Saturday, November 5, 2016

Van's RV-10, N924WY: Fatal accident occurred November 05, 2016 near Dubois Municipal Airport (KDUB), Fremont County, Wyoming

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report: 

Bruce Stamper: 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Casper FSFO-04

NTSB Identification: CEN17FA035

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, November 05, 2016 in Dubois, WY
Aircraft: STAMPER RV-10, registration: N924WY
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 November 5, 2016, about 0756 mountain daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Stamper model RV-10 single-engine airplane, N924WY, was destroyed during a postimpact fire following a loss of control shortly after takeoff from Dubois Municipal Airport (DUB), Dubois, Wyoming. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a test flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the presumed local flight.

A witness, who was also a pilot, reported that he saw the accident airplane takeoff from runway 28 (6,100 feet by 60 feet, asphalt). He stated that he saw the right-side gull-wing door open immediately after liftoff. After the door opened, he saw the pilot reach for the fully open door with his right hand and heard a momentary reduction of engine power. He saw the airplane descend momentarily before he heard an increase in engine power and saw the airplane level off over the runway. He reported that the pilot continued to reach for the open cabin door as the airplane overflew the remaining runway about 35 feet above ground level (agl). The witness then observed the airplane's left wing and nose drop suddenly. He surmised that the airplane had entered an aerodynamic stall/spin. The airplane descended below his line-of-sight before he observed a large explosion.

The accident airplane was an experimental amateur-built Stamper model RV-10 single-engine airplane, serial number 40146. An experimental 260-horsepower Aero Sport Power model IO-540-D4A5 reciprocating engine, serial number 1542, powered the airplane through a constant-speed, three blade, Whirl Wind Aviation model 375RV composite propeller, serial number 375-106. The airplane had a fixed tricycle landing gear, was capable of seating four individuals, and had a certified maximum gross weight of 2,700 pounds. The airplane was equipped with two composite gull-wing cabin doors. The airplane was issued a special airworthiness certificate on April 23, 2016. According to available information, the airplane likely had accumulated 10-12 hours since receiving the airworthiness certificate. The last condition inspection of the airplane was completed on April 23, 2016, in conjunction with the issuance of the airworthiness certificate. A postaccident review of available maintenance records found no history of unresolved airworthiness issues. The airplane had a total fuel capacity of 60 gallons distributed between two wing fuel tanks. A review of fueling records established that the airplane fuel tanks were topped-off before the accident flight.

According to FAA records, the pilot, age 44, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, airplane single engine sea, and instrument airplane ratings. His last aviation medical examination was completed on September 17, 2015, when he was issued a second-class medical certificate with no limitations or restrictions. A pilot logbook was not recovered during the on-scene investigation. According to recent insurance documentation, provided during October 2016, the pilot reported having a total flight experience of 1,500 hours, of which 40 hours were completed in Vans Aircraft RV-6 airplanes, 4 hours in Vans Aircraft model RV-10 airplanes, and 2 hours in the accident airplane.

At 0755, the DUB automated surface observing system reported the following weather conditions: wind 270 degrees true at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 0 degrees Celsius, dew point -8 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting 30.29 inches of mercury.

The initial point-of-impact was in an open field about 1,675 feet past the runway 28 departure threshold and 183 feet left of the extended runway centerline. A 67-foot-long debris path, oriented on a 210-degree magnetic heading, was observed between the initial point-of-impact and the main wreckage. A ground impact crater, containing propeller fragments, was observed about 44 feet from the initial point-of-impact. The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, wings, and empennage. The cabin, including the cockpit instrument panel, was destroyed during the postimpact fire. Both wings exhibited damage consistent with ground impact. The empennage was relatively undamaged. A flight control continuity check was not possible due to the extent of damage; however, all observed flight control separations were consistent with fire and impact related damage.

The right-side gull-wing door was located in a ravine about 600 feet northeast of the main wreckage. The door was located about 1,500 feet past the runway 28 departure threshold and 200 feet right of the extended runway centerline. The door had separated from the fuselage hinges. There was no evidence that the door had struck any portion of the airplane after it had separated. The door was equipped with forward and aft door latch pins and a center latch mechanism. The center latch consisted of a rotating semicircular cam that worked in conjunction with the two door latch pins. The door was not equipped with the safety latch mechanism that was provided by the airframe kit manufacturer. Before the door was recovered from the ravine, the door latch handle was observed to be about 20 degrees from a vertical position or about 110 degrees from the fully latched position. The forward and aft door latch pins were found extended about 1/8 inch outside the door. The curved portion of the semicircular center latch was found facing aft. A functional test of the door latch mechanism did not reveal any anomalies. The door latch handle rotated 180-degrees between the open and latched positions. When the handle was in the latched position, the forward and aft door latch pins extended 1-1/4 inches outside the door and the curved portion of the semicircular center latch faced down. The latch pins were equipped with embedded magnets that interfaced with position switches installed in the fuselage door frames. These position switches, which were destroyed during the postimpact fire, were part of a door latch annunciator circuit. A functional test of the door latch annunciator system was not possible due to fire damage sustained after the accident to the fuselage and instrument panel.

