Saturday, October 15, 2011

Growing Drug Cartel influence in Belize! 10 metric tons of cocaine passing through. -Wall Street Journal reports

An article this week in the Wall Street Journal reports that the influence of Mexican drug cartels in Belize is growing and that jungle airstrips are in use to facilitate the growing drug trade with the United States.

“Using light aircraft and ultra-fast boats, traffickers are moving more and more South American cocaine through Belize into Mexico”, the report says.

“By landing their lucrative cargo in Belize, the traffickers avoid detection by beefed-up Mexican army and navy patrols, marking the latest advance by the Mexican cartels into Central America’s impoverished, weak states, through which as much as 90 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States now passes,” the report says quoting U.S. sources.

The story in the Wall Street Journal was written by journalist Nick Miroff, and carries a Belize City by-line, suggesting that the reporter was in Belize when he wrote the story.

He quoted U.S. sources which estimate that 90 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States today passes through Belize, either overland or by sea routes. Belize’s Minister of Police, Mr. Douglas Singh, seems to agree. He is quoted as saying:

“We’re part of the funnel,” Police Minister Douglas Singh said in an interview.

“Mexico is above us, and Guatemala and Belize are part of the funnel you have to go through to get to Mexico. That’s making a lot of legitimate and illegitimate businessmen here prosper. But it makes us very vulnerable”.

Belize’s growing role as a smuggling corridor has prompted the Obama administration to add Belize to the annual “black list” of countries considered major drug producers or transit routes for narcotics.

The list, made public last month, includes every nation in Central America, a sign that more and more territory is coming under the influence of the cartels run by Mexico billionaire mafias.

U.S. officials estimate that about 10 metric tons of cocaine are smuggled along Belize’s Caribbean coast each year en route to American consumers.

How do the drugs arrive in Belize and how is it transported to the United States?

“Additional loads arrive on flights from Colombia and Venezuela, landing on Belize’s farm roads and highways, where the shipments can be quickly unpacked, broken down into smaller bundles and ferried across the Rio Hondo into southern Mexico”, the report says.

“With just 320,000 people, this country the size of Massachusetts has a long coastline and a rugged geography. Its security forces are tiny and ill-equipped.

“Since 2008, the Belizean government has received about $15 million in U.S. security assistance, including boats and other vehicles, communications gear and training programs, part of the nearly $2 billion in counter-narcotics initiative that the United States has provided or pledged to Mexico and Central America.

“But Belize remains a pushover for the powerful drug barons. The country does not have a radar system that can track unauthorized flights. Its military lacks helicopters, let alone other basic hardware. Belizean police don’t even have the ability to intercept cellphone communications!

“They’re lucky if they’ve got gas to put in their cars to go out and do stuff,” said one senior U.S. law enforcement official working in the region, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

In Mexico, Honduras and next-door Guatemala, Mexican cartels have laid siege to large swaths of territory and carried out terrifying attacks. Belize has been spared this kind of aggression, but Miroff notes that “escalating gang violence in Belize City has put the country’s homicide count on pace for an all-time high, with more than 100 killings so far in 2011.

“Belize’s per capita homicide rate was even higher than Guatemala’s last year, and the fifth-highest in the hemisphere,” according to U.N. data.

Police believe the bloodletting is driven partly by the abundance of cocaine on the streets, as foreign traffickers pay their local contacts in raw product, rather than cash.

Already there are signs the country’s security forces have been co-opted.

Last November, Beli-zean officials working with DEA agents seized 2.6 metric tons of cocaine after a twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air 200 clipped its wing while landing on the country’s southern highway.

“Crooked police had blocked traffic and laid out lanterns to mark a midnight runway, according to investigators. It was the largest drug seizure in the country’s history, worth $131 million — equal to nearly 10 percent of Belize’s annual GDP.

Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize is Central America’s youngest and only English-speaking nation.

Belize has enjoyed peaceful, democratic rule since gaining independence in 1981, but U.S. officials worry those gains will erode if cartel operatives continue to burrow their way into the country by buying off political and business elites.

“The country also faces an unemployment time bomb, with 50 percent of its population under the age of 20, according to Vinai Thummalapally, the U.S. Ambassador to Belize.

“Poverty and the lack of opportunities for young men here are major concerns,” Thummapapally has been quoted as saying.

U.S. officials say they do not believe the drug syndicates have established a significant physical presence in Belizean territory, but Douglas Singh, Belize’s top police official, said Mexican businessmen, believed to be working for Mexico’s Gulf and Sinaloa cartels, have recently been detected in the country.

Belize’s northern and western districts, Corozal, Orange Walk and Cayo are now the areas that have become trafficking hotspots.

In October last year Otoniel Turcios, a Guatemalan trafficker with ties to Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel, was arrested in the town of San Ignacio in western Belize, then put on a DEA flight to New York to face federal drug trafficking charges.

Elsewhere around Belize, there are signs of a booming narcotics trade.

In the northern Orange Walk district, an agricultural area known for sugar cane, citrus, and large farms run by prosperous German-speaking Mennonites, Belizean officials say drug flights have been landing under the cover of darkness near the Mexican border.

Belize’s deputy military commander, Col. Javier Castellanos, said rogue members of the otherwise-lawful Mennonite community appear to be working for the traffickers, smoothing out illegal airstrips that were destroyed by the BDF.

