Sunday, December 18, 2016

Bellanca 17-30A Viking, Bel Vik LLC, N4204B: Accident occurred December 18, 2016 in Blaine, Anoka County, Minnesota

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


FAA Flight Standards District Office: MINNEAPOLIS-ST.PAUL, MN

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report -  National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: CEN17LA058
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, December 18, 2016 in Blaine, MN
Aircraft: BELLANCA 17 30A, registration: N4204B
Injuries: 1 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 December 18, 2016, about 1500 central standard time, a Bellanca 17-30A airplane, N4204B, was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Blaine, Minnesota. The pilot was not injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Bel Vik LLC under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which departed about 1420 from Range Regional Airport (HIB), Hibbing, Minnesota and was destined for Flying Cloud Airport (FCM), Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

The pilot stated he was returning to FCM after dropping off two passengers at HIB. While in cruise flight, the engine lost power. After the pilot switched fuel tanks and turned on the fuel boost pump, engine power was restored. Due to uncertainty with fuel status, the pilot diverted towards Anoka County–Blaine Airport (ANE), Blaine, Minnesota. Approaching ANE, the engine began to knock and subsequently seized. The pilot executed a forced landing onto a road, during which the airplane's left wing impacted a sign. 

Examination of the airplane by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors revealed significant damage to the engine, including a fractured piston rod cap and counterweights. The engine was retained for further examination and teardown.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Authorities say a plane had to make an unexpected landing on a Blaine roadway Sunday afternoon, but no injuries were reported.

The Blaine Police Department says a small aircraft force landed on Main St. near Harper at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday. 

The pilot reported having an issue with the plane and was forced to land it on the roadway.

Authorities say the plane didn’t come into contact with any vehicles, and no injuries were reported at the scene. 

The plane sustained minor damage from hitting street signs with at least one wing prior to landing.

What led up to the landing and what the issue was with the plane is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.


BLAINE, Minn. (KMSP) - A small, single-engine airplane made an forced landing on a street in Blaine, Minnesota Sunday afternoon after it unexpectedly lost power. 

The plane was flying east around 3:20 p.m. when it lost power and had to land in the eastbound lane of traffic on 125th Avenue near Harpers Street, Sgt. Jeff Warner with the Blaine Police Department said. 

No one was injured in the forced landing. 

The pilot clipped a street sign on the way down, causing some minor damage to the plane. 

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident. 


Flight and fight: Attendants learn self-defense in the air

Gina Hernlem, a flight attendant with United Airlines, takes part in the Crew Member Self-Defense Training Program on Friday, December 2, 2016 near Dulles Airport. The self-defense classes for flight attendants are offered by the U.S. Air Marshals.

As a flight attendant, Gina Hernlem has mastered many skills: maneuvering a beverage cart down a narrow aisle without dismembering a passenger, finding just enough space in an overhead bin to squeeze in that last carry-on and easing the nerves of harried mothers flying with newborns.

Just this month, the diminutive 55-year-old added a new one: disarming a knife-wielding attacker with her bare hands.

Hernlem was one of more than a dozen veteran flight attendants who recently took part in a self-defense course designed exclusively for crew members at a federal facility near Dulles International Airport.

“I hope you never have to use it,” instructor Scott Armstrong told his class of mostly female flight attendants with decades of experience. “But there’s always that time.”

Armstrong retired as a master sergeant from Army Special Forces, then worked at the Secret Service’s training academy before joining the Federal Air Marshal Service in 2002. With his beefy build and close-cropped hair, Armstrong looks the part of someone who could do serious harm with just his bare hands.

But his students on this day, not so much.

“I’ve never been a fighter,” confessed Mark Gangler, a United Airlines flight attendant dressed casually in a T-shirt and workout pants. “But I think it’s important to know the principles of how to protect yourself.”

The four-hour class is offered without charge by the Transportation Security Administration at 20 sites around the United States. It’s voluntary, so participants must take it on their own time and pay their own travel expenses. Since its inception in 2004, more than 11,000 crew members have taken part.

Inside the training room, more than a dozen pairs of protective goggles were arranged carefully on a table. Next to them were several rubber daggers. A half-dozen large rubber dummies mounted on stands were positioned around the room, ready to be used for practice.

There was a bit of nervous laughter among the group as Armstrong began the lesson on close encounters. He emphasized three points: Move, block, strike. Using “Bob” the dummy, he pointed to vulnerable spots above the shoulders: the ears, the throat, the nose, the eyes.

“You can rupture someone’s eardrums this way,” Armstrong said as he delivered a hard smack to Bob’s ear. “You don’t have to do both [ears]. Just one good slap on the side of the ear is going to cause some really good pain in that ear.”

The group watched, eyes wide.

And on it went: wind chokes — moves that compress the trachea; blood chokes — moves that restrict blood flow, causing an opponent to pass out; how to deliver a blow to an attacker’s head. The best way to avoid breaking a knuckle? Hit with the bottom of the palm instead of a fist.

More than a dozen flight attendants participated in a self-defense training course in Chantilly, Va., offered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and specifically designed for crew members.

