Saturday, July 22, 2017

Vans RV-7, N307AB: Fatal accident occurred December 10, 2015 near General Dick Stout Field Airport (1L8), Hurricane, Washington County, Utah

"Our Christmas photo session 2010 with our last plane a Beech Debonair," Bonnie Ackerman posted on her Facebook page, date and location unspecified.

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah 

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA036
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 10, 2015 in Hurricane, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/20/2017
Aircraft: BARNETT ALLEN S RV7, registration: N307AB
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 airline transport pilot was conducting a local personal flight in the experimental amateur built airplane, with one passenger on board. Several witnesses located near the accident site reported that they heard the airplane's engine and that it sounded like it was making power changes. The witnesses added that they then saw airplane debris floating in the air. One witness stated that the engine was running during the entire descent and that he saw the airplane spiraling and descending in a cork-screw type maneuver. Another witness reported seeing the airplane inverted at a low altitude just before impact. 

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed damage to the horizontal stabilizers and elevators that was consistent with a downward failure in positive overload. The loads required to fail the horizontal stabilizers and elevators cannot be generated from normal flight or control movements. Such failures would have required an abrupt pull back on the stick and corresponding movement of the elevator to a trailing-edge-up position, at speeds greater than the airplane's maneuvering speed. Failure of the horizontal tail first would have caused the airplane to pitch down rapidly, producing air loads on the upper surface of the wing that were sufficient to fail them in negative overload. The damage observed on the wings was consistent with a downward failure in negative overload. Additionally, there were no indications of any pre-existing cracks or anomalies with the horizontal stabilizers, elevators, or wing structures and no pre-accident anomalies were observed that would have precluded normal control of the airplane.

A review of the weather information indicated that there were likely low-level winds gusting from 26 to 46 knots at the time of the accident and that moderate-to-severe turbulence likely existed at the accident site. The weather conditions likely contributed to the in-flight breakup by either aggravating a flight maneuver or preventing a recovery from a loss of airplane control.

Although doxylamine was detected in the pilot's liver it was not detected in the blood; therefore, it is unlikely that it was causing any performance decrements that would have affected the pilot at the time of the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's abrupt flight control inputs, likely above the maneuvering speed, in severe winds and turbulence conditions, which resulted in an in-flight breakup.

Shawn Arthur Ackerman, 56, and Bonnie Bergstrom Ackerman, 49, died in an airplane crash near Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane, Utah.


On December 10, 2015, about 1347 mountain standard time, an experimental amateur built, RV-7 airplane, N307AB, experienced an in-flight break up and then impacted terrain about 3 miles west of General Dick Stout Field Airport, Hurricane, Utah. The airline transport pilot and passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and was being operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed near the accident site about the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The local flight departed from an unknown airport at an undetermined time.

Several witnesses located near the accident site stated that they heard the airplane's engine and that it sounded like it was making power changes. The witnesses added that they saw airplane debris floating in the air. One witness stated that the engine was running during the entire descent and that he also observed the airplane spiraling and descending in a cork-screw type maneuver. Another witness reported seeing the airplane inverted at a low altitude just before impact. 


The pilot, held an airline transport pilot certificate with airplane multi-engine land, single-engine land, instrument, and instructor single-engine land ratings. The pilot was issued a first-class Federal Aviation Administration airman medical certificate on October 22, 2015, with the limitation that he must have glasses available for near vision. The pilot reported on his most recent medical certificate application that he had accumulated 17,359 total flight hours, 403 flight hours of which were accumulated in the previous 180 days. 


The two-seat, low-wing, fixed-gear airplane, was assembled in 2011, and it was issued an airworthiness certificate certified for aerobatic maneuvers in March 2011. It was powered by an experimental 180-horsepower ECI/Titan IO-360 reciprocating engine. The engine was equipped with a Whirlwind 200RV propeller. The last documented inspection was a conditional inspection that was completed on May 15, 2015, at an airframe time of 258.9 hours. 

The airplane's manufacturer website listed the maximum load factor as positive +6 g and a minimum load factor as -3 g. Additionally, the Pilot's Operating Handbook lists the maneuvering speed (Va) as 142 mph. In the remarks, it stated, "do not make full control movements above this speed. Full elevator deflection will result in a 6g load at this speed." Any speed greater than Va with full control application could result in g-loads that exceeded the design limits.


The 1355 recorded weather observation at Saint George Regional Airport, Saint George, Utah, located about 12 miles west-southwest from the accident site, reported calm wind, visibility 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 12° C, dew point -2° C, and an altimeter setting of 29.87 inches of mercury. 

