Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Federal Aviation Administration grants Yeager Airport (KCRW) $13.5M for safety zone repairs

Charleston’s Yeager Airport will receive a $13.5 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to rebuild the safety overrun area that collapsed in a landslide on March 13, 2015, and replace an engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) atop the overrun that was destroyed in the slide.

The announcement was made Wednesday by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

The amount nearly matches a request for $14 million made by Yeager’s governing board in April to repair the safety overrun area and replace the EMAS bed. Last month, airport officials were hoping to receive word from the FAA that they would be allocated $8 million to order EMAS materials and begin work on the planned rebuilding project.

The $13.5 million will pay for the design, environmental review, and rebuilding much of the collapsed slope using a retaining wall based on a terrace at the south end of the runway. It also will pay to buy and install a new EMAS bed.

By replacing the safety overrun area, Yeager will be able to restore 500 feet of its runway now being used for overrun purposes to operational use, increasing available takeoff and landing distances, and allowing the instrument landing system on the south end of the runway to be reactivated.

In January 2010, Yeager’s EMAS bed brought to a safe stop a regional jet that overran the runway on an aborted takeoff attempt.

“I would like to thank our congressional delegation and the FAA for their continued efforts to prioritize funding for this vital safety project,” said Terry Sayre, director of the Charleston airport.

Ed Hill, chairman of Yeager Airport’s governing board, said an emergency board meeting will be held Monday to accept the grant.

“Yeager Airport serves an important role in our state, helping our businesses export their products, tourists travel to our state, and introducing who we are to the world,” said Manchin, who facilitated meetings between FAA and Yeager officials to discuss the urgency of repairing the state’s most heavily used airport.

Original article can be found here ➤

Law Enforcement Concerns Slow Commercial Drone Regulations: Federal Aviation Administration convened an advisory group of experts to help resolve public safety issues raised by Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Wall Street Journal
By Andy Pasztor
Sept. 6, 2017 7:19 p.m. ET

LAS VEGAS—Efforts to develop flight-safety regulations for commercial drones are being disrupted by law-enforcement and national security concerns, industry and government officials said at a conference here Wednesday.

Federal Aviation Administration draft rules intended to permit small unmanned aircraft to routinely fly over crowds were close to being published late last year, according to industry officials, but they were effectively vetoed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with other agencies, for failing to adequately address how to remotely identify such airborne vehicles.

In response, the FAA convened an advisory group of experts—slated to issue recommendations this month about possible technical solutions—and has continued discussions to try to resolve public safety issues raised by the FBI and other critics inside the government.

But many industry officials are concerned the fallout threatens to complicate and further postpone, for many more months at least, the FAA’s already delayed initiatives to open up significantly more airspace for booming drone applications. “The security issues have stopped a lot of stuff” the FAA and industry were counting on to promote drone flights at night and beyond the sight of ground-based operators, Gretchen West, a lawyer for Hogan Lovells US LLP, told one panel.

Amid projections that some seven million drones will be sold nationwide by 2020, industry frustration is growing about the FAA’s slow pace. During presentations and on the sidelines of the InterDrone conference—featuring some 4,000 attendees from more than 50 countries—senior FAA and industry representatives talked in stark terms about the challenges of finding a way to reliably vet and track drones from a distance.

Jim Williams, the former head of the FAA’s drone integration office who now represents industry clients, told another panel that the “security world has a say” in such deliberations and the central question remains: “How are we going to know the good guys from the bad guys” when it comes to a swarm of drones over a crowd?

Despite extensive work on the draft rule, Mr. Williams said that before the FBI weighed in with criticism, it “had never occurred to the FAA that it would be a problem.”

In his most pointed public remarks yet on the matter, FAA chief Michael Huerta said in a keynote speech that the FAA is working with researchers and law-enforcement experts to ultimately “ensure safe and secure operations.” Mr. Huerta said that “we all know that there are bad actors out there who want to use [drones] for nefarious purposes.”

His comments follow a flurry of media and U.S. military reports, for instance, detailing Middle Eastern terror groups using weaponized drones against military and civilian targets in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

Mr. Huerta didn’t specify the domestic security threats the FAA seeks to counter, or mention foreign hostilities. But in an interview after his speech, he said the FAA has set up meetings between industry and law-enforcement agencies “to talk about what are the solutions that could address some of the concerns.”

Describing worries about public safety as “a critical question we need to be able to answer,” Mr. Huerta played down the delays, saying “all of us are in a learning process.”

He declined to predict when a revised regulatory package may be released. “I’m not going to speculate on that,” he said in the interview, but “that is a conversation we’re having with our law-enforcement partners.”

Mr. Huerta confirmed that the top echelon of the FBI strongly objected to the initial FAA draft. “That was where they started,” he said. “But a lot of that was based on a misunderstanding of what the opportunities are and technological solutions” available.

The FAA chief is a Democratic appointee whose term is set to expire around the end of the year, well before a new rule is expected to be released. He said “we have been working with [law enforcement] on understanding what their requirements are” in tracking unmanned aircraft flying in unauthorized airspace.

But in remarks a bit later to a conference session, FAA manager Jim Viola stressed the importance of developing sophisticated remote identification capabilities to overcome nagging law-enforcement criticism. “That’s what got us stopped last time,” he said

Some industry factions, however, counter that the FAA hasn’t been forthcoming enough about the reasons for delays so far. “You don’t hear much about that” publicly, said Patrick Byrnes, a partner specializing in drones at the Chicago law firm Locke Lord LLP. “They haven’t told that story” about the FBI’s serious concerns, he said.

“Maybe in the beginning they were prevented from doing so,” Mr. Byrnes commented after listening to one panel, but now “that would be helpful” to assist industry leaders in understanding the dynamics at work.

Original article can be found here ➤

Mobile Regional Airport (KMOB) gets new $5 million Federal Aviation Administration grant

Mobile Regional Airport has received a federal grant of $5 million, with the money earmarked to pay for runway improvements and firefighting equipment.

The award puts Mobile Regional near the top in terms of money received from the Federal Aviation Administration this year, with only Huntsville International Airport receiving more.

According to information released Wednesday by the office of U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, the new grant of $4,894,290 will go toward the "rehabilitation" of runway 15/33 "to maintain the structural integrity of the pavement and to minimize foreign object debris." It also will pay for a replacement aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicle, and upgrades to the runway 15/33 lighting system.

The grant adds to $3,425,440 awarded in May for the same purposes, bringing the total awarded this year to Mobile Regional to $8,319,730.

Based on a year-to-date tally of FAA Airport Improvement Program grants, that appears to put Mobile Regional second behind Huntsville International Airport. The Huntsville facility received $6,495,151 in May, designated for the construction of a new taxiway, and $3,706,792 in July, for a new interactive training system and various other upgrades. Those two grants total $10,201,943.

Other top recipients in the state are Auburn University Regional Airport, which received $3.0 million for taxiway improvements and Montgomery Regional Airport, which received $3.6 million for fencing, access road and runway work. Airports in Alexander, Bay Minette, Dothan, Eufala and Fayette received grants of between $1.2 and $1.6 million each.

A request for comment from the Mobile Airport Authority was pending.

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Police crack down on illegally flown drones

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) - Orchard Park Police are warning drone operators to keep their aerial cameras at home for the Buffalo Bills home opener with the New York Jets - or the drones will be confiscated and the operators arrested.

The Town of Orchard Park has in place a drone law that regulates where and when drones can be flown near the stadium and open-air events with more than 200 people.  Problem is, many people are not aware of the law which can land drone operators in trouble with both police and the FAA.

Orchard Park worked with the Buffalo Bills in coming up with the new law that went into effect in 2015.  This year, the law was expanded prohibiting drone flights within 3 miles of New Era Field beginning 6 hours before an event and lasting until 6 hours afterwards.

