Sunday, March 18, 2018

In Memoriam: Robert C. Stoddart

Robert C. Stoddart
August 23, 1937 – March 8, 2018

Robert C. Stoddart earned a place in history from the cockpit of a Cessna Skyhawk 800 feet above the Thruway on Sept. 15, 1967.

Part of the inaugural group of four State Police pilots assigned to catch lead-footed drivers, he became the first trooper in a fixed-wing aircraft to call out a speeding violation to a patrol car on the ground.

During the first four months of the program, troopers in the sky, based in Schenectady, nabbed 194 speeders and spotted 176 motorists in need of assistance.

However, Trooper Stoddart, who was promoted to technical sergeant when he was accepted into the air division, did not stay with the State Police. Back in Elma, he had a newborn son.

“When he flew for them, he was never home,” said his wife, Sandra. “With the kids coming along, he wanted to be here.”

Mr. Stoddart became a tax compliance officer with the state Department of Taxation beginning in 1968, and worked from the Buffalo office, tracking down scofflaws.

He died March 8 in Mercy Hospital after a short illness. He was 80.

Born in Buffalo, the third of four children, he grew up in West Seneca. After he graduated from West Seneca High School in 1955, he found a job in the Ford Stamping Plant in Woodlawn.

“He hated it,” his wife said. “One day he and his buddy went for a flight over the city and he got the bug.”

Mr. Stoddart learned to fly at Buffalo Airpark in West Seneca and found other jobs, first at the West Seneca Water Department, then in maintenance with American Airlines at the Buffalo airport. When he was laid off, he took the state trooper exam.

He joined the State Police in June 1961 and was stationed in Waverly, West Winfield, Henrietta and Wellsville. When a call was made for pilot candidates, he was one of 50 who applied. Having a commercial license, an instrument rating and more than 500 hours of flight time, he was chosen.

Besides working for the Department of Taxation, he also worked with the State Liquor Authority and briefly as an air traffic controller at the Buffalo airport. He retired in 1992.

Mr. Stoddart had his own small plane and continued to be based at Buffalo Airpark, where he was an instructor for hundreds of young pilots. By the time he stopped flying in 1996, he had logged more than 10,000 hours in the air.

“His claim to fame was that he never lost a student,” his wife said. “Nobody crashed.”

A longtime member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in West Falls, he served on the church council for 35 years. When his first wife, Patti, died in 1991, the pastor introduced him to a widow in the congregation, Sandra Wacker Sell.

“The pastor though Bob needed somebody right away,” she said, “so he introduced us. We went to dinner and got married a year from our first date. He sold his house, I sold my house and we built our home in Orchard Park.”

He was a Mason and a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. He enjoyed golf and spent part of each winter in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

Survivors also include three daughters, Heather Cummings, Kelly Gray and Marcy Radford; two sons, Jeffrey Sell and Douglas; three sisters, Jeanette Held, Barbara Hummel and Sharon Stevens; and 13 grandchildren.

A memorial service was held March 18.

Original article can be found here ➤

Saele Fatiaki: No desk for this girl

Saele Fatiaki, left, with fellow Fijian pilot Salote Mataitini.

She knew from a young age that she would be a pilot and not be bound to some desk job.

Saele Fatiaki, who now plies her trade with Air Kiribati, said it was her fascination with planes that captured her imagination. Added to that was the influence from her next-door-neighbour — Fiji's very own late Captain Sakiusa Rokovucago, fondly known to her and her siblings as momo (uncle).

"It wasn't easy to follow this career path early on because as a woman in a male-dominated field there are a lot things that I needed to be able to put on hold and sacrifice in order to complete my flying and make it as far as my male colleagues," she said.

"The initial break into the industry is tough because you come out of flying school with minimum experience and the competition is stiff. You need to be prepared to go out of your comfort zone, pack a bag and jump whenever opportunity strikes, that's how I ended up in Kiribati," she said with a giggle.

Saele is one of two pilots from Fiji who are working in Kiribati. They fly on domestic routes in the tiny South Pacific Island country. It's a job she has grown to love.

"I hail from the beautiful island of Rotuma but was born and brought up in Suva. I come from a big family with four sisters and three brothers, one of whom is also a pilot with Kaibu in Fiji," she says.

The Rotuman lass completed her education at Saint Anne's School in Suva and Motusa District School in Rotuma and high school at Saint Joseph's Secondary School, Rotuma High School and Adi Cakobau School.

"I knew from a young age that I did not want to work a desk job," she said quietly. "So straight after high school, I went on to Pacific Flying School in Nadi where I did my flight training and obtained by comercial pilot's licence in 2010."

