Saturday, April 7, 2018

Flight instructor hopes to get pilot club off the ground

Pilot Joe Beam stands by his Cessna 172. Beam is trying to start a club to so local pilots can pool their resources to buy and share planes and split maintenance costs.


Airplanes are expensive. New planes fresh off the factory floor can go for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Even older, used models in good condition can cost as much as a new car.

Past that, buyer beware, but regardless of whether a plane is newly minted or has been sitting in a hangar since the dawn of disco, all of them require maintenance and repairs, which can add up fast.

Airplane mechanics aren’t cheap, either.

Of course, you don’t have to own a plane to fly. Pilots can rent planes, but that can cost hundreds of dollars an hour, plus fuel.

“The cost of flying is one of the main reasons why people don’t do it,” Skylane flight instructor Joe Beam said.

Beam is trying to start a flying club at Yeager Airport, which he said could do a lot to help keep pilots flying.

“Flying is something you need to do every so often just to keep your skills up,” he explained.

But because even renting a plane can cost so much, some pilots will cut back on flying. After a while, their skills can decline. They’ll lose confidence, and eventually just decide to let their licenses expire.

Beam said the club would a way for like-minded people to pool their resources.

“It would be a nonprofit organization,” he said.

The way the club would work is that the club would purchase airplanes for the group, which would belong to the club. Members of the club would schedule time with the aircraft and get a steep discount on renting the aircraft.

The flight instructor envisioned a plane that normally rented for $120 an hour could be available for around $70 to $75, depending on the kind of aircraft and the number of people participating in the club.

“Members would buy in at maybe $2,000 or $3,000 and then pay a monthly maintenance fee as club dues,” Beam said.

Club members would decide on what kind of aircraft they wanted the club to own. Some might prefer smaller, less pricey aircraft, while others gravitate toward larger equipment.

Beam said costs would be structured around the kinds of planes people wanted to fly.

“You might have three or four guys who want to fly a Cessna 172, and what they pay could be pooled toward that,” he said. “Others might want a different plane.”

Beam has rented planes for decades and has been flying longer than that.

“I started flying in 1970, got my license right out of college, became an instructor since 1983 or 1984 and have been renting planes out since 1985,” he said. “I’m kind of looking at stepping away from renting planes, and this seemed like a good idea.”

He’s not the only one. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has endorsed the creation of private flying clubs and has guidelines available for starting a club.

“The hope would be that we could start with two airplanes and then maybe add others as more people bought in,” Beam said.

In order for this flying club to work well, Beam said he would need to attract between 25 and 30 pilots to provide the resources to buy the first couple of airplanes.

“With 30 people, we might be able to get three or four planes to start,” he said.

It was too soon to say how large the club might be to start, however. At this point, Beam said he’s just reaching out to local pilots to find out who’s interested.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wvgazettemail.com

North Carolina Air National Guard buzzes Wright Brothers Memorial



The first pair of the North Carolina Air National Guard’s new C-17 aircraft flew around the Wright Brothers National Memorial “on Saturday as part of a photo opportunity.

The transport planes are the first replacements of the Guard’s current C-130s, and were enroute from Charleston, S.C. to their permanent home at Charlotte Air National Guard Base.

“For the past 40 years, the N.C. Air National Guard has flown the C-130 Hercules Aircraft, utilizing them in our mission to maintain wartime readiness with the ability to mobilize and deploy expeditiously to carry out air support missions and activities in the event of a war or natural disaster,” according to a Guard news release.

“The transition of wing to the C-17 is a cost-effective, total force decision that takes advantage of a superior, multi-platform transportation hub, close to major military installations and seaports

“The new, heavy-lift capability will greatly increase North Carolina’s ability to serve its citizens and those in the surrounding states during disaster-response operations, while also increasing our capabilities abroad,” according to the statement.

Later this week, photographer Ben Douglas will have more shots of the flyover and an interview with Guard personnel.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://outerbanksvoice.com

'Drone killer' recruited to help curb UAV proliferation

Oceanside police Officer Mark Bussey aims the department's new "drone killer" device at remote-controlled flying camera in the police station lobby.



Drones have been used for a lot more than making videos and delivering pizzas.

They have dropped drugs into prison yards, scouted out illegal border crossings, and grounded lifesaving aerial firefighting efforts by accidentally wandering into the flight path.

The sky may be the limit for drones, but local law enforcement agencies are looking for a way to bring them back to earth.

A new electronic device called a “drone killer” could be the answer.

The Oceanside Police Department recently acquired San Diego County’s first drone killer, an electronic device that can disable a drone in the sky and force it back to the ground.

Other area law enforcement agencies also are considering the technology as a way to rein in unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

“The purpose is primarily for emergency situations,” Oceanside police Lt. Aaron Doyle said last week. “It won’t be used when someone complains about a neighbor flying a drone. It’s pretty much for a life-or-death situation, to save lives.”

The need arose in December during North County’s Lilac fire, which destroyed more than 150 structures and forced thousands of residents to flee their homes in the path of the flames. During the blaze, someone sent up a drone that forced aerial firefighting operations to cease for more than an hour to avoid a possible collision.

“Shutting down the operations for an hour can be critical to saving lives,” Doyle said. “We started looking for options in case it happened again.”

The search led officers to IXI Technology in Yorba Linda, a company that has been supplying high-tech electronic equipment to the U.S. military for 35 years, and a new device it released in 2017. The company agreed to donate one of the drone killers, worth about $30,000, and made a formal presentation to the Police Department at the Oceanside City Council meeting on March 28.

