Sunday, May 15, 2022

Schweizer SGS 2-33A, N17879: Fatal aoccurred May 15, 2022 near Blairstown Airport (1N7), Warren County, New Jersey

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 traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Allentown, Pennsylvania

Jersey Ridge Soaring Club LLC

Location: Blairstown, New Jersey
Accident Number: ERA22FA227
Date and Time: May 15, 2022, 14:58 Local
Registration: N17879
Aircraft: Schweizer SGS 2-33A 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional

On May 15, 2022, at 1458 eastern daylight time, a Schweizer SGS-2-33A glider, N17879, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Blairstown, New Jersey. The pilot was fatally injured. The glider was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 solo instructional flight.

According to the pilot’s flight instructor, he met the pilot at the airport to review his logbook and plan for two instructional flights. He reported the weather as “good with light winds and smooth conditions” based on flights he performed earlier that day. The two dual flights, which were performed in the traffic pattern for runway 25, were uneventful. The instructor noted that the pilot flew well on each flight, exercised good judgement, and flew well within safety limits. Following the completion of the second flight, the instructor issued a 90-day solo endorsement.

During the 2nd solo traffic pattern flight, the first of which was uneventful, the flight instructor noticed that the turn from base to final “looked early, and slightly higher than normal.” The glider then entered a forward slip and descended closer to a “normal glide path” for the runway; however, it was left of runway centerline and “somewhat close to tall trees on the left.” During recovery from a second forward slip, the glider had a slight left bank angle, which caused it to track closer to the trees. The wings then leveled, and the glider struck trees with its left wing, rotated, and pitched steeply nose down before it impacted terrain.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the glider came to rest inverted in a grass field about 300 ft short of the runway 25 threshold, and about 235 ft left of the runway centerline. The glider was largely intact, and all major components were present at the accident site. Both wings had leading edge impact/crushing damage outboard of the wing struts. Tree bark fragments were present in the damaged area of the left wing. The fuselage was buckled and twisted toward the right, about 2 ft aft of the wing’s trailing edge. The upper 10 inches of the vertical stabilizer and rudder were impact-damaged. The forward sections of the cockpit and canopy were crushed and fragmented, forward of the front seat. The front seat was relatively undamaged, and the 4-point harness was intact and remained attached to each of its mounting points. 

Flight control continuity was established for all primary flight controls from the cockpit to the control surfaces. All cables and push pull tubes remained connected, and the elevator, aileron, and rudder could all be moved from the cockpit controls, with binding. The speed brake control lever was in the retracted position and the speed brakes were not extended.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Schweizer
Registration: N17879
Model/Series: SGS 2-33A 
Aircraft Category: Glider
Amateur Built:
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: 12N,580 ft msl
Observation Time: 14:54 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C /17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots / , 210°
Lowest Ceiling: 
Altimeter Setting: 29.83 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Blairstown, NJ
Destination: Blairstown, NJ

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 40.97265,-74.99199 

Glider struck trees and crashed.

Date: 15-MAY-22
Time: 18:58:00Z
Regis#: N17879
Aircraft Make: SCHWEIZER
Aircraft Model: SGS 2-33A
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Total Fatal: 1
Flight Crew: 1 fatal
Pax: 0
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: APPROACH (APR)
Operation: 91
Aircraft Missing: No

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.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the fatal crash of a glider near Blairstown Airport on Sunday, authorities said.

Witnesses told police the glider was attempting to land when it struck the top of a few trees and crashed just before 3 p.m., Blairstown Police Chief Scott Johnson said.

Responding officers found the glider upside down in a grass area across the street from the airport. An off-duty police officer and several bystanders removed the pilot, a 70-year-old man, and began to administer CPR.

The Blairstown Ambulance Corps and Blairstown Hose Company #1 took over the CPR but the victim was eventually pronounced dead at the scene. The pilot was the only occupant of the glider.

The name of the victim was still being withheld Monday pending notification of his next-of-kin, Johnson said.

According to a preliminary report from the FAA, the glider lost altitude and struck trees on approach to the airport.

The NTSB is leading the investigation with the FAA.

The Schweizer SGS 2-33A  two-seat glider model is classified by the FAA as a "tandem, intermediate-training sailplane," manufactured by Schewizer Aircraft of Elmira, New York. Construction features a metal frame with a fabric cover on the fuselage and tail surfaces.

The glider was built in 1972 and registered to Jersey Ridge Soaring, which is located at the airport, FAA records show. Jersey Ridge Soaring did not immediately respond to a phone inquiry Monday afternoon.

