Friday, October 20, 2017

Effort to move power lines that caused deadly Slidell Municipal Airport (KASD) crash move forward

SLIDELL - The Slidell Municipal Airport is a new playground, of sorts, for pilot Martin Angelle, as he just started flying from there regularly a few months ago. 

But, he's learned quickly about its quirks.

"The power lines on the approach in at Runway 18, even on a beautiful day when you're coming down heading for the number, you always know the power lines are right under your wheels," he said.

Those power lines are the same ones blamed for a tragic plane crash in April 2016 when a mosquito spray plane hit them as experienced pilots Wayne Fisher and Donald Pichon were landing for the night.

Since then, area leaders have been on a mission to get the lines moved.  Thursday, the hard work paid off when the state's Public Service Commission, or PSC, officially got on board with the effort.

"Richie Artigue and myself has been working on this project for 18 months, due to the loss of life, two pilots," said Slidell City Councilman Val Vanney, "And we are really grateful that it is to this point now."

PSC Commissioner Eric Skrmetta says the agency's staff will now review the logistics of moving the lines, the cost to do the work and a way to pay for it.

Angelle, who was friends with both pilots who perished, says it's about time talk on this topic turned to action.

"It would be wonderful if they were not there and it'd be one less hazard to deal with, especially at landing," he said.

The project can actually have significance beyond just safety improvements. City leaders say it could actually bring an economic boom to the airport area.

"They'll be able to enlarge the airport, take larger planes in," said Vanney, "It'll be more attractive to companies to come in and do business in Slidell."

It's a promising start to a win-win for many.

The PSC is aiming to have its report to the two utility companies involved in six months

Story and video:

Beech 65-A90-1 King Air,  St. Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement,  N7MC

Fatal accident occurred April 19, 2016 at  Slidell Municipal Airport (KASD), St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office;  Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Saint Tammany Mosquito Abatement District; Slidell, Louisiana

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Mosquito Abatement District:

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA158
14 CFR Public Aircraft
Accident occurred Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Slidell, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/13/2017
Aircraft: BEECH 65 A90 1, registration: N7MC
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 and commercial copilot were conducting a mosquito abatement application flight. Although flight controls were installed in both positions, the pilot typically operated the airplane. During a night, visual approach to landing at their home airfield, the airplane was on the left base leg and overshot the runway's extended centerline and collided with 80-ft-tall power transmission towers and then impacted terrain. Examination of the airplane did not reveal any preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

Both pilots were experienced with night operations, especially at their home airport. The pilot had conducted operations at the airport for 14 years and the copilot for 31 years, which might have led to crew complacency on the approach.  Adequate visibility and moon disk illumination were available; however, the area preceding the runway is a marsh and lacks cultural lighting, which can result in black-hole conditions in which pilots may perceive the airplane to be higher than it actually is while conducting an approach visually.

The circumstances of the accident are consistent with the pilot experiencing the black hole illusion which contributed to him flying an approach profile that was too low for the distance remaining to the runway. It is likely that the pilot did not maintain adequate crosscheck of his altimeter and radar altimeter during the approach and that the copilot did not monitor the airplane's progress; thus, the flight crew did not recognize that they were not maintaining a safe approach path. Further, it is likely that neither pilot used the visual glidepath indicator at the airport, which is intended to be a countermeasure against premature descent in visual conditions.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

The unstable approach in black-hole conditions, resulting in the airplane overshooting the runway extended centerline and descending well below a safe glidepath for the runway. Contributing to the accident was the lack of monitoring by the copilot allowing the pilot to fly well below a normal glidepath.


On April 19, 2016, about 2115 central daylight time, a Beech 65-A90-1 airplane, N7MC, collided with towers suspending high-power transmission lines while attempting to land at Slidell Municipal Airport (ASD), Slidell, Louisiana. Both pilots were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the Saint Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement District as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 public aircraft operations flight . Night visual meteorological conditions existed at the airport at the time of the accident, and the flight was operating on a visual flight rules flight plan. The local flight originated about 2000.

After completing a planned mosquito abatement application flight, the pilots radioed their intention to land at ASD. The accident pilots were flying a visual pattern to runway 18, and another company airplane was behind them conducting a practice GPS approach to runway 18. When the pilot of the other company airplane radioed that they had crossed the GPS approach's final approach fix, the accident pilot radioed that they were on the left base leg and were number one to land at the airport. Seconds later, the pilots of the other company airplane saw a blue arc of electricity, followed shortly after by a plume of fire. The accident pilots could not be reached on the radio, and the company pilots notified emergency personnel. The airplane was located in a marsh about 0.6 nautical mile north-northwest of the approach end of runway 18.



The left seat pilot, age 59, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single-engine and instrument airplane. He was issued a second-class medical certificate, dated February 18, 2016, with the limitation that he must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision. On his medical application, the pilot reported that he used hydrochlorothiazide and irbesartan.

As of December 11, 2015, the pilot reported accruing 6,825 hours of single-engine total time with 50 hours logged in the preceding 6 months and 952 hours of multiengine total time with 15 hours logged in the preceding year. His flight time in the Beech C90 was 15 hours with 5 hours logged in the preceding year. He estimated that he had 7,762 total hours with 1,135 hours of night time, 10 hours of actual instrument time, and 305 hours of simulated instrument time. He reported his last biennial flight review occurred in February 2014.