“We are the first law enforcement agency in San Diego County to have this device,” Police Chief Frank McCoy said at the meeting.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department also has looked at anti-drone technology and acknowledges a need for the devices, sheriff’s Lt. Karen Stubkjaer said in an email.

“We currently are not using this type of equipment, but have not ruled it out for future use,” she said. “Terrorist organizations are utilizing drones as well as organized narcotic groups. This type of technology may be important in the future to safeguard the county jails, courthouses and communities.”

The device, which looks like a gun, can be aimed like a rifle or a shotgun at a drone in the air. The 30-degree field of its beam and its range of almost a half-mile make the target hard to miss.

“In short, it breaks the command and control between the drone and the operator,” said Andy Morabe of IXI Technology.

The airborne drone, depending on how it is programmed, will do one of three things. It will either return to its “home,” which is the place it was launched, hover in place or go straight to the ground and land.

The company’s anti-drone device was first used by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to protect the 2017 Rose Parade, Morabe said. Since then, it has been used at a number of large public events around Los Angeles.

The device can stop almost any of the hundreds of models of remotely controlled aircraft that are available, Morabe said.

When a new drone is encountered that the device can’t defeat, the anti-drone software will be rewritten to include the new model and an update will be issued within days, he said. Operators can download the update from the internet, just like any new or updated app for a phone or computer.

Advancing technology and lower prices have led to a proliferation of drones in recent years, from the small ones with cameras sold online and in department stores to large ones used by the military to carry weapons. Drones have been used by criminals to drop contraband into prison yards, and by drug cartels to monitor the U.S. Mexico border, Morabe said.

U.S penitentiaries, the Border Patrol, and the military are all interested in the anti-drone technology, he said. Marines at Camp Pendleton trained with the device just last month, according to a story by Reuters news service.

Law enforcement agencies across the United States are rapidly adopting the use of drones.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department became the first law enforcement agency in the county to use drones for surveillance in 2016. The eyes in the sky have assisted in dozens of homicide investigations, SWAT incidents and search-and-rescue missions.

The Chula Vista Police Department bought its first two drones this year, and police in Carlsbad and Escondido have said they are interested.

The Oceanside Police Department acquired its first drone a few months ago, Doyle said.

“It’s a great tool to use to find people who are missing,” he said, whether it’s an Alzheimer’s patient who just walked away from home, or a criminal fleeing a crime. The drone has a heat-sensitive infrared camera to help locate people at night.

“Right now, we can only fly it during the day,” he said. “The program is still in its infancy.”

Officers are working to become certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and to establish local policies for when drones and the anti-drone device can or should be used.

Oceanside’s location next to Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, where training frequently causes brush fires, increases the need for a way to control drones during emergencies, Doyle said.

The Oceanside City Council gave its initial approval to a drone ordinance Nov. 1 and is still awaiting a final version. That ordinance, when finished later this year, is expected to prohibit drones over occupied schools and some other public places and may require a permit to operate drones in some situations.

Police often hear complaints about drones invading people’s privacy and in some cases creating a safety hazard. Last year, a drone hit an unsuspecting beachgoer, causing a minor injury, near the Oceanside pier.

Several cities already have adopted policies for the use of drones.

Poway approved an ordinance in 2015 that restricts the use of drones over much of the city, but officials said it will only be enforced in emergencies, such as to protect aircraft fighting wildfires.

The county Board of Supervisors last year prohibited the use of amateur drones within three miles of a fire or any other area declared off-limits for an emergency.

Original article ➤ http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com

“It looked crazy to all of us who do this for a living”: Eurocopter AS 350B2 Ecureuil, N350LH, operated by Liberty Helicopters Inc on behalf of FlyNYON, fatal accident occurred March 11, 2018 in New York, New York

BILL RICHARDS, a pilot who flies camera crews in helicopters around New York, on the practices of the helicopter tour company FlyNYON. Five people drowned when a FlyNYON flight capsized in the East River last month.




For months before an open-sided helicopter capsized in the East River, drowning five passengers who had been strapped inside, pilots for the company that operated the flight warned their bosses about dangerous conditions, including equipment that could make escape difficult. 

The pilots repeatedly requested more suitable safety gear, with one pilot writing in an email to company management that “we are setting ourselves up for failure” by using sometimes poorly fitting harnesses. That pilot made a series of recommendations — including one four days before the fatal accident — for new tools that would allow passengers to more easily free themselves in case of an emergency, according to company emails, other internal documents and interviews.

The internal documents reviewed by The New York Times indicate that executives for the company, FlyNYON, bristled at the pilots’ concerns, insisting that the operation, which offered the chance to snap selfies while leaning out over the city, was safe.

“Let me be clear, this isn’t a safety issue with the harnesses,” Patrick K. Day, the chief executive of FlyNYON, said in a January email exchange with pilots who had raised concerns. Mr. Day, in a statement to The Times, rejected the idea “that anyone at FlyNYON did not heed issues raised by pilots at Liberty Helicopter” — an affiliated company that owned and operated the helicopters used in FlyNYON flights — “and that we failed to respond to safety concerns.”
Less than two months after the email exchange, on March 11, a FlyNYON flight splashed in the East River after losing power and quickly rolled over, trapping its pilot and five passengers upside down in the frigid water.

