Danny The Drone Dude

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Drone Book
By K. Daniel Glover

Throughout childhood and into college, I pictured the adult version of myself in a whole host of careers. The ideas ranged from the predictable (doctor) and practical (electrician) to the sensible (electrical engineer) and fantastical (wildlife photographer).

One future that I never could have imagined, or that any aptitude test could have predicted, was becoming a commercial drone pilot. Yet here I am today, living that dream in my spare time while working for the federal agency that taught me how to do it safely.

The genesis of droning dreams
I joined the Federal Aviation Administration as a writer-editor in December 2012, just as the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system became a priority. Congress had addressed the issue earlier that year in a series of mandates, and the FAA published a comprehensive plan and integration roadmap in November 2013.

FAA writer Danny Glover and his son, Anthony, on the job for a client (Photo: Cedar Box Photography)

Back then, I had only a passing knowledge of drones of the military variety, like the Predator and Reaper. But as I learned about smaller unmanned aircraft systems, I started picturing myself at the remote controls. I could experience the thrill of flight without being in the air myself, a prospect that rarely appeals to me.

Periodic exposure to UAS-related issues as a writer and editor heightened my interest. I reported on the first “UAS Day” at the Air Traffic Control Association, edited some content for the “Know Before You Fly” educational campaign, interviewed an FAA lawyer about the legal landscape surrounding drones, and wrote about the Pathfinder research program.

I talked about drones at home often enough that my wife and children heard the not-so-subtle message. They bought me one for my birthday. That’s when this 1980s child of one-joystick Atari games realized I wasn’t technologically adept enough to operate modern electronic toys.

I bounced that drone off every wall and piece of furniture in our house, testing the limits of the flexible plastic construction and propeller guards. Our teenage son, Anthony, was a natural at the controls — but when I let him fly the drone outside, he promptly rebelled against my orders to stay low and away from trees. He snagged the drone on a limb 25 feet in the air.

The whole family, and probably some amused neighbors, watched as an irritated and frantic father tried mightily to rescue his new toy. I tied a small rock to a long stretch of string and repeatedly heaved it into the air until it finally sailed over the limb. A few firm, downward yanks of the string freed the drone but not the rock. It dangled 15 feet above the ground for months, prompting the occasional curious question from visitors to our house. (more…)

A School Official Who Homeschools?

Originally published at PJ Media
By K. Daniel Glover

Bonnie Henthorn and her husband spent their formative years in Tyler County public schools. Between them, their two children spent at least 15 years in that school system. The family has paid taxes that support the schools for decades.

bonnie_henthorn_twitterWith deep roots and a historical perspective like that, Henthorn is an ideal choice for president of the Tyler County school board, a role she has filled since 2014. But none of that matters now because in January she committed the unpardonable sin of public education: She started homeschooling.

Henthorn announced the family decision at the Jan. 4 school board meeting, citing two reasons that had nothing to do with Tyler County schools. “One is that I want them to have a more Christian-based education,” she said. “… Number two is I no longer feel that the state leadership has the best interest of the students at heart.”

That very personal decision, designed to benefit Henthorn’s sophomore son and seventh-grade daughter, quickly became the topic of a very hostile public debate.

At the meeting, board member Linda Hoover peppered Henthorn with questions. She implied that Henthorn couldn’t lead an education system if her children weren’t part of it and that pulling them from it is “a slap in the teachers’ faces.” Another board member, Jimmy Wyatt, called it a “questionable decision” that might show a lack of faith in the county school system.

The outrage escalated over the next few weeks. A Tyler County native created a Facebook group and a Change.org petition demanding Henthorn’s resignation. The Charleston Gazette-Mail published an editorial decrying the “sad mess” in Tyler County and calling Henthorn “unsuited for public school leadership.”

At the next school board meeting, the union that represents Tyler County teachers expressed its lack of confidence in Henthorn. Even State Board of Education president Michael Green, whom Henthorn specifically mentioned when criticizing state leadership, felt compelled to issue a statement.

