Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Pilots wanted: Shortage may cause Great Lakes to leave Farmington, New Mexico

FARMINGTON — The city of Farmington and Great Lakes Airlines are discussing ways to keep commercial flights at the Four Corners Regional Airport. 

Great Lakes is the sole remaining commercial airline that flies to and from Farmington. In late September, it let city officials know it would stop flights to and from Farmington at the end of the month. The airline cited a lack of pilots as the sole reason for its decision.

The city has hired a consulting firm to help attract new airlines and to study what types of planes can operate well on the short runways at the Four Corners Regional Airport. It has also applied for a Small Community Air Service Development Program grant. Airport manager Mike Lewis is hopeful the city will receive the grant next year, which would help pay for marketing and subsidizing the startup costs for a commercial air service.

Doug Voss, the company's president, said the planes and other Great Lakes resources in Farmington will be transferred to California, where there are more pilots.

Lewis said there are three things a community needs to be economically successful — a railroad, access to the interstate and reliable air service.

"Not having reliable air service really knocks us out because we don't have rail, and we don't have access to an interstate," he said.

Because Great Lakes hopes to return and Four Corners Regional Airport is trying to recruit another airline, the federal Transportation Security Administration checkpoint will remain at the airport, and Great Lakes is discussing ways to maintain the minimal service needed to keep the checkpoint operating, Lewis said.

Voss said he is hopeful that Great Lakes may one day return to the Four Corners Regional Airport, but current regulations make it so the company cannot find the pilots it needs to continue operations.

In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration increased requirements for co-pilots of commercial aircraft. A co-pilot now is required to have 1,500 hours of flight experience and an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. Previously, co-pilots were only required to have 250 hours of flight experience. Airlines hired those with 250 hours of experience, and they typically flew as co-pilots until they reached the 1,500 hours that is required to achieve pilot status.

When it announced the change, the FAA cited the fatal Colgan Air 3407 crash of 2009 as one reason for the change. Approximately 50 passengers, crew members or people on the ground died when a plane crashed into a house in New York in that incident. An investigation found that pilot error led to the crash.

Because students are no longer able to fly as a co-pilot after they complete 250 hours of flight training, many are struggling to get the required experience to become pilots, Voss and Lewis said.

"The rule put the career out of reach of younger people," Voss said.

There are 84,000 fewer pilots now than there were in 2009, according to FAA data provided by Voss. He said the pilot population is aging in the United States, and pilots are required to retire at 65.

Voss said students often drop out of pilot school within their first 22 hours of instruction and those who do graduate often find themselves $150,000 in debt and without the required 1,500 hours of flying. He explained that most schools only train pilots up to 250 to 300 hours due to costs.

"Once you get to 300 hours, you're on your own," Voss said.

The aviation industry is hopeful that President Donald Trump's administration will relax the regulations.

"The regulation has hurt many communities in the West," Lewis said.

Great Lakes' decision will not impact the improvements underway at a taxiway at the airport. The $3.9 million repair of the taxiway is being funded by an FAA grant.

Original article can be found here ➤

Mojave's thriving aerospace community spawns home-built airplane hobbyists

It took 2 ½ years for Scaled Composites engineer Justin Gillen to build his Tango 2 plane.

By day, Justin Gillen works on a satellite-launching aircraft with a wingspan longer than a football field.

But in his spare time, the Scaled Composites project engineer tinkered for 2 ½ years with his hobby: a Tango 2 airplane, which isn't much larger than an SUV. Now Gillen flies the plane — which he’s dubbed the Tango Time Machine — as far away as Oshkosh, Wis.

More than 40 years ago, legendary aerospace engineer Burt Rutan moved to Mojave to take advantage of the cheap land and open spaces.

Today, the company he founded, Scaled Composites, builds sleek and unconventional aircraft in hangars and facilities right in town. The hallway of the Mojave Air and Space Port is lined with photos of one of Rutan’s most iconic designs: the Voyager aircraft, which completed the first nonstop flight around the world without refueling.

Over the years, other aerospace firms followed Rutan into the desert. And the rising concentration of pilots and engineers spawned an unusual band of hobbyists: home-built airplane enthusiasts.

At least a dozen flight buffs flock to hangars on nights, weekends and during any spare moments to build full-scale airplanes, either from scratch or with parts provided in a kit. Some of the completed craft, many of them thousands of hours in the making, are used for air races or casual flying.

“The nice thing about Mojave is you can do anything you can think of,” Gillen said. “As long as you approach it from a reasonable safety aspect, nobody’s going to stop you.”