Getting into flying school was not the hard part. Saele described it was all the distractions that came that she had to push away while studying and continuing to persue the dream of flying commercially.

A few weeks ago, Saele and her Fijian co-pilot made history for Air Kiribati after they became the first all-female crew to man the plane. It was only into her first year of working in the airline industry there.

"Kiribati is beautiful. And hot! I have learnt a lot from living in Kiribati, mostly not to take things for granted," she said smiling. "The people here have so little compared to the most of the Pacific, in terms of basic resources, but they are very happy and content people."

So what's the best thing about her work?

"The view from the cockpit. It's just amazing, you can never get tired of it!" she said.

While she is far away in another country, Saele and her colleague have asked to have their condolences sent to the families of the late pilots Iliesa Tawalo and Merelesita Lutu who recently in a plane crash at Delaikoro on Vanua Levu.

" We were all deeply heartbroken to hear of the tragic incident where the two lost their lives," said Saele.

"To all the youth of Fiji, work hard at whatever career path you choose and never give up, no matter how long it may take for you to tackle your goals," she said with finality.

Original article can be found here ➤

William H. Morse State Airport (KDDH) to close April 30 to late July

BENNINGTON — A $4 million reconstruction of the Bennington airport runway is now set to begin April 30 and should be completed by July 30, state officials said.

The project timeframe, which members of the Bennington Airport Development Corp. had sought since last year, is important because the 3,704-foot runway at William H. Morse State Airport will be closed for the duration. That will require that businesses and groups with facilities at the airport arrange for alternative sites if needed during the construction period.

At a meeting Friday at the airport, Josh Martin, the project manager for VTrans; Paul Libby, senior project manager with the state Rail and Aviation Bureau; Christopher Beitzel, aviation program southern region manager, and other officials briefed locals on details of the project.

"Right now, the anticipated shutdown date for the runway will be April 30," Martin said. "That will be the start for a 90-day shutdown."

The reopening of the runway is therefore estimated to occur in late July, Martin said, but he cautioned that weather over the coming months could affect that schedule.

A start in March was the goal cited in the fall, and more recently Bennington Airport Development Corp. members said they had heard April 2 was the start date. However, John Likakis and other members of the nonprofit group, which acts as the airport management entity, said they first learned at the Friday meeting of the new start date.

"We have tried to move it as far forward as we can, but we have run into some issues," Martin said.

Among those, he said, was confusion over a new Agency of Natural Resources system for posting aspects of stormwater management permitting on the agency website. VTrans officials thought a required 30-day public comment period had been accounted for, Martin said, but "that was not actually the case. So that is what is pushing it out."     

But Martin said the contractor, Markowski Excavating Inc., of Florence, intends to work simultaneously on both the runway and a taxiway to run parallel to it, rather than follow a previous plan calling for work on the taxiway to be completed afterward.

The 35-foot-wide taxi strip is designed to allow landing aircraft to immediately turn off the 75-foot-wide runway, and it allows pilots preparing for takeoff a space that is off the runway surface, keeping that open for other craft.

In answer to a question from Likakis, the VTrans aviation officials said there will be access to hangers and other buildings at the airport during construction.

Likakis also asked about the planned route for construction vehicles to the airport on Walloomsac Road, saying he had heard concerns voiced by residents over traffic and possible damage to the road surface.

The state officials said the planned route for those vehicles, which was worked out in cooperation with town officials, will be from Route 9 West to the airport entrance drive.

Markowski Excavating, which won the contract after submitting the low bid of just over $3.91 million, has experience with major airport construction projects, including a similar one last year at the Rutland airport, officials said.

State officials also said that a right-of-way issue concerning 2.5 acres required for work at one end of the runway, which last year delayed the setting of a construction schedule until an agreement was signed in Probate Court, has now been resolved.

VTrans officials also have said the state will consider waiving hangar rental fees for businesses or organizations during the construction period and will assist businesses wishing to operate from one of the other nine state airports.

Work will include reconstructing the runway down to its base, replacing the runway lighting system, extending a cleared safety zone by 100 feet at one end, and the first phase of a project to create a parallel taxiway along the entire runway.

The runway was constructed in 1982, and both the runway surface and the takeoff/landing lighting system are near the end of their life spans, officials have said.

The Vermont AOT has said that $3.5 million in funding through the Federal Aviation Administration was approved for the Bennington project. The state will fund 10 percent of the cost.