The passengers were outfitted with some of the equipment that the pilots had raised concerns about — yellow harnesses connected to tethers that strapped them into the copter, and small cutters to slice through the tethers so they could free themselves in an emergency. The pilot, Richard Vance, was the only one who was not wearing such a harness; he used a standard seatbelt and was the sole survivor.

Mr. Vance told federal investigators that he tried to free the passenger beside him, but the helicopter was submerged before he could finish unhooking the man’s harness, according to a preliminary report.



Surging Business 

The internal documents, and interviews with people familiar with FlyNYON’s operation and Mr. Vance’s account, paint a portrait of a company that at times appeared to put business concerns ahead of safety concerns as it scrambled to meet surging demand for a daring form of aerial tourism that it pioneered.

While government regulations and professional standards had not kept pace, the company claimed on its website that it had developed a proprietary safety system that was the class of the industry. In fact, the documents and interviews show that FlyNYON had been using mostly off-the-shelf construction harnesses that it had planned to upgrade — and that sometimes were supplemented by zip ties and blue painters tape — and tethers that could not be easily severed by the cutters provided.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration, which had not previously specifically regulated doors-off helicopter flights, has banned any flights that use restraints that passengers cannot quickly get out of, a prohibition aimed squarely at FlyNYON.

Multiple pilots who have worked with FlyNYON and Liberty Helicopters — including the pilot who warned of the harnesses in the email — are seeking whistle-blower protections in order to speak out. They have retained a Washington lawyer who specializes in whistle-blower matters, Debra Katz. She has asked the New York attorney general’s office to investigate FlyNYON, and she sent a letter to the F.A.A., claiming that the pilots were subject to retaliation.

As a result, she wrote, “there is a pervasive feeling among Liberty pilots that if they provide truthful information to the F.A.A. and the N.T.S.B. and speak out about the lax safety culture and practices at FlyNYON, they will face blackballing in the industry and other forms of career-derailing retaliation.” The New York attorney general’s office has begun a consumer-protection investigation into FlyNYON’s business practices and demanded that the company cease promoting doors-off flights, according to a person who had been briefed on the investigation.

Mr. Day, in his statement to The Times, pointed out that the F.A.A. had performed a site inspection of FlyNYON’s facility on Oct. 31, at which “inspectors observed the harness and tethering process and continued to permit their use on Liberty and FlyNYON operated flights without issue.”

The F.A.A. confirmed that it conducted “routine oversight” of Liberty’s operations on Oct. 31 and “observed supplemental harnesses outside a helicopter.” But a spokesman for the agency said that its inspectors would not have rendered judgment on the harnesses because supplemental restraints are not subject to inspection. Liberty Helicopters declined to comment.



Unique Sightseeing 

Like some air-tour companies in other tourist destinations, FlyNYON offered flights on helicopters with the doors open or removed to allow passengers to take unobstructed photographs of the landscape below. But FlyNYON went a step further by putting passengers in harnesses attached to tethers that would let them lean out of — or dangle their legs over — the edge of the cabin.
It was an experience that previously had been available mostly to professional photographers, who booked private flights where they were often the only passengers and, therefore, could be more closely monitored by the pilots. Mr. Day and his partners recognized the potential profit in offering such an experience more widely in an era when social media users are willing to pay handsomely for activities that produce thumb-scroll-stopping photos.

“Anyone can come up and be an aerial photographer with us,” says one of FlyNYON’s promotional videos.

The company encouraged its customers to post shots of their feet suspended over landmarks like the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building — images the company called “shoe selfies” — on Instagram and other social media platforms. And remember, its workers requested, to please tag the company in those posts, helping to spread the word about FlyNYON’s service.
The social-media strategy was working, drawing more and more people to an industrial section of Kearny, N.J., on the edge of the Port of Newark, from which FlyNYON helicopters depart for flights over Manhattan. New York City officials had prohibited sightseeing tours from flying over land, or flying at all on Sundays. But FlyNYON got around the restrictions by departing from New Jersey and designating its flights as aerial photography missions rather than tours with defined itineraries.

Mr. Day boasted in an internal email in February that FlyNYON had defied its doubters, whom he called “dinosaurs,” and had increased its business last year by 400 percent. The company was charging as much as $500 a seat for five-passenger flights lasting 30 to 40 minutes over New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. By December, it was booking as many as 28 flights a day, the emails said.

Some experienced pilots, like Bill Richards, saw what FlyNYON was doing and considered it reckless. Mr. Richards, who flies camera crews in helicopters around New York to film for movies and TV shows, said, “It looked crazy to all of us who do this for a living.”

He said at one point he provided a store-bought harness for professional photographers to wear while leaning out of his helicopter. But he abandoned that practice long ago, he said, and has since kept his passengers in their seats or on a camera mount approved by the F.A.A. “Anybody who’s in a helicopter has to have an approved seat” — unless planning to make a parachute jump, Mr. Richards said, citing a specific F.A.A. regulation.

On a Sunday afternoon in mid-February, six loads of FlyNYON customers were aboard helicopters trying to get pictures of the city at sundown, according to emails between company officials. The crowd of thrill seekers was overwhelming FlyNYON’s resources, the emails show. At times, the company did not have enough harnesses, tethers, carabiners or headsets to outfit one group of passengers while another was in the air, delaying liftoff, one FlyNYON official complained in a February email with the subject line, “more gear needed.”

The company’s website says “safety has always been our top priority,” and boasts of comprehensive and rigorous passenger safety protocols. But the emails and interviews painted a different picture.

