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.

Source:  http://www.pjstar.com

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.

Source:   http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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:  http://www.kpvi.com

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.”

Source:   http://www.stowetoday.com

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:  http://tucson.com

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:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Alpine Aviation Inc., dba Alpine Air: http://registry.faa.gov/N326CA

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.

Source:  http://billingsgazette.com




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.


Source:  http://www.kulr8.com

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.

Source:   http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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.

Source:  http://www.dallasnews.com

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

Source:  http://www.ottawasun.com

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:  http://www.wdtv.com



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.

Source:  http://www.theet.com

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.

Source:   http://www.ktts.com

Hughes 369A, Hansen Helicopters Inc. / Jim's Air Repair, N805LA: Accident occurred February 22, 2017

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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Dallas Ft Worth, Texas
Boeing; Mesa, Arizona 
Rolls Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana

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

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

Jim's Air Repair: http://registry.faa.gov/N805LA

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

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 22, 2017, about 1325 local time, a Hughes (McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing) model 369A helicopter, N805LA, was substantially damaged during an autorotation to the Pacific Ocean, in international waters near Guam. The commercial pilot was seriously injured, and the aerial observer's injuries were reported as "minor." The aerial observation flight was operated by Jim's Air Repair, which was owned by an individual who owned multiple helicopter operations, the largest of which was Hansen Helicopters. The flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, during daylight visual meteorological conditions.

A written accident report was completed and submitted to the NTSB by a representative of Hansen Helicopters. According to that report, 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 about 1,000 ft above the ocean, when the pilot noticed that a "Generator Light" was illuminated. The report then stated that, in response to the light, the pilot applied friction to the collective control in order to free one hand to reset a switch, and that concurrently, 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 instrumentation. He initiated an autorotation but the helicopter struck the water in what a Hansen representative termed a "hard landing." The main rotor blades severed the tail boom, but the helicopter remained upright and afloat, supported by its utility floats.

The wreckage was recovered to the fishing boat, and subsequently transported to a Hansen Helicopters facility on Guam. On March 13, 2017, representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Boeing, and Rolls Royce examined the wreckage at the Hansen facility.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot was a US citizen who held FAA Commercial and Flight Instructor certificates. The filed report indicated that the pilot had about 2,936 total hours of flight experience, all of which were in helicopters, and 1,350 hours of which were in the accident helicopter make and model. The pilot's most recent flight review was completed in July 2015, and his most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in January 2016. The medical certificate status reverted to third-class status after 12 months, and per FAA regulations, the pilot could not exercise his commercial privileges for compensation.

NTSB attempts to interview the pilot were unsuccessful; he was still hospitalized and could not be reached telephonically. FAA attempts to interview the pilot in person on March 13 were also unsuccessful; he refused to speak to the FAA without counsel, but was unable or unwilling to provide the name of, or any other contact information for, his counsel. Two days later, the pilot was transferred by air ambulance to the Philippines for surgery related to his accident injuries. The pilot made no subsequent contact with the NTSB.

The observer was a Japanese citizen, and according to a representative of Hansen Helicopters, he had no pilot experience. The observer was evacuated to Japan shortly after the accident, and no NTSB attempts were made to interview him.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The helicopter, an OH-6A (Manufacturer's Model 369A, SN 101355) was delivered new to the US Army on February 24, 1970 as US Army SN 69-15985. Hughes Tool Company (HTC), Aircraft Division was the original manufacturer of the helicopter. HTC underwent several ownership (and name) changes subsequent to the production of this helicopter.

FAA registration and airworthiness documentation indicated that the helicopter was powered by a Rolls-Royce (Allison) C250 series turboshaft engine. FAA records indicated that the helicopter was first registered to Jim's Air Repair in August 2009. Jim's Air Repair is based in the country of Vanuatu.

Hansen-provided information stated that the airframe had 7,374.8 total hours of service, that the engine had 2,702.4 total hours of service, and that the engine had accumulated 393.7 hours in service since its most recent overhaul.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Hansen-provided accident report stated that the weather at the time of the event included winds from 350 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 20 miles, clear skies, temperature 26° C, and daylight conditions.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Airframe

The investigation team's first contact with the helicopter was about 3 weeks after the accident. The helicopter was examined inside a Hansen Helicopters building, where it was reported to have been stored since shortly after the accident. It was upright, resting on the left utility float, fuselage lower structure, and the right forward and aft struts. The right utility float had been removed from the helicopter during recovery. The four fuselage attach points for the landing gear struts/dampers were severely damaged, with torn skins and fractured structure.

