Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Beech J35 Bonanza: Plane with mechanical issues carrying marijuana

Photo: Courtesy Roswell Police Department

ROSWELL — When the pilot of a Beech J35 plane that landed in Roswell International Air Center for mechanical problems couldn't tell law enforcement where he was headed, police got suspicious.

Michael Armando Teixeira, 37, of California, was arrested on Nov. 25 following the discovery of almost 118 pounds of marijuana on board the small, private plane.

A news release from the city of Roswell said Teixeira is being charged with distribution of controlled substances and is being held at the Chaves County Detention Center.

Teixeira was the only person traveling in the plane where "high-grade" marijuana was discovered. Law enforcement was contacted after airport personnel discovered no flight plan was filed for the aircraft.

Investigators said in the news release the plane is owned by another person. Teixiera later admitted to investigators he knew about the marijuana he was transporting but told authorities he wasn't sure where the drugs would eventually be sold.

Source:   http://www.currentargus.com

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) - A California pilot forced to land a small plane in New Mexico because of mechanical problems has been arrested after authorities found nearly 118 pounds of marijuana.

Roswell police say 37-year-old Michael Armando Teixeira, of Gilroy, is being held at the Chaves County Detention Center on suspicion of distribution of controlled substances.

It was unclear Tuesday if he has a lawyer yet.

Teixeira landed at the Roswell International Air Center last Friday night.

Federal Aviation Administration officials at the airport discovered the plane didn't have a flight plan on file.

Police got a search warrant after marijuana odor was detected. That led to the discovery of 117.9 pounds of high-grade marijuana packaged in several large bags inside the plane.

Police say Teixeira isn't the registered owner of the aircraft.

Source:   http://www.ksby.com

San Diego disbarred lawyer arrested in Haiti in drug plane scheme

Falcon 10, Maule Group LLC, N720DF: http://registry.faa.gov/N720DF

A Rancho Santa Fe attorney who at one point represented Florida mom Casey Anthony and was last year disbarred and imprisoned for a San Diego-based fraud scheme has been arrested in Haiti on suspicion of conspiring to smuggle up to 1,500 kilograms of cocaine in a plane.

Todd Macaluso was arrested Nov. 14 in Haiti along with two other men, Carlos Almonte Vasquez and Humberto Osuna Contreras.

The arrest comes while Macaluso is on supervised probation in his San Diego fraud case. An experienced pilot himself, he built his career on aviation-related cases and became known for his high-award verdicts.

According to the complaint filed in New York federal court, an unspecified drug trafficking organization in October began looking for a plane that would fly from Haiti to pick up cocaine in Ecuador and then fly the drugs to Honduras.

It is a common technique used by traffickers, according to the New York police officer, a member of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Task Force, who wrote the affidavit attached to the criminal complaint. Smugglers often use aircraft registered in the U.S. because they think the planes attract less scrutiny.

Planes often pick up drugs in the source country, or a country near the source, and then fly them to a transshipment point, often Central America, the affidavit states. From there, drugs can be smuggled to the U.S., usually through Mexico.

On Oct. 25, in a conversation recorded by law enforcement, Almonte is heard saying his partner would be traveling to Haiti to inspect a plane for the trip, according to the complaint. In another conversation the next day, he is recorded saying during a meeting in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, that the load would be between 1,500 and 1,800 kilograms.

A few days later, a plane that had been chosen, a Gulfstream II, was in Florida and ready for the flight to Haiti. Problem was, it could not leave the U.S., the complaint says.

The search was on for another plane, and on Nov. 13, a co-conspirator announced he’d found a Falcon 10 registered in the U.S. that would be piloted by Macaulso. He said a crew member known as “Mateo” — later identified as Osuna — would be on board to represent investors who were to buy a portion of the drug load.

On Nov. 13, flight records and other tracking show Macaluso flew the Falcon from Orlando to Port-au-Prince, with Osuna on board, according to the complaint.

In a recorded conversation the next day, Almonte confirmed the “chauffer” would be arriving and that the “captain” knew “everything” but the copilot did not, the complaint states.

On Nov 14., the three men and others allegedly met to discuss the plan. They agreed to on their payment for transporting the drugs on the plane, including $35,000 in Haiti plus $150,000 at a later time, a portion of which Osuna agreed to be paid in New York, the records state.

Macaluso was recorded instructing the others on the structure of the plane, an older-model business jet made by French manufacturer Dassault, and confirming that it could hold 1,500 kilograms of cocaine, the complaint says.

Haiti law enforcement officers arrested the men after the meeting. They were expelled from Haiti and flown to New York for prosecution.

They were arraigned in a New York courtroom on Nov. 19 on a charge of conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute on board a U.S.-registered plane. A judge ordered the three to be detained without bail.

Federal Aviation Administration records show the plane is registered to the Maule Group LLC in Connecticut.

The arrest adds to Macaluso’s colorful and troubled legal history.

Macaluso gained some notoriety as part of the defense team that represented Casey Anthony, the young Florida mother who was acquitted of killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2011. After her release from jail, there was speculation that she was whisked away from Orlando aboard Macaluso’s private plane, which was based in Carlsbad.