Original article ➤

Third gun found at Norfolk International Airport (KORF) in 12 days

Top:  This .22 caliber handgun was detected by TSA officers at the Norfolk International Airport checkpoint on Thursday, March 15. Bottom: handgun was caught at a Norfolk International Airport checkpoint by a TSA officer on March 6. 
(Transportation Security Administration photos). 

Photo Courtesy Transportation Security Administration

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A third traveler in the last 12 days was caught by Transportation Security Administration officers in Norfolk International Airport early Sunday morning.

The passenger was cited by airport police after TSA officers caught the Florida man with a loaded gun in his carry-on bag.

The traveler was carrying a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun loaded with eight bullets, including one in the chamber. The Florida man was ticketed to fly into Ronald Reagan Washington Airport.

A TSA officer who was monitoring the ORF checkpoint x-ray machine spotted the loaded gun in a carry-on bag.

Earlier in March, two Virginia residents were caught by TSA with loaded guns in their carry-on bags at the airport and were cited by airport police.

Officials say the first happened March 6, when a Chesapeake man was stopped with a 9 mm caliber handgun loaded with five bullets in a carry-on bag.

A Hampton man was then caught on March 15 having a .22 caliber handgun in his carry-on. This gun was loaded with five bullets — including one in the chamber.

Officials say that in both incidents, the guns were stopped at checkpoint x-ray machines.

Individuals who bring weapons to a checkpoint are subject to federal civil penalties up to $13,000.

TSA has information on how to properly travel with a firearm here.

Original article can be found here ➤

Flight for $50 million check questioned as unnecessary use of public funds

County Airports Director Todd McNamee made an extraordinary flight to Sacramento late last year to pick up a $50 million check.

Top county executives asked him to take his single-engine Piper plane to the capital on November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. They had a payroll of roughly $6 million looming for 1,400 health care workers, a state office worker had tracked down the check following three weeks of county inquiries and there was interest to be made once the big check was deposited, officials said.

But two county fiscal officials — Auditor-Controller Jeff Burgh and Treasurer-Tax Collector Steven Hintz — say the trip was an unnecessary use of public funds and McNamee's time.  

"If someone had called me, if someone had called (Hintz), we would have said, 'Stop, we can do something else,' " Burgh said.

The five-hour, 778-mile trip cost $416 for McNamee's mileage and diverted the $90-an-hour manager from his normal duties that day.

McNamee would have been paid anyway so the trip did not involve any additional personnel costs, but his compensation over the period equates to close to $500. 

Burgh said the money could have been deposited electronically, an option state officials said they do offer at no cost for the payment in question. The $50 million check comes from an incentive program aimed at improving care in California public hospitals, which includes Ventura County Medical Center.

The medical center includes the main hospital in Ventura, the affiliated Santa Paula Hospital and an assortment of clinics.

But Ventura County officials had to sign up for the direct deposit in advance and did not do so, the state Department of Health Care Services said in an email Thursday. 

County Health Care Agency Director Johnson Gill says he understands from industry sources the electronic transfers are still a work in progress. State officials, however, said Friday the electronic transfer was available at the time of the flight.

Hintz said he informed health care officials that there were three other options for getting the money deposited. But two of them depended on having the check in hand and the third relied on a business arrangement that was not in effect for this payment.

Still, communication between VCMC and Hintz's office might have ensured that the check was credited that day in time to cover payroll. Instead, the hospital system had to borrow $1.5 million from the county general fund for the expense, Burgh said.

Hintz says he was not told about the deposit until 11:30 a.m. on the day of the flight when a VCMC employee called and asked him to keep his office open late to receive the check. She was told the county treasury stops accepting deposits at 2:30 p.m. each day, he said.

That turned out to be too early for McNamee's return. At 3:43 p.m. VCMC requested the loan, Burgh said. 

General fund loans to cover the medical center's payroll are fairly routine. The agency borrowed the day before checks were due for 14 of 26 pay periods over the last 12 months, Burgh said.

But VCMC had expected to be able to cover payroll that week, he said.

Gill said he was unaware of cheaper alternatives at the time officials requested the flight. He is trying to work out an arrangement for electronic payments in the future, he said. 

Gill said the funds go toward supporting or developing programs to improve the quality of care, including infrastructure, technology, training and personnel. That all takes money so it's important to get funding in a timely manner, he said.

By the Friday after Thanksgiving, the money had been credited to the hospital system's accounts. The infusion brought the cash balance for the medical center from $238,000 to almost $5 million and reduced the ongoing loan balance from the general fund to $74.6 million.

Managers did not research the cost of McNamee's flight compared with sending a staff person on a commercial flight. But they knew from experience that it would be cheaper for McNamee to fly his own plane the day before a major holiday if a seat on a commercial flight could even be found, Gill said.

