A small airplane which crashed in Gordon County, killing the single occupant, last month was a "prototype of an airplane kit that was planned for mass production" and was on a test flight when it went down, after it "struggled to maintain airspeed or a nose-up attitude," according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.
According to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, an experimental amateur-built Commuter Craft Innovator, being flown by 63-year-old Richard Hogan, of Dawsonville, crashed in a field south of Calhoun at 3:45 p.m. on March 23. The plane crashed in a wooded area within a few hundered yards of a residential neighborhood on Spencer Drive.
"Ground scars and fragmentation of the wreckage were consistent with ground contact in a steep, nose-down attitude at high speed," the report stated.
NTSB investigator was called to the scene to investigate along with FAA personnel. A report of their investigation was released last week.
According to the report: In February, the plane was flown for the first time at Tom B. David Field in Calhoun, before being disassembled and returned to the factory for modifications. Commuter Craft employees told investigators the plane was a prototype for an airplane kit and was being planned for mass production. Employees added that Hogan had no experience in flying the Innovator airplane.
The plane was brought back to the Calhoun airport the day before the crash and was taxi-tested. On the day of crash, Hogan had an assistant with him fly in a "chase plane" to document the flight and record what may need to be fixed. Hogan had told the assistant he planned to takeoff, make sure the plane was flying fine and then fly to 3,000 feet to film the plane.
But when the plane took off, it rose "barely above the trees," made one maneuver and then went out of sight, according to the assistant, who had taken off ahead of Hogan in the chase plane.
The plane barely rose 200 feet from the ground, the pilot of the chase plane estimated, and was challenged "to maintain airspeed or a noseup attitude." The chase pilot added that he heard Hogan say he planned to return to the airport, before he saw the plane go down. He added that the plane was "porpoising" before the nose dipped down, leading to the crash.
Another witness, a pilot who was approaching the airport by car, said the plane was "pitching an rolling and appeared unstable" immediately after takeoff. He added that the plane was around 150 feet off the ground when it steeply turned and disappeared from his sight behind a line of trees.
The owner of the property where the plane crashed told investigators he heard the plane fly low above his workshop before the sound of impact.
As part of its investigation, the NTSB also looked into Hogan's certifications. He had a private pilot cer tificate, but he did not have a valid medical certificate. His FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in Dec. 6, 1999. In addition he had not completed a BasicMed course, as required for his class of medical certificate every two years.
Hogan's last flight before the crash was on April 27, 2018, flying for just over an hour. In all of 2018, he flew 4.7 hours. Overall, he had 334 total hours of flight experience.
Two high school students from Gordon County placed in the top three for the Congressional Art Competition, where they were awarded with scholarships and were presented with awards by U.S. Congressman Tom Graves.
On Thursday, the Harris Arts Center hosted a reception announcing the winners of the competition. Around 70 high school students within Georgia's 14th district submitted their artwork to be displayed and judged during this year's competition. All submitted pieces were on display in the arts center starting March 18.
Each spring the Congressional Institute sponsors a nationwide high school visual art competition to recognize and encourage artistic talent across the nation and in each congressional district. On Thursday, five individuals from Georgia's 14th district were recognized for their creative pieces.
First place for the competition was awarded to Esther Hayes, a junior at Sonoraville High School, whose piece was entitled "Meraki."
Hayes, who is interested in practicing art for the rest of her life, said "Meraki" was the first piece she painted in 2019 and she designed it as a peek into South African culture.
The title of her piece, she said, means "to put all your effort into something." Hayes has never been to South Africa, but chose the subject of her painting to encourage diversity in society.
"This is the first competition I've done," Hayes said. "I feel like it'll be a good opportunity to get my name out there."
As a result of her placing first, Hayes was given a $3,000 yearly, renewable scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design, and also a $12,000 scholarship to the Art Institute of Atlanta.
During the reception, second place was awarded to George Zhang, a student at Darlington School in Rome, and third was awarded to Calhoun High School senior Brooke Landry. The Art Institute offered scholarships to second and third place as well — $7,500 and $3,000 respectively.
Landry, who is attending New York University in the fall to study collaborative arts, is not only a visual
artist, but is also a singer, pianist, flute player, piccolo player and a dancer. Landry has participated in this competition for the past three years, earning honorable mentions at the past two.
"It feels good to place, but I'm really happy I didn't win first or second because I already know where I'm going to school and I already knew SCAD offered such a generous scholarship," Landry said. "I don't want to take that from someone else."
Landry has been drawing for years, and said it's not necessarily something she says she's talented at, but it's more so something she decides to practice relentlessly.
"It's more so suffering through the terrible drawings so you can finally get to the good ones," Landry said, "and it's the same with everything else I do."
Graves, who awarded the winners with certificates and took pictures with them following the reception, said this competition intends to encourage students to dream big.
"You can do big things no matter what anyone says," Graves said. "You're always going to get criticism, but push past that and do good things."