The engine remained partially attached to the firewall by its mounts. Internal engine and valve train continuity was confirmed as the engine crankshaft was rotated. Compression and suction were noted on cylinder Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 5 in conjunction with crankshaft rotation. No compression was noted on cylinder Nos. 4 and 6 due to thermal damage to the valve springs. The engine was equipped with a traditional magneto and an electronic ignition system. The traditional magneto exhibited extensive thermal damage and could not be tested. The electronic ignition was not recovered and likely was destroyed during the postimpact fire. The upper spark plugs were removed and exhibited features consistent with normal engine operation. A borescope inspection revealed no anomalies with the cylinders, valves, or pistons. The propeller hub remained attached to the engine crankshaft flange. Two of the three composite blades were destroyed during the impact sequence. The remaining composite blade exhibited thermal damage from the postimpact fire.

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 

Bruce Stamper, Jr. 44, of Dubois

Bruce Stamper, Jr. 44, died on Saturday, November 5, 2016, as a result of a plane crash in Dubois, WY. A funeral service will be held at 2:00 pm on Friday, November 11, 2016, at the Headwaters in Dubois. Burial will follow at the Dubois Cemetery.

Bruce Stamper, Jr. was born on November 16, 1971 in Fairbanks, AK to Bruce and Billie Jean (Powell) Stamper. He lived in Usibelli, AK where his father was a coal miner. The family moved back and forth between Alaska and Wyoming until he was 8 years old when they settled outside of Dubois. While in high school he drove his own car up the Alaskan Highway through Canada where he worked at the cannery in Cordova, AK. He was ambitious and walked the docks until he found a job on a seine boat where he could make crew shares. He attended schools in Dubois and was an exchange student in Japan for 6 weeks with his fellow classmates graduating with the class of 1991 from Dubois High School. After high school he served a two year mission for his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Santa Rosa, CA.

Upon returning from his mission he married Melissa Lynn Hickman and they were blessed with the birth of his eldest son, Cody Austin Stamper in 1995. They later divorced. He then moved to Salmon, ID where he was introduced to Crystal Anne Grimm whom he married on September 24, 1999. They were sealed for time and all eternity in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple in 2001. They were blessed with three children; Dakota Gregory Stamper in 2002, Olivia Anne Stamper in 2003, and Deshka Stamper in 2007.

He was responsible and dependable from a young age and was a successful entrepreneur of many businesses. He built beautiful log homes, and in 2006 traveled to Cordova, AK where he and Crystal were inspired to buy their own boat and gillnet permit. His two sons worked hard as crewmen on his boat. The family continued to split their time between Alaska and Wyoming from 2007 through 2016.

He was always looking ahead to the next adventure which was just over the next ridge. He always had a love for adventure and became an experienced pilot. He piloted his own Super Cub which he used to spot fish during the salmon seine season.

His family meant everything to him. He was proud of his children and their accomplishments. His life was blessed with many great friends.

He is survived by his wife Crystal of Dubois; children, Cody Stamper of Pasco, WA serving in the U.S. Marines, Dakota Stamper, Olivia Stamper, and Deshka Stamper all of Dubois, WY; parents, B.J. and Ted Shinderling of Salmon, ID; brothers, Jared Stamper (Jamie) of Alpine, WY and Amos Stamper (Krista) of Gillette, WY; uncles, Charles Powell (Donna) of Anchorage, AK, Pete Stamper (Sheila) of Salmon, ID, and Mike Stamper (Judy) of Lander, Wyoming; and numerous nieces, nephews, and friends.

He was preceded in death by his father, Bruce Stamper; grandparents, Albert and Margaret Stamper, William and Eulah Powell; and uncle Thomas Powell.

On-line condolences for the family may be made at

Memorials may be made to the Stamper children’s education fund in care of the Davis Funeral Home, 2203 W. Main Street, Riverton, WY 82501.

Services are under the direction of the Davis Funeral Home.


DUBOIS, Wyo. - The Fremont County Sheriff's Office has released further details regarding the plane crash that occurred on Saturday in Dubois. The Sheriff's Office received a 911 call of the incident at 7:57 a.m.

Their preliminary investigation indicates that it appears a single-engine aircraft crashed during take-off outside of the Dubois airport property. There was one occupant aboard and that occupant did not survive.

Fremont County Undersheriff Lee reports he's been in contact with federal investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Both agencies are sending investigators to the Dubois area to conduct further investigations. 

