Saturday, January 16, 2021

Steve Wright: A devoted husband. A volunteer medical pilot. A life lost to COVID.

Angel Flight volunteer pilot Stephen Wright with his beloved Piper Malibu Mirage.

Steve Wright realized his mistake only after the pretty girl gave him the look that pretty girls give to jerks who try extraordinarily stupid lines.

It was 1968, and in their class at the University of Michigan, their very German professor still called students “Mr.” or “Miss.” Without thinking, Wright had followed suit.

“Hello,” the pretty girl thought he’d said. “I’m Mr. Right.”

He scrambled to clarify. “Wright,” he said. “With a W. Like the Wright brothers.”

Her name was Jan Kovar. A computer science major, she’d grown up blue-collar, in Dearborn, Michigan, and itched to travel, to see more of life had to offer. On their second date, Steve took her to the airport where he’d learned to fly. In the noisy little plane, looking down from the co-pilot’s seat, the world unrolled itself beneath them.

He was, it turned out, Mr. Right after all.

On their honeymoon, Steve flew them around the continental U.S. After her graduation, Jan worked as a systems analyst, and later for banks. Steve became a patent lawyer for Dow Chemical — first in Michigan, then in the Houston area because Jan wanted to live somewhere warm. He bought a single-engine Cessna 210. On their trips, Jan co-piloted.

The kids came — Alec, then Cathy, then Brad. Steve left Dow for corporate law. On family vacations, he’d land the Cessna at remote little airports near national parks, like the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Or in Arkansas. Or the Gulf Coast.

The kids were in their teens when Jan’s health problems began.

In May 2001, after a series of close calls, she received a liver transplant at Memorial Hermann Hospital. But after a respiratory complication, she slipped into a coma.

She was still in that coma June 9, when Tropical Storm Allison flooded the Texas Medical Center. Memorial Hermann lost power just before sunrise. Nurses respirated Jan by hand.

Steve rushed to the hospital, and in the dark, fumbled his way up to the ninth-floor ICU. The nurses gave him a crash course in manual respiration, and he began helping patients on Jan’s floor.

Still without power, the hospital began to evacuate. It was risky to move Jan, but by mid-morning it seemed even riskier to leave her. Steve helped the hospital staff carry her bed down the nine flights of stairs. One nurse kept up Jan’s mechanical breathing; another carried the IV pole. At last they made it to the loading dock. From there a Coast Guard helicopter carried Jan to a hospital in Katy.

Doctors told Steve that Jan had a 50 percent chance of surviving.

Bucket list

She not only survived, she woke up. Though her health problems never cleared up — in 2008, she was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a bone marrow cancer — she and Steve continued to travel.

He had already traded in the little Cessna for a bigger Piper Malibu Mirage. But Jan, fragile, couldn’t withstand long trips with no bathroom stops. To extend their range, he upgraded the Piper. With turbo engines, it could fly higher, faster.

They checked off items on their bucket list. They visited all seven continents, all 50 states, all the friends on their Christmas card list. To celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, in 2011, they traveled around the world. In Antarctica, they saw penguins.

In the Piper they loved “chasing sunsets,” flying west as late afternoon turned to dusk, making the sunset last and last before the world turned dark.

In 2015, Jan died.

‘My purpose’

“I think I’ve found my purpose,” Steve told his daughter, Cathy Flores, sometime in one of those long empty months after Jan’s death. His best friend, Glenn Korfhage, had introduced him to Angel Flight, a nonprofit that organizes volunteer pilots to fly people, for free, to and from medical treatment.

It felt like a calling. Cancer patients needed what Steve could give: his skills, the use of his fast plane. Often the patients were traveling to or from MD Anderson, the hospital that had treated Jan.

Shireen Pitassi, Angel Flight’s mission director, works with more than 1,200 volunteers. Steve, she says, “was one of my favorites.” She’d call when she suddenly needed, say, someone to fly a Friday mission. Almost always, he’d clear his calendar.

He flew 47 missions. If the patient’s ride home wasn’t waiting at the airport, he would sometimes borrow a car. Once, when bad weather grounded the Piper, Steve bought the patient a ticket home on a big commercial flight. “He was special,” says Pitassi.

Sometimes Cathy flew with her dad, sitting in back with the patient and the patient’s helper. Cathy and Steve told the patients the things they’d learned from their time with Jan: Not to give up, that amazing comebacks are possible, as long as you’re still in this beautiful world.

The last mission

Steve was 72 last spring, when COVID-19 began shutting down the U. S. He was in great shape, still able to pass the rigorous annual flight physical. He used to tell Cathy that he figured he had 15 years left to live, and maybe five more before some medical issue slowed him down.

At first he chafed when she urged him to stay home, to take coronavirus precautions. He didn’t want to lose any of the time he had left. But naturally, when hospitals stopped accepting non-emergency patients, Angel Flight’s missions stopped too. Steve’s last one, Pitassi’s records say, was on March 8, 2020.

In the months that followed, Steve kept his skills sharp, kept flying the Piper, kept renewing his certifications. He took COVID-19 precautions, wearing his mask, keeping his distance. When he could resume Angel Flights missions, he wanted to be ready.