Move, block, strike.

For flight attendants more accustomed to caring for passengers rather than cold-cocking them, the lessons required a shift in thinking.

“Don’t be nice with that arm,” Armstrong shouted as the group broke into pairs to practice dodging hits. “You want to put this person on the defensive, not the opposite.”

Like others in the class, Gangler, never thought he’d need to know self-defense to do his job. But these days, he and others said, flights are more crowded, space on planes more confined and passengers sometimes more short-tempered and less patient. And even though more than a decade has passed since Sept. 11, terrorist attacks are always on their minds, they added.

Even so, Gangler said it took a push from Hernlem to persuade him and the others to set aside time to take the course.

Hernlem, who flies for United, recalled a recent flight on which a male passenger became belligerent, moving farther and farther into her space. The man eventually backed down, but the incident stuck in her mind.

Federal statistics show that the number of passengers cited for “unruly” behavior has declined from a peak of 310 in 2004. In the first seven months of 2016, 31 such incidents were recorded.

But internationally, reports of unruly airline passengers are on the rise. The International Air Transport Association said airlines reported a 14 percent increase in 2015, compared with 2014 figures. About 11 percent of the 10,854 incidents reported worldwide involved physical aggression.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, who also took part in the recent training near Dulles, said the U.S. numbers may not reflect all the incidents that take place, since many are not reported.

“We know that even if we aren’t going to have a life-threatening situation, in many cases our de-escalation skills are going to keep it from rising to that,” she said. “The danger has increased for many reasons. [Sept. 11] changed everything.”

While much of the day’s instruction focused on the physical, Armstrong emphasized that most situations don’t have to reach that point. Often, crew members can defuse tension by appearing confident and in control.

“These are last resorts when you have no other options,” he said.

Finally it was time for the section dubbed “Unarmed Defense of Handheld Weapons.”

The group watched as Armstrong demonstrated how to dodge a knife aimed at his chest. As another instructor moved toward him, Armstrong hollowed out his midsection and angled his body backward as he swung his arms forward, grabbed his attacker’s arm and wrested the knife out of his hand. The entire encounter took only a few seconds.

“You will get cut,” Armstrong cautioned the group. “But you want to minimize the damage.”

And then it was their turn.

Gina Wong grabbed a knife and faced Hernlem. The two eyed each other carefully. Wong thrust the knife forward and Hernlem dodged, hollowing out her stomach and using her arms to block the knife and grab Wong’s arm.

“Just throw those hands out,” Armstrong shouted as he watched. “Don’t try to grab anything. Just initiate that block.”

Hernlem’s reactions grew quicker with each of Wong’s thrusts, her arm blocks steadier and stronger. When they finished, the two colleagues wiped their foreheads and broke into wide grins.

Even with her newfound skills, Hernlem isn’t exactly eager to put them to use. But now, she said, she knows she’s prepared. If a situation arises, “I feel like I’ll have more confidence,” she said.

Story and video:

Cold weather prompts flight delays at Colorado Springs Airport

COLORADO SPRINGS - The cold weather brought more than just icy roads on Sunday; it left many people stranded at the Colorado Springs Airport.

Crowds of people filled the United Airlines check-in stands.

Some say it was because of delays and others blame the staff.

A number of people experienced delays due to the weather, but the warning didn't come early enough for some travelers.

We also received reports of flights being delayed out of Dallas-Fort Worth on American Airlines.

A reminder for those traveling next weekend, you can check your flight status on their flight tracker app.

Story and video:

Air travel, can it get any more unfriendly? No carry-ons or advance seat assignments. That's progress?

USA TODAY, Editorial Board 

Can air travel get any more miserable than it already is?

The answer is yes. And major airlines are happy to bring you this new experience. United will introduce its “Basic Economy” fare early next year, selling a ticket on certain routes that offers, well, nothing except getting you to wherever you’re going.

Passengers choosing the fare are restricted to a purse and a single personal item — as long as both fit under the seat in front of them. Forget wheeled carry-ons. Fliers on these tickets may use the overhead bin for coats and personal items, but only if space is available when they board. Good luck with that. They’re in the last boarding group.

The seat is assigned after check-in or at the gate, meaning that family or friends aren’t likely to sit together. Ticket changes are not permitted.

Delta was the first to offer basic economy on a handful of flights in 2012, with some slight differences. Carry-ons are not prohibited, but Delta warns that “customers will board last (and) access to overhead bins may be limited.” There are no refunds, so tickets are use it or lose it. The fare is now available in thousands of markets.

American plans to enter this race to the bottom sometime next year, too.

The airlines' spin on this is they're offering price-sensitive customers what they want. Frankly, we haven’t heard many customers clamoring for less or complaining that regular economy is just too luxurious.

Basic Economy is a way for legacy carriers to compete with discount airlines such as Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant, which offer bare-bones fares that undercut the larger airlines but come with an array of add-on fees.

Basic Economy is also the next progression in the nickel-and-dime model or, as the airlines prefer to call it, a la carte pricing. The big difference, though, between an a la carte airline fee and a dinner menu is that at dinner, you're charged separately for an entrée, appetizer and dessert, but you still get your silverware, napkin, tap water and usually bread without paying extra.

