Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Royal Flying Doctor Service Pilatus PC-24 to halve some flight times

The Royal Flying Doctor Service has bought itself a $12 million present to celebrate its 90th birthday – and it promises to cut flying time for some emergencies by almost half.

The single-engine Pilatus PC-24 is being built in Switzerland and is expected to arrive at the service’s Adelaide Airport base later this year in time for the anniversary celebrations.

The 7m-long aircraft is designed to travel at up to 787km/h, has a travel range of about 3600km and reaches a top altitude of 45,000ft.

It eclipses the RFDS’s existing 4m-long PC-12 turboprop, which is currently the top model in its fleet with a top speed of 518km/h and travel range of 2889km in a single flight.

The service’s central operations chief executive John Lynch said the new plane would cut travel time when transporting patients.

In SA alone, the RFDS conducts an average of 15 medical flights every day and treats one patient every 20 minutes.

“(The Pilatus PC-24) will be our first dedicated aero-medical twin-engine jet and will have the capacity to cover longer ranges with up to three stretcher patients,” Mr. Lynch said.

“We believe if it adds to the quality outcome for patients who receive that level of care then it’s an appropriate investment. And all of this comes on top of our new Adelaide base, which was opened two years ago.”

Mr. Lynch said a flight from Adelaide to Alice Springs would take about three hours in a PC-12, which cost about $7 million.

But the new PC-24 can make the 1500km trip in just under two hours. Adelaide is receiving one plane another two will be based in WA.

The RFDS has used the PC-12 model for its SA and Northern Territory operations for the past 20 years.

Four of its medically equipped models will remain in use at Adelaide Airport.

Mr Lynch said the secret to the 90-year success of the RFDS was that it continued to “meet a need”.

“Once John Flynn learned of the lack of available health services in particular remote locations, his vision was to create a mantle of safety for all those who lived, worked or played in the remote areas,” Mr Lynch said.

“So our birth was a vision that became a reality in 1928 and then two days later that first flight to Julia Creek (in Queensland). Its other success is having available an emergency service that can transfer patients needing a higher level of care from one location to another.”

Story, video and photos:

Outback Australians grounded as pilot crisis worsens

(Reuters) - A recruitment drive by Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd after a seven-year hiatus is exacerbating shortages of pilots at regional air services that provide a lifeline to remote communities in the country’s sparsely populated Outback.

As airlines from Asia, Europe and North America vie for pilots amid a global shortage, there is growing concern among people in Australia’s vast interior who rely on flights to major cities for medical treatment.

Ewen McPhee, a doctor in the remote mining town of Emerald, said that when he referred patients for specialist care they often needed to travel nearly 1,000 km (621 miles) to the nearest big city, Brisbane.

“Then they have to fly,” he said. “It is an 11-hour drive otherwise for an ill patient with quite a significant problem.”

Over the last four months the 80-minute flights have not been as reliable as usual, McPhee said, with last-minute cancellations for lack of pilots.

Regional Australia’s predicament illustrates the broader risks the aviation industry faces from a lack of pilots as the number of annual air passengers globally is expected to nearly double to 7.8 billion over the next 20 years.

Around the world, airlines will be forced to review the wages, training and conditions they offer younger pilots as they open new routes and pursue ambitious expansion plans.

Australia’s pilot shortage closely parallels one in the United States, where major airlines are on a hiring spree and regional carriers like Seattle-based Horizon Air have canceled hundreds of flights because of a lack of aviators.

Both countries have a culture of pilots paying up to $100,000 of their own money for training and flying for years at regional carriers on low pay to gain experience to be hired by major airlines.

To help fill in the gaps, the Australian government has reopened two-year visas for foreign pilots. Regional airlines however say longer visas are required to attract pilots from overseas.

Qantas began hiring again in 2016 after years of financial strife, during which it offered pilots leave without pay to work for other airlines. By mid-2018, it says it will have employed 300 new pilots, many from regional airlines.

Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd hired roughly another 120 pilots over the past year to fly major domestic and international routes.


While the Australian government offers loans of up to A$75,000 for students at select flying schools, trainee flyers still need tens of thousands of dollars from other sources to get their stripes.

Such costs are a major reason the number of student pilot licenses issued annually has fallen 23 percent since 2006, according to official figures.

Once out of flight school, young first officers at relatively large regional carriers only earn about A$60,000 ($48,000) a year, while being based in high-cost cities like Sydney where the average house price is about $1 million.

“There is not a lot of incentive for smart young men and women to get into aviation,” said Shane Loney, a Qantas pilot and vice president of the Australian and International Pilot Association.

“They have got a significant up-front cost to get qualified and then there isn’t good pay unless they’re fortunate enough to land a career with a big airline like Qantas or Virgin.”

Unlike major Asian and European carriers such as Singapore Airlines Ltd and easyJet plc, Qantas does not offer a cadet program, although it partners with universities for its regional arm. Virgin, meanwhile, had 2,500 applications for 12 cadet spots last year.

Australia does not have a formal requirement for airline pilots to have 1,500 hours of flying experience like in the United States, but informally airlines want pilots with at least that number of hours for jets.

Even junior turboprop pilots in Australia usually have hundreds of hours, said Kirsty Ferguson, the founder of Sydney-based airline interview coaching firm Pinstripe Solutions.

“Australia is having the same gaps in regional flying as in the U.S.,” she said.


U.S. regional carriers like Mesa Airlines Inc and Skywest Inc are so short of pilots they are raising salaries, offering sign-on bonuses worth up to $50,000 and aggressively recruiting Australians and other foreigners eligible for visas. The U.S. Airline Pilots Association has said regional salaries are moving in the right direction.

In Australia, airlines with tight profit margins have not raised pay significantly despite pressure from unions, even as profits have recovered due to heavy cost-cutting.

At Regional Express Holdings Ltd, which operates 33-seat turboprops, former cadets are paying agreed penalties of more than A$25,000 to escape a seven-year contract to advance to better-paid jobs at bigger airlines.

Rex has seen a spike in turnover as bigger airlines recruit. It wants the government to open up four-year visas for pilots with a path to permanent residency, said Chris Hine, a senior Rex executive and chairman of its flying school.

High turnover is not limited to Rex. Qantas’s regional arm QantasLink, which employs 400 pilots, hired more than 80 last year and expects to hire another 100 this year as pilots leave for bigger airlines, including Qantas.

Others are heading overseas to carriers such as Dubai’s Emirates and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd while the opportunities are available.

“It just follows the trend of cycles in aviation,” Australian Federation of Air Pilots President David Booth, a Virgin pilot, said of the hiring rush.

“This one is a little bit worse than normal, but I don’t think it is going to last forever.” 

Original article can be found here ➤

Air Canada to conduct ‘immediate safety review’ following San Francisco International Airport (KSFO) close calls

The Air Canada reviews show how serious the two SFO incidents with the airline were, including one which aviation experts have said could have caused one of the deadliest aviation disasters ever.