Cargo flights stir noise complaints

Each fall, large cargo planes full of car parts leave Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport bound for vehicle assembly lines around the country. And each fall, there are complaints about the resulting noise. This year, there was an increase in flights and what seemed to be a resulting increase in complaints on social media and to public officials.

The Daily News reached out to several people who have complained about the noise issue, but none responded for this article.

Airport Manager Rob Barnett acknowledged that the cargo flights increased this year, adding that "we're very sensitive to noise issues."

Barnett said the flights "are unscheduled, sporadic and incredibly expensive."

Several local car part makers each fall ship parts to car manufacturers, whose assembly lines are busy working to produce 2017 models. It is cheaper to ship the parts by rail or truck, so typically if the plane option is chosen "there's been a problem downstream in the production process," Barnett said.

The planes used range from MD-80s to DC-9s and 727s but are generally bigger – and louder – than most of the planes that typically use the airport.

Responding via email to questions about the noise complaints, Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson wrote that he had received a few this fall.

"We take every complaint seriously, then do our best to evaluate the problem and formulate the appropriate response." Wilkerson wrote. "I have spoken with the airport manager and forwarded him the information from those who have called. There may be influence or action a local government may take, but airport regulations are, for the most part, under the jurisdiction of the FAA."

The federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act, passed in 1990, gives the FAA authority over most local airport noise regulations.

The Bowling Green airport underwent an environmental analysis earlier this year that included a review of the noise impact. The airport as a result has taken noise abatement steps, Barnett said, such as requiring pilots to ascend as quickly as possible and not do turns until the planes reach a higher altitude, both of which reduce the noise level.

Barnett said having an airport that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and that can accommodate air freight is an important consideration when car part manufacturers locate here.

"That's the No. 2 or No. 3 question they have," he said.

Other communities have taken action in response to airport noise complaints. In 1995, officials in Long Beach, Calif., for example, set a sound threshold and banned takeoffs and landings between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. for that city's airport.

Local officials had also talked about trying curfews, but "if you start restricting the flights ... it shuts down assembly lines. Manufacturers don't like that at all," Barnett said.

According to the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce website, there are about 60 auto-related manufacturing plants in the region supporting more than 11,000 jobs.

"It would have an incredibly negative impact on those manufacturers" and thus on the local economy, Barnett said.


Pilot group honors Fort Morgan Municipal Airport: Outstanding Airport Award recognizes exceptional facilities, service

Fort Morgan Municipal Airport has received an Outstanding Airport Award from the Colorado Pilots Association, according to a city news release.

The award is part of a recognition program in which members of the association, based on their flying experiences, recommend airports that have gone out of their way to provide exceptional services and facilities for general aviation. Only two such awards were bestowed this year, with the other going to the Granby/Grand County Airport.

In nominating the Fort Morgan Airport for the award, CPA member Gary Winslow noted the major improvements at the airport in the past year, including a new runway to relieve environmental issues and better serve the agricultural and industrial needs of the area.

"The old airport runway had deteriorated to the point that it was no longer considered safe for aircraft operations and the airport was in danger of being closed," Winslow's nomination said, according to a news release from CPA.

The nomination also cited a Fort Morgan Times article that noted that former Mayor Terry McAlister had advocated for a new runway for many years before the project actually became a reality. The article quotes McAlister as saying, "Without an airport, your city dwindles and your community eventually goes away."

Winslow's nomination also noted the reasonable fuel prices and exceptional service provided by Fort Morgan Municipal Airport fixed base operator Scott Aviation, "which makes it an ideal destination airport," the nomination said.

The Colorado Pilots Association, a statewide organization of nearly 800 members, typically presents separate awards to one commercial service airport and one general aviation airport each year. This year, awards were given to two airports in the general aviation category considering the exceptional effort and contribution of those two airports to the growth of aviation in Colorado.

The awards were to be presented at the CPA annual membership meeting Nov. 5 at the Rocky Mountain Metro Airport in Broomfield.


Co-owner of flightseeing business under attack for anti-Native remarks posted on Facebook

A pilot who is majority owner of a flightseeing business outside Denali National Park has enraged many in recent days with Facebook comments about "drunken Eskimos," spit cups and poor hygiene.

Some want to push Brad Benson and his business, Stampede Aviation, out of Alaska. They question the ethics of a pilot whose home is in Texas making his living in Alaska by flying tourists around Denali, yet showing contempt for the Native people who named the mountain.

He posted his comments on a thread in the Bush Pilots of Alaska Facebook group in which he compared the lure of catering to tourists with his perceived negatives of Bush passengers. His remarks have since been deleted but posts with screenshots of them have been shared thousands of times.

"I cannot believe I am reading such racist remarks against Alaska Natives from a local company in Alaska," Melanie Sauafea wrote in a post circulated more than 600 times.

"Highly don't recommend Stampede Aviation," Michael E. Lake wrote in sharing another post. "Highly unprofessional, racist, and a huge disrespect to not just 'Eskimos' but Alaskans, Americans, and just human beings."

