Monday, February 15, 2021

Chautauqua County files suit against companies that operated at airports

Chautauqua County has filed three lawsuits against the companies that operated out of the county airports.

In State Supreme Court, the county filed a lawsuit against Jamestown Aviation, LLC, one against Dunkirk Aviation Sales and Services, Inc. and one against Dunkirk Aviation Management, LLC. All three were filed January 28.


In the lawsuit against Jamestown Aviation, the county notes it had a lease agreement with them relating to real property at the Jamestown Airport. The defendant terminated the lease on January 31, 2020. The county alleges the following damage at the property:

Building J FBO Office – Water damaged ceiling tiles and stained carpets; several lights and lens covers missing and/or damaged beyond repair; rotted threshold on door in back office; cracked window on the ramp side of the Fixed Based Operation office (was covered by dirty stickers); and dirty and chipped paint.

Hangar J FBO Hangar – Hangar door and man doors have fully deteriorated and must be replaced and light bulbs need replacement.

Hangar L (hangar space) – Hangar doors need repair and servicing; chipping and peeling interior paint; rust at base of structural steel columns; block walls are contaminated with mold and mildew; all exterior man doors have fully deteriorated and are not compliant with state fire codes, and must be replaced; and interior doors to the shop and office need new hardware.

Hangar L (shop/office) – Extensive amount of paint is chipped and peeling; block walls are deteriorating due to mold and mildew; exterior doors are inoperable due to rust and omitted maintenance and are in violation of state fire code; restrooms need new fixtures; other plumbing issues; and heating ducts are rusted and gas supply line has been modified in violation of building codes.

In the suit, the county seeks judgment in an amount to be determined upon the trial of the lawsuit.

On the Jamestown Aviation’s website, the company writes, “After serving the community since 2000, Jamestown Aviation has decided it is time to let someone else provide FBO flight support at the Jamestown Airport. As of January 31st, 2020 we have officially closed our doors. We have immensely enjoyed serving our loyal customers and hope that you will continue to visit us at Chautauqua Aircraft Sales, Inc. & Dunkirk Avionics LLC where services will continue uninterrupted.” The phone number listed on the website is not in service.


In the lawsuit against Dunkirk Aviation Sales & Services, Inc., the county notes it had a lease agreement with them relating to real property at the Dunkirk Airport. The county alleges the defendant wrongfully terminated the lease agreement as of October 31, 2017 in breach of the terms and conditions, which require the defendant to be responsible for all the repairs and maintenance of the least premises.

When the county returned October 31, 2017, it alleged the following issues:

Hangar No. 1 – Exit sign is missing; main electrical distribution panel is not labeled and has no evidence/record of required inspections/service; exterior paint is peeling; hangar door electrical/mechanical controls work intermittently and require manual operation to remain engaged; hangar door binds and occasionally hangs up; and the hangar is not currently suitable for lease/revenue generation due to unreliable condition of the bi-folding doors.

Hangar No. 2 – Hangar door electrical/mechanical controls work intermittently and require manual operation to remain engaged; hangar door binds and occasionally hangs up; the hangar is not currently suitable for lease/revenue generation due to unreliable condition of the bi-folding doors; and the exterior paint is peeling.

Hangar No. 4 – Exterior lighting is not functioning, and the hangar door seal is worn, allowing moisture intrusion.

Hangar No. 5 – Roof leaks in several areas; insulation is water-logged and deteriorated; and the exterior asphalt shingle siding and roofing is loose and presents hazards to nearby aircraft.

Hangar No. 6 – Interior lighting is out in areas; the exterior metal sheathing is damaged at building corner(s); the hangar door’s drive train is worn causing frequent door jamming and malfunction; and the leaking drive train oil indicates neglected maintenance and failing function.

FBO Office building – Insulation has separated from interior walls due to moisture intrusion (leaks); rust is forming along wall-floor joint; and the heating units are inoperable and beyond economic repair.

The county also notes Dunkirk Aviation Sales and Services remains the owner of an underground fuel system and tanks that are still located on the leased premises. “The defendant was responsible, as the registered owner of its remaining fuel system and tanks, for the permanent closing of the facility, including the potential removal of underground storage tanks, as may be required by applicable state and federal law,” the county wrote in the lawsuit.

Because Dunkirk Aviation Sales and Services failed to permanently close the fuel system and tanks, the county was required to, at a cost of $53,306.

The county states it seeks judgment against the defendant in an amount to be determined upon the trial of the action.

A company official with Dunkirk Aviation Sales and Services was reached by phone and said they have not yet received the lawsuit and declined further comment. On the Dunkirk Aviation Sales and Services website, it states, “As of October 31st, 2017 we have officially closed our doors. We have immensely enjoyed serving our loyal customers and helping people experience the joy of flight. We hope that you will visit us at the Jamestown Airport (KJHW) where service provided by Dunkirk Avionics LLC, Jamestown Aviation Company LLC, and Chautauqua Aircraft Sales & Services, Inc. will continue uninterrupted.”


In its lawsuit against Dunkirk Aviation Management LLC, the county notes it had a lease agreement with them as the tenant relating to hangar space. The lease was terminated on February 1, 2018.

The county alleges that according to the lease, Dunkirk Aviation Management was responsible for the taxes, however the defendant had outstanding real property taxes and assessments.

The county also states that Dunkirk Aviation Management was responsible for repairs and maintenance of the hangar building.

After the lease ended, the county noted there were damaged or missing windowpanes, inoperable hangar bay lights, and inoperable hangar heating units, which the defendant was allegedly responsible to repair or replace.

The county states it seeks judgment against the defendant in an amount to be determined upon the trial of the action.

Dunkirk Aviation Management does not have a separate website or phone number listed.

County Attorney Stephen Abdella confirmed the three individual lawsuits, but declined further comment.

William J. Hughes Tech Center research vital to safely fly COVID vaccines to world

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, New Jersey — Dry ice is widely known as the substance that creates the illusion of smoke in theater productions, but it is also used to keep things very cold — like COVID-19 vaccines.