Such things as a checked bag were once considered so integral to flying, they were part of the fare. But starting in 2008, airlines began adding charges for just about everything. These fees have become enormous profit centers. Last year, the industry raked in $3.8 billion in baggage fees alone.

Airlines, of course, are in business to make money and can charge what the market will bear. The real problem is the lack of transparency on prices. The array of fees and the gaggle of restrictions are not part of the main fares initially posted on travel websites such as Travelocity and Expedia, turning price comparisons into an arduous exercise requiring an advanced degree in math.

For major carriers, at least one extra click will reveal that a first checked bag generally costs $25, a second, $35.  But on low-cost Spirit, for example, you're presented with a range, such as "$45 to $100" for a carry-on, turning trip planning into a high-stakes guessing game.

The Transportation Department has been trying for years to come up with a rule that would force airlines to include at least bag fees and seat assignments in the posted fare on travel websites, so comparisons would be easier. The agency began again in October, but don’t hold your breath. The industry has battled every effort in this direction.

After Basic Economy, what’s next? An even cheaper fare where you get strapped to the wing? They could call it “Open-Air Economy,” with extra legroom.


Police ask for help identifying body found near Salt Lake City International Airport

SALT LAKE CITY — Police are asking for help to identify the remains of a person found dead on private property near the Salt Lake City International Airport on Saturday.

The decomposed body was found by a man who was riding his horse accompanied by his dogs near the Rudy Duck Club, north of the airport at about 3200 West, according to Salt Lake Police Lt. Justin Hudson.

Police do not know if the body is that of a man or a woman, but it appeared to be an adult and had been in the field for some time.

Police don't suspect any foul play and were waiting for autopsy results from a medical examiner to determine a cause of death, Hudson said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Salt Lake police at 801-799-3000.

Story,  video and comments:

Robinson R22 Alpha, Castor Aviation Ltd, N121MR: Accident occurred December 18, 2016 in Hatcher Pass, Alaska


FAA Flight Standards District Office: ANCHORAGE, AK


Date: 18-DEC-16
Time: 20:00:00Z
Regis#: N121MR
Aircraft Make: ROBINSON
Aircraft Model: R22
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 91

Two men escaped life-threatening injuries after their helicopter crashed during an attempted landing Sunday morning near Arkose Ridge in Hatcher Pass.

According to Alaska State Trooper (AST) dispatch, the chopper’s pilot, 27-year old John Wiese of Palmer and a passenger were the only two occupants in the Robinson R22 helicopter. AST stated the helicopter belonged to a local business that was conducting a training flight at the time. AST, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and state park rangers from the Palmer area responded to the incident.

The Robinson R22 is a lightweight, single engine, two-seater machine weighing in at just under 900 pounds. Weather conditions were heavy overcast with a low ceiling at the time of the crash. AST reported it was ready for a full response when it received word that a second chopper, owned by the same business, responded to the scene and transported the occupants.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was notified.

HATCHER PASS, Alaska (KTUU) Emergency crews responded to Hatcher Pass Sunday morning after reports of a helicopter crash believed to be in the area of the Arkose Ridge Formation.

Alaska State Troopers report, two people on board the helicopter have been transported with non-life threatening injuries.

Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters wrote the helicopter “apparently rolled.”

At 11:30 a.m, the National Transportation Safety Board was notified about the crash by AST.

NTSB Alaska regional chief Clint Johnson said the helicopter involved was a Robinson R22 Alpha.

Castor Aviation, a Part 91 operator, is the owner of the Robinson R22 Alpha involved, according to sister company Pollux Aviation.

Johnson said, a helicopter operator out of Wasilla made initial contact with the injured passenger and pilot, despite poor weather conditions.


Multiple agencies were responding Sunday to a report of a helicopter that went down in the Hatcher Pass area, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

At 11:30 a.m. investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were notified that a Robinson R22 Alpha helicopter had gone down in the area of Hatcher Pass, said NTSB Alaska chief Clint Johnson.

It was reported that two people were aboard the helicopter, and the extent of their injuries was "unknown at this point," Johnson said around shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday. "It doesn't sound life-threatening."

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said around noon that troopers, state park authorities and the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center were involved in an initial response.

As of 2 p.m. it wasn't yet clear where exactly the helicopter had gone down or what kind of damage it may have sustained.


University of Richmond to induct Natalie Lewis and Ginny Doyle, who perished in balloon accident, into sports hall of fame: Eagle Balloons Corp C-7, N3016Z, fatal accident occurred May 09, 2014 in Ruther Glen, Virginia

Natalie Mattimore Lewis 

Ginny Doyle

The most somber chapter in University of Richmond athletics history soon will acquire a sweet, poignant postscript. 

UR officials confirmed Sunday that former Spiders women’s basketball player and assistant coach Ginny Doyle and former Richmond swimmer and women’s basketball operations director Natalie Lewis will be inducted in February into the school’s athletics hall of fame.