The accident site was located between a cold front to the northwest and a high-pressure area to the southwest, in an area of strong-pressure gradient. A model sounding, which included a wind profile, for the area over the accident site about the time of the accident, estimated that the surface horizontal wind speed was estimated to be 220° at 8 knots, with winds increasing in speed with height and veering to the west. The mean 0-to-18,000 ft mean sea level (msl) winds were from 250° at 52 knots. The model supported light-to-moderate clear air turbulence from 6,400 through 8,000 ft msl, and mountain wave development from 10,000 to 12,000 ft msl. 

Pilot reports noted evidence of mountain wave activity in the region but with moderate-to-severe turbulence near the accident site; at 6,500 ft msl, consistent with the model sounding. An AIRMET for moderate turbulence below 18,000 ft, was active over the accident site at the accident time. No SIGMET was active for the accident site at the accident time.


The airplane wreckage was located about 4.2 miles southwest of Hurricane, Utah, on flat sagebrush-covered terrain on top of a mesa. The debris path was about 1,460 ft long and 450 ft wide. All major components of the airplane were located in the debris path. 

The main airplane wreckage was located almost at the northern extent of the debris field and included the fuselage, engine, right wing, half of the left wing, a majority of the left and right elevators, and the lower half of the rudder. The vertical stabilizer with the upper half of the rudder attached was located at the southern extent of the debris field, located about 1,420 ft south-southwest of the main wreckage. The left and right horizontal stabilizers were located about 850 ft and 790 ft, respectively, south of the main wreckage. The left aileron was located about 430 ft south-southwest of the main wreckage, and the left outboard wing was located about 320 ft south-southwest of the main wreckage.

The main wreckage was found inverted. There were no noticeable ground scars leading up to the wreckage. The fuselage was intact, but the upper half was crushed. The canopy frame was separated from the airframe and located about 55 ft northeast of the main wreckage. Most of the acrylic canopy was fractured from the frame and found in many pieces in the debris field. The engine remained attached to the fuselage. One of the composite propeller blades was fractured from the hub and the other blade was missing the tip portion. Debris consistent with propeller material was found around the main wreckage. The examination of the engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The main landing gear remained attached to the lower fuselage, and there was some deformation at the attachment points.

The entire right wing remained attached to the fuselage with the flap and aileron attached. The right flap was in the "up" position. The outboard half of the right wing was deformed downward about 15º to 20º at the flap/aileron junction, located about 57 inches outboard of the wing attachment point. The upper and lower wing skins were buckled around the area where the wing was deformed downward. The right fiberglass wingtip remained attached to the wing but was splayed open at the trailing edge. 

The inboard half of the left wing remained attached to the fuselage with the flap attached. The left flap was in the "up" position. The outboard half of the left wing had separated at the flap/aileron junction located about 57 inches outboard of the wing attachment point. The main spar fractured at the location where the upper and lower spar caps undergo a net section decrease from inboard to outboard. The outboard half of the left wing was mostly intact with minimal damage noted.


The Utah Department of Health, Office of the Medical Examiner, conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was "blunt force trauma."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing specimens from the pilot. Testing results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and volatiles. The testing detected doxylamine in the liver but not in the blood and ibuprofen in the blood.

Doxylamine is an over-the-counter antihistamine medication that can be used in combination with decongestants and other medications to relieve sneezing, runny nose, and nasal congestion caused by the common cold and can be sedating. Ibuprofen is used to reduce fever and to relieve minor aches and pains from headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, the common cold etc.


Structures Examination

A postaccident examination of the inboard and outboard wing sections at the fracture location revealed that the fracture exhibited damage and deformation consistent with the separation of the outboard portion of the wing in a downward direction. The horizontal stabilizer forward spar fractured about 2 inches outboard of the side of the fuselage on both sides. Both of the horizontal stabilizer spar caps were deformed down and aft at the fracture location. The elevators were deformed down and aft matching the spar deformation. 

The left and right horizontal stabilizers were found in the debris field. The outboard elevator hinges remained attached to both stabilizers and the hinges were pulled from the elevators. About 18 inches of the outboard portion of horizontal stabilizer rear spar on each side remained installed in the horizontal stabilizers. The upper and lower skins separated from the remainder of the rear spar along the rivet lines. There was buckling damage on the lower skin of both horizontal stabilizers consistent with the stabilizers separating downward. 

