Real time tracking, FDR transmission needs to happen now

Scott Hamilton at Leehamnet nails it again: aviation regulators need to get off their butts and implement effective tracking and transmission of flight data, to support timely search and rescue after remote crashes.

The failure to mandate what should be a relatively cheap system installation and operation cost only encourages the news media to spin off wild misinformation, seeking to fill the news information void. In a recent post, Mr. Hamilton noted that this “… is to the great disservice and most likely distress of the families and friends of the victims on the flight….” It also substantially undermines the public’s perception of the safety of today’s passenger aviation program. Mr. Hamilton goes on to note, “…for the industry, it all comes down to costs and in this context, dead people don’t matter, only cost matters. It’s the infamous tombstone mentality that enough people have to die before there is enough of an outcry to force regulators to do the right thing and force the airlines to follow….”

A Simple & Inexpensive System

The solution is a simple combination of technology and regulation. FAA and other regulators would simply require that all commercial passenger flights operating beyond continuous radar coverage must install a system that would transmit a basic data bundle in the event of a potential emergency.

Essentially, the system would track (each second) the flight’s basic data, including latitude & longitude, altitude, indicated airspeed, pitch angle, bank angle, and heading. The system would also apply logic to identify substantial heading/speed/altitude changes within the previous 15-seconds.

A transmission of data bundles would be triggered by odd parameters, such as excessive pitch angle and/or bank angle, abnormal speeds and/or altitudes, or substantial heading/speed/altitude changes. Once triggered, data bundles would be transmitted each second.

Each data bundle would require only three basic parameters: position (lat/long), altitude, and indicated airspeed. A few additional parameters would be added to the data bundle, as appropriate; for example, if the system noted excessive pitch angle or bank angle, or substantial heading/speed/altitude changes within the previous 15-seconds, these parameters would be included in the data bundle. On the assumption that this is a flight emergency, the transmissions would continue indefinitely.

For security purposes, if the transmission was triggered during a flight, the shutoff/override authority would NOT be in the aircraft. Instead, it would be by the ground dispatch/monitor personnel, who would need to communicate with the crew via radio, satellite, ACARS etc., to ensure the transmission is an anomaly, not a real emergency.

Another Flight to Nowhere: UAL28 off Heathrow, 12/17/2014

A Boeing 767 (United Flight 28) was airborne for nearly five hours over the English Channel, while burning off and dumping fuel to return for a landing at London’s Heathrow airport. The airline is not explaining yet what the issue was, but the flight tracking data indicates the flight diverted to the south after departure, then leveled off first at ten thousand feet, then at twelve thousand feet. It appears to have flown nineteen loops, mostly using up fifteen minutes per loop, and to the southwest of the Isle of Wight.

The low altitudes would suggest their was an aircraft pressurization issue. A passenger reported to the media that the captain had advised they needed to get rid of 20,000 pounds of fuel before they could return to land.

20141217.. UAL28 4hr fuel burnoff after EGLL departure, map

Heathrow was in a west flow. The faint dashed blue line to the west-northwest approximates the intended route to United’s hub airport at Newark, NJ.

20141217.. UAL28 4hr fuel burnoff after EGLL departure, chart

The yellow line shows altitude (mostly at 12,000′), and the gray line shows airspeed. The cyclical patterns on the gray line reflect airspeed variations due to winds aloft.

The incident was well covered in an article at One comment stands out:

“Why can’t airlines actually tell passengers what is happening? Its not like they’ll rip the door open mid flight and start jumping out.”

A good point. It seems plausible that, for aviation mechanical events such as this, airline transparency would be the best course. The current practice of opacity only causes people to wonder, what is the airline trying to hide. And certainly, the 227 passengers on board have a right to know what happened, on the flight they paid for.


Santa Monica: LA Times Weighs In After Passage of Measure LC

20141109.. KSMO LA Times Editorital, headline screencap

(click on image to view the LA Times Op/Ed piece)

Four days after local voters decisively supported their local officials to move toward more control of their airport, the Los Angeles Times editors opined in their Sunday edition. Their view was notably slanted, going even so far as to misrepresent that the airport “…plays a vital role in the region’s transportation system…” Their words help to perpetuate the myth that, even more than diamonds, ‘Airports are Forever’.

This is all bull.

The real impediment is FAA. If this one federal agency would focus on serving the whole Public (and not just aviation interests), a scaled-down airport serving only small single-propeller airplanes — and with no local training/practice pattern flying — would be a quick no-brainer. FAA Administrator Huerta needs to be a true leader and put forward this proposal. Then, if the local residents go further and articulate a convincing reason to outright close [KSMO], Mr. Huerta should seriously entertain that possibility, too.