A pilot sustained serious injuries in 2016 when his single-engine plane ran off the runway at Blairstown Airport and crashed into trees.

‘I just drive’: Here's what it’s like to be a Life Flight pilot in Houston

Memorial Hermann Life Flight pilot Robert Purdy at the Baytown Airport on April 26, 2022. Purdy is a former Army pilot who served 26 years with three tours in Afghanistan an two tours in Iraq. He’s been with Memorial Hermann since 2016.

Robert Purdy has developed a sixth sense about the weather.

It’s critical for his job as a pilot for Memorial Hermann Life Flight, the nonprofit air ambulance service that responds to the most severe traumatic injuries within 150 mile of the Texas Medical Center.

While Life Flight crews in the six EC-145 twin-engine helicopters can reach as far as Austin to the west and Lake Charles, Louisiana, to the east, thunderstorms and fog are the most consistent deterrent for the emergency flights.

“You almost have to have a spidey sense,” he says. “If I’m doing a call down on the Bolivar Peninsula, and you see fog is forecast, it’s all part of talking to your crews.”

Purdy is one of about 20 Life Flight pilots who use their years of experience, often through military service, to streamline flights while specially trained paramedics and nurses provide life-saving care in the cramped cabin behind them. He has flown dozens of missions since he joined the organization in 2016, including t wounded police officer John Barnes from Santa Fe High School following the tragic 2018 shooting.

Ahead of National Trauma Survivors Day and the May 18 anniversary of the shooting, Purdy reflected on his Army career that brought him to Life Flight and his perspective of the chaos that unfolded that day.

Born in Malvern, Arkansas, Purdy’s obsession with aircraft started with regular visits to naval air stations along the Gulf Coast with his father and a fascination with the 1970s TV military drama Black Sheep Squadron. He went to flight school in 1991 and for two years flew Cobra attack helicopters for the Army in Korea.

He switched to Apache helicopters, which he flew during his first combat missions in the Iraq invasion in 2003. His 25-year Army career included two deployments to Iraq and three to Afghanistan, conducting mostly reconnaissance and attack missions. He logged more than 5,000 hours of flight time, and was qualified to operate five different helicopters.

He also served as a pilot instructor at Fort Rucker in Alabama, where he retired as attack branch chief in 2016. Then, an old friend who worked for Life Flight sparked his interest in the air ambulance service.

Purdy saw a way to use his military experience for a good purpose. His calm, reserved demeanor made him a perfect fit, said Life Flight paramedic Philip Pegg, who sat in on his interview.

“There’s some difficult situations we get into ... but he has an absolutely relaxed, calm tone of voice. Complete confidence,” Pegg said. “The people in the back trust him with everything on the line.”

Purdy’s day-to-day tasks are similar to a firefighter. His 12-hour shifts at the Life Flight base in Baytown — one of five in the Houston region — are filled with routine equipment checks, administrative work, weather analysis, meetings with the flight crew and down time. But he stays mentally alert for a call.

Some days pass with no need for their assistance. Unusually chaotic shifts might send them up to five calls, which could require Purdy to land in a tight space on a backed-up highway tor transfer a patient in critical condition from a Louisiana hospital.

The medical crew typically receives minimal details about the scene before arrival. That was the case on May 18, 2018, when a voice over the radio told them to respond to a shooting at Sante Fe High School. They were tasked with picking up a man who had been shot and flying him to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Pegg, who was working that day, said he knew “it was going to be real.”

It was unusual to have more than one aircraft respond to a scene, but Purdy remembers three medical flight crews arriving at the school. After he landed in the parking lot, the minutes ticked slowly while paramedics stabilized John Barnes, who took a shotgun blast to the elbow. He was losing blood quickly. At one point, paramedics believe he briefly “passed away” before being loaded onto the aircraft.

With the dying man behind him, Purdy concentrated on his task: Get him to Galveston.

“I just drive,” he said. “And that’s the way it has to be.”

Barnes was unconscious during the flight but later met and thanked Purdy and the crew that helped save him.

The meeting was part of his healing process, he said, adding that he now approaches life with a new perspective and a strong desire to travel. He was among 13 people who were wounded. Another 10 people died.

“The fact that there even is a future (for me) is exciting,” Barnes said.

'Old school and down to earth': The Marion County Airport (X35), near Dunnellon, is having a moment

Flight instructor Steve Mace makes a radio call as he turns downwind for Runway 23 at Marion County Airport on May 4.

