Friday, December 23, 2016

Great Bend Municipal Airport favors keeping long runway

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KSNW) — The Great Bend Municipal Airport has one of the longer runways in Kansas, at almost eight-thousand feet. The main runway is used for more than half of the airport’s operations, but the Federal Aviation Administration has rated it in poor condition.

KSN reached out to the FAA, they said: “..the runway is showing visible signs of deterioration and is in need of rehabilitating.”

The good news? The FAA is willing to repair it, funding 90% of it. However, it would only repair 5,500 feet of the runway — meaning the airport would have to find the funds to repair the remaining length of the runway.

Great Bend’s airport manager said the airport’s long runway attracts many planes because of safety.

“It makes the margin of error larger for them, so they could get themselves down and takeoff safely,” said Martin Miller.

According to Miller, a shorter runway could mean fewer planes using the airport. He added that planes use the airport’s fuel stops.

Miller said he’s already heard concerns from pilots.

“You’ll hear them say, ‘If you take this down much shorter, we’ll have to find another place to stop for fuel,'” he said.

KSN asked how fuel sales at the airport affect Great Bend’s economy.

“That generates for the city, not only a fuel flow per gallon income, but also a sales tax benefit because of the taxing of the fuel,” said Miller. “The state of Kansas also benefits from that quantity.”

Miller said he believes the city recognizes the value of a longer runway and has been supportive during this time of uncertainty.

Airport and city officials are now gathering data to show the FAA that repairing the runway at its full length is still viable. Officials said they don’t have an estimate of how much it would cost yet.

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Aviation Museum of New Hampshire welcomes new home-built biplane to its collection

LONDONDERRY — They are the planes that home builders dream of — a unique style often built behind the scenes in an aviation fan's garage, basement or hangar.

The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire recently received a donation of a home-built biplane, now on display at the museum.

The biplane was donated and built by James Jackson of Brookline, New Hampshire, a man fascinated by airplanes and flight since he was a child.

"My lifelong dream was to build my own aircraft," Jackson said. "I built this biplane when I was a young man with a wife and child, living on a shoestring in a mobile home. This labor of love took five years, 10 months and 14 days to complete."

The plane was built back in the 1960s, and was in Jackson's garage for the past 40 years, according to museum operations manager Wendell Berthelsen.

"It hung from the rafters so he could park his car beneath it," Berthelsen said.

Jackson called the museum, Berthelsen said, and wanted to donate his plane.

Volunteer crews went to the 88-year-old pilot's home and took the plane down, dismantled the wings and delivered it to the museum near the airport.

"We took it down very carefully," Berthelsen said.

The plane was flown a total of about 145 hours and also was featured in air shows.

It was a dream of Jackson's since he was a little boy, Berthelsen said, to build a plane.

Models of "home-built" aircraft have existed as long as powered flight and instead of relying on a factory for construction, this type of craft relied on superior craftsmanship and handwork by individuals who love flight and love to build, often constructed in those basements and garages like the Wright Brothers did in 1903.

According to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), this is the fastest growing segment of new, general aviation aircraft in the United States, with tens of thousands flying throughout the world. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies these aircraft as "Experimental Amateur-Built Aircraft" and each year the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire hosts a fly-in of these aircraft to demonstrate the high quality and variety of aircraft produced in this category.

According to museum Executive Director Jessica Pappathan, the museum has two other general aviation aircraft within its collection, including a WT-9 Dynamic light-sport and an Aeronca aircraft. However, due to space limitations, this will be the first complete aircraft on display at the museum.

"This biplane is a wonderful addition to the museum's collection and we are grateful to Mr. Jackson and his family for this donation," Pappathan said. "It will allow us to share with visitors the skill and techniques it takes to build these aircraft, and we hope that it inspires others, especially the next generation, to take an interest in aviation."

This is also the first time, Pappathan noted, that the museum has a complete aircraft on display. Its more compact size makes the new plane a good fit for the small museum.

"It also fits in with the historic aspect of the museum," she said.