Some commented that they didn't see what all the fuss was about. But most were outraged.

Messages left for Benson were not returned. The Stampede Facebook page stopped allowing reviews by the public since the controversy began last week.

Those views are his personal perspective, not Stampede's, his business partner said.

"Stampede Aviation is committed to our Alaska family," director of operations and part-owner Jordan Heckley said in an initial emailed response. "The Facebook posts circling the community do not reflect the views of our company."

Even so, Benson is a big part of the small, Healy-based flightseeing business. He is listed on state corporate records as 90 percent owner of Valley Aviation LLC, which owns Stampede. His address is in Granbury, Texas.

The company is conducting its own investigation into what happened and what to do about it, Heckley said in a phone interview.

"To maintain the integrity of our company, we have hired outside professionals to investigate this issue and to consult us on the proper course of action," Heckley said.

The flightseeing business started in 2012, Heckley said. It operates in the summer both as a charter and for tours around Denali and to Chena Hot Springs. Benson is one of two pilots in a company that employs six to 10 people in peak months, Heckley said.

"We at Stampede Aviation sincerely apologize from the bottom of our hearts to anyone that may have been hurt or felt disrespected by the lack of judgment on Brad's behalf," Heckley said in a followup email Wednesday evening. Earlier in the week, he said he couldn't comment on whether the company would apologize.

Stampede has begun "mandatory sensitivity training sessions for all employees," Heckley said. "These training sessions will cover topics such as respect for others, proper codes of conduct, and social media guidelines."

Some of those upset have called for Stampede to lose its right to operate in Denali National Park. Its website says it obtained a "commercial use authorization" from the National Park Service in 2014. That has since expired.

The business doesn't need a park permit as long as its planes don't land there, said Katherine Belcher, the park's public information officer. Stampede didn't have a license to operate in Denali in 2016 and hasn't applied for one in 2017, she said. Its planes can still fly over and around the mountain and park.

'You don't have to go to Bethel …'

On Oct. 27, Benson jumped into a discussion on the Bush Pilots of Alaska Facebook group. A pilot new to Alaska had asked about a good place to work.

"Love me some Nome and Kotz!" aviation mechanic Chris Brandon answered. "All roads still lead to Bethel." The Southwestern Alaska hub has a busy airport with a steady stream of flights to Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages.

"I've got a job available in a Cherokee Six in Denali starting about May 1," Benson chimed in. "Seasonal tourism work with tips and no natives. … You don't have to go to Bethel if soda pop, Doritos and drunken Eskimos aren't your thing."

When the mechanic asked him about the "no natives" comment, Benson didn't back off.

"First, they don't tip. It's transportation, not a tour," Benson wrote on the Bush Pilots page, contrasting a flightseeing gig with working rural commuter flights.

Some of those upset read that as disparaging Native people as stingy when no one tips pilots on commercial flights.

Benson said a pilot can make more in four months flying tourists than in a full year for a Bush airline.

"They fly in worse weather, they fly far worse airplanes that are old and tired. The natives view them as a taxi and care less about appearances as long as they get from point to point," he wrote on the thread, in one of the comments since erased. Tourists, he said, tend to be wealthy and have higher expectations.

He wrote that he wasn't racist.

"But I will say that when doing the native flying you'll encounter more drunks, spit cups, poor hygiene, and the like. I've flown tons and tons of soda and Doritos into those villages, but have never seen a toothbrush on board. Not racism…facts…unfortunately."

Brandon, the mechanic, said later that while Benson pointed to what some flights are like, he failed to discuss the essential nature of Bush aviation: "medical emergencies, re-uniting families, bringing youth together for spirited sports matches, bringing different cultures together all across Alaska."

The "no natives" comment may cross a line, said Marti Buscaglia, executive director of the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights.

The commission, which investigates complaints of discrimination based on race, gender, disability and other factors, as of mid-week had not received any complaint against Stampede and couldn't comment on any unresolved complaint, she said. It would investigate if someone brought the matter to the commission, she said.

Under state law, places that serve the public cannot make themselves unwelcome based on a person's race, said Buscaglia, a former newspaper publisher.

Heckley, the co-owner, said Stampede is committed to diversity and "has tremendous respect for Alaska Natives."

The company "has never refused service to anyone and strictly prohibits discrimination in service and employment," he said. The "no natives" remark was intended to mean that Stampede operates as a charter and does not fly scheduled routes, he said.

Aviation operators need to provide service that is responsible, safe and professional – but what the Stampede owner wrote was not professional, said Lee Ryan, a pilot, chairman of the governor's aviation advisory board and a vice president at Ryan Air, a Bush carrier started by his grandparents as Unalakleet Air Taxi in 1953.