DUNNELLON, Florida  — Brittney Owens was operating her wedding planning company, Southern Charm, two years ago when she decided to take her career to new heights and become a private pilot.

Owens now serves as a pilot for Central Florida Skydiving, one of several aviation-related operations based at Marion County Airport, located north of County Road 484 near Dunnellon Field.

“It’s a blast (and a) responsibility,” Owens said about taking parachutists aloft and watching them jump out the door of the Cessna 182 at about 90 mph.

She is building up flight hours with her sights aimed at a continuing career in commercial flying. Owens, 31, now holds her instrument and commercial pilot license and is working on her multi-engine rating.

Owens took her private pilot, instrument and commercial pilot training with Federal Aviation Administration Gold Seal flight instructor Steve Mace of Ocala, currently an A320 Airbus pilot with Spirit Airlines based in Orlando.

Brittney Owens 

Mace’s "Trusty Trudy" Cessna 172, used for giving flying lessons, is kept in a hangar at Marion County Airport.

Mace, 50, moved to the Ocala area in 1992 and worked at Ocala International Airport as a fueler and flew fixed-wing aircraft for UF Health Shands Hospital in the 1990s.

Flight instructor Steve Mace makes a radio call as he turns downwind for Runway 23 at the Marion County Airport near Dunnellon on May 4. The small, pilot-controlled airport is popular with general aviation pilots from around the region. “It’s an old school airport were everyone is committed to aviation and helping each other,” said Mace.
He has taught pilots as young as 16 and is teaching his son Michael, 22, to fly.

Mace likes the Marion County Airport in Dunnellon because he feels it is "old school and down to earth."

Owens had her final license exams from Troy Townsend, operator of, which is based at the airport. Townsend is an FAA DPE, or designated pilot examiner.

Townsend praised the airport's location and conveniences. He said it provides a place for people to enjoy "the freedom to fly, which we take for granted but doesn't happen in some countries."

You can call it the Marion County Airport or just X-35

The airport, commonly known among pilots as X-35, which is its FAA designation, has become a haven for private and sport aviation activities.

The 800-acre facility dates back to World War II and has two lighted runways, measuring 5,000 and 4,702 feet.

The facility is "pilot controlled," which means there is no on site control tower. Fliers communicate on a common designated radio frequency to announce their presence and intentions.

According to, pilots can radio control runway lighting and obtain weather advisories from the facility.

The airport has 48 hangars, ranging from $250 per month and up, and 51 tie-down spaces that cost $50 per month, the website states.

Current fuel prices are available through a link on the site.

A computer program, VirTower, picks up signals from equipment installed in most aircraft to provide data including location, altitude and direction of travel information. Pilots can call Jacksonville control for instrument landing information, for example, in cases of bad weather.

Chris Helme, vice president of the local Sun Country Aero Club, which has a Cessna 172 as a club plane, said the Marion County Airport is a regular stop for members of the group.

The Marion County Airport has undergone many improvement projects through the years, with more planned

Marion County Airport Manager Mike Grawe, an Air Force veteran and private pilot, has spearheaded projects including a $2.9 million 20-hangar unit project and added $220,000 worth of improved landing lights during his four years at the facility.

Future plans include parallel taxiways for both runways, a $4.5 million project aimed at improving safety; a new $1.1 million aircraft fuel station; an additional $3 million worth of “T” style group aircraft hangars; and more commercial and private hangars, Grawe stated.

Data at an portal states that in 2018, the 12-month activity ending in September 2018, included 23,162 local general aviation aircraft operations and 15,441 “itinerant” general aviation aircraft.

Grawe estimates aircraft activity has increased by about a third at the airport, and he points to a 33% increase in fuel sales at the airport from 2018 to 2021.

He added that aircraft activity update figures will be available in August, and the figures will be more accurate because they are based on the VirTower data.

Programs for drones and remote-piloted vehicles (RPV) are also part of future plans.

Aviation gas and jet fuel prices are said to be “very competitive,” and sections of the airport lounge are open 24 hours, Grawe explained.

"I want to continue to grow and inspire people's passion for aviation and provide flight opportunities for everyone," Grawe stated.

Grawe and his management team including Stanley Roberts, airport lead operations tech, and Jerry Stone, airport operations tech, have been fostering a welcoming atmosphere for all who love to fly and attracting flight instruction, aircraft repair, maintenance, upgrade and other businesses.