SAN FRANCISCO—Following two alarming close-calls at San Francisco International Airport last year, Air Canada has agreed to an immediate safety review of its entire operations, including increased pilot training and a closer look at the airline’s arrivals and departures at SFO.

The airline’s agreement — worked out with Transport Canada — comes amid a spike in incidents involving other airlines during takeoffs and landings at SFO. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating a December 2016 incident where a passenger jet almost pulled onto a runway in front of a departing jet, as well as a February 2017 incident where a plane aborted a landing when it learned another commercial jet was on the runway.

But the sweeping Air Canada reviews show how serious the two SFO incidents with the airline were, including one which aviation experts have said could have caused one of the deadliest aviation disasters ever.

“Many airlines have gone through this type of scrutiny after a major problem,” said Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines pilot and CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, who has followed the SFO mishaps.

“These are all good and welcomed measures. However, I don’t see a crucial part, which is a look at pilot fatigue issues in Canada.”

Aimer said he believes fatigue played a role in both Air Canada incidents at SFO.

In July, an Air Canada jet nearly landed on four passenger jets awaiting takeoff after the flight crew mistook a crowded taxiway for its intended runway.

In October, an Air Canada jet ignored repeated orders from the tower to abort its landing because air traffic controllers feared a different plane was still on the runway. The Air Canada plane landed safely, and later explained that it was having problems with its radio.

“Transport Canada continues to work with Air Canada as a result of these incidents,” said Transport Canada spokesperson Marie-Anyk Côté. “To date, the department is satisfied with the review conducted by Air Canada of their Airbus program as well as the corrective action plan they have put in place to address identified issues.”

The measures include:

Conducting an immediate safety review of Air Canada’s operations;

Reducing intervals between pilot training and evaluation from eight to six months for the next three years;

Conducting four inflight surveillance flights into and out of SFO;

Appointing a technical adviser to observe the ongoing SFO investigations;

Enhancing surveillance activities on the airline’s narrow body Airbus fleet and;

Air Canada conducting a complete review of its operations.

Air Canada did not respond to a request for comment. Côté said Air Canada’s operations audit is ongoing.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Ian Gregor said his agency is “satisfied with the actions (Air Canada and Transport Canada) have taken.”

Last week, an Aeromexico plane lined up to the wrong runway, where a Virgin America plane was waiting to depart. That plane dropped to about 76 metres (250 feet) and was about 1 kilometre from the start of the runway before aborting the landing and flying over the other aircraft, according to data reviewed by this news agency.

The NTSB is also investigating a Feb. 15 incident at SFO, during which Compass Airlines Flight 6081 had been cleared to land on the same runway where a Virgin America plane had been cleared to wait for takeoff. The Airport Surface Detection System radar alerted the tower of the mistake and the Compass flight successfully aborted its landing.

Federal investigators are also probing a runway incident on Dec. 14, 2016 at SFO when a SkyWest Airlines flight entered the runway as another jet taking off raced past, according to the NTSB.

Original article can be found here ➤

Piper PA-32-260, N1161X: Salt water exposure

AIRCRAFT:    1975 Piper PA-32-260 N1161X, s/n 32-7500040

Total Time Airframe 5,729.  The last Annual Inspection was performed on 06/02/16, at TT 5,685.4, Tach Time 5,685.4. 

The aircraft was in the process of being repaired after a damage incident in April, 2017. 

ENGINE:  Lycoming O-540, s/n L-1603-40, with the last Annual Inspection on 06/02/16, at Tach 5,685.4, and TSMOH 1,402.9


EQUIPMENT:  The following items were removed and are in the custody of SIAI

North star  GPS 60, p/n  6600-02-01, s/n  AF10897

Transponder King KT76, p/n  066-1034-00, s/n  23885

Audio Panel KMA20 TSO KMA 20, p/n  066-1024-03, s/n 15088

Nav/com King KX 155 TSO, p/n  069-1024-03, s/n 21380

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  N1161X was parked in a hangar undergoing repairs by Antique Aircraft Restoration, Marathon Airport (MTH) Marathon, FL 33050 on September 9, 2017.  Hurricane force winds from Hurricane Irma caused a storm surge, damaging the hangar doors and filling the hangar to the 31" to 45" inch level with sea water.  This resulted in the landing gear, inner belly, and main and wing spars being marinated in sea water.  Although the engine and avionics were exposed to the salt water environment, it does not appear that they were fully submerged.

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES:  Damage includes but may not be limited to that described below:      
The aircraft was marinated in salt water at the highest levels of 45"for at least 18 hours.  The repair shop reported the aircraft in the hangar were found covered in seaweed.  They were subsequently moved outside on the ramp and subsequent rains washed away the debris.  Due to the lack of electrical power and fresh water, no efforts were made to mitigate corrosion. As previously noted, the landing gear, inner belly, and main and wing spars being marinated in sea water, and the engine and avionics were exposed to the salt water environment.

LOCATION OF AIRCRAFT:   Outside at Marathon Airport (MTH), Marathon, FL 33050

REMARKS:    AS IS WHERE IS with full disclosure of salt water exposure.  No warranty or guarantee that logs are complete. 

There is NO PROPELLER included with this salvage.

Read more here:

McDonnell Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk: Rare working fighter jet for sale

One of the very few working fighter jets in private possession is for sale in Seattle. It's a historic aircraft, which has captivated crowds at air shows and helped Vietnam vets reconnect with their past.

“I kind of hate to get rid of it, but time moves on, and it's time,” said Don Keating, who restored a TA-4J Skyhawk.

Keating, who flew for Northwest Airlines for 38 years and currently flies private jets, wants to retire next year. He hopes to find a buyer looking for a one-of-a-kind rush.

“I get quite a few calls. When they find out what the price is on the aircraft, some of those go away,” he said.

The list price for the Skyhawk is about $2.9 million, but he's taking offers. If that sounds steep, it's because the airplane is quite rare. Keating thinks there are only three flying outside the military.

He acquired the parts and assembled the jet starting in 2004, and said you probably couldn't do something like that today because federal laws have become stricter. It's much more difficult now to acquire the primary components of military planes, Keating said.

“This is it. This is the last great one you'll ever see a civilian fly,” he said.

Keating's jet has performed at shows all across the country, including at Seafair. He's also given rides to Vietnam veterans, who've flown the Skyhawk in much tougher conditions. Some were shot down, and for them, the Skyhawk is much more than a machine.

“It really brings tears to their eyes when they look at the airplane and start talking about the aircraft again, and of course there are a lot of POWs who flew this aircraft, a lot of guys that were killed,” Keating said.

After all those years soaring above it all, it's time to touch down and let someone else take over.

“The dream for me would be for someone locally to buy the aircraft, and I’ll fly it for them,” Keating said.

Story and video ➤

Lawmakers Grill SpaceX, Boeing on Safety of Commercial Crew Capsules: NASA is working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to redesign part of the fuel system for the company’s Falcon 9 rockets

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on October 9th.