Safety is the primary reason for the law because drones can fall out of the sky and injure people.  However, drones can also be used by people with more sinister motives.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly learned more about the law and drone regulations in talking with Orchard Park Police Chief Mark Pacholec. 

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California Appeals Court Rules Against Person Injured in Hot Air Balloon Ride

When people in California decide to participate in inherently risky activities, they assume the risk that they will be injured unless the operators of the activities engaged in conduct that was grossly negligent. In Grotheer v. Escape Adventures, Cal. Ct. App. 4D, Case no. E0634449, the court examined the concept in the context of a hot-air balloon ride in which a female passenger was injured after signing an express waiver of liability.

Issue: Is a balloon company a common carrier, and was the express waiver of liability sufficient to preclude a finding of liability?

Grotheer, a 78-year-old German woman, was a passenger on a hot-air balloon ride that had been purchased for her by her son while she was visiting California. Grotheer could not speak English. Prior to the ride, her son explained that she could not speak or understand English to the balloon operator but was apparently waved off. Grotheer signed an express waiver of liability prior to the balloon’s takeoff. The trip was apparently uneventful until the landing. The balloon descended too rapidly and crashed through a fence before crashing forcefully to the ground. The force of the landing caused the balloon’s basket to skip across the ground before it came to rest on its side. Grotheer landed at the bottom, and her leg was broken in the crash-landing. She filed a lawsuit against the balloon’s operator, the balloon company and the vineyard from where the balloon launched, alleging negligence. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Grotheer assumed the risk when she chose to go on the hot-air balloon ride, that the company was not negligent or that if it was, it was not grossly negligent to the extent that the assumption of the risk standard would not apply.

Rules: 1) People who participate in inherently dangerous activities assume the risks of injury. 2) The assumption of the risk does not apply if the activity involves a common carrier. 3) Gross negligence can overcome an express waiver of liability.

In California, people who engage in sports or activities that are inherently dangerous will normally be deemed to have assumed the risk of being injured from their participation. Because of this assumption of the risk, recovering damages may be barred. In cases involving common carriers, the carriers are deemed to owe higher duties of care to their passengers. The assumption of the risk analysis does not apply to common carriers. When there is an express waiver in place, California normally requires a showing that gross negligence occurred in order to overcome the waiver of liability.


In Grotheer’s case, the court found that hot-air balloon operators are not common carriers under the law. Common carriers are transport companies that are responsible for transporting passengers for hire from one location to another. While this has been expanded to include ski lifts and roller coasters, the court found that it did not apply to hot-air balloons. It distinguished hot-air balloons because the operators are unable to steer them, meaning that they do not control the direction of travel like operators of ski lifts or designers of roller coasters do. Instead, hot-air balloon operators only control the elevation of balloons by applying heat. This meant that the balloon company and its operator did not owe Grotheer a heightened duty of care.

After finding that hot-air balloons are not common carriers, the court then examined whether or not Grotheer assumed the risk of injury by going on the hot-air balloon ride. It found that riding in hot-air balloons is an inherently dangerous activity because the balloons are subject to wind currents, can have mid-air and ground collisions and can land anywhere with little ability to control their movements. People assume the risk of injury when they choose to participate in activities that are so dangerous that the dangers cannot be avoided without causing fundamental changes to the activity itself.

The court also found that Grotheer did not meet her burden to show that negligence sufficient to overcome the express waiver of liability happened. Because the pilot’s alleged error in not applying enough heat was ordinary negligence, it was not enough to overcome Grotheer’s assumption of the risk of participating in the hot-air balloon ride. In order to overcome the doctrine of the primary assumption of the risk in California, the negligence must have been gross rather than ordinary. In order to demonstrate gross negligence, the operator’s actions must have been so negligent that they increased the inherent dangerousness of the activity. The court reasoned that this would require a showing that the balloon operator’s actions were so outrageous that they were beyond the limits of reason. Merely failing to apply enough heat to the balloon envelope was not enough to overcome the application of the assumption of the risk analysis.

The court did not review whether or not the company was vicariously liable since it found that Grotheer failed to meet her burden to show negligence. It also did not rule on whether or not the express waiver of liability was sufficient. Grotheer had argued that she didn’t understand it because she was a non-English speaker.


The court affirmed the Superior Court’s findings. It ruled against the plaintiff and affirmed the granting of the motion for summary judgment and the dismissal of the claim.

When people choose to participate in dangerous activities and are injured, they may be unable to recover damages in subsequent lawsuits. In order to overcome the assumption of the risk presumption, they must be able to show that the operators’ activities were grossly negligent. Gross negligence will also be required to overcome an express waiver of liability in California.

Original article can be found here ➤

Pennsylvania: West Nantmeal Township Monument dedication commemorates 1943 B-24 bomber plane crash

West Nantmeal Township and Historical Commission will be hosting the dedication of a plaque and monument commemorating the crew of a B-24 bomber plane which crashed, while on a training mission, in West Nantmeal Township on December 4, 1943. The dedication will be held at the West Nantmeal Township Park at 11 a.m. on September 23. 

West Nantmeal Township and Historical Commission will be hosting the dedication of a plaque and monument commemorating the crew of a B-24 bomber plane which crashed, while on a training mission, in West Nantmeal Township on Dec. 4, 1943. The dedication will be held at the West Nantmeal Township Park at 11 a.m. on Sept. 23.

Family members of the lone surviving member will be in attendance. Crash artifacts, collected in a local farmer’s field, will be on display. Bob Ford, a collector and local historian, will display WWII uniforms and memorabilia, as well as share personal stories of local veterans, including an ace pilot, bombardier, and POW, 2 of whom he interviewed.

For more information, visit

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United Continental cuts outlook on Harvey impact, fuel costs

DALLAS –  United Airlines said Wednesday that Hurricane Harvey and a fare war contributed to a loss of $400 million in expected revenue, and the storm saddled the company with higher prices for jet fuel.

The company said that a key revenue-per-seat figure would fall by up to 5 percent for the third quarter. Shares of United Continental Holdings Inc. slipped in afternoon trading.

Southwest Airlines Co. said Harvey shaved up to $60 million from its revenue, and it too slightly lowered expectations for the quarter that ends Sept. 30.

Harvey — and now Hurricane Irma spinning through the Caribbean — are back-to-back setbacks for airlines that were already dealing with lower average ticket prices. In the last two days, Delta Air Lines Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp. and Spirit Airlines Inc. also lowered their outlook for third-quarter revenue.

United suffered more than any other airline from Harvey's deluge. The Continental side of the company has longtime roots in Houston, and United still operates one of its biggest hub operations at Bush Intercontinental Airport, which was closed for nearly a week by flooding.

United canceled 7,400 flights because of the storm, and it doesn't expect to resume a full, pre-storm Houston schedule until later this week. Even then, Houstonians might be traveling less than before, the airline said.

The Chicago-based company said the revenue shortfall was due to Harvey's canceled flights, falling demand in Guam since North Korea threatened that its missiles could strike near the U.S. territory in the Pacific, and lower prices.

United is locked in a fare war with Spirit Airlines in Chicago, Denver, Houston and Newark, New Jersey. United is fighting the discount airlines by rolling out so-called basic economy fares, which offer passengers a lower price but fewer amenities — they can't even stow a bag in the overhead bin.

For United, there was a hitch this summer: The airline lost customers to other big carriers that didn't have similar basic-economy tickets on many routes, Chief Financial Officer Andrew Levy said at a Cowen and Co. investor conference in Boston.

For example, if United sold basic economy for $200 and American Airlines matched the fare for a better regular economy seat, customers would pick the $200 ticket with fewer limits on American.