Read the rest of the article at PJ Media.

There’s A Cougar In Them Thar Hills

Originally published at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

There are no cougars in Wayne County, W.Va. By official accounts, there are no cougars anywhere in wild, wonderful West Virginia. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in 2011 that the eastern cougar is no longer endangered because it is extinct.

But for a few days last month, a Prichard, W.Va., man named J.R. Hundley deceived a whole bunch of gullible people on Facebook into thinking he had seen one near his house. “I think he killed my [pit bull]! Something tore him up pretty bad,” Hundley wrote Dec. 16.

When asked by Facebook readers, Hundley divulged phony details about the origins of the picture. He implied that he took the photo on “my driveway up the hill to my house” on Lower Gragston Creek Road. When one reader voiced concern about a free-roaming mountain lion killing pets and livestock, Hundley even offered this reassurance about the one he never actually saw: “I was gone, came home and found him. He wasn’t mean at all!”

Nearly 1,600 people shared his warning about a puma on the prowl in the hills, and another 600 liked it. You could tell from the comments that locals wanted to believe it was true, if only to justify their unfounded fears that mountain lions are in the area. Some people spread rumors of their own.

“We saw one cross the road in Prichard a few years ago in front of us, but it was black,” Carrie Ann Bragg wrote. Kathy Baker Rice shared this tale: “I saw one on Bear Creek a few years ago, just about three miles from Buchanan, Ky., which is across the Big Sandy River from Prichard. Huge.”

Cara Nelson-Hall suggested that the mountain lion Hundley imagined was not alone. “They’re on Davis branch. We hear them,” she said. And Jim Reed cried conspiracy by state game officials. “I bet DNR released him out there, lol,” he said half-jokingly. “I would call them and ask them if they did and tell them to pay [you] for your pit bull.”

Appalachian Magazine bought into Hundley’s story, touting it and other alleged sightings of mountain lions in Appalachia under the headline “Mountain Lion Sighted in West Virginia.” Several readers told their own cougar tales in the comments of the magazine’s Facebook page and ridiculed the doubters.

“Anyone that thinks there are no panthers in West Virginia is a fool,” Opal Marcum said. “They are in Wayne County, Mingo County and Logan County for sure. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t see you.”

But discerning readers quickly pegged Hundley as a hoaxer. “Also look out for the notorious Sasquatch,” Travis Boone mocked. “He’s around too!!”

Some critics assumed that the picture was real and that Hundley edited a mountain lion into it. But as it turns out, the entire photo is real (along with a second one like it). Hundley just didn’t take it.

The photos were published on three Facebook pages, Hunting Trophy Trips, Oregon Outdoor Hunters and Oregon Outdoor Council. Oregon State University forestry student Hayden England saw the cougar March 10 while working in the field near Vida, Ore., and the McKenzie River.

Jay Leno Was Wrong About West Virginia

Published in The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
By K. Daniel Glover

For one magnificent moment after the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4, West Virginia University and the entire state of West Virginia were the talk of America. Sports fans were in awe of the Mountaineers, who set record after record in one of the greatest football games in college history.

We West Virginians should have known the hillbilly bashers wouldn’t let us bask in the glory for long, and sure enough, the predictable slam came less than 24 hours after the final whistle.

“And West Virginia beat Clemson in the Orange Bowl last night by a score of 70-33,” Jay Leno said in his “Tonight Show” monologue the day after the game. “West Virginia scored 70 points? Huh, West Virginia? They don’t score that high on their SATs.”

Leno apparently holds to the comedic philosophy that when all else fails — and the “Tonight Show” has been one big fail after another for the past two years — just tell a West Virginia joke.