For Gillen, 37, plane building helped distinguish him as an engineer at Scaled Composites, provided a way to escape the desert — and gave him a side gig. Along with former Scaled co-worker Elliot Seguin, he is a test pilot for Wasabi Air Racing, a small firm started by Seguin and his wife that helps design, build and test experimental aircraft.

Gillen found the kit for his plane in the Experimental Aircraft Assn.’s Sport Aviation magazine. He liked that its fuel tanks could hold 57 gallons — other small planes can hold about 40 gallons.

The Tango is lightweight with a compact cockpit that has room for just two passengers. Its two doors are hinged to the roof and open like a simpler version of a DeLorean’s gull-wing doors. The only big modification Gillen made was to rebuild the engine.

The word “experimental” is emblazoned in bold, black letters on the bottom of the plane’s inner door frame, a designation required by the Federal Aviation Administration for amateur-built planes. Once certified by the FAA, these home-built, experimental planes can travel anywhere in the world.

Matt Stinemetze works on part of his F8F Bearcat replica plane.

Scaling up

Matt Stinemetze and his brother, Justin, caught the flying bug from their father.

Growing up, the two siblings were surrounded by airplane books, airplane magazines and airplane models. Stinemetze still remembers when his father took him to the hobby shop at age 7 to buy a Revell SnapTite model kit of the Space Shuttle Enterprise — the first of many models he would complete over the years, ranging from plastic and balsa wood to remote-controlled.

“I was the kid in class getting in trouble because I was drawing airplanes,” he said.

Stinemetze decided while in high school that he wanted to become an engineer so he could work on the real deal. Today he is chief engineer at Scaled Composites.

In 2003, he bought a partially completed Long-EZ aircraft — a Rutan design known for its canard layout, with a short wing toward the front of the fuselage and a longer wing toward the back. For years, the Rutan Aircraft Factory sold plans for this plane and other Rutan designs so home builders could assemble the airplanes themselves. The manufacturer stopped in 1985, though, and today Long-EZ blueprints are hard to find.

Stinemetze put about 2,000 hours of work into the Long-EZ, adding new avionics and substituting a 160-horsepower engine for the 110-hp one that came standard. He also built from scratch his own landing gear and side pods that can each haul up to 50 pounds of baggage.

That’s come in handy when he and his wife Kit fly the plane 1,000 miles nonstop to visit their parents in Kansas.

Now Stinemetze, 42, and his brother Justin — who is just 11 months younger and also works at Scaled as a crew chief — are working in a Mojave hangar on a new project: a pair of two-thirds-scale replicas of the F8F Bearcat, a powerful single-engine U.S. Navy fighter that arrived just as World War II ended.

The Stinemetzes are building every part of the plane from scratch, down to the wheels.

“It was the last great propeller airplane,” Matt Stinemetze said. “If you’re going to build a replica of something from scratch, why not pick the best one ever?”

Bill Statler, left, poses for a photo with his friend Dennis Wittman, who is helping Statler build a plane to compete in an air race.

Finishing the race

One of the Mojave hangars houses a hulking grey plane that was the brainchild of a former Lockheed engineer who holds seven aircraft design patents — and has been 42 years in the making.

William H. Statler first dreamed up the plane’s design. He died in 2005. Now his sons and a handful of other dedicated volunteers are close to finishing it up in his memory.

“It’s something we wanted to do,” said his son, Bill Statler, 75, who began the home-built project with his father in 1975. His own aerospace engineering career included time at Lockheed’s Skunk Works and on Northrop’s B-2 stealth bomber program.

The elder Statler got into home-building in the early 1950s, helping people build small racing planes known as Goodyear racers. His young son would often accompany him to races or to those people’s homes and it “got into my blood as well,” Statler said.

Father, son and a friend set about building a light, fast air racer to compete in the “unlimited” class, where there are just a few rules. The aircraft must be piston-powered and propeller-driven, weigh at least 5,200 pounds and fly at a minimum of 275 mph. Up to nine planes race around an 8.2-mile oval course marked by 55-gallon drums set on telephone poles. The planes must stay at least 50 feet off the ground, though some pilots still find sagebrush in their wing tips after a race.

The elder Statler wanted to build a plane entirely from scratch to show that less-expensive home-built planes could compete with the refurbished WWII fighters that dominated the races. The plane would be one of a very few home-built aircraft to fly in the unlimited class.