The names likely are familiar even to those with little interest in UR sports. Doyle, 44, and Lewis, 24, perished 2½ years ago in the crash near Doswell of a hot air balloon. The grief that enveloped the Robins Center in the aftermath of the accident has not entirely disappeared.

"So many of us who knew and worked with Ginny and Natalie still think of them every day,” said Spiders athletics director Keith Gill. “This just feels like such an appropriate thing to do. It feels like such an appropriate way to honor them.”

Given the pair's extraordinary popularity, and given their deep devotion to the school and its athletics department, Gill said, “I think (this formal, permanent tribute) is going to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people.”

Doyle, a record-setting offensive player who coached at UR for 15 seasons, will be inducted as an individual. Lewis will enter as a member of the 2010-11 UR swimming team – a group that was superior to an elegant extent while winning the Atlantic 10 championship meet in Buffalo.

Spiders coach Michael Shafer said Doyle was in many respects the face – and perhaps the heart – of UR women’s basketball.

“Really, (she and the UR program) were synonymous,” Shafer said.

Doyle played at Richmond for two prolific seasons after transferring from George Washington. As a junior she helped the Spiders win the 1991 Colonial Athletic Association tournament and an accompanying automatic invitation to the NCAA playoffs.

She served as an assistant under three head coaches: Bob Foley, Joanne Boyle and Shafer. She spent three seasons (2012-14) as Shafer’s associate head coach.

UR’s record book is dotted with Doyle’s fingerprints. Her 1992 points-per-game average (17.1) still ranks among the top 10 in program history. She owns Richmond records for free-throw percentage in a season (95.0 in 1992) and a career (85.3). She established an NCAA record for all divisions and both sexes by sinking 66 consecutive foul shots over portions of her two seasons at UR. That record has since been eclipsed.

Doyle’s free-throw streak made her a reluctant celebrity. She was thrust as a senior into a battle-of-the-sexes competition with Billy Packer, a colorful and opinionated national TV analyst. Packer questioned the legitimacy of Doyle’s streak because women play with a slightly smaller – and hence, he suggested, an easier to shoot – ball.

 A showdown was arranged.

Seldom, if ever, has a UR women’s player confronted greater pressure or responded with greater aplomb. A Robins Center crowd of about 1,200 watched Doyle and Packer attempt 20 free throws apiece. Doyle made all 20. Only two of her shots touched the rim. Packer, who played as a collegian at Wake Forest, missed eight. Oh – and Doyle used a men’s ball.

“It’s difficult to put into words how important (the school) was to Ginny and how very important she was to us,” Shafer said. “Whatever she did, she did with a tremendous sense of love and loyalty – not just to (the UR women’s team), but to the university as a whole.”

The 2010-11 swim team made the A-10 championship meet its personal plaything. The Spiders piled up 755 points – 177 more than runner-up Fordham. They swept the meet’s individual awards: most outstanding performer (Lauren Hines), most outstanding rookie (Mali Kobelja) and coach of the year (Matt Barany). Richmond’s 2011 victory began a streak of A-10 championships that last winter reached six.

Barany said he seldom thinks of the 2010-2011 championship team without also thinking of the previous year’s second-place finish. The 2009-10 team, he said, “was such a tough team…a small roster but a large dose of courage. We learned more lessons from that loss than from any championship we won.”

The 2010-2011 championship, he said, “was simply fun. We felt like we had a loaded roster. Our freshmen gave us a strong backbone. Lauren” – Hines, a future All-American – “gave us national-caliber power. It was the best way to send our seniors out.”

Lewis, a four-year letterwinner and middle-distance freestyle specialist, served as a Spiders captain in both 2009-10 and 2010-11. Among her contributions: leadership by example in the practice pool and an uncommon knack for doing the little things – a smile, a handwritten note of encouragement, a gift of homemade cookies – that enable the concept of ‘team’ to reach full bloom.

Might she have been, in some respects, the glue that held the pieces together?

“That’s a terrible understatement,” Barany said.

Also selected for induction: men’s basketball player Mike Winiecki and tennis player Tom Clarke.

Winiecki, a former Monacan standout, was a 1,000-point, 500-rebound performer while playing at UR from 1986-89. He was a member of UR’s 1986 and 1988 NCAA tournament teams. The 1988 team reached the Sweet 16 by upsetting reigning national champion Indiana and Georgia Tech. Winiecki averaged 17.6 points and 8.3 rebounds as a senior. He was rewarded with a berth on the all-CAA first team.

Clarke (1992-95) won 62 singles matches and helped the Spiders capture three CAA championships. He was chosen as the CAA player of the year in 1992 and as the league’s tournament MVP in 1993 and 1995.

The inductees will be formally introduced at halftime of UR’s Feb. 4 men’s basketball game against George Washington.

Original article can be found here:

Aviation Accident Final Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ERA14FA231 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 09, 2014 in Ruther Glen, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/06/2015
Aircraft: EAGLE C-7, registration: N3016Z
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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.