He also represented former San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman in a battery case involving reality star Tila Tequila. Prosecutors declined to file charges in that case.

Last November, Macaluso was sentenced to five months in federal custody and a $100,000 fine for orchestrating an investment scheme. The attorney sought investors to keep his downtown law practice afloat. In return, the investors would have claim over a portion of the winnings in his clients’ personal injury cases.

Macaulso made the funding agreements without the knowledge of most of his clients and forged their signatures, according to the plea agreement.

He admitted defrauding them out of more than $70,000. He began paying back investors when he found out about the federal investigation, prosecutors said.

His lawyer in that case told the San Diego federal judge at sentencing that he’d paid back about $1.3 million of the $1.5 million total he owed.

At the sentencing, Macaluso said the venture was a “huge error in judgment on my part” and that it had an “absolutely profound” impact on his family.

Macaluso has been investigated for other misconduct, including misappropriating funds he was supposed to keep in a trust account for clients, state bar records show.

Story and comments:   http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com 

San Diego attorney accused in international cocaine smuggling plan: Federal agents arrested Todd Macaluso in Haiti

A San Diego attorney is being held in a New York jail for his alleged involvement in a cocaine smuggling plan.

Attorney Todd Macaluso, who is an avid pilot, is accused of using his passion for flying to help cocaine traffickers shuttle 1,500 kilograms of cocaine between two destinations in South America, according to an arrest warrant unsealed by a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York.

The arrest warrant stated Macaluso was arrested in Haiti before a deal occurred.

According to the warrant, Macaluso and Humber Osuna Contreras, also known as "Mateo", flew from Orlando, Florida, to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Nov. 13. The warrant stated the men met with Carlos Almonte Vasquez the next day, and the conversation and many others were electronically recorded.

Macaluso told the other two men the Falcon 10 plane he was flying could hold 1,500 kilograms of cocaine, according to the warrant.

Team 10 learned the plane with the tail number N720DF is owned by the Maule Group, LLC, out of Danbury, Connecticut. Team 10's calls to people associated with that group were not answered.

Macaluso is not named in ownership documents filed with the Connecticut Secretary of State.

Haitian law enforcement officers arrested the three men before they could carry out their plan. The suspects were expelled from Haiti and sent to New York to face charges.

Macaluso has had legal problems in the past. He spent five months in prison this year for defrauding clients and investors by entering into funding agreements that put cases up for collateral without their knowledge.

If convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, Macaluso could get 10 years to life in prison.

Macaluso's wife, Tonya, declined comment for this story.

UPDATE (Nov. 28, 2016): A group of investors are calling Macaluso's arrest "karma."

"I don't know how he thought he could have gotten away with it," said David Paquin, an attorney who represents several frustrated investors.

The investors say Macaluso didn't use their money the way he promised and never paid it back.

"Their position was look, this guy stole our life savings and if we can't get our money back, we at least want to see him go to jail," said Paquin.

Story and comments:  http://www.10news.com

 Pilatus PC-12/47,  N950KA

"It's a horrible tragedy. We are really, really upset by this and we hope that we can determine what the cause of the crash was," said Todd Macaluso, the plane's former owner.

Macaluso may be a familiar name. He was one of Casey Anthony's defense attorneys and says used the aircraft to fly Anthony out of Florida when she was released last year.  

Macaluso says his company owned and operated the plane for two years.

"The plane did go through an annual inspection before it was sold to those buyers, so it should have had a clean bill of health," Macaluso told 10 News by phone from his home in San Diego, California. 

In a strange twist, Macaluso also often represents families of aircraft crash victims.  The plane was often used to transport his law firm's team of investigators across the country.

He says he even used it to take his own family on vacation and on relief missions to Haiti after the earthquake.

Read more here:   http://www.kathrynsreport.com

Eclipse 500, N120EA, UF Equipment LLC: Accident occurred August 21, 2015 at Danbury Municipal Airport (KDXR), Fairfield County, Connecticut

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Windsor Locks, Connecticut
Eclipse Aviation; Albuquerque, New Mexico 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

UF Equipment LLC:  http://registry.faa.gov/N120EA

Location: Danbury, CT
Accident Number: ERA15LA322
Date & Time: 08/21/2015, 1420 EDT
Registration: N120EA
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Runway excursion
Injuries: 3 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On August 21, 2015, about 1420 eastern daylight time, an Eclipse Aviation Corporation EA500, N120EA, sustained substantial damage during a runway overrun while landing at Danbury Municipal Airport (DXR), Danbury, Connecticut. The airline transport pilot and two passengers sustained minor injuries. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed for the personal flight. The flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated from Wittman Regional Airport (OSH), Oshkosh, Wisconsin, about 1220.

According to the pilot, the approach to runway 26 "required a steeper than normal approach," because of trees near the runway. The airplane touched down near the displaced threshold and he applied the brakes to deceleratee; however, the "first pedal push was soft," which was "not unusual." Then, he continued "pumping the brakes" and considered a go-around; however, the remaining runway was too short. The pilot continued to "pump" the brakes, about six times; however, he did not think the brakes were operating. The airplane continued off the end of the runway, impacted a berm, and came to rest upright approximately 200 feet beyond the end of the runway.

