Monday, November 12, 2018

Rockwell Aero Commander 690C Jetprop 840, privately owned and operated, N840JC: Accident occurred November 12, 2018 near Myrtle Beach International Airport (KMYR), Horry County, South Carolina

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baltimore, Maryland
Honeywell; Phoenix, Arizona

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC
Accident Number: ERA19LA043
Date & Time: 11/12/2018, 1415 EST
Registration: N840JC
Aircraft: AERO COMMANDER 690
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On November 12, 2018, about 1415 eastern standard time, a Gulfstream American (Aero Commander) 690C, N840JC, sustained substantial damage when it collided with terrain during an approach to landing at the Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR), Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The commercial pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was privately owned and operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Greater Cumberland Regional Airport (CBE), Cumberland, Maryland.

According to the pilot, he was following radar vectors for the downwind leg of the traffic pattern to runway 36 at MYR. He turned for final approach and was inside the outer marker, when he encountered heavy turbulence. As he continued the approach, he described what he believed to be a microburst and the airplane started to descend rapidly. The pilot added full power in an attempt to climb, but the airplane continued to descend until it collided with the Atlantic Ocean 1 mile from the approach end of runway 36.

A review of pictures of the wreckage provided by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed the cockpit section of the airplane was broken away from the fuselage during the impact sequence.

At 1456, the weather recorded at MYR, included broken clouds at 6,000 ft, few clouds at 3,500 ft and wind from 010° at 8 knots. The temperature was 14°C, and the dew point was 9°C. The altimeter setting was 30.27 inches of mercury.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N840JC
Model/Series: 690 C
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: C&C Flying Llc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KMYR, 25 ft msl
Observation Time: 1456 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 2 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 14°C / 9°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 3500 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots / , 10°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 6000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.27 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Cumberland, MD (CBE)
Destination: Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 33.643611, -78.919444 (est)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Myrtle Beach Fire Department responded after a Gulfstream 690C Turbo Commander crashed into the ocean near Springmaid Pier, according to Lt. Jonathan Evans with Myrtle Beach Fire.

Only one person was inside the plane at the time of the crash, Evans said. Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue Chief Tom Gwyer said a good Samaritan pulled the pilot out of the plane and brought the person to shore.

That Good Samaritan spoke with WMBF News about the incident.

21-year-old Brady didn’t want to reveal his last name or show his face because he didn’t want the attention on himself.

He says he was walking along the beach, watching planes go by as he does frequently since he’s an aviation fan trying to get his pilot's license.

Brady was on the phone with his brother as the plane crashed into the ocean. He then called 911.

“After I got off the phone with 911, I just went into the water and started to go and swim towards it," Brady said.

By the time Brady got to the plane, the water was just above his head.

“I was just like, ‘Hey man, don’t worry. You’re going to be alright sir,’ and stuff like that,” Brady said. "‘I’m going to get you out.’”

Brady then brought the pilot to shore with the help of another Good Samaritan: a hotel employee. Brady says he helped significantly.

“He did all that he could’ve done. So I’m thankful he was there, because it would’ve been extra hard for me to get him on land without him there," Brady said.

Brady had the chance to meet with the pilot at Grand Strand Medical Center.

According to Gwyer, the pilot is in critical condition.

Brady said he spoke briefly with the pilot, and the pilot thanked him for saving him.

No word on why the plane went down.

Original article can be found here ➤

A small airplane went down into the ocean off the shores of Myrtle Beach Monday afternoon, causing a short delay for flights leaving Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Myrtle Beach and Horry County rescue crews worked the scene near the Springmaid Pier and close to the Myrtle Beach State Park. The FAA announced after 2:20 p.m. that all departing flights would be held at gate for an expected 15 minutes or less. Departing planes had the same warning.

Kirk Lovell, spokesperson for the airport, said that he does not know if the plane was arriving or departing from the Myrtle Beach airport.

The pilot of the plane was the only person on board, said Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Tom Gwyer. The pilot made it to the beach, but was taken to the hospital, Myrtle Beach police said.

The plane was trying to land at Myrtle Beach International Airport, but “obviously something went wrong,” Gwyer said.

A good Samaritan saved the pilot from the small plane, and the pilot is currently in critical condition at a local hospital, he said.

The pilot was responsive when rescuers got to the scene. He told them no one else was on board during the crash, and rescue swimmers with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department surveyed the wreckage in the surf, Gwyer said.

Original article ➤

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WNCN) - A small plane has crashed near a pier in Myrtle Beach on Monday afternoon, reports indicate.

The incident happened near Springmaid Pier with the plane ending up in the surf.

Myrtle Beach Fire Water Rescue teams are headed to the scene.

Initial reports indicate only the pilot was aboard the plane at the time.

Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue said that the pilot was safe on the beach after the crash.

Kirk Lovell, the Director of Air Service and Business Development at the Myrtle Beach airport, said a general aviation aircraft is down in the water and the number of people onboard is unknown.

Original article can be found here ➤

Piper PA-28R-201 Arrow III, N52737: Accident occurred November 11, 2018 at Cannon Creek Airpark (15FL), Lake City, Columbia 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; Orlando, Florida

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Lake City, FL
Accident Number: ERA19LA041
Date & Time: 11/11/2018, 1315 EST
Registration: N52737
Aircraft: Piper PA28R
Injuries: 3 Serious, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On November 11, 2018, about 1315 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28R-201, N52737, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain during the initial climb after takeoff from Cannon Creek Airpark (15FL), Lake City, Florida. The private pilot and two passengers were seriously injured, and one passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The right front seat passenger stated that as soon as they took off, he knew something was wrong because the airplane was not climbing very fast. He thought the airplane was going to touch back down on the runway when he noticed the airplane's nose going "up and down." The airplane made several nose-up and nose-down oscillations before going past the left side of the runway and contacting tree tops. The airplane then impacted the ground and cartwheeled.

