Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's getting harder for a plane to vanish and not be found

WASHINGTON (AP) - Nearly three years after a Malaysian airliner vanished, it's still possible, if unlikely, for a plane to disappear. But that's changing with new satellites that will soon allow flights to be tracked in real time over oceans.

New international safety standards also begin to kick-in beginning next year, although the deadline for airlines to meet most of the standards is still four years away. Even then, it could be decades before the changes permeate the entire global airline fleet because some of the requirements apply only to newly manufactured planes.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished from radar on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board. An exhaustive search of a remote corner of the southern Indian Ocean has failed to turn up the aircraft's remains, and search efforts were called off this week.

"If the exact same thing happened today, I think we'd have the same result," said William Waldock, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, and former accident investigator.

"There has been change, but we haven't put anything physical into practice yet," he said.

But Atholl Buchan, director of flight operations at the International Air Transport Association, which represents most international carriers, said a repeat of MH370 is "highly unlikely" since many airlines have already increased their efforts to keep tabs on planes over open ocean where they are beyond the reach of land-based radar.

"In a few years, new systems and technology, if adopted universally by (air traffic control providers), will allow for global surveillance coverage," he said.

Among the changes in the works:

-The International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, approved a series of new global safety standards last year in response to MH370, including a requirement that airline pilots flying over ocean out of the range of radar report their position by radio every 15 minutes. Previously, they were required to report every 30 minutes. The new requirement kicks in next year, but many airlines have already switched.

-Another new standard requires new planes beginning in 2021 to be able to transmit automatic, minute-by-minute reports on their location if they're in distress. At normal flight speeds, minute-by-minute reports would provide authorities with a search area of a little over 100 square miles. If reports are less frequent, the search area grows much larger.

However, the requirement doesn't apply to existing planes. Since airliners often have a lifespan of 20 years or more, it could take decades before all airliners meet the new requirement.

-Satellite flight tracking services may solve much of the problem sooner. This week, Aireon, a satellite joint venture, launched the first 10 satellites in what is planned to be a 66-satellite constellation that can track airliners equipped with the latest satellite surveillance technology, known as ADS-B.

Aireon expects to have all its satellites launched by the first quarter of next year, providing 100 percent coverage of the globe. It will receive signals every one to eight seconds from all equipped planes, regardless of whether the airline subscribes to the service. Not all planes have ADS-B, but Aireon vice president of aviation services, Cyriel Kronenburg, estimated that 90 percent of planes on long-haul routes over the ocean are already equipped.

However, the technology works only if ADS-B is turned on. In the case of MH370, the plane's surveillance technology was inexplicably shut off.

-Aircraft "black box" flight data recorders must be equipped with locator beacons that last at least 90 days beginning next year under another standard. The beacon on MH370's black box was required to last only 30 days.

But the beacons are only helpful if searchers already know where to look. Because currents and water temperatures can weaken the signals, searchers usually have to be pretty close to pick them up.

-ICAO approved a requirement that new aircraft designs certified after Jan. 1, 2021, have some means for retrieving a plane's flight data recorder, or the information contained in it, before the recorder sinks to the ocean floor. One possibility is a deployable recorder that automatically ejects from a plane upon impact and floats to the surface. But the cost of retrofitting older planes could be prohibitive, and there is a risk that recorder could deploy accidentally.

An alternative is to have planes automatically relay the data via satellite to ground stations, eliminating the need to search for the box. But there are many unanswered questions about security and custody of the information.


Bill targets governor using state plane for campaign events

HELENA — A Republican legislator wants to clip the wings of Gov. Steve Bullock and any future governors to stop them from using the state airplane to combine campaign stops with official state business.

Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, this week introduced House Bill 255, which revived an issue Republicans raised against the Democratic governor in his re-election campaign last year. The bill will be heard Jan. 25 by the House State Administration Committee.

Last year, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, Tschida and some other GOP legislators accused Bullock of misusing the state airplane by attending fundraising events in towns where he flew for state business.

Bullock said then he followed the same rules as his predecessors, using the state airplane for official business and also sometimes having campaign events in the same cities. Bullock wound up reimbursing the state about $3,800 to cover extra time the state pilot spent on the job because of the governor’s appearance at later separate campaign fundraisers.

“Essentially, we’ve been asking Governor Bullock to use the plane for the purposes I believe the citizens of Montana expect it to be used for and that’s for the business of the state,” Tschida said in an interview. “And when you start to water down that with trips that include dual purpose, and it’s not clear whether or not the majority of the use is for state business or campaign business or personal business, it starts to get cloudy.”

He cited a trip when Bullock took the state plane to Billings last year and made peanut butter sandwiches for children for 15 minutes on state business and then went to a two-hour campaign fundraiser.

“Just based surely on time, the priority seems to be the fundraiser, but obviously, there is some state business in there,” Tschida said. “Why not just limit trips to state business only and not do campaign stuff at all? Charter a plane or drive or do whatever but keep them separate so there isn’t any question or concern that you’re doing something that might appear to be inappropriate.”

