Monday, March 6, 2017

'Can this be legal?' YouTube host fires submachine gun from plane into gulf

TAMPA — Two men and a woman take turns poking a fully automatic submachine gun out the slightly open window of a small plane in flight.

They open fire toward the Gulf of Mexico below.

The whole thing was videotaped, edited and posted to the YouTube channel, Do It With Dan.

"What are the legalities of this," asked Dan, the host, as they walk toward a single-engine plane at Peter O. Knight airport for their flight.

Tampa gun maker Mark Serbu, 55, holding a camouflage backpack with the gun barrel sticking out, answers, "I didn't really ask. I'm assuming it's okay."

The Tampa Police Department agreed with Serbu on Monday, but only after taking the matter under advisement. Law enforcement agencies were alerted to the video by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, owners and operators of Peter O. Knight.

The Federal Aviation Administration also is investigating, but would not elaborate Monday.

A lawyer specializing in aviation issues, Guy Haggard of Orlando, said it wouldn't surprise him if the FAA follows the lead of Tampa police.

"People use helicopters for things like hog hunts," Haggard said. "In Florida, you can shoot guns from the sky in some situations."

And under FAA regulations, Haggard said, it is legal to drop an object from an aircraft as long as reasonable precautions are taken to prohibit injuries.

Bullets could be defended as "dropping objects," Haggard said.

The YouTube video includes a slide that says the trio flew for hours to a "safe location" before pulling out what they call a "machine gun." Serbu, the pilot and the owner of Serbu Firearms in Town 'N Country, identified the gun to the Tampa Bay Times as a fully automatic, Heckler & Koch MP5 9 mm submachine gun.

Since no one called law enforcement to complain about gunfire, it appears no one was put at risk, said Tampa police spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

Serbu told the Times he circled the Gulf of Mexico between Clearwater and Tarpon Springs for more than an hour before settling on a safe spot a couple miles from shore at an altitude of about 3,000 feet.

Until the Times contacted him Monday, Serbu said he didn't know the video had drawn the attention of authorities.

"There was no one close to us, no one for at least 10 miles," he said.

"We did everything safe. I had my daughter with us."

Valerie Serbu, 22, is the third person on the plane.

The trip was the idea of the show's host — a man identified on YouTube as Dan who says he's 24 and from Atlanta but wouldn't give the Times his last name. His channel specializes in videos of motorcycle and firearms stunts and has over 800,000 subscribers.

"He just thought it would be fun to shoot guns into the water from a plane," Serbu said with a chuckle.

Some of Dan's viewers had negative things to say in the YouTube comments section, so he took the video down last week — but not before someone copied it to send law enforcement. Dan put the video back online Monday afternoon.

Neither Serbu nor Dan could remember the date of the flight. Police learned from personnel at Peter O. Knight that they flew out of the Davis Islands airport Feb. 21.

In 2013, Serbu made national headlines by refusing to sell semi-automatic, .50-caliber rifles to the New York City Police Department because he disagreed with the NY SAFE ACT that classifies the weapon as an assault rifle, banning it from use by the public.

Serbu planned on selling shirts with the image of the Soup Nazi from the Seinfeld sitcom and the words, "Hey NY-Gov ... No Serb For You" — a play on the character's "No soup for you" catchphrase.

Actor Larry Thomas, who portrayed the Soup Nazi, demanded his likeness be removed so Serbu replaced it with one of him.

"Looks like I did it again," Serbu said with another chuckle Monday.

Near the end of the video, host Dan says shooting a gun out of a plane "might be the most American thing" he's ever done.

The video concludes with a teaser for another of his YouTube feats — firing off flamethrowers in his front yard.


Incident occurred March 06, 2017 at Cavern City Air Terminal (KCNM), Carlsbad, New Mexico

An emergency call led emergency services and firefighting units to the Carlsbad Cavern Air Terminal Monday for a possible landing gear malfunction.

The call stemmed from the activation of a landing warning on the small cargo plane as it prepared for landing at the airfield.

Emergency personnel were initially notified of the incident at about 3:25 p.m., said Frank Jurczak, an engineer with the Carlsbad Fire Department's Station 4.

Dispatchers reported that the aircraft landed safely around 3:29 p.m. and recalled the EMS and firefighters.

The plane circled the landing area twice before landing briefly to test the landing gear, Jurczak said.

It then took off again, made another pass and landed safely before taxiing to its hangar.