The Wall Street Journal
By Andy Pasztor
Updated Jan. 18, 2018 9:30 a.m. ET

NASA is working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to redesign part of the fuel system for the company’s Falcon 9 rockets and then will demand at least seven successful unmanned flights before allowing astronauts on board.

Those requirements, spelled out during a House space subcommittee hearing Wednesday, highlight safety and schedule challenges confronting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s commercial crew-transportation program.

With routine flights ferrying U.S. astronauts to the orbiting international space station slated to begin in fall of 2019, the agency’s top outside safety watchdog has raised new questions about potential hazards in testimony to the House panel. The safety of internal helium tanks, needed to keep fuel flowing properly during ascent, has been identified as one of the most prominent unresolved risks for SpaceX.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., as Mr. Musk’s company is called, and Boeing Co. , which is separately developing what are intended to be privately operated spacecraft, both face the “very real possibility of future schedule slips,” said Patricia Sanders, who heads NASA’s independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel.

Commenting on the likelihood that neither company will be able to fully comply with all of NASA’s longstanding safety standards, Ms. Sanders said ending current U.S. reliance on Russian capsules for crew transportation may “require decisions to accept a higher risk” on next-generation U.S. systems than anticipated.

The hearing also disclosed that the statistical limit for a “failed mission” remains approximately one in 55 launches, despite several years of intense development, NASA expenditures of about $5 billion and significant additional investment by the two companies. That limit applies to mission failures in which the vehicle doesn’t reach the space station but the crew uses emergency procedures to survive.

NASA’s statistical standard for crew fatalities is no greater than one in 270 flights, though Ms. Sanders and NASA officials have signaled neither Boeing nor SpaceX is on track to meet that precise mandatory benchmark.

A woman in Apple Valley, California, photographed the December 22nd launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base some 200 miles away. 

In the end, on-orbit inspection safeguards combined with certain NASA waivers are expected to provide the green light for initial crewed flights.

By contrast, the global airline industry has achieved fatal accident rates for jetliners of one crash for several million flights.

During her testimony, Ms. Sanders also said that given the agency’s expertise and history of close collaboration with the two companies, “NASA will be able to make a reasonable decision” to balance mitigating hazards while avoiding extensive delays.

The hearing was marked by repeated lawmaker comments expressing concern about the fall 2019 deadline to start ferrying astronauts to the space station.

In his prepared opening statement, Texas Republican Rep. Brian Babin, the subcommittee chairman, said, “We are here today looking at not one, but two companies that are behind schedule, may not meet safety and reliability requirements and could even slip into cost overruns.”

Mr. Babin added that the challenges heighten the “risk that the [space station] cannot be successfully or gracefully transitioned” out of service in the middle of next decade.

The Government Accountability Office told the subcommittee that NASA’s own program managers anticipate final certification of rockets and capsules “is likely to slip into December 2019 for SpaceX and February 2020 for Boeing.” Routine crew flights can’t proceed before such approvals.

SpaceX’s top flight-reliability official told the panel the company is working in tandem with NASA to fully understand and alleviate risks associated with the helium tanks, which have been identified as the cause of two previous accidents.

William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s top human-exploration official, testified that a redesign of the tanks is under way. “We will identify the most likely contributors” that led to the previous catastrophic accidents, he said.

He also said NASA is methodically assessing, but hasn’t signed off on, controversial SpaceX plans to load fuel into its rockets on the launchpad, while astronauts are strapped into the capsule on top.

John Mulholland, who oversees Boeing’s commercial crew program, testified that Boeing considered but rejected a similar fueling procedure years ago. “We never could get comfortable with the safety risks,” he said. The Boeing official said his experts continue to have “significant concerns” about the procedure.

Hans Koenigsmann, the SpaceX reliability official, countered that his company’s unorthodox fueling procedures provide additional safety partly because ground personnel leave the pad during the process.

The pending decision means NASA managers “are about to learn a bunch of new lessons” about managing risk while giving industry the lead in designing and operating crew vehicles, NASA’s Mr. Gerstenmaier told the panel.

Original article can be found here ➤

Piper PA-23-250 Aztec, N62769, Kingdom Airways LLC: Fatal accident occurred January 17, 2018 in Nicholls Town, Bahamas

NTSB Identification: ERA18WA063
14 CFR Unknown
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 17, 2018 in Nicholls Town, Bahamas
Aircraft: PIPER PA-23-250, registration: N62769
Injuries: 6 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

The government of Bahamas has notified the NTSB of an accident involving a PIPER PA 23-250 airplane that occurred on January 17, 2018. The NTSB has appointed a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the government of Bahamas's investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13.

All investigative information will be released by the government of Bahamas.

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Miami, Florida

Subject of an alert notice, crashed under unknown circumstances. Wreckage found.

Kingdom Airways LLC:

Date: 17-JAN-18

Time: 17:37:00Z
Regis#: N62769
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA 23 250
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 91

The wreckage of a plane crash that claimed six lives off Andros last month was salvaged yesterday, Chief Investigator of the Air Accident Investigation Department Delvin Major confirmed.

A video that went viral over a week ago showed the wreckage from above the water, after it was discovered by fishermen.

“The aircraft was recovered from waters adjacent to the previous search location by a salvage team with assistance from specialist divers of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force,” Major said in a statement.

“The wreckage will be taken to the United States, where additional analysis will be conducted by the Air Accident Investigation Department with assistance from specialists provided by the aircraft and engine manufacturers and the National Transportation Safety Board.

“All major components and parts of the aircraft were recovered.”

On January 17, the six-seater private aircraft that departed San Andros Airport on its way to New Providence crashed, killing the five passengers and pilot on board.

The victims were Margaret Adderley; Darren Clarke, the pilot; Valentino Russell; Ricardo “Carter” Campbell; Desiree Russell and her 10-year-old daughter, Destinique Wilson.

Investigators revealed that the pilot was operating a commercial flight in breach of his private pilot’s license, a practice otherwise known as “hacking”.

They also determined that weather conditions on the morning of the flight required the pilot to rely on the instruments of the twin-engine Piper, a certification he did not possess for that type of plane.

The fatal crash sparked debates surrounding the need for stricter regulations in the aviation charter sector.

The prevalence and unregulated use of air hackers has been a long-standing issue in the aviation sector.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar has vowed stronger oversight of the sector.

As residents awaited news on the discovery of the wreckage, North Andros and Berry Islands MP Carlton Bowleg said on Friday they remained anxious for answers and closure.

Original article  ➤

ANDROS, Bahamas — A little over a month since a fatal plane crash in shallow water off Andros in The Bahamas that killed six Bahamians, including the pilot, independent divers have found what appears to be aircraft debris, including an engine and human remains in of what’s left of the wreckage.