In response, Bullock’s spokeswoman Ronja Abel said, “The governor thinks it’s unfortunate that Republican leaders are putting politics ahead of Montana jobs and the economy. They should be focusing their efforts on the infrastructure bill, balancing a budget and offering legislation on jobs, not distractions like this.”
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The bill would forbid a governor from using the state airplane for any campaigning for state or federal office while traveling on state business within 60 days of a primary and a general election.

At other times, the governor would have to pay the full cost of chartering an airplane if he uses the state airplane to travel to any campaigning for a state or a federal office while he’s on state business. Tschida estimated the cost of a charter plane at $1,100 an hour.

It would require additional reporting of each trip in the state plane, including the names and addresses of those riding in the plane, the purpose of each stop and the names and addresses of every attendee of any meeting attended by the governor during the trip if the meeting was not open to the public and the news media.


Pocatello Regional Airport (KPIH) maintenance department keeps flights on time

This winter has been devastating for the roads around Pocatello, but it seems no matter how much it snows our local airports remain open.

Plows are working hard today at Pocatello regional airport.

Drivers on call 24/7, to make sure that planes can stay on schedule.

Alan Evans, the Maintenance Supervisor, said “Many times we'll plow the runway three four maybe five times in a day if the snow continues..."

This plow is 20 feet wide and while it isn't exactly a smooth ride, it moves a lot of snow.

The two runways, one over nine thousand feet long, the other at over seven thousand.

Don't forget the taxiways, ramps ,roads, and even parking lots.

Kristy Heinz, the administrative assistant, said "There are only three people that plow the entire airport including the airfield and the parking areas.... And considering they have to go all day long as long as we have flights to keep the runways open..."

 All though there are only three people on the job they have the equipment to get it done right and fast... Their plow... Specially made for airports and you’re not going to find it on the regular market.

Alan Evans said "This is an older truck right here that I’m running but they are expensive they are in the price range of about a half million dollars apiece..."

The trucks 20 foot blade is wide enough to clear a runway in 8 or 9 passes.

This winter has been very challenging and the three workers have put in a lot of overtime.

Kristy Heinz said "There have only been three employees cause they can only go as fast as they can go so they have to work all day Christmas all day new year’s... All the holidays and the weekends..."

But fortunately the workers have looked at it as a positive experience....

"We enjoy winter... If you didn't it would not be a good place to work but this has been a good winter for us and it's nice to have snow to plow..."

The only time where the runway has caused issues this year was last Monday when the runway was so icy, that heavy winds were pushing around the snowplows.

Story and video:

Morrisville-Stowe State Airport (KMVL) hyper-busy for holiday weekend

Martin Luther King weekend was rocking at the Morrisville-Stowe Airport.

Stowe Aviation chief executive officer Russ Barr said 17 flights came in Friday night. On Monday, 16 arrived and 17 departed.

Those are huge numbers for the small airport.

“We were bursting at the seams,” Barr said.

Three years ago, before the airport finished renovating its runway, there were no flights on Martin Luther King weekend, according to Barr.

The state aeronautics administrator, Guy Rouelle, saluted the airport, saying the flight activity was unprecedented.

“I have not seen this type of activity at one of our state airports, including Rutland. I’m speaking from 30 years’ experience associated with Vermont aviation,” Rouelle wrote.

The flight list at Morrisville-Stowe Airport was star-studded, too; passengers included CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and artist Jeff Koons.

“Here we are, the little airport that could. It’s really positive for the economy and the community,” Barr said.

He attributes the airport’s weekend boom to the work the airport staff has done with renovation and negotiating partnerships with airlines such as Tradewinds.

“We definitely need to continue the development this spring and build out everything we were building out,” Barr said. “We have to catch up with the demand. The demand is definitely there.”


Bill McLearran: Pilot celebrates 50-plus years in the air

When he was 6, Bill McLearran would climb as high as he could, shimmying up the stacks of old telephone poles his family burned for fuel, to watch planes take off from the small, grass runway airport near his home in Sheridan, Indiana.

“It was a thing — I could sit there all day,” he recalls.

His school art projects centered on planes. He still has a sketch he did of an old World War II Stearman. He crafted a replica of a Piper Tri-Pacer from two pieces of cardboard. It earned him an “A.”

McLearran began flying just after he turned 18. The lessons were a present from his new wife, Janet, who’d saved up her paychecks from a fast-food eatery.

“What a gift,” McLearran says, smiling.

He’s been soaring ever since. Nearly 54 years.

In that time, McLearran, 71, has logged more than 10,000 hours and rebuilt four planes. These days, he’s got three winged projects that keep him busy, including a 1946 fire-engine red Globe Swift that he considers “the Ferrari of airplanes.”

The father of two and grandfather of three was honored last month with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, which can only be earned with at least 50 years flying experience as well as letters of recommendation and an exemplary aviation record. Think of it as a pilot’s lifetime achievement award. He’s one of 11 pilots across the state who earned the distinction in 2016.

During the ceremony, attended by more than 100 people, “I got a standing ovation,” says McLearran, whose retirement job is managing Mobile Aire Hangars at Ryan Airfield. “That just absolutely blew me away.”