No injuries or damages to the plane were reported.

Fire crews were assisted by Carlsbad police and emergency services from Eddy County.

Jurczak said personnel underwent a Monday morning drill with a similar scenario.

"It's not a common occurrence, but we did have a drill earlier and we were ready," Jurczak said.


Air Unlimited: Sanford air charter group to create more jobs

A private luxury air service based in Sanford is hiring more pilots this year, thanks to gaining what's known as 135 commuter status, which allows it to operate an unlimited number of flights each week.

Transnorthern Airways LLC, known as Air Unlimited based at the Orlando-Sanford International Airport, announced on March 2 that it’s one of only a handful of charter airlines with Federal Aviation Administration 135 commuter status in Florida.

Charter services without this distinction can fly only up to four times per week between any pair of cities. With this certification, Air Unlimited can offer passengers more flight availability options and increased flexibility with scheduled service.

Air Unlimited has 13 employees including office staff, maintenance personnel, pilots and managers who work in a 1,580-square-foot office with a 7,680-square-foot hangar.

Air Unlimited just hired three pilots and is hiring three more contract pilots. By third-quarter 2017, it plans to hire a total of 10 new pilots. The company said it also is hiring someone to perform maintenance on the aircraft.

The air service company also is looking into expanding its organ transportation service. Through brokers, the company transports human organs to and from medical facilities and surgical teams that need to visit a site to harvest organs and return quickly.

Air Unlimited has worked with Florida Hospital and Tampa General Hospital, said Charles “Chick” Gregg, co-founder and principal of Air Unlimited. “We do three or four flights a month of that. It usually comes late at night and provides additional income with aircraft not being used elsewhere."

Air Unlimited offers featured destinations for scheduled services such as Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas.

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North Iowa Air Service is expanding to central Iowa

William Kyle, President / Owner; Nicole Kyle, Ames Operations Manager; Todd Kyle, Vice-President / Director of Operations; Christopher Schrodt, Chief Pilot.

Charles City, Iowa -  North Iowa Air Service in Charles City and Mason City is announcing their expansion.  Beginning April 1st, they will begin operations as Central Iowa Air Service at the Ames Municipal Airport. Central Iowa Air Service will be offering AV gas/jet fuel services, charter operations, flight instruction, aircraft maintenance, aircraft sales, rental and storage and much more.

North Iowa Air Service, led by president Bill Kyle of Charles City, has become a family affair. Bill Kyle’s son Todd Kyle has been the VP of Operations at North Iowa Air Service in Mason City, and now, Bill Kyle’s daughter Nikki will lead the Ames team.

Central Iowa Air Service in Ames will have a Piper Archer and Piper Warrior for trainer/rental aircraft and a Piper Navajo and Hawker Beech Jet for charter services. In addition, Central Iowa Air Service customers will also have access to all North Iowa Air Service aircraft, including a Piper Comanche, Piper Cherokee, Piper Aztec, Piper Cheyenne and a Bombardier Lear 45.

Central Iowa Air Service will operate out of the Ames airport terminal at 2501 Airport Road beginning April 1st.

More information about North Iowa Air Service and Central Iowa Air Service can be found on the North Iowa Air Service Facebook page.

Story and audio:

Cessna R172K Hawk XP, N736AS: Fatal accident occurred March 05, 2017 in Nome, Alaska

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Anchorage, Alaska  

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Thomas J. Grainger:

NTSB Identification: ANC17FA018
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, March 05, 2017 in Nome, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA R172K, registration: N736AS
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 March 5, 2017, about 2223 Alaska standard time, a wheel-equipped Cessna 172K airplane, N736AS, sustained substantial damage during impact with sea ice in Norton Sound about 10 miles east of Nome, Alaska. The private pilot and sole occupant received fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed along the route of flight, and instrument meteorological condition (IMC) prevailed at the destination. No flight plan was filed. The flight departed the Wasilla Airport, Wasilla, Alaska at 1710 destined for Nome City Field Airport (94Z), Nome.

During an interview with the National Transportations Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on March 7, the pilot's fiancé said that the pilot was going to visit friends in Nome and that he was time limited by his work schedule. She said that at about 1700 she witnessed him fueling the airplane and two fuel containers, for a total of 35.3 gallons, per the fuel company records. She said that the pilot flew this route often, maybe 20 times before, but usually in summer.