A witness who was parked on the side of the runway to watch the airplane takeoff, stated he observed the pilot perform a preflight engine run-up and the airplane begin its departure on runway 27, a 2,600 ft-long runway. The wind was a right quartering tailwind about 8 to 10 mph. He thought the pilot "forced" the airplane off the ground and it immediately began "oscillations;" when the airplane appeared to be near stall speed, the nose lowered and would then raise again, which repeated until the airplane contacted tree tops. He further stated that each time the airplane oscillated, it resulted in a lower altitude.

Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that the airplane's wings sustained buckling and tears. The left main landing gear collapsed. The fuselage had buckling along its length aft to the elevator. The rudder was undamaged.

The four seat, low-wing, tricycle gear airplane, was manufactured in 1989. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-360 series, 200-horsepower engine, equipped with a two-bladed McCauley propeller.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His FAA third class medical certificate was issued on August 20, 2015. He reported 3,583 total hours of flight experience at that time.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N52737
Model/Series: PA28R 201
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
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: KGNV, 123 ft msl
Observation Time: 1806 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 34 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 25°C / 17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 60°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 2700 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.19 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Lake City, FL (15FL)
Destination: Lake City, FL (15FL) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Serious, 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Serious, 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:  30.150556, -82.665000 (est)

First responders on Sunday afternoon cordoned off the grass runway at Cannon Creek Airpark after a plane belonging to residents of the aviation-focused community crashed into a tree during takeoff, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The plane, a single-engine Piper PA-28R-201, is registered to William and Susan Lagoni of Southwest Challenger Lane.  Four people were onboard when the aircraft crashed around 2 p.m. in the aviation community, which sits off Sisters Welcome Road, according to an FAA spokesperson.           

Multiple neighborhood residents confirmed the husband and wife were both aboard the plane with two other passengers. 

FAA is investigating and the National Transportation Safety Board will make a determination as to the cause of the crash. 

One source close to the couple said the third and fourth passengers were a man and his young daughter. 

Several onlookers at the scene Sunday afternoon said the pilot and passengers were airlifted to a Gainesville hospital.

The plane was about halfway down the runway when it crashed, the source close to the couple said. 

Columbia County deputies and emergency medics taped off the crash site before community residents circled around.

The unidentified adult male passenger was visiting from Indiana, said several people at the scene.

Original article ➤

LAKE CITY, Florida - A small plane crashed in Cannon Creek Airpark in Lake City on Sunday afternoon, according to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. 

Officials said four people were on board. Fire and Rescue crews said all four were alert and talking after the crash.

Fire Rescue officials said they were flown to the trauma center in Gainesville as a precaution and the extent of the injuries they suffered is unknown. 

No one on the ground was hurt.  

Original article can be found here ➤

Cloudy Skies in China for Small U.S. Aircraft Makers: The question now is whether Boeing, the U.S.’s biggest exporter, will be the next to suffer

The Wall Street Journal
By Trefor Moss

ZHUHAI, China—Trade tensions with China are already hurting some of America’s smaller aircraft makers, clouding their prospects at Tuesday’s biennial China airshow, normally a lucrative forum for clinching deals.

China slapped a 5% levy on small and medium aircraft in September, leaving aerospace giant Boeing Company unscathed but affecting smaller players such as Robinson Helicopter Co. of Torrance, Calif.

Wilson Liao, chief executive of PTE Systems Ltd., a Chinese dealer of Robinson light helicopters, expects to sell just one or two of the manufacturer’s aircraft this year, down from about 20 normally amid trade tensions and China’s economic slowdown.

“Many clients are choosing to wait and see,” Mr. Liao said. “And some people are buying second hand.”

The Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese imports were partly spurred by a yawning trade imbalance between the world’s top two economies: the U.S. imported $505 billion in Chinese goods last year, whereas China bought $130 billion worth of American products.

But in aerospace, the situation is flipped. China bought more than $16 billion worth of American aircraft and aerospace equipment in 2017, while its aerospace industry exported less than $1 billion in planes and parts to the U.S.

That gives China leverage it lacks in other sectors, potentially making aerospace “the designated hostage in this confrontation”, said Richard Aboulafia, a vice president at Teal Group, a U.S. aviation intelligence company.

The question now is whether Boeing, the U.S.’s biggest exporter, will be the next to suffer. That hasn’t happened so far because China—where commercial air travel is growing rapidly—depends on both Boeing and Europe’s Airbus SE to supply jetliners to its expanding airlines.

China accounts for a quarter of Boeing’s deliveries, and the company forecasts that about one in six of the 43,000 jetliners needed globally in the next 20 years will be sold in China.

At Tuesday’s airshow, Boeing executives said the company’s operations remained unaffected by the trade dispute, as they outlined plans to invest more in China and expand the company’s local supply chain.

“We continue to engage with the leaders of the U.S. and China to urge a constructive discussion to resolve these trade discrepancies,” said Rick Anderson, Boeing’s senior vice president for Northeast Asia.

With consumer travel booming, China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest airline market in 2022. In a July interview, Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said the company wasn’t yet seeing any disruption resulting from trade tensions. “In China they need the airlift capacity,” he said.

General aviation is also taking off: China licensed 93 new general aviation airports in the first half of 2018, having only had 80 in the whole country at the end of last year, according to the civil aviation authority.

That’s a huge growth opportunity for U.S. producers of smaller aircraft, including Robinson and others such as Piper Aircraft Inc., Textron Inc.’s Cessna Aircraft Co. and Bell Helicopter Inc., General Dynamics Corp.’s Gulfstream Aerospace Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky Aircraft Co.