But somehow, he caught COVID-19. He was sick for only a couple of weeks. He told Cathy on December 23 that he needed an ambulance to take him to the hospital: His pulse oximeter, the one he wore to track his blood oxygen at high altitudes, showed that he was in the danger zone.

He died January 4.

This year, Cathy said Thursday, after her dad’s funeral, would have been her parents’ 50th anniversary. She liked thinking of them together now, in heaven. In a place high above the clouds. Where sunsets never give way to the dark.

Ground Collision: Piper J3C-65 Cub, N88204; accident occurred August 30, 2020 at Hartford Municipal Airport (KHXF), Washington County, Wisconsin

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office;  Milwaukee, Wisconsin 

Location: Hartford, Wisconsin
Accident Number: CEN20LA436
Date & Time: August 30, 2020, 17:30 Local
Registration: N88204
Aircraft: Piper J3
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Ground collision 
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot planned a personal flight to a nearby airport that had recently added new runways. Before the flight, his flight instructor sent him an airport diagram with the new grass runway marked, which was parallel to an asphalt runway. After the pilot reviewed the diagram, he thought he knew where to expect the new grass runway.

While in the traffic pattern at the destination airport, the pilot noticed a large open grass space below him, so he landed the airplane. The pilot landed to the east but thought he had landed to the west. The area that he landed on was not the grass runway; while completing a fast taxi, the airplane collided with a runway marker for the north-south runway. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and left wing spar. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s loss of situation awareness which resulted in landing in a grass area and the subsequent collision with a runway marker. 


Personnel issues Identification/recognition - Pilot
Environmental issues Sign/marker - Decision related to condition

Factual Information

History of Flight

Taxi Wrong surface or wrong airport
Taxi Ground collision (Defining event)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Sport Pilot 
Age: 61,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land
Seat Occupied: Rear
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Lap only
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Sport pilot None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: July 14, 2020
Flight Time: 63.2 hours (Total, all aircraft), 45.2 hours (Total, this make and model), 10.9 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 16.9 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 5 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0.5 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N88204
Model/Series: J3
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1946
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal 
Serial Number: 15821
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel 
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: May 15, 2020 Annual 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1220 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 15 Hrs
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 3880 Hrs as of last inspection 
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: Installed, not activated 
Engine Model/Series: C90-12F
Registered Owner:
Rated Power: 90 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: KETB,1070 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time: 17:35 Local 
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 100° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 29.89 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 11°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Westbend, WI (ETB)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Hartford, WI 
Type of Clearance: Unknown
Departure Time: 17:15 Local
Type of Airspace: Class E;Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Hartford Municipal Airport HXF
Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 1070 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 09 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2000 ft / 200 ft 
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 43.348876,-88.390265

Fred Gibbs: Earned his first NAFI Master Flight Instructor Accreditation

Fred L. Gibbs

Up in the air, secure in the cockpit and beyond gravity’s pull, Fred Gibbs has always felt transported, untethered from whatever terrestrial worries that may arise down below. Flying is freedom, the firmament his refuge.

“I have no worries flying,” Gibbs says in an affable but stern rasp. “All the crap that’s going on in the world just goes away. It’s just me and the man upstairs.”

At 77, now in semi-retirement from two careers, first in management with the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., and then as a consultant, Gibbs is hardly grounded. He can be found, most days, instructing budding pilots behind the controls of single-engine aircraft for Wiseman Aviation out of Flagstaff’s Pulliam Airport, or flying his own beloved classic beauty, a fully restored 1973 Bellanca Super Viking.

That’s when he’s not traveling the state teaching FAA Pilot Safety seminars or, in the words of fellow flight instructor Greg Brown, serving as the “preeminent expert on Arizona aviation accident analyses for purposes of teaching safe piloting operations.”

Last week, Gibbs received the highest honor, Master Flight Instructor designation, from the National Association of Flight Instructors. Next year, he will be awarded the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, given for “practicing safe flight operations” for 50 years. He already has a recognition plaque hanging in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in D.C.

Much as an aging actor finds himself racking up lifetime achievement awards, Gibbs, whose awards and memorabilia fill every available space of his well-appointed den, feels gratified by the recognition from peers. Make no mistake, though: The guy is not about to hang up his wings. He’s still up there at least five days a week, teaching others or just going on his own flights of fancy.

There’s nothing on solid ground that holds as much allure for Gibbs. His wife, Kelly, puts it best: “It’s where he’s happiest. We’ll get up some mornings and he’ll be grumbling and seem like he’d rather stay in bed, and he grumbles out the door. But when he gets to the airport, that all changes. He’s a happy guy.”

Over the years, even when he was working full time in the FAA’s air traffic control flight-service section, even when he ascended to management and oversaw operations for air-traffic operations in six states, Gibbs found time to fly. He’s logged 17,500 hours in the air — which equates to more than 729 continuous days aloft — all but about 4,000 hours of which involved instructing others.

Such is Gibbs’ laid-back, self-deprecating style that he just shrugs when others marvel at his accomplishments. But his nonchalance should not be taken as a lack of pride. Not just anyone can be a pilot, Gibbs says. It takes a specific type of person, both ultra-prepared and vigilant and self-possessed enough to deal with the unexpected.

