Tuesday, January 24, 2017

'I baked cupcakes to fund my pilot lessons' -Lisa Cusack

Baking cupcakes helped Lisa Cusack realize her dream of becoming a pilot

Aer Lingus Pilot Lisa Cusack pictured at Dublin Airport

As Leaving Cert students, and others, consider college and career choices, Lisa Cusack shares her inspiring story.

Growing up in Lucan, Co Dublin, beside Weston Airport, was where my interest in aviation was first sparked. Every day, light aircraft would fly overhead.

I received my first flying lesson aged 13 and that sealed the deal! I began to research a possible career in aviation, only to find out that the cost of training to become an airline pilot was €100,000.

I didn't have access to this kind of money and so I began to put a plan into action.

What subjects could I pick for my Leaving Certificate that might help? Physics, maths and engineering kept popping up. There was just one problem: in my opinion, I was only average at all of these subjects - an excuse widely used by the younger generation today ("I'm rubbish at maths", etc), who often accept it instead of asking for help.

I asked for, and received, extra tuition in both physics and maths. The additional support made me realize that I actually wasn't as bad as I thought; I just needed to put in a little extra work.

I set a goal to be an airline pilot by the time I was 30. I chose to study applied physics in DCU in the hope that it would benefit me one day. In first year, I found myself immediately out of my depth but I didn't let this deter me and instead chose to focus on my goal and to get a little help.

After a fantastic six-month work placement in Air Traffic Control in third year, I was gifted 10 flying lessons, one of many acts of kindness I experienced throughout my journey.

I returned to DCU to complete my final year and was thrilled to graduate with an honours degree.

I headed straight back to Dublin Airport and got a job working as a flight dispatcher for Sky Handling Partner, where I remained for seven years. I gained invaluable experience, including learning how to marshal aircraft and drive the pushback tugs.

I managed to save €20,000 and thought this might just be enough to secure a €100,000 loan. It wasn't. I continued to save and returned to the bank manager a year later with €30,000: "I'd like to borrow €100,000 to be a pilot please!" The recession was in full swing and I was refused. Disappointed, but not disheartened, I kept going.

Fast-forward to 2011, Aer Lingus advertised its cadetship programme for the first time in 10 years. I could not believe it. I applied and was sent a series of 10 aptitude tests online.

Two weeks later, I received an email: "Dear Lisa, thank you for your application. Unfortunately, on this occasion, you have not been successful." Heartbroken, I drove straight to the nearest bookshop and bought five aptitude-test books, and I did one every day until it would be advertised again.

The hardest part was returning to work in an aviation environment and everybody asking me, "Oh, did you not apply for that Aer Lingus cadetship?"

"I did... I wasn't good enough." That's what I said, and that's how I felt.

Then, one day, a colleague put me on to the phone to his wife.

Aer Lingus pilots Sonya Bissett and Lisa Cusack

Unbeknownst to me, this was Captain Sonya Bissett - an Aer Lingus pilot. Sonya's kind words convinced me that I absolutely had what it took to be an Aer Lingus cadet and not to give up. Sonya was, and still is, a huge role model for me.

To increase my savings, I became a qualified personal trainer and earned a small amount of extra cash in my spare time.

Then, spotting a small gap in the market, I flew to London to do a one-day course in baking and decorating cupcakes. Back home that night, I set up my cupcake business.

I originally sold them to family and friends, then expanded to Dublin Airport.

The business exploded. I was working 20 hours a day between the airport and baking, and before I knew it, I had baked and sold more than 10,000 cupcakes in one year.

This is when I made a decision. I was going to take the first steps towards gaining my private pilot's license and so I booked my ticket to America. One month later, Aer Lingus again advertised the cadetship. I applied, but this time with a different attitude. It was okay if I was unsuccessful as, either way, I was going to do it.

With a lot more preparation this time, I passed the aptitude tests and was invited to a group interview.

A few months later, I still hadn't heard back but was not dismayed as I set off to begin my training.

Again, I was faced with many challenges. After 10 hours' flying with an instructor, I was sent solo. Taking a light aircraft to the skies on your own for the first time is a feeling I will never forget. The next day, on my second ever solo flight, I took off and, at about 800ft, silence... My engine had failed.

I looked down and, with nothing but houses all around me, I decided that this was it. I was going to die (dramatic, I know). I made a mayday call (my dad still has the recording) and, from a split-second decision, I turned back and glided on to the nearest available runway.

I was met by three fire engines and the entire school. I got out of the plane, walked to my room and locked my door for two days.

This was all I had ever wanted to do and now I was questioning all of it.

When I finally resurfaced, I was greeted with a trail of shamrocks on the floor: all the way to the front door there was a sign that read: "One day you will be an 'Air Lingus' captain" ('Air', as my Alabama housemate had never heard of Aer Lingus). He was right, though. Just a minor setback and I certainly learned from it. I left Florida six weeks later with my private pilot's license in my hand, fully funded by 10,000 cupcakes.

I landed in Dublin to be greeted with the news that I had been selected as the only female, and Irish person, to win a scholarship worth €4,000 to complete the next stage of my training, with Bristol Groundschool.

Suddenly, when I began to believe I could achieve it, everything started happening.

This is a lesson I still reflect on to this day with any challenges that I face.