During an interview with the NTSB IIC on March 8, a friend of the pilot in Nome said that she was expecting him that night by 2130 and he was planning to land at Nome City Field. The airplane arrived in the Nome area at 2141 and she and the pilot texted back and forth for the remainder of the flight. Prior to making any approaches, the friend texted the weather to be "10 miles 600 over." The pilot texted back "Ok I think I can sneak in," then he proceeded to make four visual approaches to City Field runway 21, as well as circling maneuvers in the area. He texted "one more try" and after he couldn't land, he texted "one more ok" before his last attempt. At 2214 he texted "not happening" and departed the area. 

During an interview with the NTSB IIC on March 7, a witness who lives near City Airport saw the airplane making multiple approaches and depart to the east. He also heard a transmission on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) of 123.6 MHz that sounded like "no, no, no" sometime after the airplane departed the area. The concerned witness then listened on 121.5 MHz for an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal, but did not hear one.

The pilot's fiancé reported the airplane overdue at about 0530 on March 6. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an ALNOT (alert notice) at 0606 and an area wide airport and radio search was conducted. At about 0959 a Nome Search and Rescue crew located the airplane wreckage about 10 miles east of Nome, on sea ice, near Hastings Creek. The wreckage consisted of the entire airplane in a vertical nose down attitude. The Garmin GPSMAP 296 device was recovered and downloaded by the NTSB IIC. 

The Garmin GPS data indicates that the airplane took off from Wasilla at 1710 and made no enroute stops. The data shows an airplane track that included four approaches to Nome City Airport runway 21, some maneuvering in the area, then a departure to the east. The total GPS distance flown was 596 statute miles and total GPS time 5.3 hours. The last data point was at time 2223 and indicated the airplane at a groundspeed of 42 mph and 373 feet GPS altitude near the wreckage location.

According to the FAA Alaska Chart Supplement, the Nome City Field Airport has no lighting and is not plowed in winter. About one mile to the west is Nome Airport, which does have runway and approach lighting and is fully maintained.

The pilot held a current FAA Third Class Medical Certificate that stated the restriction "not valid for night flying or by color signal control." 

The Cessna 172K Pilot Operating Handbook indicates a maximum fuel capacity of 52 U.S. gallons and usable fuel of 49 U.S. gallons. The actual fuel quantity for this flight is unknown.

The closest weather reporting facility is Nome Airport, Nome, Alaska, about 11 miles west of the accident site. At 2204, an aviation special weather report (SPECI) from the Nome Airport was reporting in part: Wind calm; sky condition, overcast 400 feet; visibility, 10 statute miles; temperature -21 degrees C; dewpoint -22 degrees C; altimeter, 30.49 inHg. Official sunset was 1933.

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

Thomas J. Grainger

Thomas Joseph Grainger was born on June 24, 1988, in Salinas, Calif., and passed away suddenly on March 5, 2017, outside of Nome, Alaska. Born and raised in Central California, he graduated from Sacramento State University with a degree in business. He always dreamed about living in Alaska and drove here with his best friend, Marshall, in a beat-up old Ford Bronco, in the summer of 2010. He quickly settled into the Alaskan lifestyle, making many friends along the way. He found his love and future fiancee and family with his beloved girls: Kristina and her daughter, Hannah. He was widely known around Anchorage, Alaska, for his community involvement, including Fur Rondy. Tom's quick wit, incredible smile, giving heart and sense of humor were well-known. Tom is survived by his parents, Joe and Lori Grainger of Salinas; and his two sisters, Maggie and Brittney of San Francisco, Calif. He is also survived by his grandparents, Manuel and Laura Gularte of Salinas; and many aunts, uncles and cousins. He also leaves behind his loving fiancee, Kristina Roush; and her daughter, Hannah Craven of Palmer, Alaska; as well as countless friends and acquaintances he came to know as his Alaskan family. To say Tom will be greatly missed is an understatement. An Alaskan Celebration of Life, open to the public, is scheduled for Saturday, March 11, 2017. It will be from 2 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. at the Homewood Suites in the Klondike Glacier Bay Room, 101 West 48th Avenue in Anchorage. There will be time to share stories, pay respects and celebrate Tom. A memorial will follow in Salinas, Calif., on Sunday, March 19, 2017. Condolences may be sent to: Joe and Lori Grainger, 19667 Woodcrest Drive, Salinas, CA 93908. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Tom's name to your favorite charity . Arrangements are with Janssen Funeral Homes Inc.