Delta pioneered basic economy, but American didn't go beyond a trial run until Tuesday. Levy said United will temporarily scale back its own basic-economy program.

United said it now expects that revenue for each seat flown one mile, will drop by between 3 and 5 percent in the third quarter. United had previously forecast the closely watched figure would range between down 1 percent and up 1 percent, compared with a year earlier.

The airline also forecast a sharply lower profit margin, partly because it now expects to pay about 16 cents more per gallon, a 10 percent jump, for fuel since Harvey hit Texas on Aug. 25 and shut down many refineries.

Southwest is the dominant carrier at Houston's other airport, Hobby, and Chief Financial Officer Tammy Romo said the airline canceled about 2,800 flights because of Harvey.

United shares fell $1.07 to $60.03, while Southwest gained 72 cents to $51.86 in afternoon trading.

Original article can be found here ➤

As Major Airlines Scoop Up Pilots, Regional Carriers See A Shortage

Cape Air Captain Jonathon Coste, left, supervises First Officer William Smith on a recent flight from Boston to Lebanon, New Hampshire.

 By Nina Keck 

After officials blamed a deadly 2009 commuter plane crash in upstate New York on pilot error and inexperience, Congress responded by mandating more training for commercial pilots.

While some believe the new rules were needed, others say they've gone too far and have worsened a growing pilot shortage, especially among regional carriers.

A simulation of the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 is shown to family members of the victims during a National Transportation Safety Board Meeting simulcast in Cheektowaga, N.Y., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010.

Cape Air is the regional airline that serves Rutland, Lebanon, New Hampshire, Provincetown, Massachusetts and Martha’s Vineyard, to name just a few of their destinations.

Personally, I’ve always loved their small nine- seat planes, because unlike larger passenger aircraft, many Cape Air flights are single pilot operations.

So I was often able to sit in the co-pilot seat, with an unbelievable view from the cockpit.

But those seats are rarely available to passengers now, filled instead with first officers-in-training.

“We’re constantly training,” says Cape Air captain Jonathan Coste. “[Traditionally] we would not train from June ‘til October because those are our summer months and we’re busy and all the pilots would go fly. [But] we now train all year round,” he explained after a recent flight from Boston to Lebanon.

Coste, who's worked at Cape Air for twenty years, says they've ramped up training to keep ahead of a pilot shortage that he says is hitting small airlines hard.

“We would have a much better time with about 60 more pilots," he says nodding.

Experts point to a number of reasons for the shortage including increased demand for flights globally, especially in Asia.

Large numbers of veteran pilots at major airlines are also hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65.

It’s a retirement bubble that’s hitting just as the pipeline of new pilots has slowed down says Elizabeth Bjerke, Associate Dean of Aviation at the University of North Dakota.

“I have never seen the industry the way it is right now with the regional airlines so in need of pilots,” she says.

The University of North Dakota has one of the largest undergraduate aerospace programs in the country and she says demand for their students has grown exponentially. “All it takes is coming to our career fairs to see that they’re trying to talk to students as soon as they get into the program before they even have their private pilot certification to get them interested in their company. They need pilots that bad."

Bjerke says before 2010, commercial pilots needed a minimum of 250 hours of flight experience to be hired as a first officer - about what you’d get after graduating with a four-year aviation degree.

But in 2010, Congress increased that to 1,500 hours, phased in over three years, with some exceptions for pilots with military or other accredited training. 

Pilots say it can take years to log that many flight hours and it's pricey if you don’t own your own plane.

Larger airlines have been able to hire pilots from smaller carriers, but that’s put the squeeze on regional airlines.  

Cape Air is unique among them. Because of the small size of its planes, its first officers do not have to comply with the new airline transport pilot certificate mandates. Cape Air captains have to be fully certified under the 1,500 hour rule, but accredited pilots with fewer hours can be in a Cape Air cockpit if they’re supervised by a captain.

So while Cape Air has been able to train a steady stream of new pilots, turnover among their captains is high.

Andrew Bonney, Senior Vice President of Planning at Cape Air, says that’s had a big impact on service.

“Unfortunately we had to suspend service to a number of communities that Cape Air used to fly to that were profitable, viable communities, where Cape Air was providing terrific service: including: Nevis, Anguilla, Block Island and Providence, Rhode Island.”

Bonney says there are also many new routes they’d like to develop, but can’t because they don’t have enough pilots.

And while he says Congress may have had good intentions for ramping up training requirements, he believes the focus should be on quality of training not quantity.

“Because one of the problems with the 1,500 hour rule today is there’s no quality control on the type of hours," says Bonney. "So simply flying around in circles over the Green Mountains, that counts as hours.”

There's data that backs him up. A study by Embry Riddle Aeronautical University that assessed cockpit performance, found that new pilots with between 500 and 1,000 hours of  flying time performed best.

Elizabeth Bjerke points to another study by the University of North Dakota."Our research showed that the pilots that did the best at the regional training were the ones coming from accredited aviation four year programs with around 700 hours. She says the data showed pilots with more flight time before being hired were more likely to have acquired bad habits that airlines needed to correct.

Andrew Bonney was part of a 2017 working group created by the US Department of Transportation to improve air service to small communities. He says the group identified the pilot shortage as the single biggest challenge to overcome and it called on Congress to allow pilots to take part in more targeted, plane-specific professional training programs while they earned the requisite flight hours.

Since 2007, Cape Air and JetBlue have been collaborating on a 7-year apprenticeship program for aspiring aviation students aimed at providing just that sort of experience, and Bonney believes it could be a model for others. 

With demand for pilots skyrocketing, Elizabeth Bjerke says the number of students entering North Dakota’s commercial pilot program has jumped 30 percent each of the last two years.

And while the training is costly, Bjerke says the payoff is growing. “As little as two to three years ago, regional airlines took a lot of heat for their first year pay being about $25,000 to $30,000 a year.”

“Well now — because they are so short of pilots and they’re in competition —that pay, with signing bonuses, has gone up anywhere from $60,000 to $85,000 a year for that first year, which is remarkable,” she says.

While that’s good news for future pilots, industry experts say it will likely mean costlier ticket prices for passengers. And until the shortage is filled, travelers may see more frequent delays and cancellations as airlines struggle to staff flights.  

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Cessna 172RG Cutlass, G-CHZI: Incident occurred December 29, 2015 in Cascais, Portugal

NTSB Identification: CEN16WA081
14 CFR Non-U.S., Non-Commercial
Incident occurred Tuesday, December 29, 2015 in Cascais, Portugal
Aircraft: CESSNA 172RG, registration:
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On December 29, 2015, about 1258 hours universal coordinated time, a Cessna 172RG, United Kingdom registration G-CHZI, sustained minor damage when the right main landing gear collapsed during the landing at the Cascais Aerodrome (LPCS), Cascais, Portugal. The flight instructor and student pilot were not injured. The local instructional flight originated from LPCS.

The accident investigation is under the jurisdiction and control of the Gabinete de Prevenção e Investigação de Acidentes com Aeronaves (GPIAA). This report is for informational purposes and contains only information released by or obtained from the government of the Portugal.

Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:
Gabinete de Prevençao e Investigaçao de Acidentes com Aeronaves (GPIAA)
Praca Duque de Saldanha, 31 – 4ºAndar
1150 - 094 Lisboa
Tel.: (+351) 21 273 92 30
Fax: (+351) 21 273 92 60

Martin Hill: ‘I like taking people flying’

Martin Hill gets ready to launch his balloon during the Old West Balloon Fest at Mitchell on Saturday morning.

Martin Hill of Centennial, Colorado, has been around aviation for a long time. He particularly enjoys piloting balloons.