Company records showed that the pilot flew the accident airplane for 7.4 hours in 2015 and 5.7 hours in 2014. On July 1, 2015, the pilot was approved by the aerial operations supervisor to act as pilot-in-command for the accident airplane and a Britten-Norman BN-2T airplane, N717MC.


The copilot, age 68, who was in the right seat, held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings in airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane and helicopter. He also held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single-engine sea and a flight instructor certificate for airplane single and multiengine, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane and helicopter. He was issued a second-class medical certificate, dated July 14, 2015, with the limitation that he must have available glasses for near vision. On his medical application, the copilot reported that he used diltiazem, losartan, pravastatin, metoprolol, etodolac, pantoprazole, sildenafil, and warfarin.

As of February 25, 2016, the pilot reported accruing 4,310 hours of single-engine total time with 50 hours logged in the preceding 6 months and 5,910 hours of multiengine time with 105 hours logged in the preceding year. His flight time in the Beech C90 was 627 hours with 59 hours logged in the preceding year. He estimated that he had 18,163 total hours with 4,619 hours of night time, 2,199 hours of actual instrument time, and 431 hours of simulated instrument time. He reported that his last biennial flight review occurred in February 2014.

The copilot was also the department's aerial operations supervisor. He had worked for the Saint Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement District for 31 years. According to other company pilots, although the copilot was the more senior pilot, he was seated in the right seat and would have been performing copilot duties.

Both pilots had flown the accident airplane together on April 4, 7, 8, 11, and 18, 2015, for a total of 6.9 hours. Each flight ended in a night landing to ASD. On the forms for each of the flights, the area for "comments and/or mechanical problems" was blank.


The low-wing, twin engine airplane was manufactured in 1968. It was powered by two 550-shaft- horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-20 turboprop engines. Each engine drove a three-blade, variable-pitch, full-feathering Hartzell HC-B3TN-3B propeller. The airplane was operated as a public aircraft operations flight by the Saint Tammany Parish of Louisiana for mosquito abatement purposes.

The airplane's most recent inspection was a combined Phase I through IV and annual inspection recorded on December 1, 2015, at an airframe total time of 15,189.6 hours. On that date, the left engine had accrued 9,676.6 hours since new and 1,638.4 hours since overhaul. The right engine had accrued 7,413 total hours since new and 1,248.5 hours since overhaul. Airplane forms filled out before the flight showed that the airplane had logged 15,207.1 total hours.

The airplane was originally manufactured as a US Army U-21D. It remained in military service until 1995 when it was sold to a civilian company. In 1998, the airplane was registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a Beechcraft 65A90-1 and issued a special airworthiness certificate for restricted use for the purpose of agriculture and pest control. The airplane was acquired by the Saint Tammany Parish in June 2012. The airplane was equipped with a radar altimeter and had controls installed in both pilot seats.


At 2053, the ASD automated weather reporting facility reported calm wind, visibility 10 miles, clear sky, temperature 68° F, dew point 64° F, and a barometric pressure of 30.09 inches of mercury .

Astronomical data from the US Navy Observatory indicated that the moon rose on the day of the accident at 1730 and set the following morning at 0541. The moon disk illumination was 94%.


The accident pilots were communicating on the airport's common traffic advisory radio frequency (CTAF), which was not recorded. The pilots in the company airplane who were also on the CTAF reported no distress calls before the accident.


ASD is located 4 miles northwest of Slidell, Louisiana, and is a publicly owned, nontowered airport that is open to the public. The airport is at an elevation of 28 ft mean sea level. It has a 5,002 ft long, 100 ft wide asphalt runway aligned with 18/36. Runway 18 has a displaced threshold with a published landing distance of 4,057 ft. It is lit with medium-intensity runway lighting and runway end identifier lights, which are preset to low intensity between the hours of dusk and dawn. There is precision approach path indicator lightning (PAPI) located on the left side of the runway, configured for a 3.0° glideslope.

The other company pilots reported that the airfield lighting was illuminated and that the PAPI operated normally.


The airplane initially impacted two 70- to 80-ft-tall towers that suspended high-power transmission lines . The lines generally ran on a heading of 150°/330° and, due to their height, were not required to be illuminated. Ceramic isolators were shattered on the northern pole, and the top guide wire was damaged on the southern pole. A portion of the airplane's lower chemical tank and left wing tip were found directly beneath the poles. The airplane's debris path followed a 175° heading in marshy terrain for about 555 ft.

The main wreckage came to rest about 0.6 nautical mile northwest of runway 18's approach end. The main wreckage consisted of the metal hopper tank frame, the upper portion of the fuselage, cockpit instrumentation, inboard left wing, outboard right wing, left horizontal, vertical stabilizer, rudder, and the left engine with its propeller. A postimpact fire consumed a majority of the cabin structure. The airplane's nose was generally aligned with 350° magnetic, and the fuselage was inverted.