A citizen’s video posted on social media, shot on February 14 and posted on February 16, shows several divers over three separate videos, combing the shallow waters off of Mastic Point, North Andros.

Whether or not this is indeed the same Piper Aztec II plane, tail #: N62769 that crashed on January 17 remains to be determined. However, the area was once combed by Bahamian investigators previously and their search at that time showed no sign of the bulk of the plane.

The provider of the video footage told Caribbean News Now that this area was combed before, and one of the divers in the video worked with the authorities on the days after the crash. Additionally, the diver claims to have been to the same area with a search team a few days after the crash where they found limited debris, but the search was called off by civil investigators. All of which prompted him to solicit help from local boat captains and other residents of North Andros to continue the search.

Chief investigator, Delvin Major, said that the plane’s engine is of significant value to the investigation. From there they can determine what happened on the plane and conduct forensic studies to determine if it was engine failure or something other. Apart from having the plane engine, no further search or international assistance from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would be needed.

Speaking to persons from the independent search team, Caribbean News Now was told that the authorities were notified including the Member of Parliament for the constituency, Carlton Bowleg and the Police Superintendent in charge of the island, Ricardo Richardson, who is also in charge of the investigation on the ground in North Andros.

However, no word from the Civil Aviation Authority or the Air Accidents Investigation Department (AAID) on the new findings or whether or not they will be resuming their search. The Civil Aviation Authority and AAID called off their search on January 19 but the official search was reopened by the Royal Bahamas Police Force the following day.

Residents claim that no one from the Civil Aviation Department or AAID has been back on the island since the day after the plane crash, and the search and rescue was being conducted under the supervision of the police force investigator, ASP Richardson.

Andros – Fishermen have discovered that crashed plane in waters just near the community of North Andros today. 

Six people perished in a tragic plane crash on January 17 where only 5% of the aircraft was recovered.

Ricardo Campbell, Desiree Russell, Destinique Wilson, Darren Clarke, Margaret Adderley, and Valentino Russell all perished following that tragedy.

During a memorial service Prime Minister Hon. Hubert Minnis told the mourners that “not only Andros is grieving but the entire Bahamas”. He pledged the government’s full support for the families.

But the question now is whether recovery officials were really looking for the aircraft? The fishermen found major parts of the aircraft Friday, in shallow waters just as it was suggested following the plane crash. How come no one saw this? What is this?

It was also discovered that the pilot was not qualified to fly a commercial aircraft. What kind a jackass-ness is dis?

We report yinner decide!

Story and video:

While search and rescue efforts have ceased for those who died in last week’s Andros plane crash, search and recovery for parts of the downed Piper Aztec plane are continuing as authorities expand their search area in the hope of finding the parts that could help investigators determine what caused the crash.

Delvin Major, chief investigator of air accidents, said the most critical component of the plane that could assist investigators is its engine – such small planes do not have a flight data recorder or “black box”.

“We want to find those engines,” Mr Major told The Tribune yesterday, two days after officials said all six people on board the plane had died and search and rescue efforts had been called off.

“The wing and stuff wouldn’t give much clues into what happened because they would be so badly damaged, but engines can be analysed to see if any failure contributed to the plane crash. We’re still hopeful that we can find more of the parts because we would want to rule out everything; one thing is whether mechanical failure played a part in the crash. Based on winds and currents, parts could’ve drifted further north or south. I was told by police in Andros they have broadened their search south of where the accident happened to see if any parts drifted in the areas.”

Local police in Andros are spearheading search for parts of the plane, though it’s unclear how many people are involved in the efforts and how long those activities will continue.

“If they find something, they may keep looking, but it won’t be forever,” Mr Major said. “They’d also be looking to see if any bodies have floated. They really want to provide some closure to the family.”

Starting today, Mr Major and his team will begin the process of determining whether the plane and its pilot, Darren Clarke, satisfied all the legal requirements when operating an aircraft and whether all necessary licences were obtained. These include a pilot’s certificate, a certificate of airworthiness for the aircraft, an airman’s certificate which includes proof of physical fitness and a certificate of release to service. The investigators will also analyse an official report from the Department of Meteorology on the weather at the time of the crash. Witnesses, like other pilots, who could speak about the weather conditions on Wednesday morning also will be interviewed.

“We have received quite a bit of documents from authorities, both here in Nassau and (the US) Federal Aviation Authority in regards to the pilot and the aircraft,” Mr Major said. “I haven’t reviewed those as yet. They are quite a bit of documents as regards to the pilot, the aircraft and the certifications. We will speak to witnesses who were there at the time as to the conditions of the weather. Was weather a factor in the crash? Then we will check that against the pilot’s qualifications to see if he was capable of flying in that kind of environment.

“We’ll speak to other pilots in the area to get a feel of what they thought about the impact the weather could have had. The Department of Meteorology’s report will give us the clearest picture of the weather. I haven’t opened the report yet. It’s an official report with a lot of additional information you would not find in a regular advisory. It is specifically for aviation purposes. So the aircraft, the pilot and the weather, those are the major components we’ll look at to determine how each of those played a role in the crash.”

Last week’s crash was the first fatal one in the Bahamas in one and a half years. However, a number of non-fatal crashes have taken place over the years, including several recently. Mr Major said he is in the process of investigating “three non-fatal crashes” since the start of 2018.

Darren Clarke, Margaret Adderley, Valentino Cardinal Knowles, Carter Campbell, Desiree Russell and ten-year-old Destinique Wilson were the victims of last week’s crash. This week, a vigil on Wednesday night and a memorial on Friday are expected to take place for them. 

In the statement Friday, accident investigators detailed their efforts in the wake of the crash.

“On 17 January 2018 the Air Accident Investigation Department (AAID) was notified by Nassau Air Traffic Control that an aircraft N62769, a Piper Aztec, six seater aircraft went missing around 8am while en route to the Lynden Pindling International Airport from San Andros Airport,” the statement said.

“Search and rescue assets with assistance from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the United States Coast Guard and BASRA, as well as other aircraft from Nassau and local boaters in Andros, participated in the search for the missing aircraft and its occupants. “Around 5pm, the AAID was notified that a debris field was located where the aircraft crashed. Due to nightfall, search and rescue efforts had to be suspended and commenced around 7am Thursday January 18. On Thursday 18 January, investigators from the AAID with assistance from the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority, Safety Oversight Department travelled to Andros island to commence the investigation.

“Around 10am (Thursday), the investigation team was notified that the debris field was located and what remained of the aircraft was retrieved and brought to the island. As the complete aircraft could not be located and retrieved, no further analysis could be conducted on the aircraft. Subsequently, the search and rescue efforts (were) officially terminated. The pilot and five passengers on board perished in the accident which occurred in waters approximately four miles southeast of Mastic Point settlement.”

NASSAU, Bahamas — People have begun speaking out about their interactions with the pilot, Darren Clarke, involved in the fatal plane crash that killed six, including Clarke, just off North Andros in The Bahamas last Wednesday.

