Saturday, February 20, 2016

Destin Executive Airport (KDTS), Okaloosa County, Florida: Local expert gives the rundown on the runway

They fly over Destin’s beaches all the time, small private airplanes and company jets, prop planes and Cessna’s. 

For the most part they are just part of the scenery Destin residents have gotten used to due to the close proximity of Eglin Air Force Base and the Destin Executive Airport (DTS) right in the heart of the city.

But when news of an aircraft crashing into the Gulf of Mexico hit the stands last week, the Destin Log decided to find out exactly what it takes to fly an aircraft in and out of Destin.

Chief Flight Instructor Larry Anderson pilots a 172 Skyhawk Cessna plane, one of 10 airplanes he knows how to fly.

The Factors

Larry Anderson, the chief flight instructor at DTS, is a local expert on the flight patterns in Destin. With 43 years of flying experience, and 15 of those years instructing in Destin, Anderson is very familiar with the interworking factors surrounding the small airport.

“I got my license here at Destin back when there was just a little shack at the end of the airstrip,” he said. “Now I can fly 10 different kinds of aircraft.”

Anderson explained there are several moving factors in place when flying any aircraft, the first being the pilot’s license.

“When you get a private pilot’s license you can only fly in good weather according to Visual Flight Rules or VFR,” he said. “Basically, you cannot fly in any clouds. But when the weather is bad, you have to use an instrument reading and have to have a separate license called an Instrument Flight Rules or IFR.”

According to these specifications, in order to fly on a sunny day, visibility must be at least three miles ahead with clouds above at a 100-foot ceiling. However, if flying with the use of instruments the requirements change to visibility at three quarters of a mile and a cloud ceiling at 272 feet.

With the specifications out of the way, Anderson said that each aircraft planning to fly using instruments must submit a flight-plan with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prior to takeoff.

When asked what the greatest challenge pilot’s face flying in or out of DTS, Anderson said for this area, it’s the fact that the air is government operated.

“I think the biggest challenge about flying into Destin is dealing with Eglin,” he said.

He then explained that because the military owns the air above Destin, every flight coming or going must coordinate and gain permission from Eglin before entering the airspace. This can be a tedious process as Eglin does not have a tower at DTS, and must be radio signaled by each pilot before each takeoff or landing.

According to the annual accounts log, last year saw roughly 6,800 flight operations come either in or out of DTS. Anderson said that the heavy flight traffic also adds to the stress of flying into Destin.

“Another thing that makes it challenging to fly into Destin is we have a mix of airplanes — large and small — so on a holiday it’s very busy,” he said. “Other than that this is a safe and easy airport.”

The northern approach into DTS is the most favored by pilots due to the common southerly head-winds.

The Approach

Although aircraft can be seen flying into Destin from the north and the south, there is only one runway at DTS. Anderson said that planes land from one side or the other depending on the direction of the wind.

“You want to land with the wind in your face so you pick the runway based on the wind,” he said. “It’s one piece of concrete, but we call the runways according to your orientation and which way you want to land.”

The 5,000-foot runway has a northern orientation of 1-4 and a southern orientation of 3-2. The call numbers are used by the pilot’s before landing to ensure an open strip and a correct compass reading.

“The number comes from the nearest 10 degrees on the heading,” Anderson explained. “Looking at the compass for the northern approach, the orientation of the compass would be 140 degrees so it’s called 1-4.”

Anderson said the Northern approach is the most common.

“1-4 is used more often probably because the wind comes in from the south and most people like it better,” he said.

Destin Executive Airport is home to two terminals run by the fixed based operator, Destin Jet.

The Layout

There may only be one runway at DTS, but there are two terminals — Destin Jet North and Destin Jet South — now run by the same Fixed Base Operator (FBO).

“Destin Jet all came under one roof roughly a year and a half ago,” said Interim Airport Director Tracey Stage. “An FBO is much like a full service gas station on the freeway. They are responsible to keep up with county standards such as they must provide fueling, aircraft maintenance, pilot flight-planning, flight instruction, flight school, manage parking, and offer hangar spaces. They are nice facilities, like small general aviation terminals.”