“Aviation is not for everybody,” he said. “When you see that runway rushing up at you at 100 mph, you know, people react differently. Let’s just say it takes a very special breed of person.”

And Gibbs is one such specimen. Since early childhood, in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, he’s been fascinated by all things airplane-related. He was one of those kids constantly building model airplanes and, when he couldn’t find plans for a design he wanted, he drew them himself. His great-grandfather owned a farm with an airstrip outside of Easton used by many pilots, and young Gibbs in the 1950s hung out there, cleaning hangars in exchange for getting rides in single-engine beauties.

Patches of turbulence

But Gibbs’ own flight path toward becoming a pilot took several unexpected dips and turns. Yet, he would not be deterred. He joined the U.S. Air Force right after high school graduation in 1961, but rather than going to flight school, he was assigned to guard an underground nuclear silo in Roswell, New Mexico.

“I ended up 200 feet underground,” he recalled, laughing, “about as far away from flying as you could get.”

After his discharge, Gibbs pooled his money and rode his motorcycle to Southern California to go to flight training school. But he had to drop out in his second year, after a motorcycle accident. After paying medical bills, he had no money left to pay tuition. He slunk back home to Easton, but a chance meeting with a high school friend, who happened to be an air-traffic controller, changed his trajectory.

Gibbs followed in his friend’s footsteps, passed the FAA test with a perfect score and went to air-traffic control school in Oklahoma City. Eventually, he was assigned to the flight service station in Williamsport, near the manufacturing giant Piper Aircraft. That’s where Gibbs learned to fly, in his off hours, from the instructors there.

After that, his FAA career took off. Even when he rose in management, which meant fighting the D.C. Beltway traffic into work each day, Gibbs still found time to fly. Upon FAA retirement, he started instructing in earnest, while also serving as an aviation consultant. And upon consultancy retirement, he and Kelly chose to relocate in Flagstaff in a house just north of the airport.

Eye on the sky

Naturally, Gibbs became a fixture at Pulliam and Wiseman Aviation. And his expertise was seized upon by the Arizona Pilots Association, which made him a board member and tapped him as its safety and education director. In that latter role, Gibbs investigates all airplane accidents in the state to determine cause. Then he gives seminars to pilots to teach them to how void, if possible, such a fate.

“We’re not always sure what went wrong, because the pilot died and you can’t ask him, but we do an analysis, hold a safety program and talk about it and try to educate the pilots,” Gibbs said. “We get radar plots from air traffic control, why was he doing these crazy turns?”

At most, Arizona has 15 fatal aircraft accidents a year. Mostly, it’s three or four, he said. Sometimes, it’s pilot error, but not always.

“We had an accident in southern Arizona where the plane just came out of the sky for no apparent reason,” he said. “We had the radar plot, watched him do a bunch of crazy turns. What was this guy doing, aerobatics? Why was his flight path so erratic? It turned out, he’d taken a bird strike through the windshield. At 120 mph, that air blast coming in and you getting hit, your chances of survival are pretty nil. They found the bird feathers and blood and all that stuff. It originally looked like a dumb pilot.”

In all his years of flying, Gibbs himself has had only one or two close calls. Once, cleared for landing, a plane rushed up right above Gibbs’ single-engine, and he had to veer off at the last second.

“It’s been almost totally uneventful — and I don’t attribute that to good luck,” he said. “It’s preparation."

At 77, how many more years can Gibbs stay aloft?

“As long as I can look in the mirror and say, ‘Yeah, I’d still fly with that guy,’” he said. “Because there comes a time when you have to hang it up and you have to recognize it.”

Kelly likes to joke that she doesn’t fly much with Fred anymore.

“As I’ve gotten older,” she said, “I’ve gotten a little more hesitant about being in the air with a 77-year-old man who could drop dead at any moment.”

“Doesn’t she just exude confidence?” Fred asked, sarcastically.

“He is a healthy guy, but we don’t know when we’re going, and I don’t want to be next to him in the cockpit when he does," she said.

“I figure,” Fred interjected, “that when I go, she should go with me.”

“I actually think someone could talk me down, I know enough about the controls and procedures. But it wouldn’t be pretty, and it’s probably not true.”

Fred shrugged. “What would I care at that point?”

Fred L. Gibbs

Piper PA-14 Family Cruiser, N4214H: Accident occurred August 30, 2020 at Anderson Lake Airport (0AK1), Wasilla, Alaska

 This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska

Delta Pacific Northwest LLC 

Location: Wasilla, AK 
Accident Number: ANC20LA086
Date & Time: August 30, 2020, 19:00 Local
Registration: N4214H
Aircraft: Piper PA 14
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N4214H
Model/Series: PA 14 No Series
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held:None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAWS,353 ft msl
Observation Time: 18:56 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 7 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 14°C /7°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 11 knots / 21 knots, 80°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 7000 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.1 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Anchorage, AK (PALH)
Destination: Wasilla, AK

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 61.616943,-149.32167 (est)

On August 30th, 2020, at approximately 1912 hours, AST and Mat-Su Fire/Rescue responded to a airplane crash at Anderson Lake airstrip in Wasilla. 

The pilot, identified Michael Wurzell, age 28, of Hawaii, crashed a Piper PA-14 Family Cruiser while reportedly attempting to land. 