Further north, in the port town of Corozal, just south of Mexico, a former dockworker said he has personally helped unload multiple boatloads of cocaine in the past year, including one shipment he estimated at $40 million.

“In Caye Caulker, Miroff reports, residents say fast boats can be heard racing up the coast in the middle of the night several times a week. At dawn, beachcombers search the water’s edge for washed up treasure — shrink-wrapped packages of uncut cocaine.

Tensions have been especially high along Belize’s disputed border with Guatemala, where Guatemalan squatters have long been clearing patches of protected Belizean forest to plant corn and beans.

But now, the farmers are growing marijuana, under protection — or orders — from the Zetas drug cartel, according to Belizean military officers who patrol the area.

“They carve messages for us in the trees with machetes that say, ‘We are watching you,’ signed with a ‘Z,’ ” Capt. Ian Cunha, commander of a unit that exchanged fire with two alleged cartel gunmen in August, disclosed.

“These guys used to be poor farmers, but now they’ve got AK-47s and brand-new dirt bikes,” he said.

Belizean officers said their remote surveillance stations have also spotted light aircraft landing near the Guatemala border, but one commander said he didn’t believe his superiors were interested in truly challenging the traffickers — either because they were paid off or intimidated.

“I personally think we are in a phase of facilitating the cartels,” said the officer, who had requested anonymity to avoid retaliation.

“We do not actively support them, but we don’t stop them, either.”

He went on to say: “We may get money now, but we’ll be dead tomorrow.”

This report was written for the Wall Street Journal by Nick Miroff

Correspondent William Booth in Mexico City contributed also to this story.

This report was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Pakistan: Haj passengers face inordinate delays

LAHORE - Domestic and international passengers, particularly Haj pilgrims, are facing serious hardships due to long delays and frequent flight cancellations by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Sources in the PIA revealed that the national flag carrier had operated some 107 Haj flights, of which, over 25 percent flights witnessed a delay of more than five hours since the start of the pre-Haj operation on October 1. Figures show that Quetta had the worst arrangements for PIA pre-Haj operations as of a total 29 Haj flights, only 18 flights could depart on time.

Similar situation was being witnessed at other airports in the country. The sources reveal that from Lahore, of the total 15 Haj flights four were delayed, three of 26 from Peshawar, five of 20 from Islamabad and one of the 14 flights from Karachi was delayed due to technical reasons or mismanagement.

However, PIA has transported 39,000 intended pilgrims to Saudi Arabia through 107 flights, they said, adding that on the one hand the national flag carrier did not complete its homework for running Haj operations, while on the other hand PIA was facing resistance from engineers and pilots. The sources claimed that engineers and pilots were observing unannounced go-slow, which was causing frequent flight delays.
In various instances, they pointed out, it had been witnessed that the engineering department had given clearance to aircraft for flying, but pilots rejected them and asked for re-inspection. Speaking to Pakistan Today, a senior PIA captain on condition of anonymity said non-availability of spare parts and mismanagement were two biggest problems, which had jeopardised the smooth operations of the national airline.

He said to avoid theft and pilferage of expensive spare parts, PIA had outsourced its spare parts wing to a Dubai-based company. However, the contract could not be finalised yet that was causing delays in provision of spare parts supply, he maintained.

He said the national flag carrier had acquired two jumbo aircraft on lease from a Greece based operator for Haj operations, but one of these aircraft had been technical while other was operating for domestic flights.

He also smelled a rat in the lease deal as one aircraft had been grounded but the crew was still enjoying holidays in a hotel at Karachi on PIA expense. To a question, he tried to dispel the impression that pilot and engineers were observing unannounced go-slow. He stressed that national flag carrier’s management was trying to hide its negligence by blaming pilots and engineers.

Boeing 747-200: $5 million plane yet to take off for Haj operation - Pakistan.

LAHORE – The PIA management paid $5 million to lease a Greek registered Boeing 747-200, owned by a controversial company, on wet lease to carry out Haj operation.

Ten days have passed but the aircraft has yet to fly because it is neither serviceable nor has proper documentation that would be acceptable to Saudi Civil Aviation authorities, sources in PIA revealed Saturday. Both PIA and CAA failed to do follow basic criteria. PIA staff having skills and experience about Boeing 747 was not taken in the loop, and they were not involved in the aircraft evaluation process.

The cancellation Pre-Haj schedule flights including seven from Lahore which were supposed to carry pilgrims to Jeddah has happened for the first time in PIA. The airline had capacity to carry the passengers that it committed to fly for Haj. But this capacity was eroded by flaws and irregularities that plague its procurement and maintenance, overhaul, repair and outsourcing departments. 

With three of its Boeing 747 grounded due to engine failures, the airline should have leased aircraft well in advance, instead of delaying them, so that objective of huge commissions could materialise and procedures laid down by PPRA for inviting quotations to get the best deal could be by-passed. The PIA which has failed to provide reliable and credible air transport services to pilgrims has rented a Haji Camp at Jeddah for 30 days at a heavy amount in the range of $5 million in Jeddah, where pilgrims will be accommodated for 24 hours prior to their departure, although every pilgrim has paid for accommodation to their assigned Mualim or tour operator.

When contacted, PIA Spokesman Sultan Hassan said that the plane in question was not purchased especially for Haj operation rather it was to be used as a stand-by plane to facilitate the passengers of any plane which could not fly due to some reason.