The fuselage sustained extensive impact damage, with the left side more damaged than the right side. The tailboom was separated into at least two sections. According to the Hansen Helicopters report, one portion of the tail boom assembly that was severed by the main rotor blades during the ocean impact was lost at sea. The recovered section was fracture-separated from the fuselage near fuselage station (FS) 197.78, and extended to approximately FS 258.0. The recovered section showed evidence of main rotor blade contact. The tailboom aft of FS 258.0, including the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, tail rotor transmission, and the tail rotor system, was not recovered from the ocean.

The canopy windscreens and overhead transparencies, doors, and doorframe structures were all damaged from impact. The cockpit instrument panel and center console assembly, and its associated components, showed little damage. Two hour meters were located in the helicopter. One displayed a reading of 937.8 hours, and the other one displayed a reading of 1,245.9 hours. Hansen personnel did not provide any information regarding the functions of these two hour meters.

Both the left and right cockpit seat pans were significantly deformed downward, and their box structures were crushed. The seat restraint systems were intact and functional.

The helicopter was equipped with single pilot, left hand controls. Cyclic and collective control system continuity was confirmed. The cyclic stick balance was consistent with the trim actuators being neutral. Anti-torque control continuity was confirmed from the pilot's pedals to the fractured tail rotor control rod at the tailboom separation point.

The main rotor system hub assembly and components, strap assemblies, pitch housings, feather bearings, and pitch change links were relatively undamaged. The rotor system exhibited hub damage that was consistent with excessive blade lead/lag excursions and high flapping angles. All four main rotor blades were unbroken, with varying degrees of bends and skin damage. The damage to the main rotor system components was consistent with low rotor rpm, power-off, main rotor blade strikes.

Drivetrain continuity was established from the engine, through the main transmission, to the main rotor. Rotation of the main rotor hub by hand resulted in rotation of both the engine-to-transmission drive shaft and the tail rotor driveshaft. The over-running clutch assembly was functional. The transmission cooler blower assembly appeared undamaged. The main transmission appeared undamaged. One transmission magnetic chip plug had a small amount of unidentified paste-like material on it, and the other chip plug was clean.

The tail rotor driveshaft separation locations matched the locations of the tailboom separations. The shaft fracture signatures were consistent with lower-than-flight-normal rpm.

Engine

The engine is a two-spool design. In the direction of airflow, the first spool is referred to as "N1," and includes all 7 compressor stages and the first 2 turbine stages. The N1 turbine section, which drives the compressor, is also referred to as the "gas generator" turbine. The second spool includes the last two turbine stages and the mechanical accommodations to drive the rotor system. This section is also referred to as the "N2" or "power turbine" section.

The engine mounting structure was properly secured and generally intact. All engine mounts exhibited deformation consistent with a hard landing. Inspection of the engine exterior revealed no evidence of fire or uncontained failure. The N1 section was able to rotate freely, and had no indications of foreign object damage or housing rubbing. The N2 section showed no visible damage. Its rotation was stiff, but this appeared consistent with saltwater corrosion damage to the accessory gearbox, and not with impact damage.

All fuel, lubrication, and pneumatic lines, and their associated fittings, were found to be at least finger tight. No evidence of oil leakage was observed in the engine bay or surrounding area. The helicopter was positioned at an angle which precluded an accurate oil level determination, and no indications of oil underfill were noted.

No obstruction of the intake was noted, and no evidence of any mechanical failures or deficiencies that would have prevented normal engine operation was observed.

Fuel System

No information regarding the fuel on board, either at the time of departure or at the time of the accident, was provided to the investigation. No fuel was observed in the fuel tank during the examination. The fuel pump power wire was not wrapped around the start pump fuel line, as it was required to be; this condition can result in an erroneous fuel quantity indication. In addition, the in-tank quantity sensor exhibited visible corrosion.

A vacuum check of the engine fuel system indicated that there was a slow leak within the fuel system. During the check, systematic isolation of components traced the leak to a line that connected the fuel pump to the fuel control. The B-nut on the fuel pump side of this line was found to be excessively tight, and was the most likely leak source. However, visual examination of the B-nut ferrule did not reveal any obvious cracks or damage, and the exact source of the vacuum leak was not determined. According to the Rolls-Royce representative, the leak rate was insufficient to result in an engine power loss.