ANCHORAGE –   Alaska Sate Troopers say a pilot was killed when his plane went down near Nome.

The pilot, identified as 28-year-old Wasilla resident Thomas Grainger, was flying from Wasilla to Nome, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters wrote. The Cessna 172 was unable to land in Nome due to weather, and was later reported overdue on Monday morning around 5:40 a.m.

Grainger’s last communication was at 10:30 p.m. Sunday, according to Peters. Nearly 12 hours later, Nome search and rescue personnel found the aircraft at Hastings Creek, 10 miles east of Nome.

Grainger was confirmed dead at the scene, Peters said, noting that the state medical examiner’s office had been notified.

He was the only person aboard the plane, Peters confirmed. She said later his family has been notified of his death.

Troopers also notified the National Transportation Safety Board, which will conduct an investigation of the crash, according to Peters.

Attempts to reach the agency were not immediately successful.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesman Allen Kenitzer confirmed his agency was also involved in the crash investigation. 

Story and comments:

NOME, Alaska --   The Cessna 172 has no association with the Iditarod.

The Iditarod Trail Committee says that they do not have any planes associated with the race heading in that direction, as mushers will not arrive in Nome for more than a week.

Original Story - Monday, 3:07 p.m.

Nome Search and Rescue located a downed aircraft, at Hastings Creek, on Monday, around 10 a.m. The pilot was confirmed dead, after Alaska State Troopers responded to the scene.

Earlier today, at approximately 5:40 a.m., troopers were alerted to an overdue aircraft, flying from Wasilla to Nome.

The pilot's fiancé reported that the pilot could not land in Nome, due to bad weather, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Instead, he planned on returning to Wasilla.

The pilot left Wasilla on Sunday, at approximately 9:11 p.m, according to NTSB. And the pilot's last communication occurred around 10:30 p.m., according to AST.

At this time, reports say the pilot was the only occupant of the plane. And NTSB says this was not a commercial flight.

The pilot’s identify has not been released, because next of kin still needs to be notified.

NTSB says they will conduct an on scene detailed examination of the wreckage, as it lays east of Nome, on Tuesday.

The tail number of the orange and white Cessna 172 is N736AS. Anyone with any information of the incident is asked to contact NTSB at (202) 314-6290.


An aircraft reported overdue after departing from Wasilla Sunday was found crashed near Nome Monday, with its pilot and sole occupant dead, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Alaska State Troopers identified the pilot at 28-year-old Wasilla resident Thomas Grainger, whose family was told about the crash.

NTSB investigator Noreen Price said that the privately operated Cessna 172 was found crashed about 7 miles east of Nome. The plane had been on a flight from Wasilla to Nome Sunday evening, she said, and is believed to have crashed sometime after 10 p.m. that night.

"He texted his fiancee at 9:11 p.m. that he could not land due to weather," Price said.

Grainger's last communication came at 10:30 p.m., according to troopers.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said an alert for the overdue plane was issued at about 6 a.m. Monday. He said the pilot was reportedly flying under visual flight rules and hadn't filed a flight plan.

Nome Search and Rescue crews deployed Monday to find the plane, Price said, including two snowmachiners who headed east after the plane was last heard heading in that direction. The aircraft was discovered around 10 a.m.

The Iditarod Trail Committee said the plane didn't have any connection with the 1,000-mile race to Nome, which began Monday in Fairbanks.

Both the NTSB and the FAA will be investigating the crash, Price said.


Purdue Aviation gains Federal Aviation Administration approval for new certification status

Students in Purdue Aviation are now able to get their pilot’s licenses faster.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved Part 141 of the flight school certification, which demands less time for students to get their pilot’s licenses than what they previously had with Part 61.

The new certification will open up new opportunities for students, particularly those in the school of aviation transportation technology within the Polytechnic Institute.

Jeff Pittard, the president of Purdue Aviation, said the process to receive the Part 141 certification took around 11 months. He said it will allow Purdue Aviation to expand outside of the University.

“We have several opportunities to partner with other organizations to be a source to train professional pilots,” Pittard said.

Pittard said that Part 141 allows students in the flight school to receive their commercial pilot certificates in 60 fewer hours.

“We want to be able to create a school where we are teaching prospective students to become professional pilots in less than a year’s time,” Pittard said.

Ryan Emery, a student who received his pilot’s license through Purdue Aviation, said that Part 141 will help organize how a student can obtain his or her license.