The biplane was awarded "Best Appearing Home Built" at several fly-ins including the Reading Air show in Pennsylvania. Jackson also won an "Outstanding Individual Achievement Award" from the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Jackson was a lead designer for Piper Aircraft for many years.

Pappathan said having the new donation will hopefully engage aviation fans of all ages.

"We're hoping people enjoy it and it inspires the next generation to be pilots," she said.


Police: Orlando International Airport passenger ditches pants, steals airport tug, drives across tarmac

Richard Hogh
(Orange County Jail / Courtesy photo)

A Canadian passenger was arrested Friday morning after he got onto the tarmac at Orlando International Airport, hopped aboard a luggage tug vehicle and then drove away, authorities report.

No one was injured, officials report.

The man, 27-year-old Richard Hogh, was preparing to board a United Airlines flight to Chicago then transfer to Canada when the incident began, according to the Orlando Police Department.

Hogh boarded the plane and sat in a first-class seat that was not his. When airline staff asked him to go to his assigned spot, he said "that he was a pilot and wanted to sit in the pilot jump seat," Orlando police wrote in his arrest affidavit.

He was taken off the plane.

"The United Airlines staff felt that he was behaving erratically," said airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell. "They denied him boarding."

Hogh left his carry-on luggage unattended by the gate and followed an employee with a cleaning cart into a service elevator, records show.

The employee saw that he did not have a security badge and told him to get off the elevator. The elevator doors opened on the ground floor, so Hogh got out, took off his pants, and walked away, records show.

The ground floor has access to the ramp area. Police say Hogh climbed into the passenger's seat of a luggage tug by gate 41 and told the driver "he had a flight to catch."

The frightened driver got off the tug, so Hogh got in the driver's seat, and started driving south on a taxiway. He then turned onto Perimeter Road near the Centerfield Fire Station, more than 2,000 feet away from the terminal.

A firefighter ran alongside the tug until he managed to jump on to the passenger seat, subdue Hogh and detain him. Orlando police officers then took him into custody.

Fennell said he never drove on any of the airport's runways, and the incident did not cause any flight delays. It did cause a "ground hold" for jetliners in the immediate area.

Fennell said Hogh had earlier gone through an airport security checkpoint without incident.

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Editorial: Federal Aviation Administration not tough enough on Allegiant Airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration is the safety net for air travelers. The agency's inspectors scrutinize commercial airliners, and it can ground planes found to be unsafe. But the FAA has taken a hands-off approach to Allegiant Airlines despite a disturbing string of mechanical failures and unexpected landings spanning three years. Instead of allowing Allegiant, the main carrier at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, to devise its own remedies and then rubber-stamping them, the FAA should begin asserting its enforcement authority to demand improvements in the name of safety.

When a maintenance contractor overhauled an Allegiant jet last year, a worker signed off on a tail repair without noticing that a key part was missing. The plane made 261 flights carrying thousands of passengers until the missing piece finally caused the tail elevator to jam, forcing a high-speed aborted takeoff in Las Vegas with 164 people on board. Once the contractor agreed to have a second inspector sign off on repairs of critical parts, the FAA closed out the case. That example is a typical response to Allegiant's mechanical failures in 2015, of which there were dozens. Tampa Bay Times staff writers Nathaniel Lash and Michael LaForgia reviewed records of the breakdowns and found that the FAA did not take enforcement action in a single case.

Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay region have a big stake in Allegiant. The carrier flew more than a million passengers through the Pinellas airport last year, accounting for 95 percent of the airport's passenger traffic. Pinellas County's tourism agency has partnered with the airline in a marketing campaign. Allegiant's cheap tickets — many under $200 for a round trip — serving smaller cities around the country are enormously popular with travelers, allowing the airline to continue to grow and add destinations.

But bargains can have hidden costs. Earlier this year, the Times found Allegiant flights are four times as likely as those of other major carriers to make unexpected landings due to midair mechanical problems. By flying a fleet of older planes, not staffing its own mechanics at out-of-the-way airports, running a scattershot maintenance program all while pushing to grow quickly, Allegiant created conditions for problems to occur and reoccur unaddressed absent a firmer regulatory approach.