The balloon that Hill flew this past weekend in the Old West Balloon Fest was named C3H8, which he says is “the chemical nomenclature for propane. That is what we burn. All these other guys [who pilot balloons] have real cute names like Baby’s Breath in Spring. There’s only one balloon here that matches its name, and that is Big Top because it has a combination of posters from Carson and Barnes Circus. I flew in that balloon here two years ago.”

Hill said he’s been flying balloons since 1985. He got his airplane pilot license in 1967.

“I haven’t hurt anybody yet,” he said.

Hill explained how he got involved in aviation.

“I couldn’t afford the boat I wanted,” he said, laughing. “Actually, when I was a little kid, Central Airlines, which eventually merged with somebody else and became Frontier Airlines, was giving familiarization rides because people didn’t fly on airlines much in the 1950s.”

Hill will never forget the first time he got to fly.

“I got to sit in the front seat of a DC-3 and fly over Denver at night,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘I have to learn how to do this.’ I promised Mrs. Applebaum, who was my Sunday school teacher, that I would get a pilot’s license and give her a ride. I kept that promise.”

Hill made the switch to piloting balloons because “it is very, very basic.”

He added, “It is a social event as much as it is a flying event. You can take people in a balloon when they wouldn’t have the nerve to get into an airplane. I like taking people flying.”

It takes a lot of energy to move a balloon, Hill said.

“This balloon carries 30 gallons of propane,” he said. “I teach students to try to land with at least one third of their propane left. We will burn probably 20 gallons in a given flight. You can’t make it move, and if you have to stay up in the air to avoid a hazard, you need extra propane left over.”

Hill flies frequently.

“I go up at least once a week in the summer,” he said. “If we’re not flying this balloon, I have a contract with RE/MAX. I’m the pilot for the RE/MAX balloon. Some weekends I have the opportunity to fly both, and that’s real fun.”

Each flight is a different length, according to Hill.

“How long you can stay up depends on the weight you are carrying and the temperature,” he said. “If you’re going to Aspen, and they say it’s 78 degrees, we’re weight limited, and if you’re carrying three people, someone has to get off. We can have the same situation here. It has to do with how much oxygen you can get out of the atmosphere.”

Hill said he has had some memorable moments flying balloons, but he added, “I try to avoid memorable as much as possible. The only horrifying thing that ever happened to me was when I had someone descend on top of my balloon during a national competition. It was a lot scarier to live through than it actually was in practice.”

Hill said that setting up a balloon is a physical activity.

“The basket weighs about 250 pounds, and with the fuel onboard, it’s more than that,” he said. “The balloon weighs about 150 pounds. The volunteers come out and help us with this.”

Hill said he has no plans to quit piloting balloons anytime soon.

“It’s a fun hobby, and it gives you something to talk about when the weather is bad,” he said. “I am a commercial pilot. I have done some airplane commercial flying. If you have seen guys towing banners around stadiums and stuff, I have done that. I was in Wray, Colorado, flying a banner for someone who graduated from high school. Her dad was a crop duster pilot, and he told me I was crazy. He said he would never do that. We are well-trained, but it makes you think.”

Hill doesn’t just fly balloons for his own pleasure. He’s a licensed balloon instructor. He enjoys teaching others how to pilot a balloon.

“You’ve got to be able to make it go up and down,” he said. “It is like any other pilot license. There is a written test that you have to take and pass, and then there is a practical test that you have to do with a representative of the government to prove that you can conduct the flight. It is not extremely difficult.”

Hill said balloon pilots enjoys lots of freedom in the air.

“There are rules of the road for aviation and you have to follow those. You don’t want to run into any other aircraft,” he said. “If you are flying outside of the big airports in the United States, you do not have to be in contact with the government. We have the privilege to fly almost anywhere. There are few places on the map that you can’t — like where the president is, and we’re restricted around stadiums. But the rules that we live by are very few. We are free to go almost anywhere and do almost anything in an aircraft. It is still a free country in the air.”

Rick Patterson of Firestone, Colorado, is a ground crew chief and was with Hill during the Old West Balloon Fest.

“I met Hill in 1984; we wore his balloon out,” he said. “I got to a point in my life where it was not safe for me to fly, so I gave my balloon to Hill. I have been working with Hill and helping him out when he flies the balloon. His balloon is over 30 years old, but they last a long time if you take good care of it and if you have a good repair station for when you don’t take very good care of it.”

Patterson said Hill’s flight during the Old West Balloon Fest went well.

“They only took out 10 corn stalks when he landed,” he said.

Hill said he plans to participate in the Old West Balloon Fest again next year.

Original article can be found here ➤

No Retrial for Plane Engine Maker After $2.7M Crash Verdict: Cessna T210L Turbo Centurion, N30266, fatal accident occurred June 21, 2010 near William T. Piper Memorial Airport (KLHV), Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

The manufacturer of an airplane engine that allegedly failed midflight has been denied a retrial in a case that ended in a $2.7 million verdict for the widow of one of the passengers killed in the resulting fatal crash, a federal judge has ruled.

Two months after declining to vacate the jury's verdict against Continental Motors, U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania again ruled against the engine manufacturer, this time in denying its request for a new trial or a modification of the verdict.

Continental manufactured the engine parts in the Cessna T210L that crashed and killed the pilot and two U.S. Forest Service surveyors aboard, according to Joyner's opinion.

The lawsuit brought by Elizabeth Snider and the estate of her husband, surveyor Daniel Snider, alleges that Continental negligently manufactured a replacement cylinder put in the engine six years before the accident. Continental claimed the jury's award couldn't be justified because there was no way to prove that it manufactured the component that caused the accident.

Continental claimed in its newest bid to escape the $2.7 million verdict that the jury gave more weight to the testimony of Snider's expert witnesses than to Continental's.

"That of course, is precisely what a jury is expected to do," Joyner wrote in his Tuesday opinion, "weigh the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses and make a determination as to the facts. That the jury performed its function in a manner which displeases Continental and reached a decision with which Continental disagrees is not a reason to disturb the verdict."

Leigh Woodruff of Skinner Law Group in Woodland Hills, California, represents Continental and did not respond to a request for comment. Snider's lawyer, Allison B. Williams of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in Bridgeport, West Virginia, also didn't respond to a request for comment.

Late last June, Joyner held that the facts of the case were strong enough to support the jury's verdict, rejecting Continental's claims that the jury's award couldn't be justified because there was no way to prove that it manufactured the component that caused the accident.

"In reviewing the trial record of this case under the lens of the preceding authority, we find that plaintiff produced sufficient documentary and testimonial evidence at trial that Continental manufactured a replacement part which was installed in the accident aircraft's engine some six years prior to the June 2010 crash," Joyner wrote in his June 29 opinion.

Because the record pointed to the cylinder being the cause of the accident, Joyner said Snider's claims weren't barred under the General Aviation Revitalization Act, as Continental argued. The GARA was enacted in 1994 to limit the liability for the declining longtail aviation industry.

The families of the other two passengers sued as well, and those cases were settled.

As for Snider's case, "The jury was free to believe or disbelieve any or all of the expert witnesses who testified in this action and was free to accept or reject the theories of failure advanced by any party," Joyner said. "In determining whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain liability, the court may not weigh the evidence, determine the credibility of witnesses, or substitute its version of the facts for the jury's version. These principles are well-settled and we follow them now."

Earlier in the case, Continental had roped in the U.S. government as a defendant. However, Joyner dismissed the federal government from the litigation.

The crash occurred while the aircraft was approaching William T. Piper Memorial Airport in Lock Haven. As the plane began to land, it experienced total engine failure and subsequently crashed.

The plane, operated by defendant Sterling Airways, was built in 1973 and its engine was overhauled in 2004.