The now five-person team has pieced together parts from other planes, including landing gear from a T-6 trainer aircraft, and thin wheels and brakes from a private jet. The massive plane is powered by a WWII-vintage Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine.

Statler, who drives up to Mojave on Saturdays from Santa Clarita, estimates the project has eaten up $200,000 over the years. He hopes to race it at next September’s renowned Reno air races.

“It’s one of those things you get into and you think, ‘What have I done?’” Statler said. “But it’s fun.”

Ralph Wise is shown at the Mojave Air and Space Port with Snort, the seventh and last plane he built.

From hobby to career

Ralph Wise was a Marine F-4 pilot in Vietnam when he caught the home-built plane bug.

Wise read an article in Air Progress magazine about small Formula One race planes. Intrigued, he selected the speediest one and mailed in an order to the manufacturer for blueprints.

Once back from Vietnam, he bought an engine, some tires, a propeller and fabricated the rest of the parts to put together the so-called tube-and-fabric plane with a wooden wing in 10 months.

“I was a bachelor,” Wise recalls. “I had nothing else to do.”

Over the years, Wise would go on to build six more planes, including a seaplane and several other racers. Some were clean-sheet designs he created entirely from scratch. Others were from kits.

Not all flew well. A seaplane he built from a kit came close to sinking in a Northern California lake when the plane’s tail broke off on landing. The pilot barely got it back to shore.

Today, Wise, 75, has only one complete plane left — his seventh, a two-seater nicknamed Snort that took 10 years and 10,000 hours to design and build. It’s housed in one of Wise’s three hangars at the Mojave Air and Space Port while he completes an annual inspection.

His early experience with home-building helped him start a business in aircraft modification at the Camarillo Airport after he left the Marine Corps. That led to a subsequent job with a Mojave project manufacturer, who was helping the company now known as BAE Systems convert F-106 manned aircraft into drones.

Wise, a Lancaster resident, now owns his own small shop in Mojave called GT Aero that contracts with BAE. He also helps Statler with his home-built plane.

“You have to be motivated,” Wise said of home building. “Once you lose the motivation, everything comes to a halt.”

Story, photo gallery and comments ➤

Federal Bureau of Investigation seeking information on lasers striking aircraft

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The FBI says it is looking into multiple reports of lasers striking aircraft in central Kentucky.

A statement from the agency says most incidents have been reported over the past few months in or near Hustonville between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Officials say a laser's light is a tiny dot at close range, but it can spread to 6 feet (1.8 meters) after traveling large distances and can distract or block a pilot's vision.

Anyone with information about lasers being pointed toward aircraft should contact the FBI office in Louisville.

Cessna TR182 Turbo Skylane, N4707S, E & B Aero LLC: Fatal accident occurred September 05, 2015 near Midland International Air and Space Port (KMAF), Midland County, Texas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:


The commercial pilot took off from the airport in the airplane with three passengers on board. The pilot reported that, during the takeoff and while crossing the departure end of the runway, the engine began to lose power. The pilot managed to climb and level off the airplane about 40 ft above ground level. The airplane would not maintain altitude, so he conducted a wheels-up landing in a field. The passengers reported that, during the forced landing, the airplane struck a rock and stopped suddenly. The pilot sustained serious injuries and died 24 days after the accident.

Postaccident examination confirmed flight control continuity. An examination of the turbocharger revealed that the wastegate actuating cable was frayed and kinked at both ends. When the throttle was advanced, the cable bound. The bypass valve's actuator arm was corroded, and the bolt and nut used to fasten the actuator cable to the arm were seized and corroded. An examination of the single-driven dual magneto revealed that both sides had improper ignition timing. A subsequent examination revealed that the points were worn. During a bench test, the magneto operated normally. Because the engine was test run successfully with the wastegate cable, bypass valve actuator, and magneto in place, it is unlikely that they directly caused the partial loss of engine power. However, the role they might have played in the power loss could not be determined.

Probable Cause and Findings

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

The partial loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined based on the available evidence.


Turbocharger - Damaged/degraded
Magneto/distributor - Fatigue/wear/corrosion

Not determined
Not determined - Unknown/Not determined (Cause)

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lubbock, Texas
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Lycoming Engines; Arlington, Texas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA404
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 05, 2015 in Midland, TX
Aircraft: CESSNA TR182, registration: N4707S
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 3 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 5, 2015, about 1836 central daylight time, a Cessna TR182 airplane, N4707S, impacted terrain following a forced landing to a field near Midland, Texas. The pilot was seriously injured at the time of the accident, but succumbed to his injuries 24 days later. The three passengers were not injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to E & B Aero LLC and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal cross-country flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from Midland International Air & Space Port (MAF), Midland, Texas, and was en route to El Paso International Airport (ELP), El Paso, Texas.