Control continuity was established from the cockpit controls to the elevators and the right aileron. The left aileron controls cables were fractured and had a splayed, broom-strawed appearance, consistent with tension overload. The rudder cables were jammed somewhere in the fuselage, and control continuity could not be established, but the cables remained attached at the rudder and the pedals.

All the fractures exhibited a dull, grainy appearance consistent with overstress separation. There was no evidence of progressive or pre-existing fractures on any of the parts.

Electronic Devices

No flight data for the accident flight could be recovered from the electronic devices found in the wreckage. However, a GoPro Hero 4 camera, which had sustained significant impact damage, revealed two files recorded on previous flights in which the accident airplane performed an aileron roll to the right.

Radar Data:

A review of the radar track from commercially available sources revealed two tracks that were consistent with the accident airplane. The first track was 17 minutes long and ended at 1332 when the airplane was at 6,150 ft. Altitudes throughout the track varied from 6,150 to 9,350 ft, and the groundspeed varied between 24 and 168 knots. Most of the first half of the track show the airplane climbing, and the second half of the track shows the airplane descending. The track shows the airplane flying west and then performing a couple of circling maneuvers and in slow flight. The airplane then turned south and shortly thereafter, it makes a right northerly turn.

The second track, which may be associated with the accident airplane, started at 1336 when the airplane was at 6,625 ft. The data only shows 1 minute of flight. The heading is nearly south, and the groundspeed range is between 127 and 133 knots.

Weight and Balance

The distribution of the airplane contents throughout the debris field prevented an accurate weight and balance assessment and the airplane's most recent weight and balance records were not located. Therefore, an estimated weight and balance calculation was conducted. According to the airplane's kit manufacturer, the airplane had a maximum factory basic weight of 1,114 lbs and a useful load of 686 lbs. The medical examiner reported that the total weight of the occupants was 306 lbs. Assuming a total fuel load of 42 gallons, the airplane would have been about 128 lbs below its maximum gross weight of 1,800 lbs at the time of the accident.

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA036 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 10, 2015 in Hurricane, UT
Aircraft: BARNETT ALLEN S RV7, registration: N307AB
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 December 10, 2015, about 1347 mountain standard time, a Barnett Allen Experimental amateur built, Vans Aircraft, Inc., RV7 airplane, N307AB, experienced an inflight break up, and sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain about 3 miles west of the General Dick Stout Field Airport, Hurricane, Utah. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The airline transport pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual (VMC) meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The local personal flight departed from an unknown airport at an undetermined time.

Examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board, investigator-in-charge revealed that the debris path was about ½ mile long. All major components of the airplane were discovered in the debris path. The first piece observed was the vertical stabilizer with the upper portion of the rudder attached. The left wing separated about mid span and both horizontal stabilizers also separated and were scattered throughout the center of the debris field. 

Several witnesses observed airplane debris floating in the air. The witnesses stated that the airplane's engine sounded like it was making power changes. One witness stated that the engine was running the entire descent. He observed the airplane spiraling and descending in a cork screw type maneuver. Another witness observed the airplane inverted at a low altitude just prior to impact. 

The airplane was recovered to a secure facility for further examination.

Piper PA-28-180, N2814T: Accident occurred July 22, 2017 at Umphlett Airstrip (VG37), Whaleyville, Suffolk, Virginia

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Richmond, Virginia

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket  - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Whaleyville, VA
Accident Number: GAA17CA430
Date & Time: 07/22/2017, 2036 EDT
Registration: N2814T
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-180
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on ground
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

According to the pilot, he touched down on the approach end of the grass airstrip.

During the landing roll, he did not realize that, his "right foot was resting against the right toe brake." The airplane exited the right side of the airstrip and struck trees.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right-wing spar and the horizontal stabilizer.

The pilot did not possess a Federal Aviation Administration pilot certificate.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Pilot Information

Certificate: None
Age: 55, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None 
Last FAA Medical Exam: None
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: None
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 225 hours (Total, all aircraft), 150 hours (Total, this make and model), 50 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: PIPER
Registration: N2814T
Model/Series: PA 28-180 180
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1972
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 28-7205226
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 06/09/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2150 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 4716 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O&VO-360 SER
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: KSFQ, 72 ft msl
Observation Time: 1215 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 6 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 17°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 24°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots, 240°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Suffolk, VA
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Suffolk, VA (SAME)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 2036
Type of Airspace: Class G 

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 75 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Soft; Wet
Runway Used: 19
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2550 ft / 60 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop; Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 36.589444, -76.638056 (est)

NORFOLK --  The first time federal investigators questioned the Suffolk airplane enthusiast about flying without a license, he claimed he’d done nothing wrong.