A humble guy, it actually took him three years just to apply for the award. He found out he’d won when a trophy company called to check the spelling of his name for the plaque.

To the other pilots whose second home is Ryan Airfield and who pull up chairs in McLearran’s wood-paneled office — the “Old Pilots Day Care Center” — to enjoy doughnuts and steaming cups of coffee, the award comes as no surprise. The flight instructor is a veritable aviation encyclopedia as well as a mentor who’s quick to lend a hand with a project — and get another pot of joe brewing.

“He sure deserves it,” says Norman Younie, who praised McLearran as a top-notch flight instructor.

It’s a sentiment echoed in his recommendation letters that call him out as the go-to guy for all things relating to flight.

The oldest son in a family of 10 kids, McLearran remembers clipping out pictures of planes and then finding out everything he could about the specific models. He enlisted in the Air Force but couldn’t fly, a job reserved for officers. Instead, the Vietnam veteran took advantage of the military’s flight clubs to hone his skills.

He’s had some close calls over the years. In 1991, the propeller spun off the Volksplane, an aircraft with a Volkswagen engine, he and another man were flying in.

“We were still flying — it was a glider,” McLearran recalls.

More harrowing was a mid-air collision in 1971 at Tucson International Airport. An air traffic controller cleared McLearran for landing — but also gave the go-ahead for take-off to a Cessna crossing McLearran’s runway. Both planes were heavily damaged, but no one was hurt.

“That made me sit up and take notice,” McLearran says. “That made me really double-check everything.”

He makes a point of flying into the wild blue yonder once or twice a week and even though his first flight was more than five decades ago, he can still easily conjure up its thrill.

“Every time I solo a new student,” McLearran says, smiling, “I’m back up there.”

Story, photos and comments:

Beech 99A Airliner, Alpine Aviation Inc., dba Alpine Air, N326CA: Accident occurred January 19, 2017 at Billings Logan International Airport (KBIL), Billings, Yellowstone County, Montana

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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Alpine Aviation Inc., dba Alpine Air:

FAA Flight Standards District Office: SALT LAKE CITY

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA056
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Thursday, January 19, 2017 in Billings, MT
Aircraft: BEECH 99, registration: N326CA
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 January 19, 2017 about 1144 mountain standard time (mst), a Beech 99, N326CA, experienced a landing gear collapse while landing at the Billings Logan International Airport, Billings, Montana. The airplane was registered to and operated by Alpine Aviation Inc., d.b.a. Alpine Air, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The cargo transport flight departed from Dawson Community Airport, Glendive, Montana about 0945 mst with a planned destination of Sidney-Richland Municipal Airport, Sidney, Montana. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed, but was not activated.

The pilot reported that after departure, he retracted the landing gear and heard a "thud" sound. The landing gear "unsafe" light was illuminated and the left landing gear light remained illuminated green, an indication that it was still extended despite the landing gear handle being in the retracted position. When reaching his initial destination of Sidney, the pilot performed a low pass over the runway to enable maintenance personnel on the ground do a visual assessment. A mechanic stated that the nose gear was extended. The pilot diverted to Billings and the air traffic control personnel confirmed observing the nose gear extended at a 45-degree angle.

The pilot further stated that he aligned with runway 28R and just prior to touch down, he feathered the propellers and decreased the airspeed. During touchdown, the right gear collapsed and the airplane came to rest on the centerline. As a result of the impact, the right aileron and right wing spar sustained damage.

A cargo airplane was forced into an emergency landing at Billings Logan International Airport after its landing gear malfunctioned Thursday.

The Beechcraft 99 owned by Alpine Air, a company that hauls mail and freight, took off from Billings a few hours earlier. The pilot was unable to retract the landing gear after takeoff. The plane would have immediately landed, but the landing gear wouldn’t fully lower either, said Kevin Ploehn, director of aviation and transit.

The pilot remained in the air for a few hours trying to fix the issue. When the problem could not be resolved in flight, the pilot declared an emergency and returned to Billings, Ploehn said.

The aircraft performed a flyby before landing so airport personnel could determine if the landing gear was deployed. Often fuses and indicator lights fail so pilots cannot determine if they’re prepared to land. In this case observers found the front landing gear was only partially deployed and would likely collapse upon landing.

Aircraft rescue firefighters staged at the end of the runway in preparation for the emergency landing. As the airplane made its final approach, the pilot killed the engines and the Alpine Air Beechcraft touched down at about 11:45 a.m. The front and right rear landing gear failed, causing the right wing to drag on the tarmac.

Ploehn said the pilot did an outstanding job landing the airplane under difficult circumstances. He was the only occupant of the aircraft and was not injured. Emergency crews were still working about an hour later to clear the runway.


A small aircraft made an emergency landing at Billings Logan International Airport just before noon Thursday.

Shane Ketterling, Assistant Director of Aviation & Transit tells KULR-8 that the pilot reported that his nose gear was not locking into place while on approach to Sidney.

The pilot decided to reroute back to Billings for an emergency landing because the Billings Logan International Airport has better resources to assist in an emergency.

The plane circled the airport before making the emergency landing.