Finally, Congress Does Something Right

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

The House adopted a very important resolution yesterday, the most significant in my lifetime. Here’s the text of the measure, H. Res. 938:

Whereas the West Virginia University Mountaineer football team won the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, defeating the University of Oklahoma Sooners by a score of 48 to 28 in Glendale, Arizona, on January 2, 2008;Whereas the Mountaineer football team has been a source of great pride for West Virginians throughout the years;

Whereas the people of West Virginia take their team’s triumphs and setbacks as their own, in times of hardship and prosperity;

Whereas the Mountaineers displayed uncommon intensity and determination in preparing for the challenge of meeting one of the best teams in the country in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl;

Whereas the Mountaineers executed an almost flawless game;

Whereas then-assistant coach Bill Stewart demonstrated true leadership and coaching skill by filling an unexpected coaching void, instilling confidence in his team, and leading them to victory, earning the admiration and gratitude of his fellow West Virginians;

Whereas the Fiesta Bowl most valuable player on offense, Mountaineer quarterback Pat White, gave a brilliant running and passing performance that inspired his teammates, delighted his fans, and frustrated his opponents;

Whereas the Fiesta Bowl most valuable player on defense, Mountaineer linebacker and native West Virginian Reed Williams, led his teammates in an outstanding defensive performance;

Whereas Mountaineer senior fullback Owen Schmitt, through his steady play and gracious post-game words of victory, displayed the best qualities of team play and sportsmanship;

Whereas Mountaineer receiver Tito Gonzales demonstrated outstanding play with a 79-yard touchdown pass and showed a national television audience how important Mountaineer success was to his team and his state;

Whereas Mountaineer freshman tailback Noel Devine gave a spirited and skillful performance worthy of his injured teammate and mentor, record-breaking tailback Steve Slaton;

Whereas the Mountaineers’ offensive line dominated the battle in the trenches, making possible the outstanding performances of White, Devine, Schmitt, receiver Darius Reynaud, kicker Pat McAfee, and the other offensive stars of the day;

Whereas the Mountaineers’ attacking defense forced the Sooner offense to yield the field time and again;

Whereas the Mountaineers finished among the top 10 in college football rankings for three years in a row;

Whereas Mountaineer athletic director Ed Pastilong has instilled in the athletic department of West Virginia University the highest standards of ethics and performance throughout his many years of leadership;

And whereas the Mountaineers and their new head coach Bill Stewart have brought great honor to themselves, their university, and the state of West Virginia: Now, therefore, be it resolved that the House of Representatives:

1) Congratulates the West Virginia University Mountaineer football team for winning the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl;

And 2) commends the team for demonstrating throughout the season the best qualities of teamwork, dedication, and sportsmanship.

Read my sports interludes from November, December and January for the background.

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Every month when I pen my historical essay looking at “Congress Back Then” for IntellectualCapital.com, I have one goal in mind: Cast the congressional news of today in the context of the past to show readers the “big picture” of American policy and politics. In the spirit of George Santayana’s familiar warning about history, I aim to remind us of the mistakes of our forebears to keep us from repeating them.

This month, in writing about the creation of my home state of West Virginia, I have no such higher purpose. I am simply availing myself of the columnist’s prerogative to write about whatever he chooses. Oh, I do have a news peg: West Virginia celebrated its 137th birthday on Tuesday. But that is really just an excuse to write about a topic dear to my heart.

Fortunately for IC readers, the story of West Virginia’s birth, coming as it did in the heart of the Civil War and under constitutionally questionable circumstances, is an engaging one, as Granville Davisson Hall made quite clear in his 1901 book “The Rending of Virginia: A History.” “To carve a new state out of an old one … in the midst of a civil war threatening the existence of the Union itself,” Hall wrote, “was a task as serious as any people ever had to confront.”

One state, two peoples
Despite its link to the most tumultuous time in American history, West Virginia statehood had less to do with the Civil War and slavery than with the decades of enmity between Virginians separated by the Blue Ridge Mountains. For reasons geographical, political, economical, ancestral and cultural, the plantation aristocrats of the east and the rugged mountaineers of the west were destined to part ways some day. The Civil War and slavery were just expedient means to that inevitable end.