He said that plane was parked in Hanger at Karachi Airport for renovation and cleanliness and its documents were sent to Greece for verification. He said, “I am hopeful that the said plane would start its operation within next 24 hours.”

To a question about renting a building for pilgrims, he said that it was a self-service type building to facilitate the pilgrims whose flights got delayed after their arrival at Jeddah Airport. The pilgrims would stay there and PIA and Ministry of Religious Affairs would pay SR46 per pilgrim to Saudi government. An agreement has been singed in this regard between Pakistan and Saudi Arab, he added.

Raw Video: United States Responds to Thailand Flooding

October 15, 2011 by Associated Press

A team of United States Marines has arrived in Bangkok to assess the severity of the flood situation currently wreaking havoc in Thailand, and to decide how Washington can best help. The ten-strong unit flew in from Japan on a Hercules transport plane. (October 15, 2011)

Civil Air Patrol Re-Opens Building

Good news came today for a local building destroyed by severe weather in 2010.

The Civil Air Patrol re-opened their building at the Bowling Green Regional Airport.

Several public officials and supporters showed up to celebrate the re-dedication.

Those at the Civil Air Patrol say they have been working hard and looking forward to the opening.

"So we're very happy today to have our own home that we've needed for a long time and we feel like this facility will let us serve the community and we have the ability for the emergency services and the cadet program and that is was Civil Patrol is all about," said Curtis Duvall.

The Civil Air Patrol is mainly supported by volunteers, many who currently serve or served in the military.

The program helps search for missing people and trains children as young as twelve to become Cadets.

Out of Fuel, Merpati Nusantara Airlines Closes Surabaya-Makassar Route

Denied fuel by its principle supplier due to unpaid debts, domestic carrier Merpati Nusantara Airlines has stopped flying its Surabaya-Makassar route indefinitely, the company’s president director said on Saturday.

Sardjono Jhony Tjitrokusumo said the decision was made because the state-owned company could no longer obtain aviation fuel from state-owned Pertamina, which cut off the troubled airline on Saturday.

“Pertamina does not want to be infected by Merpati’s inefficiency,” Pertamina spokesman Mochamad Harun said Saturday. Harun claimed that Merpati owed Pertamina Rp 270 billion ($30 million) dating back to 2007.

“We don’t want Merpati’s inefficiency to become our burden,” Harun said. Sardjono said Pertamina has violated an agreement between the two companies to keep the fuel flowing while Merpati waited for an injection of cash from the government.

“Financially, Merpati is in trouble and we’re waiting for Rp 651 billion in government funds, as agreed upon in the revised State Budget 2011,” Sardjono said.

“We don’t have any other sources of income to cover the debt. I don’t understand why the supply was cut despite an agreement we made [with Pertamina] in front of the Assets Regulatory Body.”

As a result of the decision, at least 130 people bound for Surabaya were stranded at Hasanuddin Airport in Makassar on Saturday. The passengers were taken to a hotel to wait for a different Surabaya flight.

More routes could be interrupted, the executive said. Sardjono said the next step is up to Pertamina because his company had no money even to pay a current overdue bill of Rp 2 billion.

He said almost 90 percent of Merpati revenues are spent on fuel.

“In the past 18 months of new management, we haven’t received a penny from the government to help us,” Sardjono said. The best thing to help the long-suffering carrier would be a “total merger with national flag carrier Garuda,” he added.

Merpati’s troubles have included safety woes and corruption allegations in addition to its massive financial issues.

In May, a Merpati MA-60 turboprop plane crashed in Papua, killing all 25 people on board. Investigators blamed the accident on human error.

The incident highlighted the controversial purchase of 15 MA-60 planes from China, which former Vice President Jusuf Kalla and others said was overpriced.

When Merpati tried to back out of the 2006 deal for the planes, it became a source of tension between Beijing and Jakarta and was subsequently pushed through.

Minnesotans who complained about full toilets on a trans-Atlantic flight say Continental was not exactly gracious about it.

The flight attendants had served dinner, and only about two hours remained on the Continental Airlines nine-hour transatlantic flight when Gail Barnard-Boyum headed for the restroom.

"The toilet was full," recalled Barnard-Boyum, 66, of Peterson, Minn. "You could see the toilet paper. You could see the poop. I couldn't believe it because the smell was so disgusting."

Barnard-Boyum and 13 other Minnesotans were heading home Sept. 14 from Barcelona after a Mediterranean cruise. They discovered that all three toilets in coach class on Flight 121Y were backing up. Some passengers used them anyway. Others refused, and rushed off the plane to find a restroom when it landed in Newark, N.J.

"We were not happy with the experience," said Sharon Sorenson, 68, of St. Michael, Minn. "I am not anxious to fly Continental again."

When contacted by Whistleblower, United/Continental Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart acknowledged the inconvenience by offering $100 vouchers to affected passengers.

If the toilet malfunction had happened while the plane was stuck on the runway, Continental might have been in violation of federal rules. But there's no similar rule for airplanes with toilet failures in flight.

"To me, it is a bad situation that hasn't been addressed," said Robert Brubaker of the American Restroom Association, a Baltimore-based advocacy group for toilet users.

Of the 14 Minnesotans on the flight, 11 were from Coldwater Creek Townhome Association in St. Michael, including Sharon McDonald, 69, who coordinated the trip. She said if there was an operating toilet, it was in first class, because none of the three in coach were operating. The sister of Barnard-Boyum, she said coach passengers were not allowed to go to the first-class section's toilet.