When a lot of vaccine had to be transported quickly all over the world, there were concerns about the safety of dry ice — the solid form of carbon dioxide — and how it might affect pilots and others as it heated up and released CO2 gas, said Shelley Yak, director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Tech Center here.

The tech center stepped in to help.

“Through our research, the FAA was able to give guidelines on what levels of dry ice they can safely transport,” Yak said. “We did it in record time.”

It is one part of a complex web of research done at the tech center, Yak said.

She talked about the work of the center Friday, a few days after releasing an updated study showing the FAA and its tenants pump about $900 million a year into the economy of South Jersey’s seven counties, roughly double the amount of just five years ago, and provide 5,240 jobs.

The economic impact of the center is studied every few years, after something changes and the center needs to get a handle on how those changes play out, Yak said. This study was spurred by the addition of the National Aviation Research and Technology Park’s first building opened in 2019, and by the expansion of activities by the Federal Air Marshals Service, according to the report. They are two of seven major tenants of the FAA.

Almost 70% of the economic benefits occurred within Atlantic County, the report said.

Yak said Friday that it’s important for people who live in the region to know the facilities’ impact, and to understand the importance of the work that goes on there.

The work on what’s called “dry ice sublimation” — or what happens when dry ice moves from its solid to gaseous form — was done by the same tech center research group that has researched how to safely fly lithium batteries, Yak said.

Lithium batteries have been known to start fires on aircraft.

“(Lithium batteries) going into thermal runaway is not something you want to happen in the cargo of aircraft,” Yak said. “We have been assessing what does it take to go into it, and how to prevent it. Now we are also doing research on halon (a fire suppressant gas used in cargo holds) and how to put out fires more effectively if they occur.”

The center has also spearheaded development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, called NextGen. It is the FAA’s “modernization of America’s air transportation system to make flying even safer, more efficient and predictable,” according to the FAA website.

Work done at the center includes improving communication between pilots and air traffic controllers so routes can be shortened for safety and fuel savings, Yak said.

Among many other things, their work allowed communication to happen via texts rather than voice only, Yak said, lessening the chance of miscommunication.

“I love to talk about our core work. ... The work is who we are and what we do,” Yak said. “But, it’s the jobs, people and employees that make a difference to the local region.”

Yak said the workforce at the tech center and its tenants ... includes a lot of people with college degrees that bring in higher incomes and give back to their communities.

The center also provides opportunities for high school and college students to get internships and learn about the aviation industry and STEM careers in general, she said.

The report, “The Economic Impact of the William J. Hughes Technical Center on Southern New Jersey: Update 2020,” was released in October and looked at the economic effects of the tech center and its tenants in 2019. It was prepared by Robert D. Niehaus, Inc. of Santa Barbara, California.

Tenants include the Atlantic City International Airport, the National Aviation Technology and Research Park, the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th and more.

The 2020 report updated previous economic analyses of the center completed in 1999, 2002, and 2015.

The Uberization of Private Jets Might Be Here to Stay

More executives are flying in business jets than before Covid-19, which could eventually reshape trends in small-aircraft manufacturing

The Wall Street Journal
By Jon Sindreu
February 15, 2021 6:32 am ET

The sharing economy started as a way to fill spare bedrooms and reuse old power drills. It now includes the rich flying around in private jets.

Last week, troubled Canadian manufacturer Bombardier said it would cease production of its storied Learjet before the end of 2021, and would cut 1,600 jobs. The writing had been on the wall for the light-jet line for some time, as buyers shifted toward heavier private planes.

Ironically, some now see better prospects for the Learjet’s market segment than for most in the embattled aviation industry. Analysts at Jefferies expect private aircraft deliveries to rise 10% this year, after a 24% decline in 2020, led by light and medium-size jets. Heavy ones are forecast to keep falling.

This is partly because of travel restrictions on long-range destinations, but it could also be an early sign of yet another transformation within private aviation.

Last week, Dubai-based private-aviation company Vista Global said new members for its VistaJet subscription service, in which customers pay per hour flown and have guaranteed access to a plane within 24 hours, increased 29% last year. Its sister brand XO tripled its sales of new memberships.

Business jets are an infamously cyclical part of the aviation industry, but the Covid-19 crisis is different. Executives have embraced private planes as a way to protect their health and escape cumbersome checks at commercial airports. Individuals are still traveling less, but private-jet trips have rebounded to around 2019 levels because more people are flying. Even some middle managers are taking private jets for the first time, charter firms say.

XO, which Vista Global incorporated after two 2019 acquisitions, is reminiscent of ride-hailing car services like Uber and Lyft : It allows customers to book seats on private-jet flights through a smartphone application, often sharing the plane with others. While this business model never quite took off before, it is thriving in the pandemic.

“Many corporations now have both types of service,” said Vista Global founder and chairman Thomas Flohr. “The chairman or the CEO are subscribing to a VistaJet membership, then the rest of the organization is on the XO level.”

Other companies with more traditional business models are also benefiting. Ohio-based NetJets, which offers fractional ownership of private planes, experienced a threefold increase in new customers last year, almost all of them through card services that allow customers to buy flight hours in 25-hour increments. The firm is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, and famously became a weak spot in its portfolio around the 2008 financial crisis.

Of course, demand could thin out as travel restrictions ease. But a chunk of the new customers are likely to stay. Ride-hailing firms are able to fill and turn their planes around more efficiently, just as low-cost airlines do, reducing costs and even some of the onerous environmental impact.

Because operators aren’t publicly listed, investors don’t have easy access to them, but they should still pay attention to their broader impact. If lower-ranking executives start hitching rides for smaller distances, light and medium-size jets could stage a comeback at the expense of other offerings.

“The new entrants we welcomed in 2020 are definitely more skewed towards the lower end,” said Patrick Gallagher, NetJets’ chief salesperson.

The average Joe may not be getting in a flying taxi any time soon. For the rich and their private jets, though, the Uber model may be the new reality.