The fuel spray nozzle (FSN) appeared normal. The FSN filter screen exhibited contamination similar to that found in the fuel pump filter. A borescope examination revealed no evidence of foreign object damage or operational thermal damage to the gas generator turbine blades or nozzle vanes.

Significant evidence of water contamination was observed in the helicopter's fuel storage and delivery system, including all filters. The fuel cell cover was opened and water, with no evidence of fuel, was found inside the cell. Potential water entry points included the fuel vent system, a deficient fuel-cap seal, or tank damage. The investigation considered the possibility that damage, including torn/ripped structure around the fuel cell, might have compromised the fuel cell. However, no evidence of fuel leakage was observed, and no visible holes or tears were noted in the fuel bladder.

The contents drained from the fuel pump filter bowl contained significant amounts of entrained particulates, and a liquid suspected to be water. Water-detecting paste confirmed the presence of water. The filter bowl in the housing of the engine-driven fuel pump was opened and examined. The filter exhibited significant contamination of unknown particulate matter, a paste-like substance, and what appeared to be plant material.

With low or zero fuel pressure, such as when the engine is not operating, the fuel supply line from the fuel pump filter to the FSN is normally closed at both ends by spring-loaded check valves. These check valves trap the fluid immediately prior to its introduction into the FSN and combustion chamber. The fluid from that line was drained and examined. That fluid was observed to be about 30% water.

The fuel system architecture precluded introduction of water into either the fuel pump or the FSN fuel line unless the engine was operating.

Maintenance Records

Hansen personnel reported that a mechanic was stationed on the fishing boat with the helicopter, but they provided only his name to the investigation. They did not state whether he was a certificated mechanic, and did not provide any mechanic certificate or qualifications information for him. In addition, Hansen reported that the mechanic was sent home to the Philippines after the accident. The investigation did not attempt to contact the mechanic.

The Hansen Director of Maintenance (DOM) provided the investigation with a binder that he represented as being the helicopter maintenance records. The binder included a mix of flight records, status reports, and copies of FAA 337 forms. Exclusive of the 337 forms, none of the contents conformed to the FAA maintenance entry requirements. The records contained multiple internal service time and/or component number discrepancies. According to the FAA inspector, cursory comparisons of the 337 forms with the records on file with the FAA in Oklahoma City revealed numerous discrepancies.

The most recent recorded 100 hour/Annual, 300 hour, or 600 hour inspection was completed and signed off by the Hansen Helicopters DOM on 5/7/16. On that inspection entry, the airframe time was listed as 6,891.1 hours, and the "Hobbs time" was listed as 544.1 hours. The inspection entry stated "Next inspection due is a 100 hour at 6991.1" [hours]. However, despite the fact that all available information indicated that the helicopter has accumulated nearly 400 hours since that inspection, no additional FAA-compliant inspection entries were observed for dates subsequent to 5/17/16.

ORGANIZATIONAL AND MANAGEMENT INFORMATION

Ownership and Control

The accident report filed by Hansen Helicopters stated that the form had been completed by the pilot, and that "Jim's Air Repair" was the operator of the helicopter. A Hansen representative stated that two organizations were "affiliated companies," but did not provide any additional details at that time. In an email dated March 14, 2017, the representative stated that "Hansen Helicopters provides employment recruiting, training and logistical support for Jims Air Repair." In that same email, the Hansen representative also stated that the pilot was "working under a contractor's agreement with Jim's Air Repair out of Vanuatu."

Hansen Helicopters' primary facilities were in the US state of Georgia, and on Guam, a US territory. NTSB requests for documentation regarding the operational arrangements between Hansen Helicopters, Jim's Air Repair, the pilot, the maintenance providers, and the Japanese fishing boat were not satisfied; therefore the investigation was unable to independently determine which personnel and companies exercised the actual operational and maintenance control of the helicopter.

Injury Reporting Accuracy

The Hansen-filed written accident report to the NTSB indicated that the two persons on board sustained minor injuries, and Hansen never advised the NTSB of any changes to that status. 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 injuries incurred in 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 to the Philippines for surgery for injuries sustained in the accident. The investigation was able to confirm that the pilot was seriously injured, but was unable to confirm the level or nature of the observer's injuries.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Fuel Contamination Source

After the damaged helicopter was delivered to Guam by the fishing boat, the boat departed without examination by either Hansen Helicopters personnel or any investigation-related personnel. Therefore, the specifics of the boat's storage and dispensing system for the helicopter fuel, or the equipment and procedures related to prevention and detection of fuel contamination, were not able to be determined. Thus, the investigation was unable to determine the fishing boat's potential as the source of the water contamination of the fuel.