"This guy doesn't deserve to be a pilot in our state, let alone make a profit with his company through sightseeing and showing off our Native lands," Ryan, who is Inupiaq, posted on Facebook.

Native people in remote villages depend on air travel more than anyone else and need carriers they can trust, he said in an interview.

The comments disappoint him. Customers will decide whether to fly with Stampede, he said.

'Get out of my Alaska'

Dennis Davis of Shishmaref was alerted to the remarks by a pilot friend in Nome. He wrote a blistering commentary on Stampede's business page, noting that if Benson were lost in the wild, Native people from the villages would be the first ones searching for him and the last to go home, as is their way.

Davis, who is Native and tweets as "@EskimoFixer," a reference to his work with film crews who come to his island home to document climate change, said the pilot's words hurt him.

"The guy needs to be accountable for his actions," he said.

His post didn't get much traction so he reached out to Ricko DeWilde, who is half-Athabascan, grew up on a homestead outside of Huslia and has a big Facebook following.

His post with screenshots of Benson's comments and the Stampede page has been shared more than 1,500 times.

People hit the roof:

"Boycott his business in Denali."

"Get out of my Alaska."

"He doesn't deserve business here! He should go look for tourists in Texas!!"

The comments are a side note in a world that often seems dangerous and unjust to Alaska Native people, DeWilde said.

"We are a strong people. We hunt for our own food. We have a lot to be proud of," DeWilde said. "But it's very hard for young people to have the most powerful groups in America laughing at us, to come to town and get looked down on."

Attention on the pilot's comments shines light on deeper prejudices, said Sauafea, who is Inupiaq. Her Facebook "is out of control" after her post on Stampede, she said. She works for one of the small Bush air carriers that Benson criticized.

"He has no clue what kind of beautiful culture Alaska has to offer," she said.

She spent her early years in Selawik and remembers ugly taunts from school kids in Anchorage who told her to go home.

"I still face racism to this day," Sauafea said, pointing to the Stampede situation as one example.

Sauafea isn't calling for Stampede to shut down.

"This should be a reality check for him," she said.

On TripAdvisor, Stampede Aviation has 44 five-star reviews that described its tours as excellent and awesome, amazing and fabulous.

As of Thursday, just one reviewer gave the company a bad rating, a newly bestowed single star for "terrible." An earlier bad review, calling out Benson for his comments, had been removed.

"Unfortunately, people make mistakes but it is our greatest hope that the people of this great land give us a chance to make it right," Heckley said in the Wednesday email.

Original article can be found here:

Helicopter noise tests patience of neighbors along Taylor Street area, Chicago, Illinois

Tempers are sky-high among people who live both east and west of the Illinois Medical District (IMD) because of loud helicopters that neighbors said disobey Vertiport Chicago instructions to fly along railroad tracks rather than over residential areas.

Vertiport Chicago is located at 1339 S. Wood St. in the IMD area. One area resident passed out flyers, urging people to contact the Gazette to express their concerns.

More than one dozen did. The area “sounds like a war zone,” said Rebecca Hendrick, a resident of Bowler Street in the Tri-Taylor area and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Helicopters fly low and directly over the neighborhood” way too often, she said.

“The helicopter noise is too damn loud and way too frequent,” said Floyd Bednarz of Flournoy Street. “I can’t even carry on a conversation when one flies overhead.”

He counted 12 fly-overs between 5:45 and 6:30 a.m. one day. On a recent morning when it was raining, “nothing. They couldn’t fly, so there was peace and quiet,” he said. “One of the main reasons for us purchasing a house in this neighborhood was that our street was so quiet,” said Lazar Milanov of Bishop Street. “Not any more,” he added.

Milanov said he spoke with Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), and the alderman told Milanov he will pursue it.

“I have seen helicopters coming in the wrong way,” Ervin said. “From what I am observing, people using the helicopters are not using the [recommended] flight path.”

He planned to meet with Vertiport proprietors. “I am also going to be meeting with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration].”

Ervin wondered if some of the helicopters come from a different vertiport, Chicago Helicopter Experience at 2420 S. Halsted St. He hopes to call both proprietors to a meeting along with Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th) whose ward contains the Chicago Helicopter Experience.

Vertiport Chicago began flights less than a year ago. Emergency helicopters “come in on a bee line—the fastest, safest possible way,” said Mike Cusack, chief operator of Vertiport Chicago. Nonemergency helicopters such as tour flights are advised to fly east and west along the rail yard between 16th and 18th streets, Cusack added, honoring a “good neighbor layout.”

Nevertheless, “We are not specifically in control,” he noted.

Nicole Beck of Oakley Avenue wrote the FAA on behalf of her Tri-Taylor Community Association board. The response she received was that the FAA’s hands are tied so long as the helicopters are flying safely.

Beck said the Tri-Taylor board would request a “good neighbor policy” from Vertiport Chicago. She wondered why the flight paths do not focus on Ashland Avenue or follow the train tracks south of Vertiport Chicago “as promised.”

