Monday, November 28, 2016

Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s Aviation Unit valuable in high-profile cases

MARION COUNTY – When state officials needed to quickly get an aerial view of a two-train crash and derailment on Nov. 16 in a rural area of northeast Marion County, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s Aviation Unit provided valuable assistance to assess plans for cleaning up the wreckage, including a 7,500-gallon diesel fuel spill, and to help the overall investigation.

Ten days earlier, one of the unit's three helicopters was high above the county with staff members directing deputies on the ground to a stolen vehicle a suspect was driving recklessly at a high rate of speed on a busy road with teenagers in the car. A deputy successfully ended the pursuit when he performed a precision immobilization technique, or PIT maneuver, on the car. The driver jumped out and ran, then tried to steal several semi tractor trailer rigs at a truck stop. With the helicopter following him, the man was soon arrested.

Sheriff Emery Gainey described the aviation units as “critically” successful to law enforcement operations, especially in a county as large as Marion, which covers more than 1,600 square miles and is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

The population of the county includes more than 343,000 people, many of whom live in rural areas, small towns and sprawling retirement communities. The Sheriff's Office is the largest of the county's law enforcement agencies, and its aviation units -- with many recent examples -- are key to covering all corners.

The aviation unit commander, Lt. Don Standridge, said the unit has four pilots and a maintenance technician.

The unit has multiple missions to help serve the public, such as searching for people, vehicles or property; providing surveillance; and assisting other agencies, such as in the case of the recent pursuit, which began inside the city limits of Ocala and involved the Ocala Police Department before the vehicle careened through a long section of the county on the highly-traveled County Road 326.

And late last month, the unit helped locate an 18-year-old man with autism who had left his residence on a four-wheeler, which alarmed his family when he did not return. The helicopter pilot spotted the man and alerted deputies on the ground; he was safely returned to his home.

The unit's fleet of two OH-58 helicopters and a TH-67 helicopter are stored in a hanger at the Ocala International Airport. The OH-58s are equipped with FLIR 8500 infrared cameras, an aerocomputer map and a Trakkabeam Searchlight. The TH-67 does not have camera equipment.

Standridge said the helicopters are on loan from the federal government and when they are no longer being utilized or maintained, they must be returned to the government or be destroyed. The agency plans to keep them around, however, he added.

The OH-58s were built with technology used more than 30 years ago. The Sheriff's Office started using them in 1992; they had more than 16,395 hours of flight time between the two. Next year, Standridge said, the U.S. Army will no longer be using the OH-58s and though spare parts will be harder to come by, the MCSO helicopters are in “fantastic shape and we have adequate parts supplies to continue utilizing them well into the future.”

Standridge said the TH-67, the civilian version of the OH-58, was built in 2001 and there is no issue with parts. He said the TH-67 has more than 8,880 flight hours.

“Our plan is to acquire one more TH-67 in the future and, as the OH-58s become no longer usable, transfer the infrared cameras and mapping systems to the TH-67s,” he said.

He said all of the specialized pieces of mission equipment – such as cameras, radios, spotlights and monitors – were purchased with grant funding through the Department of Homeland Security.

“We are very cost effective,” he said.

Standridge also said that with the recent passage of a penny-cent sales tax in the county, the Sheriff's Office, which is a county agency, will be able to budget funds to buy new camera systems with higher definition, better zooming capabilities and infrared systems.

The man responsible for keeping the helicopters flying is Malcolm Pagels, the aviation unit’s chief technician. He has been with the Sheriff’s Office for more than 15 years.

Pagels said inspections are determined by how often the helicopters fly. Typically, he said, the helicopters fly anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours a day, and more as needed. He said the helicopters are routinely inspected and serviced after flying 25 hours, with more attention as warranted.

“The bigger the service, the more inspections and the more detailed the inspections are,” Pagels said.

Pagels is FAA certified to inspect and repair helicopters and also can also work on airplanes. He said his mission is “to keep them flying in a safe and timely manner.”

Sometimes, danger to the unit comes from civilians on the ground. In July, while the MCSO team was flying to an area near the Marion County/Lake County line searching for a suspect in a kidnapping, the helicopter was hit several times by a green laser over a span of about 10 minutes.

The crew remained focused on locating the suspect. As soon as the search ended, however, the laser light appeared again and the pilot was able to pinpoint the origin and directed Lake County deputies to the address. One man was arrested on six counts of pointing a laser light at a driver or pilot. His bond was set at $30,000.