Business at the airport is looking up – literally

Central Florida Skydive set up operations at Marion County Airport in September 2021 after looking at four other airports.

Donnie Hickey, owner of the business, has over 9,400 jumps under his belt. He said tandem jumps are offered beginning at $189, and a video made by Payton Candales, 20, who is with the company, and has at least 386 jumps in his career to date, starts at $60.

“It’s floating, not falling,” Hickey said about the sensation of parachuting.

ITEC, a nonprofit, faith-based research and development organization founded in 1996, has been based at the Marion County Airport for a number of years.

Founder Steve Saint developed the Maverick, an FAA “certified flying car,” according to It is intended to enable missionaries to travel into secluded areas where transportation is a “significant hurdle.”

The organization has designed a lightweight portable dental chair for transport in missionary use.

ITEC continues development of several types of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs,) including ones to deliver lifesaving medical supplies like snake bite treatments to GPS-specified locations that might otherwise be inaccessible, according to Bruce Van Fleet with ITEC.

Roy Beisswenger operates Easy Flight, a training center for power parachutes. Beisswenger was inducted into the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Ultralights Hall of Fame in 2021.

The association says Beisswenger is the only FAA Gold Seal Instructor to earn the award through powered parachutes "exclusively."

Dan Hansen, 65, of Inverness, a power parachute flier, said the view is "incredible" from the open cockpit machines.

Oscar Mollineaux, from New Jersey, took vacation time to travel here and attend the East Flight school. He said he "absolutely loved" flying in the power parachute.

Jesse Saint, son of ITEC founder Steve Saint, operates Saint Aviation ( at the Marion County Airport.

The company installs Dynon brand digtial avionics equipment for "panel upgrades," with GPS, "moving maps" and flight information. Units range for $20,000 to $70,000.

Jim Hoekenga, of Sebring, made the one-hour flight to Dunnellon to have Saint install a unit in his Cessna 172.

"This is a beautiful airport, nice long runways. I'll come back," he said.

Additional companies now based at Marion County Airport include Fly All Things, a flight instruction school also offering a 62-hour accelerated flight training program by Bo Feldman; Mount Up With Wings Aviation, an aircraft rental firm operated by Randy Dorsey; and Aero Aggregates, which turns “post-consumer recycled glass into material that can be used in infrastructure and commercial construction,” according to an Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership online post.

Mexico’s Not-So-Friendly Skies: A close call between two Airbus A-320s is only the latest near miss for air travelers

Employees work at the new Felipe Angeles International Airport near Mexico City, January 31.

The Wall Street Journal 
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
May 15, 2022 3:57 pm ET

A near-collision of two jets in Mexico City was captured on video May 7, stunning the nation. One plane was about to land, the other cleared for takeoff on the same runway at Benito Juárez International Airport; both flights were operated by the discount airline Volaris. Within two days, Víctor Manuel Hernández Sandoval, director of navigation services for Mexican Air Space—the country’s air-traffic control authority—had resigned.

Confidence in Mexican air safety remains shaken, because the circumstances that led to the close call run deeper than the competency of one man. The near-disaster has reignited a public debate about whether changes to the funding and infrastructure of Mexico’s air-transportation network, executed under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have made Mexico’s airspace dangerous.

Mr. López Obrador calls charges that he has increased air-travel risks a conspiracy by his political opponents. If that’s true, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the United Nations are in on it. A year ago the FAA downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating to Category 2, which according to the administration “means that the country’s laws or regulations lack the necessary requirements to oversee the country’s air carriers in accordance with minimum international safety standards, or the civil aviation authority is lacking in one or more areas,” like technical expertise, training, data collection, inspections and safety concerns. The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization sets those standards.

This happened before, in 2010, but Mexico recovered the higher rating in about four months. In July 2021 the government said that restoring its Category 1 rating was a priority. But on May 7, nearly a year after the 2021 downgrade, a fatal collision involving two Airbus A320s was averted only because a skillful pilot pulled up in time to avoid slamming into the other plane. The aviation community is warning that Mexican airspace is an accident waiting to happen.

Last week the head of Mexico’s air-traffic controllers union, José Alfredo Covarrubias, blasted the government for failing to provide funding for properly functioning equipment and for a deficit of 300 controllers, which, he said, leaves those on the frontlines overworked. This problem isn’t unique to Mexico City, he said, but includes tourist destinations around the country. According to a report in the newspaper El Universal, which interviewed Mr. Covarrubias, the union says there have been 30 serious air incidents nationwide since December. It blames this heightened vulnerability on “the redesign of the airspace and current working conditions,” El Universal wrote.