Flight control continuity was confirmed to all surfaces. The flaps were in the retracted position. The elevator and rudder trim positions could not be determined due to impact damage. The fuel selector position could not be determined. The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) was still attached to the airplane, and the antenna and was found in the "armed" position, but it was thermally damaged. The company pilots in the other airplane reported that they did not hear any ELT beacon.

Both pilots' restraint hardware remained latched; the webbing was consumed by fire. The left fuel flow gauge read 400 pounds per hour and the right fuel gauge read 250 pounds per hour. The cockpit instrumentation was impact and thermally damaged and was largely unreadable. The right inlet turbine temperature gauge read about 700°. The left propeller speed read about 1,100 rpm.
The right engine was impact-separated and found upright. Its propeller remained attached to the engine. Two of the three blades displayed S-bending with nicks on their leading edges. Examination of the left propeller blades found one blade almost completely consumed by the postcrash fire. Another blade was partially consumed and displayed curling with a rearward bend. The third blade was curled and bent rearward. No anomalies were detected with the airframe and engine.

A thermally damaged SD card was recovered from the airplane's ADAPCO Wingman GX system and sent to the National Transportation Safety Board laboratory for data extraction. Due to the damage sustained in the accident, the chips on the card were not recoverable.



The St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The autopsy showed no natural diseases that could have posed a potential hazard to flight safety.

The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot. Testing was negative for carbon monoxide and ethanol. The following drugs were detected:

Ibuprofen detected in urine
Irbesartan detected in urine
Irbesartan detected in blood

The pilot had previously reported the use of irbesartan, which is used to treat high blood pressure, to the FAA. Ibuprofen is a nonnarcotic analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent and is available in prescription and nonprescription forms.


The St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office conducted an autopsy on the copilot. Although the autopsy did note several chronic medical conditions, there did not appear to be any natural diseases that posed an immediate hazard to flight safety.

The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the copilot. Testing was negative for ethanol and 15% carbon monoxide was detected in blood from the heart. The following drugs were detected:

Diltiazem detected in urine
Diltiazem detected in blood (heart)
Metoprolol detected in urine
Metoprolol NOT detected in blood (heart)
Rosuvastatin detected in urine
Rosuvastatin detected in blood (heart)
Warfarin detected in urine
Warfarin detected in blood (heart)

The copilot had previously reported all of the detected medications except the rosuvastatin to the FAA. Rosuvastatin is a prescription medication used to reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels.


The FAA's Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA-H-8083-25A), dated 2008, Chapter 10, "Night Operations," states the following:
Night Illusions

A black-hole approach occurs when the landing is made from over water or non-lighted terrain where the runway lights are the only source of light. Without peripheral visual cues to help, pilots will have trouble orientating themselves relative to Earth. The runway can seem out of position (downsloping or upsloping) and in the worse case, results in landing short of the runway. If an electronic glide slope or visual approach slope indicator (VASI) is available, it should be used. If navigation aids (NAVAIDs) are unavailable, careful attention should be given to using the flight instruments to assist in maintaining orientation and a normal approach. If at any time the pilot is unsure of his or her position or attitude, a go-around should be executed.

Approaches and Landings

To fly a traffic pattern of proper size and direction, the runway threshold and runway-edge lights must be positively identified. Once the airport lights are seen, these lights should be kept in sight throughout the approach. Distance may be deceptive at night due to limited lighting conditions. A lack of intervening references on the ground and the inability of the pilot to compare the size and location of different ground objects cause this. This also applies to the estimation of altitude and speed. Consequently, more dependence must be placed on flight instruments, particularly the altimeter and the airspeed indicator.

The altimeter and VSI [vertical speed indicator] should be constantly cross-checked against the airplane's position along the base leg and final approach. A visual approach slope indicator (VASI) is an indispensable aid in establishing and maintaining a proper glidepath.

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA158
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Slidell, LA
Aircraft: BEECH 65 A90 1, registration: N7MC
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 April 19, 2016, about 2115 central daylight time, a Beech 65-A90-1 airplane, N7MC, collided with towers suspending high power transmission lines, while attempting to land at the Slidell Municipal Airport (KASD), Slidell, Louisiana. Both pilots were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the Saint Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement District as a public use flight. Night visual meteorological condition prevailed for the flight, which operated on a visual flight rules flight plan. The local flight originated about 2000.

After completing a planned mosquito abatement aerial application flight, the accident pilots radioed their intentions to land at KASD. A company airplane was also in the area and flew the GPS approach to runway 18 for practice, while the accident airplane flew a visual pattern. When the pilots of the other company airplane radioed that they had crossed the GPS approach's final approach fix, the accident pilots radioed that they were on a left base and were number one to land at the airport. Seconds later, the company pilots of the other airplane saw an arc of electricity followed shortly by a plume of fire from the ground. The accident pilots could not be reached on the radio, and emergency responders were contacted.

The airplane was located in a marsh about 0.6 nautical miles north-northwest of approach end of runway 18. The initial point of impact was damage to two towers suspending high power transmission lines. These two towers were between 70-80 feet tall and were located 200 yards north of the main wreckage. The airplane's left wing tip and a portion of the aerial applicant tank were found near the towers.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

At 2053, an automated weather reporting facility located at KASD reported a calm wind, visibility 10 miles, a clear sky, temperature 68° F, dew point 64° F, and a barometric pressure of 30.09 inches.