Gill said he wanted to physically obtain the check, fearing it could be lost in the mail. He said that every time county fiscal workers called state officials about the check, they got different answers. By the time a state worker tracked it down, it looked like the best way to get it was to grab it before the long holiday weekend, he said,

"Obviously $50 million is not a little amount," he said.

State health officials said they reached out to the state Controller's Office to expedite the processing of the check once they learned about the delay. Checks are sent by mail if the recipient does not request electronic deposits, state officials said.

Burgh said he learned about the flight a few days afterward and spoke with Gill, Assistant Executive Officer Matt Carroll and County Executive Officer Mike Powers.

"At the end of the day we are working to change this procedure," Burgh said. "I would hope it would not happen in the future."

McNamee's mileage costs will be paid from VCMC's operating revenues, he said. 

The flight was allowed under a policy that permits McNamee to fly his private plane on county business with permission from the County Executive Office. He normally flies to conferences with other airport managers. It was the first time he has ever used his plane to pick up a check, he said.

Carroll said the flight was justified primarily because of the daily interest that was lost by not having the money on deposit. He estimated that those earnings would total $2,000 a day compared with the cost of the $416 flight.

"This was the most cost-effective way and maybe the only way other than having someone drive," he said.

McNamee was paid 53.5 cents a mile, the same as for a private vehicle.

The airport boss said he was working that day, had a relatively light schedule and did not have to rearrange any appointments.

He flew his 1976 single-engine Piper to Sacramento Executive Airport, took an Uber to a state office building, had the driver wait while he picked up the check and then took the Uber back to the airport.

McNamee said he could have said no when he got the request for the flight from county managers, but he prefers to be collaborative.

"One of my fellow agencies needed help that day and I was able to provide it," he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Cubcrafters CC11-160, registered to Plane Fun LLC and operated by the pilot, N1951B: Accident occurred March 18, 2018 in Marysville, Yuba County, California

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Sacramento, California

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Browns Valley, CA
Accident Number: WPR18LA107
Date & Time: 03/18/2018, 0830 PDT
Registration: N1951B
Aircraft: CUBCRAFTERS INC CC11-160
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Miscellaneous/other
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On March 18, 2018, about 0830 Pacific daylight time, a Cubcrafters CC11-160 airplane, N1951B, crashed in a river following a wire strike near Browns Valley, California. The private pilot sustained serious injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and both wings. The airplane was registered to Plane Fun LLC., Roseville, California, and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a local personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from the Lincoln Regional Airport (LHM), Lincoln, California at 0800.

The pilot reported that he was maneuvering about 500 ft over the unpopulated area and studying the river when the airplane must have lost altitude and hit something. A fire broke out and the airplane subsequently crashed in the river. The pilot reported that he was later told that he hit a power line.

A witness located on the rivers shore, near the accident site, reported that he observed a yellow airplane maneuvering at a height a little higher than a telephone pole. The airplane circled his location a few times before he lost sight of it behind a pile of dredger tailings. He then heard what he described as an explosion. When he reacquired the airplane, he noticed that there were flames coming out of the right side of the fuselage. He again lost sight of the airplane just before it impacted the river.

The river runs generally east to west. The height of the powerlines was about 200 ft and run across the river generally north and south and extend approximately 1 mile. The wreckage was located approximately 2,000 ft east of the powerlines, in about 3 ft of water.

The powerline company sent a representative to assess the damage to the power lines. The representative reported that six power lines were separated, and 16 residences were without power.

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

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 66, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/25/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/05/2017
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 937 hours (Total, all aircraft), 101 hours (Total, this make and model), 816 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 13 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N1951B
Model/Series: CC11-160 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: CC11-00406
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 05/21/2017, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1350 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 135 Hours
Engine Manufacturer: Titan
ELT: C126 installed, activated, aided in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: OX-340CC-B3J3
Registered Owner: PLANE FUN LLC
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KBAB, 113 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 5 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1558 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 191°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR): 
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 330°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.19 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 6°C / 2°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: LINCOLN, CA (LHM)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: LINCOLN, CA (LHM)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0800 PDT
Type of Airspace: Class G 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: In-Flight
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude:  39.219722, -121.411389 (est)

March 18, 2018 – This morning just before 9am, Yuba County Sheriff responded to the scene of a small plane accident along the edge of the Yuba River just west of Sycamore Ranch in Browns Valley. A witness that was shooting on private property along the river called 911 to report seeing a low flying plane on fire crash into the river. 