It has been revealed that breaches in protocol at various airports and regulatory departments in The Bahamas happen more frequently than once assumed.

Local radar equipment for both weather-watches and aircraft tracking has been a long-standing contentious issue in The Bahamas. Now, following the most recent fatal crash, concerns are also being expressed over pilot training and the overall safety protocols of those licensed to fly aircraft and whether or not they are truly prepared for the rigours of flying in Bahamian airspace, especially when safety training and due diligence should be the standard for any and all equipment operators, particularly for commercial passenger flights.

In just one of the alarming comments on a Caribbean News Now Facebook post, a one-time passenger of pilot Darren Clarke, said that just days before the deadly crash, he experienced what can be described as “alarming behaviour” from the pilot in boarding passengers.

Larry Young from Tampa, Florida, wrote:

“I visited Andros over the holidays to see family members. I am married to a Bahamian and actually was a passenger in this plane a few days before this incident and this young man was the pilot. I was blown away that you ‘just go to the charter services, get on a plane and then pay when you jump off’. Seat belts were not working, you drive up the runway with the door open and then the pilot pulls it shut just before takeoff. There is no safety information given. The pilot doesn’t know who is on the plane and children are placed on these planes and not even buckled in their seats. I am feeling blessed to know I took the same flight, flew the same route and with the same pilot days ago. Stressed but grateful. Condolences to the family.”

Another person who flew with pilot Clarke on several occasions, who is also a flight student who wishes to remain anonymous, shared photos of the plane that Clarke flew when it crashed, taken just one week prior to the deadly crash.

“He was kinda scared of flying in clouds tho’… because one time I was with him and he was trying to look outside for an opening in the clouds… but I told him that he has to look at the instruments… and not to worry about outside until you actually break through,” he told Caribbean News Now.

“He’s been flying for about a year and a half, however he only used to teach people in the single engine on clear days… After flying the single engines for a bit he then started flying the Piper Aztec twin engine plane… and he liked it… and eventually he began to take on the mindset of the other fellas (pilots) out here, ‘Oh I gatta hurry up get to Nassau so I could get some passengers and build a next flight to Andros before someone else take them…’” he added.

The flight student also went on to state that he has flown with Clarke before on overcast days in particular before.

“I’ve been flying through overcast conditions with him before and I had to calm him down and tell him to trust the instruments inside the plane…. I was also holding the controls at that time… if I wasn’t with him then he might have been gone that day instead,” he remarked.

In another comment sent to Caribbean News Now, a retired veteran US Navy pilot wrote:

“My preliminary assessment of this preventable accident are as follows:

(1) Poor preflight planning by pilot to include check en route weather and at destination.

(2) Violation of fuel requirements for flights conducted under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), which mandate adequate fuel from departure to destination plus 45 minutes reserve.

(3) Violation of mandated fuel requirements for flights conducted under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) or Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), which mandate greater fuel requirements for fuel from departure to destination, plus fuel to alternate airport, plus any fuel needed for holding if any arrival delays are warranted at destination, plus an additional 45 minutes reserve.

(4) It is very possible that the pilot traded fuel for passenger and bags in other to reach his maximum take-off weight departing Andros with minimum fuel across open water to Nassau as indicated on this chart.”

Investigations into the circumstances leading to the crash are ongoing, with the lead taken by the Air Accident Investigation Department (AAID) and the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority’s Safety Oversight Department. Contact: Chief Investigator of Air Accidents, Delvin Major, at 242-397-5513 or 242-397-5509.

4.25pm UPDATE: The Royal Bahamas Defence Force has released the following details of its involvement in the search for the aircraft: “Four military divers and a patrol aircraft from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force are assisting local authorities in their search for a Bahamian registered light aircraft that crashed in waters off the east coast of Mastic Point, North Andros yesterday with six persons on board. The Defence Force was informed of the crash by officials from Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos yesterday afternoon.

“A US Coast Guard conducting a search for the aircraft yesterday afternoon sighted debris and a body in waters off the east coast of Mastic, Point, Andros but was unable to assist further due to severe weather conditions. The Defence Force deployed its aircraft earlier this morning along with four military divers to assist local authorities in finding the aircraft and its passengers.

“The Defence Force is also searching for Mr Samuel Moss from Nassau. Mr. Moss, who was reported missing since 15th January 2018, had departed Bimini for New Providence in a white 21 foot single engine Angler small craft on Monday 15th January 2018. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Mr. Moss is asked to inform local Police or the Defence Force's Operations Centre at 362 3814/5.”

4.15pm UPDATE: Officials have suspended their search and recovery efforts for the day.

3pm UPDATE: Family members have identified Desiree Shaneig Russell and her 10-year-old daughter Destinque Wilson as the two remaining passengers on board the ill-fated Andros charter flight which crashed in the ocean Wednesday.

Two bodies were recovered yesterday and four others are feared dead after a plane travelling from Andros to New Providence crashed in waters just off the coast of Mastic Point.

There were three men, two women and a teenage girl on board.

After hours of unsubstantiated claims and social media rumours, yesterday afternoon Department of Civil Aviation officials confirmed the crash of a small single engine Piper Aztec. It is believed that all on board died.

The Tribune has identified four of the six persons on board as Darren Clarke, believed to be the pilot; Carter Campbell, a local store owner; Maggie Adderley and Valentino Knowles.

The remaining two victims are believed to be a mother, identified only as Nique, travelling with her daughter.

Authorities up to press time confirmed two bodies were seen in rough seas just east of Mastic Point. The bodies were discovered in the vicinity of debris, but officials were unable to determine if the plane did go down at that point.

According to reports, the aircraft disappeared while travelling to New Providence. It is suspected the plane encountered bad weather shortly after its 8am take-off and attempted to return to Andros.

In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Delvin Major, chief investigator at the Air Accident Investigation Department of the Department of Civil Aviation, said his office was notified at 11am that a plane en route to New Providence could not be located.

Mr. Major said the aircraft, which was only identified by its make and model at the time, had not arrived in Nassau or reported back in Andros.

He said it was at this time that authorities in Nassau organised resources to find the plane.

Shortly after 2pm, North Andros and Berry Islands MP Carlton Bowleg said the aircraft was located in waters off Mastic Point and all on board were believed to be dead.

He told The Tribune: “This is truly yet another sad day in what seems to be a run of chaos and tragedy in my community.”

Mr. Bowleg, elected for the first time in the May 2017 general election, said he was notified by members of his community that a small plane, piloted by his childhood friend and classmate, Darren Clarke, had crashed on the way to New Providence.

Overwhelmed with grief he added: “Just that first part was hard to understand, but it went on.”

“I knew every soul that perished on that plane in one form or another," he said, after a pause. “Carter (Campbell) is my son's uncle; Ms (Maggie) Adderley is the wife of one of our community leaders in Mastic Point; Tino (Russell) is form Low Sound, I know him well; then there is Nique and one of her two young daughters."