Among its claims was the promise of a “proprietary eight-point safety harness system.” A pilot who has worked with FlyNYON said that the company’s most commonly used harness was actually not proprietary at all, nor was it intended for aviation use. Rather, it was merely a yellow nylon construction harness available on Home Depot’s website for $52, which came in only one size.

Pilot Complaints

Pilots complained that the harnesses were too big to properly fit smaller customers, including many women and children, according to the emails. They show that FlyNYON staff members were instructed at one point to use zip ties to achieve a tighter fit.

And to keep those harnesses and passengers’ seatbelts from unbuckling accidentally in flight — which would not have released the harnesses completely — FlyNYON staffers often used tape that Mr. Day referred to as “NYON blue safety tape,” according to three pilots who have worked with FlyNYON. But the “safety tape” was just common painters’ tape, said the pilots, one of whom wrote the email warning about the harnesses and is among those being represented by the whistle-blower lawyer. The pilots requested anonymity because of fears of retaliation and because they did not want to jeopardize employment in the close-knit helicopter community.

Mr. Day, in his statement to The Times, minimized the concerns, pointing out that under F.A.A. rules, pilots have responsibility for the safety of their flights. He said “if these handful of Liberty pilots had issues that they deemed detrimental to the safety of the operation, they should have ceased operations and addressed the issue with Liberty management.”

The three pilots said FlyNYON brushed aside many of the concerns they did raise, though the company did make some changes based on their complaints.

After pilots expressed concern about the tape, they were told in December that FlyNYON had “put an order in for thick rubber bands which will hold the front buckle in place,” according to the minutes of a pilots’ meeting. “This will eliminate the need for the ‘blue tape’ on the harnesses.”

According to emails and interviews, pilots preferred a different model of harness that could be adjusted to fit passengers of varying sizes without the use of zip ties. The harnesses, which were blue, were considered safer partly because they connected to the tethers in a place that passengers could more easily reach to try to detach themselves. And the blue harnesses were approved by the F.A.A. for some uses, though not specifically open-door helicopters flights, which had not been explicitly addressed in F.A.A. rules.

FlyNYON intended to eventually replace all the yellow harnesses with blue ones, according to emails in November. And a company official told pilots in a January email that the “blue harnesses should take priority over yellow harnesses.”

Yet, when pilots insisted on blue harnesses for some smaller passengers, in one instance delaying a flight by requesting a switch, Mr. Day responded testily. In a January email, he wrote that “the yellow harnesses are stunt/construction harnesses that are designed for human safety hanging off buildings at 1,000 feet-plus. The blue harnesses are F.A.A. approved but that isn’t a requirement for a doors-off flight. The yellow harnesses are just as legal/safe as the blue.”

At the time of the crash, the company had only a few blue harnesses in use.

Cutting the Harness 

Likewise, the company’s pilots raised concerns about the tethers used to secure the passengers, via their harnesses, to the interior of the helicopters. It was difficult for passengers to reach the point at which the tethers fastened to their yellow harnesses, and, even if they could reach the connection, it would be difficult for them to disconnect the carabineers that connected the tethers to the harnesses on their own, according to the pilots who worked with FlyNYON. So each passenger was provided a hook-shaped blade, marketed as a seatbelt cutter, that they were instructed to use to sever the tether in case of an emergency that required them to extricate themselves. A safety video played for passengers before they went on trips showed people using the cutters to easily slice through the tethers, according to people who viewed it. But the tethers in the video were not the same ones being used by FlyNYON. And when employees tested the equipment that was in use in November, they found it extremely difficult to sever the tether using the cutter, according to the former FlyNYON official.

Managers from FlyNYON were present for the test, the former official said. But it was not until February that the company began formally considering a plan to order new tethers and cutters that would allow for easier slicing, according to the emails. The minutes of a late February meeting highlight a discussion about “researching and procuring a new cutter for the tethers which we will be testing shortly. There is also a new style of tether we are looking into as well. This will need to be included in the safety video.”

On March 7 — just four days before the crash — the company planned to discuss a “final decision” on the new tethers and cutters, according to the emails.

It is unclear if FlyNYON purchased the new equipment, but, even if it did, the new tethers and cutters were not deployed on the fatal March 11 flight. Instagram videos posted by the passengers before liftoff show them wearing the yellow harnesses.

A preliminary report by the N.T.S.B. indicated that the pilot, Mr. Vance, told investigators that he had “pointed out where the cutting tool was located on their harness and explained how to use it” before taking off.

While hovering over Central Park, he told them, the single-engine helicopter, an AS350 B2 model made by Airbus, suddenly lost power. When he reached down to cut the flow of fuel as he prepared to put the aircraft down in the river, he saw that the fuel cutoff lever had been tripped and the tether of his front-seat passenger was under it. That observation suggested that the passenger’s movement may have caused the crash, though federal investigators have not reached a conclusion about the cause.
After the crash, Dave Matula, a pilot who used to fly for FlyNYON who stopped last year, wrote on Facebook that the fatalities were a “horrible but 100 percent preventable event.”