That redesign was launched by the López Obrador administration in April 2021. The International Air Transport Association has said that since then there have been 17 “ground proximity warning system alerts” at Benito Juárez alone. The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations has complained that air-traffic control isn’t trained in the redesign.

This didn’t need to happen. To create higher capacity for Mexico City, the Virginia-based consulting firm Mitre helped the government identify the dry lake basin of Texcoco to build a replacement for the traffic-saturated Benito Juárez airport. Aviation analysts said Texcoco offered the best conditions in difficult terrain—high mountains on three sides of a valley—for approaches and for landing a jet safely.

The $13 billion project—the New International Mexico Airport—was almost 40% complete when Mr. López Obrador took office in December 2018. He argued that the state-of-the-art facility serving one of Latin America’s largest metropolises was an extravagance for the rich. He killed it. To add capacity to Benito Juárez, he assigned the construction of new runways at the Santa Lucia military base.

The Santa Lucia facility, named Felipe Ángeles International Airport, opened in March. It handles an average of 12 departures and arrivals daily. There is only one international flight, with service to and from Caracas, Venezuela. Benito Juárez, a connections hub closer to the urban center, has nearly 900 daily flights.

Mr. López Obrador will now force traffic to his pet project by reducing flights at Benito Juárez and assigning any new routes to Felipe Ángeles. The flying public will be worse off—and not only because of more-expensive ground transportation and fewer connections.

Pilots landing at the busy Benito Júarez have to skirt the other airport. This requires that they begin their approaches at higher altitudes and closer to the mountains where the air is unstable, then descend steeply. On May 4 the international pilots association cited several incidents of “low fuel states due to unplanned holding, diversions for excessive delays, and significant GPWS [ground proximity warning system] alerts where one crew almost had a controlled flight into terrain.”

That’s pilot-speak for a crash. It’s a risk generated not by aviation but by Mr. López Obrador’s political agenda.

In East Hampton, It’s the Superrich Against the Merely Rich

Plans would limit commercial helicopters; private planes could still land. Residents say noisy skies perturb naps and barbecues.

A plane prepares for takeoff from the airport in East Hampton, New York. 

The Wall Street Journal 
By James Fanelli
May 15, 2022 10:17 am ET

The Hamptons have long been an enclave for Wall Streeters and celebrities, with pristine beaches, estates hidden behind tall hedges and, increasingly, the thrum of private jets and helicopters overhead.

So many visitors travel the 100 miles from Manhattan by air that the tiny airport in the wealthy town of East Hampton has helicopters or planes landing or taking off every 90 seconds on some summer days. Locals say the noise disturbs their barbecues and drowns out conversations.

At a town meeting last July, Ronald Klausner described how the roar of low-flying jets woke two of his young grandchildren from their naps at his Hamptons home, leaving them cranky the rest of the afternoon.

“They may have been scared a little by the clown in the Southampton Independence Day parade, but it was nothing compared to what happened yesterday,” Mr. Klausner, a private investor, told the crowd. “I don’t want any parent or grandparent to have to endure that.”

But the town’s planned solution, to limit flights into the East Hampton airport, has led to a vociferous, only-in-New York legal battle that divides the town’s superrich from the merely rich.

Ahead of the busy summer season, the town is moving to privatize its airport and impose new restrictions on how often planes can fly in. The rules would limit a plane or helicopter to one takeoff and landing a day.

Those who own private planes won’t be affected, so long as they don’t try to use their personal jets more than once a day. On the other hand, the rules would crimp the travel of those who may not be rich enough to have their own planes, but who are willing to pay $800 or more to take a commercial helicopter from Manhattan. The companies that provide helicopter and plane rides would have to divert many of their flights to other landing areas in the Hamptons.

A helicopter from Blade flying near Manhattan.

East Hampton is taking its airport “back to aviation’s stone age,” said a shared-flight service, Blade Air Mobility Inc., in a court filing. Blade is a plaintiff in one of at least three lawsuits filed to stop the town from implementing the plan. It has a business model similar to Uber Technologies Inc. but with helicopters and planes. Without the restrictions, an aircraft in its network might do up to six flights a day to the East Hampton airport.

Those challenging the town’s plan are asking a state court to issue a preliminary injunction against it. A judge is expected to rule on that before May 17.

The hubub comes after years of complaints about the noise and the environmental effects from the air traffic.

