airport director) Yvette Aehle and David (Hamilton) have helped us make these improvements.”

With Moultrie and Albany operations running smoothly, Mathis now has his eye on perhaps expanding to add to his operations.

“I’m usually the lowest-paid employee at our operations, and I had a former employee ask me once why I did it,” Mathis said. “I hadn’t really thought about it, but when I did I told him, ‘I get the satisfaction of knowing I provide a job that lets you make your car payment, pay your mortgage, go out to eat and have money in your pocket.’ Now I’m not trying to make myself out to be ‘Mr. Noble,’ but that’s part of what drives me.

“I’m also driven by a fear of failure. I’ve failed at major things in my life, so I know what that’s like. It’s important to me, my family, my employees and the cities that we don’t let that happen here.”

Story and photo gallery:

Rent at Alaska's international airports is about to get more expensive

After more than a decade without a rate increase, the cost of leasing land from the Alaska International Airport System is rising.

Come Jan. 1, land lease rates at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and Fairbanks International Airport — which together constitute the Alaska International Airport System — will increase, with some as much as doubling.

Marc Luiken, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, approved the hikes last month.

At the Anchorage airport, the annual rate will go from 9 cents per square foot to 18 cents for aeronautical uses, and in Fairbanks it will go up to 12 cents. At Lake Hood Seaplane Base, managed by the Anchorage airport, leases will also go from 9 to 12 cents.

That's a notable uptick for a market where rates haven't budged since about 2003, said John Parrott, manager of the Anchorage airport.

"There is no arguing that's a significant increase," he said, adding that the airport system attempted back in 2009 to implement an incremental increase in land rent, "but there was a great concern about the state of the economy at that point," when the nation was feeling the brunt of a major recession.

Alaska's economic state isn't stable right now either, but Parrott said that "many Alaskans, such as those in the tourism industry, are doing well. The current situation is not as universal as the 2009 situation."

But that's not much comfort for some leaseholders, especially those operating primarily in Alaska.

In public comments submitted to the Alaska International Airport System earlier this year, a handful of people protested the increase.

"The proposed land rent increases are excessive and unreasonable," wrote Matt Atkinson and Jane Dale, the president and executive director, respectively, of the Alaska Air Carriers Association.

"In a slowing economy there is no way for commercial aviation to absorb such huge cost increases," they wrote, asking for a smaller hike of 10 percent.

Chris Webb, vice president of medical flight company Guardian Flight, wrote that while some increase might be warranted, such a large increase at one time "is not appropriate."

Between the Anchorage airport, the Fairbanks airport and Lake Hood, the airport system has about 270 land leases, Parrott said. Some of those spaces are for less than an acre on the Lake Hood side, where private airplanes and mechanics operate, to as much as 10 or 20 acres on the commercial side where larger companies like Alaska Airlines and FedEx do business.

Parrott said the change could have happened much more quickly, but the airports wanted to give people time to prepare. The system is trying to "balance (its) funding sources," he said, adding that pretty much every other airport fee has gone up over the years, from concessions to landing fees.

"One of the things we're considering doing in the future is having much smaller changes but more often," he said. "It was a poor plan to wait 13 years without changing the rent."

The airport system is also increasing rent on land used for non-aeronautical purposes, like parking, warehousing, maintenance and anything else that doesn't deal directly with operating the aircraft, to bring it up to fair market value.

Parrott said the Anchorage airport alone has probably "a couple thousand acres" of leasable land space, much of it already rented. That airport has a total of about 4,800 acres, including runways and taxiways.