“When I received my license, there was no set structure to when I had to take my classes,” Emery said. “With this new certification, students will have a more concrete schedule to know when they take their classes.”

Read more here:

Laser pointed at plane approaching Gerald R. Ford International Airport (KGRR), Grand Rapids, Michigan

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Police are investigating after an airliner pilot on approach to Gerald R. Ford International Airport said a laser was pointed into his cockpit on Saturday night.

It’s at least the third similar incident at the metro Grand Rapids airport in recent years.

The pilot of a Delta flight saw the green flash coming from the Bailey’s Grove subdivision, west of the airport.

“The pilot called in to air traffic control and basically said they were around two miles out and had a green laser pointed into the cockpit,” airport Marketing Director Tara Hernanadez told 24 Hour News 8.

Air controllers called Kentwood police, as well as the FBI and Transportation Security Administration.

The plane landed safely.

YouTube video shows what happens when a laser is pointed into the cockpit of an aircraft and the narrow beam of light starts bouncing off the interior of the plane. It can cause some real problems for pilots at one of the most critical points of a flight.

“Taking off and landing at an airport is a crucial time when you’re in a plane, so it’s important to know, you might think of it as just a fun piece, a laser that can’t do any harm, but it can really do more harm than good,” Hernandez said.

Someone caught pointing a laser at an aircraft could face felony charges.

Story and video:

Beech G35, N219B: Aircraft landed gear up

AIRCRAFT – M&M, S/N: 1956 Beechcraft G35, N219B Serial No. D-4522

ENGINE   -  M&M, S/N:  Continental E-225-8-E225-ARS1001 which is a modified IO-470

PROPELLER – M&M, S/N: Damaged

TOTAL HOURS (estimated TT & TSMO from logbooks or other information):

ENGINE:  651.6 hours SMOH

PROPELLER:   Damaged

AIRFRAME:  4,923.9 hours

OTHER EQUIPMENT:     KMA24, Narco AT165, KLN 94, MX170C, MX170B, KN64

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  Aircraft landed gear up.

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES:    Belly skins, propeller, sudden engine stoppage, lower cowling and air intake, all gear doors and cowl flaps.

LOCATION OF AIRCRAFT:   On the ramp at Washington Regional Airport, MO

Read more here:

In the battle over who controls U.S. airspace, it’s big lobbyists vs. small airports

WASHINGTON --    Big airlines spent more than $16 million to lobby Congress and federal agencies last year.

The city of Wichita spent $80,000 and its allies spent some more, but their combined firepower was nowhere near that of the airlines.

The airlines’ lineup included three former U.S. senators, one of them a former Republican leader. Wichita’s mayor joined other city officials across the country and wrote Congress a letter.

Yet Wichita and its friends aren’t down and out. This little guy/big guy fight is classic Washington power politics, as the two sides spar over a proposal from the big airlines and their trade groups to remove air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration, where it’s been for decades.

Small cities and general aviation manufacturing hubs oppose the effort to transfer that responsibility to a private corporation governed largely by the industry.

The airlines are eager to change the system because they’ll have more control over the nation’s airspace. The Wichitas of America fear they’ll end up paying higher costs in fees for takeoffs and landings – and have less control over a system dominated by major airlines.

“There’s hundreds of communities that feel the same way we do,” said Victor White, the director of Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport.

Wichita, the nation’s leading manufacturer of small airplanes, is the largest city whose mayor signed a letter to congressional leaders opposing the plans to change who oversees U.S. airspace.

“On behalf of the tens of thousands of communities around the country, we are concerned about the very real and dire ramifications of eliminating congressional oversight of this public air transportation infrastructure,” said the letter, dated Monday and signed by Wichita’s Republican mayor, Jeff Longwell, and 117 other mayors nationwide.

Wichita and some of its aviation manufacturers have lobbyists in Washington, but they’re up against well-paid and well-connected former members of Congress and their staffs. Among the Washington heavyweights pulling for the big airlines: former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and former Sens. John Breaux, D-La., and Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo.

The commercial carriers that serve Wichita – including American, United and Southwest – paid Washington firms a combined $10 million for lobbying last year to push, in part, for the change in air traffic control. Southwest paid $120,000 to Kit Bond Strategies, the former senator’s firm.

Airlines for America, an industry trade association, spent another $6.4 million on lobbying last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington watchdog group. It paid $350,000 to Squire Patton Boggs, where Lott and Breaux are senior counsel.

Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for the group, said “modernizing our nation’s ATC infrastructure in the sky is every bit as critical to our economy as roads, rail and bridges — thus we are urging Congress to deliver the world-class ATC system that the traveling and shipping public deserves.”

The city of Wichita, by contrast, paid one lobbyist at the Washington firm of Alcalde & Fay $80,000 to do all its advocacy work last year, including opposition to the plan to place air traffic control in the airline industry’s hands. It did get help from some other interests.

The system is already safe and efficient, White said.

“The users are saying it’s not broken,” he said. “Let’s not throw it out.”

The big airlines want to upend the air traffic control system to speed up implementation of NextGen, a long-stalled project to replace 1950s ground-based radar technology with GPS systems capable of moving more planes more closely together through the sky.

The FAA estimates that it will cost the federal government and the airline industry $35.8 billion to complete the system by 2030. The airlines think their plan can make it happen faster.

At an aviation conference last week in Washington hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, current and former airline executives talked up a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to change who controls the skies.

“It’s sort of like having a gravel highway when you need a highway,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said of the air traffic control system. “You just talk with Boeing and you talk with Airbus, they are building Ferraris. You could never drive a Ferrari on a gravel road.”

Bob Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines, said other countries, including Canada, had removed control of their airspace from the government with satisfactory results.

“This concept has been adopted by more than 50 other countries in one form or another,” he said. “No country that has made the change has ever sought to change back.”

But to Selena Shilad, the executive director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, an advocacy group for general aviation and local airports, improving air traffic control technology is a shared goal that can be accomplished without changing who runs it.

“There’s a lot of ideas on modernization,” she said. “We have concerns about the conflation of modernization with privatization.”

Shilad and White reject the comparisons with Canada and other countries.

“The amount of air traffic that uses their system is minuscule,” White said.

“We’re so much larger and more diverse,” Shilad said.

Shilad’s group, which does not employ a lobbying firm, has some notable allies that do, including Textron, a leading manufacturer of general aviation and business aircraft that employs thousands of workers in Wichita. Delta Air Lines is the notable among major air carriers in opposing the privatization proposal.

Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran and Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, are members of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over aviation policy, and are vocal opponents of the Shuster bill.

While the measure never got a floor vote in the House of Representatives or the Senate, it’s likely to resurface. Congress must reauthorize the FAA by Sept. 30.

“It’s far from over,” White said.

About 88 percent of the airports that are eligible for federal improvement funds do not have scheduled air service. Though Wichita does have commercial service, its economy depends heavily on general aviation.

“There’s a real concern here, particularly among small and midsize communities,” Shilad said. “We’re thrilled that Wichita joined.”


Small airports, many Minnesota towns, fear turning air traffic control into a business

Mayors from small and midsize cities around Minnesota and the country are concerned about efforts to privatize the nation's air traffic control system, a move they fear would harm rural airports and communities.

More than 100 mayors from all 50 states, including those from Winona, Albert Lea, Ely and New Ulm, sent a letter Monday to the U.S. House and Senate transportation committees, opposing renewed efforts to put the system in the hands of business.

These mayors worry that would give commercial airlines an outsized role in governing the system and could lead to a loss of air service, loss of federal "critical airport" designations, higher fees and financial infeasibility.

Most rural air strips are used for general aviation, which is the industry term for all civil aviation besides commercial flights. These smaller airports often serve aircraft used in medical emergencies, to fight wildfires, transfer organs for transplants, monitor power lines and train pilots.

Minnesota has 135 airports that employ 26,000 people. General aviation in the state contributes an estimated $5.3 billion in economic benefit, according to a 2013 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"Currently thousands of airports around the country are designated as critical to our national air transportation system by the FAA and thus are eligible for federal funding," said Selena Shilad, executive director of Alliance for Aviation Across America, which organized the mayors' letter. "If you put this network under the purview of a private board that is accountable to private commercial interests, that gives us grave concern."

Governance of the nation's airways is a perennial debate in Washington, but the thrum has grown louder in recent months. Airlines For America, the lobbying group representing the majority of U.S. commercial carriers, is making a hard push for privatizing air traffic control and the new Trump administration has signaled favor for a dramatic overhaul.

Opponents include members of both political parties. The Senate appropriations committee, led by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, sent a letter to the chamber's committee on commerce, science and transportation, opposing efforts to privatize air traffic control.