Additionally, because the investigation was unable to interview the pilot, the specifics of his activities and procedures, including preflight inspection, regarding the prevention or detection of fuel contamination, were not able to be determined. Although the evidence was consistent with the water being present in the helicopter fuel system prior to the flight, the investigation was unable to determine when or how the water entered the fuel system, or why the pilot failed to detect the water in the fuel.

Helicopter Fuel System Information

The helicopter was equipped with two fuel cells that were interconnected. The two fuel cells were of the conventional bladder type, and were located under the cabin floor in separate compartments. The helicopter was equipped with a single fuel filler neck and cap, located on the right side of the helicopter, aft of the cabin door.

The fuel cell sump drain was in the left fuel cell. There was one drain valve located on the lower fuselage in this sump area. It was spring-loaded to the closed position, and depressed (pushed in) to open. In addition, the helicopter was equipped with a drain valve that installed on the fuel line elbow assembly that was attached to the engine firewall.

Other Helicopter Systems and Flight Procedures

Helicopter electrical power was provided by a 24 volt battery, and a 28 volt starter-generator that was gear-driven by the engine. Generator output was controlled by a voltage regulator. The helicopter was equipped with a visual and aural caution/warning alerting system, part of which was an array of discrete, dedicated lights across the top of the instrument console. That alerting system was unable to be activated or tested during the examination due to a lack of electrical power on the helicopter.

One of those discrete annunciator lights was the "GEN OUT" light. According to the helicopter manufacturer's information, the dedicated "GEN OUT" annunciator light in the caution/warning array will illuminate when the generator "is not powering the electrical bus." A loss of engine power would result in such a condition and GEN OUT alert, among others. According to the helicopter manufacturer's guidance in the Rotorcraft Flight Manual (RFM), in the event of a generator failure, the pilot is to "Turn generator switch off" and "Reduce electrical load to 16 amperes or less, if possible."

The helicopter was equipped with N1, N2, and [Main] Rotor rpm gauges, also referred to as "tachometers." The N2 and Rotor rpm indications were presented on a single instrument, with two concentric scales and two indicating needles, one for each parameter. The scales were calibrated and positioned so that during normal operation, the N2 and Rotor rpm needles will be aligned with one another.

The tachometers were marked with green arcs and red radial lines to respectively denote normal operating range and minimum and maximum rpm values. The N2 scale was from 0 to 120%, and occupied an arc of about 290°. The N2 lower and upper rpm values were 100% and 103% respectively, and therefore occupied an arc of about 8°.

Engine power loss in this model helicopter will typically initially manifest itself with left yaw, decreases in engine and rotor rpm, and a change in noise level. Subsequent manifestations will include airspeed and altitude losses. To assist pilot detection of an engine failure, some helicopters of this model were equipped with an "Engine Out" alerting system. The system included a dedicated "ENG OUT" annunciator light, augmented by an aural warning horn. The generator switch must be ON to enable the Engine Out warning. N1 decrease below 55% will trigger these ENG OUT alert annunciations.

The accident helicopter was equipped with the ENG OUT annunciator light. However, the investigation was unable to determine the presence or condition of any of the other components of the Engine Out alerting system, or the pre- or post-accident functionality of that system, if in fact it was installed and intact.

The RFM procedures for an engine failure when operating more than 420 ft above the surface specified that the pilot should "enter normal autorotation by lower[ing the] collective pitch full down" and then selecting an appropriate landing spot and airspeed. The RFM also stated that an engine restart can be attempted at the pilot's "discretion."

For engine failures at altitudes below 420 ft, the RFM specified lowering of the collective to maintain minimum rotor rpm, and stated that the "amount and duration of collective reduction depends upon the height above the ground at which the engine failure occurs."


The pilot did not provide any indication that he was alerted to or noticed an engine power loss until after he became involved in addressing the generator problem, and the investigation was unable to question the pilot on his observations or actions.

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.

Feds seize helicopters as part of criminal probe 



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.

Source:  http://www.guampdn.com



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.”

Source:   http://www.postguam.com


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.

Source:  http://www.guampdn.com




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.”

Source:   http://www.postguam.com

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

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

Jim's Air Repair: http://registry.faa.gov/N805LA

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.