Serious talk of splitting the Old Dominion surfaced at least as early as 1830, after a state constitutional convention long sought by westerners. The convention largely failed to address complaints ranging from voting rights and legislative representation to taxation and the distribution of state money and debt. One frustrated Wheeling Gazette writer called for a division — “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.”

Reforms adopted at a second state constitutional convention in 1850-51 alleviated some of the festering east-west tensions. But the national uproar over slavery in the 1850s resurrected the talk of two Virginias — and the talk was not confined to Virginians.

Here’s Good News About Teens

Sean Teagarden’s legacy: courage, friendship, hope

Originally published in The Dominion Post
By K. Daniel Glover

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When the seniors at University High School, with diplomas in hand, say goodbye to youth and take that first step into adulthood tonight, one member of the Class of 1994 will not be there to share in the joy, the anxiety, the memories with his classmates.

Sean Teagarden, once a vibrant young man and always a dear friend of mine, died Oct. 9, 1992, less than two months after his 16th birthday. Halfway through his freshman year at University High, Sean was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that ended his life less than a year later.

I had met Sean only six years earlier when I moved from my hometown of Paden City to Morgantown to study journalism at West Virginia University. His father, Vernon, preached at the church of Christ where I attended services, and I became a regular guest at the Teagarden household during my college years. We became family.

Vernon and his wife, Evelyn, were my parents away from home; Michelle and Mindi were the sisters I never had. And Sean, well, he was my spiritual clone, my soul mate.

I saw in Sean the boy I once was, good and bad, and I saw the chance to guide a child 10 years my junior through the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Although still a wet-behind-the-ears college kid myself.

I was sure that I had some wisdom that would be of benefit to Sean. If he accepted me as a mentor, I told myself, he would avoid the mistakes I had made.

Sean did accept me as a mentor of sorts. We hunted together; we talked sports and girls and religion; and we picked at one another, as boys are wont to do.

But I now know how presumptuous it was to believe that Sean could learn anything from me, for I learned more from him in his last nine months than I possibly could have taught him in a lifetime.

I learned from Sean the true meanings of strength, of love, of dignity, of hope. And I learned anew something I had known when I was Sean’s age — that in spite of what some may think, teenagers are not inherently bad. Their judgment may be poor at times, but that is part of growing up.

Sean’s family, his mother in particular, walked away from his graveside with that same realization. But they learned as much from Sean’s classmates and friends as from the boy they buried.

Evelyn Teagarden asked me to write this article so that others — parents, grandparents, young adults who have not yet experienced the joys and pitfalls of parenthood, perhaps even some teenagers — might know the good news about the next generation, the news they do not notice in the newspapers or see on television.

The news is this: Today’s teenagers, like others who have gone before, are by nature wholesome, caring people.

Sean’s friends proved that time and again during his last months. The stream of visitors — to the hospital when Sean was receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and to his home when he was recovering — was endless, and many of the “regulars” were young men and women who put Sean’s happiness above their own. Some students collected money for Sean; others sent flowers and food. Two classmates gave Sean video games.

When Sean’s parents decided to organize a big birthday bash the August before his death, friends came to wish Sean well. Sean’s grade-school classmates did their part to lift his spirits, too, sending both flowers and cards. Even those who knew Sean only through mutual friends sent cards and phoned.

In his last months, Sean often lacked the stamina to do the things he had done before the cancer invaded his body, but his friends were there when his strength returned. James Swords, one of Sean’s best friends, took him fishing and sometimes chauffeured him around town. When Sean returned exhausted from a bike ride with a group of friends, they helped him into the house, then they all took a nap.

The compassion did not cease when Sean’s life did, either. The memory of dozens of mourning teenagers at McCulla Funeral Home in Westover on a dreary Monday touches my heart to this day. Nobody made those youngsters trek to the funeral home; they went of their own free will to say goodbye to a friend and to grieve for one of their own. A year later, they remembered Sean again with an article in the senior yearbook.