The airplane departed from runway 16R at MAF, and proceeded south. The airport elevation was 2,872 ft mean sea level (msl). GPS data showed the airplane climbed to an altitude of 2,910 ft, where it leveled off. This occurred about one minute after takeoff and the airplane's recorded groundspeed was 58 kts. The airplane remained around this altitude for about 32 seconds before descending to the ground. The airplane's groundspeed while level was about 60 kts. During the descent to the ground, the airplane's airspeed decreased to about 50 kts.

The passengers on board the airplane said that right after takeoff the pilot experienced difficulties with the airplane. It was not developing power and it would not climb. The pilot elected to put the airplane down in a field rather than bring the airplane back around to land at MAF. The passengers said he did a good job controlling the airplane. During the forced landing in the field, the airplane struck a rock. The sudden stop resulted in the pilot sustaining a broken back. The passengers were able to get out of the airplane on their own.

In a postaccident interview with the FAA, the pilot told the inspector that the wastegate might not have opened. It was a problem the pilot experienced during a previous flight, during which he described that engine was running, but the manifold pressure "overboosted." Three days before the accident he had a repair station replace the manifold pressure gauge and bypass valve. The pilot stated that during the accident flight the airplane was configured with 10 degrees of flaps for takeoff and the mixture was full rich. During the takeoff, the engine was at full power and the airspeed increased to between 80 and 100 kts. As the airplane crossed the departure end of the runway, he realized that the manifold pressure was up and the rpms were low. He decided to continue the flight rather than land straight ahead. When he found that the airplane could not maintain altitude, he executed a wheels up forced landing in a field.

The airplane was located in grass field two miles south of the airport. An examination of the airplane at the scene showed substantial damage to the engine mounts and firewall. The airplane's lower cowling and nose gear doors were crushed upward. The fuselage, aft of the rear cabin at the baggage compartment, was bent downward. The main landing gear were crushed upward into their wheel wells. The propeller showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches and leading-edge nicks. One of the two propeller blades was bent and twisted aft under the nose cowling, and exhibited laterally running scrapes and material missing at the blade tip. Flight control continuity was confirmed. A portable GPS unit and an engine monitoring device were retained and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders Laboratory for examination and data readout.

A review of the airplane's maintenance records showed it underwent an annual inspection on February 19, 2015. The airframe time at the inspection was 2,142.2 hours. Further review of the records showed that between July 29 and August 19, 2015, the turbocharger wastegate was checked, and it was found the pressure relief valve was not opening correctly to limit the manifold pressure. The valve was replaced and it functioned properly during a ground run of the engine. Also during the records review, it was discovered that a service bulletin, Lycoming Service Bulletin SB-643, had not been complied with.

The airplane was examined in Lancaster, Texas, on October 29-30, 2015. Examination of the engine showed continuity throughout. The single-drive dual magneto was tested for proper ignition timing. The left magneto was at 18-degrees before top center (BTC). The right magneto was at 16-degrees BTC. Proper ignition timing is 23-degrees BTC.

The turbocharger waste gate actuating cable was frayed and kinked at both ends. When the throttle was advanced, the cable binded. The actuator arm on the bypass valve was corroded and the bolt and nut used to fasten the actuator cable to the arm was seized and corroded.

The engine and airplane fuselage was secured to a trailer and using the on-board battery and engine starter, the engine was started and run to 1,400 rpm when the number 5 top spark plug shorted due to lead fowling. The spark plug was replaced and the engine operated to full power (2,400 rpm). The power was then reduced to 1,800 rpm and an ignition test was performed. Both magnetos dropped about 300 rpm. The operating limitation is a drop no lower than 150 rpm on each magneto. The turbocharger operated normally during the test run and manifold pressure achieved 31.5 inches of mercury at full power.

Following the engine run, the magneto was removed and disassembled for inspection. The points were excessively worn. The magneto was reassembled and tested and operated from 0 to 3,000 rpm with no defects.

The engine monitoring device was examined on November 20, 2015. The device was a panel mounted gauge that allowed the pilot to monitor and record up to 24 parameters related to engine operations. The data extracted included 15 sessions from May 23 to the accident flight. Data extracted from the accident flight revealed:

The engine monitor began recording at engine start. A plot of the data for the accident flight showed that about 420 seconds, EGT, manifold pressure (MAP) and engine rpm began to climb. RPM increased from 1,250 to about 1,750, MAP rose from 18 inches to 20 inches, and EGTs rose from about 1,200 to 1,300 degrees F.