McDonald said one of the flight attendants told her the problem had happened before and that the toilets may not have been emptied before it took off from Barcelona.

But Hobart, the airline spokesman, said the toilets aboard the flight were properly serviced in Barcelona. All four lavatories on board were "fully functional" but three were filled by the time it landed in Newark, he said. "We understand this was a frustrating experience and it does not reflect what we aim to deliver to our customers," Hobart said.

Carol Menier, 64, said when she called to complain, Continental's representative was "rude" and expressed doubts that the toilets were full and that another passenger was offered a $100 voucher. She eventually got a voucher and said another customer service agent was "really great."

The toilet travail wasn't the first for a Continental transatlantic flight. In 2007, a toilet overflowed on a flight from Amsterdam to Newark, spilling sewage down the aisle, USA Today reported at the time.

Brubaker, of the restroom association, said occasionally he hears of commercial airliners with toilets that do not work. Toilet facilities are required for employees under federal labor regulations, so while flight attendants and pilots can complain to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, passengers have no recourse, he said. He said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has a mandate to protect public health, should step in.

The Federal Aviation Administration has no jurisdiction over airplane toilets, said Arlene Salac, an agency spokeswoman. She referred Whistleblower to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Bill Mosley, a DOT spokesman, said there's a new consumer rule that requires carriers ensure lavatories are operable during long tarmac delays. But he said, "There is no federal regulation requiring working lavatories aboard aircraft in flight."

Piper PA-18: Landing Gear Collapsed, Flipped Plane. DeLand Municipal Airport-Sidney H Taylor Field (KDED), DeLand, Florida

DELAND, Fla. -- Two people escaped serious injury during a small plane crash at the DeLand Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Piper PA-18 plane was doing "touch-and-go" landings and takeoffs when one of the landing gear collapsed, causing the plane to flip about 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Rescue crews said the two people onboard the plane the at the time declined to be taken to a hospital.

Officials said rescue crews have cleared the scene and the FAA is investigating the incident.

WASHINGTON: Spokane International Airport (KGEG) Reopens Main Runway

SPOKANE -- Flying in and out of the Spokane International Airport has been a little harder lately since one of the airport's most important navigational systems has been out of service, but that changed this weekend, when the airport opened back up its main runway.

At approximately 10:28 Saturday morning, Southwest flight 1474 arrived at the airport. Todd Woodard from the Spokane International Airport said, "the pilot commented when he landed about the great new pavement."

Flight 1474 was the first aircraft to land on the new improved main runway at the airport. The airport just finished a two year Line of Sight Safety Improvement Project, which closed down the northeast runway for six months in order for them to adjust the slope of the runway, required by the FAA.

Woodard, "it didn't meet their current design standard for line of sight, it essentially is the standard required by a pilot to see the midpoint anywhere on a runway surface." They corrected the issue by raising the slope threshold by about five feet to adjust the slope.

With some special planes flying high above the sky, the airport celebrated the unveiling of the new runway. Woodard said, "today we really wanted to commemorate the completion in a big way and breath a sigh of relief." Captain Larry Tobin added, "this is a wonderful runway now and money well spent."

Wright Patterson Air Force Base says so long to trusted aircraft

FAIRBORN, Ohio (WDTN) - Wright Patterson Air Force Base say farewell to a major aircraft after six years of service.

A special ceremony was held in honor of the C-5-A Galaxy Friday.

The aircraft was part of the 445th Airlift Wing since October 2005.

Used to carry troops and cargo, the C-5 Galaxy was used in Operation Enduring Freedom.

An Air Force colonel tells us it's best known for its smooth ride in the skies.

"It is a dream, so we've heard the word. It's one of America's treasures. It is an incredible airplane. If you look back it was designed in the mid 60's and its still operated today and we can't meet our airlift needs without it," said Col. Steve Goeman, 44th Airlift Wing.

The C-5 will be replaced by the C-17 which is smaller and can take off and land on shorter runways.

Airport seeks developer for 470 acres in noise-prone area it cleared. Louisville International Airport-Standiford Field (KSDF), Louisville, Kentucky

The 470-acre parcel is south of Louisville International Airport and near major UPS facilities. 
Heather McClure/Louisville Regional Airport Authority

Officials are moving to develop 470 acres in a noise-prone area south of Louisville International Airport where they have bought and cleared about 1,100 structures since 1996.

The land, located between Outer Loop and the Snyder Freeway just west of Interstate 65, is “prime commercial real estate and one of the largest vacant industrial tracts left in Jefferson County,” said Charles T. “Skip” Miller, executive director of the Regional Airport Authority.

Miller said he hopes at least a half-dozen or so developers will respond to a recent advertisement soliciting interest in the property, including perhaps several from out of town.

Even with the current economic troubles, the land is so ripe for development that Miller said he expects it to be nearly completed within 10 years. The location is close to the airport and major UPS facilities.

Miller, who also is president of the authority affiliate, the Louisville Renaissance Zone Corp., which was created by state statute to develop the airport-acquired property, said airport officials have spent more than $22 million in the past few years developing infrastructure in the target area.

That has included roads, drainage work and gas, sewer, water and electric lines. The funds also went for wetlands reclamation and fees to get all the property zoned to an enterprise zone category, he said.