Michael Wurzell suffered serious non-life threatening injuries and was transported to MSRH.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration were notified and are taking over the investigation.

City discusses proposed water park near Laredo International Airport (KLRD)

LAREDO, Texas (KGNS) - Pesky airplane noises, height restrictions, and a potential impact to the environment, those are a few concerns that have surfaced over having the proposed municipal water park in north Laredo.

City Council is in the process of trying to determine the location for the proposed water park.

Last month, District Six Councilman Dr. Marte Martinez made a motion to relocate the project to south Laredo next to the upcoming sport complex in the Cuatro Vientos area rather than the originally proposed spot between the Laredo International Airport and UniTrade Stadium.

Dr. Martinez says he has received concerns from people regarding the water park being located near the airport.

Jeffery Miller, the airport director says the project is too close to their security fence -- and doesn’t think the area is the right atmosphere.

Miller says, there would be height restrictions and the noise is also a big concerns for those who visit the park.

Since the water park will be paid for with sport venue tax money -- it will need to be next to a sports or entertainment venues.

District Two Councilman Vidal Rodriguez agrees with the proposal saying it’s an economic tool to develop the south.

Rodriguez says when you look at the park in Round Rock, there is a municipality where the water park is located near the sports complex where there is going to be a good fluctuation of foot traffic on the weekend.

Former Councilman George Altgelt disagreed saying the water park should be in a more eye-catching location.

A final vote was made to study the cost of having the water park and sports complex in the same facility.

Cozy Mark IV, N82V: Accident occurred November 17, 2020 at Compton/Woodley Airport (KCPM), Los Angeles County, California

 This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Los Angeles, California

Location: Compton, CA 
Accident Number: WPR21LA071
Date & Time: November 17, 2020, 14:18 Local
Registration: N82V
Aircraft: Co-Z COZY 
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 17, 2020, about 1418 Pacific standard time, a Cozy Mark IV airplane, N82V, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident at Compton, California. The pilot sustained minor injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot reported that during the initial climb, the engine started to “run rough” so he decided to land back to the runway. During the landing roll, the airplane veered off the runway and ground looped.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Co-Z 
Registration: N82V
Model/Series: COZY IV 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Observation Time:
Distance from Accident Site: 
Temperature/Dew Point:
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling:
Altimeter Setting:
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 33.890981,-118.24368 (est)

Hangar expansion and more ahead for Auburn Municipal Airport (S50)

If approved, private development would bring tax revenue to the city.

The city of Auburn has long been keen about attracting private development to the Auburn Municipal Airport to bring in added revenue to the airport and to fatten the city’s purse.

Fortunately, right now, the city’s interest coincides with a stark, regional need for general aviation airplane hangars.

Recently, MD 500 Development LLC approached the city with a proposal not only to build 17 general aviation T-hangars on land set aside for that purpose in Auburn’s 2015 Airport Master Plan, but also to build six big box hangars to house larger, multimillion-dollar types of planes and aviation-related businesses.

The Auburn City Council expects to vote on a resolution Jan. 18 that would authorize Mayor Nancy Backus to negotiate with the developer to execute the two separate land leases.

Councilmember Bob Baggett left no doubt where he stands.

“We’re looking at around $87,000 a year coming into city for the land lease, and we’re also looking at 2.84 percent on tenants’ taxable monthly rental payments, so this is a sizable amount of revenue coming into the city, which will help offset other areas that need a bit of work, which is a good thing for our city,” Baggett said at Monday’s council study session.

Josh Arndt, real property analyst for the city of Auburn, shared that enthusiasm.

“Specifically for our airport, we have not had this type of private development on the airport since 2005,” Arndt said. “So, you’ve got the immediate impact that will come from construction of the hangars themselves, and the construction sales tax that will come of that.”

The Puget Sound Regional Council recently completed a study of general aviation in the area that looked at other area airports to find out what space is out there for development, and discovered limited expansion opportunities for the general aviation flyer.

Under the general aviation tent, Arndt said, are weekend hobby fliers, flight-training aviation businesses, and whatever is not commercial or parcel-type delivery.

As Airport Manager Tim Mensonides said, by providing more of those hangars, the city would relieve pressure on Boeing Field and Sea-Tac Airport. And by pulling aviation-related businesses into those box hangars, the city would realize long-term economic gains by providing jobs and more.

Here is what the developer has in mind.

• Site A: T-hangars for general aviation fliers on roughly 3 quarters of an acre.

• Site B: Box hangars on 1.5 acres with an apron for businesses operating out of their interior spaces, extending out to the taxiway and fence.

“Our current waiting list (for the existing T-hangars) just at Auburn is 84 people deep waiting for hangars as of today,” Mensonides said. “There are other airports in the area that have completely shut down their waiting lists because of the demand. We actually met with another airport last week, and they’re displacing over 124 tenants, who are looking to come to our airport or closer.”

“We’re taking a small step to filling [that need], and undoubtedly, we will fill those hangars very quickly,” Mensonides added..

“The waiting list is for the T-hangers that are on the airport, those hangars are several years old, and we rate those lesser than the newer hangars, which will be newer and nicer,” Arndt said.