Read more here ➤ https://www.nytimes.com




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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office;  Washington, District of Columbia
Airbus Helicopters; Grand Prairie, Texas
SAFRAN Helicopter Engines; Grand Prairie, Texas
BEA; Le Bourget, FN
Liberty Helicopters Inc.; Kearny, New Jersey
FlyNYON; Kearny, New Jersey 
Dart Aerospace; San Diego, California 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

http://registry.faa.gov/N350LH




Location: New York, NY
Accident Number: ERA18MA099
Date & Time: 03/11/2018, 1908 EDT
Registration: N350LH
Aircraft: AMERICAN EUROCOPTER CORP AS350B2
Injuries: 5 Fatal, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Aerial Observation - Sightseeing 

On March 11, 2018, about 1908 eastern daylight time, an American Eurocopter Corp (Airbus Helicopters) AS350B2, N350LH, was substantially damaged when it impacted the East River and subsequently rolled inverted after the pilot reported a loss of engine power near New York, New York. The pilot egressed from the helicopter and sustained minor injuries. The five passengers did not egress and were fatally injured. The scheduled 30-minute, doors-off aerial photography flight was operated by Liberty Helicopters, Inc., on behalf of FlyNYON under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which originated from Helo Kearny Heliport (65NJ), Kearny, New Jersey about 1900.



Summary of Pilot Interview

According to the pilot, after he arrived at 65NJ on the day of the accident, he performed a preflight inspection of the helicopter and made sure it was fueled. The first group of passengers from FlyNYON was scheduled to arrive at 1100. The pilot then completed multiple 15- to 30-minute flights that day but could not recall how many.

About 1845, he received a text message from FlyNYON operations personnel scheduling the accident flight. When the FlyNYON van arrived, the pilot checked his passengers' harnesses and put their life vests on. He pointed out where the cutting tool was located on their harness and explained how to use it. He then seated the passengers and secured their harness tethers to hard points on the helicopter. After the passengers were seated, loading personnel assisted them with putting on the helicopter's restraints (For the purpose of this report, "restraint" refers to the seabelt and shoulder harness installed by the helicopter manufacturer, and "harness" refers to the system provided by FlyNYON).

Before he started the helicopter, the pilot provided a safety briefing that included which of the passengers was going to remove their restraints and which would remain buckled in their restraints during the flight. He asked the passengers to confirm what sights they wanted to see, and they put their headsets on. He finished the safety briefing and again explained how to use the cutting tool to cut the seatbelts. He told them where the fire extinguisher was and told them that if there was an emergency he would tell the passengers to get back into their seats. He confirmed their points of interest and did a communications check through the headsets. The passengers could hear him and radio traffic, but they did not have microphones and could not speak to the pilot or each other.

Shortly after starting the helicopter's engine, the pilot departed behind two other helicopters and began heading toward the Statue of Liberty at an altitude of between 300 and 500 ft above ground level (agl). During flight, the outboard passengers (left front, left rear, and right rear) stayed in their seats and restraints but turned sideways (outboard) to take photographs. The inboard passengers removed their restraints but remained tethered in their harnesses and sat on the floor with their feet on the helicopter's skids. They flew at 500 ft to the Brooklyn Bridge before continuing up the East River to Central Park. The pilot contacted LaGuardia Airport air traffic control, and the controller provided the pilot with a transponder code and advised him to stay south of the extended centerline of runway 22. He requested to fly at 2,000 ft and began a shallow climb while the left side passengers took photographs of midtown Manhattan. As the helicopter neared the eastern boundary of Central Park, the pilot slowed the helicopter to between 20 and 30 knots groundspeed so the passengers could take photographs. At this point, he noticed that the front passenger's restraint was hanging from the seat. He picked it up, tapped the passenger, and told him to put it back on, which he did. During the interview the pilot also recalled that other passengers had inadvertently released their seatbelts during previous flights.

As they were flying along the eastern side of Central Park, the front seat passenger turned sideways, slid across the double bench seat toward the pilot, leaned back, and extended his feet to take a photograph of his feet outside the helicopter. As the pilot initiated a right pedal turn to begin to head south, the nose of the helicopter began to turn right faster than he expected, and he heard a low rotor rpm alert in his headset. He then observed engine pressure and fuel pressure warning lights and believed he had experienced an engine failure. He lowered the collective pitch control to maintain rotor rpm and let the nose continue to turn to the right. Central Park came into view and he briefly considered landing there but thought there were "too many people." He continued the turn back toward the East River and made his first distress call to air traffic control. He yelled to the passengers to get back in their seats. Due to the helicopter's airspeed, he was not sure he could make it to the East River and reduced rotor rpm so he could "glide better." Once he was in an established autorotative glide, he attempted to restart the engine but was unsuccessful. He waited 1 or 2 seconds and tried the starter again, but there were no positive indications of a successful engine restart on the instrumentation. He checked the fuel control lever and found that it was still in its detent for normal operation. When he was sure he could clear the buildings and make it to the river, he activated the floats at an altitude of about 800 ft agl.

At this point he was "committed to impact," and, when he reached down for the emergency fuel shutoff lever, he realized that it was in the off position. He also noted that a portion of the front seat passenger's tether was underneath the lever.

As the helicopter continued to descend through 600 ft agl, he positioned the fuel shutoff lever to the "on" position and attempted to restart the engine. He observed positive indications on the engine instruments immediately. As the helicopter descended through 300 ft, he realized that the engine "wasn't spooling up fast enough," and, given the helicopter's proximity to the surface, he had to continue the autorotation. He again reached for the fuel shutoff lever and positioned it back to "off." Passing through between 100 and 50 ft, he began the cyclic flare in an extended glide configuration, but he "did not get a lot of rpm back." He performed a flare reduction at 10 to 15 ft. He pulled the collective pitch control up "as far as it would go." The helicopter then impacted the water at 5° to 10° nose-up attitude.