“I put my hammock away 12 years ago,” said Barry Raebeck, who lives about a mile and a half from the airport.

Prior to East Hampton’s airport decision, Mr. Raebeck, a retired high school English teacher who runs a college-admissions consulting business, formed a coalition that pressed for change. He said incessant flight noise in the summer has driven him indoors for his afternoon naps, and they now also require wearing headphones.

On the other side is jet traveler Andy Sabin, the chairman of Sabin Metal Corp., who has lived full time in the Hamptons for 31 years. He said that with the privatization strategy, town officials are catering to the gripes of a small group.

“It’s .01% of the population making those complaints. It’s insane,” said Mr. Sabin, who owns a share of three jets that he uses for travel and to fly in business associates.

Andy Sabin, who owns a share of three planes, says only a small minority of residents complain about noise from the airport.

Mr. Sabin recently flew to Washington to meet members of Congress about an environmental bill he is pushing. In the evening, he said, he flew from Dulles International Airport to White Plains, N.Y., to drop off a friend, and for his final leg flew home to East Hampton.

“I was exhausted after dinner with the senators,” Mr. Sabin said. “Having the airport in East Hampton made my life easier.”

He is a plaintiff in one of the suits against the town. He said he paid about $7,000 to local newspapers to run ads shaming officials over the airport plan.

Mr. Sabin said some people also complain about cars and the horns from trains. “We live in a world of nut jobs,” he said.

East Hampton’s small airport has a single terminal building but a runway long enough for some large private and corporate jets. The runway is sometimes used 400 times a day in the busy season, the town’s airport director said. In court documents, the town said public input and several studies informed its decision. One study showed that from late June through September in 2019, flights generated 46,730 noise complaints.

The town’s plan is to close the airport on May 17 and reopen it two days later as a private facility, with new rules that include a curfew in addition to the limit of one landing and takeoff a day per aircraft.

A jet flies over Barry Raebeck’s home. Mr. Raebeck says airport noise has driven him indoors for his afternoon naps.

Tailwind Air LLC, which flies up to six scheduled flights to the Hamptons on a Friday in the summer, plans to land seaplanes more frequently in the water along the shores of eastern Long Island instead of at the East Hampton airport. In some cases, boats will then ferry passengers to land, said Alan Ram, Tailwind’s chief executive.

“Sometimes they’re disembarked at a beach rather than a dock, so they’re advised to take their shoes off,” Mr. Ram said.

The spat has spilled into other Hamptons communities such as Montauk, which worry they’ll become the destination of flights that can’t land in East Hampton. A citizens group has been speaking out and says on its website, “Montauk in Crisis: We need your help!”

Some locals have suggested the town of East Hampton should use the airport’s 600 acres for something entirely different, like affordable housing or a project to benefit the environment.

Patricia Currie, a year-round Hamptons resident, said wealthy jet-setters could drive like everyone else. “They could do what we’ve all done for years and years and years,” she said.

Air service working group forming goals for West Virginia International Yeager Airport (KCRW), Charleston area

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Business leaders in all sectors throughout Charleston including government, tourism, technology, chemicals, banking, law, and education have teamed up with the Charleston Area Alliance and West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW) to form an Air Service Working Group.

The first of its kind in around 50 years, CRW Airport Director and CEO Nick Keller told MetroNews, it has already met once since its launch and has had progress in discussions. The working group was created to come up with a strategic plan and goals to retain and attract additional airline services to CRW through minimum revenue guarantees and incentives.

Airports across the nation compete for air service development, and airlines consider many factors when investing in markets, a release said. One of those factors is community support.

“It’s one thing for the airport to go to the airlines and say ‘we need a new route,’ but it’s another to get a working group like this, with business, hospitality and government sectors, all on the same page, supporting the same goals,” Keller said of the community support.

Keller said a survey on air service sent out by the Charleston Area Alliance (CAA) received over 700 respondents and the top wants in the Charleston market were flights to New York City, Dallas and Houston. He said the results were given to an air service consultant who then made a presentation at the group’s first meeting.

He added the group will then target markets, attempt to retain service and increase service for certain markets.

“To have a group unified behind air service that is not the airport is an advantage for us,” Keller said.

President and CEO of the Charleston Area Alliance (CAA), Nicole Christian told MetroNews she was approached by Keller about the possibility of the group with the minimum revenue guarantees and incentives. Those incentives are like an insurance policy for airlines as CRW could be viewed as a risk.