Less than one month later, I got a phone call. It was Aer Lingus inviting me to the next round of interviewing. As I burst in the door to tell my parents, my mam had to sit down before she passed out.

With over 3,000 applicants and only 18 lucky spots, I tried not to get my hopes up. I spent the next week preparing, with super help from my dad and brothers, who built a mini jet-engine model to explain in depth its working principles.

I was greeted in the interview by two Aer Lingus captains and was super-excited to tell them about my private licence, while the horrendous engine failure certainly made for great conversation. As they looked through my CV, they mentioned that they were impressed with my degree in physics. At last, it had all been worth it.

Next, a meeting with a psychologist, followed by a medical. I was so close now. Finally, December 9, 2013 - it's 5.30pm on a Friday evening, it's lashing rain and I'm driving on the M50 in rush-hour traffic: "Hi, Lisa, Captain John Kelly speaking... You're not driving, are you?"

"Absolutely not, John," I said, as I swerved into the hard shoulder.

"Great. Well, I just wanted to be the first to congratulate you and say...WELCOME TO AER LINGUS."

It was, and still remains, the best day of my life. To date.

Having completed all the training, I'm now thrilled to be working in my dream job as an Aer Lingus pilot.

My family and friends lined the runway to cheer me on for my first landing into Dublin, just two days before my 31st birthday.

I'd made my goal by the skin of my teeth.

Little did I know that less than three years after joining, I would be sharing the flight deck with Captain Sonya Bissett - on our first flight together to Vienna.

Was it all worth it? Absolutely. Were there days when I wanted to give up? Definitely.

It doesn't matter where you come from, your upbringing, how much money you have or haven't got, how smart you think you are, or aren't.

If you are willing to work hard, believe in yourself and never give up...you can absolutely be anything you want to be.

Read more here:  http://www.independent.ie

Sky Angkor Airlines, Airbus A320: Incident occurred January 24, 2017 at Siem Reap International Airport, Cambodia

A plane carrying 128 people from China to Siem Reap International Airport on Tuesday morning blew four of its tires upon landing and skidded to a stop.

“None of the 122 passengers and six crew members on board were injured,” said Khek Norinda, Cambodia Airports’ communications director.

“Technical teams were immediately deployed to disembark passengers and flight attendants, to replace the tires and tow the plane off the runway.”

The Airbus A320, flown by local carrier Sky Angkor Airlines, departed from the Chinese city of Dalian.

The four tires on its rear landing gear burst on the runway at 5:15 a.m., Mr. Norinda said.

Airport operations resumed by 9 a.m. with only minor flight delays, he said, adding that no similar incidents occurred last year.

Keo Sivorn, spokesman for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said officials were investigating the cause of the incident.

Source:  https://www.cambodiadaily.com

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Beech E17L Staggerwing, N41663; accident occurred January 24, 2017 in Discover Bay, Jefferson County, Washington

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Renton, Washington

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

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms


Location: Discovery Bay, WA
Accident Number: WPR17LA058
Date & Time: 01/24/2017, 1430 PST
Registration: N41663
Aircraft: BEECH E17L
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On January 24, 2017, about 1430 Pacific standard time, a Beech E17L airplane, N41663, experienced a loss of engine power and was subsequently ditched in Discovery Bay, Washington. The airline transport pilot was not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The local area flight departed from Jefferson County International Airport, Port Townsend, Washington, about 1415.

The pilot stated that following departure, he maneuvered along the shoreline and the airplane reached about 900 ft above ground level (agl). The fuel pressure dropped to zero and the low-pressure light illuminated. The pilot switched the fuel selector from a top tank to the main tank and activated the fuel pump. The pressure remained at zero. The pilot attempted to restart the engine and switched tanks again, to no avail. He opted to ditch in the water and avoid the tall trees on land. The airplane touched down in the saltwater and became submerged, sustaining damage to the lower wing.

The Beech E17L Staggerwing, serial number (s/n) 196, was originally manufactured in 1936. The pilot purchased the airplane in 2001 and had accumulated about 250 hours of flight time in it. The airplane was equipped with a Jacobs R755B2 engine, s/n 11939. The last airframe maintenance was an annual inspection that reported as being completed in September 2016 at a total airframe time of 3,355 hours. The engine had amassed a total time of 916 hours.

The pilot recalled that prior to departure he had 66 gallons of fuel onboard. After the airplane was recovered, he removed the top wings. He found about 3-4 gallons of water and fuel (small amount) in the upper right wing and only water in the upper left wing. Due to the submersion of the airplane, it could not be determined if water was in the fuel tank prior to the accident and the fuel system could not be examined. The pilot additionally noticed that the ground wire on the electric pump was loose, but was unsure if it was a result of the impact and thought that the engine-driven fuel pump should have still been operational. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Flight Instructor; Commercial; Flight Engineer
Age: 58, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/17/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 10/25/2016
Flight Time: (Estimated) 20000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 250 hours (Total, this make and model) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: BEECH
Registration: N41663
Model/Series: E17L L
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1937
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 196
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 5
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 09/02/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3391 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 2 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3355 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: JACOBS
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series:R755B2 
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 330 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KNRA, 199 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 16 Nautical Miles
Observation Time:1415 PST 
Direction from Accident Site: 35°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Light and Variable /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction:90° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 6°C / 5°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: PORT TOWNSEND, WA (0S9)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: PORT TOWNSEND, WA (0S9)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1415 PST
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 110 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Water--calm
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion:None 
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 48.002778, -122.860000 (est)

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA058
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, January 24, 2017 in Discovery Bay, WA
Aircraft: BEECH E17L, registration: N41663
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 24, 2017, about 1430 Pacific standard time, a Beech E17L, N41663, experienced a loss of engine power and the pilot ditched in Discovery Bay, Washington. The pilot, who was additionally the owner, was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal local area flight departed from Jefferson County International Airport, Port Townsend, Washington, about 1415. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

The pilot stated that following departure, he maneuvered along the shoreline and the airplane reached about 900 feet above ground level (agl). The fuel pressure dropped to zero and the low pressure light illuminated. The pilot switched the fuel selector from a top tank to the main tank and activated the fuel pump. The pressure remained at zero. The pilot attempted to restart the engine and switched tanks again, to no avail. He opted to ditch in the water and avoid the tall trees on land. The airplane touched down in the water and became submerged, sustaining damage to the lower wing. The pilot swam to shore.

DISCOVERY BAY, Wash. -  A pilot was rescued from the water after a small plane went down in Discovery Bay near Port Townsend Tuesday afternoon.

Officials received several 911 calls about the plane crash around 2:30 p.m., said East Jefferson Fire spokesperson Bill Beezley. Witnesses reported the plane went down about 20 yards off the shore. Aerial video of the crash showed the plane nose down in the water with the tail sticking out.

People on a nearby clamming boat saw the plane and helped rescue the pilot, who was uninjured. People on the plane were in the process of towing the small plane to shore.

Story and video:   http://www.king5.com

DISCOVERY BAY — A Port Ludlow man emerged apparently unscathed from a small plane crash in Discovery Bay on Tuesday.

Jeffrey Dow was flying the plane with no passengers aboard, according to the Coast Guard.

Dow refused aid by East Jefferson Fire-Rescue personnel, according to Bill Beezley, public information officer for East Jefferson Fire-Rescue.

Several callers reported a small red plane down in Discovery Bay just after 2:30 p.m., Beezley said.

The plane was floating roughly 200 feet offshore just down from milepost 2.5 on state Highway 20.

The first to respond to the wreck was a commercial shellfish vessel, which rescued Dow, who was able to extract himself from the wreck, Beezley said.

The commercial vessel, which was more of a raft, towed the partially submerged plane to shallower waters, Beezley said.

The plane was a Beech E-17L, a single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft currently registered in Port Hadlock, Beezley said.

The crash is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.

East Jefferson Fire-Rescue responded with two ambulances, a fire engine and a rescue boat. The Coast Guard also responded by boat, and Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies were on the scene with one vehicle.

Freedom Air assets up for sale

The A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority of Guam has given notice that it intends to sell off the assets of defunct Freedom Air.

The Guam airport authority sent out a notice yesterday from the Guam Superior Court stating that Freedom Air assets are now up for auction after it received lien of the assets back in 2015. The auction would be held on Feb. 2, 2017, in Tiyan, Guam.

Freedom Air is a Guam airline that used to offer flights to and from the CNMI.

The auction notice specified that all sales are “as-is” and “where is” without warranty, with respect to merchantability, fitness for any purpose, condition, or any other warranty, and shall be subject to any existing liens.

The Commonwealth Development Authority on Saipan estimates the assets of Freedom Air to sell for about $1.3 million.

In April 2015, the CDA board voted to foreclose on liens on any and all properties and aircraft of Freedom Air. It said that Freedom Air owes it $1.3 million.

Freedom Air has been serving the CNMI for 37 years before filing for bankruptcy back in 2013.

Saipan Tribune archives state that Freedom Air’s Cessna 207, Sherpa Cargo, and Piper airplanes are among the properties at the Guam airport. 

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

Where will Southwest Airlines fly next: Hawaii, South America or elsewhere?

Southwest Airlines has added Cincinnati, the Cayman Islands and Cabo, dropped the Ohio cities of Dayton and Akron-Canton, and rejiggered its route map out of Dallas Love Field to continue to benefit from the expiration of the Wright amendment.

Looking ahead, Hawaii, Alaska and South America are increasingly showing up as blips on the Dallas-based airline’s radar screen of possible destinations for future expansion.

And in the meantime, Southwest, is hoping to hang on to its Cuba routes now that President Donald Trump is in office.

“We’re matching our service with the need of our customers,” Southwest spokesman Dan Landson said in an interview. “We’re seeing a lot of demand from customers throughout the country for different cities and different city pairs, and we want to make sure that we’re putting the service on the routes that our customers want to fly.”

Cincinnati had long been one of the largest metros that Southwest did not serve directly. The new flights into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport will connect to Baltimore/Washington and Chicago Midway airports.

“Ohio’s got a lot of airports that are close to each other and they’re seeing growth,” Landson said. “When we really looked at what we wanted to accomplish in Ohio, we saw some opportunities in the larger cities — Cleveland and Cincinnati — that previously had not been there. Due to the close proximity of Akron-Canton to Cleveland and Dayton to Cincinnati, the tough decision was made to exit those markets in order to make nearby markets more successful.”

Delta Air Lines has a hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport but has shrunk its presence since its 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines.

“With the number of customers there and the changing dynamic of the airport, there was an opportunity where we were able to announce new service and also reach out to the business travelers and get their support to come into the market,” Landson said.

Growth in demand has also prompted Southwest to add flights in San Diego, Landson said. The airline announced Jan. 17 that it will start flying April 25 to Los Cabos International Airport from San Diego’s Lindbergh Field once daily. The airport serves San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.

Southwest now serves 31 locations from San Diego, where it has been rapidly expanding.

At Dallas Love Field, Southwest’s headquarters, the airline in early January began operating a weekly flight to Reno and a daily nonstop flight to Ontario.

The Dallas-Ontario flight is an example of one that would not have been allowed before the October 2014 lifting of flight restrictions under the Wright Amendment.

During the week, Southwest now offers about 180 daily departures to 50 destinations from Love Field, Landson said.

That compares to 116 daily departures and fewer than 20 nonstop destinations before the Wright amendment’s expiration. The amendment allowed Southwest to fly nonstop out of Love Field to New Mexico, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, but prohibited nonstop flights to destinations beyond those states.

Many factors go into determining new destinations for Southwest Airlines, Landson said.

“We look at it through a couple of different lenses,” he said. “One is, is it a business/financial/economic center? Another is, is it a leisure destination? Or is there a combination of both?”

The Boeing 737 MAX could also open new routes for Southwest when the airline begins flying the new planes later this year.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has said the 737 MAX could make about a half dozen South American destinations feasible, including Bogota, Colombia.

Southwest has placed 170 firm orders with Boeing (NYSE: BA) for the 737 MAX 8, which has a 175-seat capacity, and 30 firm orders for 737 MAX 7s, which seat 150 passengers, said Steve Jenkinson, who manages Southwest’s Boeing 737 MAX program.

The new planes are roughly 14 percent more fuel efficient and can fly about 500 miles farther than the 737s that are being taken out of the fleet, Jenkinson said.

Landson said Southwest spokespeople can’t comment on future destinations until they are published on the airline’s flight schedule, which currently runs through Aug. 14.

Kelly, at a shareholder meeting in Chicago last year, told the Chicago Tribune that Hawaii and Alaska are both “in scope,” for Southwest.

The CEO made similar statements this month in a brief interview with the Tampa Bay Times after an award ceremony at Tampa International Airport.

"Now we've added flights to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, so our orientation right now is south, but ultimately we're looking to expand in North America," Kelly said. "We'll add flights to Hawaii one of these days, Canada, Alaska and perhaps as far south as South America."

Kelly also said he hopes direct flights between Florida and Cuba — launched in November and December — will remain open under Trump’s presidency. The airline offers one daily flight between Tampa and Havana and flights from Fort Lauderdale to Varadero and Santa Clara.

"Those flights have high demand both from the U.S. and from Cuba, and obviously we're hopeful that we can continue to operate them," Kelly said. "If the government, for other reasons, decides that that's not possible, obviously we'll obey the law, but we're hoping that's not the case."

Recent Southwest Airlines changes:


— Southwest on Jan. 5 announced the beginning of flights to Cincinnati. There will be five daily round-trip flights between Cincinnati and Chicago Midway, and three daily round-trips between Cincinnati and Baltimore. Tickets went on sale last week and flights begin June 4

— The airline is also adding new nonstop service between Cleveland and Atlanta with fares starting as low as $69 one-way. Additionally, the carrier will add a second daily flight between Cleveland and St. Louis.

— In San Diego, Southwest has announced new year-round nonstop service to Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City, Utah, beginning June 4, as well as new seasonal flights to Indianapolis, Indiana, and Spokane, Washington.

— In other West Coast changes, Southwest will offer year-round nonstop service between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, and seasonal nonstop service between Oakland and Newark, New Jersey.

— The airline added one round-trip daily between Austin and Panama City, Florida.

— Southwest on Jan. 5 announced flights from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman. Tickets went on sale last week and flights begin June 4.

— On Jan. 18, Southwest announced flights between San Diego and Cabo San Lucas, beginning April 25.

— Southwest last year began flights to the Cuba cities of Varadero, Santa Clara and Havana. The airline offers one daily flight between Tampa and Havana and flights from Fort Lauderdale to Varadero and Santa Clara.

— At Dallas Love Field, Southwest’s headquarters, the airline in early January began operating a weekly flight to Reno and a daily nonstop flight to Ontario.


— Southwest will exit Dayton, Ohio, and Akron-Canton, Ohio, in June, with the start of service to Cincinnati.

— Southwest dropped a route between New York LaGuardia and Indianapolis.


— Hawaii

— Alaska

— Bogota, Colombia

— Other cities in South America

— Additional cities in Canada

Source:   http://www.bizjournals.com

Josh Hoch: Pilot charged for tampering with planes, but no changes in the air

Josh Hoch.

Months after Mount Isa pilot Josh Hoch was arrested for allegedly tampering with competitors’ planes, the review into the country’s aviation authority has brought no changes forward.

Hoch, 31, was arrested on January 24 and charged with 342 counts covering 14 offences after he allegedly poured contaminants in the fuel tanks of planes and flew members of Katter’s Australian Party around North Queensland without the proper licensing between 2012 and 2016.

The arrest raised serious questions about rural airport security and plunged the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) into crisis, with police and officials probing what the authority knew or should have known about the charges levelled against Hoch.

Days after Hoch’s arrest, CASA launched an internal review into its dealings with the North Queensland pilot and Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester called for an urgent briefing on the case.

In a statement at the time of his arrest, a spokeswoman for CASA said it would look into the safety-related issues involving Hoch.

“CASA has launched an internal review to determine whether any significant safety-related issues involving Mr Hoch and the operations of Hoch Air were, or ought to have been, identified and acted on prior to launch of the police investigation and the arrest of Mr Hoch,” she said.

“We are currently reviewing our records to inform such safety-related action as we may need to take now, and to ensure the integrity and sufficiency of our entry control, audit and surveillance activities. Should we need to, we will look more closely at any aspect of our regulatory functions should additional attention be required.”

Three months down the track, the internal review CASA launched into its dealings with Hoch has yet to reveal anything and the only change it implemented was made last week to Hoch’s air operator’s certificate.

“CASA’s director of aviation safety (DAS) cancelled the air operator’s certificate (AOC) held by Hoch Air Pty Ltd on April 19, 2017,” Mr Chester said.

“Mr Hoch is also not permitted to fly due to his bail conditions.

“As the matter is currently before the court in relation to the criminal charges laid against Mr Hoch, no further comment can be made.

“CASA’s decision to cancel the Hoch AOC is subject to review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal should Mr Hoch wish to pursue the matter.”

It is understood police are still investigating a number of people and agencies, and that the Australian Federal Police have become involved in the investigation.

Mount Isa detective Senior-Sergeant Michelle Clark said detectives were busy building the massive brief of evidence for the court case against Hoch, but had not finished investigating other agencies.

“At the moment we are tied up with the court side of things, so we are trying to progress the full briefs and he will have his committal mention on August 30,” Sen-Sgt Clark said.

“Our focus is still on others associated with it (Hoch’s case) and we will be continuing in that light.”

Original article can be found here:  http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au
Josh Hoch

A full  review into how North Queensland pilot Josh Hoch, 31, got away with his alleged offending for so long has been ordered by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester has also called for an “urgent briefing” from CASA into the explosive case of alleged plane tampering in Mount Isa.

Josh Hoch, 31, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon in Mount Isa and charged with 342 counts across 14 offenses, including tampering with aircraft, dangerous operation of aircraft and fraud, allegedly committed from 2013 through to 2016.

Mount Isa Magistrates Court heard on Wednesday that Hoch had allegedly tampered with his competitors’ planes on five different occasions to win commercial contracts and had flown members of the Katter Australia Party around North Queensland, including Bob Katter spending $257,000 on chartering flights with Hoch.

Mr Chester yesterday asked the country’s aviation watchdog for a report into all aspects of the case and investigation against Hoch.

“Given the serious nature of the allegations I have requested a full report from CASA and an urgent briefing on all aspects of the investigation,” Mr Chester said.

“With legal proceedings underway, I’m not in a position to comment any further at this stage.”

A CASA spokeswoman said they had launched their own review into the dealings they have had with Hoch, their investigative process and auditing process.

“CASA has launched an internal review to determine whether any significant safety-related issues involving Mr. Hoch and the operations of Hoch Air were, or ought to have been, identified and acted on prior to launch of the police investigation and the arrest of Mr. Hoch,” the spokeswoman said.

“We are currently reviewing our records to inform such safety-related action as we may need to take now, and to ensure the integrity and sufficiency of our entry control, audit and surveillance activities. Should we need to, we will look more closely at any aspect of our regulatory functions should additional attention be required.”

The spokeswoman said CASA needed to have evidence to act on, rather than unsubstantiated claims of actions.

“It is important to remember that, like any other regulatory authority, CASA is only able to act on evidence that tends to show there has been a breach of the regulations, not on unsubstantiated claims of such conduct,” she said.

“It would be premature for CASA to comment further on this at this time.

“We will not comment on the criminal allegations against Mr. Hoch.

“These are matters before the court and any questions should be directed to the prosecutorial authority.”

Hoch walked from Mount Isa watch-house yesterday after posting the $50,000 surety he failed to produce when given bail on Wednesday.

Source:   http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au

Kennedy MP Bob Katter spent $257,000 on chartered flights with alleged fraudster pilot Josh Hoch, the Mount Isa Magistrates Court was told.

Hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars may have been paid to alleged fraudster Josh Hoch, with a court hearing Kennedy MP spent $257,000 on chartered flights with the pilot.

Prosecutor Sergeant Vaughan Cooper yesterday detailed Mr. Katter’s expenses with Mr. Hoch, at his bail application for more than 300 offenses.

“The offenses the defendant faces are serious, not only those five offences (tampering with aircraft), but also the offenses of fraud,” Sgt Cooper said.

“Your honor will note the defendant using, without accreditation, aircraft to fly the honourable Bob Katter without the correct accreditation.

“Allowing him to pilot and receive payment for these charters and that will be alleged your honour is some $257,000 and I do round that down.

“The case against the defendant regarding those matters is strong.”

According to documents from the Department of Finance, Mr Katter claimed more than $53,000 on chartered flights in the first half of 2016 alone.

The Kennedy MP is given a large travel allowance, particularly for charter flights, to traverse a massive electorate that is bigger than some countries.

Mr. Katter would not comment when contacted by the Bulletin over the charges against Koch.

“As this matter is now before the courts it would be inappropriate to comment,” he said.

Senator Ian Macdonald said he would take up industry regulation concerns with Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester.

“I will certainly be following this up with the Transport Minister … I’m quite confident he has already been briefed but this is clearly a matter for the police and CASA investigators to report to him with any recommendations of any new regulatory action,” he said.

“I’m very curious in this instance how this has not come to their attention previously … CASA should have been leading the charge rather than police.”

Herbert MP Cathy O’Toole said it was necessary to look further into the current level of oversight after the arrest of Hoch.

“Questions need to be asked, and answers provided, about what officials did and did not know,” she said.

“How can this happen surely needs to be the question. The real issue is that we have absolutely no certainty that incidents of this nature are not falling through the gap.” 

Source:  http://www.ntnews.com.au

The charter operator charged with 340 offenses of endangering public safety was issued with a CASA operator’s license as recently as last month, prompting leading figures to attack the regulator for incompetence and dysfunction.

CASA records show the regulator issued Hoch Air with an Air Operators Certificate on December 8, even though CASA had been co-operating with the Queensland Police investigation for two months. The AOC is valid for four years.

Queensland Police charged the principal and pilot Josh Hoch, 31, this week with offences that include five counts of tampering with competitors’ fuel. Police allege that Mr Hoch added an “abrasive material directly into engines” which caused a catastrophic failure and forced the landing of two aircraft. Engine failure occurred to two other planes prior to take-off.

Kennedy MP Bob Katter allegedly spent $257,000 on charter flights with Hoch Air although Mr Hoch was unlicensed at the time. Mr Katter’s office declined to comment. CASA’s licensing of Hoch Air appears to be inconsistent with the Queensland Police statement, which says that a “review of aircraft security and passenger safety at Mount Isa Airport was immediately commenced” as part of the investigation launched in October. “Additional measures were implemented to further ensure the safety of passengers and crews,” the police added.

A CASA spokeswoman said the regulator was “actively reviewing information arising out of the Queensland Police investigation and will take such further action as necessary”. CASA could not comment further.

Police asked the Mount Isa Court to refuse bail, but the magistrate granted it. However, Mr Hoch’s family was unable to raise the $50,000 bond by Wednesday afternoon and as a result he spent a second night in the Mount Isa watch-house.

Mr Hoch’s defence lawyer, ­Michael Spearman, blasted CASA, telling the Mount Isa court: “CASA has known about these flights since 2013. Now if CASA had any concern about a pilot it can invoke provisions of section 30DC of the Civil Aviation Act, instantly grounding a pilot if there is a serious and imminent risk to air safety.

“CASA has not done so, despite knowing of the allegations for months. These started back in October (2016) and certainly those charges from back in 2013,” the Townsville Bulletin reported.

Mr Spearman added that CASA had conducted an audit of Mr Hoch and his company earlier last year, yet he was allowed to remain in the air.

Ben Morgan, executive director at Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said the incident showed CASA was far too focused on “misdemeanours” while allowing serious wrongdoing to go unchecked.

“If in fact CASA were not aware this is absolutely serious and it’s going to need the minister’s attention to work out how the regulator let this slip through the cracks,” he said.

“CASA is in court with misdemeanour pilot activities when something as brazen as this has been going on for four years.”

Former CASA chairman Dick Smith said the regulator was a “totally dysfunctional organisation”. He said he had tried to introduce an “administrative fines system” that would replace the system of continuously writing letters to non-compliers.

The investigation also uncovered extraordinary evidence relating to the alleged grievous bodily harm of an aircraft engineer at Charters Towers in July 2014. The engineer, aged in his 60s, sustained “permanent and life-changing head injuries”, the police statement said.

Read more here:   http://www.theaustralian.com.au

Dick Smith at a hangar in Bankstown Airport, Bankstown.

North Queensland aviators do not want a knee-jerk reaction by aviation regulators following a Mount Isa pilot’s arrest on Tuesday.

Hinchinbrook Deputy Mayor Mary Brown, who is also co-owner of North Queensland Aviation Services, said the alleged actions of Josh Hoch did not reflect the industry as a whole.

Chief pilot Joshua Liddle, of Liddles Air Service, said he was shocked by the allegations, but the Civil Aviation Authority was already “heavy-handed” in enforcing regulations.

Hoch, 31, was bailed on Wednesday over charges of tampering with aircraft, but has spent two nights behind bars after failing to pay a $50,000 surety before close of business on Wednesday.

Ms Brown said aviation in the North had a very strong safety record and backed CASA’s decision to await a review of police information before considering taking further action.

“I would appeal to people not to think in general aviation, behaviour in this manner is common,” she said.

“Fundamentally, we are a very safety-conscious community and on the whole, operators out there will also do the right thing.

“Unfortunately this particular case appears to have tarnished that and I would hate to see a knee-jerk reaction from the regulators that has a negative impact on general aviation.”

Mr Liddle said the industry was tightly controlled so he was “bewildered” by the allegations.

“I am extremely surprised,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of contracts with government agencies and bigger businesses and the qualifications and experience we need and the auditing process we have to go through as operators is very stringent.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, in Townsville yesterday for Australia Day commitments, would not be drawn on the aviation controversy or whether CASA should be reviewed.

“They would be Commonwealth matters but I think you would probably need to ask the Police Commissioner,” she said.

Kevin Gill, Queensland Airports Ltd’s chief operating officer for Townsville, Mount Isa and Longreach airports, did not return calls.

Source:   http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au

Josh Hoch's solicitor Michael Spearman leaves the Mount Isa Police Station watch house.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has been plunged into chaos, labeled as “dysfunctional” in the wake of claims it knew about concerns over Mount Isa pilot Josh Hoch as early as 2013. 

Lawyer Michael Spear told a court at Mr. Hoch’s bail appearance that CASA had known about conduct related to the 342 charges police had laid.

“(The flights) have happened since 2013, CASA has known about these flights since 2013,” he said.

“Now if CASA had any concern about a pilot it can invoke provisions of section 30DC of the Civil Aviation Act instantly grounding a pilot if there is a serious and imminent risk to air safety.

“Now CASA has not done so, despite knowing of the allegations for months, these started back in October (2016) and certainly those charges from back in 2013.

“CASA conducted an audit for Mr Hoch and his company and reissued his AOC (Air Operators Certificate) earlier last year.

“If CASA hasn’t grounded him, they don’t consider him to be a serious risk to the public and I would submit that CASA would be far more cognisant of safety in aviation than the police service.”

Entrepreneur Dick Smith, a former Civil Aviation Authority chairman and advocate for reform, said it did not surprise him to hear the authority had known about accusations but not acted.

“CASA is a totally dysfunctional organisation and because of that I would believe anything,” he said.

“This seems to be an ongoing problem. It tends to concentrate on the good players and the rogue ones are too hard I think. It’s basically very weak.

“Some of these alleged acts also seem to involve oversight at the local airports, I wonder if people have known about this bloke and done nothing.”

Mr. Smith said CASA did not aggressively pursue rule breakers.

“As chairman I introduced an administrative fines system. Instead of writing continuous letters to noncompliers they would be fined.

“After the Seaview disaster we discovered the regulator knew what was going on but just kept writing letters.”

But the organisation has held back on any pledge to conduct an internal review, with a spokeswoman committing to read the current police investigation.

“CASA personnel have been working closely with Queensland Police in Operation Oscar-Demotic since October 2016, culminating in Mr Hoch’s arrest,” she said.

“Our role involved the provision of specialist aviation-related technical advice.

“CASA is actively reviewing information arising out of the Queensland Police investigation and will take such further action as necessary.”

The department did not answer questions about whether CASA had received complaints about Mr Hoch in previous years or whether it would conduct its own research into how he received his licences

“It would be inappropriate to comment further on those matters at this point due to ongoing investigations,” she said.

“It is important to note that the vast majority of commercial aircraft operators in Australia are professional, responsible pilots who put safety as their number one priority and comply with all relevant safety regulations.”

Source:  http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au

The Mount Isa charter pilot alleged to have put glass beads in his rivals’ planes is to be granted bail from the Mount Isa Magistrates Court.

However, Josh Hoch will likely be in the Mount Isa Police Station watch house on Australia Day. Part of his conditions set by Magistrate Stephen Guttridge is that Mr. Hoch supply $50,000 surety before release.

The Mount Isa Court House had not received the surety or approved the paperwork by its closing time of 4.30pm, Wednesday. The court opens again at 8.30am on Friday. Thursday is the Australia Day public holiday.  

Mr. Hoch is to appear again before the Mount Isa Magistrates Court on February 22. He is charged with 342 offenses. 

Police prosecutor Sergeant Vaughan Cooper opposed bail and said five of the charges had a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. 

“He is at risk of flight, quite literally,” Sergeant Cooper said. 

“His capacity not just to leave Queensland, but Australia.” 

Sergeant Cooper said one of the charges related to a Piper Chieftain plane that lost power flying from the Northern Territory to Mount Isa. There were three people on board. Sergeant Cooper alleged that an inspection of the plane revealed glass beads in the oil filter. 

Sergeant Cooper alleged also that oil had been removed from a Cessna plane kept at the Mount Isa Airport. This was discovered during a daily inspection on August 18, 2016. 

On September, 2016, a Piper Chieftain about to fly from Mount Isa to Burketown experienced loss of oil pressure, the court heard. The flight was aborted. An oil sample allegedly showed glass beads, metals and dirt mixed in with it, Sergeant Cooper said. 

On October 6 to 7 a Cessna belonging to the Northern Territory Air Services, travelling between Alice Springs and Mount Isa, experienced low pressure. Glass beads were allegedly found in the engines, Sergeant Cooper said. 

On October 18 a pilot on another plane noticed a drop in pressure. The plane arrived in Mount Isa safely. It is alleged that an inspection found paste in the oil system. 

Sergeant Cooper said other offences included fraud. Mr Hoch is alleged to have supplied two fraudulent insurance claims. 

Mr. Hoch did not have proper accreditation of an aircraft, the prosecutor alleges. 

The court heard that Mr Hoch has flown Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter and Katters Australian Party State MPs Rob Katter and Shane Knuth through his charter service. The Federal MP has paid $275,000 in total to Mr Hoch for his charter services. 

The prosecutor alleges further that the defendant has flown an aircraft to hide it from police. 

Mr. Hoch’s solicitor Michael Spearman, Resolute Legal’s principal lawyer,  said the charges were “quite circumstantial” and said many of the charges “doubled-up”. 

Mr. Spearman said that Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has known of Mr Hoch’s flights since 2013. They could have grounded him immediately if they had concerns with the pilot and audited the company, he said. 

“Despite knowing of the allegations for months they could have grounded him.” 

Mr Hoch has already suffered a “trial by jury” and it has affected his business. He also has two young children and a long-term partner. 

“There are significant stresses in the family right at this point,” Mr Spearman said. 

Other bail conditions is that Mr Hoch not apply for a passport. If he has one he must surrender it. 

Mr. Hoch cannot pilot a plane or enter an airport. He must also report to the Mount Isa Police Station on specific days twice a week. He also must not contact witnesses. 

Read more here: http://www.northweststar.com.au

A north Queensland pilot accused of sabotaging commercial rivals' planes causing "catastrophic engine failure" has been charged with more than 340 offenses including grievous bodily harm.

Police arrested 31-year-old Josh Hoch, whose Linkedin profile lists him as the owner, director and chief pilot of Hoch Air, on Tuesday after a three-month investigation.

His charges stretched back to July 2014, when he allegedly attacked an aircraft engineer in Charters Towers, leaving him with "permanent and life-changing head injuries", and raised serious questions about aircraft security at Mount Isa and Charters Towers airports.

Police alleged Mr. Hoch targeted two private air charter operations, but not major commercial carriers, at Mount Isa and Charters Towers.

Aviation experts found "abrasive material" applied directly into engines caused the "catastrophic engine failure" and the forced landing of two planes, police alleged.

Another two suffered engine failures identified before they took off.

The incidents sparked a safety review at Mount Isa Airport, which police said resulted in new measures put in place and no further aircrafts being damaged.

Police also alleged fraudulent insurance claims, flying without a license, dangerous operation of aircraft and "numerous" safety breaches, mostly at Mount Isa and Charters Towers.

Police said a "significant witness had come forward in relation to the aircraft damage but appealed for anyone else who knew anything to get in touch.

Mr. Hoch's 342 charges include numerous counts of endangering the safety of a person in a vehicle with intent, dangerous operation of a vehicle, flying aircraft without a license, fraud offenses, and offenses in relation to aircraft.

He is due in Mount Isa Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Source:  http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au 

A North Queensland pilot allegedly poured contaminants into commercial rivals’ fuel tanks, faked crashes for insurance and flew charters without a license for years before his dramatic arrest in Mount Isa yesterday.

Josh Hoch, 31, was intercepted by police about 2.30pm yesterday on a highway east of the town and last night charged with more than 300 offences going back several years.

The company is a significant player in the western commercial travel market and it is believed VIPs, including politicians, may have flown with Hoch at times from 2012 to 2016 when he is alleged to have been unlicensed.

The arrest poses serious questions about rural airport security and will plunge the Civil Aviation Safety Authority into crisis as police and officials probe what the authority knew or should have known about the claims against Hoch.

Last night senior police told the Bulletin the arrest was the culmination of several months of investigative work.

Hoch was questioned for seven hours before being charged with 342 counts of 14 different offenses late last night.

Detective Inspector Chris Hodgman said it was only by sheer luck that no one had died when one of the allegedly sabotaged planes took to the sky.

“We are lucky over a number of years that an alleged rogue operator like this wasn’t responsible for a disaster,” Insp Hodgman said.

“Two engine failures and the forced landing of the aircraft has happened — the pilots … were lucky to walk away.”

Insp Hodgman said safety measures were put in place as soon as police became aware of the alleged offending.

“The safety aspect was considered right from the start of the investigation. We had methodologies in place to ensure the continued safety of aircraft on that apron,” he said.

“At no stage was there any chance for tampering on any commercial aircraft at the Mount Isa Airport.”

Insp Hodgman said it was one of the most in-depth and unique investigations he had been part of in 30 years.

“There was a dedicated bunch of detectives who put in a lot of long hours to pull this investigation off,” he said.

Detectives working under Operation Oscar-Demotic allegedly uncovered evidence of fraud, tampering with aircraft, dangerous operation of aircraft and numerous aircraft safety breaches.

Police will allege they became aware of Hoch’s alleged offending in October last year when another pilot reported damage to his plane for the second time that year.

It is understood detectives are investigating four such claims of tampering on three planes in 2016 alone.

It will be alleged each case was the same, with a contaminant poured into the fuel tanks of the aircraft, under the cover of darkness at Mount Isa Airport.

When the engines fired, the contaminant caused “catastrophic” damage to the aircraft, grounding the planes for months, it is alleged.

Hoch has also been charged with insurance fraud relating to the alleged staged crash landing of two planes in 2014 and 2015.

It is understood Hoch had flown Katter’s Australian Party politicians Bob Katter, Robbie Katter and Shane Knuth around the North and it is believed he has been chartered by other politicians and clients as well.

It will also be alleged Hoch was masking those commercial flights as private trips and would not log flight hours in order to bypass crucial maintenance checks.  Hoch is set to face Mount Isa Magistrates Court this morning.