Mr. Bowleg added: "On all sides this is a sad ordeal. North Andros, rather all of Andros, is still grappling with the outcome of those recent hurricanes and now this.

"I mean, after all that has happened, for this to have happened and the way it apparently did, it's a tragedy on all fronts.

"The people of Andros have developed a true fear of the weather. We see clouds pile up and we get worried. Add this to the mix, it's truly too much to put into words. My heart aches today."

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D'Aguillar also confirmed the crash, indicating the US Coast Guard, along with Bahamas Air Sea and Rescue (BASRA) officials, had discovered two of the six bodies in rough seas and were attempting to identify and secure an official crash site.

In statements last evening, several prominent politicians, including Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip “Brave” Davis and (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell, extended their condolences to the families of the deceased.

Aviation officials plan to travel to Andros today to continue search and recovery efforts.

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Coral Harbour Base: Four military divers and a patrol aircraft from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force are assisting local authorities in their search for a Bahamian registered light aircraft that crashed in waters off the east coast of Mastic Point, North Andros yesterday with six persons on board. The Defence Force was informed of the crash by officials from Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos yesterday afternoon.

A US Coast Guard conducting a search for the aircraft yesterday afternoon sighted debris and a body in waters off the east coast of Mastic, Point, Andros but was unable to assist further due to severe weather conditions. The Defence Force deployed its aircraft earlier this morning along with four military divers to assist local authorities in finding the aircraft and its passengers.

Pilot Daron Clarke, Margaret Adderley, Carter Campbell, Valentino Knowles, Axaria Russell and her daughter Destinique have all believed to have perished in that crash.

The Defence Force is also searching for Mr. Samuel Moss from Nassau. Mr. Moss, who was reported missing since 15th January 2018, had departed Bimini for New Providence in a white 21 foot single engine Angler small craft on Monday 15th January 2018.

Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Mr. Moss is asked to inform local Police or the Defence Force’s Operations Center at 362 3814/5.

The Royal Bahama Defence Force continues to protect the territorial waters of The Bahamas and “Guard our Heritage”.

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Bell UH-1H Iroquois, N658H, registered to and operated by Sapphire Aviation LLC: Fatal accident occurred January 17, 2018 in Raton, Colfax County, New Mexico

Autopsy: Pilot in fatal copter crash had fentanyl in system 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --  A helicopter pilot had a low concentration of fentanyl in his blood during a crash in New Mexico that killed him and four other people including Zimbabwean opposition leader Roy Bennett, according to autopsy results obtained on Friday.

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid and pain medication, was found in the autopsy report for Jamie Coleman Dodd, the lead pilot in the January crash in northeastern New Mexico.

The report didn't say whether Dodd may have been taking fentanyl for health reasons. Prior reports have not indicated that drugs were a cause of the crash.

Autopsies also were performed on co-pilot Paul Cobb and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III — also killed in the crash on a grassy mesa top east of Raton.

All three men died of blunt force trauma. Burns also were a cause of death for Burnett. Bennett's wife, Heather, also died in the crash.

Cobb had no drugs in his system, while Burnett had alcohol, amphetamine and oxycodone present in his, medical examiners determined.

The sole survivor of the crash, Andra Cobb, of Texas, later recounted her experience, saying the aircraft hit the ground with a loud bang before rolling forward, stopping upside down and bursting into flames.

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that the weather was clear the night of the crash, and that Dodd had thousands of hours of flying experience. The pilot was able to call 911 but later died at a hospital.

Original article can be found here ➤

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An autopsy shows the pilot in a New Mexico helicopter crash that killed five had a synthetic opioid in his system.

The chopper went down in January on a mesa east of Raton. Only one person onboard survived.

The autopsy on Jamie Dodd revealed low levels of the powerful pain medication fentanyl in his blood, but prior reports have not indicated drugs were a cause of the crash.

Among the other victims were copilot Paul Cobb, Zimbabwean politician Roy Bennett and his wife, and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett.

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed the weather was clear the night of the crash.

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Albuquerque, New Mexico
Honeywell Aerospace; Phoenix, Arizona
Rotorcraft Development Corporation; Hamilton, Montana

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Raton, NM
Accident Number: CEN18FA078
Date & Time: 01/17/2018, 1800 MST
Registration: N658H
Aircraft: BELL UH-1H
Injuries: 5 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On January 17, 2018, about 1800 mountain standard time, N658H, registered as a Bell UH-1H helicopter, impacted terrain near Raton, New Mexico. A ground fire and explosion subsequently occurred. The commercial pilot, pilot rated passenger, and three other passengers were fatally injured. One passenger sustained serious injuries. The helicopter was destroyed during the impact and ground fire. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Sapphire Aviation LLC as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area about the time of the accident, and the flight was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Raton Municipal Airport/Crews Field (RTN), near Raton, New Mexico about 1750 and was destined for Folsom, New Mexico.

According to a statement taken by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspectors, the passenger said that the purpose of the helicopter flight was to take the group to a personal function in Folsom, New Mexico. The passenger indicated that they were in level flight and recalled a big bang as the helicopter hit the ground. After ground contact, the helicopter rolled forward coming to a stop upside down. The passenger was hanging from the seat belt, the door was not present, and jet fuel was pouring on her. The seat belt was released by the passenger who subsequently evacuated the helicopter. The helicopter was on fire and subsequent explosions followed. The passenger called 9-1-1 and waited for emergency responders.

The pilot held an FAA commercial pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, rotorcraft helicopter, and instrument helicopter ratings. He held an FAA second-class medical certificate issued on December 7, 2017. This pilot reported on the application for his medical certificate that he had accumulated 6,416 hours of total flight time and 44 hours in the six months before the examination.

The pilot rated passenger held an FAA commercial pilot certificate with a rotorcraft helicopter rating. He held an FAA second-class medical certificate issued on December 11, 2017. This pilot reported on the application for his medical certificate that he had accumulated 3,140 hours of total flight time and 30 hours in the six months before the examination.

N658H, was registered as a Bell UH-1H, helicopter with serial no. 67-17658. However, the current type certificate holder for that serial number is Rotorcraft Development Corporation. The accident helicopter was a single-engine helicopter powered by a Honeywell (formerly Lycoming) T53-L-703 turbo shaft engine with serial number LE-10462Z, which drove a two-bladed main rotor system and a two-bladed tail rotor. T53 engines are a two-spool engine. The gas generator spool consists of a five-stage axial compressor followed by a single-stage centrifugal compressor, and a two-stage high pressure turbine. The power turbine spool consists of two stages. The engine has a maximum continuous rating of 1,300 shaft horsepower at an output shaft speed of 6,634 rpm.

At 1753, the recorded weather at RTN was: Wind 030° at 10 kts; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 1° C; dew point -18° C; altimeter 30.26 inches of mercury. According to U.S. Naval Observatory Sun and Moon Data, the end of local civil twilight was 1735 and local moonset was at 1754. The observatory characterized the phase of the moon as "waxing crescent with 0% of the moon's visible disk illuminated."