Despite the slanted opinion of the Times Editorial Board, jets at KSMO are a very real hazard. That case was very well laid out by Joseph Schmitz (see SlideShare below).

Another document to consider is the February 2010 impact study by Pew Trust.

(click on image to view or download entire report, 21-page PDF.)

(click on image to view or download entire report, 21-page PDF)

At the time of this aiREFORM Post, there were 31 reader comments to the LA Times Editorial; they are well worth reading, and mostly by concerned airport neighbors, plus one airport-defender.

Clearly, there are many people around this small airport who have become quite well informed about the facts and are seeing past the spin and propaganda. They see the simple reality: that FAA is a captured agency, serving industry and money while broadly looking past many safety and health concerns.

ANALYSIS: A 4-Hour Fuel Burn-off Following a BizJet Hydraulic Failure

A Hawker business jet departed the Centennial Airport [KAPA] at 11:03AM local time, carrying a passenger on a flight to Latrobe, PA [KLBE]. Had everything been normal, it would have landed less than three hours later. On this flight, though, a mechanical failure forced the flight to return for a landing.20141009.. HS25 KAPA-KLBE at FL390, route screencap, with states

It was believed that a tire ruptured during the takeoff, and caused damage to the hydraulic system. So, the flight crew got approval from ATC to fly delay patterns with the sole purpose being to burn off all extra fuel prior to a gear-up landing.

In the diagram below (a ‘classic view’ covering northeast Colorado, from Flightaware), the flight takes off to the south at KAPA (bottom left corner area) and eventually lands to the north at [KDEN]. Annotations have been added to help illustrate the route flown; a few locations give geographic reference, and local times (orange) help to show the sequence of loops. Essentially, the flight had taken off to the south and then climbed to 23,000-ft. It had a speed well over 400-knots when it was turned around near Yuma, CO. The flight then proceeded back to Centennial, and set up for a possible landing. Instead of landing, the flight flew southbound over the airport, then turned east and began a series of random loops, probably while a final plan was being worked out. More than an hour later, the flight was routed north, where the flight crew made seven large circuits to the north of Greeley. Then, at approximately 3:00PM, the flight turned inbound for a landing at Denver International Airport.20141016.. KDEN HS25 fuel burn to land after tire damage ion KAPA takeoff, times addedThe landing was successful. A foamed Runway 34L received the no-gear aircraft, creating a shower of sparks while the Hawker decelerated. A small fire under the fuselage was quickly extinguished. Here is a video from Denver’s Fox 31:

New Investigative Report on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Li-ion Battery Fires

20130117.. Burnt Li-ion Battery B787

An NTSB picture of a charred Li-ion battery, January 2013.

In early 2013, FAA was forced to ground the entire U.S. Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, after two serious incidents in which Li-ion batteries had caught fire. Many aviation safety professionals were very impressed with the transparency and safety advocacy subsequently shown by NTSB and NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman. At the same time, much of FAA’s response smacked of being a loyal waterboy for damage control efforts by Boeing and other corporations in the aviation world.

20140910.. Li-ion Battery becomes a torch

The battery design is extremely volatile. When shot during testing, it quickly became a veritable blow-torch.

FAA’s grounding of the Dreamliner went on for more than three months, and ended on 4/27/2013. In the months since, a few minor incidents have made the news, but more notably there has been a concerted effort by Boeing marketers (with assistance from FAA) to both re-shine the Dreamliner’s image AND micromanage the coverage of all incidents. Eventually, Ms. Hersman resigned her NTSB post and moved on, and Boeing stock has made more than a complete recovery. So, we wait and we hope.

If we are lucky, and if the re-configured marketing efforts were not just hype, we will not see a repeat battery fire or other problem. We will not dread the news when a  Dreamliner filled with passengers has a major failure, out over an ocean and two hours from land.

We hope.

A detailed 48-minute investigative report has been posted on YouTube. Will Jordan and an Al Jazeera team of reporters spent more than a year investigating. They talked with Whistleblowers, management, outsource ‘partners’, union officials, workers, and former DoT Inspector General Mary Schiavo, but they did not talk to any FAA officials. Clay Foushee (AAE-1), as head of the office that is supposed to protect aviation Whistleblowers, would have been an extremely appropriate interview … and his name appears on a memo at around 37-minutes. But, no FAA interviews or, if they did, perhaps the answers were empty and got edited out?