Bell 206B JetRanger III, N13AT: Fatal accident occurred February 15, 2021 in Saint Thomas, Caribbean

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 Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Juan, Puerto Rico
Rolls Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana  

Caribbean Buzz Management LLC

Location: St Thomas, CB
Accident Number: ERA21FA130
Date & Time: February 15, 2021, 15:14 Local 
Registration: N13AT
Aircraft: Bell 206
Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Aerial observation

On February 15, 2021, about 1514 Atlantic Standard time , a Bell 206B-III, N13AT, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 sightseeing flight.

According to the Director of Operations, who was also a pilot for the operator, the accident flight was a planned 17-minute sightseeing flight around the island.

A witness standing in his front yard saw the helicopter fly over his house and out over the ocean. He stated the helicopter started to make a 180° turn back toward him. At that time, the witness pulled out his mobile phone and started recording a video of the helicopter flying toward him. The local terrain had steep slopes and he was located at the peak of a steep hill. Review of the video revealed that the terrain was ascending as the helicopter flew closer to the witness. About 6 seconds after the start of the video, a puff of dark-colored smoke emanated from the vicinity of the engine compartment, which dissipated in the helicopter’s rotor wash. The helicopter then abruptly yawed nose-left, after which the nose yawed right and the helicopter descended in a right turn toward the wooded terrain downhill from the witness.

The accident site was located in heavily wooded, steep terrain and came to rest upright oriented on a heading of about 200 degrees magnetic. The landing skids, main rotor system, main rotor drive system, engine, hydraulic system, and the forward portion of the tail rotor drive system were thermally damaged by the post-impact fire. The majority of the cockpit, cabin, and flight controls were consumed by fire. A portion of the tail boom, with the horizontal stabilizers attached, was embedded upright in a tree adjacent to the main wreckage. The aftmost portion of the tail boom, with the vertical fin and tail rotor, was found about 15 feet from the tail boom section.

The engine case showed no evidence of uncontained failure. The first and second stage compressor blades had no evidence of foreign object debris (FOD) ingestion. Two blades from the third stage compressor wheel had fractured near their respective root ends and were not present. The remainder of the third stage compressor blades were present but exhibited damage primarily on their trailing edges. For the fourth, fifth, and six stage compressor wheels, all blades were fractured near their root ends and were not present. The impeller inducer exhibited evidence of hard body FOD ingestion.

The wreckage was recovered and retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell 
Registration: N13AT
Model/Series: 206 B
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Commuter air carrier (135)
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: TIST, 24 ft msl 
Observation Time: 14:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 4 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 29.4°C /17.2°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 5500 ft AGL 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 12 knots / , 80°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 8 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.02 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: St. Thomas, USVI (STT) 
Destination: St Thomas, CB

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 18.354444,-65.027778

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

Maria Isabel Rodriguez-Van Heurck

From left, Neisher Zahn, Tyler and Daniel Yannone at the St. Thomas Reformed Church.

Tyler Yannone
October 31, 2002 - February 15, 2021

Tyler Dawson Yannone tragically passed away Monday afternoon on February 15, 2021, he went to be with his heavenly father along with his parents Daniel Yannone and Neisha Zahn at the age of 18.

He was born in St. Thomas Virgin Islands on October 31, 2002. Tyler was a miracle since birth. He had a strong passion for the Lord, and he was devoted to his church family. He enjoyed many things like outdoor adventures, scuba diving with his dad, and sailboat camping with friends. Tyler had a fondness for everything astronautical. He went to many space camps and learned so much about the stars in the sky and had a star named for his girlfriend AnaPia. He was set to graduate in May 2021 and he was going to continue his education at Embry Riddle in Florida to become a professional pilot. His dream was to return to St. Thomas Virgin Islands and open his own charter flight business. He was an avid photographer and was always up-to-date with the latest technology gadgets.

Tyler was preceded in death by his maternal grandfather Ronnie Zahn.

He is survived by paternal grandparents Richard and Mary Yannone, aunt Lisa and uncle Paul Rosati, uncle Tony and aunt Kit Yannone, and aunt Michele and uncle Ryan Nespeca. Maternal grandmother Lana Zahn, uncle Kyle and Amy Zahn, and cousins, Alan and Allie Zahn, Rachel and Kleat Smith, and Nick Zahn.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to St. Thomas Reformed Church.

Neisha Zahn
April 1, 1968 - February 15, 2021

Neisha Kay Zahn 52, tragically passed away Monday afternoon on February 15, 2021, along with her husband Daniel Yannone and son Tyler Yannone.

Neisha is resting with her heavenly father now.

Neisha was born in Lubbock Texas on April 1 of 1968.  She grew up at Buffalo Springs Lake, attended Roosevelt High School and graduated Texas Tech University with an accounting degree. She arrived in St. Thomas in 1991 and married Daniel Yannone in 1994, whom she met at Club Z.  She had many jobs before she opened Beep Business in 1995. Later she opened a boutique called Nolas on the island. Neisha is an active member of the St. Thomas Reformed Church and attends Buffalo Community Church when visiting Lubbock. She has been a great comfort to her mom since the passing of her father. Neisha’s soft spirit and loving presence will be missed by many.
She was preceded in death by her father Ronnie Zahn. Paternal grandparents Mille & Pete Zahn. Maternal grandparents Earl and Johnny Dawson.

Survived by her mother Lana Zahn, brother Kyle Zahn and wife Amy, nephew Alan Zahn and wife Allie, niece Rachel and husband Kleat Smith, nephew Nick Zahn, and her half-sister Gay Lynn Lee. Along with other numerous Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. Neisha was always drawn to the water.   

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Saint Thomas Reformed church or Buffalo Community Church.

Daniel Yannone
March 13, 1966 - February 15, 2021

Daniel R. Yannone 54, tragically died alongside his wife Neisha and son Tyler on Monday, February 15th, 2021. 

Daniel is now resting in eternal peace with our Lord.

Daniel was born in Youngstown Ohio on March 13th, 1966.  Though he was born and raised in Ohio, Daniel resided in St. Thomas for the past 30 years and considered the island his home, and everyone he encountered to be part of his extended family.  Daniel and Neisha were both very passionate about and committed to the community which they supported through a variety of endeavors.  They were proud owners of Beep Business Services, involved members of St. Thomas Reformed Church, engaged parents at Antilles where Tyler was a graduating senior and generous contributors to a variety of social causes close to each of them.  Daniel's energy, passion for life, generous spirit and sense of humor will be sadly missed.