The second time, Robert R. Gray Jr. confessed to flying a plane but said he thought it was allowed because he was with a licensed instructor. He promised not to do it again.

Gray’s third time didn’t end well. The man with one leg crashed a single-engine plane. He blamed it on his prosthetic.

Gray, 55, pleaded guilty Tuesday to flying without a license. He is set to be sentenced March 23 in U.S. District Court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Kosky and defense attorney Robert Rigney declined to comment on the case.

Gray, who uses a walker and scooter, has spent about 40 years around airplanes, sometimes buying and selling used aircraft, according to court documents. In all that time, however, he has never secured an airman’s license.

At one time, he held a student pilot certificate, but that license expired, the documents said. Gray’s prosthetic leg and other unspecified medical conditions disqualify him from ever holding an airman’s certificate.

Rumors started circulating in October 2016 that Gray was flying without a license, the documents said. Following up on a tip, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched an investigation. Gray denied the allegations, claiming the people spreading the rumors were simply jealous.

Federal investigators came knocking again in June to inquire about another incident. That time, Gray acknowledged flying without a license, but claimed he was with a licensed instructor, documents said. He said he thought it was legal, and the Federal Aviation Administration let him off with a warning.

A month later, Gray was involved in a crash at Umphlett Airstrip in Suffolk that left his 1972 Piper aircraft with a damaged right wing, landing gear and nose cone. As the plane came in for a landing July 22, it pulled to the right, hit a bump, did a 180-degree turn and struck several small trees.

When police arrived at the crash scene, Gray – who was uninjured – initially denied flying the aircraft, documents said. He claimed the real pilot was missing.

Police started searching for the missing pilot before Gray confessed he was lying, documents said. He claimed he had recently sold the aircraft and decided to fly it one more time before turning it over to the buyer.

A few days after the crash, Gray spoke with an FAA safety inspector about the crash. He took responsibility for it, explaining he had no feeling on his right side, documents said.

He suggested his prosthetic leg became stuck on the brake, causing it to spin out, documents said.

And according to the government’s statement of facts: “Gray further stated that he had no business flying the plane that day as he can barely drive a car.”

Story and photos ➤

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia State Police and Suffolk Fire & Rescue responded to a plane crash in Suffolk Saturday night.

According to Virginia State Police, the call came in at 7:58 p.m. for a fixed wing single engine Piper aircraft that crashed in a field near the intersection of Cherrygrove Road and Greenway Road.

Police say the pilot was attempting to land on a grass runway and lost control, causing the plane to go off the runway and crash into hit several trees. He left the scene to call police and report the crash. 10 On Your Side has learned that he was a student pilot.

Tim Kelley with the City of Suffolk says no injuries were reported. The FAA was notified of the crash.

Story and video ➤

SUFFOLK, Va. - Virginia State Police and Suffolk Fire & Rescue responded to a plane crash Saturday night.

According to Virginia State Police, a Piper PA-28-180 aircraft crashed near the intersection of South Cherrygrove Road and Greenway Road in Suffolk.

The call for the plane crash came in just before 8 p.m.

Troopers report the plane has been located in an open field off Cherrygrove Road and Greenway Road and the pilot is no longer on scene.

Tim Kelley with the City of Suffolk says no injuries were reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been notified.

Story and video:

A plane crash has reportedly crashed in North Suffolk, according to dispatchers.

Dispatchers confirmed that they had gotten a call shortly before 8 p.m. about a plane crashing near the 1500 block of Cherry Grove Road, near the city line with Isle of Wight County.

Virginia State Police Sgt. Michelle Anaya said in an email that the aircraft was a single-engine Piper, a small propeller plane.

Anaya said the plane was found in an open field near the intersection of Cherry Grove Road and Greenway Road and that the pilot was no longer on the scene.

City of Suffolk public information officer Tim Kelley confirmed that no injuries were reported.

Original article can be found here ➤

Feds grant Keokuk Municipal Airport (KEOK) money for repairs

U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack from Iowa visits with airport manager Greg Gobble. 


Residents will start seeing some construction at Keokuk's airport in the coming months.

Local private pilots and businesses use Keokuk's municipal airport so they have a place to land. However, there's one problem. Trees are starting to take over the runway. That's why the Federal Aviation Administration is granting nearly $400,000 to clean it up. Without it, officials say the F-A-A would have to address the safety hazard by shortening the runway.