Christian said the airport is an asset to the community and anything that goes on there impacts all of the area.

“We look forward to continuing to work together. All the great stuff that will happen at the airport means good stuff happening for our whole community,” she said.

Members of the working group include:

Michael J Basile, Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC
Tim Brady, Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Fonda Elliot, Commercial Holdings
Georgette George, Monarch/Ridgeline Properties
Steven Hedrick, MATRIC Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center
Shannon Huber, Dow, Inc.
Mike McCown, Industrial Bolting Technologies, Inc.
Chris Morris, Citynet
Marcus Phillips, Kureha PGA, LLC
Jack Rossi, Summit Community Bank
Jeff Sandene, Charleston Area Medical Center
Lance Wheeler, Kanawha County Commission
Aaron Sporck, Huntington National Bank
Moore Capito, Babst Calland Clements & Zomnir, P.C.
Jeri Adkins, Charleston Area Alliance
Nicole Christian, Charleston Area Alliance
Nick Keller, West Virginia International Yeager Airport
Dominique Ranieri, West Virginia International Yeager Airport
Charles Dusic, West Virginia Regional Technology Park Corp.
Matthew Sutton, City of Charleston

Boulder County District Court judge opens door for noise lawsuits against Rocky Mountain Metro Airport (KBJC)

A screenshot shows examples of flight paths the morning of May 13, 2022. 

SUPERIOR, Colorado — A Boulder County District Court Judge has paved the way for homeowners near Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport to sue over noise violations, court documents obtained by Denver7 show.

The ruling stems from a court case that began in late 2021. However, homeowners in the Rock Creek area of Superior were just alerted to the ruling this week by the Rock Creek Home Owners Association.

Residents who spoke to Denver7 pointed to this week’s plane crash as just the latest example of their concerns, which they say span years as traffic at the airport has increased. In particular, more frequent pilot training flights have increased the level and frequency of noise. A study by the Rock Creek HOA board found “noise limits from the airport were ten times the maximum noise levels represented by the airport,” according to a letter sent to homeowners in the neighborhood.

“It is literally loud enough to impact the ability to have a conversation in my house,” said Rachel Stanton, who lives in the Rock Creek neighborhood. “And they fly over, you know, it can be every few minutes.”

Stanton and her family moved to the neighborhood five years ago. She says she was well aware that a nearby airport would mean aviation noise, but she could never have been prepared for the amount her family has since endured.

“And it’s not that anyone wants to totally eliminate all of that, but we want to see more controls and limitations on the amount of traffic that comes over this neighborhood,” she explained. “The bigger issue is, I’m concerned about the safety risk of having airplanes, small planes — by people in training — coming over our homes and businesses.”

Stanton says the amount of noise and disruption has her family second-guessing the home they chose, and they are not alone. Mark Ricketson reached out to Denver7, saying he and his wife left their home of 20 years in Boulder due to immense air traffic.

“I just said, you know, there’s only one thing we can do — and that’s to change our location,” Ricketson explained, saying several complaints to local and agency leaders fell on deaf ears. “I would go for a walk, and there would be just a constant drone of aircraft over your head.”

RMMA has been in operation since 1960, but residents of the area say the noise pollution has gotten substantially worse in the last few years, specifically. A nationwide shortage of pilots has added extra pressure to train more pilots quickly, but this training has led to a huge increase in air traffic. This has particularly been the case around neighborhoods, residents say.

“If it was occasional, not a problem,” Stanton said. “When it’s every five minutes, that becomes disruptive.”

Both Jefferson County and the Rock Creek Masters HOA have appealed the recent district court ruling, according to the HOA. The HOA is asking the judge to expand the ruling to include more homes in the area — thus invalidating signed easements and allowing for additional lawsuits.

Denver7 reached out to the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport and Jefferson County for comment on this story, but did not hear back.

A severe pilot shortage in the U.S. leaves airlines scrambling for solutions

  • The pandemic exacerbated a pilot shortage by slowing down training, hiring and a creating a wave of early retirements.
  • Airlines offered pilots early retirements to cut labor bills during the depths of the pandemic.
  • The process to become airline-qualified in the U.S. is lengthy and expensive, making the barrier to entry high.

The United States is facing its worst pilot shortage in recent memory, forcing airlines to cut flights just as travelers are returning after more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The crisis has the industry scrambling for solutions.

At least one lawmaker is said to be considering legislation that could raise the federally-mandated retirement age for airline pilots from 65 to 67 or higher to extend aviators’ time in the skies.