Public Works Director Ingrid Gaub said the city can’t accommodate all 84 people on the waiting list because it doesn’t have room for them, so it’s making the most of the land it has.

Each lease will be for 30 years, which is fairly typical for aviation land leases today.

During the construction phase of the top-of-the-line hangars, Arndt said, the city won’t charge rent.

“Our cost estimate for the two projects is between $4 million and $5 million, which is a lot of money to put out for civil development and construction of the hangars … Rent kicks in at final occupancy, or at a date on or around May 1, 2022. So, roughly a year-and-a half for them to get in from start to finish,” Arndt said.

Once rent comes in, Arndt said, the city will charge the first year at 82.5 cents per square foot per year, which, he said, is equal to what a fair-market appraisal in 2019 showed market rents to be locally. Ownership of improvements to the hangar will revert to the city once the 30-year leases run their course.

The proposed lease agreements also give the city and its airport approval authority over any potential subtenants of the box hangars.

Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six, N5566J: Accident occurred November 24, 2020 near Donaldson Center Airport (KGYH) , Greenville County, South Carolina

 This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; West Columbia, South Carolina

Location: Greenville, SC 
Accident Number: ERA21LA054
Date & Time: November 24, 2020, 15:30 Local
Registration: N5566J
Aircraft: Piper PA32 
Injuries: 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 24, 2020, about 1530 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA32-260, N5566J, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Greenville Donaldson Field (GYH), Greenville, South Carolina. The pilot sustained serious injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to the pilot, he flew to GYH to “do some traffic pattern work.” The airplane was cleared for a left closed traffic pattern and landed on runway 05. After the second landing, he was instructed to fly a right traffic pattern due to incoming traffic from the west. The tower controller cleared the pilot to extend the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, to avoid the inbound traffic that was on the final approach leg of the traffic pattern. The pilot acknowledged the tower controller’s instructions and proceeded. During the extended downwind leg, the engine began to lose power. The pilot attempted to restore full power and turned directly to the airport while notifying the tower controller of his emergency. During that time, the pilot “verified fuel selector, turned fuel pump on, cycled mags, verified mixture full rich, pulled carb heat, and checked gauges.” According to the pilot the engine “never seemed to have quit running but would not make power no matter what I did.” The airplane subsequently collided with a building during a descending turn. The left wing separated, and the fuselage was substantially damaged.

The airplane was recovered for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper 
Registration: N5566J
Model/Series: PA32 260 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: GYH,955 ft msl
Observation Time: 15:17 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 12°C /-1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.31 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Pickens, SC (LQK)
Destination: Greenville, SC (GYH)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Serious 
Latitude, Longitude: 34.742081,-82.383549 (est)


Chattanooga Airport (KCHA) Police Finds Kidnapping Case Sketchy

Police were called by a man who reported an incident that officers determined did not occur in their district, but rather at 1001 Airport Road.

Officers asked dispatch to give the call to the Chattanooga Airport Police. 

The dispatcher of the Chattanooga Airport Police called the officer and told him that the matter didn't seem real and that he wasn't going to dispatch the call to his officers. 

The police officer told him that it could have been real, but he said it couldn't be.

The man who reported the incident said that his wife and two sons were possibly kidnapped from the Chattanooga Airport when their plane landed.

He said that they got picked up in a van at the airport and he didn't know where they were now.

The man said he did not have any information about his wife or sons.

Later it was discovered that the man was not married to her, but that they were going to be married and that the "sons" were actually the woman's sons, and he didn't know their names. 

Regardless of the misinformation, the police officer believed that this needed to be looked into, but the Chattanooga Airport Police dispatcher did not think so.

Man charged with crashing Brunswick Executive Airport (KBXM) gate, striking plane

A Brunswick man is facing charges after allegedly driving through a gate at Brunswick Executive Airport and striking a plane with a vehicle, according to police.

Police say they have charged Robert Cooper, 22, with aggravated criminal mischief, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years incarceration and a $5,000 fine.

Cooper was also charged with criminal trespass, leaving the scene of a property damage crash and operating without a license, Class E misdemeanors punishable by up to six months incarceration and a $1,000 fine.

He is scheduled to appear in Cumberland County Superior Court on March 16.

According to police, some time on January 13 or 14, a vehicle crashed through a gate at the airport located in Brunswick Landing, a former Navy base. The vehicle struck the nose of a plane parked on the tarmac before hitting another fence and leaving, police said.

Police said they were tipped off to Cooper’s alleged involvement by someone who saw media reports regarding the incident. “Cooper was completely cooperative with the investigation,” police stated.

According to Brunswick Police Chief Scott Stewart, damage to the airplane will cost at least $3,000 to repair. There is no estimate yet as to the cost of the damage to the airport gate and fence.

Brunswick Police

Hollywood man gets probation, fine for operating drone that hit police helicopter

A Hollywood man was sentenced Monday, April 12, to probation and fined $500 for recklessly operating a drone that crashed into a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter and forced an emergency landing. 

Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor charge of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft.

Federal prosecutors have said this is the first time in the nation the unmanned-aircraft charge was deployed.

During the early morning hours of Sept. 18, LAPD officers were dispatched on a burglary call to a Hollywood pharmacy. They requested air support.