Whiteside County Airport (KSQI) not big enough for the both of them: Board rejects proposed lease with former manager

ROCK FALLS – The Whiteside County Airport Board shut the door to its former longtime manager again in a dispute that's likely to end up in court.

Mike Dowell, owner of M&M Aviation who was airport manager and fixed-base operator for 21 years before being passed over for new leadership in August, wanted to continue doing business at the airport after his contract ended Sept. 30 by renting four hangars and subleasing office space with Radio Ranch Inc., another company at the facility.

His proposal was to offer a charter service, flight school and aircraft rental at the airport while stationing his new headquarters at 2910 W. Rock Falls Road/U.S. Route 30 in Rock Falls.

The board turned him away Thursday, saying that he didn't meet the minimum space requirements to conduct business at the airport, and the only way to meet those requirements would be for him to construct his own building.

Total property would need to take up 15,000 square feet with buildings and parking, and the office space requirements vary by service – 800 square feet for flight training, 300 square feet for aircraft rental, etc.

Simply, there's not enough space at the airport for another FBO.

"It’s up to the board to decide if the minimum requirements have been met," board President Dave Koster said. "We do not have any available space to lease [to meet the minimum standards]; I think it’s very clear."

Dowell argued that the board has the authority to waive requirements, and making him build a building at the airport was unreasonable, enough so that the board is going against Federal Aviation Administration rules that say you can't impose "unreasonable standards or requirements" that prevent competition.

Turning down his business would give new airport manager Darin Heffelfinger, owner of the recently established company Sauk Valley Aviation, exclusive rights to flight training and rental services, he said.

According to an FAA advisory document on exclusive rights at federally obligated airports:

"Existence of an exclusive right at an airport limits the usefulness of the airport and deprives the public of the benefits that flow from competition."

Jim Timble, a Franklin Grove pilot who has been flying for 53 years and who supports Dowell staying at the airport, told board members they are positioned to lose a lot of business that Dowell has built over the years, and rejecting his proposal will lead to complaints filed with the FAA about exclusive rights.

"I know if you turn him down, complaints are going to be filed, and the complaints are going to have merits," Timble said. "The one thing that hasn’t happened here is that no one has offered a compromise."

That's on top of pending litigation on the matter.

"You are endangering the grand assurances of this airport," Dowell said. "We’ll see you in court."

Koster said it looks like the decision will need to be brought to a judge.

Dowell noted that the board waived the requirements for bringing in Heffelfinger, as airport regulations required him to have two aircraft to operate, and the board inked his $98,000 contract with the stipulation that he buy a plane by Oct. 1.

Heffelfinger bought a Cessna 172 Skyhawk and is leasing a second plane.

There's also Dowell's argument that the board made up its mind long before the meeting as M&M Aviation was edited out of photos on the airport's website,, and physically removed from the marquee of businesses.

The board denied Dowell's lease proposal after about 45 minutes of discussion. Board Vice President Jerri Robinson abstained from the vote.

The board agreed to give Dowell until the end of the month to move out and prohibited him from operating his business there in the meantime.

"It does not look like a lease is coming forward, and you need a lease to operate," Koster said.

Dowell said he paid rent for October and should be able to conduct business, but Koster said they haven't cashed his check "on advice of counsel."

Dowell is in talks with the Dixon and Clinton municipal airports about moving his business.

Original article can be found here ➤

Challenger II, N91520: Incident occurred October 19, 2017 in Wheeler, Jasper County, Illinois

An 86-year-old man who crashed an ultralight aircraft he was flying in Jasper County on Thursday evening was taken to HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham for treatment, authorities said.

Arthur C. Michels, of rural Wheeler, was flying a 1998 Challenger Ultralight about 1.5 miles north of his residence when the craft lost engine power, according to Illinois State Police.

"It just quit," said Michels' wife, Florence Michels.

She said her husband, who has been flying ultralights for several years, remained in the hospital on Friday afternoon. But he was doing well, she said.

Attempting to land, Michels was about 20 feet above the ground when the aircraft spiraled down and crashed, police said.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said ultralights are not required to register with the agency. The FAA, which was contacted about the crash, turned the investigation back over to local law enforcement, said the spokesman, Tony Molinaro.

An ultralight is a category of airplanes that weigh less than 254 pounds fully loaded and can go no faster than 55 knots (63.3 mph,) among other restrictions, according to FAA regulations.

Pilots are required to be trained and licensed, but the requirements are not as stringent as those for a private pilot's license or commercial aviation, according to the regulations.

Original article ➤

County Sheriff vs. Fire feud continued during Canyon 2 blaze

Even as the recent Canyon 2 blaze devoured homes and sent residents fleeing for safety, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Orange County Fire Authority couldn’t stop bickering.

It is unclear whether the 20-month-old feud between the two agencies hampered efforts to control the fire that eventually burned 9,200 acres and destroyed or damaged 80 structures.

What is clear is that the sniping and finger-pointing — which over the past two years has led to several verbal battles and dangerous helicopter tactics during rescue events — reached a fevered pitch during the biggest fire to hit the county in nearly a decade.