The plane’s single occupant, 66 year old pilot Timothy Bennett, was able to exit the cockpit of the Cubcrafters CC11-160 and was sitting on top of the aircraft which was in approximately 3 feet of water in a side channel along the main channel of the Yuba River. He was conscious and talking, as the witness called for rescue.

CHP helicopter H20 responded to the area and landed and rescued the pilot from the plane and transported him to higher ground nearby where other rescue personnel were waiting to treat the pilot. He was transported by ambulance to a Sacramento area hospital for treatment of what appeared to be minor scrapes and burns, and a possible broken ankle.

The witness reported having seen the Cubcrafters CC11-160 circling the area prior to hearing a small explosion then seeing the plane on fire and quickly losing altitude before crashing. Initial investigation indicates the plane struck power lines in the area. PG&E on scene advised approximately 16 houses experienced a loss of power and crews will be on scene to restore power but with no estimated time of repair reported.

The plane had departed the Lincoln airport and the pilot was reportedly on a scenic recreational flight. The FAA will investigate the accident and Yuba County Sheriff’s Office and OES are arranging for the plane to be removed from the river at this time. Fish and Wildlife officials on scene had no concern for environmental impact to the river.

Original article can be found here ➤

YUBA COUNTY, Calif. (KCRA) — The pilot of a Cubcrafters CC11-160 was injured after he struck a power line and crashed into the Yuba River Sunday morning. 

Pilot Timothy Bennett, 66, was rescued by a California Highway Patrol helicopter, the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department said.

Yuba deputies said Bennett, who was the only person on board, was treated for minor scrapes and burns and a possible broken ankle at a hospital.

Deputies said the crash occurred around 9 a.m. near the 5000 block of Highway 20 in Browns Valley. Browns Valley is about 13 miles from Marysville in Yuba County.

The Yuba County Sheriff’s Department said a witness told 911 dispatchers the plane was on fire before it crashed.

The witness said the plane was circling the area before they heard a small explosion. The witness told deputies that the plane then quickly lost altitude and crashed, the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department said.

After the crash, officials said Bennett exited the cockpit and climbed on top of the aircraft. The plane was in about three feet of water in a side channel along the main Yuba River, deputies said.

Investigators discovered the plane struck a power line. PG&E told deputies about 16 houses in the area lost power as a result, and said crews will work to restore power to the homes.

The FAA said the plane is a Cubcrafters CC11-160.

The small plane left Lincoln airport for a scenic, recreational flight, deputies said.

Officials are working to remove the plane from the river. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is not concerned about environmental risks.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

Story and raw video ➤

YUBA COUNTY, Calif - Authorities on Sunday morning rescued a pilot at the Yuba River after his Cubcrafters CC11-160 crashed and knocked down power lines, but luckily the pilot received only minor injuries and left a few houses without power.

According to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department, deputies were dispatched to the edge of the Yuba River just west of Sycamore Ranch in Brown’s Valley just before 9 a.m.

A witness along the river called 911 to report a low flying plane on fire crash into the river.

The pilot known as 66-year-old Timothy Bennett was able to escape the cockpit of the plane and sit on top of the aircraft while waiting to be rescued.

The cockpit of the aircraft was approximately 3 feet of water in a side channel along the main channel of the Yuba River, according to YCSD.

CHP helicopter H20 responded to the river and rescued Bennett, who was conscious and breathing fine but was later sent to UC Davis Medical Center for minor scrapes and burns and possibly a broken ankle.

The witness said they saw the small plane circling the area prior to hearing a small explosion.

Initial investigation indicates the plane struck power lines in the area, which caused 16 houses to lose power and PG&E was on scene to restore power, but with no estimated time of repair, according to YCSD.

Deputies said the plane had departed the Lincoln Airport and the pilot was reportedly on a scenic recreational flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the accident and sheriff’s deputies have attempted to remove the plane from the river.

Story and raw video ➤

YUBA COUNTY —  A Cubcrafters CC11-160 landed in the Yuba River Sunday morning around 8:30 a.m., according to Cal Fire.

The pilot, 66-year-old Timothy Bennett, was transported to UC Davis with minor injuries.

Yuba County Sheriff’s Office confirms that Bennette has a broken ankle as well as scrapes and burns but he is stable.

The plane landed along the edge of the Yuba River just west of Sycamore Ranch in Browns Valley, according to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office.

Bennett was able to climb to the top of the aircraft which was in approximately three-feet of water.

CHP helicopter, H20 responded to the call and transported the pilot to higher ground where other rescue personnel were waiting.