Congressman Dave Loebsack said at the airport on Friday that the government grant shows commitment to aviation in small communities.

"Airports all over America are really important for economic development," said U.S. Rep Dave Loebsack (D) Iowa. "And certainly in a smaller community, like Keokuk, this airport is absolutely critical."

"The Iowa delegation has always seen a need for aviation, and especially as Iowa's a rural state," Airport Manager Greg Gobble said. "But we want to be connected to the rest of the world, economic development wise and plus convenience for the citizen." 

The airport will be working with local landowners to remove the trees this fall. They will have to contend with concerns about the habitat of the endangered Indiana bat , but officials say that's standard when removing trees and the project is expected to be completed in a year.

Watch video:

Eclipse will drive heavy air traffic to Salem Municipal Airport - McNary Field (KSLE)

With a million visitors destined for Oregon to view the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, gridlock is a guarantee.

Not just in our cities and on our highways, but also in our skies and on our runways.

Salem Municipal Airport is bracing for one of its biggest traffic days in recent history, maybe ever.

At least 115 private and chartered aircraft from up and down the West Coast are scheduled to descend on McNary Field — with 20 on a waiting list — and that’s in addition to the 175 aircraft that are based at McNary Field.

Independence State Airport is expecting a capacity crowd of about 250 airplanes carrying on after a regularly scheduled fly-in.

No viewing parties are being staged at either airport, and no camping is allowed on either property. 

“The big event,” Salem airport manager John Paskell said, “is up in the sky.”

Local airports are in uncharted territory, alongside all the other municipalities, businesses, and organizations preparing for the first total solar eclipse on U.S. mainland in nearly four decades (1979) and the first coast-to-coast one in nearly a century (1918).

The last time we experienced the eclipse, Salem was on the edge of the path of totality, the path the moon's shadow traces on the Earth during a solar eclipse. This time we’re in the sweet spot.

Paskell has been working closely with Ron Peters, manager of Salem Aviation Fueling, and Robert Broyhill, the air traffic manager for the Salem Control Tower, to coordinate a plan for accommodating more aircraft, more takeoffs and landings, plus all the pilots and passengers who come along for the ride.

Getting extra assistance

They want to put their best wing forward, so they brought in a consultant, Greg Miller, who has been involved with staging large-scale events such as the Super Bowl.

“There’s not a lot of experienced folks out there we can contact about how to manage an event like this,” Paskell said.

Salem airport capped capacity based on a number of factors, including the limited number of tie-downs, which is where visiting aircraft can park and be secure.

“From a customer service standpoint, we want to invite everybody,” Paskell said. “We’d like as many aircraft to come to Salem as possible, but the reality is we’ve got limited space and limited resources.”

The increased traffic on the runways, and in the air, will be “super compressed” into a short window of just a few hours because most visitors will fly in the morning of the eclipse and fly out early that same afternoon.

Salem airport will have all hands on deck to handle the flock of aircraft coming from California, Washington and Idaho and the hundreds of passengers who will be stepping out of those aircraft and onto the apron, the official term according to the FAA for what many of us refer to as the tarmac.

More services for a variety of planes

Officials will bring in a dozen portable bathrooms and some dumpsters for garbage. The Flight Deck Restaurant will serve an outdoor breakfast buffet the morning of the eclipse.

Among the visitors will be a group of scientists from California that will be shuttled in on a corporate jet, and members of a flying club from Washington that will be traveling in 30 small aircraft.

While most of the incoming will be what Peters calls “mom and pop” planes, some of the larger aircraft expected to land at McNary Field for the eclipse include a Beechcraft 1900, a Gulfstream 450, a Learjet 35, and maybe even a Boeing 737.

Although Salem doesn’t have commercial service and hasn’t since 2008, it can handle a twinjet airliner. It did just a few months ago when an Alaska Airlines flight was diverted here, refueled, and then took off. The airport is filed as an alternative when needed by Alaska and Southwest Airlines.

The 58-foot tower at McNary Field will be staffed more than usual on the day of the eclipse, although I’m told the crew won’t approach it any differently than the other 364 days this year.

Ron Peters

Most everyone who works on site, including airport management and fuel services, will be clocking in on the eve of the eclipse so no one has to fret about getting stuck in traffic or not being able to make it in.