Furthermore, the U.S. and Chinese aerospace supply chains are deeply entwined. Boeing operates a joint venture in Tianjin, producing composite parts for jetliners, and a finishing center, which will install interiors for 737 Max jets destined for Chinese customers, is due to open next month near Shanghai.

U.S. aerospace suppliers such as Honeywell International Inc. and Rockwell Collins Inc. also have sizable China operations and provide components for China’s emerging domestic jet industry.

But the tariffs, combined with the weakening of the Chinese yuan currency, now threaten to choke off what had been a booming market for civil aircraft.

Stratford, Conn-based Sikorsky normally gets about five to 10 helicopter orders a year, but that business has now dried up, said Li Xiaoyu, the company’s chief China representative.

“The market’s changed; 2018 has been very quiet for us,” Mr. Li said. Sikorsky’s main Chinese customers, government ministries and state-run companies, “take politics into account when purchasing,” he said.

Piper Aircraft Inc. scored the biggest order in its history—for 152 trainers—from Chinese dealer Fanmei Aviation Technologies in February, just before the U.S.-China trade tussle heated up.

“We don’t want to get caught up in the politics,” said a spokeswoman for the Vero Beach, Fla-based firm, adding the company could probably sell the aircraft elsewhere should trade friction disrupt the order. A representative of Fanmei said it plans to honor the contract.

Kurt Robinson, president and chairman of Robinson Helicopter, said he believed orders for U.S.-made choppers would bounce back “once operators in China have clarity concerning U.S.-China economic relations.”

The problem for these companies is that there are plenty of foreign alternatives should China hike aero tariffs to 25%—the level Beijing proposed in an early draft back in April.

A representative of one non-U.S. producer of business jets, who asked not to be identified, said his company would get a big boost in China should tariffs price rival Gulfstream out of the market.

A spokeswoman for Gulfstream—which secured the biggest order in its history from China four years ago—said the company wouldn’t publicly discuss the impact of tariffs.

—Andrew Tangel, Chunying Zhang, Fanfan Wang and Doug Cameron contributed to this article.

Original article can be found here ➤

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Piper PA-23-250 Aztec, N8383C: Fatal accident occurred November 09, 2018 in Nassau, The Bahamas

Byron Ferguson

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; South Florida

Crashed due to unknown circumstances.

Global Aero Aircraft LLC 

Date: 09-NOV-18
Time: 02:00:00Z
Regis#: N8383C
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA 23 250
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Operation: 91

On November 15th, volunteers organized by Gina Knowles took only forty (40) minutes to find parts of the Piper PA-23-250 Aztec that was being flown by missing pilot Byron Ferguson.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commander Shone Pinder said yesterday that while search and recovery efforts are ongoing for a six-seater aircraft that crashed in waters off New Providence on November 8, those efforts were not being conducted at the same “pace that existed a few days ago”.

“Right now, we are continuing our search and recovery efforts, however, what we have done is we have pretty much allowed for our surface craft that are patrolling the area to maintain a lookout for anything that may be telltale signs that [could] assist the Air Accident Investigation [Department] as it relates to any debris or any other significant finds,” Pinder told Eyewitness News.

He confirmed that divers were not sent into the water yesterday, and he was unable to say when the next scheduled dive search would take place.

“I don’t know and I can’t say… for how long the actual [search] — this stage — will continue,” Pinder said. “The commander of the [Royal Bahamas] Defence Force will give his directives concerning that as it relates to ongoing efforts. Our search continues, but certainly not at the pace that existed a few days ago, but we are continuing to maintain our vigilant lookout for that craft.”

When asked whether the search has been scaled back, Pinder said, “Right; the only difference is that we did not conduct the dive operations today, but we still have two thirds of our assets, in terms of the modes of our search; in terms of the use of our mobile patrols along the shoreline — that continues — and of course the surface craft that continues to traverse the seas. The only thing missing really is the dive component and you know dives day-to-day are based on weather conditions and the light, but that didn’t happen today.”

Missing pilot Byron Ferguson and the U.S. registered Piper Aztec aircraft went down in waters two nautical miles from the airfield at Lynden Pindling International Airport.

Ferguson was en route from West Palm Beach, Florida.

He was expected to join his family to travel to Africa in celebration of his father’s birthday.

Yesterday, Pinder said until there is an order to suspend, search and recovery efforts will continue in earnest.

Bryon’s mother, Agnes Ferguson, a retired veteran ZNS news anchor, posted on Sunday, “Simply waiting for Captain Byron Quinn Ferguson’s return to tell his own story, and invoke real change in the country’s aviation industry.”

The Ferguson family and volunteers have continued to search for Byron and the aircraft.

Nearly two weeks ago, volunteers and civilian divers found parts of a wrecked plane believed to be from the crash.

A GoFundMe page in Bryon’s name was launched on November 17 to hire certified deep-sea divers, and specialized deep-sea dive equipment. To date, $25,000 has been raised.

According to the GoFundMe page, a certified diver who was recently flown in via private charter located more debris using specialized equipment and mixed gases in order to dive the edge of the ocean in the area where volunteers found the plane debris.

“Volunteer groups have pulled their resources to assist in the search, rescue and recovery of Byron’s aircraft and there is still hope of locating Byron,” read the post on the online fundraising site.

“Currently the plane is in over 600 feet of water. We are in need of specialized equipment and certified deep-sea divers who are able to assist with recovery. Some debris has been located in shallow areas, however the debris trail leads to the edge of the ocean. In order to dive or investigate at this depth special equipment needs to be brought in to assist with the efforts of locating the fuselage.”