Honorable mentions included George Zhang (for his second entry) and Jaci Davis, of Cedartown High School. Ashley James, of North Paulding High School, was chosen to receive the "People's Choice" award, which was presented by Gordon County Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Johnson.
Winning pieces, which include first, second and third place, as well as the two honorable mentions, will be displayed in Graves' Dalton Congressional Office during May.
Hayes's artwork will then be shipped to Washington, D.C., in June, where it will remain on display in the Cannon House Office Building's Capitol Tunnel for one year, alongside the first place artwork from each of the 435 congressional districts in the country. Hayes was also presented with two round-trip tickets to see her piece exhibited and participate in the winner's reception this summer.
In light of the city postponing cardboard baling operations, the program's volunteer coordinator, Judy Peterson, has announced her resignation. The city also announced they will halt cardboard pickups May 1, a month prior to their original date of June 1.
"I don't think current decisions that have been made regarding the Calhoun Recycling Center will lead to a stronger, more sustainable community," Peterson said.
A public notice sent to business owners in Calhoun from the city announced the program will stop baling operations May 1, where as they first announced they would be out of a Pine Street building, which currently houses cardboard baling operations, on June 1.
The recycling center has been using Calhoun City Schools' warehouse building on Pine Street for the past few years, yet the district needs the warehouse space back this summer to store furnishings, equipment and materials, according to Calhoun Superintendent Michele Taylor. In November, the district gave the city a June 1 date for when they would be moving additional equipment into the warehouse.
Assistant City Administrator Paul Worley said in a March 20 email sent to the City Council that June 1 would be when the center would need to be out of the warehouse, resulting in the halt of cardboard baling operations. In a public notice sent to business owners, the city announced they would stop picking up cardboard from 70 local businesses on May 1.
Peterson, who has worked as a volunteer coordinator for the past four years, has spent her free time organizing cardboard pickups from local businesses, creating partnerships between schools and businesses, and working with the city's Public Works Department to improve the recycling program.
Yet, she said halting
cardboard baling and potentially even paying Santek to haul off the city's recyclables, which she said the city is considering, has not only sparked her disappointment, but also has caused her future dissociation with the recycling center.
A discussion between the city school system and city officials regarding the recycling center's operations within the warehouse began before the end of last year, but wasn't brought to the attention of the city council until March 11 during a work session.
City Councilwoman Jackie Palazzolo, who oversees the recycling center and gives monthly reports to the council on its operations, was unable to attend the session and did not find out about the proposed changes until March 18, she said.
Palazzolo commented in the March 25 City Council work session that with regards to the recycling program updates, the "transparency, the communication has not been there."
Since the Pine Street ware house would be unavailable for city use as of June 1, city officials have had a hard time finding a facility within the budgeted $170,000 from 2018 SPLOST funds and a fitting space for it. In the March 20 email from Worley to council members, he noted initial estimates for a new spec building were more than double the dedicated SPLOST funds.
As of this week, not only is the city still lacking a solution for a new recycling facility, location or future in the baling operations, but the city has also told local businesses that cardboard pickup will cease one month prior to the recycling center losing the warehouse space.
Starting no later than May 1, the 70 businesses that had been recycling with the center would have to "bring (their) cardboard to the drop off center or make arrangements with a private hauler," according to the public notice given to businesses.
Mayor Jimmy Palmer said in order to make up for the amount of cardboard that won't be baled, there will be additional bins set up around the city for collecting cardboard, which will be picked up with an increased frequency to current recycling pickup schedules.
Following the announcement by the city about the direction the recycling program was going, Peterson said the city was taking the program back to where it was five or six years ago. She said the second public notice sent to businesses was further evidence that the city was failing to communicate, not only with its citizens, but also with its own officials.
Even though Palmer insists there aren't many changes being made to the program, Peterson, who has seen the program grow and expand over the past few years, said there will in fact be a major change in operations. Since baling cardboard is the center's main source of revenue, she said it will basically turn into a drop-off center, which in her opinion, essentially symbolizes that the city is closing down the center.
"What are we closing a program before we know if there's even a better option," Peterson said. "And what if it isn't a better option, are we still going through with it?"
Peterson said the program, for the past decade or so, has only done the bare minimum, especially when compared to curbside services provided in Dalton, Rome and Cartersville. She said at this rate, a year from now, she estimates the program won't be growing or advancing in any way, but instead it would be decreasing sustainability levels in Calhoun.
"All along we hoped it was more of a service we were providing, but a way of thinking," Peterson said.
But with things going the way they are, Peterson said she can in no longer serve as the recycling coordinator. She has worked as the coordinator without pay for four years, putting in hours of time, coordinating and organizing the program in order to prepare the city for a future in advanced sustainability.
"I do not see potential for growth and progress in the program, beyond some additional bins to collect cardboard and larger dumpsters at the center," Peterson said.