After impacting the water, the chin bubble on the pilot's side began to fill with water, which quickly covered the floor. He kept his restraint on and reached down for the front seat passenger's carabiner attachment to the helicopter. He turned the knurled screw "two or three rotations"; by that time, the helicopter was "listing past a 45° roll." He then decided to egress the helicopter, and by the time he unbuckled his restraint, he was fully under water. He used two hands to grab the door frame and pull himself out. He surfaced about 4 ft away from the nose of the helicopter and crawled up onto the belly. He stood up and waved for help but could not see anything.

Recovery and Initial Examination of the Helicopter

A tugboat was the first vessel to arrive at the accident site, and the crew began to render assistance. First responders later arrived, and subsequently extricated the five passengers from the helicopter. The helicopter remained submerged in an inverted position in the East River for about 18 hours before it was recovered at slack tide the following day.

Examination of the helicopter revealed that it had been substantially damaged during the impact sequence. Continuity of the flight controls was observed between the cyclic, collective, main rotor servos, and the main rotor head. The cyclic, collective, and pedal control tubes underneath the cockpit floor remained intact. No evidence of blockages or foreign object debris was observed on the engine air inlet barrier filter. Continuity of drive was confirmed between the engine power turbine and the main rotor head. The red main rotor blade remained attached to its respective sleeve and was fractured chordwise about 4 ft from the main rotor blade attachment bolts. The blue and yellow blades were attached to their respective sleeves and were damaged. All three-main rotor blade pitch change links remained attached at their respective pitch horn and rotating swashplate. The vibration absorber remained installed on top of the main rotor head.

Both tail rotor blades remained attached to their hub. One tail rotor blade exhibited a chordwise fracture about 6 inches from its root end. The pitch link of this blade was bent near the outboard rod end. The second tail rotor blade was generally intact, and its pitch links did not exhibit deformation. Rotation of the tail rotor resulted in rotation of the aluminum tail rotor drive shaft's forward riveted connection, but the shaft rotated within the external splined adapter. The external splined adapter remained connected to the internal-splined [flange] adapter and was continuous through the steel tail rotor drive shaft to the tail rotor drive output flange to the engine reduction gearbox. There was no evidence of binding when manually rotating the tail rotor drive.

The fuel flow control lever was found in the off position. The fuel shutoff lever was found in the open position. The snapwire (witness wire) between the fuel shutoff lever and the engine control housing was broken at its lower end where it was normally secured through a hole in the control housing.

The collective stick was in its normally installed position. The collective position was nearly full down. The collective friction lock was able to be rotated by hand. The cyclic stick was in its normally installed position. The cyclic position was found to be aft right. The cyclic friction lock was able to be easily rotated by hand. The collective lever lock was in its stowed position on the center console. Both pedals were found in their normally installed position. The right pedal position was nearly full-forward with a corresponding aft position of the left pedal. The pedals could not be manually actuated. A portable fire extinguisher was found loose in the front-right chin bubble.

Examination of the engine revealed that the engine was still mounted in the helicopter and the cowling was intact. There were no signs of oil or fuel leaks, fire, or uncontainment. The exhaust duct was intact and undamaged. The power turbine wheel could be rotated easily, but only in the free-wheeling direction, which was consistent with internal continuity as well as an intact and operating rotor clutch. The trailing edges of the power turbine blades were examined through the exhaust duct and were all present and undamaged. The gas generator (GG) spool was accessed by reaching into the air inlet duct and turning the axial compressor wheel. The GG spool could be rotated easily by hand; however, a faint scratching noise could be heard from the core, consistent with corrosion due to salt water contact on the shaft bearings. The four magnetic oil chip detectors were removed and found absent of debris. The oil filter bypass indicator was not triggered indicating no blockage in the oil filter. The fuel supply line from the firewall to the fuel pump was disconnected at the firewall fitting and fuel was observed to drain from the line.

Examination of the emergency float system revealed that the three floats installed on the left landing gear skid appeared to be more inflated than the floats on the right landing gear skid. The emergency floats' left pressurized gas cylinder gauge indicated about 0 psi, while the right pressurized gas cylinder gauge indicated about 4,000 psi. A functional check was performed by actuating the cyclic trigger (which is what is used to activate the floats). The trigger mechanism was smooth with no evidence of binding. Continuity of the float system control was established between the trigger, dual cable block, and the activation cable clevis connection. When the trigger was released, the dual cable block returned to its normal position (via spring within the junction box) but the upper and lower turnbuckles remained in their actuated positions.

Examination of the seats and restraint systems revealed that the five passengers onboard the helicopter were provided with airframe manufacturer-installed restraints, as well as a full body harness. The harness system was not installed by the helicopter manufacturer and was comprised of off-the-shelf components consisting of a nylon fall-protection harness that was attached at the occupants' back by a locking carabiner to a lanyard. The lanyard was composed of multiple woven fabric loops, and the opposite end of the lanyard was secured by another locking carabiner to a hard point on the helicopter. A small pouch was attached to the harness and contained a cutting tool. Under normal circumstances, at the end of each flight, FlyNYON personnel would unscrew the locking carabiner located on the back of the passengers' harnesses so that the passengers could egress.