Sean and his friends taught me, the chief of cynics after three-plus years as a political reporter in Washington, D.C., that people young and old alike are good. Most of us want nothing more than to be happy and to make others happy. Although we sometimes may lose sight of that goal, it is the driving force within each of us.

It is what drove Sean and continues to drive those who survive him.

Sean Teagarden never had the chance to graduate from high school, but he graduated from life with honors. The other boys and girls — nay, men and women — of University High School’s Class of 1994 are well on their way to doing the same.

They and their counterparts are the future of this city, this state, this nation, this world. A heavy burden though that may be, I know they are up to the challenge. They proved it two years ago.

Fire Destroys Local Business, Releases Hazardous Chemicals

Originally published at the Dominion Post
By K. Daniel Glover

An early morning fire at a Rock Forge business on Monday caused $100,000 to $200,000 in damages and released hazardous chemicals, authorities said.

No one was hurt, but two Brookhaven firefighters were treated on the scene and another, Darrin Evans, was taken to University Hospital because of dizziness, Brookhaven Fire Chief Steve Ayersman said.

The block building, about 40 by 60 feet, housed Buck Stoves of Morgantown along Route 7 in Brookhaven. The business is owned by William K. Croft and Kermit Menear, officials said.

Efforts to fight the fire were complicated by hazardous chemicals that caused small explosions, according to Brookhaven Assistant Fire Chief Jim Lipscomb.

Lipscomb and Peter Shumloff, chief of the River Road Fire Department, dressed in protective clothing and oxygen tanks before extinguishing two small hot spots in the back of the room. The hot spots had been smoldering since the fire was under control at 10 a.m., but the chemical explosions made them hard to reach.

The fire was reported by neighbors and passing motorists at about 2:30 a.m. and was under control by 4:30 a.m., according to firefighters on the scene.

The explosion, caused by chemicals becoming mixed with water, went unnoticed until daylight, Lipscomb said. He said no one was allowed in the building early Monday because the chemical reactions were causing a chlorine smell.

The Monongalia Hazardous Incident Response Team (HIRT), which had been on the scene earlier, returned to the scene after the reactions were reported. Unsure of how to respond to the fire because of the chemicals, officials called Chemtrec, a chemical advisory station in Washington, D.C., on call 24 hours a day, to receive a breakdown of the chemicals involved.

Chemicals at the site included HTH stabilizer conditioner, sodium carbonate, sodium bisulfate and chlorine trifluoride, all commonly used to treat swimming pool water. A 200-gallon drum of SOCK IT, the brand name for a liquid shock treatment, also was discovered.

It was originally thought that some carcinogens — cancer-causing chemicals — were on the site, but owners Croft and Menear said none were present.

HIRT Rescue Chief B.P. Shagula said the crew’s biggest fear was breathing the chemicals or having their eyes come in contact with them, especially the chlorine chemicals, which can cause lung problems. “There were a couple of Brookhaven firemen treated this morning for eye and throat problems,” Shagula said. “EMS treated them on the scene.”

Ayersman identified the injured firefighters as Deon McMillan and Brad Fleming. Ervin was taken to University Hospital around noon and was released shortly afterward, Ayersman said.

Shagula said the chemicals, which people use in the Morgantown area every day, are not normally hazardous. “One of the best things for us to do if that stuff starts burning is to let it burn itself out,” he said.

Shagula said HIRT is only licensed to contain hazardous materials, not to remove them, so he and Director of the Office of Emergency Services Ron Kyle recommended that the owners call in a professional cleanup crew. “If the owners start cleaning materials and kicking dust around, it could cost some serious problems,” he said.

Arrangements had been made for Olin Chemicals to fly in a representative in the afternoon to supervise the cleanup, Shagula said. Officials originally had planned to transport the remaining chemicals to the Sewage Treatment Plant, but the plant does not need the chemicals. Shagula, in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Natural Resources, continued to search for a storage place for the chemicals.

The cause of the fire had not yet been determined, but the state fire marshal had been notified of the situation.