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office;  New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Cessna Aircraft Company; Wichita, Kansas 
Teledyne Continental Motors; Mobile, Alabama
USDA Forest Service; Ogden, Utah
USDA Forest Service; Bly, Minnesota 

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ERA10GA320
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Monday, June 21, 2010 in Lock Haven, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/08/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA T210L, registration: N30266
Injuries: 3 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 public aircraft accident report.

The aerial observation flight was conducted by a 14 CFR Part 135 certificated on-demand air carrier under contract to the U.S. Forest Service. As the flight neared its destination airport, the pilot reported via the airport's common traffic advisory frequency his intent to land. Witnesses reported that, as the airplane overflew them on approach to the airport, it appeared to be in distress, trailing black smoke with the engine "sputtering." The airplane subsequently impacted a light stanchion about 1,300 feet short of the intended landing runway. Before coming to rest, the airplane struck a house and several parked cars, and it was nearly consumed during a post-impact fire. Postaccident examination revealed a catastrophic failure of the airplane's engine, which originated with a fatigue failure of the number 2 cylinder exhaust valve. The fatigue failure was likely due to abnormal loading associated with excessive valve-to-valve guide clearance resulting from valve guide wear. Typically, valve guide wear results from either overall elevated engine operating temperatures or individually elevated valve temperatures due to improper valve seating. The normal wear pattern observed on the number 2 exhaust valve seat suggested that improper valve seating was not an issue in this case. 

Significant exhaust valve guide wear was observed on all cylinders, with the valve guides of the generally cooler cylinders near the front of the engine showing less wear than those of the generally hotter cylinders near the rear of the engine. This overall pattern suggested a persistent elevated temperature problem, which could have resulted from either improper engine operation or an undiagnosed maintenance issue. 

The investigation revealed that, when performing engine cylinder differential pressure tests during required routine inspections of the airplane’s engine, the contract operator utilized gauges that had not been calibrated since their purchase and did not perform the tests in accordance with the engine manufacturer's recommendations. Also, the engine manufacturer recommended that cylinder borescope inspections be accomplished in conjunction with the differential pressure tests, and there were no notations in the engine maintenance records of any visual borescope inspections of the interior of the cylinders. Further, there was no notation in the records that the fuel injection system had been inspected and adjusted per the engine manufacturer’s recommendations. If properly performed, differential pressure tests and borescope inspections may have detected valve guide wear and prevented the exhaust valve failure, and fuel injection system inspections may have detected and corrected incorrect adjustment of the engine fuel system, which can result in elevated engine cylinder temperatures and lead to valve guide wear. These and other instances of non-compliance with manufacturer service recommendations discovered during the investigation indicated that the contract operator was not maintaining the airplane in a manner consistent with its "Operator's Manual," which dictated that inspections of time-limited components were to be conducted in accordance with the applicable manufacturers' recommendations.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The total loss of engine power resulting from the fatigue failure of the engine's number 2 cylinder exhaust valve. The fatigue failure was due to valve guide wear that led to excessive clearance between the valve and valve guide. Contributing to the accident was the contract operator’s lack of compliance with its own maintenance procedures, which, if followed, would have prevented the accident.


On June 21, 2010, at 1257 eastern daylight time, a Cessna T210L, N30266, registered to Sterling Airways, Inc., and operated under contract by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, was substantially damaged when it struck a light stanchion and collided with terrain while maneuvering for a forced landing following a total loss of engine power near William T. Piper Memorial Airport (LHV), Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. The certificated airline transport pilot and two USDA Forest Service mission specialists were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a company visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed for the public use aerial observation flight, which departed Clarion Country Airport (AXQ), Clarion, Pennsylvania, about 1035.

According to a representative of USDA Forest Service, the purpose of the flight was to conduct an aerial survey of tree defoliation in southwestern Pennsylvania. A review of fueling records revealed that the pilot serviced the airplane with 49 gallons of fuel on the evening of June 20, 2010. Automated Flight Following (AFF) data provided by the USDA Forest Service indicated that, on the morning of the accident, the pilot repositioned the airplane from its base at Hornell Municipal Airport (4G6), Hornell, New York, to AQX where the two USDA Forest Service mission specialists boarded it about 1030. 

The flight from AQX was scheduled to arrive at LHV about 1300 to refuel the airplane, before continuing with the survey. About 1250, AFF data indicated that the airplane was about 14 miles west of LHV, at an altitude of 2,500 feet msl (about 1,000 feet agl). Subsequent data indicated that the airplane tracked generally northeast over the next 6 minutes, toward the town of Lock Haven. The airplane's final indicated position was about 3 miles west of the LHV runway 9 threshold, at an altitude of 1,519 feet msl (about 1,000 feet agl).

According to a certificated flight instructor (CFI) who was flying in the traffic pattern at LHV for runway 27, he heard the accident pilot announce over the LHV Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) that he was 8 miles southwest of the airport. The CFI also heard the accident pilot ask if fuel was available at the airport. About 2 minutes later, the CFI heard the accident pilot report that he was 5 miles southwest of the airport. The CFI heard no further transmissions by the accident pilot. The CFI also stated there was no tone of urgency in the accident pilot's voice nor did he declare an emergency at any point. 

A Piper PA-24 subsequently taxied onto runway 27, and the pilot announced his position via the CTAF before departing to the west. Shortly after that airplane departed, when the CFI had turned his airplane onto the base leg of the traffic pattern, an unknown person announced on the CTAF that there had been an explosion off the departure end of the runway, which the CFI later learned was the accident airplane.

Two witnesses, who worked at Lock Haven University, about 1.5 nautical miles northwest of the accident site, observed the accident airplane as it overflew university property. Both of the witnesses stated that the airplane was flying lower when compared to the other airplanes that they would normally see landing at the airport. Shortly after first observing the airplane, it began trailing smoke. The smoke trail then stopped, and they both heard a loud noise, similar to a "gun blast." Both witnesses stated that after the initial loud noise, the engine ceased operating for several seconds, and then it started to "cough and sputter." Both of the witnesses reported hearing a second loud noise while the engine continued to sputter. 

Numerous other individuals witnessed the accident airplane as it approached LHV over the town of Lock Haven, and their statements were generally consistent. Six of the witnesses described that the airplane’s engine was "sputtering" as it flew over them, and several remarked about how loud the engine was. One witness commented that "it sounded like a connecting rod problem with the engine due to the noise it was making." Six of the witnesses also commented that the airplane appeared to be "struggling" to maintain altitude, or that it was lower than normal as it overflew them. Several witnesses commented that they thought it unusual that the airplane's landing gear was retracted as it overflew them. 


The pilot, who was an employee of Sterling Airways Inc., held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land. He also held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single engine and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate was issued on December 29, 2009. The pilot’s logbooks were not recovered, but according to USDA Forest Service records, the pilot had logged 8,280 total hours of flight experience as of March 16, 2010, with 1,775 hours in the accident airplane make and model. 


According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1973. The airplane was equipped with a Teledyne Continental Motors TSIO-520-H engine. 

The most recent engine overhaul was completed by Sterling Airways Inc. on May 7, 2004, and on that date the airplane had accumulated 4,276 total hours of operation. According to maintenance records, the engine was "…overhauled [in accordance with] TSIO-520 sandcast series [overhaul manual]," and all hardware was replaced in accordance with Teledyne Continental Motors Service Bulletin (SB) SB97-6. All six cylinders and their respective exhaust and intake valves were replaced with new Teledyne Continental Motors parts. The following logbook entry documented a post-maintenance flight check conducted by the accident pilot. The pilot entered a remark of "fuel flow low," which was addressed in the following log entry, "Adjusted fuel flow pressure per overhaul manual. (Cessna) Ground run check good."