Daniel was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents Anthony and Carmel Yannone and his maternal grandparents Theresa and Ralph Argenziano. He is survived by his parents Richard and Mary Yannone, sister Lisa Rosati (Paul), brother Tony Yannone (Kit) and sister Michele Nespeca (Ryan), neices Victoria and Natalie Rosati and Tessa and Erin Yannone and nephew Brian Yannone.   

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Saint Thomas Reformed Church.

Maria Isabel Rodriguez-Van Heurck
May 21, 1965 - February 15, 2021

Maria Isabel Rodriguez-Van Heurck, 55, of St. Thomas, died tragically in a helicopter crash on Monday, February 15, 2021.

Pending arrangements are under the care of Dan Hurley Home for Funerals and Cremation Centers of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix.

V.I. Fire Services Director Daryl A. George, Sr. was flanked Wednesday by representatives from a range of first responder agencies that he said mounted a coordinated search and rescue effort. 

A brief press conference from V.I. Fire Services Wednesday detailed the coordinated response effort that took about two days to recover the victims of Monday’s fatal helicopter crash on St. Thomas.

Fire Services Director Daryl A. George, Sr. said a collaboration of crews from Emergency Medical Services, St. Thomas Rescue, the V.I. Police Department, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and the V.I. Port Authority’s Fire and Rescue division helped establish a joint incident command center that helped responders clear a path to the crash site, near the Botany Bay preserve.

Fire Services initially received a call from Emergency 911 at approximately 3:15 p.m. on Monday about the crash and sent out its first responding unit from Tango Company, with more from the Echo and Hotel companies joining in after additional reports came in at 3:16 p.m. about heavy smoke coming from the area.

Crews of five were sent into “heavy, dense” vegetation, which George said later was cleared by St. Thomas Rescue volunteers with chainsaws, to locate the crash site. The site was found within 30 minutes, and fire teams began to extinguish the fire they found, afterward searching for victims. Four were found, identified by George Wednesday as pilot Maria Rodriguez and passengers Daniel Yanonne, Neisha Zahn and Tyler Yannone.

“Earlier reports stated there were five victims, so the crews continued to search,” George said. “After a long process of trying to determine if there was a fifth member, it was determined there were only four passengers at the airport.”

With VIPA updating the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration with information and waiting for guidance and approval to “retrieve” the victims, first responders suspended their efforts when darkness came as conditions in the area became unsafe.

George said that at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, crews were once again back at the scene, with recovery completed at approximately 9:47 a.m. after the Justice Department’s Medical Examiner and team transported the victims to Schneider Regional Medical Center.

Operating within a close-knit community, George said all responding this week were touched by the tragedy and offered condolences to the families and loved ones involved.

Tuesday, Rodriguez’s daughter and manager of Caribbean Buzz Helicopters Charlotte Van Heurck issued a statement on behalf of the company, whose team is “devastated by this accident and the subsequent loss of life.”

“Extensive research will be needed to learn exactly what caused the accident. Right now, we are focused on supporting the families of those lost,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the family of the passengers onboard during the accident that occurred yesterday, we cannot provide any further details at this time.”

Rodriguez was remembered by her daughter as a lifelong St. Thomas resident with more than 25 years of flight experience, who was extensively familiar with the aircraft, area, and flight-related conditions. She is survived by her husband and two children.

Wednesday, Antilles Head of School Liz Morrison also took time to reflect on Tyler Yannone, who was a member of the school’s Class of 2021.

“Tyler was a really kind, joyful, thoughtful, and genuine young man. I loved his passion for flying and the way that he was so authentic. Adolescence can be a messy time characterized by self-doubt and insecurity, but I never saw that in Tyler. He talked to everyone and was just as comfortable with adults as he was with his peers. He loved his parents and he loved life,” Morrison said.

“I admired the way he made a conscious decision to see the good in every situation and in all people. Every interaction with him left me feeling more positive and optimistic. I love the energy of people like that,” she added. “Throughout this challenging year of managing school during a pandemic, Tyler came to school every day with a positive attitude just grateful for the opportunity. He was certainly a model for all to follow.”

Students have also shared stories about their classmate’s character, she said.

“He wasn’t just a good, loyal friend. He took the time to talk to everyone,” Morrison said. “He took the time to talk to our younger Lower School students. He took the time to care about others in genuine ways. It was never fake or for show. It was because he cared. It is a rare human that is as kind and thoughtful as Tyler.”

Neisha Zahn (with Archie, the dog), Tyler Yannone and Daniel Yannone 

The St. Thomas Reformed Church has revealed the identities of the family of three who died during a helicopter crash at Botany Bay in St. Thomas Monday afternoon.

The church, which also said the family were members of its congregation, revealed the family to be Daniel Yannone and Neisha Zahn, and their son Tyler Yannone, who was a senior at Antilles School in St. Thomas. The church revealed the identities in a post on Facebook.

The other person on the helicopter, the pilot, has been revealed as Maria Rodriquez. Country singer Kenny Chesney published a heartfelt tribute to the deceased Rodriquez on his Facebook page.

"Tyler belonged to our church, to our XYG youth group; he and his parents Daniel & Neisha belonged and served this church and community in countless, unselfish ways; friends to so many," wrote the St. Thomas Reformed Church pastor, who was only identified as Jeff. "On this eve of Ash Wednesday, where we remember our mortality, I ask you all to join our faith community in prayer for Daniel, Neisha, Tyler and Maria (beloved pilot who many called “friend.”)"

The family, originally from Youngstown, Ohio, was the proprietor of Beep Business, a St. Thomas customs brokerage.