About 540 seconds, these parameters increased again with EGT exceeding 1,400-degrees F, MAP rising to 31 inches, and RPM to 2,500. This would have occurred about the time the airplane took off.

At 700 seconds, engine RPM decreased to zero and EGT decreased to about 1,000 degrees F. MAP was about 30 inches. All recorded data ended 20 seconds later.

The pilot died on September 29, 2015. The El Paso County, Texas, Medical Examiner cited the cause of death as complications of multiple blunt injuries.

Airlines Warn U.S.-Bound Passengers About Additional Screening: Passengers advised to arrive at least three hours before flight to allow for more security measures

The Wall Street Journal
By Robert Wall and  Susan Carey
Oct. 25, 2017 12:23 p.m. ET

Airlines are warnings U.S.-bound passengers they may be subject to interviews before boarding their flight as part of stepped up screening requirements Washington is demanding because of continued terrorism concerns.

United Continental Holdings Inc. notified customers on its website that the Department of Homeland Security now requires additional security measures for all international flights to the U.S. It said the measures may include enhanced screening with questioning of some or all travelers. Electronic devices larger than a standard smartphone also could be subject to checks, the airline said, as it advised passengers to arrive at airports at least three hours before the flight to allow for the additional screening.

Emirates Airline, the world’s biggest international carrier by traffic, is among the carriers to alert passengers that U.S. bound flights would be subject to closer checks starting Thursday. “The new directive requires passenger pre-screening interviews at the check-in counter for originating passengers and at the boarding gate for transfer and transit passengers,” the Dubai-based airline said. The airline also urged passengers to plan extra time for the measures.

DHS in June first said it would rollout tighter security checks on inbound international flights amid concerns terrorists were continuing to try to bring down commercial airliners. The security measures affect around 325,000 passengers a day at 280 foreign airports with direct flights to the U.S.

The requirements for interviews are part of a wider set of security enhancements the U.S. began rolling out in July. Airlines at the time said passengers would be subject to enhanced checks, without spelling out what measures were being taken. DHS has provided few details on its additional security demands, though it said they would include deployment of advanced technology and use of explosive detecting dogs.

The new rules extend to more behavioral vetting of passengers, steps that already were in place at some European airports but now are being intensified to all foreign airports that send planes direct to the U.S., including from locations not previously deemed risky. Flyers, who previously might be asked about whether they packed their own bag, now could also face questions about why they were traveling or whom they had met, a person familiar with the new protocol said. Planes also might be subject to security sweeps while on the ground at airports.

The Transportation Security Administration, a DHS arm, said “we are continuing to implement the department’s efforts to raise the global aviation security baseline,” without detailing specific steps. It said that as threats evolve it would work with others to improve intelligence sharing, standardized security practices, and pursue technology upgrades to make flying more secure.

Israel, credited with some of the best airline security measures, has long interviewed passengers before they board planes to help identify suspected terrorists. These checks can begin before passengers even get to the airport.

Singapore Airlines Ltd. Wednesday said the additional checks may include inspection of electronic devices and “security questioning” at check-in and boarding. Deutsche Lufthansa AG , Germany’s No. 1 airline by traffic, said “in addition to the controls of electronic devices already introduced, travelers to the U.S. might now also face short interviews at check-in, document check or gate.” It told some passengers they had to check-in earlier.

The International Air Transport Association that represents more than 200 carriers world-wide said the new measures “raise the bar on aviation security.” It said airlines and airports helped devise the security steps.

The checks are an additional hurdle for passengers in what already has been a tumultuous year for U.S. bound international travelers.

Passengers from some Middle East countries had their travel plans disrupted when the Trump administration in January implemented a travel ban on some citizens from the region. The ban was set aside by U.S. courts, but for several days caused chaos at big international hubs. The U.S. in March imposed a ban on carrying laptop and other large electronic devices inside the cabin of planes inbound from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Airlines scrambled to react to implement the measure.

The U.S. had considered widening the device ban to all U.S.-bound flights. European regulators, airlines and airports asked the U.S. government to hold off, saying such a ban could dent demand for travel. Opponents also expressed concern that storing a large number of devices electronic devices in the cargo hold poses safety risks because lithium batteries used in most laptops can catch fire.