The FAA wouldn't know how Allegiant's record stacks up because it has no system for measuring airlines' performance against one another and flagging warning signs. That might explain why the FAA's review of Allegiant operations this year cited the company for only minor problems. There also is not enough distance between the airline and the agency that regulates it. Times reporters documented how a former FAA inspector in charge of monitoring Allegiant's maintenance programs retired from the agency and immediately went to work for Allegiant as manager of regulatory compliance. In another instance, a veteran FAA administrator who left amid scandal went to work for Allegiant as a consultant reviewing its operations. Such arrangements create an appearance of a conflict of interest, at best, and suggest that vigorous oversight could be lacking because of relationships among onetime colleagues. The FAA should implement rules to close that revolving door.

On its website, the FAA states its mission is "to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world." But for three years the agency has given Allegiant Airlines a virtual pass on mechanical failures and unexpected landings, levying no fines or penalties and allowing the airline to continue with business as usual. That sends a strong message that, mission statement aside, the FAA has allowed efficiency to outrank safety.


Growing pains at the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease

PORTSMOUTH - When Pease Development Authority Executive Director David Mullen considers Portsmouth International Airport at Pease and its potential for more commercial air traffic, he sees a classic chicken-or-egg dilemma.

What comes first: A major airline, such as the pending decision by Norwegian Air Shuttle to come to Pease, to jumpstart needed facility improvements at the airport? Or improvements now to make Pease more attractive in the future to airline companies such as Norwegian?

"It's a limiting factor," Mullen said. "Do you wait and build it or build it now and hope they come?"

Mullen believes the time has come to consider improvements to the terminal that could cost $10 million at a minimum.

"We're looking at doing something now," he said.

Mullen and others see advantages and disadvantages for the Pease airport when it comes to attracting and keeping commercial air carriers.

Among the advantages: No airport fees and free parking, access to public transportation and major highways, and the attractiveness of the region itself as a gateway to New England.

Among the disadvantages: Existing competition from airports in nearby Manchester, Boston and Portland, old infrastructure, and the fact Pease came into the market as a commercial airport relatively late in the game.

The long-term vision for Pease is, as aviation consultant Dan Fortnam put it, "as a spoke and not a hub." Its niche will be destination service to places where people want to vacation and visit, not as a means to an end to get to someplace else.

Fortnam is a consultant with Air Service Development out of Marston Mills, Massachusetts, and has been working with Pease since 2011 to attract more commercial air traffic.

The airport has had an ever-revolving turnstile of commercial carriers come and go over the years since it earned its commercial certification from the Federal Aviation Administration in 1992, soon after Pease closed as a base for the U.S. Air Force. The airport has a dual purpose - as a commercial airport and as home base for the 157th Air Wing of the N.H. Air National Guard. The PDA assumed oversight of Pease after the base closed.

According to a list compiled by Andrew Pomeroy, acting manager at the airport - first there was Business Express Delta Connection, followed by a United Express carrier. Both had ceased operations by the time Pan Am - then owned by Guilford Transportation of New Hampshire - started flying in 1999. Allegiant Air started a charter service around 2005 and departed when Sky Bus started service to and from Columbus, Ohio, in 2007, ending its service in 2008. Following Sky Bus there was no scheduled service until Allegiant Air returned in 2013 with winter season flights to Florida, a service that has grown to now include four stops - Sanford, Fort Lauderdale, Punta Gorda and Clearwater/St. Petersburg (its most recent addition).

Timing can be everything, and by the time Pease had its commercial approval, there were already three established commercial airports within an hour's drive - Logan International, Portland International Jetport and Manchester-Boston Regional. "We're a little behind that curve," Pomeroy said.

Pease isn't going to get the Jet Blue or Southwest type of low-cost carriers because they're well established in the region already. "Low-cost carriers, in order to make their model work, need frequency," Pomeroy said.