As an LAPD helicopter approached the pharmacy, the pilot saw the drone and attempted to evade it.

The drone struck the helicopter, forcing the pilot to initiate an emergency landing. The drone damaged the helicopter’s nose, antenna and bottom cowlings, according to court papers, which say that “if the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down.”

LAPD officers located parts of the drone near the pharmacy. A review of the drone’s camera and SD card led to the identification of Hernandez as the drone’s operator.

The FBI executed a search warrant in late October at Hernandez’s home, and he admitted to flying the drone on Sept. 18 after he heard police vehicles and an approaching helicopter just after midnight. Hernandez said he flew his drone “to see what was going on,” according to court papers.

Hernandez’s arrest in November came during National Drone Safety Awareness Week, sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration.

LOS ANGELES – A Hollywood man pleaded guilty today to a federal criminal charge that he recklessly operated a drone that crashed into and damaged the fuselage of a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter.

Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft.

According to his plea agreement, on September 18, 2020, at approximately 12:18 a.m., Hernandez heard police vehicles driving near his residence and a police helicopter flying overhead. Curious about the commotion, Hernandez launched a drone that he owned toward the police activity and in the helicopter’s direction.

An LAPD helicopter operated by two police officers was flying towards a reported emergency at a pharmacy in Hollywood. As the helicopter approached the pharmacy, the pilot saw the drone and attempted to evade the unmanned aircraft.

Despite the evasive efforts, the drone stuck the helicopter, forcing the pilot to initiate an emergency landing. According to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint in this case, “if the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down.”

LAPD officers located parts of the drone near the pharmacy and discovered a vehicle damaged by the drone as it fell from the sky. Further investigation, including a review of the drone’s camera and secure digital (SD) card, led to the identification of Hernandez as the drone’s operator, according to court documents.

United States District Judge George H. Wu scheduled an April 12 sentencing hearing, at which time Hernandez will face a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison.

The investigation in this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the LAPD, with the assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration. This conviction is believed to be the nation’s first criminal conviction for the unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.

Hawker 800XP, N191GH: Two Police Officers and Others Face Cocaine Trafficking Charges in Miami, Florida


Virgin Islands Police Officer and National Guardsman Shakim Mike was aboard a charter plane laden with more than 700 pounds of cocaine when it touched down in Miami on Tuesday night, and is among several current and former Virgin Islands law enforcement agents detained or charged in connection with the alleged drug trafficking conspiracy, according to court records and V.I. Police.

At least six people have been implicated in connection with the cocaine trafficking operation, and Mike and three others — Maleek Leonard, Roystin David and Trevon Adams — have each been charged with one count of attempt to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, according to documents filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

V.I. Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor also said that Police Officer Teshawn Adams has been detained in Florida as part of the investigation, as well as former V.I. Port Authority officer Jakelah Adolphine.

Mike and Adams passed standard background checks and “they both worked until these incidents, so there was no indication by VIPD that they were involved in any illegal activities,” Velinor said.

Both men graduated from the V.I. Police Academy in December 2016 and became members of the St. Thomas-St. John District police force, and both serve with the Special Operations Bureau and earn a yearly base salary of $42,182.

Adolphine graduated from the V.I. Police Academy in December 2018.

Port Authority spokeswoman Monifa Brathwaite confirmed Wednesday that Adolphine worked as a Port Authority peace officer for a year and nine months, and was fired in February. Brathwaite said she could not disclose the reason for his termination.

All three have also served in the V.I. National Guard.

Mike is a specialist with eight years of service, and Adams is a specialist who has nine years of service, according to National Guard State Public Affairs Officer Marcia C. Bruno.

Bruno said that Adolphine “is no longer a member of VING, since December 2019.”

Homeland Security Investigations is the lead agency on the case, and a special agent filed an affidavit Wednesday detailing the circumstances of the bust in Miami.

On Tuesday, a chartered Hawker 800XP plane arrived at the Opa Locka Executive Airport in Miami from St. Thomas. While performing baggage inspection, United States Customs and Border Protection Officers discovered 294 plastic-wrapped bricks of cocaine inside several duffel bags and suitcases, according to the affidavit. The bricks weighed a total of 328.79 kilograms, or just under 725 pounds.

The only passengers of the private aircraft were David, Leonard, and Mike, along with another individual identified only as “Target 1,” and all passengers are U.S. citizens residing on St. Thomas, according to the affidavit.

While CBP officers were performing the baggage inspection, “Mike fled the airport,” according to the affidavit. Investigators interviewed Target 1, who “explained he had arranged with Mike to smuggle the cocaine to the United States via a private charter flight from St. Thomas,” and Mike had paid half the flight fees of $11,000 and later gave Target 1 another $11,000 in money orders.

Target 1 said Trevon Adams would be traveling from Tampa to Miami “to pick up the conspirators and drive them to Orlando along with the cocaine,” according to the affidavit.

Leonard told investigators that Mike had recruited him about three days earlier to help transport the cocaine, and David said that “he knew Target 1 and Mike from his work within the U.S. Army National Guard,” according to the affidavit. “David claimed that he did not know the bags contained cocaine, but he admitted that he helped carry and load the bags into the plane prior to takeoff on St. Thomas.”