The single passenger aircraft was carrying mail  The pilot walked away from the aircraft and is fine.

The emergency landing forced short delays for other incoming and outgoing flights.

The aircraft operates through Alpine Aviation which is based is Billings.

According to records obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration the plane is a Beech 99A fixed wing multi-engine aircraft.

A certificate on record with the FAA was filed on April 4th, 2004 and is current through February 29th, 2020.


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A small airplane made an emergency landing at Billings Logan International Airport after the landing gear malfunctioned.

The twin-engine plane had taken off from Billings with a load of mail but the plane’s landing gear was not locking into place when the plane approached Sidney.

Airport spokesman Shane Ketterling says the pilot decided to return to Billings for an emergency landing because the airport there has better resources to deal with an emergency.

The landing gear was partially deployed and it collapsed when the plane touched down at about 11:45 a.m. Thursday. The right wing dragged on the tarmac. The pilot was the only person on the plane and he was not injured.


Man pleads guilty to groping girl on American Airlines flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Portland

An Oregon man pleaded guilty Thursday to groping a 13-year-old girl on a flight from DFW International Airport to Portland last year.

Chad Cameron Camp, 26, pleaded guilty to making an indecent sexual proposal to a minor and assault with intent to commit abusive sexual contact of a minor.

As part of a plea deal, prosecutors will recommend a 14-month prison term, with credit for time served, when Camp is sentenced in May. He will also have to register as a sex offender for 15 years.

Authorities arrested Camp, a resident of Gresham, Ore., after his flight landed at Portland International Airport on June 15.

While serving drinks, a flight attendant had noticed that he had his hand on the girl's crotch, according to an arrest-warrant affidavit. She also saw "a single tear coming down the victim's cheek."

Camp, who was going home to Oregon after completing residential treatment for alcohol dependency in Florida, was moved to another seat for the remainder of the flight.

A witness told police that Camp had at least four mixed drinks during a layover at DFW Airport, according to the affidavit. Camp admitted in court Thursday that he'd had a "large amount" of alcohol before the flight.

"I invaded her space, touching her in her thigh and her groin area," he said. "I had inappropriate conversations with her. My words were fairly considered to be indecent. What I did was wrong in all respects."

The family of the girl, who was flying alone, filed a $10 million lawsuit against American Airlines in July.

The lawsuit alleges that the flight crew allowed the abuse to go on for half an hour before intervening. Attorney Brent Goodfellow noted that "unaccompanied minor" tickets cost an additional amount and are supposed to provide children traveling alone with additional services.

"This was 30 minutes of hell for this young lady," Goodfellow said.


Why are the turkeys crossing the runway in Gatineau?

Small aircraft at the Gatineau Airport have hit one wild turkey and come within a drumstick on three other occasions in less than two weeks.

There’s been no damage to turkeys (as far as anyone can tell) or people. 

A veteran Ottawa pilot says turkeys on runways are fairly routine, and pilots who keep their eyes open shouldn’t get into trouble.

Adult male wild turkeys can weigh up to 10 or 11 kilograms, females about half that.

Transport Canada keeps reports on occurrences at airports, and their website, called CADORS, tells of some ruffled feathers at Gatineau airport, but no harm done.

- On Tuesday, a Piper PA-34-200T belonging to Ottawa Aviation Services, arriving from Ottawa, had to call off its landing because of a group of wild turkeys on Runway 09.

- On Sunday, an airplane belonging to the Evolution Flight School “began rolling for a departure off Runway 27 when they struck a wild turkey,” Transport Canada’s report says.

The pilot didn’t take off. Someone checked the runway for a dead turkey but couldn’t find one, perhaps indicating a tough old bird.

Transport Canada put it in the books as an “abrupt maneuver” caused by wildlife.

- Two days before that (on Friday the 13th), the same flight school had another close call. This time its Cessna 172M was approaching for a landing, and “conducted a missed approach on Runway 27 due to wild turkeys crossing the runway.”

No collision that time.

- On Jan. 7, a Cessna 172M from the Ottawa Flying Club was approaching the runway when a group of turkeys appeared on the runway.

“They (the pilot) asked for a touch and go, where they touch down and take off again to practise takeoffs and landing,” said Andrew Simpson of the Ottawa Flying Club. The pilot “saw the wild turkey and said, ‘well, I’m not going to touch down because there’s a wild turkey there,’ and did an overshoot.”

“This kind of stuff happens,” he said.

“Carp (airport) is also known for wild turkeys… We keep our eyes open.”

Simpson said he hasn’t noticed any increase in wildlife on runways in recent years


Incident occurred January 19, 2017 in Tygart Valley River, Taylor County, West Virginia

GRAFTON, W. Va. (WDTV) -- The Grafton Fire Department rescued a man from the Tygart River after the ultralight aircraft he was flying went down in the water. 

This happened around 5:30 p.m., Thursday. Firefighters got the call and were able to get the man out of the water within six minutes.

The pilot was taken by EMS to Grafton City Hospital. He's expected to be OK.

Story and video:

GRAFTON — One man was transported to Grafton City Hospital after ditching a small aircraft on Thursday evening in the Tygart Valley River in Taylor County, authorities said.