Elaine Duke, the acting U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security, last week met her British counterpart. They agreed to work together to improve global aviation security standards. The two sides agreed to work together on measures such as detecting concealed explosives, enhancing cargo screening, and protecting flights from attacks by insiders.

Original article can be found here ➤

White House Kicks Off Test Program for Commercial Drones: Presidential directive calls for shared jurisdiction between federal, state and local agencies

The Wall Street Journal
By Andy Pasztor
Updated Oct. 25, 2017 1:14 p.m. ET

The White House has launched a pilot program expanding commercial drone operations by calling for test sites featuring shared oversight between federal agencies and state, local or tribal governments.

The presidential directive issued Wednesday, while short on specifics, establishes a framework for trying out new regulatory initiatives and gradually opening up more airspace nationwide to such unmanned aircraft, likely including package delivery services. Creating and learning lessons from such sites will help “enhance the safety of the American public, increase the efficiency and productivity of American industry and create tens of thousands of new American jobs,” according to the document signed by President Donald Trump.

Within a year, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department are supposed to work with operators and local officials to set up locations testing novel air-traffic management networks, along with proposed radio or cellular systems designed to track low-altitude drones. The move comes amid increasing industry frustration with what drone proponents consider regulatory gridlock stemming from safety and security concerns throughout federal agencies.

Industry officials previously said they expected a handful to perhaps as many as 10 localized tests to be approved, but the White House didn’t provide any details. The Transportation Department said it was looking for “a minimum of five partnerships.”

The initiative was rolled out as another example of Mr. Trump’s campaign to make U.S. companies more competitive versus foreign rivals by eliminating federal restrictions stifling innovation. “America’s skies are changing” with the number of commercial drones projected to increase fivefold by 2021, Michael Kratsios, deputy chief of the White House science office, told reporters. But because U.S. regulatory structure “has not kept pace with this change,” he said, high-tech companies have been forced “to seek commercial testing and deployment opportunities overseas.”

An array of drone proponents, including Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, have been pushing for federal action to free up airspace for drone flights, but so far disputes among industry segments have impeded progress by blocking consensus on the best way to remotely monitor drones. Law-enforcement officials have insisted on general agreement before signing off on widespread flights.

The industry splits are so pronounced, according to industry officials familiar with the matter, that FAA chief Michael Huerta is considering asking some members of an advisory drone panel he appointed to resume deliberations. The panel presented a report with no consensus earlier this month.

In addition to satisfying industry, the directive aims to reduce friction sparked by many local and state officials complaining that the FAA’s regulatory road map gives them little opportunity to participate in decisions about future drone operations. By emphasizing local participation and buy-in regarding industry proposals from the beginning, Mr. Kratsios said a major goal is to give “state, local and tribal governments a voice and a stake” in how the industry develops.

The details are still unclear, but industry and government officials said that local officials will have added clout to work out their role in overseeing and monitoring flights, particularly those below 200 feet.

Mr. Kratsios said another major goal is to “provide policy makers the data they need to bring about the future of American aviation.”

Drones weighing up to 55 pounds already are being used for an extensive array of commercial applications, from agriculture to real estate to inspecting pipelines and bridges. But FAA regulations generally restrict flights to altitudes of no more than 400 feet, during daylight hours and within sight of operators on the ground. Similarly, the agency is drafting, but hasn’t formally proposed, regulations permitting routine flights over crowds or populated areas.

As part of the White House initiative, federal regulators will seek out locations to test package delivery uses, as well as flights conducted further than now permitted from ground controllers and over people. The directive explicitly indicates the pilot integration program “will increase the number and complexity of (drone) operations across the nation” and “accelerate testing of currently restricted” operations.

Though delivering packages to consumers eventually is expected to be one of the fastest-growing uses for drones, Wednesday’s announcement suggests that major technical and regulatory challenges remain.

Amazon, for instance, is proposing a system equipping its delivery drones -- each envisioned to transport up to five pounds -- with sensors and related safeguards able to detect and automatically avoid other unmanned aircraft. But such technology hasn’t yet been tested on a large scale, and a host of policy and air-traffic control issues must be resolved before the FAA is likely to authorize routine delivery services.

Sean Cassidy, a senior Amazon official working on the issue, told an industry conference in Dublin this week that any system would have to be reliable enough to maintain safe operations even if core communication and control capabilities were degraded.”We absolutely, positively have to be safe from day one,” he said, adding that Amazon recognizes any solution must benefit the entire industry.