According to an air traffic controller who witnessed the accident, the airplane touched down approximately 100 feet past the "D" taxiway intersection with the runway, which would have resulted in about 2,800 feet of runway remaining.

During the accident sequence, the right main landing gear punctured the underside of the right wing, which resulted in substantial damage. In addition, the nose landing gear separated from the airplane. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport
Age: 62, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/07/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 03/27/2015
Flight Time:   7846 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1111 hours (Total, this make and model), 7846 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 43 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 6 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

According to the pilot, he held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multiengine land and a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and sea. In addition, he held a type rating for the EA-500S, which included the accident airplane model. The pilot was issued an FAA third-class medical certificate on March 27, 2015. He reported 7,846 hours of total flight experience, of which 1,111 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane, and 3.7 hours were accumulated during the 30 days that preceded the accident. In an interview, the pilot stated that the six previous landings he performed with the airplane were on runways that were over 6,000 feet long. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: ECLIPSE AVIATION CORP
Registration: N120EA
Model/Series: EA500 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 000199
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 05/26/2015, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 5995 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 2 Turbo Fan
Airframe Total Time: 858.1 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: P&W CANADA
ELT: C126 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: PW610F-A
Registered Owner: UF EQUIPMENT LLC
Rated Power: 950 lbs
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the airplane was issued an airworthiness certificate on May 29, 2008, and was registered to a corporation. It was equipped with two Pratt & Whitney Canada W610F-A series, turbo fan engines that were each capable of producing 950 pounds of thrust. According to the pilot, the most recent annual inspection was performed on May 26, 2015. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated 858.1 total hours.

According to the airplane flight manual, the braking system was "mechanically actuated and hydraulically operated. Braking was provided by hydraulically operated single disc brakes on each main gear. When pressure is applied to the toe brakes, hydraulic pressure is applied to the corresponding main gear brake."

The brake fluid reservoir was located outside the forward pressure bulkhead. "An optical sensor triggers a BRAKE FLUID LOW advisory message when the brake fluid is low."

The airplane manufacturer released a mandatory modification bulletin (MB 500-32-003) on April 3, 2015, pertaining to the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Pressure Switch and Harness Route. The reason for the bulletin was to improve the harness routing and ABS installation. According to the pilot, the maintenance described in the modification bulletin had not been performed on the airplane, however, it was scheduled for a later date. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: DXR, 457 ft msl
Observation Time: 1425 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 68°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 16°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots, 350°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.04 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: OSHKOSH, WI (OSH)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: Danbury, CT (DXR)
Type of Clearance: IFR
Departure Time: 1220 EDT
Type of Airspace: 

At 1425, the recorded weather at DXR included wind from 350° at 6 knots, a few clouds at 6,000 feet above ground level, clear skies, 10 statute miles visibility, temperature 28° C, dew point 16° C, and an altimeter setting of 30.04 inches of mercury. 

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 456 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 26
IFR Approach: Global Positioning System
Runway Length/Width: 4422 ft / 150 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop 

Danbury Municipal Airport was located 3 miles southwest of Danbury, Connecticut, at an elevation of 456 feet above mean sea level (msl). It had two intersecting runways, which were designated 8/26 and 17/35. Runway 8/26 was 4,422 feet by 150 feet and runway 17/35 was 3,135 feet by 100 feet. In addition, runway 26 had a displaced threshold of 734 feet. At the time of the accident, the airport had an operating air traffic control tower, that operated between the hours of 0700 and 2200 daily. 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 41.368611, -73.491389 (est)

Tests And Research

Examination of the airplane by a representative from the manufacturer under the supervision of an FAA inspector noted that brake pressure was obtained on both sets of brake pedals when they were depressed. There was no bleed down or reduction in pedal firmness when the brakes were pumped several times. Both antilock brake system drive adapters were connected, and the wheel speed sensors rotated freely. In addition, the hydraulic reservoir was "full," and there were no leaks noted throughout the brake system, including the reservoir, brake lines, or around the brake assembly. No anomalies were noted during the examination of the brake system. Furthermore, in his written statement, the pilot did not report any crew alerting system messages or any alerts involving the brake system.

The Eclipse Aviation Diagnostic Storage Unit (DSU) was sent to the NTSB recorders laboratory for data download. A review of the data revealed that several parameters were recorded during the accident flight. In addition, the data revealed several sets of data from previous flights. 

Additional Information

Performance Study

A review of the DSU data revealed that the ground speed recorded at the weight on wheels (WOW) transition on the accident flight was the highest of the flights reviewed. Utilizing ground speed data, the time between WOW transition through 50 knots, the accident flight had the largest deceleration calculated from the available data, which was 2.2 knots per second (kts/s). The data for previous downloaded flights revealed a deceleration rate that averaged 0.7 kts/s. Although the airplane's calculated reference speed for the weight at the time of the accident was 89 knots, the airplane's touchdown speed was 91 knots on the accident flight. However, the touchdown speed on the accident flight was 12 to 18 knots faster than the reviewed prior landings. In addition, integration of the airplane's recorded ground speed indicated that it touched down 1,280 feet from the threshold of Runway 26 and traveled 2,600 feet before coming to a stop, which was about 200 feet beyond the runway.