Rodriquez was an experienced pilot who owned Caribbean Buzz Helicopters. In 2018 Rodriguez earned the Pilot of the Year award from Helicopter Association International for her work in hurricane relief efforts following Irma and Maria the previous year. After Irma, Rodriguez flew countless support and relief missions, doing the same after Maria - according to HAI, once for 28 days straight. Rodriguez was well-known on St. Thomas, and because of her work came into contact with several high-profile individuals. She once flew the Obamas, and country singer Kenny Chesney counts her as a close friend.

The Consortium reported Monday night that four people had succumbed to injuries in the crash, which was confirmed today by Gov't House Communications Director, Richard Motta, during the administration's Covid-19 response update. The call came in to the 911 Emergency Call Center just after 3:00 p.m.

According to two people with knowledge of the search and rescue effort, emergency personnel resumed their work to recover the bodies early Tuesday after visibility diminished Monday night. Today, Mr. Motta confirmed that the bodies were recovered, though he wasn't clear on when. 

The response included a number of local and federal agencies. On the local side were the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), the V.I. Fire Service, the V.I. Port Authority and the V.I. Police Department. On the federal side, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board were present. St. Thomas Rescue was on site as well.

It has not yet been shared what caused the helicopter to go down.

Local officials late Monday and early Tuesday shared condolences. Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach, who is serving as acting governor while Governor Albert Bryan is away on a personal matter, said, “As the entire community tries to process this painful loss, I pray for comfort and strength for the families, friends, and loved ones of the passengers. The loss of these lives is so deeply felt, especially during a time when we are taking such measures to protect life during the ongoing pandemic which we face,”  he said.

He added, “I am extremely grateful for the collective response of emergency response teams who are to be commended and recognized for their efforts.” 

According to Mr. Roach, Governor Bryan expressed his condolences to the families impacted by Monday's unfortunate incident.  

Senate President Donna-Frett-Gregory stated, "We commend the efforts of the first responders, as this tragic event highlights the importance of providing them the resources needed to respond appropriately to emergencies.

“May the departed rest in peace, and may the families and friends be comforted and granted solace. May those who responded to the scene be given the strength needed to process what was faced and may our community lift them all in collective prayer.”

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett said, “I was deeply devastated to hear of yesterday’s helicopter crash in Botany Bay that claimed precious lives, including a family of 3. One of the passengers was a senior in my youngest son’s class at Antilles School and had a bright, beautiful future ahead of him.

“I offer my sincere condolences and prayers to the family members, loved ones and friends of each of the individuals that was onboard. This is a horrific tragedy that no one should have to face. I’d like to thank our local public servants, including St. Thomas Rescue, Director Daryl George and the V.I. Fire Service, the V.I. Police Department, and VITEMA for their courageous service to the people of the Virgin Islands.

“On behalf of my staff, my family and myself, our thoughts and fervent prayers for comfort, strength and peace are with the families and loved ones of the victims of this tragic incident.”

The death of pilot and helicopter crash victim, Maria Rodriguez is being described as a major blow to residents of Anegada here in the British Virgin Islands.

Rodriguez is one of four persons who perished in a helicopter crash in the neighboring US Virgin Islands on Monday afternoon. The other three deceased are all reportedly related to each other — a father, wife, and their son.

According to Ninth District Representative, Vincent Wheatley, Rodriguez is a friend of Anegada who was closely connected to the sister island for more than two decades.

Wheatley told our news center that after the September 2017 hurricanes devastated the BVI, Rodriguez spearheaded relief efforts for the sister island — using her helicopter to transport supplies to Anegada.

“I know she will be greatly and dearly missed by every single member of the Anegada community. The relief [supplies] came straight from Puerto Rico and she used her helicopter at no cost,” Minister Wheatley explained.

Rodriguez was employed to the USVI’s Caribbean Buzz Helicopters which offers a range of travel and leisure helicopter services.

According to the St Thomas Source, Rodriguez was piloting the helicopter at the time of Monday’s crash.

She along with the now-deceased passengers reportedly left the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and crashed in the Botany Bay area. The cause of the fatal crash is not yet clear.


$12 million plan for a luxury ‘fixed-base operation’ and fuel farm at Kalaeloa Airport (PHJR) questioned

A mainland aircraft services partnership with deep pockets plans to spend $12 million for a luxury “fixed-base operation” and fuel farm at Kalaeloa Airport that is many times larger than the locally run operation that’s there now.

Some in the aviation community who are familiar with the less-than-bustling airport are asking why.

Freeman Holdings of Hawaii seeks to do business at Kalaeloa as Million Air Honolulu. The Kansas- based Freeman Holdings Group works with Texas-based Million Air to operate FBOs around the country.

An FBO provides fueling, repair, pilot lounges and other aircraft services.

Freeman’s FBOs represent one of the largest civilian fuel providers to the U.S. government, the company said.

Million Air said on its website that with more than 1,500 employees, over $300 million invested, approximately $500 million in annual revenues and more than 800 aircraft within the leasehold of its facilities, “we have set the stage for award-winning standards” in the aviation industry.

A draft environmental assessment released this month by the state Department of Transportation said the FBO is “envisioned” as a metal-and-glass building that’s 310 feet long, 140 feet wide and 50 feet tall.

Conceptually, the business could have 30,000 square feet for a general aviation hangar and 8,000 square feet for a two-story office area with an executive airport terminal/lobby, conference room, pilot lounge, theater rooms and cafe and refreshment area.

The proposed fuel farm is anticipated to include up to eight 30,000-gallon above-ground Jet-A fuel tanks, for a total of 240,000 gallons of jet fuel, and one 15,000-gallon aviation gas tank.

The airport now has one 20,000-gallon Jet-A tank and a 10,000-gallon “Avgas” aviation fuel tank, according to the state. The draft environmental assessment says the new facilities will cost about $12 million to construct.

One likely reason for the interest is the overflow military aircraft traffic that comes to Kalaeloa — the former Naval Air Station Barbers Point — when Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam next to it are full.

Freeman Holdings makes no secret of its business model: It says on its website its FBO locations focus on “transient military, corporate and general aviation traffic.”

The company in 2018 announced it had added another FBO to its portfolio with the purchase of Million Air Medford in Oregon.