Yuba County Sheriff’s Office reports that a witness saw a Cubcrafters CC11-160 on fire and losing altitude after hearing a small explosion. The witness then called 911.

The plane struck power lines in the area according to Yuba County Sheriff’s Office. PG&E crews are on scene and report about 16 houses are without power. No estimated time of repair has been determined.

The plane departed form Lincoln airport on a scenic recreational flight.

The FAA will investigate the accident.

Original article can be found here ➤

A Cubcrafters CC11-160 crashed in the Yuba River near Marysville Sunday morning, the Yuba County Sheriff's Department reported.

The pilot, Timothy Bennett, was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Around 9 a.m. Sunday morning, someone shooting on private property near the river heard a small explosion and then spotted a plane on fire falling from the sky. The plane had been circling the area prior to the crash, the witness said.

The witness called the Sheriff's Department to report the crash into the river west of Sycamore Ranch in Browns Valley, the department said in a press release.

The plane was in about 3 feet of water in a side channel of the Yuba River when officers arrived on scene. Bennett, 66, had climbed out of the cockpit and was sitting on top of the Cubcrafters CC11-160.

Bennett had taken off from the Lincoln airport and was reportedly on a recreational flight to take in the scenery.

A California Highway Patrol helicopter crew brought Bennett to shore and he was then taken by ambulance to a Sacramento-area hospital, the Sheriff's Department said.

The initial investigation found that Bennett's plane struck power lines in the area and knocked out power to about 16 homes. PG&E responded to the scene and was working on repairs as of 1 p.m. Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the crash and Yuba County officials are working on moving the plane, the Sheriff's Office said.

Original article can be found here ➤

How safe are flights in Bangladesh?

Passengers on domestic flights in Bangladesh are intimately familiar with delays caused by technical or mechanical problems of the aircraft

The recent US-Bangla Airlines crash in Kathmandu, Nepal has revitalized the subject of aircraft safety in Bangladesh. Although mishaps are fairly common, no other aircraft accident has been as lethal or had as much impact as the Nepal crash.

Passengers on domestic flights in Bangladesh are intimately familiar with delays caused by technical or mechanical problems of the aircraft. For some passengers, emergency landings are part and parcel of their flights.

In October 2017, a Biman Bangladesh Airlines’ Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft – same as the one which crashed in Nepal – took off from Saidpur airport for Dhaka. It had to make an emergency landing because one of the wheels fell off after the plane took to the air. There were no casualties among the 71 onboard.

In late 2016, Biman suffered two incidents which, if conditions were unfavorable, could have been catastrophic. In December, a Boeing-737 from Oman to Chittagong had a ruptured tire during take-off, which was only discovered once the aircraft was in the air. The plane made two passes over Dhaka airport to let engineers survey the damage and assess its chances of landing without putting too much stress on the aircraft. The emergency landing was successful and nobody was injured.

The incident preceding it could have seen a wildly different Bangladesh had it gone through. A Boeing 777 carrying Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her retinue to Hungary experienced a rapid fall in fuel pressure, prompting the pilot to make an emergency landing in Turkmenistan.

A series of probe reports followed, which saw nine Biman Bangladesh employees arrested for negligence of duty.

US-Bangla Airlines has multiple records of engine failures among other technical malfunctions which have forced emergency landings, even on grass.

The question arises: how safe are the everyday domestic flights in Bangladesh?

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), on average a million people and 150,000 tons of cargo are carried by domestic flights every year.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines, US-Bangla Airlines, Regent Airlines and NOVOAIR operate dozens of flights every day out of the seven airports in Bangladesh.

Many passengers claimed the airlines and concerned authorities are failing to ensure safety.

Overworked pilots?

Generally, a pilot and first officer or co-pilot fly for four sectors (two round-trips). But it is a common practice among private airlines to have most pilots cover six sectors.

Captain Abid Sultan, pilot of the crashed US-Bangla aircraft, had flown four sectors before the Kathmandu trip.

A pilot’s work hours are eight hours a day, but most pilots work overtime because private airlines lack skilled crew.

There are allegations of private airlines not granting leave as per the job policy.

One pilot, on condition of anonymity, complained: “US-Bangla does not even grant the 21 days of annual leave. We have raised the matter several times, but they continuously disregarded our protests.”

Concerns have been raised about airlines management forcing pilots to fly even when circumstances recommend otherwise.

A pilot is more susceptible to make human errors during flight if s/he is exhausted.

In spite of the fact that human error accounts for over half of all aviation accidents, neither the government nor the CAAB authorities intervened despite the airlines’ persistence in overexerting the pilots.