Such an action is a federal offense. Violators can be imprisoned for up to five years and be fined $5,000.

Standridge called the action very dangerous because it distracts the crew while they are flying and “can also cause permanent eye damage and temporary blindness.”

With vehicle chases (such as the recent one), Gainey said, the aviation unit is an asset to the department because the pilot can communicate directly with ground deputies who can follow from a distance that will not cause unnecessary vehicle crashes or death to civilians and law enforcement officials.

Keefer Jordan Nicolo Shubert, 23, was charged with two counts of robbery-carjacking with a weapon because of the crime at the truck stop, two counts of child abuse because of the teens in the car, driving while license is suspended, felony fleeing and eluding law enforcement at a high rate of speed, and attempted occupied burglary of a conveyance. His bonds exceed $120,000. He remained in the jail as of Monday.

The train crash happened at 4:15 a.m. on Nov. 16. CSX officials reported 32 of the 210 train cars derailed and spilled 1,346 tons of coal, 1,150 tons of phosphate, 7,400 gallons of locomotive diesel fuel, 77 gallons of sulfuric acid from locomotive batteries and 10 gallons of locomotive lubrication oil.

According to a MCSO report issued last week, CSX engineer Chris Theriault, 48, of Waycross, Georgia, told deputies he had fallen asleep shortly before the crash.

The value of the aviation unit in that situation, Gainey said, was that the derailment had the potential of creating an environmental hazard, and, with the train tracks damaged, it was crucial for state officials, such as from the Florida Department of Transportation, to quickly view the impact from above and determine the best way to respond.


Airborne SQ-12, Airborne Extreme LLC, N37PX: Accident occurred November 25, 2016 in Palmer, Alaska

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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report  -   National Transportation Safety Board:


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: ANC17LA008
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, November 26, 2016 in Palmer, AK
Aircraft: AIRBORNE EXTREME LLC SQ-12, registration: N37PX
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

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

On November 25, 2016, about 1330 Alaska standard time, an Airborne Extreme LLC SQ12 airplane, N37PX, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing, following a loss of engine power near Palmer, Alaska. The airplane was registered to Airborne Extreme LLC, and operated by the pilot, as a visual flight rules (VFR) flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 when the accident occurred. The certificated private pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Jackfish Landing Airport, Wasilla, Alaska, at about 1250.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on November 25, the pilot reported that the he had departed for an afternoon flight with two family members up the Knik Glacier. About 40 minutes after departure, while in level cruise flight the engine lost all power. He made a forced landing to a remote gravel bar. During the forced landing the airplane sustained substantial damage to the left lift strut and fuselage. 

The airplane was equipped with a Titan 409 angle valve series engine, and a EFII electronic fuel injection and ignition system. 

The closest weather reporting facility was Palmer Municipal Airport, Palmer, about 30 miles northwest of the accident site. At 1353, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) from Palmer Airport was reporting, in part: wind from 120 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few clouds at 7,000 feet, scattered clouds at 12,000 feet; temperature 10 degrees F; dew point 9 degrees F; altimeter 29.21 inHg.

An examination of the engine is pending.

Christen Eagle II, N7825L: Incident occurred November 25, 2016 in Chino, San Bernardino County, California

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Riverside FSDO-21


Date: 25-NOV-16
Time: 17:39:00Z
Regis#: N7825L
Aircraft Make: CHRISTEN
Aircraft Model: EAGLE II
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
State: California

Bellanca 17-30 Super Viking, N6559V: Incident occurred November 26, 2016 at Houston Executive Airport (KTME), Texas

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Houston FSDO-09


Date: 26-NOV-16
Time: 03:10:00Z
Regis#: N6559V
Aircraft Make: BELLANCA
Aircraft Model: 1730
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Texas

Cessna 182J, N3502F: Incident occurred November 26, 2016 in Victoria, Texas

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA San Antonio FSDO-17


Date: 26-NOV-16
Time: 18:10:00Z
Regis#: N3502F
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 182
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Texas

Cessna 172RG, N9974B: Incident occurred November 26, 2016 in Blacksburg, Montgomery County, Virginia

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Richmond FSDO-21


Date: 26-NOV-16
Time: 18:50:00Z
Regis#: N9974B
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 172RG
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Virginia

Mooney M20K, N3558H: Incident occurred November 26, 2016 in Stafford, Virginia

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Washington FSDO-27


Date: 26-NOV-16
Time: 21:33:00Z
Regis#: N3558H
Aircraft Make: MOONEY
Aircraft Model: M20K
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: Virginia

Jackson Hole Airport already past 2015 passenger count

October business at Jackson Hole Airport was slow as usual, but the count of people getting on airplanes was still enough to push the facility past its 2015 year-end count.