Proponents say a quasi-governmental public-private entity, like Amtrak or Fannie Mae, would be nimbler and quicker to implement the Federal Aviation Administration's modernization efforts, called NextGen, a program rollout plagued by delays. Airlines and other advocates argue that removing it from Congressional oversight would also stabilize its funding.

The appropriations committee took issue with this common complaint. While funding for the FAA, like other federal agencies, must be reauthorized by Congress every few years, "assertions of a lack of stable funding for the FAA are simply inaccurate," the committee wrote in a letter on Feb. 28. "In fact, the Appropriations Committee has protected and prioritized funding for the Air Traffic Organization by providing more than 99 percent of the Administration's budget request since 2008."

Proponents often point to Canada and the United Kingdom as examples for how to privatize. These systems rely more heavily on user fees, which opponents say drives up the cost to fly. Opponents like to remind them that the United Kingdom had to bail out its private air traffic control entity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Privatization worries George Bolon, the fixed based operator at the Winona Airport, who supports his mayor signing the letter.

"You will increase the cost for the light, general aviation pilot. You will increase the cost for training schools. You will significantly reduce the safety factor, in my estimation," Bolon said.

Safety will be compromised, Bolon believes, as higher costs may encourage some pilots to "risk it" and fly "under the radar" without letting Air Traffic Control know its flight plans.

"If people become economically driven, they often miss the safety factor," Bolon said. "Saving one person is worth a lot of money. The system currently in able to do this."

Delta Air Lines is an exception among the major commercial carriers in its opposition of privatization. The Atlanta-based airline, and largest operator at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, split from the airline industry trade group last spring over the issue.

Richard Anderson, then-CEO of Delta, was a vocal critic of efforts to privatize air traffic control. Delta pulled its membership from Airlines For America and wrote several Op-Eds in newspapers saying it believed privatization would escalate costs for the airlines and, ultimately, for passengers.

In a paper outlining its opposition, Delta said, "General aviation flights typically use more monetary resources than they give back." If the system is privatized and turned into a revenue-based system, air traffic control resources would likely be prioritized at the larger hub airports rather than spread across the country, Delta argued.

The FAA manages a network of more than 13,500 airports across the U.S., according to the CIA World Factbook. The next largest network is the entire European Union with about 3,100 airports followed by Mexico's 1,700 airports. The federal agency gives airport improvement grants to large and small airports.

Hub airports rely on nearby general aviation airports to relieve them of flights that may not be able to land due to weather or other incidents. Winona Airport is undergoing a $12.5 million improvement project for its safety navigation, such as runway lighting, and about 90 percent was funded by the FAA, Bolon said, "and there's no question that money [was generated by] the major hubs."

Shilad of the Alliance for Aviation Across America said, "In a private system, the board could direct all of the investments to whatever airports they wanted. In many cases, some smaller airports couldn't survive."


Rep Bill Shuster pushes proposal to privatize air traffic control

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep Bill Shuster, R-Everett, to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system has met bipartisan opposition in the Senate.

Shuster's proposal is included in the six-year re-authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. The Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4441) would establish an independent, not-for-profit corporation to provide domestic air traffic control.

Air traffic controllers make sure aircraft land safely at airports across the nation.

Shuster, chairman of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, proposed ATC privatization last year. The Senate failed to debate the idea. The House did not vote on it. Instead Congress extended the authorization of FAA as is, until Sept. 1.

Last year the proposal also faced the election-year publicity of Shuster’s personal relationship with Airlines For America vice president Shelley Rubino.

The airline industry has been a leading contributor to Shuster's career. Airline employees and political action committees in 2015-16 contributed nearly $300,000 to his re-election campaign and more than $50,000 to his leadership PAC, according to

The Trump administration has given the idea new wings. President Trump met with airline lobbyists last month.

"The United States is falling behind and is not the aviation leader it once was," Shuster spokesman Casey Contres said. "Congressman Shuster has been in close contact with the Trump Administration on the benefits to his plan, like removing 30,000 people out of the government and making it easier to make technological upgrades that can increase safety and efficiency. The conversations with the Trump Administration have been extremely positive."

Shuster has argued that keeping the current ATC system will result in:

More setbacks and soaring costs for failed modernization efforts.
A bureaucracy continuing to stifle American innovation.
A system incapable of handling growing demand. 

Shuster’s proposed air traffic control corporation would be governed by a board representing the users of the system and the public. Airlines for America, representing most of the largest carriers, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, support the privatization. Others in the industry and some lawmakers are opposed.