No one can or will say how quickly the tower will be able to shuffle aircraft on and off the runways and taxiways because there are so many variables. It depends on the size and speed of the aircraft, for example, and how many aircraft are outside Salem’s airspace.

Salem’s airspace is roughly a five-mile radius and up to 2,500 feet. Anyone who enters that airspace is required to communicate with the tower at McNary Field.

The airport has two runways, giving it an advantage when it comes to traffic flow. Paskell said both will be used simultaneously, allowing one aircraft to be taxiing off while another is landing, and also keeping a path clear for local tenants to get in and out of their hangars.

John Paskell

Many local pilots plan to fly that day just so they can enter “2017 Solar Eclipse” in their log book. Some want to be in the air when the moon obscures the sun and creates total darkness in Salem for just under 2 minutes.

Airport management can control access and parking. The airport has a security fence and a limited number of tie-downs, all of which are expected to be utilized that day.

Salem Aviation Fueling will manage the parking and fueling of aircraft. Peters said all storage tanks would be topped off ahead of time and that he has the capacity for 30,000 gallons of fuel. He expects to have plenty to go around but is planning for an additional fueling vehicle or two to better service that many aircraft.

Some aircraft may only need 5-10 gallons of fuel, others 35-40 gallons, but a jet might need 3,000 gallons.

“We’re setup to handle what’s coming,” Peters said. “We’re certified, we have the staff, and we can do it in a safe manner.”

"It'll be the busiest day"

Still, he’s never experienced anything quite like what he anticipates that Monday, Aug. 21.

“In the 13 years I’ve been here, it’ll be the busiest day,” Peters said.

Dozens of choppers flying out of McNary Field in August 1996, for the World Helicopter Championships, might compare, or one of the big air shows in the 1970s and 1980s.

Back in 1963, on a mid-January Monday, Portland fog turned Salem into a busy “international” airport for most of the day. At one point, there were seven big airliners on the ground, another was landing, and another was taxiing for takeoff.

Today, Salem airport averages 200 operations a day. Each takeoff and landing is one operation. If every aircraft expected at the airport the day of the eclipse were to take off and land, including those based there, that would be nearly three times the average number of operations.

Independence State Airport will have a larger-than-normal turnout for its annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in the weekend before.

“Traditionally, this was the weekend it’s always been held on,” said Al Cleveland, president of EAA Chapter 292 of the Mid-Willamette Valley. “It just so happens the following Monday is an eclipse.”

Organizers must plan for an extra day because most of the 250 participants will stay through the solar event. While there is no tower at the airport in Independence, Cleveland said two veteran air traffic control personnel will be on the ground offering traffic advisories.

With their event at capacity, Cleveland had been sending inquiries to Salem airport, until he found out it was booked, too. The next-best option for anyone still hoping to find space at an area airport, he said, would be Corvallis or McMinnville.

If an aircraft were to approach Salem on the morning of the eclipse, without having secured a reservation, it could be diverted to another airport, although Paskell said that is unlikely.

He also said the FAA wouldn't restrict air traffic in most cases — unless President Donald Trump decides to come to Salem to view the eclipse.

Watch video:

Canadian aircraft help battle Montana wildfires


Four super scoopers on lease from Canada are now in Montana and ready to help battle wildfires. The planes arrived a week ago and have already been deployed to the Lewistown fire burning in eastern Montana.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is hosting two Canadian CL-215 water scooping planes stationed in Kalispell as well as two based out of Lewistown.

"For our area here in northwest Montana, this is an extremely beneficial tool to have in our toolbox. It's capable of delivering thousands of gallons of water in a very short period of time," said Wyatt Frampton with the DNRC Northwest Land Office.

The scoopers plane skims water off a water body and is capable of filling its two 600-gallon tanks in just 10-seconds. Both tanks can be released  simultaneously or one at a time -- making it an extremely valuable resource in initial attacks.

"A lot of times when we get into the very high and extreme fire danger additional tools are required to effectively suppress fires and keep them small and so the super scoopers help us greatly with that it terms of delivering a large amount of water to give ground crews time to get in and contain the fire," Frampton said.

The scoopers will be available as needed to any fire management organization in the state but they're most effective working on fires that are within 25 miles of a water resource.

If you do see the scoopers near the water, be sure to move your boat to the shore while their battling the wildfire and also remember that drones will shut down aviation resources so make sure to keep them far away.

The scoopers are on loan from the Saskatchewan and are available through the Northwest Compact Agreement which the state of Montana is part of -- as are several other states and provinces.