An engine logbook entry dated June 7, 2007, at 4,710 total aircraft hours, documented an annual inspection. The entry also noted, "Removed #3 & 6 cyl for valve (exh) & valve guides both cyl. Cylinders re-installed with new gaskets." No additional details regarding the cylinder work performed during this inspection were documented in the engine maintenance log. 

An airframe maintenance logbook entry dated January 18, 2008, documented the completion of an annual inspection and the flight of the airplane for a period of about 6 hours under 14 CFR Part 91. The entry noted that airworthiness directives (ADs) were complied with prior to departure and that an airworthiness conforming validation check was performed during the annual inspection. All time limited components were checked, and the airplane was cleared to return to 14 CFR Part 135 service. No further entries removing or reinstating the airplane to 14 CFR Part 135 service were noted.

The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on March 9, 2010, at 5,000 total aircraft hours. The engine logbook entry for the inspection noted a replacement of the engine oil and filter with an accompanying check of the oil and oil filter contents. The magnetos, timing, and compression checks were satisfactory, with a note describing the cylinder differential pressure test values as 75, 68, 72, 74, 77, and 70 psi for cylinders 1 through 6, respectively. The spark plugs were cleaned, gapped, tested, and reinstalled. The oil filter adapter was repositioned and the engine was washed. The entry noted that no applicable ADs were required to be complied with at the time, and a ground run of the engine was satisfactory. The airplane had accumulated about 45 additional hours of operation between the time of the annual inspection and the date of the accident flight.

Detailed inspection of the airplane's maintenance records from the time that the engine was overhauled in 2004 until the time of the accident showed that guidance used for conducting annual inspections varied. For the annual inspections completed in 2004 and 2005, the entries specified using the guidance provided by "Cessna 210 maint. man. insp. form." For annual inspections in 2006 and 2007, the entries specified using the guidance provided by, "FAR 43 Appendix D." An annual inspection completed in 2008 cited using "FAR 43 Appendix D & Cessna insp. sheet" as guidance, while entries for inspections in 2009 and 2010 again cited "FAR 43 Appendix D." A detailed comparison of the scope of guidance provided by each of the above listed inspections can be found in the public docket for this case.

Neither the engine nor the airframe maintenance logbooks explicitly detailed compliance with any manufacturer's service bulletins, service information directives, or service information letters following the entries detailing the engine overhaul in May 2004.


Weather, recorded at LHV at 1300, included no ceiling information, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 21 degrees C, dewpoint 16 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.10 inches of mercury. The winds were from 250 degrees true at 6 knots.


The airplane was examined at the accident site on June 21, 2010. The accident site was located on a residential street, about 1,300 feet west of the runway 9 threshold at LHV, at an elevation of 556 feet. The initial impact point was located about 7.5 feet below the top of a wooden street light stanchion, where the outboard section of the left horizontal stabilizer impacted the pole. The wreckage path was oriented about 120 degrees magnetic. The airplane struck the front porch of a residence and three parked cars before coming to rest about 260 feet from the initial impact point, headed about 250 degrees magnetic. Small parts of the airplane were strewn along the wreckage path, and all flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident scene. 

The cockpit and cabin were substantially impact-damaged and partially consumed by a post-impact fire. The instrument panel was severely burned, and none of the flight instruments contained any legible information. The throttle was found in the full aft position, the mixture control was found in the full rich position, and the propeller control was found in the full forward position. The fuel selector valve was selected to the right fuel tank. 

Flight control continuity to the ailerons was traced through a single separation, consistent with overload, to the control column. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder, elevator, and elevator trim tab to the cockpit area. Measurement of the elevator trim tab actuator correlated to between a 10- and 15-degree tab trailing-edge-up position. Measurement of the flap actuator jackscrew correlated to the flaps up position. The main landing gear was in the up position, although both were dislodged out of the up-locking mechanism. The nose gear was in the up and locked position.

All three propeller blades remained attached to the hub, which remained attached to the engine. One of the three propeller blades was bent aft at a point about 1/3 of its span, and had rotated 180 degrees in the propeller hub. The remaining two propeller blades exhibited minor scratching, and were relatively undamaged.

The engine exhibited impact and thermal-related damage, and a large portion of the engine was covered by dark black soot. The crankcase exhibited a protruding hole extending from the number 1 cylinder deck area over to the number 2 cylinder deck area extending forward to the number 4 cylinder deck area. The oil sump exhibited a puncture hole on the aft side of the sump. The oil sump drain was intact and secure with no safety wire present. The safety wire installed on the oil filter was oriented in a direction as to apply a loosening force to the filter; however, the oil filter was securely in place.

The left and right magnetos turned freely with impulse coupling engagement. Their outer cases exhibited impact related damage. The magnetos were installed and tested on the test bench and produced a blue spark across a 7 mm gap through the full range of test bench rpm. The number 2 top and number 2 bottom spark plugs exhibited mechanical damage. The numbers 1, 3, and 5 top and bottom sparkplugs exhibited worn signatures in accordance with the Champion Aviation check-a-plug comparison chart, while the numbers 4 and 6 top and bottom spark plugs exhibited normal wear signatures in accordance with the chart.

The oil sump was drained of oil, and the amount was measured to be approximately a half a quart. The oil was dark in color and contained metallic particles. Once the oil sump was removed there were numerous internal engine components located in the bottom of the oil sump. The oil pick-up tube was undamaged, and the oil suction screen was unrestricted. The oil filter housing was cut open and the filter element was cut from the canister to allow examination. The oil filter element was examined and contained an abundance of metallic flakes and slivers.

The fuel control exhibited a dark colored soot and thermal related damage. The throttle body valve was found in the full open position. The link rod and levers did not move freely by hand. The fuel pump turned freely and the fuel pump drive was intact and undamaged. The fuel nozzles were unrestricted and exhibited normal operating signatures, with the exception of the number 6, which exhibited a light amount of impact related damage on the upper portion of the nozzle. A fine, particle-type contamination was found within the fuel control finger screen, fuel pump, and fuel manifold valve. Samples of the contaminate were forwarded to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examination.

The turbocharger turbine wheel rotated freely by hand, and exhibited a normal amount of shaft end play.

The camshaft exhibited mechanical damage from the number one to number four cylinder locations. With the exception of the mechanical damage to the camshaft the camshaft lobes exhibited normal operating signatures.

The crankshaft and counterweight assembly exhibited mechanical damage concentrated at the number two, three and four connecting rod journals. The crankshaft main bearing journals were intact, undamaged and exhibited normal operating signatures. The number 1, 5, and 6 connecting rod journals were intact, undamaged and did not exhibit any signs of lubrication distress. The number 2, 3, and 4 connecting rod journals exhibited mechanical damage. The oil transfer passages were open and unrestricted, and the oil transfer collar was intact and undamaged. The crankshaft main bearings remained intact, and exhibited normal operating and lubrication signatures, with no signs of lubrication distress.

The number 1, 5, and 6 connecting rods were intact and undamaged. Their respective bushing and bearings exhibited normal operating and lubrication signatures. The number 2, 3, and 4 connecting rods exhibited extreme mechanical damage and had separated from their respective connecting rod caps. Fragments of the connecting rod caps exhibited mechanical damage. Fragments of the connecting rod bolts and nuts were fractured through and exhibited mechanical damage and signatures consistent with overload. The number 2, 3, and 4 connecting rod bearings could not be distinguished from the bearings found in the oil sump, though each of the six connecting rod bearings recovered from the oil sump exhibited extensive mechanical damage. 

All of the pistons displayed normal combustion deposits and varying levels of damage, with the exception of the number 2 piston, which was absent from its respective bore. Numerous piston fragments were recovered from the oil sump.