Tri-Taylor resident Brian Stetler said even Western Avenue offers a more tolerable route than flying over residential areas.

The IMD Commission leases the land to Vertiport Chicago’s owners but does not control flight patterns or noise levels, IMD spokesperson Ryan Gage said. Most flights are emergency medical transports, which have priority at the facility, he noted.

“The Vertiport commercial tours do not fly over the residential corridor of the district,” Gage said, noting they fly along the railroad tracks south of Vertiport Chicago to and from the lake. “There are a variety of other possibilities to consider, including news, police, and medical flights,” he said. The flight paths of emergency helicopters are not under our jurisdiction.”

Tri-Taylor resident Michael Ramstedt, who lives on Oakley Avenue, disagrees. “It’s always the blue or red tour ones from the Vertiport. I haven’t seen anything that looks like a med-copter.”

Cusack said Vertiport Chicago does not have any red or blue tour helicopters, only brown and green ones, and noted Chicago Helicopter Experience has red ones. Bridget Bolger, who lives on Claremont Avenue, said when helicopters buzz her home, it is “totally obnoxious.” She urged neighbors to video the low-flying helicopters to present examples to Ervin and the FAA.

Emily Steffen does not want to discourage a new business, although the noise bothers her. She suggested more regulation of flight hours during summer months, especially on weekdays when people have to get to work early. “Maybe the companies can vary their flight plans to go over different neighborhoods so no single one is overwhelmed,” she said.

Steffen awaits winter. “Though the noise is annoying in summer months, I’m sure it won’t be as bad when we’re all inside more during the winter, and the sun goes down because of [the end of] daylight savings time,” she said.

Ramstedt said the tour season for helicopter flights seemed to be winding down, but he is bracing for noise during the summer next year.

Bednarz expected noise when he moved to the area a number of years ago—Chicago Transit Authority trains, freight trains, sirens— “but the noise from these sources pales in comparison to loud, 100- plus decibels sometimes, chopping noise of helicopters flying directly overhead on their flight path. With increasing violence, soaring taxes and fees, and now a further reduction in my quality of life, I am planning to leave Chicago soon.”

Vertiport Chicago operators want to be good neighbors, Cusack said. But, he said, “We don’t own any helicopters. They use us as a parking garage or gas station.”

The owners of the tour helicopter companies using Vertiport Chicago are Rotor Zen and Helimotion.

Original article can be found here:

Sky high air ambulance bills send patients into orbit: Air ambulance helicopters may save your life, but at what price? Much too steep, many families say

DALLAS -- Colton Lightfoot of University Park has had a few flips and spills on his motocross bike before. But the one the 17-year-old suffered last May on an East Texas track became a serious emergency.

"It was just right off the start, then crash, and then I got run over,” he said. “That's just what I've heard. I don't remember anything."

But his father Royston remembers everything.

“They got him on a flat board and stabilized him,” Lightfoot said.

He will never forget the drive to the nearby hospital in Sulphur Springs, the CT scan revealing a fractured vertebra, and a doctor's recommendation to transport his son by air-ambulance helicopter to a hospital in Dallas.

"Emotionally, you're a wreck,” Lightfoot said. “You see your son or daughter fly off in a helicopter, it's not good."

The family has video of Colton lifting off in the helicopter servicing the Sulphur Springs hospital. At the time, his parents were concerned about one thing -- the safety of their son.

Two weeks later, they were shocked when a bill arrived from the air ambulance company

"My wife said, ‘You are not going to believe this air ambulance bill,’” Lightfoot recalled. “We open it and it's $58,000.”

Their insurance carrier said it would only cover $15,000 of the 74-mile flight. The Lightfoots have to pay the rest, $43,000, on their own.

The air ambulance company, Air Methods, the nation's largest air ambulance company, was an out-of-network medical service provider. That means they didn't have a contract with insurance carriers with an agreed-upon price.

Air ambulance medical services in the U.S. are unregulated and that allows them wide discretion on charges. When Lightfoot Googled “Air Methods,” he found out he was not alone.

"I started reading through all these (complaints) and that's when the light went on… (they are taking advantage of) a loophole,” he said.

According to Dallas aviation attorney Ladd Sanger with the Dallas law firm Slack & Davis, the practice of billing out-of-network for air ambulance services is legal, but can be financially devastating for patients financially unprepared for the costs.

"The air ambulance companies, because they are called out in emergency situations, don't want to be in network with anybody because they don't want to have their fees capped at a reasonable and necessary level,” Sanger said.

Sarah Oelke of Oklahoma City remembers when her infant son, Garrett, was having trouble breathing hours after he was born.

"I was a little concerned,” Oelke said. “He didn't sound great."

He needed specialized care at Children’s Hospital at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center 11 miles away. An Air Methods helicopter assigned to Children's Hospital was recommended to transport her newborn.