The other factor that isn't working in Pease's favor is the infrastructure. Mullen, Pomeroy and others acknowledge the terminal has to grow and parking has to grow to accommodate any growth in commercial air flights.

The terminal currently handles the domestic traffic generated by Allegiant's flights to and from Florida and the unscheduled international travel of private airlines contracted by the military to fly troops to and from deployment overseas. The combined traffic requires not only security screening by a company contracted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) but customs for the overseas travelers as well.

And, right now, there are 961 parking spaces within an easy walk of the terminal. Another 900 spaces are available at a spillover lot on Arboretum Drive.

Any expansion of the terminal would include expansion of parking on land adjacent to the airport that could give the facility a total of 3,200 spaces. "That would be enough to satisfy us for a while," Mullen said.

As for the terminal itself, besides some cosmetic improvements to bathrooms, the roof, and space to better handle the overseas troop travelers, there hasn't been much work to expand the building itself. There is a need for more jetways for passengers to enter and exit a plane without having to step outside, for example. The building needs a larger area for ticketing and for TSA inspections. That, Mullen said, should happen, regardless of whether Norwegian Air comes to Portsmouth or not.

Even the relatively modest frequency of the Allegiant and military flights is causing us to feel some growing pains," he said.

"It's demonstrating a need already," added Pomeroy.

Of benefit to Pease, as in selling a house, is location, location, location.

"We see Portsmouth as a great connection to New England for the overseas traveler," Mullen said. He noted that car rentals are available at the airport, and bus service to Boston is available by way of hourly runs by the C&J Bus Service located 2.5 miles away on Grafton Road. Passenger rail service - the Downeaster - south into Boston and north into Maine is nine miles away at the depot in Durham.

"That's a sales tool," said Fortnam, adding, "Portsmouth is a gateway to New England that can't be beat. Portsmouth is a very strong destination."

The fact it is not a very busy airfield right now is also an advantage, according to Fortnam. "The airlines can look at this facility and know they can operate on time," he said.

Mark Gardner, deputy general counsel for the PDA, told the story of flying out of Pease on an Allegiant flight. The pilot got on the intercom during taxiing and said, "We're No. 1 in line for takeoff ...; we're always No. 1 for takeoff."

And Mullen sees Logan as reaching its capacity for growth. "Places like Boston Logan are limited for expansion, so maybe our time is coming," he said.

Gardner said the effort to get Norwegian Air here is part of an overall strategy of courting it and other airlines as well. "Airlines are well aware of our existence and have been sniffing around," he said.

Pease officials attend industry events that Mullen likens to speed dating - you get a few minutes with a prospective suitor then move on to the next.

"You let them know where you are and what you can do," Fortnam said.

Mullen added: "You give them the pitch, and if there's interest you follow up from there."

In early December, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted approval for Norwegian Air's Ireland-based subsidiary to fly into the U.S.

It is looking to establish two U.S. bases of operation. Stewart International Airport in Newburg, New York, is expected to be one; Pease hopes to be the other. Flights would include several in Ireland and England, and one in Norway and Scotland with introductory one-way fares as low as $69.

To Fortnam, the airport's market niche as a spoke fits right into the needs of Norwegian.

"Our geography is our greatest strength and sometimes our biggest disadvantage," he said, but added for an overseas carrier, the location is ideal.

"Portsmouth fits right into their comfort zone," he said.

Having met with Norwegian Air officials Nov. 23, Mullen said it could take up to two months for the airline to decide if Pease will be its second base of operation.