The money for the work was borrowed from UPS.

The company chosen to market and develop the land will be a partner with the airport officials. It will face a huge upfront investment in the venture, perhaps around $40 million, Miller said. But he said the potential payback should more than offset the initial financial outlay.

The developer and airport officials at the outset are to negotiate a split of income from land sales and/or land leases. Miller declined to speculate on the share airport officials might get, but he said the developers must propose a share of revenue they will give airport officials in exchange for exclusive development rights.

Officials are moving to develop 470 acres in a noise-prone area south of Louisville International Airport where they have bought and cleared about 1,100 structures since 1996.

The land, located between Outer Loop and the Snyder Freeway just west of Interstate 65, is “prime commercial real estate and one of the largest vacant industrial tracts left in Jefferson County,” said Charles T. “Skip” Miller, executive director of the Regional Airport Authority.

Miller said he hopes at least a half-dozen or so developers will respond to a recent advertisement soliciting interest in the property, including perhaps several from out of town.

Even with the current economic troubles, the land is so ripe for development that Miller said he expects it to be nearly completed within 10 years. The location is close to the airport and major UPS facilities.

Miller, who also is president of the authority affiliate, the Louisville Renaissance Zone Corp., which was created by state statute to develop the airport-acquired property, said airport officials have spent more than $22 million in the past few years developing infrastructure in the target area.

That has included roads, drainage work and gas, sewer, water and electric lines. The funds also went for wetlands reclamation and fees to get all the property zoned to an enterprise zone category, he said.

The money for the work was borrowed from UPS.

The company chosen to market and develop the land will be a partner with the airport officials. It will face a huge upfront investment in the venture, perhaps around $40 million, Miller said. But he said the potential payback should more than offset the initial financial outlay.

The developer and airport officials at the outset are to negotiate a split of income from land sales and/or land leases. Miller declined to speculate on the share airport officials might get, but he said the developers must propose a share of revenue they will give airport officials in exchange for exclusive development rights.

Facebook rapist conned airlines

Convicted rapist Thabo Bester, dubbed the Facebook Rapist, conned two unsuspecting airline charter companies into giving him free flights worth more than R500000.

The two chartered flights, between December and July, were from Johannesburg's Lanseria Airport to Cape Town.

Bester, who used numerous aliases, including Thomas, used Facebook to lure women to meet him before he robbed them at knife-point and, at times, raped them in hotel rooms and guesthouses.

He lured young women with promises of lucrative international modelling contracts and TV work.

Bester, who was sentenced to an effective 50 years' jail by the Durban Regional Court on Friday for robbing and raping two women, was arrested last week in Alberton, south of Johannesburg. He pleaded guilty to all four charges.

The Sunday Times this week established that, on December 30 last year, he chartered a Beechcraft 1900 from National Airways Corporation (NAC) to fly him and 16 people to Cape Town for four nights.

NAC account manager Zubar Khan said he thought the 23-year-old was a trendy "rich kid" with money to burn.

"He is a smooth talker. Looking back at it now, it seems like he's done that before," he said.

Bester signed all the correct documentation and allegedly produced a bogus internet transfer slip for R275000.

When the money failed to appear in the account the next day, Khan said they cancelled the return trip.

Themba Chiuriri, a front-desk employee at Atlantic Beach Hotel in Melkbosstrand, said Bester's guests paid individually when he eventually absconded on January 3.

Khan and Chiuriri said Bester had already charged the youngsters up front for the full trip.

In a separate incident in July, Bester leased a private jet from Fortune Air to fly four models from Lanseria to Cape Town. The jet made a stopover in Durban to pick him up, along with another woman. The return leg of the flight was again cancelled after Fortune Air realised that the Internet transfer was fake.

Police spokesman Captain Tebogo Kgomo said the company lost R300000, as the flight and accommodation were booked as a package. Kgomo said Fortune Air laid a complaint of fraud and NAC indicated they would do the same tomorrow. Fortune Air declined to comment.

Bester's legal aid attorney, Narendra Narotam, said his client would seek leave to appeal.

Testifying in mitigation of sentence, Bester broke down, saying the abuse he had suffered as a child had led him to a life of crime.

He painted a grim picture of his childhood growing up with an alcoholic grandmother, being sexually abused by an older man and being gang-raped in jail.

Durban magistrate Sharon Marks sentenced him to 15 years' imprisonment for each of the two counts of rape. He was sentenced to another 15 years, with five years suspended, for each of the two counts of armed robbery with aggravating circumstances.

He has 14 days to appeal the sentence.

He is expected to be taken to Gauteng this weekend to face additional charges there.

Cessna 212: Alleged trespasser came into contact with moving propeller and was fatally injured on runway at Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport, Indonesia.

An alleged trespasser at Sultan Hasanuddin Airport died instantly when he was hit by the propeller of a Cessna aircraft that was about to take off during a flight training exercise in Makassar on Saturday.

The victim was identified as Sainuddin, 28, of Sinjai regency. It was reported that he was struck by the propeller at 7:15 a.m. Jakarta time on runway 13. The PK ZAQ Cessna 212, with pilot Wahyudi and co-pilot Syamsul Rizal in the cockpit, was about to take off when the incident took place.

“The aircraft was preparing to take off and was waiting for clearance from air traffic control when the pilot heard a crash. He took off and found the victim collapsing,” Angkasapura I General Manager Rachman Syafrie said.