Central to the latest argument was the availability of sheriff helicopters that could be used to knock down the Canyon 2 blaze. Even now, nearly two weeks after the Oct. 9 fire, the two agencies can’t agree on who is responsible for sheriff helicopters not being deployed.

Among the latest accusations and counter-accusations:

Sheriff’s officials complained they had three helicopters available to dump water in the crucial early stages of the Canyon 2 blaze, but were not invited to participate by Orange County Fire Authority officials.

“We had… aircraft to put water on that fire within 15 minutes (of when) the fire flared up,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Hays. “We might have knocked that fire out.”

Officials with the Orange County Fire Authority dispute that, saying at least one of the sheriff helicopters in question isn’t state certified for fire fighting.

Fire officials say they did ask the sheriff’s department to send a small, certified helicopter to coordinate the 31 other aircraft that were dumping water and fire retardant about four hours after the incident began. Instead, after an hour delay, fire officials had to call the sheriff’s department to learn that the helicopter wasn’t coming because, deputies said, there wasn’t access to fuel. Fire officials allege the real reason for not getting the helicopter was frustration on the part of sheriff’s deputies who were not allowed to use bigger, water-dumping helicopters — a claim denied by sheriff’s officials.

One volunteer sheriff’s paramedic said this week that county fire officials refused to respond to a vegetation fire the day before the Canyon 2 blaze. That accusation was quickly debunked by recorded conversations between Anaheim dispatchers and the fire authority, but the story spread quickly over some media outlets and social media, showing the degree to which misinformation and exaggeration have come to dominate communications between the two agencies.

At the heart of the battle is Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ desire to get her four-copter aviation unit more involved in tasks that previously have been the domain of the fire agency, including rescue missions and fire fighting. Hutchens has said she is responding in part to a 2010 Orange County Grand Jury report that chided the department’s air unit for not being more involved in community protection.

Traditionally, sheriff’s helicopters are used for crime patrol and to search for lost or injured people, mostly in wilderness areas. Fire authority helicopters staffed by paramedics and equipped with hoists handle the actual rescues and fight fires.

However, sheriff helicopters now carry paramedics, and the copters have been modified to extract and carry patients from rescue scenes. Sheriff helicopters also are equipped to dump water, Hays said.

The friction between the agencies has become a full-blown turf war. On several occasions since early 2016, sheriff’s pilots have ignored incident commanders and taken over rescues that initially were intended for fire helicopters, according to dispatch recordings.

Leaders of the agencies on two occasions have said the fight is behind them, only to see disputes resume. Next month, fire and sheriff officials are slated to begin non-binding arbitration.

Meanwhile, firefighters say they are concerned that the squabbling, sometimes occurring  mid-air, will lead to a devastating crash or endanger patient care. And Fire Authority pilots said this week that the sheriff’s department continues to poach rescue calls meant for the fire agency, racing to the site in order to claim ownership.

Unlike the fire authority, at least one sheriff’s helicopter is in the air patrolling for most of the day and can get to rescue sites quicker. But the sheriff’s patrol copter does not carry a paramedic and usually has to hover until a second sheriff’s helicopter arrives with one, according to Fire Authority officials. By that time the fire helicopter is usually also on scene.

When that happens it can become a standoff, “with three helicopters arriving for a twisted ankle,” said one OCFA official.

The fight has economic consequences as well. The cost to operate a helicopter, for either department, runs thousands of dollars an hour, depending on the size of the vehicle and the number of personnel.

The tensions also might have played a role in battling the Canyon 2 blaze.

Hays said sheriff’s helicopters were practicing dropping water at Irvine Lake on Oct. 9 when the Canyon 2 fire ignited, around 9:45 a.m.  A sheriff’s helicopter soon was enlisted to fly through neighborhoods announcing an evacuation – but not to fight the fire.

Hays said it seemed like a waste not to use the sheriff’s water-dropping capabilities. He noted the sheriff’s department is mostly certified by the state to fight fires. Fire officials claim at least one sheriff helicopter recently was modified and it’s unclear if its certification is up to date.

On the other side, Fire Authority officials say they did ask the sheriff’s department to supply a small, A-Star, helicopter to work as an in-air coordinator during the blaze. The sheriff’s department initially agreed to send the A-Star, but also offered another one with water dumping capability, which the Fire Authority turned down, according to dispatch tapes.

However, that A-Star never arrived, and sheriff’s officials later explained their agency could not provide a fuel truck to accompany it. Sheriff’s Capt. Joe Balicki said the truck needed to be kept available for a potential sheriff emergency.

Besides the possible gamesmanship over equipment, fire fighters say the feud has turned ugly in other ways. Fire fighters say sheriff’s helicopters have hovered over their homes and over the Fire Authority hangar at the Fullerton Airport. Fire fighters say sheriff’s pilots have shined lights into the Fullerton hangar windows.

Sheriff’s Capt. Balicki denied those allegations.

“That ain’t happening,” he said. “I can guarantee my guys aren’t playing games.”

Balicki explained that his pilots and paramedics sometimes fly their helicopters to Fullerton airport to eat at the Wings CafĂ©. He said the location allows quick access to their aircraft even when they’re dining.