Here are a few quotes and time-marks from this excellent analysis of an FAA/Boeing work culture that appears to have drifted sharply, from safety to earnings reports.

4:50 “We have a contract with Boeing, so we can’t tell any comments to you.”
7:25 “After my building burned down, after that they realized, very emphatically, the danger of this chemistry.”
9:40 “When it comes to building airplanes, the FAA delegates oversight almost completely to the aircraft manufacturers .”
10:35 “I don’t think it’s a sufficient fix. Even inside that steel box, with all of its fortification, all the elements are still there for fire.”
13:50 “…it was almost as if, at times you thought Boeing executives believed, well maybe they could sit in Chicago and have other companies do things, and they would just rake in the money somehow by putting it all together and putting a Boeing sticker on it at the end.”
16:46 “More than any other single event, it was the big lie, and it was a statement that the Boeing Company is now all about the big lie.”
21:10 “They changed basic engineering principles to meet schedule. We all protested.”
24:15 “It’s been eating me alive to know what I know, and to have no avenue, no venue to say anything.”
32:00 The John Woods Whistleblower story (5-minutes)
35:20 “…He turned to the FAA, filing a Whistleblower complaint. The document alleged seven serious violations in the South Carolina plant.” Former DoT-IG Schiavo: “I’ve gotten to the page where they reach their conclusions and the discussion and what they found was that all the allegations, all but one of them they could not substantiate, and the one that they could substantiate, they asked Boeing to fix it, Boeing said ‘OK, we fixed it’, and then they close the investigation. And that’s pretty much how they all go, I mean I’ve seen this so many times.”
37:00 “…It shouldn’t be this hard to do the right thing.”
38:30 “One day you’re regulating the airline, and the next day you’re working for it. You can’t possibly be tough on the industry that you’re regulating, because you’ll never get that plum job after you leave. The regulators at the FAA will rarely cross Boeing.. They simply won’t.”
42:30 Interview with a Boeing VP (and GM of the 787 Program) (2-minutes in, the interview was stopped by Boeing’s Communications Director, and he asked that the cameras be turned off)

Here are links to the Posts related to this issue:

see also:


Rotor Blade tree pruning and the Height-Velocity Diagram for the MD500 Helicopter

Two recent helicopter accidents, involving commercial contractors, highlight the need for improved safety standards. In an accident that happened in Ohio, on July 29th, a helicopter crashed while doing aerial tree pruning, needlessly injuring a helicopter pilot. In the other helicopter accident, near Wenatchee, WA on July 23rd, a pilot was killed when he crashed while flying low over trees to air-dry a cherry crop. Both accidents would not have happened if FAA and NTSB were properly regulating the helicopter industry.

20140729.. pic demonstrating rough limb pruning by Rotor BladeThis Ohio accident shows a system used by a company (Rotor Blade) to trim off tree limbs to form tall facewalls, such as along powerlines. As shown in the photo of a pine tree at right, the quick pruning is rough, leaving large stubs.

The cutting system is a tall stack of blades, said to spin at roughly 5,000 rotations per minute. The blades appear to be between 24-30″ in diameter.20140729.. pic demonstrating large blade system used by Rotor Blade20140729.. pic demonstrating MD500 takeoff by Rotor BladeIn the accident in Ohio on 7/29/2014, the Rotor Blade helicopter had been hired to prune the forest edge along a new recreational trail. The MD500 lost power and fell into the trees. The pilot was injured, but likely would have been killed, if not for the way the trees slowed his crash.

According to the Height-Velocity Diagram created by the manufacturer and approved by FAA, the pilot was clearly supposed to avoid operations such as this tree pruning. The red ellipse marks the approximate flight parameters for tree pruning: at roughly 100-ft altitude and with slow speeds, typically less than 5-10 knots … which is right in the most dangerous area of the cross-hatched ‘AVOID’ portion of the diagram! Note that the recommended flight profile (marked in green) indicates the helicopter should have been travelling with a speed of at least 60 knots when at the 100-ft altitude for pruning.
20140730.. Height-Velocity Diagram for MD500, with markups
A similar height/velocity diagram for the Bell 206 helicopter makes the same point: pilots are to avoid low/slow operations, such as using helicopters to dry cherries.

So, Why do Accidents Like this Continue to Happen?

