I whole-heartedly encourage your efforts to get Ms. Hulsey removed from her position.
As a pilot however, I am discouraged to read the misinformation suggesting that because of Ms. Hulsey's incompetence, Arcata Airport is a dangerous airport to fly into. This is just not true.
Ms. Hulsey, and the rest of the on site County personnel have NOTHING to do with the safety of your flight. This is an uncontrolled airport, as is Crescent City, and it is the job of the pilot (and Seattle Center if you are flying IFR)to ensure a safe flight. The only thing that failed due to Ms. Hulsey was a search effort after a crash. This would not happen with a commercial flight as they are being monitored by their company and also have personnel on the ground that would alert authorities if the plane didn't land.
Even the pilot has several options available to them to start a rescue on their own. The most common is to make a call to Seattle Center and inform them of your trouble and that you are going down. This will get rescue launched immediately. You can dial an emergency code into your transponder. Another option is to activate the onboard ELT. This is a simple toggle switch usually found on the panel of the aircraft. Again, this would have got a rescue launched right away.
So, why didn't the pilot of this airplane do any of those things? Well, I firmly believe he had no idea he was in any trouble until he hit the water. The NTSB report shows a steady decent from over 4000 ft and he was below altitude for over nearly 10 minutes. It is my belief that an improperly set autopilot caused him to do a steady decent into the ocean without him realizing what was happening.
Again, I do indeed blame Ms. Hulsey for completely mishandling this situation, and I hope she is removed from her position, but it should in no way stop anyone from flying into our local airports. The flight is as safe as the pilot makes it.
Ms. Hulsey's actions during and after this event are reprehensible. I believe she should resign or be discharged from her duties. One of the problems that led to this is that Ms. Hulsey is not a pilot (even though the job application recommends that the Airport Manager be a pilot.) As the article stated, airports get calls about missing aircraft all the time, and yes, 99.99% of the time it is because the pilot forgot to close out his flight plan. Because of this, airport personnel don't get too excited when they receive calls of overdue aircraft. If however, as in this case, Center tells you that a tiny Diamond aircraft just disappeared off of radar during an instrument approach on a horribly stormy night, that should get one's attention that something BAD just happened.
I believe that Ms. Hulsey, not being a pilot or having much aviation knowledge, did not understand the likelyhood that this was a real emergency and simply assumed it was another pilot who didn't close a flight plan and just made a courtesy call to the airport without stressing the importance of what was happening.
This seems apparant to me in the entry made in the Airport Log by the worker on duty at the airport. His log says that Ms. Hulsey called and said to "have the pilot of the plane that just landed call Seatlle Center and close his flightplan." The airport worker then noted that "neither plane nor pilot were located". This sure looks to me like the proper information was not passed along to the airport worker actually on the scene.
I also find it absolutely disgusting that Ms. Hulsey refused to meet face to face with the relatives of the pilot and had her underlings tell obvious lies to help her avoid the family.
That said, the worst actions were those taken by the pilot himself who choose to fly a small aircraft into an area he was not familiar with, at night, during one of the worst storms of the year. This is the decision that ended his life and it is highly unlikely that even an immediate search would have ended any differently, of course, we can never know that for certain.
In Print This Week:
Dec 5, 2013
vol XXIV issue 49
The North Coast Journal Weekly
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