“That has nothing to do with Orange County Fire,” he said.

Story and video ➤

Fremont Municipal Airport (KFET) committee reviews proposed hangar rate increase

Airport Advisory Committee members reviewed hangar lease criteria and a proposed rental increase when they met Friday morning.

The committee has been discussing hangar leases at Fremont Municipal Airport. City of Fremont employees have been updating lease agreements and rules and regulations.

During the meeting, David Goedeken, City of Fremont director of public works, said he plans to send out letters next week notifying tenants that their leases expire on Dec. 31.

Goedeken said his goal is to take the proposed, revised lease agreement and rental rates to the city council’s Nov. 14 meeting for approval.

The leases would extend for five years. Lessees have the option to renew at the end of that period.

At the September advisory committee meeting, Fremont Mayor Scott Getzschman suggested a simple 10 percent, across-the-board increase.

Rent for a “T” hangar would increase from $165 per month to $181.50 and for bulk hangers from $330 to $363.

Lease rates were last adjusted in 2012.

Goedeken discussed the updated hangar rental agreement and rules and regulations.

The rules indicate hangars must be used for airworthy aircraft.

Lessees can store equipment used for aeronautical purposes in the hangars. And provided that the hangar is used primarily for aeronautical purposes, the lessee can store non-aeronautical items as long as it’s not blocking the aircraft.

“Basically, when you open the door, the plane’s going to be front and center and it’s got to be a flyable plane,” Goedeken said.

A vehicle temporarily parked in the hangar while the lessee is using the aircraft wouldn’t be considered as displacing it.

Tenants can’t operate a business out of the hangar. Hangars can’t be used as a residence.

The city has the right to inspect the premises at any time.

No more than five gallons of flammable liquids will be permitted in the hangar.

Tenants will be required to have an adequate fire extinguisher, current with National Fire Protection Association standards, in each hangar.

Each year, lessees will need to provide a certificate of insurance for the contents of the hangar to the city or fixed base operator.

New lessees must provide a security deposit.

“It’s the same if you’re renting a storage unit or an apartment or a house,” Goedeken said. “I don’t foresee requiring a security deposit for existing tenants. It would only be for someone new coming into a unit.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Redmond, Deschutes County, Oregon: Kit Plane Maker Seeks Buyer

REDMOND, OR -- A Redmond-based kit-plane maker is looking for a buyer. Previous reports that Evolution Aircraft had closed were incorrect, according to CFO Randy Akacich. Evolution Aircraft was created when LancAir restructured its assets in 2016. 

According to reports by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a skeletal staff is assembling kits already on the line, but the future of the company is unknown. Aviation experts told AOPA the company's trouble traced back to a fatal crash in Arizona in July. AOPA reports the company couldn't acquire liability insurance to continue operations, and owners had received letters warning of an impending closure; although, no letter was produced. In the last 22 months, there were at least five accidents involving Evolution Aircraft. 

However, CFO Akacich spoke with KBND News Friday afternoon and said the company is actively looking for a buyer. Evolution Aircraft's main office on SE Timber Ave. in Redmond is open and staff were at work. In a written statement, Akacich says, "Evolution Aircraft has right-sized its staffing to meet its current customer commitments and is actively pursuing new investment." He provided no timeline for a potential sale. 

Just two weeks ago, Evolution Aircraft was featured on the "Made In Redmond" Tour, hosted by Redmond Economic Development, Inc. At that time, REDI's Jon Stark told KBND News, "We heard from the composites and the aviation industry that they wanted to expose the community to the skill sets and the industry here in Central Oregon," in an effort to grow the local sector. 

Original article can be found here ➤

Federal Aviation Administration Seeks to Ease Air-Traffic Controllers’ Stress From Drones: Proposed system relies exclusively on computers to clear routine unmanned aircraft operations

With roughly 250 monthly encounters between drones and manned aircraft nationwide, automated procedures are being developed to reduce pressure on air-traffic controllers.

Operators of unmanned aircraft increasingly either fly close to U.S. airports without first obtaining required Federal Aviation Administration authorizations, or belatedly contact controllers to expedite requests for approvals, according to a recently released Federal Aviation Administration document. In some instances, the agency says, last-minute phone calls to airport towers entail “distractions for air traffic control management” while “creating a potential safety hazard.”

To alleviate such problems, industry experts and federal safety regulators have joined forces to launch a computerized system later this year. The goal is to more easily and quickly give the green light to drone operations slated for closer than 5 miles to U.S. airports. Commercial flights in such airspace currently require manual approvals from the FAA to proceed, which typically can take months and has been a longstanding source of industry frustration.

More than 14,000 individual authorization requests are now pending and the FAA projects that unless the process is changed, the total backlog could climb to more than 25,000 by March 2018.

The FAA document posted in the Federal Register earlier this month also projected that switching to automated authorizations will reduce encounters between drones and manned aircraft by 30%, eliminating some 450 problematic events over the next six months. Most of the reported incidents don’t pose an imminent threat to airliners or other manned aircraft, but monitoring and cataloging them uses controller resources.

Roughly four dozen airports may begin relying on the automated capability, which also will allow recreational drone users and operators of remote-controlled aircraft to notify controllers of upcoming flights in the proximity of airports.