The wreckage was retained by the NTSB for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: AMERICAN EUROCOPTER CORP
Registration: N350LH
Model/Series: AS350B2
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: LIBERTY HELICOPTERS INC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA); On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: OEMJ 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:  Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: LGA, 21 ft msl
Observation Time: 1914 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 7°C / -6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 250 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots, 330°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: KEARNY, NJ (65NJ)
Destination: KEARNY, NJ (65NJ)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 5 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 5 Fatal, 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:  40.773611, -73.939444 (est)

Jay & Suzanne Blessum new owners of Minot Aero Center

 Jay Blessum, of the Minot Aero Center, is shown by a Mooney aircraft similar to one that will be added to Minot Aero Center’s rental aircraft. Blessum and his wife, Suzanne, are the new owners of the Minot Aero Center.


The Minot Aero Center has new owners – Jay and Suzanne Blessum.

The Blessums took over as owners on Jan. 1 from Warren Pietsch and Brian Sturm. Pietsch and Sturm will continue their aircraft interests.

The aero center includes aircraft maintenance, flight school and aircraft rental.

“This is really exciting for me to have this opportunity to take it to another level of being involved here,” said Jay Blessum.

Originally from Rugby, Jay Blessum started working for Pietsch Flying Service in 1990 as an airframe and power plant mechanic. He is now an A& P/IA (inspector of authorization). He is also a pilot.

Originally from Underwood, Suzanne Blessum has a B.S. degree from MSU with a double major in management and marketing. Since 2010 she has worked at MSU with the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities.

The Minot Aero Center has three full-time mechanics, two full-time pilots and an individual who is part time mechanic and pilot, and a secretary.

Jay Blessum also flies a spray plane, something he has done for the past 10 years and plans to continue.

He said the Minot Aero Center will basically remain the same as it was under the previous owners.

They have added a Cessna 150 to the rental planes and plan to add a Mooney.

Minot Aero Center’s maintenance also does maintenance on the World War II era planes owned by the Texas Flying Legends Museum in Houston. The warbirds spend a portion of the year at the Dakota Territory Air Museum just north of the Minot International Airport.

The Blessums reside at Minot. They have a daughter, Samantha, 24, a kindergarten teacher at Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Minot, and a son, Connor, 15, a freshman at Minot High School-Central Campus.

“It’s a great opportunity for me and I look forward to working with all the customers in the aviation community,” Jay Blessum said.

Minot Aero Center has a website at minotaerocenter.com. It is also on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.minotdailynews.com

With 3 months to take-off and amidst union talks, Swoop launches international recruitment bid



Three months from the launch of its discount airline Swoop, Calgary-based WestJet has been looking abroad for pilots to fly for its new "ultra-low-cost" carrier.

A posting for Swoop pilots was placed this spring on the website of CAE Parc Aviation, an international recruitment agency that seeks aviation personnel and support services for the industry.

According to the ad, last updated March 23, the agency is looking for "a number" of pilots for "roughly" 21 days in late June and early July.

The work promises to pay $1,200 US per day, plus expenses. The posting says pilots with European or U.S. licences are welcome to apply.

News of the recruitment effort comes with time ticking down toward Swoop's start date in June, and while WestJet and its pilots union attempt to negotiate a first contract.

Airline has 'a number' of Canadian pilots

WestJet said Friday that Swoop's launch is on schedule.

"Swoop has a number of highly-qualified Canadian pilots joining the company and remains on track for its June 20 launch date," a company spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.

"Swoop will be compliant with all Canadian Aviation regulations."

A representative of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) declined to comment on the job posting. 

But labor relations consultant George Smith, a fellow at the School of Public Policy at Queen's University and a former director of employee relations at Air Canada, was surprised by what he thinks looks like a "highly aggressive" move by the company.

"It basically says to the WestJet pilots who are in negotiation, 'We're going to operate Swoop come hell or high water regardless of whether it impacts these negotiations and your right, or otherwise, to fly those airplanes,'" Smith said.

Earlier this year, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) ordered WestJet to withdraw a new policy of offering its pilots a two-year leave of absence if they go to fly for Swoop.

Swoop to launch with three aircraft

WestJet has said Swoop will operate as an independent airline with its own reservation system, operator's certificate and airport check-in counters staffed by its own employees.

Swoop aims to launch with three aircraft in June and grow to six by September.

By spring of next year, Swoop would have 10 planes and eventually reach 30 to 40 aircraft on domestic and international flights.

The flights will be on Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Customers will pay their fare for a seat and can bring one personal item. Then, they can choose to pay more to check bags, watch movies, use Wi-Fi, have more legroom and buy snacks and drinks on-board.

The new flights will take off in June, travelling six times a week between Abbotsford, B.C., and Hamilton, Hamilton and Halifax, Hamilton and Edmonton and Hamilton and Winnipeg.

There will also be flights between Abbotsford and Edmonton.

Swoop will join other low-cost carriers in the Canadian market, including existing carriers Enerjet and Flair Air (formerly NewLeaf) and Jetlines, which aims to launch next year.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.cbc.ca

Lyft driver abandons pilot in parking lot after learning he would only make $6 on ride

A pilot for a major airliner is accusing a Lyft driver of ditching him in a random parking lot on his way to LAX after realizing how little money he would be making on the trip.

On Thursday morning, pilot Darryl, who requested his last name not be used, used the ride-hailing app Lyft to take him to Los Angeles International Airport where he was catching a flight at 7:30 am, KTLA reported.

Darryl said his initial Lyft ride had been canceled because the driver was too far from where the pilot was staying in Hermosa Beach, California. The second driver was coming from LAX when he picked Darryl up.