Watch video:

A day in the life of an Air Traffic Controller at the ‘world’s most dangerous airport’

By Mukesh Dangol 

Jul 22, 2017-

A typical day at the Lukla Airport—high volume of air traffic and deteriorating weather. According to standard procedures, I along with my manager decide to close the airport. Having worked as Air Traffic Controllers for two years at what has been dubbed the “world’s most dangerous airport”, we both know that the weather here can turn in the blink of an eye. But as we report the status to Kathmandu, we learn that one of the commercial airliners has already taken off. 

This is not ideal.

Soon, the plane comes into radio contact. We again inform the flight crew about the status of the airport, the prevailing weather condition, and advise the plane to divert. The crew, however, continues to enter the Lukla valley. Flustered, we again repeat our advice, wondering what the crew is trying to do. Through the corner of our eyes we can see the plane approaching; but then, just as quickly as it appeared, the aircraft disappears into a thick fog we had been warning it against. 

As we wait with bated breath, my mind flashes back to all that has come to pass at the airport during my tenure here. There is hardly a dull day at the Tenzing Hillary Airport. Perched on precipitous cliff in the narrow Lukla valley, on a clear day, watching helicopters and planes fly in and out can be quite picturesque. But those days can be few and far in between. What scar you and stay with you are the days where things go from good to catastrophic in an instant.

Which is why, it is alarming that the aircraft we had just instructed to turn around disappeared into the thick fog. But it eventually does reappear through a small gap in the clouds. I hold my breath for a minute as it gears to touchdown on a runway. This is one of the last things you want to see as a tower controller: an aircraft descending through the clouds; in deteriorating weather; at Lukla airport; when you have already declared airport closed for operation. Today, the crew is lucky to have avoided anything untoward—needless to say, Lukla is not a place for bravado.   

With all the talk it generates about being one of the most dangerous airports in the world, it is overlooked that Lukla Airport is also one of the busiest in the country, particularly during the peak spring climbing season. For an airstrip that received merely 20 tourists in 1964, the airport sees an average of 40,000 tourists land every year now. And with only four parking bays for planes and six helipads, the narrow airspace makes traffic management quite challenging. 

A typical day in Lukla will see propeller aircraft—seating no more than 16 passengers—puttering hundred feet from the runway, beside the single terminal processing both passengers and cargo. And with airline companies and helicopter operators shuffling to land as many tourists as possible in the lucrative Khumbu region, things can get hectic as the season piles on. 

One of the reasons Lukla Airport is deemed dangerous is that the weather patterns in the region tend to be very unpredictable—here visibility and wind, key elements in aviation, change rather quickly. In general, the wind blows in a North Easterly direction in the morning and after 10am or so, the direction changes to South Westerly. The South Westerly wind becomes tailwind for the aircraft landing at the airport—posing a serious challenge. Whenever these tailwinds exceed ten knots, there is little option to close the airport. Moreover, fog and low clouds emanating from the Dudhkoshi River that cuts through the valley can reduce the visibility to below 5km—the minimum limit for operating the airport—in an instant. It is not uncommon to go from a clear spring day, to having the visibility reduced to 500m or even nil, within a matter of minutes at this airstrip. 

Lukla is also a very narrow valley flanked by steep terrain all around. There is a massive mountain towards the end of the runway in the direction that aircraft approach from. This means that planes can land from one direction only. In aviation, they call this the no go-around procedure—once the flight’s captain has committed to land, there is no going back. Add to this the fact that the runway in itself is just a little more than 500m long, and you have a combination of conditions that necessitate perfect co-ordination between the ATCs manning the tower and the crews angling for touchdown. And all this is done without navigational aids. Aircrafts in the Lukla valley operate under VFR conditions—which is to say pilots must use their knowledge of the area’s terrain and visual flying skills only. Which is why, I keep repeating, Lukla is no place for bravado.  

I often get asked, that given its notoriety, if Lukla Airport is safe. I always have the same answer—there are minor and major accidents at all airports. The airport staff and the flight crew take every precaution to conduct flights safely (except for exceptions like today). There, after all, is very little we can do about the terrain or the weather. And while dubbing it the ‘most dangerous airport’ might be a slight exaggeration, it is definitely one of the most trickiest and challenging airports in the world—given its topography and runway orientation. Having said that, it’s obvious that everybody visiting the Everest region will enjoy landing at Lukla Airport—a rare experience that you are bound to keep with you for the rest of your life.