He said the victim was killed instantly, with his face hardly recognizable. The body was rushed to nearby Bhayangkara Hospital for an autopsy.

Syafrie said he had no idea how Sainuddin had found his way into the airport and onto the forbidden runway area. “We are still investigating how the victim infiltrated the airport as security is normally tight and the airport is surrounded by a fence. This is an anomaly,” he said.

He said the investigation team comprised representatives of airport authority PT Angkasa Pura I, the police and Makassar Air Traffic Control.

“The team has already been working, but we are waiting for the results of how the victim managed to break in,” he said.

South Sulawesi police chief Sn. Comr. Chevy Ahmad Sopari said that they had questioned several witnesses.

At the hospital, Abdul Gani, 39, confirmed that the victim was a relative of his. “I’m sure the victim is Cuding; Sainuddin’s nickname. I recognize the torso as well as the thin chin beard,” he said.

According to Gani, Sainudding lived in Alehanue subdistrict, North Sinjai district, Sinjai regency. He was a farmer and a frequent traveler to Kolaka, Southeast Sulawesi, where apparently he enjoyed visiting relatives.

Storm stymies attempt to fly sick woman from South Pole

An Antarctic storm has stymied efforts to fly a sick American woman from the South Pole to Christchurch for medical tests.

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station winter site manager Renee-Nicole Douceur, who had a suspected stroke seven weeks ago, hoped a plane would pick her up on Friday.

However, she said yesterday that a storm over the British Rothera Research Station near the Antarctic Peninsula had prevented the Kenn Borek Air DC-3 Basler from flying there from Chile.

Rothera was its stop-off before it could fly to the South Pole to collect her.

Douceur said the weather was expected to improve by today, when the plane might have a "window of opportunity" to land at Rothera.

It would stop overnight before flying to the South Pole on Monday.

Douceur said it would take about five hours to fly from the South Pole to McMurdo Station, where she hoped to board a scheduled United States Air Force C-17 on Monday afternoon to return to Christchurch.

The wait was frustrating, she said. "It's just dragging on and dragging on."

The US Antarctic Programme refused to urgently evacuate Douceur after she became ill on August 27, despite recommendations to do so by the station's doctors.

She was told her condition was not urgent and she would have to wait until scheduled plane flights resumed with warmer weather.

Her symptoms included suffering vision loss, jumbled speech and difficulty reading.

A second medical opinion, which she received this week from specialists in the US, suggested she could have a brain tumour or had suffered something other than a stroke.

A South Pole doctor would accompany her on the flight to McMurdo, where a nurse or air force doctor would travel with her for the five-hour flight to Christchurch.

Big economic boost from airport cited: Elmira/Corning Regional (KELM), New York

The Elmira Corning Regional Airport was recently honored for its role in stimulating economic activity in the Southern Tier.

The New York Aviation Management Association recognized the airport with a proclamation during its annual conference, held Sept. 21-22 in Watkins Glen.

A recent report by the state Department of Transportation indicated that aviation activities in New York state generate $50 billion a year in economic activity and produce $18 billion in payroll.

The Elmira Corning Regional Airport generated $1.54 billion of that total, according to the report, ranking it third among airports in the state.

Only JFK International and LaGuardia airports in New York City ranked higher.

The report also noted that Elmira Corning is one of only three airports in the state to gain enplanements in 2009. The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport and Westchester County Airport were the other two.

"New York state's aviation industry has an enormously positive economic impact across the statewide economy," said state Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-Big Flats, who attended the conference.

"The industry is one undeniably bright spot on New York's economic landscape."

Helicopter drops 100 lbs. of candy at Scott City Park, Missouri

It was an unusual sight in Scott City Saturday, as about 100 pounds of candy fell from the sky. Instead of a parade this year organizers there hosted a candy drop. It's all part of the Halloween Carnival and family safety awareness event at Scott City Park. This capped off fire prevention week. Firefighters spent time reminding kids and their parents about staying safe on Halloween.

Laughter filled the Scott City Park on Saturday when more than 400 children attended a Halloween carnival sponsored by the Scott City Community Interactive Parks Program. SCIPP is the collaborative work of the Scott City Parks Department, the Scott City Women's Club and the Scott City Kiwanis Club. According to Parks Director Phyllis Crump, when the groups got together to brainstorm ways to improve their community, SCIPP was brought to life.

A helicopter candy drop made its debut at the carnival. More than 6,000 pieces of candy were dropped from the sky to eager children. The candy drop was made possible by donations from L&J Supply, Amick-Burnett, Dakota Services and Roth Hardware. Paul Salmon with Aerial Ventures and the Air Evac Lifeteam also assisted with the endeavor.

TEMECULA: Rancho California Airport a distant memory

Passersby would never guess it today, but a commercial section of Temecula between what’s now Diaz Road and Business Park Drive used to be an airport.

“Mention of the Rancho California Airport brings two types of responses,” Murrieta historian Anne Miller wrote in a 2005 report for the Temecula Valley Historical Society. “Most people are surprised to learn that there ever was an airport in Temecula, while others have great stories and memories” of it.

The airport lay north of Rancho California Road and west of what today is Interstate 15.

“A current road, Rancho Way, crosses over what used to the runway,” Miller said.