"I'm not thinking anything about the bill to come,” Oelke said.

Her son turned out to be fine. But the $28,000 bill came due and has haunted her the past two years.

Insurance paid only $5,100, leaving her with a $23,000 tab. She says she will have to take out a loan to pay.

Oelke, a nurse practitioner, believes medical providers like Air Methods are wrong.

"Ethics, morals and informed consent are huge,” she said.

Oelke is just one of eight other Oklahomans suing Air Methods, accusing them in court documents of an "inflated pricing scheme and refusing to discount prices to those who have no ability to negotiate."

Her attorney, Alex Yaffe, is seeking class action status, saying there are hundreds of former patients across the U.S. who are being overcharged.

Another class action case alleging Air Methods overcharged patients is pending in South Carolina.

"It's expensive, but it can be done way less expensive, and way more efficiently than what's happening with these for-profit companies,” Yaffe said

Air Methods, and its parent for-profit company, Rocky Mountain Holdings, declined to comment on camera due to pending litigation, but provided WFAA-TV with this statement:

"We understand that every patient's individual, financial and health insurance coverage circumstances are unique, and our team is dedicated to partnering with every one of them. Air Methods has a charity care program in place to allow us to reduce patient financial responsibility. Our team is here to help.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Care Flight, a non-profit air ambulance operating in North Texas.

Medical Director Robert Simonson says between $12,000 and $15,000 per trip is a normal and reasonable fee. He says billing patients like Lightfoot for nearly $60,000 is questionable.       

"People are getting bills that are more expensive than their hospital bills once they got to the hospital,” Dr. Simonson said. “That begs somebody to take a look at the industry and say, ‘Is this appropriate or not?’"

If you are hit with an outrageous air ambulance bill, experts say:

Try to negotiate with the air ambulance service. Experts say the final tab could be an inflated number that may be negotiable;

If that doesn’t work, consult with an attorney who has both aviation and insurance experience.

File a complaint with the Texas Attorney General. You are likely not the only one receiving large bills.

Air Methods statement

"Our mission is first and foremost to preserve emergency air medical service for all communities around the country. Air Methods provides lifesaving care to more than 100,000 people annually. Much like a hospital emergency room, when we are asked to save a life, we deploy without regard to a patient's ability to pay. We understand that every patient's individual, financial and health insurance coverage circumstances are unique, and our team is dedicated to partnering with every one of them as they navigate through the post-flight and critical care process. Air Methods has a long-established charity care program in place to allow us to reduce patient financial responsibility within our legal parameters, and our team is here to help. 

"But other players in the healthcare system must also do their part. The drastically low reimbursements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must be fixed. Air Methods strongly supports the  proposed federal legislation that would resolve the Medicare reimbursement shortfall by updating reimbursement rates. Insurance companies must also be willing to negotiate and start to reimburse for air medical transport services at a reasonable rate. A recent study conducted in Montana showed that for only a $1.70 more per month in insurance premiums, emergency air medical transportation can be reimbursed in full without burdening patients with medical bills.

"The core purpose of health insurance is to protect individuals from catastrophic events. Yet private health plans continue to shift toward high deductible, high out-of‐ pocket models, reducing coverage for their members. Emergency air medical transport and treatment is among the many crucial medical services where some health plans are seeking to limit or cut payments.

"We seek health plan partners across the table who are committed to quality and access. While many health plans continue to shrink the coverage they provide to their members, there are a few cases where we have been able to partner successfully with an insurance company. In a handful of markets, we have in-network relationships with health plans. These partners recognize the value of our lifesaving care, and offer coverage for emergency air medical transport and treatment that protects patients while paying rates that reflect the true cost of our lifesaving service and allow us to be financially sustainable. 

"Like all health care providers, if air ambulance providers are in-network with health plans, the payments received for care would be significantly decreased in the effort to incentivize volume. However, health  plans cannot in any way influence or drive volume for emergency medical transport. Thus, if health plans offer too low of payments for air ambulance providers to go in-network, they are left with the same number of transports with a drastically lower reimbursement for each. This impacts providers’ ability to invest in people, service and necessary equipment."

Story,  video, comments and photos:

Cessna 441 Conquest, Lyddon Aero Center, N989SB: Incident occurred November 05, 2016 at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (KLBB), Lubbock County, Texas


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Lubbock FSDO-13


Date: 05-NOV-16
Time: 14:07:00Z
Regis#: N989SB
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 441
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Minor
Activity: Other
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Texas

LUBBOCK, TX  --   A Cessna 441 Conquest aircraft ran off a runway at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport Saturday morning, according to a post on the airport's Facebook page.

The airplane ran off the end of runway 8/26 and no injuries were reported.

A spokesman for Lubbock Fire Rescue told the aircraft had some sort of mechanical issue which caused it to run about 250 feet off the runway.