David is employed as a tax return controller with the V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau, according to the V.I. Personnel Division database. IRB Director Joel Lee and Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. did not respond to questions from The Daily News on Wednesday.

David gave consent for law enforcement to search his phone, which had messages between him and Target 1 discussing drug trafficking, including “references to ‘moving product,’ ‘recruiting flight attendants,’ ‘invest all the money from our bricks,’ ‘meeting the big dogs in Santo Domingo,’ and ‘living off the airport trips,’” according to the affidavit. “David also said the last words he heard from Mike before he absconded were: ‘Oh s..., I think we should run.’ ”

Trevon Adams voluntarily agreed to surrender and told investigators he was going to be paid $9,000 to $10,000 for transporting the passengers and the cocaine, according to the affidavit. Investigators conducted a controlled call between Mike and Target 1, during which a CBP officer interrupted and asked Mike to voluntarily surrender, which he did.

During his interview, Mike “explained that in December 2020, an individual in St. Thomas had approached Target 1 about smuggling narcotics aboard a private flight,” according to the affidavit. “Target 1 offered Mike $60[000] to $70,000 for his role in the smuggling venture,” and Mike admitted that he’d helped pack the cocaine for the flight.

Authorities also arrested a man named Anthon Berkeley, who was charged under a separate complaint after he admitted to driving from Orlando to Miami to pick up a kilo of the cocaine, and expected to be paid $18,000 to deliver it to the ultimate buyer.

Past troubles

The case echoes that of a similar trafficking operation in which former Department of Planning and Natural Resources peace officer Gerald Mercer solicited the help of Neal Chesterfield, a former security officer in the Governor’s Office, who used his security credentials to bypass airport screenings and smuggle cocaine on flights to the mainland between 2014 and 2016.

Mercer was squeezed out of the conspiracy by Nilda Morton, and in revenge, he tipped off federal authorities on September 3, 2016, that Chesterfield would be transporting drugs through King Airport on St. Thomas. Federal agents arrested Chesterfield as he was carrying a bag with nearly 50 pounds of cocaine and almost $27,000 in cash.

Mercer’s tip led to a cascade of arrests in a case dubbed “Smuggler Smash” by law enforcement. The investigation led to the forfeiture of more than $2 million and 22 convictions, including four airline employees, and the court imposed prison sentences ranging from 30 months to 16 years.

The timeline authorities believe Mercer was active in drug smuggling overlapped with that of Roberto Tapia, DPNR’s former director of environmental enforcement who was at the helm of a cocaine trafficking ring that spanned the territory, British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Tapia arranged drug deals while working and in uniform, according to court records. He was arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents on St. Thomas in May 2013 after returning aboard a ferry from St. John with more than 7 kilograms of cocaine in a backpack. He pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced in April 2014 to 70 months in prison.

The V.I. National Guard has also suffered its own share of scandal in recent years, and a federal report released in 2019 found that the culture of sexual abuse, fraud, and misconduct cultivated over decades resulted in a chaotic, disorganized environment in which training and actual military operations suffered.

No indications of trouble

Velinor and V.I. Police spokesman Toby Derima said Wednesday that they are unable to provide any details about the latest ongoing federal investigation, including whether there is any connection to a recent, record-breaking cocaine bust in the British Virgin Islands that involved members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police.

Velinor did say that there are no initial indications other officers were participating in cocaine smuggling, and “we don’t want to cast a wide net and say there are more officers involved.”

But if other officers are implicated as the investigation continues, Velinor said he will be happy to see anyone involved prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of their status as law enforcement agents.

“We have to continue to work towards building trust and it means getting rid of officers, terminating officers that are involved in activities that are unbecoming — and where we can, we will prosecute those officers,” Velinor said.

As members of the department’s Special Operations Bureau, Mike and Teshawn Adams are “hands-on, they engage in making arrests, following up on alleged violations,” Velinor said.

They make frequent appearances at advice -of-rights hearings in V.I. Superior Court to testify about whether police had sufficient probable cause to conduct traffic stops and searches, and make arrests, and Mike in particular “was an active officer, so for him to be involved in this type of activity is disheartening,” Velinor said.

Mike and Adams are still in Florida, and both are on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the case, Velinor said.

It remains to be seen whether the officers’ alleged criminal activity might compromise prosecutions or convictions stemming from arrests they made over the last four years, particularly in drug cases.

“Allegations of criminal misconduct committed by police officers can have a significant effect on any case or cases in which they were arresting officers. It also has a direct impact on the credibility of the law enforcement officer,” V.I. Attorney General Denise George told The Daily News on Wednesday. “However, It is too early in this matter to determine what the impact of the arrests would have on pending prosecutions. It would require our office to conduct a thorough review of the cases in which the officers are involved.”

Teshawn Adams

Virgin Islands Police Officer Shakim Mike

Miami, Florida – South Florida federal prosecutors have charged two U.S. Virgin Islands police officers and four others with drug trafficking crimes after federal agents discovered more than 300 kilograms of cocaine being carried inside travel bags on a private passenger flight from the Virgin Islands to Miami this week.   