Dangol is an officer at the Tourism Ministry and served as an ATC at Lukla Airport from 2013-15

Panzl S331E, N331ST: Fatal accident occurred July 22, 2017 in Apple Valley, San Bernardino County, California

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Riverside, California

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA161
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 22, 2017 in Apple Valley, CA
Aircraft: APPLEGATE PANZL S331E, registration: N331ST
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 July 22, 2017, about 1500 Pacific daylight time an Applegate Panzl S331E airplane, N331ST, impacted terrain while conducting aerobatic maneuvers about 3 miles northeast of the Apple Valley Airport (APV), Apple Valley, California. The pilot, sole occupant, died and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The local flight originated from APV about 1445. 

Witnesses reported this was the second flight of the day practicing this particular aerobatic sequence. About three quarters through the sequence, the pilot conducted an aileron roll and was descending towards the ground as expected, however, she never reduced power and leveled the airplane. Subsequently, the airplane impacted the ground.

The airplane has been recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Margo Chase

Margo Chase, the founder and chief creative officer of the Chase Design Group, died in a plane crash Saturday, July 22, 2017, according to a news release from her company.

Chase founded her company in 1986 and built it into a successful global brand-design firm. Chris Lowery, president of Chase Design, said the company will continue to be inspired by the insatiable curiosity and love of design she embodied.

“Everyone in the Chase Design Group family has been touched and inspired by Margo’s creativity, generous spirit, and love for design. We will all miss her brilliance and incredible energy, but will carry her vision for the organization forward as she would have wanted,” he said. “All of us here at Chase send our heartfelt condolences to her husband, Patrick Dugan, and the rest of her family.”

Chase, who was born in 1958, designed logos for the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” Her company has worked on branding for major companies including Target, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and the Campbell Soup Co.

Chase Design also has worked with many celebrities including Cher and Madonna.

Chase taught classes at the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia; Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, and Long Beach State University. Her work was included in an exhibition at “Women Designers USA: 1900 – 2000,” which was sponsored by Bard College.

Margo Chase, 59, died on July 22, in Apple Valley after her plane crashed in the desert.

APPLE VALLEY, Calif. ( Friends and family are remembering the life of Margo Chase, an influential graphic designer who tragically lost her life over the weekend at the age of 59.

On Saturday, July 22, as Margo Chase soared over the open desert skies of Apple Valley, practicing her favorite sport of flying, her Panzl Aerobatic Airplane came crashing down as her husband Patrick Dugan and a family friend watched from the ground.

Although Chase died upon impact as a result of the crash, those who knew her say her memories will always live on.

“Margo was one of the most skilled, talented, and dedicated people I have ever met in my life… She was bright, intelligent, and simply fun to be with. She thoroughly enjoyed flying, our sport, and our history, traditions, and people. We are devastated by this news,” Mike Heuer, International Aerobatic Club (IAC) President said in a statement.

Dubbed as one of the most influential graphic designers of our time, her adrenaline-pumped lifestyle has touched just about everyone’s lives whether we know it or not.

She founded her business Chase Design Group in 1986 and created award-winning work for clients including P&G, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Mattel, and Target.

Chase shined with creativity and was even hired to work for such Hollywood notables as Cher, Madonna and the Tejano crossover singer, Selena; creating the jacket for Selena’s cross-over album Dreaming of You.

Chase has also been credited for re-modernizing the logos for Mr. Clean and designing logos for other popular brands and television shows, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In a video interview for, she expressed how her love for creativity guided her passion into flying:

“I draw in the sky. I love the idea that there’s this goal of perfection that I’m striving for, cause it keeps the challenge there since perfection is something you can never really achieve,” stated Margo.

“My heart goes out to Patrick Dugan, her husband; Tim Just, both of whom were there in Apple Valley with her; and her many friends, family, and colleagues. When we lose good friends like this, life is never quite the same as it leaves a hole in your heart that is always there,” Mike Heuer wrote.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff Department’s aviation division is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine the cause of the crash.

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

APPLE VALLEY, Calif. ( A single-engine plane went down in Apple Valley Saturday afternoon, killing the pilot.

The crash was reported at 2:17 p.m. outside the boundaries of the Apple Valley Airport, in the desert areas, east of Central and Johnson Roads.

Apple Valley Fire Protection firefighters were dispatched and located the plane with the assistance of the CHP Helicopter.

Fire Chief Sid Hultquist said they confirmed one person was killed but was unable to provide further details.

The Federal Aviation Administration will work with Law Enforcement in the investigation.