Piper PA-28-161, N31202: Fatal accident occurred December 23, 2016 near Middlebury State Airport (6B0), Addison County, Vermont

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

PC AIR VENTURES LTD:   http://registry.faa.govN31202

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board: 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: PORTLAND, MAINE

NTSB Identification: ERA17FA072
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 23, 2016 in Middlebury, VT
Aircraft: PIPER PA28, registration: N31202
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 23, 2016, about 1145 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-161, N31202, was substantially damaged after it impacted trees and terrain during the initial climb from Middlebury State Airport (6B0), Middlebury, Vermont. The private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a witness, the airplane was not flown during the past 2 months. The pilot cleared off snow from the airplane's wings the morning of the flight and preheated the airplane. He then performed a preflight inspection and sumped the fuel tanks. The pilot taxied the airplane to runway 19 and departed. During the initial climb, about 150 feet above ground level (agl), the airplane's wings "wagged," the engine "skipped," and then the engine sound "went back to normal." The airplane continued to climb, it made a slight right turn, and then entered a left turn. When the angle of bank was about 45-degrees, the airplane "stalled," and "rapidly" descended until it struck trees. Another witness stated the engine "sputtered" several times, and that after the airplane struck the ground, a postimpact fire erupted.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. The pilot was issued a third-class medical certificate on August 6, 2009, with no limitations. At that time, he reported 750 hours of total flight time, of which 54 hours were within the previous 6 months. In addition, the pilot held an airframe and powerplant certificate with an inspection authorization.

According to FAA records, the four-place airplane was issued an airworthiness certificate on April 10, 1978, and was registered to a corporation. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series, 160-horsepower engine with a Sensenich fixed-pitch propeller. According to airplane maintenance logbooks, an annual inspection was performed on June 16, 2016, at a total time in service of 8,582 hours.

The airplane impacted trees, the ground, and came to rest in an upright position about 300 feet from the departure end of runway 19. The main wreckage was oriented on a 347-degree magnetic heading, the debris path was oriented on a 360-degree magnetic heading, and was approximately 160 feet in length. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The fuselage remained intact but was heavily damaged by impact forces and a postimpact fire. Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit through multiple control cable fractures that were consistent with overload. The fuel tanks were breeched; the left fuel tank exhibited thermal damage, and the right fuel tank was heavily impact damaged.

The engine remained attached to the airframe through all but one engine mount and was removed to facilitate further examination. Engine crankshaft continuity was confirmed from the propeller flange to the rear accessory section of the engine. All cylinders remained attached to the crankcase. The rocker box covers were removed and no anomalies were noted with the valve springs and rocker arms. Valvetrain continuity was confirmed when the crankshaft was rotated. The cylinders were examined with a borescope and no anomalies were noted with the cylinders, pistons, and valves. Piston movement and thumb compression was observed on all cylinders. Both magnetos remained attached to the engine. Each were removed, and sparks were observed on all towers, when they were rotated by hand. The top spark plugs were removed and their electrodes were dark gray in color.

The engine driven fuel pump was removed and disassembled. The fuel pumped liquid that was consistent in odor with 100LL aviation fuel when the arm was actuated by hand. No debris was noted in the liquid. There were no anomalies noted with the fuel pump. Fuel was noted in the fuel line to the carburetor. The carburetor box was impact damaged. The carburetor was impact separated from the engine but remained attached through cables. The carburetor was disassembled and no liquid was noted in the fuel bowl. However, the carburetor floats exhibited damage consistent with hydraulic deformation. Debris, similar to the terrain at the accident site, was noted in the carburetor. The carburetor inlet fuel screen was removed and no debris was noted.

The 1135 recorded weather observation at 6B0 included wind from 180 degrees at 11 knots, gusting to 14 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, scattered clouds at 3,200 feet agl, temperature 3 degrees C, dew point -3 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 30.26 inches of mercury.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

The pilot killed in a December plane crash in Middlebury held an expired medical certificate, which should have kept him grounded, according to a review of public records and federal law.

Pilots are required to have health evaluations, including vision and hearing in order to fly. The examination for Paul D. Bessler, 42, of Crown Point, New York, expired more than two years before the small plane went down Dec. 23, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

Federal law required Bessler to renew the certification after five years, but an online FAA database shows Bessler received his most recent medical certificate in 2009.

The FAA says medical certificates are necessary “to protect not only those who would exercise the privileges of a pilot certificate but also air travelers and the general public.”