Criminal complaints filed in federal court identify the defendants as Teshawn Adams, 26, Tevon Adams, 26, Anthon Berkeley, 26, Roystin David, 28, Maleek Leonard, 27, and Shakim Mike, 29. Teshawn Adams and Mike live in St. Thomas and are officers with the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department. David and Leonard also live in St. Thomas. Tevon Adams lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Berkeley lives in Orlando.  

The criminal complaint affidavits allege the following: Teshawn Adams accepted an offer from someone in the Virgin Islands to transport cocaine to South Florida in exchange for money. Together with fellow police officer Mike, Teshawn Adams arranged a private flight from the Virgin Islands to South Florida. On January 12, the two officers boarded the jet, joined by defendants David and Leonard and travel bags containing more than 300 kilograms of cocaine. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers discovered the cocaine, packaged as 294 individually plastic-wrapped bricks, during a security check: They saw the bricks on the screen of the X-ray machine that scanned the men’s bags at the Opa Locka Executive Airport on arrival. Tevon Adams, twin brother to one of the police officers, and Berkeley stood ready to transport the jet travelers and the cocaine from the Opa-Locka Airport to other areas of Florida, alleges the complaint affidavits. 

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Vernon T. Foret, Director of Miami and Tampa Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), made the announcement.

HSI and CBP investigated the matter, with assistance from Miami-Dade Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Yeney Hernandez is prosecuting this case.

Criminal complaints are accusations that contain allegations.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

You may find the criminal complaints and related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or at, under case numbers 21-mj-02049, 21-mj-02050 and 21-mj-02066.  

Southern Airways Express to continue subsidized service at Bradford Regional Airport (KBFD)

MOUNT ALTON, Pennsylvania — The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected Southern Airways Express, the current airline, to continue providing Essential Air Service at the Bradford Regional Airport.

The two-year contract expires in November 2022.

Essential Air Service is a federal program that guarantees small communities maintain commercial air service. A subsidy is provided to the airlines that prevents the service from operating at a loss.

In a report to the Bradford Regional Airport Authority Wednesday morning, Airport Manager Alicia Dankesreiter said that jet fuel sales have increased, due in large part to the Boeing 737 that has brought basketball teams to play at St. Bonaventure University. “This has been a pleasant surprise since we didn’t expect to see any planes of that size here,” she said.

Ryan Dach, Bradford Station Manager and Southern’s manager of stations, gave the December airline report, which showed 128 enplanements and 132 deplanements for a daily average of 4.8 passengers. He said a lot of that was due to the Pitt-Bradford students going home for Thanksgiving, and then not returning, as they were studying in virtual sessions.

Eighty-six percent of the scheduled 107 flights were completed. Fourteen were cancelled due to weather; two due to maintenance.

Southern’s Chief Operations Officer Mark Cestari was also present at this meeting. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, and directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Pennsylvania’s governor delayed the start of service from Bradford to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. “They have had a chilling effect on holiday travel,” he said.

“Luckily, though, we’re in a good cash position and haven’t had to lay off employees like the big airlines.”

While Cestari noted the recent resignation of the U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. He said President-Elect Joe Biden’s nominee to replace her, Pete Buttigieg, is interested in mass transit and electric cars, but has no background in aviation. “We hope he doesn’t interfere with the EAS program,” he said.

Brian Wolfel of GAI Consultants, the airport’s engineering firm, spoke about a problem with the regulator on the terminal’s boiler system.

In personnel matters, John Satterwhite, authority secretary, was reappointed to a five-term.

One vacancy exists on the authority. Ron Dankesreiter of Cameron County resigned last year.

Authority Chairman Cliff Lane appointed a nominating committee chaired by Rob Huber.

Stop Signature Flight Support from bullying the Airline History Museum at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (KMKC)

Airline History Museum at Kansas City Wheeler Downtown airport, needs your help. The Airline History Museum and Lockheed Constellation have been a landmark of Kansas City since 1986. Signature Flight Support wants to close the museum. Why...You might ask? Well we don’t know. We are written into the master lease and are a tenant through 2050 as part of that lease. Signature does not pay rent to the city for our property but are demanding that we pay rent to them.

For years there have been tens of thousands of square feet of empty hangars which Signature controls. With the removal of the VOR, there are acres of vacant land to build new hangars. There are areas that are rented out for non-aviation use, yet Signature is pressuring the museum to vacate.

So we need your help to ask the Aviation Department - WHY? Why is the Aviation Department and the City allowing this? Why has the Aviation Department and City Council allowed Signature to take $500,000 meant for our museum? Why does Signature refuse to return $61,500 in wrongfully collected rent.

Please ask City Councilwoman Teresa Loar, - WHY? Please ask Director of Aviation for KCMO Patrick Klein, - WHY? Please ask Wheeler Downtown Airport Manager Melissa Cooper, - WHY? Please ask Signature – WHY?

This isn't a request for money or donations, this is a request to bring awareness to the fact that the Airline History Museum is written into the new 2005 Master Lease to remain at its current location "as long as it remains a non-profit", however Signature is trying to use the terms of a terminated sublease from 2000 in an attempt to pressure the museum to close. The Kansas City Aviation Department has acknowledged the situation and agreed with the AHM but will not step in and right the wrong.

We cannot allow a Large Corporation to bully the city and our museum.

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