“Million Air Medford was a natural acquisition for us,” Scott Freeman, CEO of the Freeman Holdings Group, said in a release.

Among other attributes, the Medford FBO held a Defense Logistics Agency fuel contract and handled aircraft from as large as Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo jets to as small as fighters and helicopters for military customers.

“As an organization, we are always looking for underutilized airports across the country that would benefit from our involvement and private investment that would serve as a catalyst for increasing activity as these types of airports,” Freeman said in an email to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We have had a successful track record of accomplishing these goals at other airports where we currently operate. We have long had (Kalaeloa) on our list of potential growth locations, and after some due diligence, we felt it was a project worth pursuing.”

The Pacific is the Pentagon’s priority theater, and military activity in the region is increasing, although Freeman did not cite that as a reason for the new operation.

The state DOT previously said public-auction documents for a lease at Kalaeloa included questionnaires that would require Million Air Honolulu to disclose a business plan. The agency said Friday that information is confidential.

Regi Perry, who has run Barbers Point Aviation Services as the sole FBO at Kalaeloa since 2011, fears that he’ll be displaced by the much bigger operation.

“The moneymaker is jet fuel, and it’s the big (military) jets drinking it,” Brad Hayes, former director of the now-defunct Naval Air Museum Barbers Point, said in October about airport operations. The new FBO is moving into space where the museum was located.

The reason Million Air Honolulu wants to move in “is only for the government contracts. I will tell you that unequivocally,” Perry said at that time. “They are a government contract solicitor wherever there is a government contract. This is a big company.”

The military contract is up in about 16 months, and “Million Air is trying to establish a presence right now so they can build their hangar and they can bid the contract,” Perry previously said.

Others cite luxury jet traffic for stays at Ko Olina properties as a reason for Million Air Honolulu’s interest.

Pat McNamee, a retired United Airlines pilot and president of the General Aviation Council of Hawaii, said that’s “the dream, but it’s a long ways away from the reality.”

The airport, built during World War II, “needs a lot of things,” McNamee said. “The biggest thing is, it needs to be surveyed.”

Trees, buildings and mountains nearby need to be pinpointed. “When we build departure procedures and approach procedures to come in when the weather is bad, we need to know where all these things are,” he said. DOT Airports should pay for that, but “they won’t fund that,” he said.

The main runway is not grooved to channel away water when it rains, McNamee also noted. When it gets wet it becomes slippery.

“And you need more room to stop the airplane, and you need more room for takeoff in case you have to reject the takeoff at a high speed,” he said. Otherwise, a plane can skid off the end.

“The military has different requirements,” he added, and that’s why C-17 and C-130 cargo planes and KC-135 refueling tankers are regular visitors.

He also questions whe­ther Million Air Honolulu wants to move in to eventually compete with other FBOs at Honolulu airport. Perry previously said the airport “is a diamond in the rough. It can service every airplane because it’s got a long runway.”

He had his own plans to build a hangar for pilot and crew needs, among other services. Million Air offered to buy him out, he said, but that deal fell through as a result of state foot-dragging.

Perry said that before he began trucking fuel from near the Honolulu airport to Kalaeloa — there are no fuel lines to the smaller airport — overflow Air Force aircraft such as C-130s, C-5s and C-17s would sometimes have to land at the Marine Corps base or on Kauai or Maui.

“I facilitated everything to turn this airport around when nobody wanted it, because there was no gas,” he said. He added that “this airport cannot sustain two FBOs. It cannot.”

Retired Air Force Col. Rob Moore, who used to be active at the airport, said Perry going up against Million Air Honolulu is “like the mom-and-pop stores fighting with the big-box stores.”

The state draft environmental assessment for the Million Air Honolulu plan carries with it an “anticipated finding of no significant impact.”

The state DOT said a public auction was conducted Jan. 29 and that “finalization of the lease document is in process.” Rent initially will be about $211,000 annually.

Barbers Point Aviation Services and Barbers Point Flight School, both owned by Perry, hold contracts with the state at Kalaeloa Airport, DOT said. Perry pays the state $185,314.08 annually for rent, DOT said.

Two lots to be used by Million Air Honolulu encompass about 6 acres. “Our current project schedule is targeting the completion of the fuel farm by the 4th quarter of 2021,” Freeman said. “We are in the process of developing a project schedule for the FBO, but it’s our goal to have the FBO and attached hangar completed approximately 24 to 28 months thereafter.”

Boutique Air makes inaugural flight to Rapid City Regional Airport (KRAP)

Airline passengers traveling to and from Rapid City Regional Airport now have one additional option to schedule flights as Boutique Air made its inaugural landing from Chadron, Nebraska, Monday afternoon.

Boutique Air is a concierge-style airline, now offering daily flights between the two communities. At Chadron, passengers can fly on to Denver International Airport, through a code-sharing agreement with United Airlines.

At a Monday ribbon-cutting ceremony, Rapid City Regional Airport Executive Director Patrick Dame said Boutique Air's connection to Denver via Chadron is a great option for passengers who want to experience a different type of flight.

"It's an exciting opportunity. Not often do we get to announce a new airline coming into our market, so this is a really good opportunity for Rapid City and for our customers," Dame said.

The San Francisco-based airline says that it will offer rates comparable to other commercial flights. Boutique Air serves 30 small, mid-size and major cities nationwide.

The route between Rapid City and Chadron, and then from Chadron to Denver is flown on the airline's fleet of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. The nine-passenger turboprop plane adds a level of comfort and luxury for flyers, Boutique Air Marketing Director and Regional Manager Teresa Mesman said.

From check-in to landing, passengers will experience concierge-style services typically found on private planes, she said.

"We have a lot of features to offer a 'private for the cost of commercial' flight, and hope that everybody takes a trip to Chadron and then to Denver with us,"  Mesman said.

Boutique Air's ticket counter is located in the main departures area of the airport terminal. Once a passenger checks in and goes through security, Dame said they will head to Gate 6 in the concourse. Because of the type of aircraft Boutique uses, passengers board the plane at ground level.