In the days following the crash, there was widespread criticisms of the Defence Force’s search and rescue efforts.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said a full review of the protocols, procedures and agencies involved in the crash search and recovery efforts will be conducted.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel criticised the response of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to the recent plane crash suggesting the tragedy may not have been “properly” investigated because of how quickly the initial search was called off.

His comments in the Senate came shortly before a group of Bahamians said yesterday that their own search team had found pieces of the plane piloted by Mr Ferguson.

Mr. Bethel said he would reach out to his colleagues to ensure that whatever “procedural missteps” occurred in this case and others would not happen again.

More must be done, he said, to ensure there is a sense of urgency and to drive home the principle of “no stone left unturned" when the country is faced with tragic plane crashes.

Mr. Bethel joined fellow Senators Fred Mitchell and Ranard Henfield to voice concerns over the handling of the search and investigation of Mr Ferguson’s plane crash.

“The great difficulty right now, particularly with anything that results in a marine landing of some sort, is that the Civil Aviation Department has to rely on the efforts of another agency, usually the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. So in the last crash that occurred off of Andros, as I understand it, the search was called off maybe 50 yards away or so because of inclement weather or something, or it had gone on too long and the fellas got tired,” Mr Bethel said yesterday.

“See the difficulty is, because it’s on the marine side, then an unmotivated entity, an entity that is not sensitised to that particular job – see it may be sensitised to catching smugglers, catching human traffickers, catching poachers (and) defence and so for this aspect of civil intervention into some crisis, perhaps there is a need for stronger sensitisation of the marine unit of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to ensure that the sense of urgency that the family feels is also shared by those who are in the immediate vicinity and that the principle of no stone left unturned until we find this thing must prevail, because this is the second time now and I am only going based on what I heard.

“They saw a piece of wreckage. They say they left the site. It boggles the mind if that is so. It is unimaginable.”

He continued: “And so if I feel that way about something like this, if my colleagues opposite here who sit beside me and if we feel as a body like that about a circumstance like that, how much worse does the family feel?

“So we have to spend some time with our colleagues, and I don’t believe there is any ill will or any malice or whatever, but we have to work with our marines. We have to work with our Defence Force to get them to see that, yes even if it’s only in finding a crash site that is as important to the defence of the well-being of the Bahamian people, defending our well-being because how can we prevent such things happening unless we properly investigate each and every one? How can we show our true concern for the human beings involved if we call off the search on the slightest pretence? It cannot be the situation. It cannot happen.

“And so I certainly in my position will reach out as quickly as is possible to my colleagues to see that whatever the error, whatever the procedural missteps . . .what may have happened in the past, that this will never ever, ever, ever be repeated again because plainly the damage being done to families and to the psyche of this nation by these things is simply unacceptable.”


For his part, Senator Henfield questioned the country’s lack of rescue helicopters given the Bahamas’ makeup and the frequency of crashes in these waters.

He also regretted that there is no legislation to govern crowdfunding in instances where money is needed to support rescue efforts.

He said: “A mutual friend of Byron yesterday, who is still in shock, indicated to me that the wife with a 10-month-old child is still walking up and down that beach, and the beaches, not eating and just asking people to help me look in the bushes, look over there, check that sand and all of our hearts break. But you know it is unfortunate we live in a country in a day like today where we have mega resorts, but we don’t have our own rescue helicopters in this country.

“We live in a country where we don’t have legislation in place for crowd-funding. I would watch in other countries and incidents would happen, persons are able to donate in the millions to the search and rescue of persons rather than just sit and wait for the government’s response.”

Opposition Senator Fred Mitchell added there was a need to beef up communication efforts between search agencies and families affected.

“I know this young man very well, his wife, his family, his brothers, his father, his mother and they all live in the Fox Hill constituency, but quite apart from that, I want to join in the concerns about how this accident was dealt with,” Mr Mitchell said. “I said to a family when there is a homicide in this country the police have a designated person that’s assigned to coordinate with the family what the police are doing.

“So they give you a telephone number and they give you a name and they say if there is anything you want to know about that investigation you call that person and that person will tell you what is happening with the investigation. Now that does not seem to apply in this case. Civil Aviation is the body I believe that’s responsible for the investigation. The issue they were talking about is how do I get information and are the officials speaking with one voice. It must be heart wrenching.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel speaks on November 16th.

The day after civilians discovered debris from missing pilot Byron Ferguson’s crashed plane, Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel vehemently defended his organization’s search and recovery efforts.

He maintained that marines have made every effort for the past nine days in which the search “pushed the envelope” but was careful not to compromise safety.

However, while Mr Bethel attempted to make a compelling case for these efforts since the incident last week Thursday, neither he nor other officials present could definitively tell reporters at what time the search was suspended in the hours following the crash in waters off Nirvana beach. Neither could they say when the search resumed.

They did, however, present a list of reasons from vessels not having sufficient gas to there being low visibility, needing to mobilise additional equipment for a more extensive search, and suggesting fatigue as to why the search had been called off Thursday night.

It was also contended that there had been no dive search efforts on Saturday and Sunday due to “inclement weather”.

The commodore further admitted that the RBDF could have done a better job in its communication with relatives and the media after it was revealed that marine divers had discovered oil containers, residue and other lightweight materials on the seabed Tuesday. Some pieces were also found Friday morning, although it is unclear what they were

It also seems there was not a command centre set up for communication purposes, by Mr Bethel’s own admission.

At several points in Friday’s press conference Mr Bethel seemed to be on the defensive saying at one point that people were taking an “I gotcha approach” in waiting for mistakes to be made, adding that some members of the press had withheld information to “whack somebody over the head with it”.