The main wreckage (fuselage) came to rest on a flat mesa at the top of rising terrain about 10.7 nautical miles and 102° from RTN, on a heading about 15° magnetic. The area around the main wreckage was discolored and charred, consistent with a postaccident ground fire. The elevation in the area of the main wreckage was about 6,932 ft above mean sea level (msl).

The initial observed point of terrain contact was a parallel pair of ground scars, consistent with the width of skids, which led directly to the main wreckage on a 074° magnetic bearing. The elevation of this point was about 6,933 ft msl. The distance from the start of the parallel ground scars to the wreckage was about 474 ft. Proceeding from the end of the 330-ft parallel ground scars, 18 ft further down range, was a 25 ft long blade slap ground scar perpendicular to the path of travel, followed by the entire main rotor about 60 ft further down range. The tail rotor and tail rotor gear box were resting nearby. The helicopter's main wreckage was located 66 ft further down range, upside down, with the entire cabin section between the cockpit and tail boom having been destroyed by fire.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that sections of the helicopter exhibited damage consistent with overload, deformation, thermal damage, and consumption by fire.

The engine compressor cases, accessory gearbox housing, and inlet housing were consumed by fire. The output reduction carrier and gear assembly, which attaches to the inlet housing, was intact and recovered as a loose component. Gears within the accessory gearbox were recovered as loose components. There were no penetrations of the combustor plenum. The exhaust tail pipe was disassembled from the engine while on scene to gain access and photo document the second-stage of the power turbine. There were metal spray deposits on the suction side of the second-stage power turbine stator vanes. There was no damage to leading edge of either the second-stage power turbine stator vanes or the second-stage power turbine rotor blades.

Autopsies on the pilot and pilot rated passenger were requested.

A cellphone and an I-pad were retained and shipped to the National Transportation Safety Board Recorder Laboratory to see if they contain data pertinent to the accident.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: BELL
Registration: N658H
Model/Series: UH-1H
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KRTN, 6349 ft msl
Observation Time: 1753 MST
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 1°C / -18°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 10 knots, 30°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.26 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: RATON, NM (RTN)
Destination: Folsom, NM 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Serious
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries:  N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 5 Fatal, 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 36.704444, -104.286667 (est)

RATON, N.M. -- Andra Cobb was frantic when she called for help, telling an emergency operator that a helicopter she was riding in with her father, longtime partner and others had crashed in a remote part of New Mexico and that she was watching her "family burn." Police released 911 recordings Friday from the crash near the Colorado-New Mexico line that killed five people, including Zimbabwean opposition leader Roy Bennett, and his wife, Heather.

Cobb, 39, was the sole survivor, escaping with broken bones before the helicopter burst into flames. Her father, Paul Cobb, the co-pilot, and her longtime partner, Charles Burnett III, a Texas-based investor who owned the ranch where the group of friends was headed, also were killed in the crash Wednesday, along with pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd.

"I'm watching my family burn in a fire," Andra Cobb screamed on the call. "I don't know what to do. There's a big fire. I'm covered in gasoline."

Dodd also was able to call 911 before he died, telling authorities immediately after the crash that there were three victims and three survivors -- him, Andra Cobb and Roy Bennett, who was suffering from a head wound as authorities tried to determine their location.

Officials launched a search but said the response was slow because of the rugged terrain and lack of access. Andra Cobb remained on the call for about an hour as she waited for authorities to arrive.

Bennett's death was met with an outpouring of grief in Zimbabwe. A white man who spoke fluent Shona and drew the wrath of former President Robert Mugabe, Bennett had won a devoted following of black Zimbabweans for passionately advocating political change.

BBC News reports Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party spokesperson Obert Gutu said in a statement that Bennett was a popular grassroots politician as well as a successful commercial farmer.

"Roy was a resolute and committed fighter for democratic change in Zimbabwe," Gutu said.

Bennett, treasurer-general of the Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC opposition party, previously survived a traumatic year in jail and death threats over his work.

He and his wife had traveled to New Mexico to spend their holiday with their friend Burnett, friends and family said. The wealthy businessman was described as a fun-loving person who enjoyed entertaining, at times extravagantly.

Burnett's friends Dodd and Cobb were experienced aviators who would not have taken unnecessary risks in the helicopter, according to the investor's personal lawyer, Martyn Hill. Hill and Cobb's wife, Martha, said the co-pilot had survived being shot down while flying a helicopter in the Vietnam War.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. Despite frigid temperatures, there was no indication of bad weather that night.

Engulfed in flames, the wreckage of the helicopter registered to an aviation company linked to Burnett was eventually found by authorities, who said it had sparked a grass fire.

Dodd, the pilot, said on his call that he had a broken pelvis and was trying to move away from the blaze.

Andra Cobb said the helicopter had been in the air for just three to five minutes after taking off from the airport in the small community of Raton. In the call, she can be heard weeping and telling Bennett to breathe. "I'm very, very cold," she tells the 911 operator.

RATON, N.M. –  The Latest on a helicopter crash in New Mexico that killed five people, including a Zimbabwean opposition leader (all times local):

A New Mexico sheriff says residents from nearby ranches were among the first to arrive at a fiery helicopter crash that killed five people, including Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather.

Colfax County Sheriff Rick Sinclair said Friday that he had joined a game warden and paramedics in searching the rugged terrain for the wreckage after a survivor called 911. New Mexico State Police also responded.

Sinclair says that when the crews found the crash site, residents were already working to extinguish the flames.

The Bennetts' friends and family say they had traveled to New Mexico to spend their holiday with friend and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III, who also died Wednesday.

4 p.m.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board says investigators are reviewing aircraft maintenance records and flying conditions as they examine the charred wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in a remote area of New Mexico.

Investigators pushed forward Friday in searching for clues after the helicopter carrying a group of prominent friends went down two days earlier east of Raton. Authorities confirmed that Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather, were among the victims, as well as wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III.

NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss says the agency won't release a probable cause for the crash until completing the investigation — something that has been known to take many months.

He says all parts of the rotorcraft were recovered from the site.

1:13 p.m.

A 911 recording indicates Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett was injured but still alive as authorities tried to determine the location of a fiery New Mexico helicopter crash that ultimately killed him, his wife, Heather, and three others.

Raton police released 911 recordings Friday from the crash two days earlier in remote northern New Mexico.

Andra Cobb, the 911 caller and the crash's sole survivor, was frantic as she spoke to a dispatcher, saying that she was watching her "family burn."

She also said Bennett was alive but suffering from a head wound.

Her father, Paul Cobb, was the co-pilot. Her partner, Charles Burnett III, owned the ranch where the group was headed for vacation. Both were killed Wednesday.

Authorities say pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd also called 911, but later died.

12:30 a.m.