Monday's inaugural flight was slightly delayed because of weather conditions in Denver. In spite of the delay, the flight from Chadron to Rapid City went smoothly with three passengers on board.

Brenda LeBlanc of Rapid City decided to take the flight from Denver to Chadron and then on to Rapid City because of a canceled flight with United Airlines. She said she enjoyed being able to fly on the smaller plane with a touch of luxury.

"It was a good experience, and I wasn't expecting the plane to be so small, so that was a little nerve-racking for me at first, but it was just fine once we got in the air," LeBlanc said. "The pilots were really nice. This was a good alternative for me and I'll definitely book it again."

Dame said the airport has heard from several people that they used to drive from Rapid City to Chadron to catch the Boutique Air flight to Denver. He said that speaks of the value and service that Boutique offers and that service is now going to be offered without having to drive 100 miles.

It also allows people flying out of Chadron to have more connections with carriers at Rapid City, Dame said.

"Anytime that we can improve the connectability for our customers into or out of Rapid City is a great opportunity for everybody here," he said.

Mesman said the airline hopes to keep Rapid City as a permanent destination. Boutique Air will start with one daily round-trip flight from Chadron to Rapid City.

“Rapid City has been a location we’ve really wanted to fly into for some time. It’s a jewel of tourism and business destinations for that part of the United States,” she told the Journal in January. “We’re very proud of knowing that we’re going to be part of the Rapid City airport. We’re excited to work with them.”

National Transportation Safety Board Probes Runway Steering Issues With High-End Piper Private Planes

United States air-crash investigators look for links among steering difficulties affecting certain Piper turboprop models

The Wall Street Journal 
By Andy Pasztor
Updated February 15, 2021 4:25 pm ET

U.S. crash investigators are examining half a dozen accidents in which private turboprop planes built by Piper Aircraft Inc. experienced difficulties with steering on runways after touchdowns.

The probe by the National Transportation Safety Board, which hasn’t been reported before, focuses on six events between December 2019 and January 2021 in which pilots of high-end Piper M600 aircraft reported loss of directional control while landing, according to a safety-board spokesman. Pilots involved in some of the accidents have expressed concern about potential problems affecting nose wheels.

All of the planes suffered damage after touching down on the runway, according to the NTSB spokesman; no fatalities or serious injuries were reported.

An informal group of M600 pilots involved in the accidents is pushing for government action, arguing the common link appears to be a nose-gear problem during otherwise normal touchdowns, causing the planes to veer from the center of the runway. Steering is controlled through pedals that also move the plane’s rudder, a vertical panel on the tail.

In two of the accidents, aviators at the controls said, efforts to control the direction of the nose failed as they careened off the strip, causing severe damage that resulted in scrapping aircraft that can cost about $3.5 million apiece.

A Piper spokeswoman and a lawyer for the company declined to comment on specifics, citing ongoing safety board investigations.

Based in Vero Beach, Florida, Piper has been producing propeller-powered planes since 1937 and currently markets models for business and personal uses. The manufacturer has been owned and managed by the government of Brunei for a decade.

The company has issued a handful of service bulletins over the past eight months calling for owners to take measures ranging from maintaining proper front tire pressure to stepped-up inspections, adjustments and sometimes replacement of parts affecting the nose gear. Piper M600 owners are demanding further explanations and data, while people familiar with the matter said the Federal Aviation Administration is considering issuing mandatory safety directives.

The NTSB spokesman said investigators were aware of the service bulletins and the replacement-parts issue. “We have not identified a single common issue present” in all the events, he said. The spokesman said three board staffers, including a metallurgist, are participating in the investigation. It isn’t clear how long it will last.

The FAA said it was monitoring the issue and declined to elaborate.

On February 4, Piper sent a letter to M600 owners saying the company was “reviewing some landing excursions with the 158 M600 fleet now operating world-wide.” The letter reiterated the importance of maintaining tire pressure and reminded owners that “through an abundance of caution,” Piper previously had urged inspections or adjustments of various nose-gear components.

Less than a week later, the company issued a service bulletin calling for further inspections and in some instances replacement of a key portion of the steering assembly with a “new, improved replacement assembly.” The replacement was supposed to occur within the next 50 hours of flight time. The top of the bulletin said: “Piper considers compliance mandatory.”

Referring to the so-called runway excursions, Andrew Lourake, a retired Air Force pilot who had a serious runway accident in July after landing an almost brand-new M600 at an airport in Titusville, Fla., said in an interview: “New planes aren’t supposed to do this.”

Investigators need to find answers to M600 steering problems, Mr. Lourake said, “if experienced pilots can’t keep them on the runway.”

The NTSB hasn’t issued a final report on Mr. Lourake’s accident. He told the safety board the nose wheel touched down normally but the plane veered sharply right and didn’t respond to his commands.

The latest single-engine M600 models include a safety feature that can take over a plane and land it automatically in an emergency. The system can manage aircraft speed and engine performance on its own, while computers are designed to communicate with air-traffic controllers, line up with the correct runway and extend landing gear—all without any human input. The emergency system, which Piper has marketed extensively, doesn’t appear to have any connection to the accidents, pilots and safety experts familiar with the matter said.

The investigation comes as the number of accidents involving private and business planes in the United States has remained stable for several years at around 1,200 annually, or nearly four a day.

Piper PA-46R-350T Matrix, N40TS: Fatal accident occurred February 13, 2021 in Tehachapi, Kern 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 Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Van Nuys, California
Lycoming Engines; Phoenix, Arizona
Piper Aircraft; Phoenix, Arizona 

Location: Tehachapi, CA 
Accident Number: WPR21LA111
Date & Time: February 13, 2021, 16:27 Local 
Registration: N40TS
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On February 13, 2021, about 1627 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA46R-350T airplane, N40TS, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Tehachapi, California. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

Preliminary flight track data revealed the airplane departed from Camarillo Airport (CMA), Camarillo, California, earlier that afternoon and traveled northeast climbing to about 10,000 ft mean sea level (msl). About 20 minutes into the flight, the airplane’s ground speed decreases followed by the airplane’s altitude decreasing to about 8,000 ft msl. The flight continued for about 12 minutes before dropping off radar. The final portion of the track showed the airplane in a steep descending left spiral.