Asked how civilians were successful in locating portions of the plane within 40 minutes of entering the water, Lieutenant Commander Derrick Ferguson said this area had previously been cleared by marines.

“Search and rescue is a science. (It) is something that we do based on the weather pattern, based on what the weather is doing, based on the sea, state the tide flow. We now go ahead and we do what is a dive search area,” he said. “The dive search area that we initiated on that day was pretty much focusing around the search area where the last sighting of the tail of the plane as noted.”

Officials noted the tail of the small aircraft was spotted by RBDF vessel P115 and by several other persons and the spot marked. But they said Friday no efforts were made to retrieve it at the time because the priority then was to look for persons who could have been alive in the water. The concern, was further heightened, the commodore said, because of ambiguity about how many persons had been on board.

Commander Ferguson continued: “So we would have dived that area and we would have been confident in that one mile range of dive that we did that there was no other debris that we found in that area. So for that day we would have cleared that dive search area. With subsequent dives you know do a shifting of your dive search area. In which case you would have seen on Tuesday our dive search area shifted to the east and on Tuesday the 13th our divers were now finding debris that came from that plane wreckage.”

Despite an initial statement from officials on the scene of the crash last Thursday that the search had been called off hours after the search, Commander Shone Pinder disagreed.

He said: “The search never ceased. What we had was an ongoing effort to ensure initially the emphasis on discovering life and that effort continued. Recognising that we cannot predict when the call would go out for our vessels to respond the vessels that responded were not necessarily on full tanks.

“At some point after they would have exhausted four hours after into the search and had to continue to make preparations for divers to do more intensive search they had to return in and so our efforts continued in earnest and we had to return to replenish and to ensure that our fuel, our personnel (and) the divers were embarked, the right equipment was embarked and so there was always throughout the entire process search efforts going on.”

When it was presented to him that reporters had been told the search was being called off at 1 o’clock Friday morning, he said: “What happened was we had a suspension of search in terms of the surface search craft having to return to bring in additional divers to ensure that the right equipment was being brought in.”

Asked to reveal specific times he said personnel returned to the site to dive at “first light” which would have been shortly before 6am.

Pressed further on the time divers left and returned he said: “I’ll say this without getting specific with the time it was well after 0200 hours when our surface craft went in and of course we had to allow for our people an opportunity to get the right equipment to initiate a dive operation at first light.

“I want you to appreciate the environment under which that search was being conducted. There was ambiguity as to the number of persons on board, the plane and all response efforts was focused towards ensuring that life was preserved. If somebody was in the water we wanted to make sure we saturated the area to assure that we could rescue life. The emphasis was on rescuing life.”

Later he said specific times would eventually be documented for public knowledge, but as an investigation is ongoing the information could not be released.

Nonetheless, officials told reporters they did everything they could do in this situation, noting officials always first take into account a best-case scenario.

As the search continues for Mr Ferguson, the criticisms have not fallen on deaf ears.

Commodore Bethel said training is always ongoing at the force.

“Rome was not built in a day. Sometimes you compare us to military services that been around for 250 over 300 years. We only been around for 38 years and we are well ahead in comparison to where they were many centuries ago so training and development is a major thing for us. As a matter of fact it was just several weeks ago the defence force conducted an advanced dive programme for its members so we are always training staff,” he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Dionisio D'Aguilar.

Aviation Minister Dionisio D’aguilar was unable to conclusively answer questions fielded by reporters Tuesday as to whether or not all airports in The Bahamas have functioning lights to accommodate regular, or emergency, night-time landings.

The questions came in the wake of public outrage following rumours which suggested that the fate of Captain Byron Ferguson and his Piper Aztec plane, which went down in waters off the tip of western New Providence November 9, could have possibly had different results if all Family Island airports had functioning 24/7 airstrip lights.

Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Ferguson passed three smaller airports while en route to Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) last week Friday; the Chub Cay airport, Great Harbour Cay airport and the San Andros airport.

It has been suggested that he was unable to land his malfunctioning aircraft at any of these airports because the lights had already been turned off for the night.

Concern on social media eventually mushroomed from, “why are airport lights on Family Islands turned off at a certain hour?” to “what sort of emergency protocol is currently in place to accommodate emergency night-time landings on Family Islands?”

In addressing those concerns D’aguilar said, “I believe that Family Island airports are equipped with emergency lighting.”

“There are 28 airports [in the country] so forgive me if I don’t know if every single one of them has lights and if those lights are working.

“I remember being informed by my predecessor had emergency lighting. I think all of them have been equipped; whether they are all 100 per cent working, I will have to get a report on that.”

He revealed that in the event that there is an emergency where a distressed aircraft needs to land at a Family Island airport, pilots are supposed to contact Air Traffic Control (ATC) in New Providence.

“They contact ATC, and then ATC reaches out to that particular airport; and some airports there is obviously no one there so they have to call someone to get in their car to go down there and turn on the lights,” he revealed.

He was quick to note that the government has no plans to change this practice.

“Obviously, there are a lot of remote airports and to equip and staff these airports 24/7 is a significant cost,” he noted.

“I do not want to belittle this situation, but I am sure that this problem arises so infrequently that there is a cost that we need to take into consideration. There are many airports in The Bahamas and it’s a very expensive proposition so, right now we are going to maintain the status quo.”

Tuesday marked four days of search efforts to locate Ferguson and his plane.

Authorities provided no new details on their search and recovery efforts up to press time Wednesday.

Original article can be found here ➤

National Security Minister Marvin Dames (inset) and the scene at Nirvana Beach at the weekend.

The family of missing pilot, Byron Ferguson contends that he did file a flight plan, despite conflicting reports that he did not. 