The man took flight in an ultralight aircraft around 5:30 p.m. near Park View Road in Grafton before experiencing unknown complications that ended with his landing in the Tygart Valley River, according to Grafton firefighter Ryan Roberts. 

Six minutes after the Grafton Fire Department arrived on scene and placed their boat in the water, they safely made contact with the man, Roberts said. 

The man was conscious and alert before he was turned over to the Taylor County EMS, according to Roberts. The man was transported to the Grafton City Hospital with extent of injuries unknown. His identity isn't being released at this time.


Another Record Year For Springfield-Branson National Airport (KSGF)

The Springfield-Branson National Airport says for the second straight year a record number of people used the facility, totaling more than 950,000. 

That’s up 4.3% from 2015, which was the previous record year.

“2016 was the fifth year in a row that passenger numbers grew at our airport,” says Tom Babik, chairman of the airport board of directors. “This kind of growth reflects the strength of the Southwest Missouri economy. When our economy is strong and growing more people fly. Our board and airport team wish to thank everyone who decided to fly from Springfield.”

Passenger growth encourages airlines to add and improve air service. In the past 14 months American Airlines has added Springfield flights to Charlotte. Allegiant converted its seasonal Los Angeles flights to year-round service. Additionally, Allegiant announced new seasonal service to Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, which begins in May.

The airport sees growth in other important measurements —

In 2016 the number of scheduled airline flights went up 10%. Total number of available airline seats: up 12%. Total number of take offs and landings: up 13%.

“The number of take offs and landings had help in a couple of areas — airline growth in the market, plus the addition of Premier Flight Center which opened at the airport last May,” says Brian Weiler, director of aviation. “Premier is a flight school and they’re doing a booming business, with more than 20 active students.”

2016: A Record Year at Springfield-Branson National Airport (KSGF)

* Total passengers: 952,703. Up 4.3% over previous record year 2015: 913,395

* Scheduled airlines flights: 9,145. Up 10.1%

* Available airline seats: 594,034. Up 12.1%

* Take offs and landings: 48,784. Up 12.9%

* Fuel deliveries: 6,770,071 gallons. Up 9.9%

* Air freight: 28,917,515 lbs. Up 7.2%

2017 promises to be another brisk year. The addition of flights to Destin/Ft. Walton Beach could help the airport set another record.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the magic one million passenger milestone,” says Weiler. “Once an airport reaches that level it’s playing in a different league. Airlines are more willing to consider new service, and retailers are more inclined to improve food and retail options.”

Airport growth is a good thing, but there are growing pains. Over the past couple of years airport parking lots have frequently been full. New parking lots opened earlier this month, adding more than 300 parking spaces. The parking crunch was inconvenient, but all in all, was a good problem to have.

Four airlines serve Springfield: Allegiant, American, Delta, and United. They provide non-stop flights to: Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Charlotte, Chicago, Atlanta, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Orlando, and Punta Gorda/Ft. Myers. Service to Destin/Ft. Walton Beach begins May 2017.


Feds seize helicopters as part of criminal probe: Hughes 369A, Hansen Helicopters Inc. / Jim's Air Repair, N805LA; accident occurred February 22, 2017

Federal authorities late last year seized documents and helicopters from Hansen Helicopters Inc. and now the company’s lawyer wants the items returned. 

In a Jan. 9 letter to Hansen attorney David Lujan, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Leon Guerrero wrote the seizure was part of a criminal investigation. Leon Guerrero also wrote the search warrant affidavits that Lujan requested wouldn't be provided.

"This is a criminal matter in which there is an ongoing investigation," Leon Guerrero wrote. "Such production will be made once this criminal matter is filed in court."

Hansen filed a civil case against the federal government in the District Court of Guam Wednesday.  The company's Guam office is in Harmon but it also has facilities in the U.S. mainland, according to court documents.

Authorities confiscated 15 registrations and airworthiness certificates and four helicopters from Hansen Helicopters in October 2016 and November 2016, according to Lujan’s motion.

Hansen’s chief pilot and manager, Kenneth Rufus Crowe, stated in a signed declaration that the certificates were seized from the company’s Harmon office.

Three helicopters were taken from the company’s facility in Georgia. A fourth helicopter was seized, but that helicopter isn't owned by Hansen. It's registered in the Philippines and owned by a Philippine aircraft company. Hansen was servicing the Philippine-registered helicopter, according to Crowe.

The company has lost money and continues to lose money every day that government keeps the seized documents and helicopters, Crowe stated.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office seizure of helicopters and documents was done without any criminal charges filed against the company, Lujan stated. He also said the seizure had no legal basis and violates the FAA's regulatory authority.  Lujan argued the seizure is against Federal Aviation Administration’s rules and has caused “irreparable economic injury” to the helicopter company.

Lujan cited FAA regulations, stating that all aircraft need certification, displayed inside the aircraft, to fly.

“(The) FAA prohibits an aircraft owner from operating the aircraft without such documentation, which means that the 15 helicopters at issue have been grounded since the seizures,” Lujan stated.