Landing Distance Data

According to the downloaded DSU data and the performance section of the airplane flight manual, under the conditions that existed at the time of the accident, the estimated landing distance required was approximately 3,063 feet when crossing the runway threshold at 50 feet above ground level. According to the recorded data, the airplane touched down 1,280 feet beyond the threshold of runway 26, which left 2,408 feet of the runway remaining since the displaced threshold was at 734 feet of the 4,422 foot runway.

Emergency Procedures

According to the Airplane Flight Manual, Section 3 Emergency Procedures, the Brakes Ineffective or Pulling to One Side procedure was to be used when the braking "with ABS becomes ineffective or causes the aircraft to pull to one side." The procedure included:

1. Maintain directional control using rudder and steering.
2. Brakes – Release.
4. Reapply Brake (Pump Brakes as required) – Stop Normally

In an interview with a manufacturer representative, the pilot stated that he was not aware of that procedure until after the accident. In addition, he stated that he "was not trained" on the use of the ALL INTERRUPT button, which disabled the anti-skid brake system functions and restored normal braking, when the brakes were ineffective.

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA322
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, August 21, 2015 in Danbury, CT
Aircraft: ECLIPSE AVIATION CORP EA500, registration: N120EA
Injuries: 3 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 August 21, 2015, about 1420 eastern daylight time, an Eclipse Aviation Corporation EA500, N120EA, sustained substantial damage during a runway overrun while landing at Danbury Municipal Airport (DXR), Danbury, Connecticut. The certificated airline transport pilot and two passengers sustained minor injuries. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed for the personal flight. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated from Wittman Regional Airport (OSH), Oshkosh, Wisconsin, around 1220. 

According to the pilot, the airplane touched down on runway 26 near the displaced threshold and he applied the brakes in order to decelerate the airplane; however, the "first pedal push was soft," which was "not unusual." Then, he continued "pumping the brakes" and considered a go around maneuver; however, the remaining runway was too short. The pilot continued to "pump" the brakes, about six times; however, he did not think the brakes were operating. The airplane continued off the end of the 4,422 foot runway, impacted a berm, and came to rest upright. 

During the accident sequence, the right main landing gear punctured the underside of the right wing, which resulted in substantial damage. In addition, the nose landing gear separated from the airplane. 

The Eclipse Aviation Diagnostic Storage Unit was sent to the NTSB recorders laboratory for data download.

AIRCRAFT:   2008 Eclipse 500  N120EA  Serial #  000199  TT  850.5 hours  at last log entry 5/26/15


PW 610F-A  S/N:PCE-LA0413  TT 850.5 hrs / 570 cycles at last log entry 5/26/15

 PW 610F-A  S?N PCE LA0404  TT 850.5 hrs / 570 cycles at last log entry 5/26/15        


APPROXIMATE TOTAL HOURS (estimated TT & TSMO from logbooks or other information): 850.5 hours and 570 cycles

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  Aircraft ran off runway during landing. During the rollout on runway, pilot reported his brakes failed and was unable to perform a go-around as there was insufficient runway left. Pilot attempted to loop the aircraft to the left in hopes of avoiding going off the end of the runway with limited distance. During the loop/turn to the left, the right main gear had a slight load on it at which time it buckled and went through the upper surface of the right wing. The aircraft came to rest approximately a 100+ feet off the side of runway. Post-accident investigation revealed no obvious mechanical issues with aircraft’s braking system.

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES: Aircraft suffered significant structural damage to include right wing, right flap, right landing gear, nose gear sheared, nose section crushed, lower fuselage skins between nose section and trailing edge of the wing have significant number of dents and gashes. Engines may require FOD inspections.  


Read more here:  http://www.avclaims.com/N120EA.htm

Medical air transport bill staggers Ruidoso patient

A local business woman who said she was flown to Lubbock from the Lincoln County Medical Center earlier this year by a medical air service has joined the chorus of many other patients who received staggering bills for the transport and then were dunned for payment.

The air transport company, which operates under three different names in the Southwest, is the subject of as many as six class action lawsuits nationally over allegations of overpricing. In New Mexico, the company is involved in about a 22 legal actions, some as creditor, some as defendant and others as the plaintiff, a check of records on the state court website shows. The Internet features reports of litigation and accusations of overcharging in multiple states, one story included 13 pages of complaints under reader comments.

The local woman, who asked not to be identified, said she also contacted the New Mexico Attorney General’s office to lodge a complaint against the firm. A spokesman for that office would not confirm if a complaint was received or if the office is looking into the case.

“I had a heart attack in February (2016), went to the emergency room (at LCMC). They did an exam and told me that I needed to go to a cath lab (for a stent),” the local woman said. “They called around and I was told that all the cath labs in New Mexico were full and they needed to send me to Lubbock (Texas).”