"He ... picked me up, I loaded the bag and we and we started to leave, and then I guess he looked at – the destination popped up on his phone at that time, and then he got very frustrated," Darryl said in a Skype interview to KTLA. "He did not want to go back to LAX."

Darryl, who was dressed in his pilot uniform, informed the driver he needed to be at the airport to catch an early-morning flight, the news site reported. Darryl alleges the driver began to drive dangerously, "gunning it" down streets and "running stop signs," he said in the interview.

However, as the ride continued, the driver allegedly began to voice concerns about how little money he would be making on the ride and that he wanted to drop the pilot off in a Trader Joe’s parking lot in Hermosa Beach, about 6 miles south of the airport, KTLA reported.

When the driver pulled into the grocery store parking lot, Darryl began filming the incident. In the released footage, Darryl asks the driver why he is "kicking" him out of the car.

"Say why you're doing this again?" Darryl can be heard asking the driver. "I've done nothing wrong and you're kicking me out of the car?"

The driver responds, “I have the right to refuse service,” before saying he just came from LAX and after “45 minutes of driving” he will only make $6.

"That doesn't sound right to me," the driver said.

"Dude. I used the app to get a driver. You came and picked me up. And now you're just dropping me off in a parking lot?" Darryl asks.

The driver apologizes and tells Darryl in the recording, "I’m sorry man, I can’t make $6 an hour."

Once the driver leaves, Darryl called another Lyft who took him to the airport.

Darryl said he arrived 15 minutes late for his flight.

The pilot said he contacted the company to tell them about the incident. Instead of an apology, Darryl told KTLA he received a "standard" form letter from Lyft informing him the matter would be taken seriously.

"They assured me that I would never be paired with that driver again and I thought you got to be kidding me. He still worked for Lyft," Darryl said to KTLA.

While Darryl said he will still continue to use ride-hailing services, he said he wasn’t pleased with Lyft’s response, according to KTLA. He did say the company reached out to him Friday morning, but would not reveal how they would be dealing with the driver involved.

Lyft did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.foxnews.com



A man who ordered a Lyft to take him to Los Angeles International Airport this week was dropped off at a random parking lot instead after the driver realized how little money he would be making on the trip, according to a video recording of the incident.

Darryl, a pilot for a major airline who didn't want his last name used or his employer identified, was headed to LAX on Thursday morning for work when the incident took place.

He was on a tight schedule when the driver apparently realized it wasn't worth it financially for him to get the passenger to his destination and abruptly decided to abandon him.

Like many, Darryl had turned to the ride-hailing app when he needed to get to the airport.

His initial ride was canceled after the first Lyft driver realized he was already 15 minutes away from where Darryl was staying in Hermosa Beach. The second driver who responded happened to be coming from LAX when he went to pick him up, Darryl told KTLA in a Skype interview from Miami on Friday.

“He ... picked me up, I loaded the bag and we started to leave, and then I guess he looked at – the destination popped up on his phone at that time, and then he got very frustrated,” Darryl said. “He did not want to go back to LAX.”

Darryl, who was in his uniform at that time, told the driver he was a pilot and explained he needed to be at the airport by 7:30 a.m. to catch a flight. He even showed the young man his rank and wings.

Although the driver still appeared frustrated, he continued on with the ride, "gunning it" on South Bay surface streets and even "running stop signs," according to Darryl.

“Normally I would have said something but at that point I needed to be at work. So I just thought, ‘I’ll go along for the ride and see what happens,'" he said.

It wasn't until they got to Sepulveda Boulevard that the driver started talking about how little he was making on that ride, telling Darryl that he wanted to drop him off in the Trader Joe’s parking lot in Hermosa Beach, which is about 7 miles from LAX.

About to be kicked out of the vehicle, Darryl whipped out his cellphone and began filming the incident. He said he did so because things were quickly going downhill.

"Say why you're doing this again," Darryl can be heard asking the driver, who KTLA is not identifying. "I've done nothing wrong and you're kicking me out of the car?"

The driver responds that he has the right to refuse service; but then, he reveals the real reason he wants to abandon the ride – he'll only make $6 for what would end up being about an hour's worth of driving.

"That doesn't sound right to me," the driver said.

"Dude. I used the app to get a driver. You came and picked me up. And now you're just dropping me off in a parking lot?" an incredulous Darryl responded.

The driver then appeared to stop the vehicle and unlock the car doors.

Darryl made one last attempt with the driver, asking him, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

The driver apologized to the passenger, again citing the low hourly pay while also acknowledging that the exchange was being filmed.

"It's fine that you recorded it" he said. "But I'm sorry, man, I can't make $6 an hour."

The approximately 50-second video ends there.

By then, it was 7:18 a.m. and Darryl wasn't going to make it to work on time. He called for another Lyft, which took him the rest of the way. He said he arrived at the airport 15 minutes late, but was grateful to the other driver who got him to his destination.

Afterward, Darryl contacted the company to inform them of what transpired on his original ride.

He hoped for an apology, but instead, Darryl said, he received just a "standard" form letter from Lyft assuring him the matter would be taken very seriously and that he would never be paired up with that driver again.

Darryl added that while he will continue to use ride-hailing services, he's displeased with Lyft's response to his complaint.

He said the company reached out to him again Friday morning, but would not discuss how they would be handling the driver involved.

“The driver – I hope he doesn’t work for that company again. I couldn’t believe that you would abandon somebody in the parking lot.” Darryl said. “That’s crazy.”

KTLA has reached out to Lyft for comment but has yet to hear back.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://ktla.com