Mostly because FAA and NTSB continue to ignore this inappropriate use of helicopters. The pilots fly to make money and build flight hours that help them eventually get better jobs. If they protest the safety, the operator just replaces them with another pilot. The pilots cut safety corners and just ‘hope’ that nothing bad happens while they are flying their jobs. Meanwhile, the insurance companies and the operators do just like FAA: they pretend to not notice the safety problems. If anything happens, hey, blame it on the pilot. And the public agencies who hire these dangerous contractors? They, too, look the other way, assuming that by hiring a contractor, they are not culpable for the injuries and fatalities that eventually result. It is sort of a ‘safety trickle-down’, where the margin of safety reduces to near-zero.

Is There a Better Way?

Yes. Some jobs are practically done with helicopters, and some are not. This tree pruning system looks to be a bad idea. Why pay a company to do a fast but crude job pruning trees with helicopters, when it can be done to a much higher quality while employing trained professionals and using much less energy? If FAA and NTSB would press harder to reduce helicopter fatalities, the helicopter operators would not be allowed to fly this way. And, as a big benefit, there would be more real, physical jobs for tree-service professionals who are not aviators.

Is NTSB Failing to Investigate Wake Turbulence at the KSTC Crash?

It was a pleasant Minnesota summer evening, on June 20th, when a 60-yr-old airline pilot took off from the St. Cloud Regional Airport for a quick sightseeing flight. He was carrying a 16-yr-old high school exchange student, who soon would finish his year — as a house-guest of the Mayor — and fly home to his family in Germany.  The pilot wanted to provide the young man a chance to see his temporary home one last time, from the air, and capture some photographs. An added feature was that the Mississippi River waters were very high with late Spring floodwaters. They took off shortly after 8PM, and not much later were flying over the Sauk Rapids area.

At the same time, Allegiant Airlines Flight #108 was inbound from Mesa, Arizona. The airline maintains a schedule with two arrivals each week, at 8:08PM on Monday evenings and Friday evenings. On this night, the flight was running about twenty minutes late. St. Cloud Airport sits roughly six-miles southeast of Sauk Rapids, and has a 7,000′ runway aligned northwest-southeast (Runways 13 and 31). On this particular evening, the winds favored use of Runway 13, so when the air traffic controller at Minneapolis Center descended Allegiant Flight #108, they also issued vectors to approach from the northwest. As the flight approached the city of St. Cloud, the pilot was told to contact the control tower at KSTC.

20140620.. VFR sectional, KSTC Wake.Turb upset

Orange line approximates Allegiant route; red circle marks accident location.

The Allegiant crew would make their radio call to the tower while northwest of the city and east of Sauk Rapids. The tower controller would be expecting the call, because the Minneapolis Center controller would have already coordinated the planned arrival, via a phone line. What the controller would not know, however, was whether the pilot would bring his jet in higher or lower than the normal/average arrival. The pilot had full discretion to vary his altitude, within safe limits.

On the evening of June 20th, the Allegiant flight came in particularly low, perhaps to take a closer look at the flooding near Sauk Rapids. Flight profile data, viewable online, indicates that the jet may have been as low as 1,000′ above ground level (AGL) when at a five-mile final to Runway 13. [KSTC] RWY13 ILS profileIn cloudy conditions, flying the instrument approach, the planes must cross this distance at roughly 1,800′ AGL. Eyewitness reports suggest that the sightseeing flight was close by. If this is true, the pilot of the RV-6 was likely already talking to the tower controller, or was just about to call the tower to return for landing. Numerous witnesses on the ground reported seeing a ‘big airplane’ pass just before seeing a small airplane suddenly flip and dive into a fiery crash in their residential neighborhood. What should have been a thrilling experience at the end of a young man’s year visiting America, instead became yet another tragic fatal accident for NTSB to investigate.

NTSB’s Preliminary Report

Four days later, on June 24th, NTSB issued their ‘Preliminary Report’, which read:

“On June 20, 2014, about 2034 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Brumwell RV-6; N135BB, impacted a house after a departure from cruise flight about 6 miles northwest of the St Cloud Regional Airport (STC), St Cloud, Minnesota. The airplane was destroyed by post-crash fire. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under 14 CFR Part 91 as a personal flight and was not operating on a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The local flight originated from STC about 2010.”

– NTSB Preliminary Report, 6/24/2014

The NTSB made no mention of the fact that MANY residents reported observations consistent with a Wake Turbulence encounter: no mention of the possibility of wake turbulence, and no details confirming (or denying) the involvement of the Allegiant flight. The report even erred substantially, saying the crash time was at 8:34PM; this implies no connection to Allegiant (since that flight landed at 8:30PM), and also contradicts the 8:26PM crash time presented in news articles, as reported by local police.