Because she has New Mexico Health Connection medical insurance, Lubbock was out of her coverage network.

”I have the silver plan, which covers flight with a deductible of $100,” she said. “I asked them to stay in network as much as possible, but it wasn’t possible for heart surgery. I was flown down to Lubbock. They did everything they could at Presbyterian and took good care of me and got me out of there right away. My kids drove to Lubbock and got there at the same time I did (by air), and met me there.”

She signed something when she was put into the fixed wing plane, she said. In Lubbock, she had two stents put in and went home.

The woman said her insurance paid her surgery and hospital fees and everything but her deductible, even though the procedure was performed out of network, because it was necessary and nowhere within network was available.

“But when it came to the fight service, I started getting bills for $59,999 and they sent me this form, saying you need to sign this form saying that you will take care of whatever your insurance doesn’t or we can’t proceed to file for money from your insurance company,” she said. “It was worded as if I had to sign this form for them to even apply for reimbursement. So I did.

“At first the insurance company denied it. I appealed and then they paid $19,999, and I was told that was the maximum they would pay any in-network carriers, and (the insurance representatives said) that they had tried unsuccessfully to get this particular carrier, Rocky Mountain Holding Co., which goes under a lot of different names, Native Air and Air Methods, but are all the same company (to come under a medical care insurance network).”

She appealed for insurance to cover the rest of the bill, but was denied, then appealed again.

“We had a hearing. (insurance) had eight representatives there. They told me they thought the (bill) amount was outrageous and they have tried in the past to negotiate with this company and there is no negotiating with them. They had no interest in getting into network, because they know they can go after the patient for way above and beyond what the insurance would pay,” the woman said.

“I called the (air transport) carrier back and asked them if they would be willing to negotiate with my insurance company and they said sure. But my insurance company didn’t call them again and I have a feeling they wouldn’t have negotiated much.”

She said she called the air transport company one more time and asked, “Where do we go from here?

“They said we could negotiate this fee down some, but you need to send us some financial records, bank statements and that sort of thing,” the woman said. “I said give me a week to check. I looked them up and found out they have been all over the news (on major networks) basically for extreme collection processes to collect from patients after the insurance has been paid to them already and that this is a very common practice.”

While the Federal Aviation Administration governs the air-worthiness of the airplanes and helicopters, that agency does not regulate air fares. Neither does the New Mexico Pubic Regulation Commission, according to a spokesman.

“Because of the deregulation of air fares, it is not illegal for them to charge whatever they want,” the woman said. “But there is some sort of stopping point at $60,000, because that’s what they consistently have charged. It may not be illegal, but it certainly is unethical.

“Then they wanted to know what I could pay and I said, $1,200, which would put them over $20,000, There was silence on the other end of the phone. They have every intention to collect as much as possible, of course. They said, ‘Could you do that right now?’ I said no, give me a week or two. They haven’t contacted me since.  Maybe they have started a collection action. They don’t have to warn me about it. I told them if they can’t take that, they really need to do whatever they have to do. I can’t pay it and I won’t pay it.”

Air Methods Corporation is listed on the New Mexico Corporations website under the Secretary of State as active and in good standing with a formation date of Dec. 7, 1992, and corporate headquarters in Englewood, Colo. Rocky Mountain Holdings, LLC, is listed as a subsidiary, and as having withdrawn and not in good standing, but with an original registration date in New Mexico of Jan. 11, 1995. Native Air Company is referred to as a division of Air Methods. It is listed as active and in good standing in New Mexico with an organization date of March 9, 2000, and a corporation headquarters address in Los Lunas.

Christina B. Ward, Air Methods spokesperson, responded with this statement to an email requesting comment on the story:

“While Air Methods cannot comment on ongoing litigation, our mission is to provide critical emergency air medical service to communities and people whose lives depend on it, regardless of their ability to pay. We deploy whenever and wherever we are called by an attending physician or first responder, and after the emergency is over, our team of patient advocates work side-by-side with patients to navigate the complex and often frustrating process of seeking fair reimbursement from insurance companies. Balance billing is a last resort for us; we work with our patients to exhaust every avenue to get customary coverage from their insurance carrier. We strongly support addressing the root cause of balance billing by updating the drastic reimbursement shortfall by the government through Medicare and Medicaid, and encouraging insurance companies to negotiate with air medical providers in good faith. Without both, communities across the country are at risk of losing access to life-saving air medical services.”

The next question from the Ruidoso business woman is why LCMC officials are using the company.

“If it is so well known they are outrageous with their fees, and they have this horrid reputation with their collection processes, why are they being called and was anybody else called?” she asked. “I called the hospital and asked them those two questions.

She said she received a call back that the hospital chief of staff wrote a letter insisting the flight was necessary, but that wasn’t her question. “I asked who was called and who made the call,” she said, claiming she was told that person had left and there was no record of it.

“I’ve spent some time in the hospital and there is a record of everything,” the woman said. “That just didn’t sit well with me.”

Responding to a request for information about the hospital’s policy on arranging medical flights, officials at LCMC sent a statement pointing out that the LCMC is a critical access facility that serves Ruidoso and the county.

“At LCMC, we are committed to patient safety, which is why patients needing a higher level of care may be transported to a more appropriate facility. Depending on how quickly a response is needed, LCMC generally calls the closest transport company available. Transport may be provided by ambulance or air depending on the severity of a patient’s condition and proximity of the appropriate facility. It is our understanding that emergency services are generally covered by insurance companies regardless of network participation.”

Scott Annala, administrator of the county indigent healthcare fund, said he deals with two medical flight companies that have qualified to submit claims, but he hasn’t had a claim from either in years. They are Phi Medical Air based in Dallas and Native Air. But if a claim was submitted, his reimbursement cap under county policy is $2,000. He’s aware that the bills run much higher and said he has seen one at more than $70,000.

The local woman/patient said she received another letter from LCMC saying that Native Air is the only flight service in this area, the only one they ever called. “I called my insurance company and asked them for the names of companies that serve this area and they gave me two names.”

She filed a grievance with the state attorney general and heard back by phone within three days, she said. “They said that they have checked on the company and (Rocky Mountain Holdings) is not a corporation in good standing in New Mexico,” she said. “They should not be flying here. They are looking into Presbyterian about why they are calling this company.”

While Rocky Mountain is no longer a recognized corporation in New Mexico, Native Air and Air Methods both remain in good standing with the state. Air Methods is a publicly traded firm that reported annual revenues of $1.09 billion in 2015. According to reports, Air Methods Corp., the nation’s largest air ambulance company, listed at the Colorado Centennial Airport, in early November was hit with the sixth lawsuit since 2015 alleging it overcharges patients.

Source:  http://www.ruidosonews.com

Watchdog group looking for answers in Savannah River Site drone investigation

The Savannah River Site was abuzz this summer after a number of unmanned aerial systems, otherwise known as drones, were sighted in the airspace above many of the Site's buildings, including the sensitive K Area.

By late July, there were nine reported drone-sighting incidents in the area, each prompting site-wide security alerts.

A potential 10th sighting in September stirred things up, but U.S. Department of Energy officials quickly announced that an investigation had proven the sighting to be a false alarm.

Since then, silence has seemingly fallen over the issue. During the height of sightings, officials announced investigations were ongoing, including assistance from outside agencies. However, no results have been released.

That silence prompted Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch, to submit official requests to try and get a hold of some of the documentation for himself.

“Given how much SRS whipped up the drone issue over the summer, I was quite surprised to hear them say nothing about it in their update at the (Citizens Advisory Board) meeting two weeks ago, or in any fashion that I'm aware of over the past couple of months," Clements said in an email to the Aiken Standard.

Sources on site have reported photographs taken of the drones, and DOE officials cited video evidence as part of the investigation that indicated the final sighting was not an actual UAS, or unmanned aerial system. Officials have not released the type or types of UAS’s seen during the summer or what sparked the drone reports in the false sighting.

Clements said SRS officials never indicated whether laws were broken, and that the drone flights seemed to be within Federal Aviation Agency regulations, so long as the pilot was located off-site.

In an email delivered to site employees in early July, officials said, “There have been several reports of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) flying over various areas on SRS to include the K Area Complex, H Area, E Area and the MOX Facility. Although airspace over the SRS is not currently restricted, these flights do pose a safety and security concern.”

According to Clements, questions remain of the continued silence from the Energy Department and whether the reported flyovers were determined to be security risks.

The reported flyovers were concurrent with changing Federal Aviation Administration regulations regarding UAS flights. New regulations released in June restricted UAS flight to 400 feet or lower and not within 400 feet of a building. The FAA also has an app to help drone pilots stay within regulations called B4UFLY. The app shows areas, such as airports, that have restricted airspace.

According to the digital FAA tool, there is only one area at SRS with restricted airspace around a helicopter pad on site.

It's still seemingly legal to fly a UAS over the site, according to FAA regulations, so long as the pilot is physically located off-site.

DOE officials have previously said that the pilot’s whereabouts and intentions were unknown - questions Clements hopes to answer soon.

Source:  http://www.aikenstandard.com

Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority sets $57 million airport renewal plan

No longer cash-strapped and buried in debt, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority is ready to embark on a $57 million airfield renewal that will start where the rubber meets the road — literally.

The authority Tuesday approved a five-year capital improvement program that will fund projects at all three Lehigh Valley airports, including replacement of the cracked and pitted runways at Lehigh Valley International Airport.

The plan is an effort to make up for lost time after five years in which the authority had to delay most airport maintenance so it could pay off a $26 million court judgment against it for taking a developer's land in the 1990s.

The last payment on that debt was in January, so the authority is back in the black. Though the capital plan runs five years, fully half of it will be spent in 2017, beginning with the resurfacing of more than 300 acres – the size of more than 200 football fields – of deteriorating runways, taxi ways and parking lots at the main airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.

Next year's projects will also include $10 million to build a bulk hangar designed to help attract more corporate jets.

"The runways are our primary business and they haven't been resurfaced in 20 years," said Charles Everett Jr., airport executive director. "It's about time we reinvest in our primary business."

The capital plan was reviewed at a meeting in which the authority also approved a $26 million 2017 budget that represents a 13 percent increase over 2016. Some of that would pay for an exploding Amazon.com ground handling operation that now employs more than 50 workers who are handling five flights of Amazon consumer goods a day.

Perhaps most encouraging is that the budget projects the airport to end the year with $5 million in the bank – a big turnaround from previous years in which the authority struggled to make annual payments on that court judgment.

"Clearly, we've turned a corner and we're in a much better position financially than we've been in a long time," Everett said. "It not only helps us invest in ventures such as the bulk hangar, but it will allow us to work on some of the maintenance that's been deferred for years."

The first task will be repairing runways that have become cracked and pitted. The plan calls for a study to begin in January to determine what needs to be done, how to do it and how much it will cost. Then, perhaps as early as next summer, crews will begin resurfacing LVIA's main runway, the 7,599-foot long Runway 31.

While flights will continue using Runway 31 during the day, crews will complete most of the work for the two-year project at night, Everett said. There will be a some periods in which more flights will have to be diverted to LVIA's secondary runway, the 5,800-foot long Runway 6-24, he said.

Once the main runway is complete, work on Runway 6-24 will begin, probably not until 2019. In the meantime, macadam and concrete work will be done on other roads, taxiways and parking lots at LVIA.

Total airport resurfacing is expected to cost $15 million to $20 million, of which most will be covered by federal grants.

In fact, of the $26.7 million to be spent in 2017 for capital projects and equipment purchases, more than $20 million is expected to be covered by Federal Aviation Administration grants, with about $6 million coming from airport coffers.

Other spending in the capital plan includes $5 million to build a new transportation center where passengers can get to buses, taxis, ride-sharing providers or rental cars just outside the main terminal, and $10 million to build a bulk hangar that can house as many as a half-dozen more corporate jets. LVIA is home to 110 private planes and corporate jets, owned by companies such as D.G. Yuengling & Son of Pottsville, and Air Products and Chemicals Inc.

Source:   http://www.mcall.com

Marine Corps F-18s train at Davis-Monthan

Ten F/A-18 Hornet jets from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, arrived at Davis-Monthan Air Force on Monday evening for two weeks of training.

The aircraft, from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, are scheduled to train here until Dec. 15, D-M says.

The twin-engine F/A-18 is generally louder than most of the aircraft that fly regularly at Davis-Monthan, including some versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, according to Air Force noise data.

During the training visits, the aircrews will follow all D-M arrival and departure processes and adhere to noise-abatement procedures, D-M said.

Source:   http://tucson.com

Piper flies to finish M600 turboprops after Hurricane Matthew setback

VERO BEACH — Piper Aircraft is a little busier than normal this holiday season, but mostly to catch up for five days of production lost to Hurricane Matthew, their spokeswoman said.

The Vero Beach-based manufacturer of trainers and other small aircraft usually gives its employees the entire Thanksgiving week off, but had its production line humming Monday through Wednesday last week.

“We have committed to deliver a number of aircraft before the end of the year,” said Piper spokeswoman Jacqueline Carlon.

The remainder of the production time lost to the hurricane will be made up with employees working overtime and alternate Saturdays, Carlon said.

Except for a handful of flight line and delivery staff who will be working, Piper will give the rest of its roughly 750 employees the week off from Christmas through New Year’s.

The current staff level of Piper, Indian River County’s largest private employer with an average wage about 20 percent higher than the county average, is down from the 800 full-time employees of February 2015, but up about 12 percent since a reduction of 115 people six months later.

Among the aircraft getting their finishing touches are the last few of the 21 new, top-of-the-line M600 turboprops that must be out on the flight line, ready to be picked up by their buyers.

The 89-year-old company, which has been building aircraft since 1961 at its plant at the Vero Beach Regional Airport, received certification for the M600 from the Federal Aviation Administration in June, and began delivering them in mid-July.

The M600 carries a price tag of about $2.8 million “and has a greater profit margin than our other aircraft,” Carlon said. Piper executives are counting on M600 sales to reverse a decline that has affected most aircraft manufacturers for the past several years.

Aircraft sales in Brazil have “almost dried up, and Europe is pretty soft, though sales in North America are relatively healthy, especially in trainers,” Carlon said, noting that Piper has sold one airplane in Brazil this year, compared to an annual average of 15 a decade ago.

For the first nine months of this year, overall fixed-wing aircraft sales are down 3.5 percent from the same period of 2015, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported, with total billings down 14.4 percent. Turboprops were the only planes in which sales increased, but only by 1.3 percent.

Piper’s billings for the first nine months are off 3.4 percent from the same period of 2015. Boosted by the first deliveries of M600s, however, the $41.4 million in billings for the third quarter was Piper’s best non-fourth quarter since $47.1 million in the second quarter of 2014.


The fourth quarter is traditionally the industry’s strongest. Last year, 34 percent of all aircraft billings, and 32 percent of Piper’s, were in the fourth quarter.

“We see sales for next year looking to be about the same or marginally higher than this year,” Carlon said.

Piper will get a lift in 2017 from a new, eight-year contract to supply about 100 planes — mostly Archers along with some Seminoles, each of which seats four — to the University of North Dakota, which operates one of the world’s largest university-based flight-training programs.

This contract is considered a coup for Piper, Carlon said, because the University of North Dakota had been buying planes from Kansas-based Cessna, which had more than $2 billion in billings last year compared with Piper’s $118.4 million.

Source:   http://www.tcpalm.com

Boutique Air readies for landing

PENDLETON, Oregon – Officials for Boutique Air have told Pendleton city officials that it will probably be the second or third week in December – not the first week – when flights begin between the Round-Up City and Portland.  When service does begin, it will come with all the bells and whistles.

“I’m sure there will be a ribbon cutting and an announcement and just a deluge of advertisement and some pomp and circumstance,” City Council President Neil Brown said.

Having the air service benefits area residents, and it also helps the city. The company will be leasing a large space in the terminal at Eastern Oregon Regional Airport for its operations and is also leasing a small house for pilots who must stay overnight.

“There’s also a charge for every airplane that lands and different things,” Brown said. “There are other things that go with this other than renting the terminal.”

Boutique has already hired some employees, and airport officials say company representatives are in town this week training the new workers.

Source:   http://www.mycolumbiabasin.com

Indianapolis International Airport braces for more diverted flights under new federal rules

The Indianapolis International Airport says it might end up handling more weather-related diversions this winter, thanks to new federal standards for evaluating runway conditions.

The new standards, developed by the Federal Aviation Administration, are known as the Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment, or TALPA for short. In analyzing whether it’s safe to land when water, snow, ice or other hazards are on the runway, TALPA relies more on airplane-specific performance data and less on the pilot’s judgment.

TALPA went into effect Oct. 1, replacing a previous system of assessing runway conditions.

For Indianapolis, this could mean more flights diverted here from other airports once winter weather hits. But since TALPA is so new, no one knows quite what to expect, says Mike Medvescek, the Indianapolis Airport Authority’s senior director of operations and public safety.

“There’s a lot of conflicting comments from airports about how this may be a problem for them,” Medvescek said.

“Every airport’s kind of waiting to see how this is going to work out," he said.

From January through the end of September, Indianapolis International Airport handled about 160 flights that were diverted here from other facilities. About 90 percent of those diversions were weather-related, Medvescek said, although “weather” can include fog, storms or other conditions that are not winter-specific.

Medvescek said he expects more diversions this winter because of TALPA, but he couldn’t predict how many. 

Likewise, he said, it’s difficult to say whether TALPA will have much effect on pre-scheduled air traffic into and out of the airport.

“We’re going to find out when the weather changes,” he said.

Indianapolis is a diversion facility for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport, Medvescek said, and it recently was added as a diversion airport for Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Commercial flight diversions are determined by aircraft flight crew, their airline dispatchers and FAA air traffic controllers, said FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro.

“The airlines’ pilots and airline dispatchers will determine the most appropriate airport for a diversion depending on ground services available, runway length, airport landing systems available, distance, weather, etc.,” Molinaro wrote in an email to IBJ.

Medvescek said Indianapolis International Airport is well-positioned to handle adverse weather.

Indianapolis has three runways, two of which are at least 10,000. A longer runway, Medvescek said, means pilots have more room for braking when landing in slippery conditions. And Indianapolis’ runways are situated so that pilots can take best advantage of wind conditions, he said.

In comparison, O’Hare has eight runways, two of which are at least 10,000 feet. Midway’s four runways range from 5,141 to 6,522 feet. Three of Detroit’s six runways are at least 10,000 feet.

The FAA developed TALPA in response to a 2005 accident involving a Southwest airplane that was attempting to land during a snowstorm at Midway. The plane overran the runway and ended up on a city street. 

Some of Indiana’s other airports say they don’t expect TALPA to affect their operations.

Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports at the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, said he “does not anticipate any impact of operations because of the new TALPA program.”

Fort Wayne handles “a fair amount of diversions” from both Detroit and O’Hare during inclement weather, Hinderman said, but his facility does not keep records of the number of diverted aircraft it receives annually.

Fort Wayne has two runways, one of which is nearly 12,000 feet long.

Nate Hahn, operations manager at Evansville Vanderburgh Airport Authority, said he doesn’t expect any “noticeable negative impact” from TALPA. Evansville Regional Airport’s two runways are 6,286 and 8,021 feet long.

“Hopefully, TALPA improves the conversation between airports, pilots and controllers as we’ll all be working off of the same sheet of music, and that in turn will lessen delays, diversions and cancellations. Only time will tell, though,” Hahn said in an email to IBJ.

If Indianapolis does end up receiving more diverted flights this winter, Medvescek said, the facility can handle it.

The airport has snow/ice-removing equipment that can clear a runway in 12 minutes, he said. So even if the airport has to clear extra space this season to accommodate diverted planes, crews are ready.

“We’re well-prepared here to handle it," he said.

Source:  http://www.ibj.com