In the 1960s, the 87,500-acre Rancho California master-planned community was under construction in what would later become Temecula. The airport was created by the builders of Rancho California Plaza (today’s Tower Plaza). Developers commuted to the site by air and needed a landing strip. Miller found a Los Angeles Times photograph from Nov. 6, 1966, showing a helicopter towing an old plow to break ground on the airport.

The airport served small aircraft. Temecula resident Bill Harker told Miller about his first flight into Rancho California Airport: “It was just a 1,200-foot gravel strip with one hangar, a small office and a few planes tied down.”

A 1967 aerial photo shows a single paved runway and no buildings. The airport got incremental improvements, though. In 1968, an airport directory listed it with a runway of some 3,000 feet in length. It gained lights for nighttime landings. By 1982, Airmech Industries and Rancho Aviation managed the airport, offering fuel, flight instruction, rental, charter and maintenance service, Miller said. In the mid-1970s it charged $2 for overnight tie-downs. Harker said Rancho Inn in the Plaza used to send its manager to the airport to pick up incoming passengers in a Volkswagen bus.

Though Temecula was developing rapidly, the airport never grew into a major hub, due in part to formidable winds that plagued the site.

“Frequent strong, gusty crosswinds were a serious hazard,” Miller said, and contributed to accidents, including fatal ones.

Local resident and historian Barbara Tobin recalled landing at Rancho California.

“It was quite a white-knuckle experience” due to wind, she said. “You had to dive down and come to a stop quickly. It was kind of scary.”

Miller cites a Times story of May 15, 1976, that reported that airport owner Kaiser-Aetna closed the airport because its insurance company was alarmed about accidents. Riverside County took over and reopened it.

Locals told Miller of picnics, barbecues and “hangar parties.” One resident recalled the airport hosting an encampment for Civil Air Patrol for its cadets. But the Rancho California Airport closed for good in 1989, just after a new airport opened in nearby French Valley. Planes and hangars moved to the new airfield.

Harker remembered at least one pilot circling the business park, searching in vain for the airport.

“Someone eventually contacted (him),” Harker told Miller, “and directed him to French Valley Airport.”

Electric Airplanes Start to Take Off: Retrofitting existing planes draws interest from startups and big manufacturers, including Airbus

The Wall Street Journal 
By Mike Cherney
July 15, 2019 10:18 am ET

A five-passenger airplane took flight near Los Angeles recently with one important modification: an electric motor.

The nearly 50-year-old plane, retrofitted by California-based startup Ampaire, still used a normal combustion engine to spin a propeller in its nose for the test flight. But engineers replaced a second engine with the electric motor, which powered a propeller in the back of the plane.

“It’s kind of like a plug-in hybrid car,” said Kevin Noertker, the co-founder and chief executive of Ampaire, which used some parts initially designed for automobiles to modify the plane. “We are really riding the coattails of ground electric vehicles here.”

Aerospace giants and startups are developing electric aircraft that can navigate autonomously and take off and land vertically, and potentially shuttle thousands of commuters around cities and suburbs in coming decades. Uber Technologies Inc. even plans to launch a transportation service using electric, vertical-takeoff aircraft in 2023.

But other entrepreneurs believe retrofitting existing airplanes could help electric aviation take flight even sooner. Ampaire said its planes could be ready for customers by the end of 2021.

Ampaire and others are betting that regulators will approve modified planes more quickly than new electric aircraft, and that retrofitted planes will still offer significant savings on fuel and maintenance for small airlines and charter companies. The first retrofitted aircraft, which could be either hybrid or fully electric, will likely carry fewer than 20 passengers and fly between 100 and 200 miles on a single charge. That is enough to connect small airports in regions where traffic or natural obstacles make driving time-consuming, Mr. Noertker said.

Fitting electrical components on an existing airframe is a challenge, and other industry players aren’t sure that focusing on retrofits is a winning strategy. Planes retrofitted with heavy batteries and generators could quickly become obsolete with the introduction of newly designed, fully electric aircraft, which would be expected to be more efficient and have greater range.

“An aircraft designed around conventional propulsion typically struggles to realize the benefits of electric or hybrid-electric power,” said Eric Bartsch, CEO of electric-aviation startup VerdeGo Aero, which is based in Daytona Beach, Fla. “It was a relatively easy decision to focus on newly designed aircraft.”

Approvals for design changes still can take many years, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Retrofits will “undergo a thorough evaluation where FAA will determine what new safety standards might be needed to address the new technology,” it said.

Still, investors, including the venture-capital arm of JetBlue Airways Corp. , have ponied up some $250 million for electric-aviation startups since 2017, according to recent data from PitchBook. Ampaire has raised money from venture-capital sources, government grants and the aviation industry, including engine manufacturer Continental Aerospace Technologies, Mr. Noertker said.

Approvals for design changes still can take many years, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Retrofits will “undergo a thorough evaluation where FAA will determine what new safety standards might be needed to address the new technology,” it said.

Still, investors, including the venture-capital arm of JetBlue Airways Corp. , have ponied up some $250 million for electric-aviation startups since 2017, according to recent data from PitchBook. Ampaire has raised money from venture-capital sources, government grants and the aviation industry, including engine manufacturer Continental Aerospace Technologies, Mr. Noertker said.