Still hoping and while still carrying on searches of their own, young Ferguson’s brother, Bjorn Ferguson said his brother who has at least 20-years of experience flying did file a flight plan, something the family and Air Accident Investigation Department have been able to confirm with Civil Aviation. 

However, National Security Minister, Marvin Dames told reporters otherwise outside Cabinet Tuesday morning.

Mr. Dames told reporters that persons should be careful in their speculations concerning the incident Thursday night. 

“We  have to be careful in how we are reporting, because this is sensitive and as I speak to you,  the only thing I am thinking about  is the family and what they are going through, and me having to be very careful as to what I say as to not exacerbate a very, very sensitive situation. 

“So, our hearts go out to the family. I know a few of them and we will continue to do whatever we can to ensure that we work to bring some closure to this matter,” Mr. Dames said. 

As for failed attempts to secure the ill-fated aircraft once it was spotted shortly after crashing in waters off Nirvana Beach Thursday night, Minister Dames said there are a number of reasons this may not have happened.

“When they were approaching, a little piece of the aircraft could have been seen.  As they got close the aircraft disappeared. 

“So, we have to be extremely careful when we say aircraft;  we give the impression that here is this big aircraft that they saw lying on the water; that is not so. 

“We have to leave it up to the search team and the investigators to let them do their jobs and not muddle what they are doing,” said the Minister. 

The family says this contradicts what the person in charge of the search and rescue would have reported, that initially the plane was found. 

Mr. Dames  suggested that there could be a number of reasons divers were not sent into waters on last Thursday, procurement of life being one of them. 

“Those teams out there have been working tirelessly, and always remember in search and rescue, when teams are out there and they’re working their  first area of focus is the protection of life.

“You are trying to preserve or trying to protect the life of those who may have been involved in the incident; but we have to always be cognizant that we also have to ensure, that’s the first responders that is, and this is no different anywhere the world over, they  have to ensure that they too preserve their lives. 

“Often times they are going to a very, very risky and dangerous situation, where one bad decision could result in them losing their lives as well,” Mr. Dames said. 

The Ferguson’s family have gotten local and foreign pilots to assist with an aerial search of the Nirvana Beach and surrounding areas.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.

As the search for missing pilot Byron Ferguson continues, National Security Minister Marvin Dames defended officials against criticism by saying that law enforcement has extended every effort to resolving this matter.

In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Mr Dames said as soon as information about the crash was reported, law enforcement mobilised. He also said no flight plan was filed for the aircraft, as he appealed to the public not to make assumptions. Regarding the search, Mr Dames added there is still “hope” that officials can find Mr Ferguson.

Yesterday, Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commissioner Tellis Bethel reiterated to The Tribune that the perimeter of the crash has extended.

“The search was expanded yesterday (Sunday) to include waters and (coastlines) off of the east coast of North Andros, including the Joulter Cays and the south coast of the Berry Islands including Chub Cay and Whale Cay,” the commodore said.

“Prior to this, the northwest quadrant of New Providence was searched, which included the coastline, shallow and ocean areas using RBDF patrol craft, drone and divers, and a US Coast Guard fixed wing aircraft.”

Bahamas Air Accident Investigation Department Operations Investigator Kendal Dorsett Jr also said yesterday that with a lack of physical evidence, authorities are looking at “other avenues” that could have contributed to the incident.

“Because of that, we have requested a weather study from the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States and we will also be looking at the maintenance records of this aircraft and also the ATC related data in relation to this case,” Mr Dorsett said.

During a press conference held on Sunday, relatives of Mr Ferguson expressed dissatisfaction with the way officials have conducted search and rescue efforts in the wake of the plane crash in the waters off Nirvana Beach on Thursday night.

Mr Dames said he was “taken aback” by the criticism, given his knowledge of how quickly officials mobilised in response to the crash.

“When this matter was reported to the authorities on Thursday night…I was in communication with (Commodore Bethel) and the commissioner (of police),” Mr Dames said. “I was also in communication with the minister of tourism, who has responsibility for civil aviation.

“We take that (plane crashes) very seriously. And so immediately as that information came in, the authorities activated their machinery, almost immediately. The (RBDF) responded, the police responded, we got the assistance from the US who mobilised the helicopter almost immediately under the umbrella of (Operations Bahamas Turks and Caicos) OPBAT.

“Officers worked early into the morning, divers came in early that morning, went to work, along with a search party.”

When asked about the family’s critiques that no divers went into the waters on Thursday night, Mr Dames underscored preservation of life is paramount in these situations.

“The first order of business is the preservation of life,” Mr Dames said. “Now, I couldn’t say what the conditions were at the time, and what the officers were up against. We could all sit back and be Monday morning quarterbacks, but if you look at search and rescue, anywhere the world over, and you see how it is conducted— sometimes you have rough waters and you may want to go in and execute a search, but you can’t because the waters are rough.

“You don’t know what you’re up against…you have to make that call once you get to that scene. I can’t make that call for them. But what I would say: at the earliest opportunity that the officers were able to send divers down, that was done.”

Regarding the family’s criticisms that the plane was not marked or tracked before authorities left the scene, Mr Dames said he could not speak to that matter as the investigation is ongoing.

He also warned against the spreading of false information, noting that as far as officials are aware, no flight plan was filed for the ill-fated trip.

“As far as we are aware, we don’t have any, up to this day, anything stating that a flight plan has been filed…So I say this to say, we have to be careful when we make assertions.”

However, Mr Dames also said he is sympathetic to the family’s plight.

“Every family, I included, if I were faced with that situation, would want to ensure that the authorities are doing all that is humanely possible to return their loved one or loved one’s home,” Mr Dames said. “And so I am not faulting the family whatsoever.