Weather in the area of the accident site was reported as marginal visual flight rules (mvfr) due to low ceilings and visibility in light rain and mist with winds reported at 40 knots. The National Weather Service had advisories current for turbulence over the region and included G-AIRMET Tango and a Center Weather Advisory (CSA) which bordered the area for severe turbulence below 15,000 ft.

Concerned family members contacted the Federal Aviation Administration the following day and an Alert Notice (ALNOT) was issued for the missing airplane. The airplane was found on the morning of February 15th, in rugged steep terrain.

According to a family member, the pilot had flown this regular flight to Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH), Mammoth Lakes, California, where he had a home in the area. The family member also stated that the pilot had flown his helicopter for about an hour with his flight instructor before departing on the accident flight.

A postaccident examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane impacted a steep north facing slop. The airplane was found in several sections and postcrash fire damage was concentrated to the cabin section and inboard wings. All of the airplane’s flight controls were found at the accident site.

The airplane was relocated for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N40TS
Model/Series: PA46R-350T 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
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: KTSP,4001 ft msl 
Observation Time: 16:15 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 9 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 5°C /4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 1200 ft AGL
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 19 knots / 26 knots, 310°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 1200 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.92 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Camarillo, CA (KCMA) 
Destination: Mammoth Lakes, CA (KMMH)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: Unknown
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: Unknown
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 35.000407,-118.3874 (est)

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

UPDATE (2/17): The Kern County Sheriff’s Office has identified the man who was killed in the plane crash as 56-year-old Hidden Valley resident Todd Q Smart.

UPDATE (11:39 a.m.): The plane is believed to have left Camarillo on Saturday and was headed to Mammoth Lakes, according to KCSO. The department said at the time of the suspected crash, around 6 p.m. on Sunday, there were high winds and low visibility.

 The department said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have been notified and will conduct an investigation into the crash.

UPDATE (2/15): The Kern County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that a downed aircraft was located by a Search and Rescue team at around 8:30 a.m. this morning in the area of Tehachapi Willow Springs and Cameron Canyon roads.

At least one person was killed in the crash, according to the department. No identifying information is available at this time.

(BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Weather and high winds have forced Kern County search teams to call off a search Sunday night for a possible downed aircraft last known to be over the Tehachapi mountains.

KCSO said Sunday they and crews from the Kern County Fire Department began searching for a single-engine Piper Malibu in the mountains south of Tehachapi where the aircraft last made contact with air traffic controllers on Saturday evening. The pilot of the aircraft was the only person aboard sheriff’s officials said.

County search teams were sent to an area near Highline and Tehachapi Willow Springs roads at around 6 p.m. Sunday for the search. KCSO Lt. Cesar Ollague said the aircraft was not located by search teams Sunday night. Search teams will resume their search in the area sometime early Monday morning.

Ollague said the plane took off from Camarillo Airport sometime Saturday and was headed to its destination at Mammoth Yosemite Airport in Mammoth Lakes. Initially, it was believed the pilot was headed to Mojave.

The pilot’s identity was not immediately known.

The pilot of a plane that crashed in mountainous terrain near Mojave last weekend has been identified by the Kern County coroner’s office.

Todd Q Smart, a 56-year-old resident of Hidden Valley, was the pilot in the fatal accident, the coroner said.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office and Kern County Fire Department reportedly first learned of the missing plane at about 6 p.m. Sunday, when it was reportedly lost near Oak Creek and Tehachapi Willow Springs roads. A news release from the KCSO said the agencies looked for the plane that night but had to suspend the search because of difficult weather conditions.

The plane’s wreckage was found Monday at about 8:40 a.m., according to the KCSO.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

BAKERSFIELD, California — UPDATE (FEB. 15 @ 10:54 AM): One person was killed in a plane crash after an aircraft went down in the Tehachapi mountains, according to the Kern County Sheriff's Offices. According to KCSO, the aircraft was located by a Search and Rescue team at around 8:40 a.m. Monday morning in the area of Tehachapi Willow Springs Road.

The plane disappeared while flying from Camarillo Airport to Mammoth Lakes on Saturday afternoon. A the time of the crash, there were high winds and low visibility in the area but it is not known if this was a factor in the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the plane, a Piper Malibu, was found approximately eight miles from the Tehachapi Municipal Airport and that the pilot was the sole person on board the aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate and determine the cause of the crash.

UPDATE: Crews have suspended their search due to poor weather conditions in the area, according to the Kern County Sheriff's Office. The search will resume tomorrow morning.

Crews are searching for a possibly downed single-engine airplane in the Tehachapi area Sunday evening.

According to the Kern County Sheriff's Office, deputies started assisting Kern County Fire Department crews search for the six seat Piper Malibu plane at about 6 p.m.

Authorities haven't confirmed where or when the plane took off or where it was heading to. KCSO believes there is only one person on the plane.

The Fort Worth Texas Air Station told KCSO that the plane was last seen on radar in the Tehachapi area at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, according to KCSO.

At last report, crews are searching the mountains just south of Tehachapi near Highline Road and Tehachapi Willow Springs.

TEHACHAPI, California (KBAK/KBFX) — On February 14, 2021, at approximately 6:00 p.m., the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and Kern County Fire Department received a report of an aircraft that had gone missing on February 13, 2021, in the area around Oak Creek Road and Tehachapi Willow Springs Road.

The departments responded and searched the area, but had to suspend their search due to weather conditions.

Kern County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue resumed the search on February 15, 2021, and at approximately 8:40 a.m., an airplane was located in mountainous terrain west of Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, south of Oak Creek Road.

A deceased subject was located with the wreckage.

According to KCSO, it appears the plane left Camarillo, Ca, and was headed to Mammoth Lakes, Ca.

On February 13, 2021, at the time of the suspected crash, there were high winds and low visibility in the area.

The FAA and NTSB has been notified and will conduct an investigation into the crash.

The victim’s identity will be released by the Coroner’s Office at a later time.