“The public would not be well-served by exempting any part of the FAA from annual congressional oversight,” said a letter from Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi;  Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont; Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine, and ranking member Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island. The committee regulates government expenditures.

The letter was sent on Feb. 28 to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

The FAA is upgrading its training and equipment with a satellite-based program known as NextGen.

Cochran and the other senators argue that "if air traffic control were separated during this critical period of technological advancement, the progress already being made … would be lost. It does not appear to make sense to break apart the FAA.”

"Congressman Shuster has urged members of Congress to take time to review and understand his proposal," Contres said. "It’s a transformational reform, so there’s going to be an education process to why this legislation is needed – and we are in that phase right now."

A report from Shuster’s committee claims that the passengers, shippers and aircraft operators have seen few benefits from $6 billion the FAA has already spent on NextGen. Projects have taken longer and cost more than originally proposed. The FAA, created in 1958, is “broken beyond repair.”

“The federal government’s record of failed, abandoned and delayed ATC modernization programs continues to grow,” according to the report. “Between 1996 and 2014, the FAA’s total budget nearly doubled, yet during this period, air traffic levels dropped by 20 percent, meaning taxpayers are now paying the FAA nearly twice as much to do only 80 percent of the work they were doing in the 1990s.”

There’s a conflict of interest in having the FAA operate the ATC and oversee aviation safety, according to Chris Edwards, director of tax policy at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“In coming years, rising demands for air travel are expected to severely strain the FAA,” he said. “Our airspace is getting crowded, and our antiquated ATC is causing delays and wasting fuel.”

Shuster has argued that unpredictable funding from Congress also has impeded the FFA upgrades.

Leaders on the Senate appropriations committee said that’s not true. Their committee has funded 99 percent of the administration’s request for air traffic control since 2008.

The public would not be well-served by exempting any part of the FAA from congressional oversight, the senators said. Annual oversight assures that the FAA keeps a system that works for small communities as well as large metro areas.

Shuster’s committee report said the FAA has been subject to political interference contributing to the FAA’s inability to implement NextGen.

More than 100 mayors say the proposed air traffic control board would be weighted toward interests of commercial airlines and could hurt rural communities. They sent letters to Shuster and Cochran.

The most recent FAA re-authorization was passed after 23 short-term extensions over a period of five years.


Cessna 162 Skycatcher, Toadsuck Sport Aviation LLC, N3028G: Accident occurred March 03, 2017 at Cantrell Field Airport (KCXW), Conway, Faulkner County, Arkansas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Little Rock, Arkansas 

Toadsuck Sport Aviation LLC:

NTSB Identification: CEN17CA116
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, March 03, 2017 in Conway, AR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/15/2017
Aircraft: CESSNA 162, registration: N3028G
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot was conducting a local personal flight. The pilot said he developed “unnecessary anxiety” and hurried his landing due to approaching traffic. He failed to brake aggressively and, as a result, was unable to turn in time to exit the runway. The airplane rolled off the taxiway and became bogged down in the wet grass from a previous rain. Instead of shutting the engine off, the pilot closed the throttle to idle, exited the airplane, and tried to push the airplane with the left strut. “Without thinking,” the pilot walked toward the nosewheel to inspect the airplane and walked into the rotating propeller.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to shut down the engine before exiting the airplane and his failure to focus his attention on the task at hand, which led to his walking into a rotating propeller.

Cessna A185F, Division of Wildlife, N5485E: Incident occurred March 03, 2017 in Rifle, Garfield County, Colorado

Division of Wildlife:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Denver, Colorado  

Aircraft on landing, nosed over. 

Date: 03-MAR-17
Time: 21:00:00Z
Regis#: N5485E
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: C185
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: PUBLIC USE
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)

Consolidated B-24J Liberator, N224J: Incident occurred March 04, 2017 in Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida

CCT of 1979 B-24 Series LLC B-24 Series:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Birmingham 

Aircraft landed, engine caught fire and was extinguished.  

Date: 04-MAR-17
Time: 17:03:00Z
Regis#: N224J
Aircraft Model: B24J
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)

Cessna 152, Wingroot LLC, N94552: Incident occurred March 03, 2017 in Indiantown, Martin County, Florida

WingRoot LLC:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: South Florida

Aircraft force landed in a field. 

Date: 03-MAR-17
Time: 20:15:00Z
Regis#: N94552
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: C152
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)