A regional airline proposed reducing flight-hour requirements before joining a U.S. carrier, and airlines are rethinking training programs to lower the barrier to entry. Earlier this year, Delta Air Lines joined other big carriers in dropping a four-year degree from its pilot hiring requirements.

Several U.S. airlines, including Frontier, are recruiting some pilots from Australia. American Airlines is selling bus tickets for some short routes.

But some airline executives warn the shortage could take years to solve.

“The pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said on a quarterly earnings call in April.

Kirby estimated the regional airlines United works with currently have about 150 airplanes grounded because of the pilot shortage.

Roots of the crisis

The Covid pandemic halted pilot hiring as training and licensing slowed. Airlines handed out early retirement packages to thousands of pilots and other employees aimed to cut labor bills when travel demand cratered during the depths of crisis.

“I feel like I walked away at the pinnacle,” said one former captain for a major U.S. airline who took an early retirement package in 2020.

Now airlines are desperate to hire and train pilots, but the rush may take too long to avoid flight cuts.

Major U.S. airlines are trying to hire more than 12,000 pilots combined this year alone, more than double the previous record in annual hiring, according to Kit Darby, a pilot pay consultant and a retired United captain.

The shortage is particularly acute at regional carriers that feed major airlines’ hubs from smaller cities. While hiring and retention bonuses have returned at those airlines, pay is lower there than at majors, and they are recruiting aggressively from those smaller carriers.

Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, which flies for American and United, lost nearly $43 million in the last quarter as flight cuts mounted.

“We never fathomed attrition levels like this,” said Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein. “If we don’t fly our airplanes we lose money. You saw our quarterly numbers.”

It takes Mesa an estimated 120 days to replace a pilot who gives two weeks’ notice to go to another airline, according to Ornstein.

“We could use 200 pilots right now,” he said.

Some carriers like Frontier and regional airline SkyWest are recruiting pilots from Australia under a special visa to help ease the shortfall, but the numbers are small compared with their overall ranks and hiring goals.

Regional carrier Republic Airways, which flies for American, Delta and United, last month petitioned the U.S. government to allow pilots to fly for the airline with 750 hours, half of the 1,500 currently required, if they go through the carrier’s training program. There are already exemptions to the 1,500-hour rule, such as for U.S.-military trained pilots and those who attend two- and four-year programs that include flight training.

The proposal has received pushback from family members of victims of 2009′s Colgan Air 3407 crash, the last fatal U.S. passenger commercial airline crash. The tragedy killed all 49 people on board and one on the ground, and ushered in the so-called 1,500-hour rule, aimed at ensuring pilot experience.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is considering introducing congressional legislation that could raise the mandatory airline pilot retirement age to at least 67 from the current age of 65, according to people familiar with Graham’s plans. About a third of the airline-qualified pilots in the U.S. are between the ages of 51 and 59, and 13% of the country’s airline pilots will reach retirement age within the five years, according to the Regional Airline Association.

Graham’s office did not respond requests for comment.

Growth curtailed

Pilot and other worker shortages have forced airlines to rethink their growth plans. JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines are among carriers that have recently trimmed capacity.

SkyWest, for its part, told the Transportation Department it plans to drop service to 29 smaller cities that the government subsidizes through the Essential Air Service.

Service reductions could isolate smaller U.S. cities but Darby, the pilot pay consultant, said it could mean an opening for smaller competitors that don’t rely on regional airlines as much as major network airlines.

“If they don’t fly it, maybe a smaller airline will,” he said.

One of the biggest hurdles to bringing in new pilots is the cost of schooling. While salaries for widebody captains at major airlines can exceed $350,000 a year, getting qualified takes years.

At ATP Flight School, the largest in the country, it costs close to $92,000 for a seven-month, full-time program to get initial licenses. It can then take about 18 months or longer for pilots to build up enough hours to fly, often by instructing student pilots or sometimes by flying banners near beaches.

“It’s not a car wash,” Darby said. “You can’t just get someone to come in from the street.”

In December, United started teaching the first students at its own flight school, the United Aviate Academy, in Goodyear, Arizona, with a goal of training 5,000 pilots there by 2030. United says it aims for half of that number to be women or people of color. The company covers the cost of pilots’ training up to the point of receiving their private pilots’ license, which it estimates to be around $17,000 per student.

Other carriers have turned to low-interest loans or other initiatives to ease the financial burden on students.

“There’s no quick fix,” Darby said.