This was a shocking accident, and very well covered by the local media, whose early news reports show many residents saw a big plane and a small plane and a crash. And yet, none of these details were included in NTSB’s ‘Preliminary Report’. Why not? Shouldn’t NTSB try to answer the questions that were being raised as the details were emerging for this news story? Is NTSB expecting to have credibility with the citizens they serve, when they release reports appearing as slipshod as this?

The Wake Turbulence Hazard

NTSB maintains a ‘Most Wanted List’ for transportation safety issues. In the 1990’s, ‘Wake Vortex Turbulence’ was included on the list. At around the same time, NTSB conducted a special investigation to examine in detail five wake turbulence events. NTSB’s special investigation raised concerns about the adequacy of:

  1. the current aircraft weight classification scheme to establish separation criteria to avoid wake vortex encounters,
  2. air traffic control procedures related to visual approaches and VFR operations behind heavier airplanes, and
  3. pilot knowledge related to the avoidance of wake vortices

NTSB then sent a March 2, 1994 letter to FAA Administrator David Hinson, listing nineteen Safety Recommendations. Within its opening paragraphs, that letter notes: “…between 1983 and 1993, there were at least 51 accidents and incidents in the United States … that resulted from probable encounters with wake vortices.  In these 51 encounters, 27 people were killed, 8 were seriously injured, and 40 airplanes were substantially damaged or destroyed….” Eventually, in response to NTSB’s safety recommendations, FAA lengthened its wake turbulence separation distances, making them slightly safer. Based on these limited actions, NTSB removed ‘Wake Vortex Turbulence’ from their Most Wanted List in 1998. But, the separation distances may not be enough.

As revealed in ANALYSIS: Selected NTSB Investigations Involving Wake Turbulence, these upsets still happen, and many are being killed at a surprisingly high frequency. At St. Cloud, the potential for an upset was even higher, simply because the RV-6 has a very short wingspan (only 23′, vs ~35’+ for a typical PA28, C172 or SR22). So, it seems unacceptable that NTSB has produced a preliminary report with no mention of wake turbulence. And, worse, it appears possible that NTSB’s empty statement may reflect a routine failure to document evidence of Wake Turbulence events.

Helicopters: the Wrong Way to see Grand Canyon

Five days ago, a pilot employed by Papillon was killed when his/her helicopter rolled over while being repositioned on the floor of Grand Canyon. [article] The air tour passengers had already been off-loaded, so none of them were injured when the fatal accident happened. In the five days since, there has been no new information; neither FAA nor NTSB has released the gender, age or name of the pilot, nor have any weather conditions or other pertinent facts been presented to the Public. We are left to wonder why this tragedy happened, and could it happen again.

There have been many fatal air tour crashes around Grand Canyon. In fact, a careful analysis of news stories and the NTSB accident database reveals thirty significant accidents since 1980, some fatal and some non-fatal. A few were horrific, killing six, ten, and as many as twenty-five. Even the minor accidents hint at air tour practices that add unnecessary risk:

  • crowding too many helicopters together at remote landing spots,
  • parking helicopters too close to picnic tables,
  • worker fatigue, due to long workdays for the pilots and mechanics,
  • lack of maintenance oversight,
  • lack of FAA safety oversight, etc.

Here is a link to a list with short summaries for each of the thirty accidents. Each dated event has further links to online news articles and NTSB reports.

Passenger photo taken minutes prior to the 9/20/2003 crash. (NTSB)

Passenger photo taken minutes prior to the 9/20/2003 crash that killed seven. Analysis of this and other photos showed reckless flying and endangerment by the pilot. (source: NTSB Report)

One accident that really stands out happened in August 2001. A tour group from New York filled twelve seats in two Papillon helicopters. The flights had flown outbound from Las Vegas, spent around an hour in the canyon area, and they had taken off from Grand Canyon West Airport for the flight back to Las Vegas. Just a few miles west of their last departure point, the helicopters crossed Grand Wash Cliffs at roughly 5,500 feet, then quickly descended a thousand feet into the space below the tall cliffs. One of the helicopters crashed, and six were killed. The one survivor lost her husband and both legs, and eventually won a $38 Million settlement. A subsequent NTSB report noted there were no local recorded weather observations. In fact, the nearest official weather reporting station is nearly fifty miles south of Grand Canyon West Airport, and is not adjacent to the canyon; the only known weather fact is that it was a very hot day, around 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