“We continue to search and it is always our hope that we can find life,” he added, referring to the incident when Bahamian sailor Samuel Leroy Moss Jr was found alive after being adrift at sea for two weeks.

Byron Ferguson

Family members and loved ones of one of the pilots that went down in Thursday’s unfortunate plane crash were brought to tears yesterday as they expressed their extreme frustration with search and rescue attempts. 

Ashton Ferguson, brother of pilot Byron Ferguson told reporters that that though the men have yet to be found, they remain hopeful; but are bracing themselves with the harsh reality that their loved one may be gone forever. 

He said, “the information that we obtained indicated that my brother encountered difficulties about 40 miles off of the coast of  New Providence  with his door. He radioed air traffic control. I think that at about 15 miles, he contacted again with engine problems.”

Mr. Ferguson described his brother as an experienced pilot that flew internationally, and had clarity of mind when on the job. 

He added, “his friend that was supposed to collect him from the airport texted him a message letting him know that he needs to track the plane. So, he was aware that this plane  was  probably going to have some issues. His friend was also a pilot, so he would’ve known  what to do to track the plane.”

He also said that no one officially reached out to the family, and the Commodore of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force met with them yesterday indicating that they will be widening their perimeter of search.

However, this was after they would have made contact and agitated a Member of Parliament. 

Mr. Ferguson said,  “I also understand that he’s not the one in charge of this investigation. They have the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Deleveaux, who was in charge of this investigation; and he has never up to this day officially contacted us with any details or information to my mom and our family.” 

He added, “some of the facts that we have  not been relayed accurately to the media.”

Mr. Ferguson recalled that night, indicating that the search for his brother was called off before midnight with no divers entering the water, leaving the family with many unanswered questions.

He asked, “do you respond to a plane crash in the water without dive equipment?”

Another family member added, ”he   is an experienced pilot that would have taken all the necessary preparations that you would in  experiencing difficulties. My thing is, this isn’t the first time that there has been a plane crash or anything of this nature. The Defense Force said that they sent a unit with no divers onboard.” 

They added, “no divers responded until the very next morning. My thing is, if this was an American,  like American Airlines or Delta Airlines that would have gone  down, would they have gotten the same response where no divers were in the water with no equipment available? It sounds like incompetence to me.”

The family also indicating that the search and rescue team did not mark the plane’s exact location that night,  further delaying rescue efforts. 

The family said that they are due and deserve facts and professionalism from those responsible for conducting this search and investigation. 

They added that they will not stop until they reach a resolution.

Family members and close friends of those missing following a plane crash in waters off of Nirvana Beach on Thursday night, patiently wait for updated news from officials.

Had everything gone as planned, Byron Ferguson and his parents would have been flying to South Africa to celebrate his father’s birthday yesterday, but instead his family and authorities were still conducting a widespread search for him after his plane crashed off western New Providence on Thursday night.

While Ferguson’s family remains hopeful that he is still alive, authorities said it is unlikely that anyone survived the crash in waters about a mile north of Nirvana Beach.

“He was scheduled to return to work today in South Africa,” said Ferguson’s brother, Bjorn, who spoke to the media yesterday at Nirvana Beach, where dozens of their relatives and friends gathered.

“Today is my father’s birthday. He was taking my parents with him to South Africa today… and this is what we’re faced with.”

Police said shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday, Air Traffic Control (ATC) reported that a plane had disappeared from the radar near Nirvana Beach after the pilot reported that the door to the plane had flown open.

The six-seater Piper Aztec aircraft plunged into the sea two nautical miles from the airfield at Lynden Pindling International Airport.

Ferguson, 34, and one passenger were reportedly on the plane when it crashed, according to authorities.

However, conflicting reports from his family suggest he was the only one aboard, as the person who was supposed to fly with him never got on the plane.

“We are not giving up on my husband,” said Ferguson’s wife, Anya.

“He is an excellent pilot, and I’m sure he is out there.

“I’m not giving up on my husband and I don’t expect anyone out here to give up on him.

“He is going to be returned home to us alive and that’s my final everything; he is going to be here.”

Ferguson is a father of two, a nine-month-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. He is the son of former media personality Agnes Ferguson.

His family described him as an experienced pilot, who had been flying since he was 14.

He graduated from Florida Air Academy and had his license since 1999, according to his brother.

“We are confident in Byron’s ability and the actions he took, up until the plane landed,” Bjorn said.

“This was obviously a controlled landing… He was losing altitude. He knew he could not make it to LPIA. He told his friend to track him; he was going to ditch this plane there.

“Byron was flying from 14-years-old. He [flew] in the Middle East in the desert. He [flew] in Africa. Byron is a pilot, so I’m confident in his ability, and we’re just praying; we don’t want to lose hope.”

Commander Shone Pinder, the airway commanding officer for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, said on Friday there were no clear indications of bodies in the plane on Thursday during the original search when a portion of the aircraft was still above the water.

However, the plane was no longer at that location when divers returned to the scene on Friday morning.

Officials believe the plane may have shifted from its original position due to a change in tide.

As they gathered on Nirvana Beach yesterday, Ferguson’s family criticized authorities over the search and rescue efforts.

“As you can see, everyone's out here again, hopeful, wishing for the best, but bracing to accept reality,” said Ferguson’s brother,

“Speaking for the family, [we are] expressing our extreme frustration and our dissatisfaction with the search and rescue attempt for my brother.

The Ferguson family at Nirvana Beach yesterday as the search for pilot Byron Ferguson continued.

“The sequence of events as we understand them, as they unfolded, as they happened, we know there was room for intervention and a greater attempt at rescue that wasn’t satisfactorily done.”