Pilots are afraid to go public with allegations out of fear of getting blacklisted. But while remaining anonymous, they maintain their accusation that for the airlines profits are the bigger concern.

Horrifying violations of regulations

A correspondence between two pilots read: “The safety culture or truly speaking the ‘lack of it’ in private sector is simply outrageous!”

It is no less than terrifying to hear of a sinister understanding between private airlines and CAAB which involves flights taking off without due inspection, fitness examinations, and other crucial regulations by government gatekeepers.

But, Kamrul Islam, general manager US-Bangla Airlines, said: “US-Bangla has provided consistently excellent service to everyone before the accident. Now that there is an incident, everyone is digging up problems. This is just the nature of Bangladeshi people.”

CAAB Chairman Air-Vice Marshal M Naim Hassan said there are some minor violations, but did not agree with the allegations of widespread violations in civil aviation.

Original article can be found here ➤

Pilots open up in private: US-Bangla Airlines,  de Havilland Dash 8-400,  S2-AGU

The recent US-Bangla plane crash has suddenly brought out some bone-chilling allegations from a number of pilots of compromising flight safety by private airlines.

These pilots have been sending messages to The Daily Star, uploading posts in the social media, exchanging notes among them and discussing in private about how the airlines in their bid to maximize profit allegedly overwork their pilots, send-off flights even when the rules don't permit, or even sometimes hide defects because logging them would mean grounding of aircraft at a huge loss.

The March 12 tragedy, in which at least 51 people, including 28 Bangladeshis, were killed as the US-Bangla Airlines aircraft crashed and burst into flames while landing at the Kathmandu airport in Nepal, appeared to have deeply rattled the conscience of a rather small circle of pilots.

Some of them are urging others to stand up and start to say no to the compromises they routinely make under pressure of management.

“It's human lives that are at stake! This is what we pilots deal with every single day. It's a sacred duty, not the glamorous job the media portrays!” reads one of the passionate appeals that did the rounds on social media.

The Daily Star talked with half a dozen pilots. None of them wanted to have their names revealed because they fear their services would be jeopardized and none of the allegations could be independently verified.

But since the nature of allegations coming from a variety of aviators is similar, those deserve special attention for the sake of passengers' safety.

Though expressed in privacy, their opinions and concerns should be discreetly assessed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) and the government before taking appropriate actions to address the grim issues.

One pilot wrote: “This accident was just waiting to happen. The safety culture or truly speaking the 'lack of it' in private sector is simply outrageous!”

He alleged that pilots are forced by management to operate in situations where it's prudent not to fly. Maintaining flight schedule and commercial considerations take precedence over flight safety.

Another pilot, a captain, wrote: “We routinely observe private carriers shooting approaches well below the minimum visibility, departing for a destination with very marginal weather or visibility, compromising on technical issues, flying without weather radar, forbidding pilots to give entry in the engineering log especially at outstations as grounding would cost money!

“I've often seen Biman or other foreign carriers holding for visibility to improve in winter when …. [names of two private airlines] not only commencing approach but landing!!,” he wrote.

One pilot shared how he was forced to fly while he was trying to apply “pilot discretion” in a foggy morning of December last year.

“There was no permission to fly from tower for low visibility. A phone call came [from the head office] moments after I declined to fly the plane to Chittagong. I was shouted at and told to take off on the dot,” he told this newspaper.

My employer is a time-freak, and has ways to manage airport authorities, he said with a wry smile.

Many pilots also questioned how US-Bangla airlines could send a very inexperienced first officer as co-pilot to Kathmandu. The budget airline maintains such risky practice in absence of expert manpower on its payroll -- an allegation it routinely refutes. 

A Qatar Airways pilot believed that Captain Abid Sultan, pilot of the ill-fated US-Bangla plane, made a “massive pilot error” by doing dual jobs of communicating with the tower while landing at a dangerous airport like the one in Kathmandu.

“The captain took over communication and was also flying. And it's due to the inexperience of the first officer [who was reported to be on her first trip to Nepal].”    

A very seasoned pilot of Biman Bangladesh Airlines wrote: “I've heard many harrowing stories from our first officers who were in the private sector before. Even if there are some exaggerations, even if I consider only 25 percent of what they say is true, it is alarming.”

“Biman doesn't allow such inexperienced first officers even to fly to Cox's Bazar!” he continues.

The companies don't accept “no” for an answer when it comes to flying even in extreme conditions.

A captain, who flies Dreamliners for a Middle Eastern airline, alleged pilots were even fired from private companies for refusing to accept unsafe operation.

He mentioned that one local airline had its pilot fired because the aviator said he was “fatigued”. And fatigue comes from overwork.