Investigators will comb through the charred wreckage in search for clues as to why the helicopter carrying the group of prominent friends went down after dark Wednesday.

Friends and family members confirmed Thursday that Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather, had traveled to New Mexico to spend their holiday with friend and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III at his ranch.

Despite frigid temperatures that evening, the weather appeared to be clear and the wind was mild as they headed east over a rugged area toward Burnett's ranch.  The only survivor was Andra Cobb, the co-pilot's daughter and Burnett's long-term partner. She was able to escape before the helicopter burst into flames.

RATON, N.M. -- A leader of an opposition party in Zimbabwe and four other people died in a helicopter crash near the New Mexico-Colorado border, according to federal and state agencies.

Six people were on board the chopper when it went down roughly 15 miles east of the Raton Municipal Airport sometime around 6 p.m. Wednesday, FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford said. Roy Bennett -- a member of the Movement for Democratic Change Party in Zimbabwe -- was among the deceased on the private Huey helicopter

New Mexico State Police Lt. Elizabeth Armijo said Thursday that the pilot, 57-year-old Jamie Coleman Dodd, of Trinidad, Colorado; the co-pilot, 67-year-old Paul Cobb, of Conroe, Texas; 61-year-old Charles Ryland Burnett, of Houston; and Bennett's wife, 55-year-old Heather Bennett; also died in the crash.

The group was heading to Emery Gap Ranch, a property that one of Roy Bennett's friends bought last year. One person on board survived the crash but has serious injuries, Armijo said. The Associated Press reports the survivor is Andra Cobb, who is Burnett's girlfriend and Paul Cobb's daughter.

One of the victims called a 911 dispatcher in Raton to report the crash but was not sure where the helicopter went down. Several agencies began looking for the wreckage, but Armijo said the terrain made it difficult.

"Response was slow due to the area being extremely remote with rugged terrain and limited road access," she said. "Wreckage was spotted in a rancher's property east of Raton. A grass fire had burned the area of approximately a mile radius around the crash site."

When officers found the site, Armijo said the helicopter was engulfed in flame. They initially found three deceased people at the site of the crash while two of the men alive in critical condition. One later died at the scene while the other died while being airlifted to a hospital.

Armijo said the helicopter left Raton and was bound for Folsom about 37 miles away. So far, investigators do not know what caused the aircraft to crash.

Dusty Longwill, the manager at the Raton airport, fueled the helicopter before they took off.

"They were all in good spirits," he said. "You know, most people come out here to come play and vacation or go hunting, so everyone's usually good to get out of city life and come out to the country and have a good time."

As an MDC-T Party member, Roy Bennett was jailed in 2004 for assaulting a cabinet minister and again in 2009 for campaigning against former Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe. When Bennett was released, he fled to South Africa where he was given political asylum.

Nelson Chamisa, a co-vice president for the MDC-T Party, expressed his sadness on Twitter. 

"I'm devastated as I have just received tragic news about Roy Bennet [sic] and wife's involvement in a helicopter crash," Chamisa tweeted.

Opposition leader Tendai Biti also tweeted "what a blow to our struggle."

Initially, several international media organizations had erroneously reported the crash occurred in Canada. Chamisa also tweeted the incorrect information.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into what caused the crash.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) —   U.S. records show the helicopter that crashed and killed five people in New Mexico, including a Zimbabwean opposition leader, was registered to a Houston-based company associated with one of the victims.

Federal Aviation Administration records show the Huey UH-1 was registered to Sapphire Aviation LLC, which records show was linked to Charles Burnett III, an investor and philanthropist.

New Mexico State Police say he died in Wednesday's crash with opposition leader Roy Bennett, Bennett's wife, Heather; pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd of Colorado; and co-pilot Paul Cobb of Texas.

Andra Cobb, Paul Cobb's daughter and Burnett's longtime partner, was the sole survivor. Her mother says she has been hospitalized with broken bones.

An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board was expected to arrive at the crash site Thursday.

3 p.m.

The mother of the lone survivor of a New Mexico helicopter crash that killed five people, including a Zimbabwe opposition leader, says her daughter is distraught.

Her voice breaking, Martha Cobb told The Associated Press on Thursday that her 39-year-old daughter, Andra, said she escaped the helicopter and passed at least one body on the ground before it burst into flames.

The co-pilot was Andra Cobb's father, Paul, and her longtime partner, Charles Burnett III, a wealthy Houston-based businessman, also died Wednesday. Andra Cobb was hospitalized with broken bones.

Martha Cobb says she and her husband befriended Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife while traveling on cruises.

Friends say the group was heading to the Emery Gap Ranch, a sprawling, mountainous property that Burnett purchased in 2017.

2:50 p.m.

Friends say Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather, were in New Mexico on holiday when they and three others were killed in a helicopter crash.

They were visiting friend Charles Burnett III, a wealthy Houston-based businessman who also was killed in Wednesday's crash in a remote area near the Colorado state line.

Also killed were pilots Jamie Coleman Dodd of Colorado and Paul Cobb of Texas. They too were friends with Burnett.

Burnett's lawyer, Martyn Hill, said the sole survivor, Andra Cobb, was in a long-term relationship with Burnett and was Paul's daughter.

The group was heading to the Emery Gap Ranch, a sprawling, mountainous property that was purchased by Burnett in 2017.

Hill says both pilots were experienced aviators who would not have taken unnecessary risks in the helicopter. Hill said Paul Cobb served in Vietnam and survived being shot down.

1:30 p.m.

Authorities in the U.S. state of New Mexico say a victim injured in a helicopter crash that killed five others, including a Zimbabwe opposition leader, called for help.

State Police Lt. Elizabeth Armijo confirmed opposition leader Roy Bennett's death Thursday, a day after a helicopter carrying him and five others went down in a remote area.

A spokesman for Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party says Bennett's wife also died.

Police say others killed were pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd, of Trinidad, Colorado; co-pilot Paul Cobb, of Conroe, Texas; and Charles Ryland Burnett, of Houston.

Cobb's wife, Martha Cobb, tells The Associated Press that her 39-year-old daughter, Andra, was hospitalized with several broken bones.

Cobb says her daughter described escaping the helicopter before it burst into flames.

12:19 p.m.

Authorities in the U.S. state of New Mexico say key Zimbabwean opposition leader Roy Bennett has been killed in a helicopter crash.

State Police Lt. Elizabeth Armijo confirmed Bennett's death Thursday, a day after a helicopter carrying him and five others went down in a mountainous rural area of northern New Mexico.

Obert Gutu, spokesman for the MDC-T opposition party, said the loss of Bennett, a white man who spoke fluent Shona and drew the wrath of former President Robert Mugabe, was tragic. Gutu says Bennett's wife, Heather, also died.

The crash killed five and injured a sixth person aboard. The helicopter went down about 6 p.m. Wednesday near the Colorado state line.

Armijo said no additional information was immediately available about the circumstances of the crash.

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