The NTSB compiled a detailed investigative report, which included the following insight into the helicopter air tour industry:

  • Investigators interviewed many, including the Papillon manager at the South Rim (Tusayan), who told NTSB: “The mechanics said that Kevin was the only pilot that they felt comfortable with on test flights.” (underline emphasis added)
  • The report suggested that pilots may be motivated to add more ‘thrill’ to the flight to earn larger tips.
  • One passenger from an earlier air tour flight with the same pilot shared her concerns, and backed them up with a copy of her air tour video. She described what air tour pilots call the ‘Thelma & Louise Descent’, in which the pilot crests low over the top of a ridge, then dives into the empty space on the other side. In her testimony, the passenger said her pilot did the ‘Thelma & Louise Descent’ at Grand Wash Cliffs, a classic location for this maneuver. She testified the pilot asked them if they wanted to do the descent, and they all said ‘no’, yet he did it anyway.

There are many professional aviators who have no love for those who make money using aircraft as a form of ‘thrill ride’. For example, the Sundance helicopter pilot who crashed into a canyon wall in September 2003 (killing all seven on board) was known by the name ‘Kamikaze’, and pilots interviewed in that NTSB investigation expressed many concerns about his long history of risk-taking. There is even an online pilot discussion, where a British tourist seeks feedback, with the title: Helicopter over Grand Canyon – which company won’t kill me?

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Grand Canyon is an extraordinary place, but it is certainly not an appropriate venue for aerial thrill rides. We can only hope that the latest tragic fatality will precipitate reform and bring an end to this dangerous form of flying.
GCNP Grandview Trail hike pic

What should YOU do if you are coming to Grand Canyon?

One of the facts gleaned while reviewing more than thirty years of air tour accidents is that very many of the fatalities are from Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world. It appears that Grand Canyon vacations are planned to be very special trips. It also appears these tourists may have been sold the idea that an air tour is necessary to experience Grand Canyon.

In fact, this is completely wrong. Just your first view of Grand Canyon will amaze you.

And, frankly, the helicopter ride is thrilling and scary when you first take off, but after that it is mostly just a lot of monotonous flying. And the noise you have to hear while crammed in the helicopter cabin…? Yeah, all air tour passengers are issued headsets, to help block out the loud noise. Too bad for those in the park below, as the ‘thump-thump-thump’ noise carries everywhere, for many miles.

So, please DO NOT book an air tour before you embark on your vacation. Please wait until AFTER you arrive and see the place, to confirm if you really want to give so much of your money to an air tour operator. And even then, please ask yourself one more time, ‘do I really want to make this noise that diminishes the experience for so many other visitors?’

GettingAroundGCNPMake it your first priority to stand at the edge of the Canyon and see how incredible it is, right there. Then, check with the Grand Canyon National Park maps and just walk some of the miles of flat rim trails (or hike below the rim, if you are more adventurous). The views will amaze you. Ride the free shuttle buses, and get out and find your own quiet vista point while enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Spend a few bucks and enjoy tea or a beer or a pleasant meal at a lodge on the South Rim, while gazing at the view. The experience is so much more rewarding without the noisy helicopter, the stuffy cabin air, and the bouts of flight-induced nausea.

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…if you would like a quick video tour, please see page two of this
Post, which has embedded links to four different videos….

Parachute Accident: Lucky to Be Alive

A skydiver in Cañon City, Colorado was wearing a helmet-camera a few years ago, when he had a serious accident. Fortunately, he survived (though he had to have his left arm amputated) and generously shared the ten-minute video. Here’s the video:

The presence of a truck and trailer in the designated drop zone area was an important factor contributing to this accident. The trailer provided  benches for the skydivers to sit on while they rode back to the skydive building. Many commenters recognized that this rig became an unnecessary hazard when it was parked too close to the landing area.

To see more, including a series of video frame-captures, click on page two.

An Unusual Midair Collision

Photo source: Tim Telford, via Polk County Sheriff’s Office

On Saturday, March 8, a Cessna was flying touch-and-goes at the South Lakeland Airport [X49]. On his third pass, the 87-year-old Cessna pilot  snagged a parachute. The collision dragged    the parachutist through the air, and caused the Cessna to turn 180-degrees right then nosedive to a hard landing. Both the pilot and the 49-year-old parachutist were taken to the hospital. The parachutist was treated and released, while the pilot was held longer for observation. The accident happened on the U.S. Parachute Association’s ‘Skydiving Safety Day’. USPA reports that in 2013 there were 24 parachute fatalities in the U.S.