In addition to returning the confiscated helicopters, Lujan asied the court to order the U.S. Attorney's Office to turn over the search warrant affidavit used to search Hansen Helicopters' headquarters.

Lujan's clients believe confiscating the certificates “exceeded the scope of the authority granted under the warrants,” and having a copy of the search warrant affidavit would help Lujan assess whether that's correct, according to the motion.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office should not be allowed to ground aircraft and cripple the operation of Hansen Helicopters, particularly in the absence of both any FAA enforcement action and any criminal prosecution,” Lujan concluded.

Giving back the certification and helicopters will allow Henson to resume its business and resolve any irreparable injury currently inflicted, Lujan stated.

He also asked the court to schedule a hearing about the matter if the court decides to deny his motion.

According to the company's flyer, filed with Lujan's motion, Hansen Helicopters has a fleet of more than 60 helicopters and several airplanes and for sight-seeing tours, rescue operations, charters, emergency medical services and other services.


National Transportation Safety Board: Hansen Helicopters had past crashes

A Guam-based helicopter transport company whose Guam and Saipan helicopters and flying certificates were seized in a raid late last year had two fatal, maintenance-related crashes about two decades before the raid.

Hansen Helicopters Inc.’s attorney, David Lujan, wasn’t immediately available for comment yesterday. Lujan had filed court papers earlier this week indicating the business wants an evidentiary hearing and to obtain a copy of search warrants the FBI executed in October and November last year to get an idea of the reason for the raids.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which signed off on the search and seizure of several of Hansen’s helicopters, airworthiness certificates and registration certificates for 15 aircraft on the business’ fleet, also was unable to comment if the fatal crashes from many years ago had to do with what sparked the ongoing investigation.

The FBI also seized three helicopters at a Hansen facility in the state of Georgia and a helicopter registered in the Philippines, for which Hansen was providing maintenance, according to the business’ filing in the federal court.

Helicopters grounded

The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits an aircraft owner from operating the aircraft without airworthiness and registration documents, so the 15 helicopters at issue have been grounded since the FBI conducted the search between October and November last year, according to Lujan, in a motion filed in court earlier this week.

Lujan is asking the court to order an evidentiary hearing and to try to get the helicopter businesses’ aircraft and certificates released.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office neither confirms nor denies an ongoing criminal investigation to the public.

However, Stephen Leon Guerrero, an assistant U.S. attorney in Guam, wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to Lujan that no search warrant information would be turned over to Hansen because the matter continues to be part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office described the investigation as being in a pre-indictment phase, which means neither the business nor people involved in the business had been charged in court.

The National Transportation Safety Board has two records of fatal crashes involving Hansen.

On June 20, 1997, one man died and another was seriously injured when a Hansen helicopter crashed in the Pacific Ocean.

The pilot involved in the crash had not attended any factory training courses on the specific helicopter involved in the accident, according to the NTSB.

'Non-standard parts' found

And “non-standard parts were found on the inside” of what the NTSB report called a trim switch.

The examination and subsequent disassembly revealed that the switch had been disassembled and then reassembled, according to the NTSB.

“The switch is not a repairable item,” according to the report. “No repair manual or spare parts programs exist for this switch.”

The helicopter in the 1997 accident was used to spot tuna for a fishing ship called M/V Granada. The location of the accident site was about 2,000 miles southeast of Guam, according to the NTSB.

In another fatal accident, on Aug. 26, 1996, a Hansen helicopter crashed in waters near Guam, resulting in one death, according to NTSB records. The probable cause of the accident, according to the NTSB in a report, was the “loss of tail rotor control due to improper maintenance.”

The search last year confiscated Hansen logbooks, according to documents the company filed in federal court, in an attempt to get its helicopters and other property released by federal authorities.

Company 'economically injured'

“Hansen has already been economically injured by the seizures and would be irreparably injured by denying return of the registrations and certificates, as the FAA prohibits an aircraft owner from operating the aircraft without such documentation, which means that the 15 helicopters at issue have been grounded since the seizures,” according to Hansen.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to release the logbook for one aircraft.

“However, any other logbooks, airworthiness certificates and registration that were seized,” cannot be released because of the ongoing criminal investigation, according to Leon Guerrero.

“We will not agree to release a copy of the affidavits in support of both the Guam and CNMI Search Warrants,” Leon Guerrero wrote to Lujan. “This is a criminal matter in which there is an ongoing investigation. Such production will be made once this criminal matter is filed in court.”


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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Jim's Air Repair:

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA075
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 22, 2017 in
Aircraft: HUGHES 369A, registration: N805LA
Injuries: 2 Serious.

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 February 22, 2017, about 1325 local time, a McDonnell-Douglas MD-369A helicopter, N805LA, was substantially damaged during an autorotation to the Pacific Ocean in international waters near Guam. The commercial pilot and the aerial observer were both seriously injured. The aerial observation flight was conducted during daylight visual meteorological conditions.