Pointing to the alleged lack of communication with family members, the inability to secure the plane on Thursday night or send divers to search it, and the lack of visibility of officials searching the area in the days following the crash, Ferguson’s other brother, Anvon, called the entire operation incompetent.

“That’s just insane that this day, in 2018, in The Bahamas, a plane crashed and you have no divers available until the next morning, at light, when you have clear indication of where the plane is.

“Furthermore, you come back the next morning, you don’t know where the plane is, so from the time you discovered it, you didn’t mark it, you didn’t track it. The only thing you can say is the current may have carried it.”

Bjorn Ferguson added, “What makes it so egregious is the fact that for two or three consecutive days, you had family members standing up on this beach; obviously we don’t have time to waste, we’re here because we know something happened, and none of the authorities, in particular the lead agency, has sought to send a liaison person and get correct information.”

Relatives have been conducting their own private search for Ferguson since Friday, using personal planes, boats and jet skis.

They said their search will continue until they can get to a conclusion.

Original article can be found here ➤

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is continuing the search for Byron Ferguson, the pilot of the small plane that crashed in waters off Nirvana Beach on Thursday night, and has widened the perimeter of the initial search boundary.

At a press conference on Nirvana Beach on Sunday, one of Mr. Ferguson’s brothers said the seasoned pilot experienced difficulties with the plane’s door during flight and contacted Air Traffic Control.

Sometime later he experienced engine problems.

Dr. Ashton Ferguson, Mr. Ferguson’s younger brother, said relatives are not satisfied with initial search and rescue attempts.

“The sequence of events as we understand them, as they unfolded, as they happened, we know there was room for intervention and rescue, or a greater attempt at rescue that wasn’t satisfactorily done.”

Dr. Ferguson said according to his brother’s flight plan, Mr. Ferguson left the West Palm Beach airport in Florida at approximately 7:26 pm on Thursday.

Relatives have said only the pilot was aboard the plane, contradicting previous police reports – two people were originally supposed to be on board.

“The information that we obtained, my brother, he encountered difficulties about 40 miles off of the coast with his door,” Dr. Ferguson said. “He radioed as such to the Air Traffic Control. I think about 15 miles, again, he contacted again with engine problems.

“He was an experienced pilot, he flew internationally,” Dr. Ferguson added. “He had clarity of mind and what he was doing.”

Relatives said Mr. Ferguson is a graduate of the Florida Air Academy who has been flying since he was 14-years-old. He obtained his pilot’s licence in 1999 and is currently working out of North Africa for a South-African headquartered company.

Original article can be found here ➤

It is unlikely that anyone survived a flight that crashed in waters about a mile north of Nirvana Beach on New Providence Thursday night, Assistant Commissioner of Police Leamond Deleveaux said yesterday.

“Well, I think we’re in the recovery stage now, it’s fair to say,” Delevaux said.

“You know, it’s been almost 24 hours, it’s highly unlikely that [at] this time you’ll find anyone if they’re in this plane alive because, obviously, the plane is submerged in water.”

A six-seater Piper Aztec aircraft plunged into the sea two nautical miles from the airfield at Lynden Pindling International Airport.

Police said shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday, Air Traffic Control (ATC) reported that a plane had disappeared from the radar near Nirvana Beach after the pilot had reported that the door to the plane had flown open.

The pilot, Byron Ferguson, 34, and one passenger were on the plane when it crashed, according to family members who were at the staging area for the search at Nirvana Beach yesterday.

Those family members did not wish to speak on the record.

Kendall Dorsett Jr., the operations investigator for the Air Accident Investigation Department (AAID), said after reports were received from ATC, standby emergency protocols were initiated.

“Search and rescue was subsequently launched by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Royal Bahamas Police Force, U.S. Coast Guard and BASRA,” said Dorsett in a statement.

Commander Shone Pinder, the airway commanding officer for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, said there were no clear indications of bodies in the plane on Thursday during the original search.

“There were no visible persons at the time based on what I have been informed of,” Pinder said.

“Also, bear in mind it was late into the evening. It was very dark out here last night, little to no lighting, a lot of things going on, a lot of moving parts, a lot of coordinates attempting to be made but our units got here within 10 to 15 minutes of the call. We responded.”

He added: “Remember the initial response was intended to look more so for survivors and get on scene as soon as possible to render immediate assistance.

“They initially sighted the aircraft once they arrived in the general area and once they identified a portion of the aircraft that was still above the surface, they directed their efforts toward that. However, shortly thereafter, the aircraft would have sunk.”

Pinder said defence force officers were combing the shoreline from “the Compass Point area that’s intended to come to this area (Nirvana Beach) and pass it and go to the west” to see if any debris from the plane could be found.

Both Pinder and Deleveaux confirmed that the plane was not in its original position when divers returned to the scene on Friday morning.

Deleveaux told The Nassau Guardian that authorities believe the plane may have shifted from its original position.

“We still have teams of defence force and police officers in the Nirvana Beach area continuing the search,” he said.

“We’re told that the plane may have relocated from its original position that it was in last night and so we continue to search. We continue to search as long as necessary.

“We’ll go until sunset this evening, until dark fall and then tomorrow again we’ll resume search. We want to bring some sort of relief to the persons who were on that aircraft.

“As I indicated last night, we told you last night that the plane, parts of the plane have been located by the defence and police officers. They had the coordinates.

“My understanding is that they checked the coordinates that they had last night, they checked it this morning to discover that the plane was no longer in that position.”

Deleveaux said the change in tide led to plane moving.

“You know that the tides that come in and out will usually take anything that’s in its path out and so it may have been taken to a different area,” he said.

Original article can be found here ➤