In a statement, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao noted that along with testing concepts for night operations, flights over people and package delivery options, the goal is to evaluate “detect-and-avoid technologies” plus systems capable of identifying and neutralizing hostile or suspect drones. But when the agency listed industry segments that “could see immediate opportunities” from test sites, it didn’t include package delivery. Rather, the department identified photography, emergency management, agriculture and “infrastructure inspections” as likely to enjoy benefits most rapidly.

Original article can be found here ➤

Cessna A185E, N19EC: Accidents occurred December 14, 2018 and October 24, 2017 at Tacoma Narrows Airport (KTIW), Pierce County, Washington

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Seattle, Washington

Blue Skies Aviation LLC

NTSB Identification: GAA19CA100
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 14, 2018 in Tacoma, WA
Aircraft: Cessna A185, registration: N19EC

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

Lost control, wingtip struck ground and veered off the runway into the grass.

Date: 14-DEC-18
Time: 16:55:00Z
Regis#: N19EC
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: A185E
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: MINOR
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 91

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Seattle, Washington

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Tacoma, WA
Accident Number: GAA18CA023
Date & Time: 10/24/2017, 1410 PST
Registration: N19EC
Aircraft: CESSNA A185
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on ground
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


According to the pilot in the tailwheel-equipped, high-performance airplane, he performed a three-point landing about 70 mph. During the landing roll, the airplane veered to the right. The pilot reported that he applied left rudder and left aileron to keep the airplane on the runway. However, the airplane exited the right side of the runway and then ground looped to the right, and the left wing and left elevator struck the ground.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left-wing spar, ribs, aileron, and the left elevator.

The METAR at the accident airport reported that, about the time of the accident, the wind was from 010° at 7 knots.

The pilot reported that the valve stem from the left main landing gear tire failed, causing the loss of control. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's loss of directional control during the landing roll.


Directional control - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Landing-landing roll
Abnormal runway contact
Loss of control on ground (Defining event)
Runway excursion
Attempted remediation/recovery 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 67, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/20/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 07/08/2015
Flight Time: (Estimated) 1434 hours (Total, all aircraft), 75 hours (Total, this make and model), 1400 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 8 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N19EC
Model/Series: A185 E
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1967
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 185-1306
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/04/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3300 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3356.66 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Teledyne Continental
ELT: C126 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: IO-520-D
Rated Power: 300 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KTIW, 315 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2053 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 92°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 7 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 10°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.38 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 15°C / 8°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Tacoma, WA (TIW)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Tacoma, WA (TIW)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1320 PST
Type of Airspace: Class D

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 294 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 35
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 5002 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop; Straight-in 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  47.268056, -122.578056 (est)

Bell 206B, owned and operated by Plains Aerial Leasing Inc, N60EA: Accident occurred October 24, 2017 in Groom, Carson County, Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lubbock, Texas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Groom, TX
Accident Number: CEN18LA020
Date & Time: 10/24/2017, 1540 CDT
Registration: N60EA
Aircraft: BELL 206B
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel starvation
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural 

On October 24, 2017, about 1540 central daylight time, a Bell 206B helicopter, N60EA, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing after a total loss of engine power while on approach to a private landing zone near Groom, Texas. The pilot was not injured. The helicopter was owned and operated by Plains Aerial Leasing, Inc as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 137 agricultural aerial application flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed near the accident site at the time of the flight, and a flight plan had not been filed. The flight departed from an off-airport landing zone about 1515.

The pilot reported that he had been spraying fields "all day" in the helicopter before the accident occurred. After completing a field, he had the helicopter loaded with chemical and refueled from the helicopter operator's load truck. The pilot did not shut down the helicopter while refueling (commonly known as "hot refueling"). He stated that the fuel gauge indicated that there was 20 gallons of fuel on board when he departed on the accident flight. He flew to a 43-acre field which was about 8 miles away and began spraying. He stated that he flew steep turns while spraying the field. When all the chemical was dispensed onto the field, he made a steep "hard right turn" en route to the operator's base, which was located about 3/4 of a mile west of the field. About 40 seconds after making the hard-right turn and with the fuel gauge indicating 10 gallons of fuel remaining, the helicopter was on approach for landing. While on a right base leg to the landing zone and about 40 ft above ground level with about 35 kts airspeed, the pilot felt the "tail wag," and the engine stopped producing power. He performed an autorotation, but the tail impacted the ground during the flare which resulted in substantial damage to the helicopter.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the helicopter at the accident site. He examined the engine and there were no apparent anomalies visible. He manually turned the short shaft and the engine turned freely. The P3 line was intact and secure with no visible cracks in the line.