The incident forced the closure of the runway for about an hour. 

A City of Lubbock spokesman told the runway was back open before noon. 


We are learning that an aircraft, a Cessna Conquest, ran off runway 8/26 at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport Saturday morning. 

The runway was closed for a couple hours, but the aircraft was moved and normal operations have now resumed for the day. 

No injuries were reported from the incident. 


A small passenger plane went off the runway and into grass Saturday morning at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport.

"A twin-engine Cessna blew a tire and went off the end of the runway," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said in a text message to A-J Media.

No injuries were reported and it was not immediately clear if the incident happened during take-off or landing.

The incident was reported about 9 a.m. and the plane was waiting to be towed from the area by just before 10 a.m. It remains under investigation.


Delta Jumps on the Premium Economy Bandwagon

In the past few years, all of the U.S. airlines offering long-haul service have put extra-legroom seats on their widebody fleets. They rightly recognized that plenty of travelers would pay a premium just to get a few extra inches of legroom on longer flights.

Most U.S. airlines offer some kind of extra-legroom seating today. 

But aside from those precious inches, there hasn't been much to distinguish these extra-legroom seats from regular economy seats. By contrast, many foreign carriers offer premium economy sections that represent a middle-ground between economy seating and the extremely pricey lie-flat seats that have become standard in business-class cabins.

American Airlines shook up the market in late 2015, when it revealed plans to offer a true premium economy section on most of its long-haul flights. Apparently, Delta Air Lines feels that it can't afford to fall behind. Last week, Delta said that it will introduce premium economy seats on some long-haul flights beginning next year.

Premium economy comes to the U.S.

Last December, American Airlines announced that it would begin to roll out a new premium economy section on its wide-body fleet in late 2016. The seats themselves will be wider and offer more legroom (38 inches vs. 31 inches for a typical economy seat). Premium economy tickets will also include other amenities such as noise-canceling headphones, priority check-in and boarding, upgraded meals, and complimentary alcoholic beverages.

American's premium economy rollout is beginning with the 787-9, which began to enter its fleet a few months ago. (That said, the new premium economy section officially launches next April and can't be booked for flights before then.)

On the 787-9, American Airlines' premium economy section will be quite small, with just 21 seats. However, there will also be 27 of American's traditional extra-legroom seats, without the extra seat width and other perks of the new premium economy cabin.

In the next two years or so, American Airlines will retrofit most of its other wide-body aircraft with premium economy sections. The one exception is its aging (and shrinking) fleet of 767s, as most of those planes will be retired within a few years.

American Airlines will put premium economy seats on most of its wide-body planes. Image source: American Airlines.

Delta follows suit

Delta Air Lines didn't even wait for American Airlines to officially launch its new premium economy section before announcing its own competing option. Delta's new fleet of A350s, scheduled for delivery beginning in the second half of 2017, will come configured with a 48-seat premium economy cabin.

The product features are similar to what American Airlines is offering, starting with wider seats and 38 inches of legroom. Premium economy tickets will also include amenities like priority check-in, expedited security, early boarding, pre-departure beverage service, and an upgraded menu.

Delta also plans to retrofit its 777 fleet with premium economy seats in the coming years, but it isn't committing to adding premium sections to its other wide-body planes.

Delta isn't blindly copying American Airlines

Delta's premium economy cabin will be bigger than American's -- but it will be installed on just a few dozen planes.

American Airlines' rollout of premium economy on its wide-body fleet clearly played a big role in Delta's decision to create a similar product. That said, Delta isn't just playing follow-the-leader. Its strategy around international premium economy service differs from American's in two key ways.

First, Delta's premium economy cabin is much bigger. 48 of the 306 seats on Delta's A350s will be in the new premium section, compared to just 21 out of 285 seats on American's 787-9. At the same time, Delta doesn't plan to have its regular Comfort+ extra-legroom seats on the A350, whereas American's 787-9 offers extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seats as well as the new premium economy section.

Second, Delta is only installing the new premium economy sections on a small subset of its wide-body fleet. Delta isn't putting premium economy seats on its A330s or its 767s -- at least for now -- and those two aircraft types will account for more than 70% of its wide-body fleet for the foreseeable future.

These two points of differentiation are linked. The A350 and 777 (which are getting the new premium economy seats) are the longest-range planes in Delta's fleet. Delta is betting that customers will appreciate the extra space and amenities of the new premium economy seats on long-haul routes from the U.S. to Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Middle East.

By contrast, the A330s and 767s are mainly used for somewhat shorter flights from the U.S. to Europe and South America. On these routes, customers may be less willing to pay a lot extra for premium economy service.

Thus, while American Airlines is spreading its bets around by putting small premium economy cabins on nearly all of its wide-body planes, Delta Air Lines is making a bold bet on premium economy seating -- but only for its longest, most grueling flights.