There is no indication a medical issue or pilot error played a role in the crash of the Piper PA28 moments after takeoff from the Middlebury State Airport, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board. The federal agency said the engine of the four-seat, propeller-driven aircraft “sputtered” and “skipped,” then the wings “wagged” before the plane went down after climbing to about 150 feet off the ground.

NTSB investigators drew no conclusion in the preliminary report about what caused the mechanical issues or the crash itself. A final report is pending.

Bessler, who is survived by his wife and daughter, was the only person aboard.

Medical certificates require pilots to meet minimum standards regarding vision, hearing, mental health, balance and equilibrium, cardiovascular issues, neurology (such as the absence of seizure disorders) and other health concerns, according to federal law.

Most pilots must have a pilot’s license and a medical certificate in order to fly — much like drivers need a driver’s license and insurance in order to legally operate a car.

There are three classes of certificates, with more stringent standards for commercial pilots, for instance, than for private pilots of small aircraft. Bessler, as a private pilot, needed a third-class certificate, which is good for five years for pilots younger than 40, and two years for aviators age 40 and older.

Bessler, whose family told the Burlington Free Press after the crash that he grew up with a love of aviation and mechanics, worked as director of maintenance at J&M Aviation, a maintenance facility at the Middlebury airport. His employer has not responded to requests for comment.

Pilots take seriously the requirement to keep medical certificates up to date, said Jim Coon, senior vice president for government affairs for the Frederick, Maryland-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

“Safety is paramount for general aviation. When you’re a safe and healthy pilot, that’s important,” said Coon, who spoke about aviation requirements generally and not about the Middlebury case. Flying without a valid medical certificate is rare in the industry, he added. “Pilots are very responsible. When they go up in the air, they want to be safe.”

Coon noted that flight remains “one of the safest modes of transportation,” and during the past 12 years in all of general aviation, there were “less than a handful of accidents where the primary cause was medical incapacitation.”

Pilots who are required to have medical certificates can lose their licenses if they are found to lack the proper medical clearance, he said. The FAA says that “individuals required to hold a medical certificate must have it in their personal possession at all times when exercising the privileges for which they are licensed.”

Sport pilots, who fly light aircraft, gliders or hot-air balloons, are the only pilots allowed to fly without a pilot's license or a medical certificate.

The FAA might request to see a license and medical certificate during a spot check of a pilot, Coon said.

Federal aviation medical requirements are changing later this year. Under a rule that goes into effect May 1, pilots who currently must hold third-class medical certificates — private, recreational and student aviators — will be allowed instead to take a medical education class and undergo an examination every four years.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association advocated for the change, Coon said, because the new system, which also allows pilots to see their own physicians rather than specialized aviation medical examiners, will be less cumbersome while increasing overall safety.


MIDDLEBURY -   A pilot was killed when his small plane crashed early Friday afternoon near the airport in Middlebury after experiencing equipment issues and trying to return to the airfield.

Paul D. Bessler, 42, of Crown Point, New York, was the only person aboard the aircraft when it went down around midday, Middlebury Police Chief Thomas Hanley said. The pilot's family described him as a lifelong aircraft enthusiast, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a dedicated husband and father.

The plane, a Piper PA28, "crashed on private property shortly after it departed Middlebury State Airport at about noon," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said in a statement. "The pilot tried to return to the airport after reporting an instrument equipment-related problem."

The FAA is investigating the crash along with local authorities.

Bessler's LinkedIn page says he worked as director of maintenance at J&M Aviation, a maintenance facility at the Middlebury airport. Calls and emails to J&M Aviation went unreturned Friday.

Bessler had worked at the airport for more than a decade, ever since he moved to upstate New York with his wife, said Bessler's mother, Meridy Petricciolli, 62, of Las Vegas. Paul and Keri Bessler had a daughter, Ava, who turned 8 years old this summer, Petricciolli said.

Bessler was fascinated by aviation since childhood, Petricciolli said.