The Destin Executive Airport, established in the late 1950’s, was once known as Coleman Kelly Field. But in 1964, Coleman and his wife Mattie Kelly granted the property to the Okaloosa County Airport and Industrial Authority for future growth and operation.

Today, the airport features a brand new runway finished in 2013 and a Destin control tower that began construction last year. When completed, the new air traffic control tower will eliminate the pilot’s need to make radio calls to Eglin.

“It will be eyes from the tower on the field and on the traffic pattern,” Stage said. “Eglin cannot see our airport, they don’t have eyes on the field and they don’t know what aircraft is on the taxiway or runway, all they know is what comes on the frequencies.”

 Once finished, the Destin tower will communicate with the Eglin tower taking that pressure off the pilot.

“It will definitely be better from an operational and safety standpoint and it will definitely increase our control of the airfield,” said Stage.

Story and photo gallery:

The controls of the 172 Skyhawk Cessna feature altitude and airspeed readings on the left screen and a map on the right screen.

NTSB Identification: ERA16LA106
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, February 12, 2016 in Destin, FL
Aircraft: PIPER PA28, registration: N2209W
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On February 12, 2016, about 1850 central standard time (CST), a Piper PA-28-181, N2209W, was destroyed during collision with water while maneuvering to land at Destin Executive Airport (DTS), Destin, Florida. The private pilot and a passenger were fatally injured. The flight departed Pearland Regional Airport (LVJ), Pearland, Texas, about 1715. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91.

According to preliminary radar data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as witness accounts, the airplane approached DTS from the west, and transitioned along the shore on the south side of the airport for landing on runway 32. Witnesses reported the pilot announced a go-around on the airport's common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), and the radar track depicted the airplane crossing the approach end of runway 32, then turning upwind on the east side of the runway. The airplane continued in a left-hand circuit around the airport and its altitude varied between 500 and 700 feet mean sea level (msl).

The radar depicted a left turn in a location consistent with a left base turn for landing on runway 32. Instead of continuing to an approximate heading of 050 degrees for the base leg of the traffic pattern, the airplane rolled out on an approximate heading of 090 degrees, and flew through the final approach course, west to east, as it tracked parallel to the coast. The airplane then turned 90 degrees to the south and tracked out over the water. The last radar target showed the airplane at 175 feet msl at 128 knots groundspeed.

A witness who was monitoring the CTAF as he approached the airport in his own airplane reported he heard the accident pilot announce his go-around and his positions as he circumnavigated the airport. The pilot's last radio call announced he would be "circling somewhere." There were no further communications from the accident airplane. The witness reported windy conditions as he approached DTS, and that conditions were "extremely bumpy" below 300 feet.

A witness who was jogging in an easterly direction along the beach reported to an FAA inspector that his attention was drawn to the airplane as it crossed the beach and headed south over the water. He stated that the engine was running, but the front of the airplane was illuminated as if the engine was "on fire." The witness stated he thought the airplane was in a wings-level attitude, not turning, but descending rapidly. He said that when the airplane struck the water, he heard an explosion and the light at the front of the airplane "went out."

According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on March 3, 2014. The pilot reported 306 total hours of flight experience on that date. The pilot did not possess an instrument rating.

The four-seat, single-engine, low-wing airplane was manufactured in 1979 and was equipped with a Lycoming O-360 series engine. The maintenance logbooks for the airplane were not recovered, but copies of logbook entries revealed the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed May 8, 2015, at 2,239 total aircraft hours. On February 9, 2016, the engine oil was changed at 2,272 total aircraft hours.

The airplane was recovered from the Gulf of Mexico and moved to a secure facility for a detailed examination at a later date. According to the FAA inspector on site during the recovery, the airplane was destroyed by impact forces. Except for a large section of the right wing, all major components of the airplane were accounted for. The engine, with the propeller attached, was completely entangled with the instrument panel, control cables, and wiring. All damage appeared consistent with impact and overload.

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