Each of the cylinders was removed from the crankcase and examined in detail. Cylinder numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 generally displayed similar signatures. The cylinder combustion chambers exhibited normal combustion deposits with bore conditions that were free of scoring and undamaged. Hone marks were visible in the cylinder bore ring travel areas, and the intake and exhaust valve heads exhibited normal deposits. An oil residue was present in the rocker box areas, and the cylinder overhead components (valves, rocker arms, guides, springs, retainers and shafts) were lubricated and undamaged. The number 3 and 5 exhaust valves and guides displayed part numbers consistent with FAA PMA components, and matched the part numbers of the replaced components detailed in the maintenance work orders dated May 25, 2007.

Examination of the number 2 cylinder revealed an extensive amount of mechanical damage. The cylinder skirt exhibited mechanical damage. There were hone marks visible in the cylinder bore ring travel area. The rocker box area had an oil residue. The exhaust valve face, a portion of the valve stem, and a portion of the exhaust valve guide had separated and were found with the loose components in the engine oil sump.

Dimensional examination of the exhaust valve and valve guides revealed average valve clearances of 0.0272, 0.0357, 0.0125, 0.0176, 0.0115, and 0.0169 inches for cylinders numbers 1 through 6, respectively.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot and the front seat passenger by the J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital Laboratory, Huntington, Pennsylvania. The basic published cause of death for both individuals was "inhalation of smoke with thermal injury."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot and front seat passenger. Toxicological testing of both individuals was negative for cyanide, ethanol, and drugs. The pilot tested positive for a carboxyhemoglobin (carbon monoxide) saturation of 10 percent.


The number 2 cylinder assembly with number 2 exhaust valve pieces and exhaust valve guide piece; number 2 and number 4 connecting rod cap, nut, and bolt pieces; piston pieces; fuel metering valve; and fuel manifold valve were submitted to the NTSB Materials laboratory for detailed examination. According to the Materials Laboratory Factual Report, the interior of the number 2 cylinder was marked from foreign object damage, and the barrel skirt was deformed and fractured. The piston was fractured into numerous pieces. Several connecting rod bolts were fractured, and one connecting rod bolt was bent. The number 4 connecting rod cap was flattened and fractured. With the exception of the number 2 exhaust valve and guide, all of the submitted components generally exhibited fracture features consistent with overstress. 

Number 2 Cylinder Exhaust Valve

The exhaust valve for the number 2 cylinder fractured in the stem at the transition between the stem and head of the valve. The fracture face on the head side of the fracture was mostly obliterated by post-fracture contact damage. On the stem side of the fracture, ratchet marks were observed at the edges of the fracture consistent with fatigue cracking that emanated from multiple origins. The fracture face was cleaned and post-cleaning examination revealed crack arrest marks and thumbnail features that extended from three origin areas, consistent with fatigue cracking. Fatigue features emanated from multiple origin areas around the circumference of the valve stem.

The exhaust valve tip at the rocker contact face had a circular pattern near the middle of the face. Overall, the surface appeared uniformly shiny, consistent with repeated impact. Small lips of deformed material were observed at the edges of the tip contact face. The exhaust valve head piece showed foreign object contact deformation around the edges of the piece. The chamber face of the valve head was roughened, consistent with foreign object contact. In undamaged areas, the valve seat showed a normal contact pattern with some recession. The opposing face of the valve head displayed similar damage, in addition to a distinct area of discoloration over about 25-percent of the surface area. Three radially oriented cracks were observed around the outside circumference of the valve head, within the discolored area.

The diameter of the exhaust valve stem was measured near the head and tip ends, and was calculated to be an average diameter of 0.4313 inches. A new exhaust valve stem was specified to measure 0.4334 to 0.4341 inches. 

Number 2 Cylinder Exhaust Valve Guide

The exhaust valve guide for the number 2 cylinder was fractured where it intersected the rocker arm cavity of the cylinder head. The mating faces were smooth and appeared worn, consistent with post-fracture contact. The fracture features were obliterated from mechanical damage that resulted from the post fracture contact. 

The inside diameters of the intake and exhaust valve guides were measured using telescoping gages at 0 degrees and 90 degrees about the axis of exhaust valve guide, where 0 degrees was the orientation parallel to the length of the rocker arm, and 90 degrees was perpendicular to the length of the rocker arm. The diameters were measured at each orientation at positions near the top (rocker arm end), middle, and bottom (combustion chamber end) of the valve guides. The average valve guide diameter was calculated to be about 0.4628 inches. A new exhaust valve guide was specified to measure 0.4350 to 0.4362 inches after installation into a cylinder.

According to the Teledyne Continental Motors TSIO-520 Sandcast Series Overhaul Manual, the service limit for the clearance between the exhaust valve stem and guide was 0.0070 inches (valve stem outside diameter subtracted from the valve guide inside diameter). However, the average clearance between the number 2 cylinder exhaust valve stem and guide was calculated to be in excess of 0.0300 inches.

Fuel Metering and Fuel Manifold Valve Screens

The fuel metering valve was tinted dark and sooted, consistent with heat exposure. 
The brass screen was removed from the fuel metering valve, and light-brown particles fell out onto catch paper as the screen was pulled from the housing. The fuel manifold valve cover was unscrewed from the body, and the diaphragm was pulled out to expose the screen. Some similar light-brown particles were observed on the screen. A powdery white material was observed at the middle of the body adjacent to the screen. 

Samples of the light-brown particles from the fuel metering valve and the white powdery material from adjacent to the screen area on the fuel manifold valve were placed on carbon tape stuck to an aluminum stub for analysis using semi-quantitative standardless energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy. Both samples showed peaks of carbon, oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. The sample from the metering valve screen also showed a possible peak of zinc. The sample from the manifold valve screen area showed a high peak of aluminum with a small peak of magnesium. The exact chemical compositions for the samples could not be determined.


Operator Interviews

Sterling Airways' director of maintenance (DOM) was interviewed on August 25, 2010 at the facility in Hornell, New York. The DOM served as the company's primary mechanic, and held a mechanic certificate with ratings for airframe and power plant, and held an inspection authorization. During the interview, the DOM was asked to describe the in-house engine overhaul that was completed in May 2004, a process that lasted between 4 and 6 months. According to the DOM, he had ordered new engine manuals in preparation for the overhaul and after removing and disassembling the engine, sent out all of the components that required inspection or overhaul and replaced others. 

The company elected to replace all of the engine's cylinders (and their respective sub-components) with new cylinders manufactured by Teledyne Continental Motors. After the engine was reassembled, the DOM reinstalled the engine and performed a test run with the assistance of another airframe and powerplant mechanic not employed by the company. The only tool not immediately available to the mechanics during the reinstallation was a fuel pressure gauge, which they borrowed from an off-airport third-party vendor. The DOM also stated that he added a reference regarding compliance with Teledyne Continental Motors SB97-6 after a discussion with Sterling Airways' FAA Principal Maintenance Inspector.

The DOM was asked to discuss his procedures for performing engine cylinder differential pressure tests during routine inspections. When performing the tests, the DOM generally referred to 50 psi (out of 80 psi) as a minimum value for the retention of air pressure within the cylinder during the test. During the interview, the DOM was asked to provide calibration records for the pressure gauges he normally utilized. The DOM stated that he had records for torque wrench calibration, but no records documenting the calibration of the pressure gauges, and that he wasn't aware the gauges required calibration.