The 18,711 enplanements at the airport during October pushed the count through the end of October to 318,086, past the 316,674 enplanements during all of 2015.

The October count also was a healthy increase over the 15,864 passengers who boarded during October 2015.

October is usually the third-slowest month for people flying out of Jackson Hole Airport. April and November are the least busy.

United Airlines accounted for the most passengers flying out, with 9,331 boarding a total of 80 flights. Delta and Skywest, the Delta Connection, flew 88 flights out and carried 7,444 people.

During the month, there was a total of 176 flights and 19,735 available seats, 94.81 percent of which were filled.


Chatham mum on skydiving appeal

CHATHAM -- An appeals court judge recently ruled against the town of Chatham in its effort to overturn a Barnstable Superior Court judge’s ruling that said a skydiving suit could go forward. The town’s next steps are still unclear.

After the Nov. 4 decision by the appeal’s court, the selectmen met in executive session. To avoid a lengthy and expensive trial, they had hoped the lawsuit, filed by Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport, would be dismissed and the board still has the opportunity to appeal the most recent decision. They can also battle the matter out in court. The citizens group is suing the town to make sure it doesn’t allow skydiving, however, the Federal Aviation Administration has told town officials it must allow the activity to live up to its grant obligations as the municipal airport on George Ryder Road has received significant federal funding over the years.

Although the future plans of the board have not been announced, selectmen chairman Jeffrey Dykens did say in an e-mail that they will “proceed in a direction that the board of selectmen believes is in the best interests of all the citizens of Chatham.”

This was the third time the town has tried to have the case dismissed, as its counsel, Patrick Costello, has argued that the suit infringes on the selectmen’s ability to make decisions on how the town is run. The attorney for the citizens group has argued that skydiving is a public nuisance.

The matter arose more than three years ago when selectmen, sympathetic to the concerns of residents about safety and noise, asked that the skydiving contract not been renewed. After Town Manager Jill Goldsmith refused to sign a new lease for Skydive Cape Cod, which had been operating out of the airport, the company's owner filed a complaint with the FAA.

Since state and federal inspections had revealed no safety problems, the FAA said the town’s airport couldn’t discriminate against skydiving. The selectmen tried to craft a request for proposals that addressed some citizens concerns, but shortly after two companies responded the RFP the citizens’ lawsuit was filed.

Those who support the citizens group believe the town can work with experts to convince the FAA that skydiving at the airport is unsafe.


US Air Force facing severe pilot, aircraft shortage: Commander

The US Air Force says a severe shortage of fighter pilots and aircraft has made the force nearly unable to satisfy combat requirements abroad.

The USAF is currently authorized to hire 3,500 fighter pilots but it is 752 pilots short, Voice of America (VOA) reported Monday, citing Major General Scott Vander Hamm, who is tasked with fixing the pilot crisis.

The force has also shrunk in size over the past years, having only 55 squadrons in 2016, compared to 134 in 1986.

“We have too few squadrons to meet the combatant commanders’ needs,” Vander Hamm said.

The acute shortage has reduced the USAF’s ability to accomplish missions at home and abroad by at least 20 percent over the past decade, the report noted.

The US has been carrying out airstrikes in a significant number of countries over the past years, including Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, Vander Hamm said the shortage has started taking its toll and the force might need to “take some degradations in the frontline squadrons” come next year.

“What that would mean to us is that we would have to accept not being able to get forces to theater in the same time we could, which to a warfighter, that means it could cost lives in a conflict,” he explained.

Given the technological advances of fighter jets over the years, it would take years to train pilots who can deal with combat situations.

Although the number of pilots trained by the USAF in 2016 increased by about 135 compared to two years ago, the number of pilots who left the force was much bigger.

According to Vander Hamm, this year only 40 percent of American pilots accepted the bonus payment that the air force gives them after 10 years as an incentive to stay.

The report noted that the shortage has led to longer and more frequent deployments overseas, destroying the morale of the pilots.

“We were on 45-day rotations. Then they made it 90-day rotations. Then they made it 120-day rotations. Now it’s six-month rotations with one-year rotations sprinkled on top of it for key positions,” said an F-22 pilot, who asked to remain anonymous.

The Air Force has asked Congress to increase the bonus from $25,000 per year to $48,000 per year as an attempt to keep the remaining pilots.