Witnesses to the accident reported observing the balloon approaching the landing zone from the south where another balloon had just landed. A video obtained from one of the witnesses showed that, as the balloon descended and approached the landing site, the pilot engaged the burner; however, shortly after, the balloon struck power lines, which resulted in a spark. Subsequently, the basket and a section of the balloon’s envelope caught fire. The balloon then began an accelerated climb and drifted out of the camera’s view. The wreckage was found about 6 miles north of the power lines. Examination of the wreckage revealed no preexisting mechanical anomalies with the balloon.

Federal Aviation Administration guidance on balloon flying states that, if there is an obstacle between the balloon and the landing site, the pilot should either give the obstacle appropriate clearance and drop in from altitude; reject the landing and look for another landing site; or fly a low approach to the obstacle, fly over the obstacle allowing plenty of room, and then land. It is likely that the pilot identified the power lines late in the approach and ignited the burner to climb but that insufficient time remained to clear the power lines.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s inadequate approach and his failure to maintain clearance from power lines, which resulted in a subsequent fire. 


On May 9, 2014, about 1940 eastern daylight time, an Eagle C-7 Balloon, N3016Z, was destroyed by fire after a landing attempt to a field and subsequent impact with powerlines near Ruther Glen, Virginia. The commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local sightseeing flight that departed from Meadow Event Park, Doswell, Virginia, approximately 4 miles to the south of the accident location. The local sightseeing flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

Multiple eyewitnesses reported that the accident balloon approached the intended landing area from the south where another balloon had just landed. As the accident balloon approached the landing site, the pilot engaged the burner; however, the balloon struck powerlines, which resulted in a spark. A video obtained from a witness indicated that as the pilot approached the intended landing area, he engaged the burner for about 15 seconds prior to impacting the powerlines. Subsequently, the balloon basket and a section of the envelope caught fire. The balloon then began an accelerated climb and drifted out of the top view of the video recording. 


The pilot, age 65, held a commercial pilot certificate, with a rating for lighter-than-air free balloon, which included a limitation for hot air balloon with airborne heater. He did not hold, nor was he required to maintain, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate. According to a souvenir card, being handed out at the balloon festival, the pilot had 31 years of experience and over 660 hours of flight time. 


According to FAA and balloon maintenance records, it was equipped with two aluminum propane tanks, a wicker basket, and a 78,133 cubic foot envelope. In addition, it contained a small pod of instruments that consisted of a vertical speed indicator, altimeter, and envelope temperature gauge. The most recent annual inspection, on the balloon, was performed on August 5, 2013, and at that time it had accumulated 270.4 hours of total time in service. 

The balloon was comprised of a basket, which was composed of wood, padding, woven wicker, rope handles for passengers to hold onto, and a fuel cylinder compartment which contained the two fuel cylinders. Attached to the top center of the basket were the single burner valve/can, coils, pilot light regulator, and pilot light valve. Fuel lines ran from each of the two fuel cylinder tanks, up opposite sides of the basket, and attached to the burner can assembly. The balloon envelope was comprised of nomex and nylon panels. The envelope throat was to be attached to the top of the basket with cables. 


The 1854 recorded weather observations from Hanover County Municipal Airport (OFP), Ashland, Virginia, located approximately 12 miles to the south of the wire strike site, included wind from 180 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 12,000 feet above ground level (agl), temperature 28 degrees C, dew point 14 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.99 inches of mercury.

An FAA inspector that was at the launch site prior to the flight departing stated that a mandatory safety briefing by the event organizer reviewed the weather conditions with the pilot participants of the balloon festival including the accident pilot. In addition, he stated that "wind conditions were measured on site several times prior to launch to establish a trend. I recall winds were slowly decreasing, from initially about 12 knots to some as low as 6 knots at the surface. The winds aloft indicated that winds by 1000 feet were increasing in velocity and shifting the course to the right." 


The debris path was approximately 6 miles in length and was oriented on a northeast heading from the attempted landing field. The balloon impacted electrical powerlines that were about 30 feet agl near the attempted landing field. Several pieces of charred material were present in the vicinity of the powerline. Two aluminum propane fuel tanks, a hand-held fire extinguisher, the instrument pod, and various pieces of the charred envelope fabric, that were associated with the lower portion of the balloon envelope, were recovered along the debris path. Both propane fuel tanks were intact but exhibited thermal and impact damage and were devoid of fuel.

The balloon crown, crown ring, deflation port, and the burner were recovered on May 27, 2014, approximately 9 miles northeast of the takeoff location and about 5.9 miles north of the powerline strike location. An examination of the recovered components was performed on August 25, 2014, at a salvage facility located in Clayton, Delaware. 

The balloon crown, crown ring, deflation port, basket bottom, and burner remained attached through several cables. The balloon envelope was torn in several sections. Several vertical and horizontal load tapes were torn. The skirt and throat of the balloon were torn and exhibited thermal damage. The crown line remained attached to the top of the envelope and the crown ring was found with all retained cords attached. Cord continuity of the crown, vent, and deflation line was established from the top of the envelope to the balloon basket. The bottom section of the deflation line exhibited thermal damage. The wood section of the basket was burned away, but the bottom section of the basket remained attached to the heating system of the balloon through stainless steel wires. 