One pilot was fired because he did not take off as the weather at the destination airport was below the minimum required. One pilot was fired because he complained about Saidpur airport's non-standard light.

Another Bangladeshi pilot working at a foreign airline thinks the reporting and follow-up at the Caab and within the airlines are not dependable. The airlines do not report safety issues to the Caab and the Caab also doesn't follow up.

Most of the pilots appeared quite critical of the role of some Caab officials.

They are the ones who keep the regulators' eyes and ears shut, alleged a Turkish Airline pilot, who worked for a private airline a few years back.

“Compromise is for money and gifts,” the pilot quipped.

Original article can be found here ➤

Steen Skybolt, N27265: Accident occurred March 17, 2018 near Punta Gorda Airport (KPGD), Charlotte County, Florida

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Tampa, Florida

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Punta Gorda, FL
Accident Number: ERA18LA110
Date & Time: 03/17/2018, 1424 EDT
Registration: N27265
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On March 17, 2018, about 1424 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built Skybolt, N27265, was destroyed following a forced landing near Punta Gorda, Florida. The commercial pilot had minor injuries. The airplane was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations part 91 as a personal flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for local flight that originated at Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), Punta Gorda, Florida, about 1330.

The pilot reported that the Lycoming O-360 series engine that was installed on the aerobatic biplane had just been overhauled and he was flying in the local area as part of a 10-hr break-in period. This was the first flight following the overhaul. The preflight and ground operations were normal. There were no signs of oil leaks during the preflight inspection. About 35 minutes into the flight, oil appeared on both windscreens, blocking forward visibility. The windscreens eventually became completely covered with oil. He called tower personnel, alerting them to the problem and was cleared to land on runway 22. The engine lost power; however, it continued to run under partial power. Tower personnel reported smoke coming from the engine. Unable to make runway 22, he elected to land the airplane in a field. After landing, the airplane collided with a ditch and came to a stop. The engine caught fire and the pilot egressed the airplane.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the accident site and examined the wreckage. Fire consumed the entire airframe except for the outboard sections of the right wings. The engine was examined and a hole was observed in the top of the crankcase, adjacent to the no. 2 cylinder.

The wreckage was retained for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: BESARICK
Registration: N27265
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PGD, 25 ft msl
Observation Time: 1453 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 4 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 9°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 13 knots/ 19 knots, 240°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Punta Gorda, FL (PGD)
Destination: Punta Gorda, FL (PGD)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:  26.971111, -81.960833 (est)

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Officials say a small aircraft made an unexpected landing in a pasture and caused a brush fire, Saturday afternoon.

It happened between Bermont Road and Washington Loop Road in Punta Gorda.

Charlotte County Emergency Medical Services say they received a call about the landing at approximately 2:27 p.m.

When they arrived, the pilot, the only passenger in the plane, was found uninjured, according to Charlotte County Emergency Medical Services.

Officials say a brush fire estimating to be a quarter of an acre occurred following th landing.

At this time the Federal Aviation Administration is currently on scene conducting an investigation.

Original article can be found here ➤

A small aircraft crashed in a wooded area while on a 4-mile final approach to Runway 22 at Punta Gorda Airport at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The condition of the pilot, the only person on board, wasn't known as of 6 p.m.

The  Federal Aviation Administration written confirmation of the crash referred to the plane a Skybolt. 

The  Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said his agency will investigate, as will the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the probable cause of the crash.

Original article can be found here ➤

A small aircraft made a crash landing in a wooded area while on a four-mile approach to the Punta Gorda Airport, officials say.

The incident occurred around 2:30 p.m. Saturday. There was only one person, the pilot, on board the aircraft, according to a statement provided by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane landed in a small pasture south of Washington Loop Road and east of US 17. The landing caused a small fire that was put out quickly, according to officials.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said they are not sure if the plane was on fire before the impact or once it hit the ground.

The pilot was uninjured and not transported to a hospital.

Federal Aviation Administration is leading the investigation and they are working with Charlotte County Sheriff's Office to determine why the plane went down.

Original article can be found here ➤

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -  A small plane crashed in a pasture on South Washington Loop Road in Punta Gorda on Saturday afternoon.

It happened just before 2:30 p.m.

One passenger was inside the plane but was not hurt in the crash, according to Dee Hawkins-Garland of Charlotte County Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

The crash caused a small fire spanning about a quarter of an acre, but fire crews were able to put it out quickly, Hawkins-Garland said.

Authorities did not release the name of the pilot.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, are conducting an ongoing investigation into the crash.

Original article can be found here ➤