The DOM was also asked to describe in detail the engine maintenance log entry dated June 2007 detailing removal and reinstallation of engine cylinders number 3 and 5. The DOM stated that during the annual inspection he had found poor compression on two of the cylinders. When further questioned he was initially unable to recall the specific work he had performed, but after talking to the airframe and powerplant mechanic who assisted with the engine reinstallation, he recalled that he had removed the cylinders to clean carbon from the valves and guides with an emery cloth. When asked to provide documentation in the form of a company invoice or work order detailing the work performed, the DOM stated that none was required as the work had been performed "in-house."

In response to a follow-up written request, dated September 20, 2011, to Sterling Airways regarding the June 2007 cylinder work, the company provided two third-party maintenance work orders which detailed maintenance performed on two engine cylinders. According to the work orders, dated May 25, 2007, the exhaust valves and guides were replaced with FAA Parts Manufacturing Authority (PMA) components, the valve seats and intake valves were ground, and several gaskets, keys, and seals associated with the cylinders were replaced. The work orders did not detail the installation positions of the cylinders on the engine.

FAR 135 Operations Specifications and Operator's Manual

According to Sterling Airways Operations Specifications, the accident airplane was authorized to conduct 14 CFR Part 135 on-demand charter flights, carrying passengers under VFR during day and night conditions. The operations specifications also stated that the airplane's engine shall be maintained in accordance with the Continental Motors Service Manual and had a Time-in-Service (overhaul) Interval of 1,400 hours.

According to the Sterling Airways, Inc. Operator's Manual, the accident airplane was to routinely receive an inspection each 100 hours and/or annually. The DOM was charged with reviewing the current airworthiness directive listing and for scheduling of the new or the recurring airworthiness directives to be performed prior to the completion of the airplane's inspection. The manual further specified that, "Time-limited engines, propellers, components, accessories, and appliances will be inspected, serviced and overhauled in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations." The DOM was also to maintain a current Component Inspection, Replacement, and AD List (SAI Form M-1[A]) for each aircraft. When a time-limited component was inspected, replaced, or overhauled, the DOM was required to revise the list by making a new entry stating the next required compliance date or interval of aircraft time in service. A copy of the form was to be carried on each flight for reference by the pilot.

Sterling Airways Inc. surrendered its air carrier certificate to the FAA on April 15, 2011.

USDA Forest Service Contract

In March 2008, the USDA Forest Service contracted with Sterling Airways Inc. to provide an aircraft and pilot for the purpose of conducting aerial surveys. The contract listed numerous requirements and specified the configuration of the aircraft, the installation of required equipment, and the qualifications and duties of the pilot. Specifically, the contract listed that the aircraft be equipped for single pilot day and night VFR passenger operations per the requirements of 14 CFR Part 135, and that the airplane shall comply with all 14 CFR Part 135 requirements.

Engine Manufacturer's Service Information

Teledyne Continental Motors Service Bulletin (SB) SB03-3, titled "Differential Pressure Test and Borescope Inspection Procedures for Cylinders" dictated the procedures to be used as the standard for performing a cylinder differential pressure test on all Teledyne Continental Motors aircraft engines. The purpose of the cylinder differential pressure test was to identify leaks within the engine cylinders, and if present, identify the source of the leaks, with the engine under static conditions (not running), using a regulated pressure source. When performing a cylinder differential pressure test, a regulated test pressure of 80 psi was directed into the cylinder with the piston at top dead center at the end of the compression stroke and the beginning of the power stroke. After completing the procedure detailed in the SB, the mechanic was directed to record the resultant pressure displayed on a pressure gauge connected to the tested cylinder. The difference between the resultant pressure and the regulated pressure was the amount of leakage through the cylinder and was to be recorded in the engine maintenance log. The SB also outlined a procedure for establishing the acceptable pressure leakage limit utilizing a master orifice. The limit was required to be established by the mechanic prior to initiating the first test, and was to be logged in the engine log book, along with the pressure values observed at each cylinder.

In addition to inspecting the compression of the cylinders using the above described method, the SB also described how to perform a cylinder inspection utilizing a borescope. By inserting a borescope probe through the upper spark plug hole, the internal surfaces of each cylinder, exhaust valve, and exhaust valve seat could be examined for, in part, evidence of exhaust valve discoloration, cracking, or erosion. Detection of such anomalies was remedied with removal, repair, or replacement of the pertinent cylinder.

Each of the annual inspection entries were examined within the engine maintenance log book following the engine's overhaul in 2004. While each of the entries noted pressure values observed on each of the engine's 6 cylinders, no pressure leakage limit value was recorded. Additionally, there were no references to any borescope inspections having been performed.

The Service Bulletin prescribed the equipment and tools required to adequately perform the test and carried the following statement, "NOTE: Differential pressure test equipment must be certified and calibrated. Failure to properly maintain and calibrate test equipment may result in false cylinder differential compression readings."

Teledyne Continental Motors Service Information Directive (SID) SID97-3E (issued March 24, 2007, revised June 17, 2008), "Procedures and Specifications for Adjustment of Teledyne Continental Motors Continuous Flow Fuel Injection Systems", provided guidance for the adjustment of the TSIO-520 fuel injection system. The SID was applicable at engine installation, during 100 hour or annual inspections, following fuel system component replacement, or as required if engine operation was not within specification. The directive cautioned, "Engine performance, service life and reliability will be compromised if the engine's fuel system is neglected." The SID specified the equipment and procedures necessary for ensuring the proper fuel volume was passed into the engine cylinders through adjustments to the engine driven fuel pump and the observation of calibrated fuel pressure gauges installed specifically for the purposes of the test. The gauges were used to measure the unmetered fuel pressure as it discharged from the engine driven fuel pump, and the metered fuel pressure from the fuel metering unit. The bulletin further warned that, "Use of inaccurate gauges will result in incorrect adjustment of the engine fuel system, possible cylinder wear due to lean operation, pre-ignition, detonation, loss of power and severe engine damage."

Each of the maintenance log entries were examined within the engine maintenance log book following the engine's overhaul in 2004. No maintenance log entries citing compliance with the SID or explicitly noting inspection/adjustment of the fuel system were found.

Other Maintenance History

The Cessna Centurion Series Service Manual provided a detailed inspection program outlining tasks to be accomplished during 50, 100, and 200 hour inspections, or during other intervals dictated for particular components. Some specific requirements included: Inspection of the fuel injector screen for cleanliness or contamination every 50 hours; Replacement of engine hoses at engine overhaul or every 5 years; Overhaul of all landing gear retraction and brake system components every 5 years or 1,000 hours; Lubrication of the elevator trim tab actuator every 3 years or 1,000 hours. Review of the airplane's maintenance logs revealed no explicit reverences to compliance with any of the above required inspections, nor did SAI Form M-1A track or schedule their recurrence. When asked, the DOM was unable to provide any copies of the inspection program checklists used during previous annual/100 hour inspections.

McCauley Propeller Systems Service Bulletin SB137AE limited the overhaul interval for all propeller governors to 2,000 hours of operation or 60 calendar months in service. Review of the SAI Form M-1A showed that the next scheduled propeller governor overhaul was scheduled for September 2012 or 6,578 aircraft hours. Review of airframe, engine, and propeller logs showed that the most recent propeller governor overhaul was completed on August 14, 2002 at 4,116 aircraft hours. The propeller log detailed that the propeller was overhauled on August 6, 2008, but the propeller, airframe, engine logs did not note any action associated with the propeller governor. 

According to Slick Aircraft Products Service Bulletin SB2-80C, the Slick 6310 magnetos installed on the accident engine were required to be inspected externally every 100 hours and internally every 500 hours. Compliance with the service bulletin was to be documented with the appropriate log book entries. Review of the accident airplane's airframe and engine logs revealed no evidence of compliance with either of the above listed inspection requirements. Additionally, SAI Form M-1A, listed the time in service for the next scheduled magneto overhauls, but did not list a schedule for either of the above required inspections.