Longer term, the initiative is part of the broader aim of promoting wider commercial applications of drones throughout U.S.

An FAA draft report emphasized that drone-services companies will be the primary intermediaries to operators, eliminating the need for additional agency spending. The FAA’s website indicates the goal is to set up a data exchange permitting industry to “create the tools needed to benefit the drone community.”

Eventually, the automated notification concept is slated to expand across the U.S. and provide a building block for what is expected to be an entirely separate, low-altitude traffic-control system geared toward drones and funded by the industry.

An FAA spokeswoman declined to elaborate, and the union representing U.S. controllers declined to comment.

Airports likely to participate in the prototype evaluation include those serving Miami, Cincinnati, San Jose, Phoenix and Anchorage, along with the Minneapolis regional traffic-control facility.

Potential controller distraction “has been an issue from the beginning” of FAA efforts to oversee unmanned aviation, according to consultant Jim Williams, former head of the agency’s drone office. The latest data-sharing approach “is very smart and very innovative,” he said.

Critics of the proposal worry it could inadvertently end up creating difficulties for controllers. “They are so stressed already” that it’s “reckless to have anything more put on their plates,” according to aviation attorney Steven Marks of the Miami-based law firm Podhurst Orseck, P.A. He fears rapid approvals could lead to glitches that require controller intervention.

But drone proponents, some of whom have been working for the past year to assemble the foundations of the proposed system, counter that automated approvals for routine, minimal-risk requests will help promote industry expansion while reducing the burden on controllers. Requests for drone flights posing greater risks or complexity still will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis by FAA personnel.

Ben Marcus, chief executive of service provider AirMap Inc., said the proposal “demonstrates that public-private partnerships for airspace management are not only possible, they’re happening today.” AirMap is expected to serve as one of the intermediaries.

The issue is revving up as close calls and a few airborne collisions involving drones capture public attention world-wide. At the same time,, Google parent Alphabet Inc. and others are pushing to open airspace, potentially below 200 feet, for package deliveries. The White House science office is devising plans for localized tests of a hybrid regulatory system that would combine federal and local oversight of low-flying drones.

Matt Fanelli, director of strategy at Skyward, another drone-services provider that will help implement the automated authorizations, said commercial drone operations have been growing “a lot faster than the FAA originally anticipated.” The proposed system, he added, is intended to give industry relatively easy “access to airspace that really isn’t being used by anyone” under existing rules.

While impending moves to automate flight approvals only pertain to small drones flying below 400 feet, the close FAA and industry cooperation is expected to influence future standards and regulations for much larger models. Industry experts are working on standards, expected to become final around 2020, for data communication, air-to-air radar tracking and applications of airborne sensors affecting highflying, commercial-airplane-size drones. But the technical and policy challenges are more significant than those pertaining to pending procedural changes.

Paul McDuffee, a senior executive at Boeing Co.’s Insitu drone-making unit, told an FAA technical advisory panel earlier this year about the difficulties of drafting technical requirements for larger drones. “It’s  been astounding,” he said of “the amount of emotion” the process has generated.

Lou Volchansky, the FAA’s representative to the panel, at the same meeting said “there are going to be things we need to go out and validate” before firming up control and collision-avoidance standards for larger drones.

Original article can be found here ➤

Outsourcing of airplane repair jobs imperils airline industry and national security, aviation expert says

By William J. Mcgee
William J. McGee, an aviation journalist and airline passenger advocate, is the author of “Attention All Passengers.”

Last week, more than 200 American Airlines mechanics – many of them based at LaGuardia and JFK Airports – rallied in Times Square with other Transport Workers Union members to protest the possible outsourcing and offshoring of their jobs.

Before I became a journalist specializing in airlines, I was an operations manager and licensed dispatcher who spent years working at both those airports – so I certainly feel TWU’s pain.

But beyond the loss of U.S. jobs, there’s a bigger concern: The threat to public safety and national security that comes from offshoring the maintenance work of airline fleets.

Most passengers don’t know it, but all U.S. airlines have at least some of their commercial planes serviced overseas – by unknown mechanics and far from the eyes of the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration.

American Airlines was the lone commercial carrier that didn’t – but that changed a few years ago.

The next time you fly somewhere, struggling to remove your shoes and belt and worrying that you forgot to put your shampoo in a four-ounce bottle, ask yourself who has serviced the airplane you’re about to board?

For more than a decade, I've been investigating these issues, traveling to outside repair shops, and speaking to both in-house and outsourced mechanics, as well as front-line FAA inspectors tasked with overseeing maintenance of U.S. airline fleets.

When the vital mechanical and maintenance work on commercial planes is low-bid to whatever nation offers the most meager wages, there are serious implications for the industry and the country as a whole.

The domestic airline industry's stellar safety record is being threatened by the monetary incentive to offshore maintenance to locales such as Mexico, El Salvador, China and Singapore.

Even the U.S. government acknowledges “critical exceptions” that effectively create two sets of rules on plane maintenance.