Incident occurred November 27, 2016 at Dillingham Airfield (PHDH), Mokuleia, Hawaii

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter made an emergency landing at Dillingham Airfield Sunday morning.

The response to a call for a medical evacuation on board a container ship at 8:30 p.m. Friday was slightly delayed after the helicopter encountered some issues mid-flight.

The crew was getting ready to pick up a 31-year-old crewman with severe abdominal pains from the Portuguese “Kachidoki Bridge” when the issue came up.

The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter left Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point at 10 a.m. Sunday and was headed to the ship about 35 miles off the north coast of Oahu. After successfully lowering the Coast Guard rescue swimmer onto the container ship, the helicopter suffered a tail gearbox malfunction.

A second helicopter was then launched from Barbers Point to assist the ship while the first chopper turned around and headed back to land.

After the emergency landing at Dillingham Field, the necessary repairs were made.

Carolyn Sandison was about to take flight herself when she notice the chopper landing. “It was a little bit unusual to see the Coast Guard helicopter land out here during the daytime. … At the same time, there was an ambulance, a fire truck, and several police cars. I thought maybe a skydiver had gotten hurt or something.”

The second helicopter completed the medical evacuation and the patient was taken to Queen’s Medical Center.

Skydive Hawaii said they had to delay their jumps for 20-30 minutes because of the emergency landing.

Story and video:

Tanzania: Ban Single-Pilot Planes, Frequent Alcohol Testing for Pilots Necessary

Zanzibar — Some members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives are asking the government to restrict single-pilot planes to protect public safety.

Several backbenchers led by Mr. Jaku Hashim Ayoub (CCM-Paje), said people flying in single-pilot planes are always at risk because in an emergency situation of being sick, chances of avoiding accidents are small.

"Spare a thought, you are in a plane with single plane, then he falls sick, probably stomach or headache, what is likely to happen? We ask the government to ensure that all planes have two pilots," backbenchers said.

They also appealed to the government to ensure frequent alcohol testing for pilots because some of them spend most of their time in night clubs drinking. "We meet some of them drinking at night yet the following day he is on duty.

This is unacceptable," Mr. Nassor Salim Ali (CCM-Kikwajuni), said while emphasizing that human being is more important than being afraid of costs to hire two pilots in every plane.

Responding to the concerns, deputy minister of Infrastructure, Communication and Transport, Mr. Mohamed Ahmad Mussa, said single-pilot planes are allowed by International Law. "We follow the International laws of aviation which allows single pilot planes weighing 5500kg.

It is safe and God is always with people travelling," Mr. Salum said, adding, "but airline operators are free to recruit two pilots instead of one in small plane. As regards to pilots who drink alcohol, the deputy Minister replied, "We cannot interfere in private life.

The aviation regulations are very clear; a pilot is prohibited to fly a plane within eight hours after drinking alcohol." He said responsible pilots who drink, observe the regulations that he/she not allowed operating a plane shortly after drinking and any person who doubts about pilot's alcohol status should report to respective authority and the pilot will be tested.


JetBlue’s 1st Commercial Flight to Cuba to Depart John F. Kennedy International Airport as Island Nation Mourns Fidel Castro

JetBlue’s first commercial flight to Havana will take off from John F. Kennedy Airport on Monday morning — a milestone that comes as the island nation mourns Fidel Castro, who died just last week. 

The regularly scheduled flight takes off at 8:58 a.m. and will land in the Cuban capital of Havana.

Along with JetBlue, American Airlines is also running a short, one-hour commercial flight from Miami to Havana on Monday. Delta Air Lines has scheduled regular flights to Cuba, including from New York City, starting on Dec. 1. 

The Queens-based airline announced Monday that it was canceling a concert planned for 7 a.m. at JFK. The event, which was to include a musical band and dancing, was scrapped because of Castro’s sudden death on Friday, JetBlue security personnel confirmed. 

Back in Havana, tens of thousands of people are expected to pay their respects to Castro at the Plaza de la RevoluciĆ³n on Monday before his ashes are taken across the country. The event in the plaza is part of an eight-day period of mourning for the polarizing, yet revolutionary former Cuban leader.

There’s no dancing, drinking or partying in Havana, as no kind of celebration is allowed during the mourning period.

A number of airlines, including Frontier, Southwest, Spirit and United will also start flights in the coming weeks.

Back in July, JetBlue officially began direct flights to Cuba out of JFK when a charter flight flew to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

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