According to a written report sent to the NTSB by a representative of Hansen Helicopters, the flight was a fish-spotting mission that was operating from a Japanese fishing boat. The report stated that the helicopter had been airborne about 30 minutes, cruising at 1,000 above the ocean, when the pilot noticed that a "Generator Light" was illuminated. It then stated that the pilot applied friction to the collective control in order to free one hand to reset the generator switch, when the pilot "felt the helicopter drop suddenly." The pilot noticed that the main rotor RPM was "at the bottom of the green" arc on the cockpit indication. He attempted an autorotation but the helicopter struck the water in what the Hansen representative termed a "hard landing." The main rotor blades severed the tail boom, but the helicopter remained upright and floating on its pontoons.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registration and airworthiness documentation indicated that the helicopter was manufactured in 1969 as a Hughes Helicopter military aircraft, and was powered by a Rolls-Royce (Allison) C250 series turboshaft engine. At the time of the accident it was owned by Jim's Air Repair, which is based in the country of Vanautu.

The pilot was a US citizen who held FAA Commercial and Flight Instructor certificates. The filed report indicated that he had about 2,936 total hours of flight experience, all of which were in helicopters, and 1,350 of which were in the accident helicopter make and model. His most recent flight review was completed in July 2015, and his most recent FAA second class medical certificate was issued in January 2016. The observer was reported to be a Japanese citizen, with no piloting experience.

The report filed by Hansen Helicopter stated that it had been completed by the pilot, and that Jim's Air Repair was the operator of the helicopter. When asked by the NTSB why Hansen Helicopter filed the report for a helicopter owned and operated by another entity, a Hansen representative stated that two organizations were "affiliated companies," but did not provide any additional details. About 13 days after the accident, the NTSB was advised via a third party that both the pilot and the observer had been hospitalized since the accident, as a result of the accident. The NTSB was further advised by this third party that the observer had already been transferred to Japan, and that the pilot was scheduled to be transported via medevac to the Philippines for surgery. This contrasted with the report filed by Hansen Helicopter, which indicated that the two persons on board sustained minor injuries.

The wreckage was subsequently determined to be in the possession of Hansen Helicopters at their facility on Guam. They were instructed to retain the wreckage and maintenance records for examination.

Rockland, Maine, native finds a new life perspective in aviation

Marc Belley, a fourth-year student in the University of Maine at Augusta's Aviation program, will graduate as a flight instructor, fulfilling dreams he's had since childhood, Mark Tardif writes. 

Marc Belley

Never underestimate the dreams of a 3-year-old.

That is a lesson learned by the family of Marc Belley, a fourth-year student in the University of Maine at Augusta’s Aviation program. Belley has been focused on becoming a commercial pilot since early childhood.

“I always associated flying with freedom,” Belley said. “When I joined my family on trips I always got the window seat and tried to see the cockpit.” Later on, as an aviation student, his expectations were confirmed.

“I started flying at 12 when my grandfather got me a flight lesson for my birthday,” Belley added.

“Flight is very free,” Belley explained. “You’re in complete control of what you are doing. I like seeing the world from a different perspective. It is amazing, too, how close everything is when your means of transportation is flight. I am just able to experience the world differently as a pilot.”

Growing up in Rockport, Maine, Belley developed a fascination with all things aviation. Pinpointing whether it was a toy, glimpse of a plane flying overhead, or some other event that formed his fascination with aviation is next to impossible. There was just never a time when his biggest interest was something else — even girls.

Violet Bemis

His longtime girlfriend, Violet Bemis, also Rockport native, always knew what she was accepting when she started spending time with Belley. Thankfully Bemis did not have a fear of flying.

She decided early on that Belley’s flight training schedule was less a burden than blessing. Trust was a factor, too, since each time she accompanied Belley for a flight the fact is that her life was quite literally in his hands.

Belley proved to be both trustworthy and a constant source of information. Each flight Belley would spend his time narrating the scenery, weather, flight conditions, and other topics. Bemis brought along her camera and to document their flights.

Though he was focused on a career in aviation, like many students he hit a rough patch in middle school. He was not living up to his potential. Belley’s grandparents and parents mused on how to refocus his abundant energy back on educational attainment.

“My grandparents offered me an amazing opportunity, matched by my parents,” Belley explained. “For every quarter that I was on the dean’s list I would earn a one-hour flight lesson.”

It didn’t take long for Belley to make the dean’s list and stay on it.

An aerial photo taken by Marc Belley takes flight.

After high school, Belley’s aviation career took flight in the bachelor’s degree program in aviation at UMA. Already well on his way to completing his degree, Belley will graduate a flight instructor ready to pursue a number of career paths, from instruction to commercial aviation.

And when the time comes, Belley will decide whether to start his career close-to-home or branch out. As for Bemis, who will also graduate from UMA in two years, she will be considering her own options after graduation.

Even if their career paths lead them far afield, she isn’t concerned.

“Pilots don’t judge distance the same way that most people do,” Bemis said. “They’re always close by, wherever they live.”

Mark Tardif is executive director of strategic marketing and public affairs at the University of Maine at Augusta. A native Mainer, Mark has also spent part of his professional career as both an English professor and journalist.


North Carolina Department of Transportation's Phil Lanier to lead Johnston Regional Airport (KJNX)

Phil Lanier is the new director of Johnston Regional Airport.