The single burner remained attached to the basket frame. The valve block assembly, burner can, coil assembly, liquid fire jet assembly, and igniter assembly all exhibited thermal discoloration. The fuel lines remained attached to the burner assembly but exhibited thermal damage. When the burner assembly handle was operated, it did not exhibit any anomalies. In addition, the burner assembly was able to move freely among the assembly frame as designed. 

Further examination of the two recovered propane cylinder tanks revealed that the main valve on the center aluminum cylinder was damaged by fire and its position was not able to be determined. In addition, the fuel quantity gauge on each tank exhibited thermal damage and could not be read. 


The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Richmond, Virginia, conducted an autopsy on the pilot on May 12, 2014. The autopsy listed "blunt force trauma" as the cause of death. 

Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated no ethanol was detected. However, both Fexofenidine and Valsartan were detected in the blood and liver. 

According to the FAA Aerospace Medical Research, Forensic Toxicology Drug website, Fexofenadine, marketed under the trade name Allegra, was known as a nonsedating antihistamine used in the treatment of hay fever symptoms and the common cold. 

According to the FAA Aerospace Medical Research, Forensic Toxicology Drug website, Valsartan, marketed under the trade name Diovan, was an angiotensin II receptor antagonist, commonly referred to as an Angiotensin Receptor Blocker or "ARB." It was typically used for the treatment of high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and post-myocardial infarction. 


Handheld Global Positioning System

A Garmin 12 handheld global positioning system (GPS) was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recorders laboratory for download in Washington, DC. The Garmin 12 handheld GPS system did not contain any pertinent information to the accident investigation. 

A Garmin Rhino 530HCX handheld GPS was recovered and sent to the NTSB recorders laboratory for download in Washington, DC. The Garmin 530HCS GPS did not contain any pertinent information to the accident investigation. 

Cellular Phones

Three cellular phones were sent to the NTSB recorders laboratory for download. The cellular phones held photographs prior to the accident, but did not contain any photographic documentation of the accident itself. 


Witness Photographs

Several photos were submitted by witnesses. In particular, a witness located in another balloon that landed at the intended landing zone of the accident balloon, photographed another balloon landing at the intended landing zone site. In the photograph, the other balloon is shown on the ground in the field and unmarked powerlines are noted above a road just prior to the intended landing field. In addition, the photograph showed that the field that was the intended landing zone site had several trees just prior to it and located in front of the powerlines. 

Powerline Information

According to the power company, after the accident, they dispatched a team of employees to examine the powerlines. Upon examination, they noted that there was no structural damage to the lines. One phase line had a burn mark on the side that was closest to the intended landing zone. According to the power company, the powerlines were three-phase lines that were 7,200 volts phase to ground.

Balloon Flight Manual 

In the "Normal Flight Operations" section of the balloon flight manual, there was a note that stated, "Extreme care and judgment should be used in selection of landing sites in avoiding downwind powerlines."

In the "Performance" section of the balloon flight manual, it stated "during certification, the maximum demonstrated surface winds for landing were 7 knots." In addition, it stated that the "maximum demonstrated surface wind for take-off [was] 5 knots."

FAA-H-8083-11A Balloon Flying Handbook

In Chapter 3, "Preflight Planning," it stated "Almost all balloon flying is done in relatively benign weather conditions and mild winds. Most pilots prefer to launch and fly in winds less than 7 knots. While balloon flying is performed in higher winds, pilots accept that the faster the winds, the more they are exposed to risk and injury."

In Chapter 7, "Inflight Maneuvers," stated in part "One technique to determine if the balloon is ascending, flying level, or descending is to sight potential obstacles in the flight path of the balloon as the balloon approaches the wires, the pilot should determine how the wires (or other obstacles) are moving in his or her field of vision relative to the background. If they are moving up in the pilot's field of vision, or staying in stationary, then the balloon is on a descent that may place the pilot and passengers at risk. Conversely, if the wires are moving down in the pilot's field of vision, then the balloon is either in level flight or ascending, and able to clear the obstacle. Vigilance is required for constant scanning of the terrain along the flight path, and the pilot must be alert to avoid becoming fixated on sighting objects." In addition, it stated that "the balloon actually responds to a burn 6 to 15 seconds after the burner is used." 

In Chapter 8, "Landing and Recovery," it stated, "Having the skill to predict the balloon's track during the landing approach, touching down on the intended landing target, and stopping the balloon basket in the preferred place can be very satisfying. It requires a sharp eye trained to spot the indicators of wind direction on the ground. Dropping bits of tissue, observing other balloons, smoke, steam, dust, and tree movement are all ways to predict the balloon track on its way to the landing site. During the approach, one of the pilot's most important observations is watching for power lines." 

In addition, Chapter 8 reviews, "To summarize, if there is an obstacle between the balloon and the landing site, the following are the three safe choices.
1. Give the obstacle appropriate clearance and drop in from altitude.
2. Reject the landing and look for another landing site.
3. Fly a low approach to the obstacle, fly over the obstacle allowing plenty of room, and then make the landing."

Lastly, Chapter 8 addressed a "high-wind landing," which stated "When faced with a high wind landing, the balloon pilot must remember that the distance covered during the balloon's reaction time is markedly increased. This situation is somewhat analogous to the driver's training maxim of "do not overdrive your headlights." For example, a balloon traveling at 5 mph covers a distance of approximately 73 feet in the 10 seconds it takes for the balloon to respond to a burner input—a distance equal to a semi-truck and trailer on the road. However, at a speed of 15 mph, the balloon covers a distance of 220 feet, or a little more than two-thirds of a football field. A pilot who is not situationally aware and fails to recognize hazards and obstacles at an increased distance may be placed in a dangerous situation with rapidly dwindling options."

NTSB Identification: ERA14FA231 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 09, 2014 in Ruther Glen, VA
Aircraft: EAGLE C-7, registration: N3016Z
Injuries: 3 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 May 9, 2014, about 1940 eastern daylight time, an Eagle C-7 Balloon, N3016Z, was destroyed by fire after a landing attempt to a field and subsequent impact with powerlines near Ruther Glen, Virginia. The commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight that departed from Meadow Event Park, Doswell, Virginia, approximately 3.75 miles to the south of the accident location. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Multiple eyewitnesses reported that the accident balloon approached a field from the south where another balloon had just landed. As the accident balloon approached the landing site, the pilot engaged the burner; however, the balloon struck powerlines, which resulted in a spark. Subsequently, the balloon basket and a section of the envelope caught fire. The balloon began an accelerated climb and drifted out of sight.

The debris path was approximately 1.75 miles in length and was oriented on a 025 degree heading from the attempted landing field. Two stainless steel propane fuel tanks, a hand-held fire extinguisher, the instrument panel, and various pieces of the charred envelope fabric, associated with the lower portion of the balloon envelope, were recovered along the debris path. Both propane fuel tanks were intact but exhibited thermal and impact damage. The balloon crown, crown ring, deflation port, the burner, and two other propane fuel tanks were not recovered.

The balloon was equipped with four propane tanks, a wicker basket, and a 78,133 cubic foot envelope. The most recent annual inspection on the balloon was performed on August 5, 2013, and at that time it had accumulated 270.4 hours of total time.

A Garmin 12 handheld global positioning system and three cellular phones were located, removed, and sent to the NTSB Recorder Laboratory for download.

Marana Aerospace Solutions, Ascent Aviation Services agree to merger

Marana Aerospace Solutions and Ascent Aviation Services have agreed to merge to improve service offerings.

Ascent, based at Tucson International Airport, is known for its skill in servicing narrow-bodied aircraft. Marana, located 35 miles away, services the largest commercial aircraft in the world.

Since the facilities are close to one another, the combined company will boast top technicians and can optimize staffing capabilities and expand services. The merger will also increase productivity and customer satisfaction.

"Combining Marana and Ascent means that customers can procure all of their maintenance, storage and end-of-life services with one partner while utilizing a single customer representative, rather than requiring three or four different facilities," David Querio, president at Ascent, said. "Beyond the obvious cost synergies, there are exciting new growth opportunities for us. The companies share similar values and approaches and we plan to leverage that to become the premier choice for our customers."

Besides approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the merged company will maintain approvals and certifications from other global regulatory groups such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the aviation agencies of Bermuda, Brazil, Canada and Mexico, among others.

"This combination is highly synergistic, creating a flexible business model that will maximize each company's human capital, technical capabilities and footprint while capturing immediate cost savings and driving significant value creation for both companies," Matthew Ray, CEO at Ascent, said. "We are creating a new kind of industry leader."


Lexington County Airport at Pelion slowly taking off

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA   --   A small airstrip in Pelion is becoming more popular with pilots.

Flights in recent years have averaged as many as 6,800 annually, an increase of 500 since 2012, Lexington County officials say.

That growth began after county officials slowly started improving an airstrip that veteran flier Jim Herpst said “was somewhat neglected.”

Doubling storage space for aircraft, adding automated fuel service and installing better lighting were among the first improvements.

The renovations are designed to attract businesses travelers as well as those who fly for fun.

Traffic at the airstrip – 6Juliet0 in aviation argot – is growing for a simple reason, some pilots said.

“It’s convenient, easy to get in and out of,” said Herpst, of Lexington, who has flown from airports across the Midlands for business and recreation.

Half of the annual flights are aircraft that come to buy fuel, officials said.

But the airstrip in the largely rural southwest corner of the county is too small and too remote yet to attract other conveniences for travelers, such as vehicle rentals, officials said.

Widening the runway from 60 to 75 feet is next on the radar, a $4 million project designed to attract larger aircraft. Most of the work will be paid for by the county’s share of aviation taxes.

No other major renovations are planned until a $1 million taxiway rehabilitation in 2022, according an airport improvement plan.

Meanwhile, extending the runway from 4,335 to 5,000 feet to attract small corporate jets remains a dream, officials say.

“At this point, traffic at the airport doesn’t justify a need for that yet,” county aviation adviser Andrew Busbee said. “We are going to work for that, but we’ve got to take our time.”

It will take a commitment from 500 aircraft owners who need the extra length for that to happen, officials say.

Some county leaders wonder if better promotion of airstrip features would produce a quicker payoff. “We need to be figuring out ways to get more activity,” County Council chairman Todd Cullum of Cayce said.

Making the 190-acre airport a center for business fliers would give those travelers access to the west side of the Midlands faster than landing at Hamilton-Owens Airport near downtown Columbia, planners have said.

The airports are about 20 miles apart, with Columbia Metropolitan Airport in between and largely reserved for airlines carrying passengers and cargo.

County officials took over the airstrip from the town in 2004, focusing initially on trying to attract industry around it before changing course to make it a magnet for corporate travel.


Executive Flight Institute makes dreams of flight attainable for all

EFI (Executive Flight Institute) at French Valley Airport hosts an open house offering discounted airplane rides, flight simulator demos, flight training information and a number of airplanes on display, November 19th.

When David Sowards bought Executive Flight Institute in February 2015, he already had a business relationship with the flight school which was leasing his aircraft for use in its training programs.

“The close-knit family relationship that existed at the school attracted me to the school in a more permanent arrangement,” Sowards said. “The front office was extremely warm and inviting and made the school fun place to be. The instructors were all knowledgeable and truly concerned with providing the safest flight training available while making the flight experience as enjoyable and memorable as possible.”

Sowards is no stranger to flight coming from an aviation background. In 1979 he started flight instruction while still in high school in Loveland, Colorado. After graduating, he joined the U.S. Army and spent eight years in helicopter aviation units all around the world.

EFI Flight School owner Dave Sowards attaches a tow bar to a new Cessna TTx before a flight instructor takes a test flight in the new aircraft during the flight school’s open house, November 19th.

“In 1987 I began a career with Gulfstream Aerospace and am still with them today, after 28 years,” Sowards said. “I spent 13 years in the Middle East as the Gulfstream field service representative, responsible for all of the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. I returned to California in 2012 and after leasing aircraft to EFI for two years, decided to purchase the school when the opportunity presented itself.”

EFI Flight School staff and Cessna Representatives gather outside of the flight school’s hangar greeting guests and answering questions related to flying, November 19th.

According to Sowards, EFI has been in business in one form or another for over 15 years.

“While EFI has been in business for quite some time, we are constantly listening to our clientele and trying to improve our services and keep up with the changing times,” he said. “We continue to be the same fun loving flight environment we have always been, but we are doing it in the most affordable means possible.”

After purchasing EFI, Sowards began to focus on improving the school accommodations and increasing the flight school’s equipment and aircraft.

“We have increased the staff, doubled the number of aircraft available for rental and instruction and modernized the fleet,” he said. “We have done all of this while keeping our pricing as low as possible and constantly beating any of our competitors.”

A new Cessna TTx presented by Textron Aviation on display for guests attending the EFI Flight School open house, November 19th.

EFI provides flight training for almost any available license and rating. Private pilots train in either the Cessna 150 or the Cessna 172.

“These are the staple of flight training worldwide and have a very good safety record,” Sowards said. “A minimum of 40 hours is required to obtain the private pilot’s license.”

According to Sowards, training for the Instrument rating is normally accomplished in either the Cessna 172SP or the Cirrus SR20, both complete with the latest technology including glass cockpits.

“We also offer training for the Commercial rating, which is required in order for a pilot to charge for their time and become an actual pilot for hire,” he said. “We utilize our Piper Arrow for all commercial training.”

EFI also offers training for Multi-Engine and CFI ratings and provides transition training for those that want to move into a modern aircraft such as the Cirrus.

Sowards said he is constantly looking for ways to improve services and introduce new technologies, not just in equipment but in teaching techniques too.

“We recently became a Cessna Pilot Training Center and are in talks with several regional airlines to provide entry level pilots for their internal training programs and advancement onto the larger commercial airlines,” he explained. “We are very excited about the future and want the public to know we are here and available seven days a week to help make their dreams of flight, a reality.”

For those who want to learn how to fly, but think they can’t fit it into their budget, Sowards has a solution for that too.

“We have programs available for financing so that the cost of pilot training can be spread out over an extended period of time, while not slowing down the training period and get them into the skies at faster rate,” Sowards said.

EFI Flight School instructor Shannon Holbert (right) prepares to test fly a new Cessna TTx with Textron Aviation pilot and representative Tim McCoy (left), during the EFI Flight School open house, November 19th.

“Learning to fly is an experience that everyone has to try,” he explained. “It is one of the most common items on any ones “Bucket List” and it is more affordable and in reach than most people believe. We have introductory flights starting out at $99 and the customer will actually fly the aircraft while receiving instruction and log their first hour of flight toward a private pilot’s license.”

Competition aerobatic pilot Anthony Oshinuga taxis his high performance biplane to the runway during the EFI Flight School Open house at French Valley Airport, November 19th.

For more information on EFI and all the great programs they offer, visit, like them on their EFI Flight School Facebook page, or stop by the offices any day between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

EFI is conveniently located at 37680 Sky Canyon Drive at the French Valley Airport located off Winchester Road in Murrieta.

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