The FAA inspector examined the helicopter's fuel system and determined that the fuel quantity and fuel pressure gauges worked properly. The fuel quantity gauge indicated about 7 gallons of fuel remaining. The fuel pressure gauge indicated 2 psi. He drained the airframe fuel filter assembly and 2 spoonsful of fuel were obtained. He turned the fuel boost pumps on, and he stated that the boost pumps initially sounded like they were cavitating. He drained the fuel with the fuel boost pumps running and he obtained about 7 gallons of fuel. The fuel was free of contamination and water.

The examination of the helicopter's flight control system exhibited continuity. The breaks in the flight control system were consistent with overload fractures.

The engine was removed from the airframe and shipped to a test facility for examination. After a visual examination, it was placed on a test cell. The engine started and completed ground-idle, flight-idle, max-continuous-power and take-off power runs. The engine then completed "wave-off" max-power transients where the power was reduced to flight idle and then rapidly increased to take-off power. The engine responded normally without surging or hesitation.

The Bell Helicopter 206B Flight Manual stated that, if installed, the FUEL LOW light would illuminate with approximately 20 gallons of fuel remaining. It stated, "Land as soon as practical." (The accident helicopter did not have the Fuel Low caution light installed. The helicopter's total fuel capacity was 96.7 gallons)

The 206B Flight Manual contained this WARNING: "Operation with both fuel boost pumps inoperative is not authorized. Due to possible fuel sloshing in unusual attitudes or out of trim conditions and one or both fuel boost pumps inoperative, the unusable fuel is 10 gallons."

The 206B Flight Manual stated this WARNING: "One or both fuel boost pumps is inoperative. Descend to below 6000 feet pressure altitude if flight permits. Land as soon as practical."

The NOTE associated with the Warning stated: "The engine will operate without boost pump pressure under 6000 feet pressure altitude and one boost pump will supply sufficient fuel for normal engine operations under all conditions of power and altitude. Both fuel pumps shall be ON for all normal operations."

The pilot stated that he pushed the fuel boost pump circuit breakers in when he started the engine before the first flight of the day. He stated that he liked to confirm that the fuel boost pumps were operating when he started the engines. Similarly, he pulled out the circuit breakers when he shut down the helicopter at the end of the day to hear the fuel boost pumps turn off. Although he had refueled throughout the day, he conducted hot refueling between flights and did not shut down the helicopter. He stated that the boost pump circuit breakers were in during the accident flight. He also stated that he will pull the caution light circuit breaker to silence the low rotor rpm warning horn during ground operations. Both boost pump circuit breakers and the caution light circuit breaker had blue collars installed at the end of the circuit breakers which made it easier to identify and pull the circuit breakers.

At 1530, the surface weather observation at the Perry Lefors Field Airport (PPA), Pampa, Texas, located about 25 miles to the northeast of the accident site, was; wind 340° at 18 kts, gusting to 27 kts; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 18° C; dew point -7° C; and altimeter 30.40 inches of mercury. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 26, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 12/01/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 03/16/2017
Flight Time:  897 hours (Total, all aircraft), 280 hours (Total, this make and model), 160 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 42 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: BELL
Registration: N60EA
Model/Series: 206B
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1976
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted
Serial Number: 2068
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/10/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3201 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Turbo Shaft
Airframe Total Time: 9062 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: ROLLS-ROYCE
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: 250-C20B
Rated Power: 420 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PPA, 3245 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 23 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1530 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 30°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 18 knots / 27 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 340°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.4 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / -7°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation
Departure Point: Groom, TX
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Groom, TX
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:  CDT
Type of Airspace: 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None

Latitude, Longitude: 35.222222, -101.238056 (est)

NTSB Identification: CEN18LA020
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 24, 2017 in Groom, TX
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N60EA
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On October 24, 2017, about 1540 central daylight time, a Bell 206B helicopter, N60EA, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing after a total loss of engine power while on approach to a private landing zone near Groom, Texas. The pilot was not injured. The helicopter was owned by the Plains Aerial Leasing, Inc. and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 137 agricultural aerial application flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed near the accident site at the time of the flight, and a flight plan had not been filed. The flight departed about 1510 on a local aerial application flight. 

At 1530, the surface weather observation at the Perry Lefors Field Airport (PPA), Pampa, Texas, located about 25 miles to the northeast of the accident site, was; wind 340 degrees at 18 kts, gusting to 27 kts; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 18 degrees C; dew point -7 degrees C; altimeter 30.40 inches of mercury.