We might never come to think of planes as we do cars or the skies as we do highways. But Phil Lanier, the new director of Johnston Regional Airport, sees each as curing isolation.

“Without an airport, I think the community would be isolated; if you don’t have a road leading to your home, you’re going to be pretty isolated,” Lanier said. “Without an airport, you really lose the ability to reach out and reach in; you lose the ability to attract job-producing businesses.”

Lanier is taking over for airport director Ray Blackmon, who retired last year after more than a decade on the job. He graduated from N.C. State University in 2005 with a degree in construction engineering and has worked for the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division for the past decade.

Lanier is leaving the job of airport project manager for the state’s northeast region, home to 21 airports from Raleigh-Durham International to Ocracoke Island. Lanier has also worked as an airport-development engineer for the DOT, a job that dealt with maintaining runways and aprons, paving asphalt and filling cracks, he said.

His first day in Johnston County will be Jan. 23.

“I was interested in this job mainly because I believe in the airport,” Lanier said. “It’s a strong airport with a strong board. I’ve worked at that airport a few times in the last few years, both in maintenance and capital projects, and have seen firsthand how well run it is.”

Airport board chairman Ken Starling said the needs of Johnston’s airport have changed dramatically since its last director search.

“It used to be just a small-town airport for local pilots to use,” Starling said. “Now it’s more of a tool for businesses and is involved in the growth of the county. As corporations consolidate and get larger, they have multiple sites. One of the main things for them is access, interstates of course, but also airports. Getting in and out is a very key part of the equation for businesses.”

In Lanier, Starling said the airport board saw a high-energy candidate who had experience navigating the competitive waters of state and federal grant funding. He said the job posting drew 46 applications.

“We had a really vast pool to pull from,” Starling said. “It was amazing the quality of applicants we received.

“We tried to score each person, and Phil seemed to reflect our objectives in the future. He was very well versed in the entire general aviation management process, specifically in grants and funding. We believe he’ll be able to help us obtain as many state and federal grants a possible, growing the airport for both general aviation and larger corporate aircraft.”

While he’s a construction engineer by training, Lanier said aviation has been a lifelong passion. He doesn’t have a pilot’s license, but said it’s something he might look into in Johnston County. Mostly the gravity-defying feat of human flight has fascinated him since childhood.

“I’ve just had a lifelong passion for aviation, from a young child building remote-control places, to flying with a few friends in high school and college,” Lanier said. “There’s something about it, a natural draw. ... I’ve been lucky to fly around the state and with different companies. You kind of get into a niche, and before you know it, you develop a great affinity for what you’re doing. From when I first started out, I’ve had the chance to work in about every airport in the state, and that’s fulfilling and that’s rewarding.”

Lanier was reluctant to paint a picture of what Johnston’s airport might look like five years from now, but he’s sure of the airport’s role in Johnston. As the county tries to attract new industries or offer a compelling case for existing ones to expand here, Lanier sees the airport having a hand in that. At the same time, he wants to open the airport to the average citizen of Johnston County, possibly through air shows or open houses attracting cub scouts or high school career days.

“I plan to open up the airport more to the community,” Lanier said. “It’s important to change the public perception and part of that is getting young people into the tradition of aviation.”

On the business side of things, Lanier thinks the airport is in good shape. It’s operating at capacity, with more than 100 planes based at the airport, and more could be on the way, with plans underway to expand the number of T-hangars and add two more corporate hangars.

“The airport is a tremendous economic-development driver; it really is,” Lanier said. “It’s a good problem to have, to be out of hangar space. It allows me to come in and see what the problem is and see if we can find a solution. Every aircraft out there is a wonderful economic engine, both in the tax base, fueling and transportation. Aviation has its place in our transportation infrastructure.”

Read more here:

Public Information Meeting Regarding Marion Airport (C17) Layout Plan

A public meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to gather information from interested persons concerning the airport layout plan proposed for the Marion Municipal Airport. The meeting will be held in the LuxAir Aviation hangar at the Marion Airport, 1690 Marion Airport Road, Marion, Iowa.

The meeting will be held in an "open house" format; no formal presentation will be made. Interested persons may come at any time between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Representatives of Anderson Bogert, along with representatives of the City of Marion will be present to answer questions and gather comments.

The Iowa Department of Transportation requires verification that proposed projects are shown on a current airport layout plan on file with the Office of Aviation, when applying for state funding for new construction of buildings or airfield expansion.

Part of the planning process includes gathering input and comments from the general community, airport users, neighboring property owners, and interested persons. This meeting will provide opportunity for gathering those comments.

Anderson Bogert was hired by the City of Marion to create the airport layout plan. Eighty-five percent of the cost of this plan and report will be paid by a grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation. The airport layout plan will be used to guide future improvements at the airport and aid in securing future grant funding for airport improvement projects. Once the City approves the airport layout plan, the next phase of planning will begin, which includes creating an airport zoning ordinance and updating the City's Land Use and Comprehensive Plan.

Interested persons are encouraged to attend and provide comments.

Read more here: