Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Beechcraft G35 Bonanza, N4485D: Fatal accident occurred October 10, 2015 near Lake Tahoe Airport (KTVL), South Lake Tahoe, Eldorado County, California

Conrad Yu, 73, of Oakley and Mary Choy, 66, of San Francisco were killed on October 10th, 2015 when the Beechcraft G35 Bonanza crashed and sparked a fire on a side of the house.



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

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

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

Aviation Accident Data Summary -  National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Sacramento FSDO-25

Conrad M. Yu: http://registry.faa.gov/N4485D

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA007
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 10, 2015 in South Lake Tahoe, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2017
Aircraft: BEECH G35, registration: N4485D
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The private pilot and passenger were departing on a personal cross-country flight. During takeoff, witnesses observed that the airplane was struggling to gain altitude and noted that the engine sounded as if it was not producing adequate power. They added that, as the airplane crossed over the airport boundaries, it climbed to about 100 ft above ground level in an excessively high pitch-up attitude. Shortly thereafter, the airplane crossed a ridgeline, entered a nose- and left-wing-low attitude, and impacted the backyard of a residence.

While ceiling and visibility were not an issue in this accident, the wind magnitude and changes in wind direction likely affected the flight. Wind gusts were as high as 26 knots around the accident time, and weather observation sites within 3 miles of the accident site all reported large changes in wind direction around the accident time. Although the wind was mainly from the south to southwest, there were times when the wind came from the west and north. This change in wind direction was likely due to mountain wave conditions and wind flow over the mountainous terrain, and these changes in wind direction and gusts likely affected the accident flight and the pilot’s ability to control the airplane. 

Wreckage and impact signatures were consistent with a left-wing-low and nose-low impact. Postaccident examination of the airframe, flight control system, and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. Based on the witness observations and the recorded weather data, it is likely that the airplane encountered a downdraft that exceeded the airplane’s climb performance, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle-of-attack and a subsequent aerodynamic stall. 

 An area forecast, issued about 5 hours before the accident, forecasted southwest wind at 20 knots with gusts to 30 knots for the time surrounding the accident. A terminal aerodrome forecast issued 1 hour before the accident, forecasted wind from 190 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 20 knots. However, there is no evidence that the pilot obtained weather information before the flight, thus he may not have been aware of the gusting wind conditions that affected the flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's inability to maintain airplane control due to an encounter with a downdraft that exceeded the airplane’s climb performance capabilities and resulted in an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to depart without obtaining a weather briefing.




HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 10, 2015 about 1735 Pacific daylight time, a Beech G35, N4485D, was destroyed when it impacted terrain during initial climb near South Lake Tahoe, California. The private pilot, who was the registered owner of the airplane, and the passenger sustained fatal injuries. The flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal cross-country flight. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from Lake Tahoe Airport (TVL), South Lake Tahoe, California, about 1733.

During takeoff from runway 18, witnesses located at the airport, observed the airplane oscillating in altitude at about 30 feet over the runway. A couple of witnesses reported that the engine sounded as if it was not producing an adequate amount of power. One witness reported that, at about mid-point on the runway, the airplane appeared to have entered some turbulent air; the left wing dipped but the pilot regained control. As the airplane exited the airport boundaries on the runway heading, it made a right turn followed by a left turn to an east-northeast heading. It climbed to about 100 feet above ground level (agl) in an excessively high pitch up attitude, and continued to fly towards the rising terrain. Shortly thereafter, after it crossed a ridgeline east of the airport, the airplane entered a nose and left-wing low attitude and impacted the back yard of a residence.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 73, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land and multi-engine land ratings. A third class airman medical certificate was issued to the pilot on March 10, 2015, with no limitations. During the last medical exam, the pilot reported flight experience that included 1,600 total flight hours and 25 hours in last six months. However, the pilot's logbook revealed that as of the most recent logbook entry dated October 7, 2015, he had accumulated a total of 1,580.43 hours of total flight time.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The four-seat, single-engine, low-wing, retractable landing gear airplane, serial number D-4641, was manufactured in 1956. It was powered by a Continental Motors E-225-8 engine, serial number 31362-D-6-8, rated at 225 horsepower. The airplane was also equipped with a McCauley two bladed adjustable pitch propeller. A review of maintenance records showed that the most recent annual inspection was completed March 21, 2015, at a total aircraft time of 5,935.46 hours, and the engine time since major overhaul of 211.46 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

A NTSB staff meteorologist prepared a factual report for the area and timeframe surrounding the accident.

The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 1700 depicted a surface trough surface trough near the accident site that would have promoted a change in wind direction over the mountainous terrain with time. The NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC) Constant Pressure Chart for 700-hPa Chart for 1700 depicted a west to southwest wind of 20 to 30 knots moving over the higher terrain at and around the accident site. Similar wind values were observed at 500-hPa, with the wind increasing in speed to 50 knots by 300-hPa out of the west to northwest wind direction

An Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) located at TVL reported at 1653, wind from 210 degrees at 13 knots with gusts to 21 knots, wind direction variable between 180 degrees and 260 degrees, 10 miles visibility, sky clear below 12,000 feet agl, temperature of 23 degrees Celsius (C), dew point temperature of 0 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.21 inches of mercury. Remarks: automated station with a precipitation discriminator, peak wind from 200 degrees at 26 knots at 1638, sea level pressure 1018.6hPa, temperature 22.8 degrees C, dew point temperature 0 degrees, 6-hourly maximum temperature of 25.6 degrees C, 6-hourly minimum temperature of 22.8 degrees, 3-hourly pressure change of 0.9 hPa. 

At 1753, TVL reported wind from 210 degrees at 9 knots with gusts to 18 knots, 10 miles visibility, clear sky below 12,000 feet agl, temperature of 21 degrees C, dew point temperature of 2 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.21 inches of mercury. Remarks: automated station with a precipitation discriminator, sea level pressure 1018.9 hPa, temperature 21.1 degrees C, dew point temperature 2.2 degrees C.

The one-minute TVL ASOS surface data was provided by the NWS for the time surrounding the accident. 

At 1734 PDT, KTVL reported the two-minute average wind from 209° at 12 knots and a five-second maximum average wind from 199° at 19 knots.

At 1735 PDT, KTVL reported the two-minute average wind from 211° at 13 knots and a five-second maximum average wind from 220° at 20 knots.

At 1736 PDT, KTVL reported the two-minute average wind from 219° at 11 knots and a five-second maximum average wind from 218° at 13 knots.

At 1737 PDT, KTVL reported the two-minute average wind from 211° at 9 knots and a five-second maximum average wind from 197° at 18 knots.

In addition to the official surface observation site above, there were an additional non-official surface observations sites reporting around the accident site at the accident time.

EW3758 Meyers (EW3758) station was the closest non-official surface observation site to the accident site located 1 mile west-northwest of the accident site at an elevation of 6,300 feet. EW3758 reported gusty surface winds surrounding the accident time with a 7 mph wind gusting to 15 mph from the north at 1730. The wind magnitude was similar during the observations surrounding the accident time, however, the wind direction was variable between 272 degrees and 355 degrees. 

RWBC1 was a remote automatic weather station (RAWS) station located 1 mile west-southwest of the accident site at an elevation of 6,336 feet agl. RWBC1 reported a wind from 228 degrees to 213 degrees around the accident time with the wind magnitude between 5 and 8 mph with gusts to 17 to 19 mph at 1651 and 1751.

CF047 was a California Transportation station located 3 miles south-southwest of the accident site at an elevation of 7,390 feet agl. CF047 reported a wind from 205 degrees at 1.9 mph with gust to 18.6 mph at 1731. The wind remained quite gusty at CF047 around the accident time with large changes in wind direction from 65 degrees to 255 degrees to 145 degrees. These changes in wind direction were likely the result of the wind flow over the terrain and mountain wave activity around and near the top of the terrain.

The closest official upper air sounding to the accident site was from Reno, Nevada, (REV), located 43 miles north-northeast of the accident site, at an elevation of 4,970 feet. The 1700 REV sounding indicated a relatively dry environment from the surface through 15,000 feet mean sea level (msl). 

The sounding wind profile indicated a surface wind from 235 degrees at 18 knots with the wind increasing to 25 knots while remaining southwesterly through 6,000 feet msl. 

An area forecast, issued at 1245, forecasted scattered cirrus clouds with a gusty-southwest wind 20 knots gusts to 30 knots until 2000.

Terminal Aerodrome Forecast issued at 1635, forecasted wind from 190 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 20 knots, greater than 6 miles visibility, and few clouds at 22,000 feet agl.

A search of official weather briefing sources, such as Lockheed Martin Flight Service (LMFS) and Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS), did not reveal the pilot received a weather briefing prior to departure. There is no knowledge of any additional weather briefing information the accident pilot received.

The complete weather report is appended to this accident in the public docket.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

According to the FAA Airport/Facility Directory information, LTV was a non-towered airport that was equipped with a single paved runway, designated 18/36, and airport elevation was 6,254.8 feet above msl. 

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The accident site was located in the back yard of a private residence about 1 mile south from TVL. The airplane wreckage was spread along a 140 feet-long path on a 080-degree magnetic heading. The first point of impact was a pine tree at about 100 feet agl. It exhibited a 45 degree angle cut which is consistent with a propeller blade strike. The left wing and the aft fuselage/ empennage were separated from the fuselage. The left wing was located about 108 feet from the initial point of impact; the aft fuselage/empennage were located about 150 feet from the initial point of impact. The left and right stabilizer and ruddervators remained attached to the empennage. The outboard portion of the right wing was separated and located on a tree adjacent to the empennage.

The main wreckage, which consisted of the airplane's cabin, the inboard portion of the right wing, both main landing gear, baggage compartment and forward fuselage, was resting oriented on a 220 degrees heading. These components were charred, melted, and consumed by fire. 

Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit controls throughout to all primary flight control surfaces. Multiple separations were observed in various control cables, consistent with impact. 

The engine and the propeller hub with one blade attached were found inverted a few feet from the main wreckage. The attached blade curled 360 degrees, creating a hook-like shape. The opposing propeller blade was located 54 feet at 011 degrees from the main wreckage. The blade exhibited blade tip twisting/curling and the chordwise scratches or striations.

The engine was separated from the airframe and exhibited signatures of thermal and impact damage. 

Mechanical continuity was established throughout the engine and valve train when the propeller was rotated by hand. Thumb compression was obtained on all six cylinders when the propeller was rotated by hand.

The top and bottom spark plugs exhibited signatures consistent with normal operation. The spark plugs exhibited varying degrees of coloration within the electrode area consistent with corrosion and from the post impact fire.

Both magnetos remained attached to the engine via their respectable mounts. When the crankshaft was rotated, both magnetos produced spark on all ignition leads in proper firing order.

The fuel injection servo was separated from the engine. The fuel inlet screen was obstructed with contaminants which were a result of the thermal damage. 

The induction system remained intact and exhibited impact damage. The exhaust risers remained attached to their respective cylinders and sustained thermal and impact damage. The exhaust muffler and the outflow pipe exhibited signatures consistent with thermal and impact damage.

No evidence of any preexisting mechanical malfunction was found that would have precluded normal operation.

For further information, see the Accident Site, Airframe, and Engine Exam Summary Report within the public docket for this accident.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot October 12, 2015, by the El Dorado Pathology Medical Group, Placerville, California. The cause of death was determined to be "extensive blunt force thoracic trauma".

The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed toxicology on specimens from the pilot. Specimens tested negative for carbon monoxide and ethanol in blood. No presence of amphetamines, opiates, marihuana, cocaine, phencyclidine, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, antidepressants, and antihistamines was detected in the blood.



















A portion of the plane’s tail broke off during the crash and remained stuck in a tree after the fire.







NTSB Identification: WPR16FA007
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 10, 2015 in South Lake Tahoe, CA
Aircraft: BEECH G35, registration: N4485D
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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

On October 10, 2015 about 1735 Pacific daylight time, a Beech G35, N4485D, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near South Lake Tahoe, California. The pilot, who was the registered owner of the airplane, and the passenger sustained fatal injuries. The flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal cross-country flight. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from Lake Tahoe Airport (TVL), South Lake Tahoe, about 1733.

Several witnesses reported that shortly after takeoff from runway 18, the airplane sounded as it was not producing adequate power. One witness reported strong downdrafts in the area. As it exited the airport boundaries on the runway heading, the airplane made a right turn followed by a left turn. It climbed to about 100 feet above ground level (agl) in an excessively high pitch up attitude, and continued to fly towards the rising terrain. Shortly thereafter, after it crossed the ridgeline, the airplane entered a nose and left-wing low attitude and impacted the back yard of a residence. A post crash fire ensued.

The Wings On The Bus Go ... Wait, What?

Put-in-Bay Airport (3W2), Ohio
To get to Put-in-Bay School, some students need to take a plane.



School traffic never bothers Max Schneider.

In the airplane he takes to class every day, his commute is pretty easy.

It's nearly 7:30 a.m. when a small, five-passenger Piper Saratoga plane takes off from the mainland in Port Clinton, Ohio. Pilot Bob Ganley is on his way to pick up students heading to school.

His first stop is Middle Bass Island, about a mile away from the school. Instead of a bus stop, Max's father is dropping him off at the Middle Bass airport to meet the plane.

On Western Lake Erie, there are only a few inhabited islands. The school on Middle Bass closed in 1982.

So Max and four other students go to Put-in-Bay School, located on South Bass Island. Their school bus will be this Piper plane. Ganley has two students to pick up: Max, a 10th-grader and Cecilia, a ninth-grader.

After landing in Put-in-Bay's airport, Max and Cecilia walk to a large yellow van waiting in the airport's empty parking lot. They join two teachers who flew over from the mainland earlier.

In the summer, golf carts and bikes carry thousands of tourists across these streets. But this time of year, there are only about 400 people on the island.

Max's mother, Katie, teaches English here. Her family lives on Middle Bass, but during the winter, she rents a place near school just in case the plane is unable to fly.

"If they know there's weather coming in, they'll stay just because they don't want to be late for school or miss out on school," she says.

A round-trip flight to school on this island costs the Middle Bass school system nearly $100 per student each day. But Katie Schneider, who pays her own fare each week, says she and her husband have never considered making the move to Put-in-Bay.

"Middle Bass is our home," she says. "That's where he grew up; that's where he was raised. That's where our family history is."

Put-in-Bay School is much like any other school on the mainland. There are state tests, after-school clubs and even prom. But Put-in-Bay Superintendent and Principal Steve Poe says it's the smallest public school in the state.

"We have 81 students pre-K through 12," he said. "Average class is about a half-dozen to eight students. That makes us unique with the individual attention our kids get."

Max's 10th-grade class has only three students. And his sister Lucy's eighth-grade class has just five boys and three girls. Because they live across the lake from most of their friends, Max says they try to make the most of their days at school.

"Living on the island, I don't get to hang out with a lot of the kids a whole lot because I'm usually back on Middle Bass, and you can't hang out when there's a mile of water between you," he says.

Air transport also comes into play when it comes to the school's sports teams.

The entire community shows up for games to cheer on the Put-in-Bay Panthers. It all seems like a normal school event until an announcer thanks people from the opposing team for bringing milk to the island.

That's right: milk. That's something even more appreciated when living on an island three miles from the shore.

Story and audio:   http://boisestatepublicradio.org

Airline CEOs inbound for White House

DALLAS — With U.S. airline executives meeting this week with President Donald Trump, the White House appears skeptical about a push by carriers and their unions to block competition from a European airline.

Pilot unions in particular want Trump to overturn an Obama administration decision that allows European budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle to expand service to the U.S. through an Irish subsidiary. Unions say the subsidiary would skirt labor laws and threaten U.S. jobs.

But this week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the country would benefit from the arrangement. He said U.S. workers would build the planes and serve them.

"There is a huge economic interest that America has in that deal right now," Spicer said.

While saying he did not want to get ahead of the president, Spicer added that "we are talking about U.S. jobs both in terms of the people who are serving those planes and the person who is building those planes."

Norwegian lauded the remarks.



Anders Lindsrom said Norwegian has 500 crew members based in the U.S. and is the only foreign airline recruiting American pilots. The airline has 120 Boeing planes now and has orders for another 120, he said.

Norwegian seeks to undercut competitors through lower labor costs, said Dan Carey, president of the pilots' union at American Airlines.

Allowing it to expand "runs completely counter to President Trump's pledge to put U.S. workers' interests first" and could "destroy a great many U.S. jobs," he said.

The chief executives of several airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines as well as executives from air cargo companies, were invited to a breakfast meeting with Trump on Thursday. A spokesman for American Airlines said CEO Doug Parker would not attend because he'll be at a meeting in Dallas for 1,600 employees. Other airlines declined to comment or did not immediately respond.

The president held a similar meeting last month with auto-industry CEOs and told them to increase U.S. production and create American jobs. Trump's focus with the airline chiefs will also be on jobs, Spicer said.

"Obviously the president is going to want to talk about economic growth, job creation, how he is enacting orders to make sure the country is safe," Spicer said — the latter an apparent reference to Trump's executive order that temporarily blocked travel to the U.S. by people from seven mostly-Muslim countries.

Airline officials were unhappy with the confusion surrounding the rollout of the travel order. American's Parker said in a letter to employees that the order was "divisive," created turmoil at airports, and suggested that it didn't reflect his airline's values. United CEO Oscar Munoz told Business Insider that the order should have been carried out "a little more thoughtfully" and may have made some people afraid to travel.

The executives of the biggest airlines are likely to press Trump on their complaint, shared by American, that three big Persian Gulf airlines are unfairly subsidized by their government in violation of aviation treaties.

Subsidies "allow the Gulf carriers to operate without concern for turning a profit, unlike U.S. airlines, and therefore focus entirely on stripping market share and driving out competition," CEOs of American, Delta and United said last week in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The state-owned Gulf carriers — Emirates and Etihad Airways, both based in the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar Airways — deny the charges.

There are complications to the dispute. Some U.S. carriers, including JetBlue and cargo airline FedEx Corp., back the Gulf carriers and oppose shaking up aviation treaties. Several consumer groups also support the Gulf carriers, arguing that more competition leads to lower fares.

And the Gulf airlines buy planes from U.S.-based Boeing. In October, Qatar Airways announced it ordered 40 Boeing wide-body jets and planned to buy up to 60 more narrow-body planes in deals valued at $18.6 billion, although airlines usually get big discounts off list prices.

Source:  http://www.postandcourier.com

Investigators Probing Plane That Got Too Close to Air Force One, Sources Say

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport for a visit to his Mar-a-Lago Resort for the weekend on February 3rd, in Palm Beach, Florida. 


U.S. aviation investigators are probing an incident in which a private plane and President Donald Trump’s aircraft flew closer than was permitted, three people familiar with the event said.

The two aircraft got to about 2 nautical miles from each other over Florida on February 3rd. Planes under the supervision of air-traffic controllers are supposed to stay at least 3 nautical miles from each other near airports and as far as 5 nautical miles apart at higher altitudes.

The people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to talk about the case, said that there was no risk of collision as the planes were flying on parallel courses.

When the president is flying around the country, a number of special safety and security provisions are enacted. FAA air-traffic supervisors pay closer attention and Secret Service officials also monitor the airspace for possible threats. In many cases, other flights are halted or diverted to create extra space around Air Force One.

Trump flew to Palm Beach International Airport on Friday, arriving at about 4:30 p.m. local time. The incident occurred about 30 miles from the airport, one person said.

A so-called "loss of separation" can be caused by a controller error or a pilot mistake. All turbine-power aircraft, including the Boeing Co. 747 that normally carries the president, are equipped with devices that track other aircraft and issue warnings to prevent mid-air collisions.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which declined to comment in an e-mailed statement, is investigating. The National Transportation Safety Board, which has authority to examine aviation incidents, has also been notified.

Source:  https://www.bloomberg.com

Cessna 150F, N7064: Fatal accident occurred October 08, 2015 in Big Lake, Alaska

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

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

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

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -  National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03

Joseph T. Mielke:  http://registry.faa.gov/N7064

NTSB Identification: ANC16FA001
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 08, 2015 in Big Lake, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2017
Aircraft: CESSNA 150F, registration: N7064
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The solo pilot departed from a gravel-covered airstrip. Witnesses reported that they saw the airplane make a left, 270-degree turn and eventually overfly the departure end of the airstrip. The airplane then climbed to about 300 ft above ground level, flew in a southeasterly direction over a nearby house, then began a climbing left turn. Witnesses said that the airplane pitched up, the left wing dropped, and the airplane descended vertically, nose first, disappearing behind a stand of tall trees. The airplane subsequently collided with a paved, rural roadway. A postcrash fire incinerated a large portion of the airplane’s cockpit, left wing, and fuselage. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

Given the lack of mechanical deficiencies with the airplane and engine, the witness statements, and the nature of the damage to the airplane, it is likely that the pilot inadvertently exceeded the airplane’s critical angle-of-attack while maneuvering at a low altitude, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and a loss of control. 

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed and his exceedance of the airplane’s critical angle-of-attack while maneuvering, which resulted in a stall at too low an altitude to allow recovery. 




HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 8, 2015, about 1340 Alaska daylight time, a Cessna 150F airplane, N7064, sustained substantial damage following an in-flight loss of control and subsequent collision with a rural road, shortly after departing from the Cubdivision Airport, Big Lake, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight under Title 14 CFR Part 91 when the accident occurred. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions were reported in the area of the accident; no flight plan had been filed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident and was en route to the Big Lake Airport, which is about 3 miles south of the Cubdivision Airport. 

According to witnesses, the pilot had departed from the Big Lake Airport on the morning of the accident, arriving at the Cubdivision Airport, a 1,200-long by 100-foot-wide private gravel-covered airstrip, about 1230. 

About 1340, witnesses watched as the accident airplane departed to the north on runway 04. The witnesses reported that just after takeoff, the airplane made a left climbing 270-degree turn, and it eventually flew crosswind over the departure end of the runway. When the airplane reached about 300 feet above ground level (agl), the climb shallowed slightly as it passed over a workshop and a house located on the airstrip. As the airplane flew in a southeasterly direction, and away from the airport, witnesses reported that the airplane began another climbing left turn. During the turn, the airplane rolled to the left, then it descended vertically, nose first, and it subsequently descended behind a stand of tall trees and out of sight of the witnesses. 

The airplane subsequently collided with a paved, rural roadway. A postcrash fire incinerated a large portion of the airplane's cockpit, left wing, and fuselage. 

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 23, held a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single and multi-engine land rating. His most recent second-class airman medical certificate was issued on February 26, 2015, with the limitation that he must wear corrective lenses. According to his logbook, the pilot had about 933 total flight hours. 

The pilot was flying a Cessna 172 professionally; the accident flight was his second flight in his personally owned Cessna 150 after returning home from a two-week duty rotation in Bethel, Alaska. 

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The Cessna 150F is a two-seat, high-wing, tricycle landing gear-equipped airplane. A Continental Motors O-200 engine, rated at 100 horsepower, powered it. 

At the time of the accident, the airplane was equipped with a Sensenich, fixed-pitch propeller. However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) review of the accident airplane's maintenance logbooks revealed that, on May 12, 2015, a McCauley fixed-pitch propeller had been installed, and there was no logbook entry for the installation Sensenich fixed-pitch propeller. According to family members and friends of the pilot, a different propeller had been temporally installed on the airplane while the pilot was waiting for a new propeller to arrive. The new propeller was scheduled to be installed the day after the accident. 

According to maintenance records, the last inspection performed on the airplane was an annual inspection dated May 4, 2015. At that time, the airframe had accumulated 3,806.55 total flight hours. The engine had accrued 1,434.2 flight hours since overhaul. 

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The closest weather reporting facility was Wasilla, about 9 miles east of the accident site. At 1336, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) was reporting, in part: Wind 060 degrees at 13 knots with gusts to 19 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, overcast at 12,000 feet; temperature, 55 degrees F; dew point, 34 degrees F; altimeter, 29.30 in Hg.

Pilots flying in the area around the time of the accident reported low-level wind gusts near the accident.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

On October 8, 2015, the NTSB IIC, along with various Alaska State Troopers, and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector from the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), Anchorage, examined the wreckage at the accident site.

The main wreckage was located on a road, at 209 feet mean sea level (msl), at latitude N 61 35.1850 and longitude W 149 48.5249. The airplane impacted the road in a near vertical, nose-down attitude; a post-crash fire consumed the cabin, inboard portion of the left wing, and most the fuselage. All the major components of the airframe and engine were accounted for at the scene. 

On October 14, 2015, under the supervision of the NTSB IIC, the wreckage was examined at a private hangar in Wasilla, Alaska. Flight control system cable continuity was established from each control surface to the point of impact and fire-related damage.

The forward wing spar remained intact; both wing struts remained attached at their respective attachment fittings. The outboard portion of the left wing showed torsional twisting from the root to the wingtip, and the wing root was thermally damaged. The right wing displayed aft crushing of the leading edge. Control continuity to the left and right ailerons and elevators was established from the yoke to the control surface. The flap selector was thermally damaged. The flap actuator on the right wing was measured at 0.15 inches, corresponding to a flap retracted position.

The aft portion of the left and right seat rails were attached to the airframe and undamaged, the forward portion of the seat rails were thermally damaged. The nose gear assembly and main gear struts of the fixed tricycle landing gear remained intact and attached. The fuel selector valve was in the on position.

The outer portion of the left horizontal stabilizer was deformed upward, and it was attached at the forward and aft attachment points. The outer portion of the left elevator was impinged on the left horizontal stabilizer due to impact damage. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were attached at their respective attachment points and undamaged. 

Rudder continuity was established from the rudder pedals to the rudder. The rudder was undamaged, the balance weights for the elevator and rudder were attached.

The Sensenich propeller remained attached to the crankshaft's propeller flange, which separated from the engine. Both blades exhibited torsional twisting toward low pitch, heavy leading edge gouging and deep chord-wise scrapes. The outboard four inches of one of the blades was torn free from the propeller and was not observed.

On November 12, under the supervision of the NTSB IIC, an engine teardown and inspection were conducted at a private hangar in Wasilla, Alaska.

The engine sustained significant thermal and impact-related damage. The carburetor and No. 4 cylinder was fractured and separated from the engine. Teardown of the engine revealed no signs of operational distress or pre-accident anomalies with the internal components.

The mixture and throttle control cables remained attached to their respective control levers, and the throttle valve was in the closed position. The carburetor inlet fuel screen was not obstructed. The floats sustained thermal damage and one was separated from the float clip. 

The spark plugs showed signs of normal wear. The left magneto remained attached to the backside of the engine and the right magneto was separated. The right magneto produced spark in each of the distributor towers when the drive shaft was manually rotated. The left magneto sustained significant thermal damage. The left magneto was removed from the engine and the impulse coupling snapped when the drive shaft was manually rotated, but it did not produce a spark on the distributor towers. Internal examination revealed thermal damage to the cam follower and cracking of the distributor block. The cam follower was slightly adjusted to compensate for the thermal deformation and the drive shaft was again rotated. Spark was observed at one of the distributor block towers and at the points during each snap of the impulse coupling. 

Rotational scoring was observed on the interior of the vacuum pump housing. 

The NTSB's postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

A postmortem examination was conducted under the authority of the Alaska State Medical Examiner, Anchorage, Alaska, on October 9, 2015. The cause of death for the pilot was attributed to blunt force, traumatic injuries. 


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Civil Aeromedical Institute performed toxicology examinations for the pilot on November 20, 2015, which was negative for carbon monoxide, drugs, and ethanol. 




NTSB Identification: ANC16FA001 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 08, 2015 in Big Lake, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 150F, registration: N7064
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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


On October 8, 2015, about 1340 Alaska daylight time, a Cessna 150F airplane, N7064, sustained substantial damage following an in-flight loss of control and subsequent collision with a rural road, shortly after departing from the Cubdivision Airport, Big Lake, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight under Title 14 CFR Part 91 when the accident occurred. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions were reported in the area of the accident; no flight plan had been filed. 


According to witnesses and family friends, the pilot had departed from the Big Lake Airport on the morning of the accident, arriving at Cubdivision Airport, a 1,200-long by 100-foot-wide private gravel-covered airstrip, about 1230. 


About 1340, witnesses watched as the accident airplane departed to the north on runway 04. The witnesses reported that just after takeoff, the airplane made a left climbing 270-degree turn, and it eventually flew crosswind over the departure runway. When the airplane reached 300 feet above ground level, the climb shallowed slightly as it passed over a workshop and a house located on the airstrip. As the airplane flew in a northeasterly direction, and away from the airport, witnesses reported that the airplane began another climbing left turn. During the turn, the airplane rolled to the left, then it descended vertically, nose first, and it subsequently descended behind a stand of tall trees and out of sight of the witnesses. 


On October 8, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), along with an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Wasilla Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), traveled to the accident scene. The on-scene investigation revealed that the airplane impacted a paved road in a nose-low attitude, and damage was consistent with a near-vertical descent prior to impact. A post-impact fire ensued, which incinerated most of the wreckage. 


A post-accident examination of the airplane by the NTSB IIC, and a FAA aviation safety inspector from the Wasilla Flight Standards District Office, revealed no mechanical irregularities that would have precluded normal operation. 


The airplane was equipped with a Continental Motors O-200 engine. A detailed NTSB examination of the engine is pending.


The closest weather reporting facility was Wasilla, about 9 miles east of the accident site. At 1036, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) was reporting, in part: Wind 060 degrees at 13 knots gust 19 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, overcast at 12000 feet; temperature, 13 degrees C; dew point, 1 degrees C; altimeter, 29.30 inHg.

JetBlue cancels Thursday's flights to New York and Boston ahead of winter storm



JetBlue Airways has cancelled all departures for New York's JFK International Airport and Boston's Logan International Airport on Thursday because of an expected winter storm, according to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

In addition, Delta Airlines announced that it was canceling its morning flights to JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York City on Thursday, said NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer.

Meanwhile, other airlines are monitoring the forecast and expect to have some, he said.

People should check with their airline and buffaloairport.com for updates.





A deep low pressure system will track northeastward from Virginia late tonight into Thursday.

The National Weather Service put winter storm warnings in place in Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, Providence and Boston in advance of the storm.

Buffalo is not expected to be significantly impacted by the East Coast storm, but as the storm system passes by to the south of Western New York, the "northern fringe" of the system will drop a couple inches of snow over places like the Southern Tier, Boston Hills and Finger Lakes, forecasters at the National Weather Service in Buffalo reported.

Up to six inches of heavy, wet snow was forecast in Philadelphia early Thursday. That's a drastic change from the mid-60s temperatures the city was basking in this afternoon.

Ten inches was possible in Central Park with even higher amounts in New England, forecasters said.

A blizzard warning was posted in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island including Martha's Vineyard, Block Island and Cape Cod from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Snowfall rates up to three inches per hour were forecast with gusty north winds up to 50 mph, forecasts stated.

Source:  https://buffalonews.com

Federal Aviation Administration missed chance to ground balloon pilot before deadly crash: Balony Kubicek Spol Sro BB85Z, N2469L, Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides, fatal accident occurred July 30, 2016 in Lockhart, Caldwell County, Texas

Alfred “Skip” Nichols, the chief pilot and owner of the Heart of Texas Balloon Rides, should not have been flying on the morning of July 30, 2016, when he crashed and died along with 15 passengers.

Two years earlier, the Federal Aviation Administration had learned of his lengthy criminal record of alcohol-related driving offenses. Nichols had violated FAA rules by not voluntarily disclosing any of the five incidents, any one of which could have led to the loss of his license. But, in a highly unusual move according to aviation attorneys and experts, the FAA investigators chose to take no action. Instead of suspending or revoking his pilot’s license, they sent him a warning letter.

Despite the troubling revelations, the FAA did not keep Nichols on its radar. The agency studiously monitors the health of airplane and helicopter pilots, requiring medical checks every six months for most commercial pilots, and maintains a lengthy list of prohibited medicines, ranging from Xanax to allergy medicine.

But the FAA allows balloon pilots to fly without a medical certificate, which is designed to unearth such information. That exception stands in stark contrast to countries like Canada, England and Australia where authorities require medical checks of their balloonists.

As a result, the FAA didn’t know that Nichols had been prescribed a cocktail of prohibited drugs, ranging from Valium and Ritalin to oxycodone, and suffered from at least three medical conditions that could have grounded him.

The deadliest balloon crash in modern American history has laid bare wide gaps in the federal government’s oversight of balloon pilots and the growing commercial ballooning industry.

The FAA has so far rejected calls from its sister agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, and from members of Congress, to strengthen regulations on commercial hot air balloon operations.

It is instead pushing for industry-led reforms, which while comprehensive, would not reach every balloon pilot. Nichols for example, was one of thousands of licensed balloon pilots who aren’t members of the Balloon Federation of America, the group developing the safety plan.

The safety board is expected to issue its final ruling on the crash in coming weeks or months and will likely make a new series of safety recommendations. It’s unclear if the safety board will recommend that the health of balloon operators, especially those who fly paying customers, be monitored like airplane and helicopter pilots.

In rejecting the safety recommendations, the FAA has said it’s found no evidence that drugs or prohibited medications have caused fatal crashes.

Yet a review of NTSB crash reports indicates that of the seven fatal balloon crashes in recent years where investigators released toxicology results, in four cases pilots had prohibited medications in their bloodstream.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the Austin Democrat who represents the Lockhart area, said it is now clear to him that the FAA’s refusal to adopt more oversight of balloon pilots — including medical evaluations — played a major role in the crash.

“I have urged the FAA to reconsider its rejection of NTSB safety recommendations,” said Doggett. “Sadly, this has only been met with more delay. I now believe that had these safety measures, including medical evaluations, been adopted and enforced, this tragedy would never have occurred.”

Whether FAA officials decide to overhaul how they license and oversee balloon pilots could depend on how they ultimately choose to view the Lockhart crash: Did Nichols’ prescription drugs or his medical condition contribute to his ill-fated decision to fly, or to his ability to handle the nine-story tall balloon as it approached power lines? Or was he simply an experienced pilot who made a tragic mistake?

‘None of us chose to fly’

Before dawn on July 30, David Smuck woke up, checked the weather forecast and after a brief huddle with his pilots, cancelled all four hot air balloon flights his company Austin Aeronauts was scheduled to fly that morning.

Joseph Reynolds, another Austin hot air balloon pilot, did the same after he ran a special ballooning weather model that he passed along to local balloonists.

“We all have personal wind speed forecast limits, numbers that cause us to sleep in,” he would tell investigators. “None of us chose to fly.”

Amid all those cancellations, Nichols decided to lift off.

Nichols was off the grid to some extent. He was not on Reynold’s email group and local pilots couldn’t remember ever seeing Nichols at one of the group’s safety seminars, according to investigative documents.

On the morning of the crash, Nichols woke up at about 3:30 a.m., got some coffee and started checking weather websites, his roommate, who also served as his ground crew chief, would tell investigators two days after the crash.

According to Alan “Bubba” Lirette, who had worked with Nichols for about three years, Nichols usually made an initial decision to fly the night before: after checking the weather, he would call his mother, who took care of payments and scheduling from her home in Melbourne, Florida. She would then call passengers and get them ready for the morning’s flight.

But when Nichols called the Lockheed Martin Flight Service for a hyperlocal weather briefing that morning, he received an ominous forecast. Low hanging clouds were expected to start forming in the area at the time of the planned dawn flight.

“Those clouds might be a problem for you,” the weather service briefer told Nichols, according to a transcript of the call. “I don’t know how low you want to stay, but…”

“Well we just fly in between them,” Nichols responded. “We find a hole and we go.”

That flying philosophy violated federal safety rules, which require at least one mile of visibility and call for balloon pilots to remain clear of clouds.

But flying through or above low hanging clouds was something Nichols appears to have done on more than one occasion, according to the safety board’s investigation into the crash.

A former partner of Nichols, Michael McGrath, said Nichols often pressured him to fly on mornings with low cloud cover, a common feature of Central Texas summer weather.

McGrath said business was slower than what Nichols, who relocated to Central Texas from Missouri in 2013, had been expecting. Nichols, he said, had been forced to downsize to a smaller house and have Lirette move in with him to pay bills. McGrath, who said he rarely flew in the cloudy conditions, ultimately left Nichols’ operation after just a few months because of the slow pace of business.

Lirette, who died in a motorcycle crash on Dec. 27, described a more cautious pilot than McGrath. Nichols would “cancel in a heartbeat if required,” he said.

It’s unclear if Nichols felt financial pressure to make the July 30 flight, but despite the bad forecast, he and Lirette drove to the San Marcos WalMart to meet their 15 customers.

In the parking lot, Nichols set off a trial balloon to test winds and made the decision to launch from the Fentress Air Park near Martindale, home to a skydive school.

As they drove to the launch site, Lirette noticed a surface layer of fog, but said by the time they got to the air park “it was crystal clear.” The pair used a distant pole at the air park to gauge visibility. That morning, he remembered, they could see it with no problem.

Balloon pilots not screened

During a December investigatory hearing into the Lockhart crash, FAA officials were unable to explain why balloon pilots are exempt from the agency’s strict medical oversight of airplane and helicopter pilots. The exemption, they pointed out, had originated nearly a century ago.

“In my 13 years at the FAA, we have not looked at that,” said Dr. James Fraser, the FAA’s former federal air surgeon, during the hearing. “What happened … in the 1930s, I cannot speak to.”

That answer baffled NTSB investigator David Lawrence. Given “the physical nature of ballooning — it’s a much more physical process than actually flying an airplane — shouldn’t balloon pilots in general be required to have some sort of medical evaluation prior to flight?” he asked.

Fraser responded: “We would expect this pilot to self-report if you were fit to fly.”

But Nichols failed to disclose his arrests, medical conditions and prescribed medications for more than two decades.

Nichols racked up so many DWI charges in the years after he got his pilots license in 1993, he was charged as both a “persistent” and “aggravated” DWI offender. His Missouri driver’s license was revoked until 2020 and he served 18 months in prison. He never informed the FAA of the offenses and continued to operate a Missouri-based balloon tour company even as he racked up arrests and convictions.

Nichols moved to Central Texas after his 2012 release from a Missouri prison, telling friends he was sober, though sources interviewed by FAA investigators gave differing answers on the length of his sobriety. He flew paying customers in Texas, but wasn’t elegible for a Texas driver’s license because of his Missouri revocation.

Shortly after Nichols arrived, local balloon operators caught wind of his criminal history and reported their concerns to the FAA around December 2012 (Nichols’ mother told investigators that local balloonists weren’t happy when he moved to the area “since it increased competition for local business.”)

The agency’s security office conducted an investigation, turning up five separate alcohol-related driving convictions and license actions between 1985 and 2010. The failure to disclose even one of the offenses was grounds for loss of license.

Several aviation attorneys said they would expect a similar case against an airplane pilot to result in a suspension, or total loss of license. “(Failing to disclose DWI arrests) is treated very, very seriously,” said Mark Pierce, an Austin aviation attorney. “It’s my experience that the FAA would come down very hard.”

But FAA security officers based in Oklahoma only issued Nichols a letter: “We have decided not to take legal enforcement action. Instead, we are issuing this letter to inform you that future violations…could result in suspension and/or revocation of your airman certificate.”

Investigators, who apparently did not understand that balloon pilots aren’t required to get medical certificates, urged Nichols to more honestly answer FAA questions about arrests, substance abuse or loss of driving privileges on his next one.

A questionable investigation

Under questioning from NTSB investigators, FAA officials said they chose not to go after Nichols’ pilot license because of something called the “stale complaint rule.”

The rule is designed to force the FAA to take quick action when they investigate an airman, to “fish or cut bait,” according to Craig Weller, aviation attorney with the Aerlex Law Group. FAA investigators have six months to take action after learning of a potential violation, according to FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

According to documents from the investigation, the FAA was alerted to Nichols’ arrests around the end of 2012; they decided against enforcement action just about six months later in July of 2013.

The case had grown stale because investigators had not handled it with “appropriate diligence” and agency officials feared that any action taken against Nichols would not hold up in court, said FAA Flight Service Director John Duncan during the December hearing.

But it appears that the FAA could have pursued the case even if they feared an NTSB administrative law judge would declare it stale because of their enfeebled investigation. According to the NTSB’s medical report on the crash, Nichols failed to disclose both a 1985 alcohol-related offense and two drug possession arrests in 1987 on his initial 1996 medical screening, which Nichols obtained despite the exemption for balloonists, but never renewed. Failing to check that box is considered “intentional falsification,” attorneys say, and the FAA can pursue such a case even if it is stale.

“That gets (your license) revoked as fast as you would want,” Welker said. “That’s one of the cardinal sins in aviation. In many cases it’s also criminal.”

Was the FAA’s decision not to take action a symptom of its low level of concern for ballooning danger? “It certainly raises the question within the FAA of why they didn’t treat this more seriously,” Pierce said. “They should be embarassed by this.”

The medication link

In 2014, the safety board recommended that balloon pilots be required to get an FAA letter of authorization before a commercial ride. Airplane and helicopter tour operators must get such letters, which the safety board noted can trigger FAA inspections and drug testing of pilots. The change however would stop short of requiring balloon operators to get regular medical checks.

The FAA rejected the recommendation. FAA safety inspector James Malecha, who analyzed the recommendation for the FAA, said he found that in the previous four fatal commercial balloon flights, neither alcohol nor drugs were found to have caused the crash. Instead Malecha said his analysis found that crashes cited by the NTSB in its recommendation were caused by pilot error.

But a close look at NTSB reports shows that it’s not uncommon for pilots involved in fatal crashes to have taken prohibited medication.

Because toxicology tests aren’t provided for every pilot involved in a fatal crash, it’s impossible to tell how many balloon operators had taken prohibited medication. But in the seven investigations since 2003 in which investigators listed names of drugs found in toxicology reports, in four cases medications appeared that are prohibited by the FAA. In the other three, pilots had taken medications only allowed on a case by case basis after consultation with a doctor.

In a 2014 Pennsylvania incident, a pilot died after losing his balance and falling out of a basket. Investigators couldn’t definitively say whether the fall was due to his medical conditions, which included diabetes, but a toxicology report for the pilot found at least three drugs prohibited by the FAA: clonazapem, an anti-anxiety drug, Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant and an antihistemine, which the FAA warns can cause sedation.

Few toxicology reports can match that of Nichols’, which contained half a dozen prohibited medications.

His toxicology report doesn’t conclude whether Nichols was under the influence of any of the drugs at the time of his flight, a difficult determination to make given his longtime use of many of the pharmaceuticals. But FAA doctors say the combination of drugs, and possibility that he may have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms, could have conspired to alter his decision-making skills.

“When combined it’s clear the effects can be additive,” said Dr. Philip Kemp, a forensic toxicologist with the FAA during the Dec. 9 hearing. “The person will be even more impaired due to the combination of these medications.”

‘Rip and pray’

About ten minutes after the balloon launched, Bubba Lirette watched it disappear into the clouds. Nichols, he figured, would try to climb the massive balloon above the cloud deck. He was flying a Kubicek brand balloon, capable of fitting 18 passengers into 4 compartments. The balloon was among the biggest on the market: at nearly ten stories tall, it was harder to manuever than smaller orbs, but faster once it got up a head of steam.

Lirette kept in touch with Nichols through an app called Glympse, trading messages as he tailed the balloon through gaps in the clouds. The chase team watched as the balloon passed over them on a dirt road near Dickerson and rose back above the cloud deck. He got Nichols’ final Glympse message at 7:26 a.m.

At 7:38 a.m. a passenger snapped a photo of the balloon floating serenely above white clouds. At 7:40 another passenger texted a photo of the clouds, writing: “You see our shadow.” Along with the balloon’s shadow against the clouds, the photo showed a hole in the cloud layer with a power line tower in the distance.

Power lines represent the greatest danger for balloon pilots. More than half of deadly balloon accidents in the nation — 40 — involved striking power lines, resulting in fire, electrocution and fuel tank explosions, according to a 2016 Statesman analysis.

With reason then, pilots are trained to avoid areas with power lines and especially power lines that might be obstructed. “If you’re flying along and there’s a row of trees and a gap in the trees, you’re taught never to fly through that gap in the trees because there could be power lines on the other side,” said Andy Baird, a secretary with the Balloon Federation of American.

In the event of an imminent power line strike, pilots are taught to “rip and pray” — pull a cord that releases air out of the balloon causing a sudden drop. Hitting power lines with the nylon balloon, or envelope, is considered the safest bet: the balloon will get hung up in the lines, but passengers may survive.

That appears to be what Nichols attempted, but the balloon did not fall fast enough. The cables connecting the basket to the balloon envelope struck the power lines and likely were severed, causing the basket to plummet to the ground below.

A witness said she saw the balloon explode after it hit the ground.

Greater oversight of commercial balloon operations, warning of the potential for a “high number of fatalities in a single air tour balloon accident.”

November 2014: FAA declines to increase safety oversight, citing “low” level of risk associated with ballooning.

July 30, 2016: Nichols and 15 passengers die when balloon he is piloting strikes power lines near Lockhart in the deadliest balloon crash in modern American history.

August 2016: U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, urges FAA to reconsider NTSB’s recommendations.

September 2016: FAA declines to take action, points to new industry-led safety measures.

Dec. 9, 2016: NTSB releases results of its investigation into crash, disclosing Nichols’ toxicology report, which includes a cocktail of prohibited medications, and evidence of foggy and cloudy conditions on the morning of the crash.

2017: NTSB expected to release final findings on cause of crash, as well as new safety recommendations.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.mystatesman.com


Robert Sumwalt
National Transportation Safety Board Member.

National Transportation Safety Board Senior Adviser Erik Grosof, left, Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law, in white, and Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Robbie Barrera at the scene of the hot-air balloon disaster. 

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Member Robert Sumwalt providing information regarding balloon crash during media briefing to reporters.





Robert Sumwalt, board member with the National Transportation Safety Board, speaks during a press conference, August 1st, 2016, near the site of a hot air balloon crash that killed 16 people on July 30, 2016 near Maxwell, Texas in Caldwell County.



Texas DPS Trooper Robbie Barrera, center right, puts her arm around Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law as he arrives on the accident scene.






A shot of the hot air balloon ride taken by Matt Rowan

Paige and Lorilee Brabson in the hot air balloon before it plummeted

Paige Brabson with her mother Lorilee in the basket before the hot air balloon ride

A shot of the ground taken by Paige and Lorilee Brabson



Paige Brabson with her mother Lorilee on the ground before the trip








Matt Rowan and Sunday Rowan





NTSB Senior Advisor Erik Grosof, left, and Texas DPS Trooper Robbie Barrera, second from left, lead other investigators at the accident scene.






This photo taken of the hot air balloon involved in the deadly crash was taken just minutes before it caught fire and crashed near Lockhart. 





















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

Alfred G. Nichols: http://registry.faa.gov/N2469L 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA San Antonio FSDO-17 

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

NTSB Identification: DCA16MA204
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 30, 2016 in Lockhart, TX
Aircraft: KUBICEK BB85, registration: N2469L
Injuries: 16 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 30, 2016, about 0742 central daylight time, a Balony Kubicek BB85Z hot air balloon, registration N2469L, crashed into a field after striking high voltage powerlines near Lockhart, Texas. The 15 passengers and pilot onboard were fatally injured and the balloon was substantially damaged due to impact forces and post-crash fire. The flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a sightseeing passenger flight.