When U.S. airline fleets are serviced outside the country, those exceptions can include:

No security background checks on mechanics

No alcohol and drug screening on mechanics

No duty-time limitations for the workers

No unannounced FAA inspections

These are just a few of the seismic changes to hit the airline industry since the 1990s, when I worked for Pan Am. Back then, if a major mechanical job was undertaken – an engine change on a Boeing 747 at JFK, for example – it was the job of 10 mechanics.

All 10 would be Pan Am employees, licensed by the FAA, and subject to security screening, substance testing, and fatigue policies. When the job was completed, one licensed mechanic signed the logbook to confirm the work was done properly.

Today, that same job could be done outside the U.S. by 10 unlicensed technicians who do not have to undergo FAA background checks, drug and alcohol screening or random spot checks.

When the job is finished, one licensed airline mechanic still has to sign a logbook to confirm it was done right – and because that one final step hasn’t changed, the federal government maintains there is no difference in those two models.

It’s mind-boggling, given all the security precautions passengers are forced to undergo in the days of domestic and international terrorism.

Perhaps most distressing is that so many front-line FAA inspectors have told me in confidence that budgetary and even political considerations keep them from doing their jobs.

In Tulsa, Okla., where American Airlines employs roughly 4,000 jet mechanics to keep its fleet in tip-top shape, the FAA has dedicated spots in the hangar parking lot. Its inspectors can enter the facility at any time, do random drug tests and more.

In contrast, in El Salvador, just one of the countries where airlines have outsourced maintenance jobs, I’ve been told the FAA has limited access and can’t always conduct surprise or even routine visits.

In 2010, when I was the lone consumer advocate on the U.S. Department of Transportation's 19-member Future of Aviation Advisory Committee, I recommended that the FAA, a DOT subsidiary, strengthen its oversight of outsourced repair shops.

Ultimately the proposal was voted down and we filed a dissenting opinion.

The airline industry likes to claim that the U.S. – a country of 323 million – suffers from a shortage of qualified aircraft mechanics and airline pilots.

That is not the truth. What is happening, however, is that young people looking for solid career paths see that the pay is continually falling – even as more and more of these airline jobs get shipped overseas, where wages are even lower.

The airlines are engaged in a mad race to the bottom on cost-cutting, and it can affect much more than tighter seats and higher baggage fees. Ultimately, it affects our safety and security.

Countering the deep pockets of airline lobbyists isn’t easy. But all of us need to make our voices heard in Congress and at the DOT.

William J. McGee, an aviation journalist and airline passenger advocate, is the author of “Attention All Passengers.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Riverside County, California: Find out how police will benefit from a $982,870 airplane

Criminals who become smug when they don’t hear the chop-chop-chop of a Riverside police helicopter overhead could be in for a surprise.

The Police Department hopes to have an airplane flying above the city in November after the City Council approved the purchase on Tuesday, Oct. 17. The department primarily plans to use the airplane for surveillance of narcotics traffickers, gang members and large events, and secondarily patrol, Deputy Chief Larry Gonzalez said.

The $982,870 airplane — which comes fully equipped for law enforcement purposes — will be cheaper to operate than a helicopter, Gonzalez said.

“The biggest thing is No. 1, to be able to stay up in the air twice as long and stay up in the air twice as high. We’re up in a plane 4,500 feet a couple of miles away, and being able to do good surveillance without people knowing we’re there,” Gonzalez said in an interview.

He also told council members: “(It) also might cut down on some of your complaints from your constituents on how loud the helicopter is.”

Aviation Sgt. Erik Lindgren test-flew the plane and gave it high marks.

The plane is equipped with a color and infrared camera that can deliver sharp, high-resolution color images from 6 to 9 miles away to officers on the ground.

It will be staffed by a pilot and an observer.

The plane will benefit other agencies as well, a report to the council said, including Inland Crackdown Allied Task Force/Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Corona Police Department. Corona contracts with Riverside for air patrol.

Riverside has three helicopters, one 34 years old with 11,518 flight hours, another 21 years old with 12,834 flight hours and one 8 years old with 5,226 flight hours. The estimated cost to maintain all three over the next five years is $2.6 million. The estimated cost to operate a helicopter is more than $400 per hour; the estimated cost to operate an airplane is $190 per hour, the report said.

The plan to pay for the airplane includes selling the oldest helicopter.

Jim Bueermann, president of The Police Foundation, which tries to improve policing through analysis and training, said most major law enforcement agencies have airplanes.

“If they are going to use the plane for narcotics or other criminal investigation surveillance, then a plane is much better to use than a helicopter. They’re less expensive to operate and more effective in long-term surveillance,” he said.

Redlands police purchased an airplane — law enforcement calls them fixed-wing aircraft — when Bueermann was chief. The department wanted to create air support for officers and improve its surveillance ability, and it found an airplane cheaper to operate than a helicopter.

With the amount of airplane traffic in Southern California, Bueermann said, “One plane looks like the other. The general public will probably never notice that the plane is up there.”

Riverside’s $982,870 airplane purchase

Where the money will come from to buy the new plane.

$400,000: Sale of helicopter

$382,870: Reallocation of Measure Z funds – unused police vehicle lease dollars

$135,000: Police evidence trust account

$65,000: State asset forfeiture account, such as money seized from drug dealers

Story and photo gallery ➤