“He always loved mechanics from the time he was 2 or 3 years old and could pick up a wrench,” she told the Burlington Free Press, adding that her son also adored flying. “He loved the exhilaration. He was kind of an adrenaline junky. He liked planes, and he liked motorcycles — anything that went forward.”

Bessler gave up parachuting after his daughter was born because of the danger, Petricciolli added.

An FAA database shows that Bessler was licensed as a private pilot.

Piper PA28s are four-seat, propeller-driven aircraft, according to the company's website.

The Middlebury State Airport is about 5 miles southeast of the center of town, about halfway between Middlebury and Ripton in Addison County. The airport includes a single runway along with multiple hangars and other buildings in open space surrounded by woods.

Petricciolli spoke to the Free Press as she was packing Friday afternoon to travel to Vermont. She was here just a few weeks ago, she said, having spent Thanksgiving with the oldest of her two children and his family. Petricciolli left on Dec. 10, and then Bessler took his daughter skiing for the first time this season.

"They were having such a great, great time," Petricciolli said.

Bessler snapped a photo that day and sent it to his mother.



Friends say he died doing what he loved. Now authorities want to know why a New York pilot crashed near the Middlebury state airport.

Parts of the fuselage remain in the yard where a plane went down Friday. It's just a few hundred feet from the runway. Police say they think the pilot had just taken off when it went down.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the plane was a Piper PA28. It crashed into a yard on Schoolhouse Hill Road that runs parallel to the runway around 11:30 a.m. Witnesses say they heard the plane make some odd noises just before the crash. The FAA says the pilot had tried to return to the airport after reporting an instrument equipment-related problem, but he didn't make it.

"Came down here in the yard behind this residence, clipped the tree and dropped into the yard," said Sgt. Mike Christopher, Middlebury Police Department.

The plane went into some trees before it hit the ground. Some pieces remain in the trees. Once it crashed, it caught fire and witnesses were able to pull the pilot from the plane and perform CPR. He was the only one on board and was taken to Porter Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

WCAX News has confirmed that the pilot has been identified as Paul Bessler of Crown Point, New York. Friends say he leaves behind a wife and young daughter. Now, the FAA and NTSB will work with local and state authorities to reconstruct the crash and determine what happened.

Story, video and photo gallery:

Middlebury, Vermont -- Police say one person is dead following a fiery plane crash in Middlebury.

Police say the plane, a single-engine Piper Warrior, crashed at 45 Schoolhouse Hill Road near the Middlebury State Airport just before noon Friday.

The pilot, whose name is not being released, was treated at the scene for serious injuries, and later transported to Porter Hospital where the pilot died. 

In an email to Local 22 & Local 44 News, the Federal Aviation Administration said the pilot tried to return to the airport after 'reporting an instrument equipment-related problem.'

Police also said witnesses described the plane as having engine problems before crashing into someone’s backyard.

“The aircraft broke up on impact. 

The impact resulted in a fire on the aircraft and a nearby outbuilding on the property,” according to a media statement.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.


Police say a pilot was killed in a small plane crash in Middlebury, Vermont.

The crash happened around noon Friday on Schoolhouse Hill Road near the Middlebury State Airport.

Police say Paul D. Bessler, 42, of of Crown Point, New York, died in the crash.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman tells the Burlington Free Press that the pilot tried to return to the airport after reporting an instrument equipment-related problem.

Authorities say he was the only person on the plane when it crashed on private property.

Story and video: 

Robinson R44 Raven II, P W Bar Aviation, N447PW: Incident occurred December 22, 2016 in Houston, Texas


FAA Flight Standards District Office: HOUSTON


Date: 22-DEC-16
Time: 15:30:00Z
Regis#: N447PW
Aircraft Make: ROBINSON
Aircraft Model: R44
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: NONE
Activity: PERSONAL
Operation: 91
State: TEXAS

Piper J3F-65, N38759: Incident occurred December 02, 2016 in Saluda, South Carolina

FAA Flight Standards District Office: Columbia, South Carolina


Date: 02-DEC-16
Time: 15:30:00Z
Regis#: N38759
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: J3F-65
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 91