Ampaire’s Mr. Noertker estimates the hybrid plane, originally a Cessna Skymaster, would use 55% less fuel than an unmodified plane, cost up to 50% less to maintain and offer a range of 200 miles. Wright Electric, another venture-capital-backed startup in California, wants to retrofit a nine-passenger plane with a hybrid engine that Chief Executive Jeff Engler said would be suitable for skydiving flights. He estimates fuel savings of up to 20%.

Big manufacturers are also studying retrofits. Airbus SE said it would replace one of the four turbofans on a short-haul jetliner with an electric motor, and plans to test-fly it by 2021. The aim is to demonstrate new technology, and Airbus doesn’t plan to commercially produce that particular model.

Some small airlines, however, are already retrofitting their fleets. In Vancouver, Harbour Air Seaplanes took one of its aircraft out of storage to install a 750-horsepower electric motor developed by magniX, which moved its headquarters to the Seattle area from Australia about a year ago. The first test flight is planned for November.

“In the next five years, you’re going to see a lot more retrofits than you do new aircraft,” said Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, which is backed by Singapore-based conglomerate Clermont Group. “There are a lot of operators that need to fly short routes that could benefit from a retrofit.”

Greg McDougall, Harbour Air’s chief executive and founder, said electric motors have fewer moving parts and produce less heat than the turbine engines his airline currently uses, making them cheaper to maintain. Batteries in the near future should also provide sufficient range for the airline, given that the average flight is just under half an hour.

“I’m a businessman, I’m not just a dreamer,” said Mr. McDougall, whose airline flies to coastal locations around Vancouver. “If I can see economic viability in what we’re doing, then why wouldn’t I do that?”

Now fly to a tourist spot on air taxi in Rajasthan

Jaipur: If you are postponing your trip to tourist destinations in Rajasthan because of the treacherous road journey, worry no more. From the New Year, you can simply fly to your chosen spot in an Air taxi. Tourists would be provided with Air taxi service between Jaipur and tourist destinations in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Udaipur and Kota.

Private companies have lined up in state to ferry passengers on helicopters and fixed-wing aircrafts. As many as 16 parking bays have been cleared for the Air taxis at the runway near Terminal 2 of the Sanganer Airport in Jaipur by the airport administration.

When contacted, Jaipur Airport Director RK Singh said, "we have already slotted parking bays for the air taxis from Jaipur to other tourist destinations in the state." According to sources, three companies including UT Air and Kareena have expressed willingness to run the Air taxi service from Jaipur Airport.

While, the helicopters will have a seating capacity of 4-5 passengers, the Fixed Wing Crafts will have space for 12-30 passengers. Once operationalised, air taxis in Rajasthan, will offer packages as per the duration ranging from one hour to two hours depending on requirements of tourists.

After the allotment of parking bays the concerned companies are importing small copters and aircrafts to start the services.

Singh further said the three companies are in final stages of getting permission from the Civil Aviation administrators of the country to import aircrafts and copters for operating the tourist service.

Rotor wash from CH-46 helicopter Pedro causes havoc at the Havelock Chili Festival, North Carolina

Cherry Point rescue helicopter Pedro takes off from the Havelock Chili Festival on Saturday. The wind created by the rotors of the CH-46 helicopter sent festival tents and other items flying through the air, and four people were injured.

At least four people were hurt by flying tents and debris when Cherry Point rescue helicopter Pedro took off as it was leaving the Havelock Chili Festival on Saturday.

Officials were preparing for the awards ceremony when the helicopter, which had been on static display throughout the festival, took off from next to the Havelock Police Department and flew over part of the festival grounds around 4 p.m..

The rotor wash from the CH-46 helicopter sent tents and other items flying through the air, and at least four people were taken to the hospital in Havelock Fire and Rescue ambulances.

Their conditions were not immediately available.

Others had some slight scrapes, while some vendors and cooks had damaged items and materials.

So That's How It's Made! Wing Kit Assembly - Joining and riveting the internal kit parts together of the Zenith STOL CH 750

"We show the match-drilled parts of the wing kit, as supplied in the kit, ready for final assembly. We line the parts up, cleco (clamp), and rivet - it's that simple! The wing kit parts are match-drilled on the CNC router for perfect alignment to each other, ready for assembly right out of the box."
Zenith STOL CH 750 Light Sport Utility Kit Plane:

Sheriff is told he won't get funds to operate new helicopter - Pinal County, Arizona.

Pinal County supervisors have warned Sheriff Paul Babeu they won't give him a cent to operate a used helicopter he's buying with most of the $1 million he received from the state Legislature to fight drug and human smuggling.

Babeu will pay $799,850 for a chopper he plans to use for smuggling interdiction, search and rescue and high-speed pursuits. An additional $100,000 to $150,000 is needed to make the craft law-enforcement ready.

Lt. Scott Elliot, one of two pilots for the helicopter, told supervisors on Wednesday that the sheriff plans to use seized drug money and remaining state funds to cover service and fuel costs, anticipated to be $300,000 annually if the chopper were to stay in the air 15 hours a week.

"We as a county do not have the general funds to operate this luxury, and it is a luxury," said Supervisor Bryan Martyn, a retired U.S. Air Force helicopter pilot. "The Sheriff's Office will need to find its own funds."

Word of the purchase came just as the board was asked to spend more than $600,000 in contingency funds to offset a deficit in the sheriff's 2011 budget for fuel and overtime costs. A deficit of $700,000 is anticipated for 2012, and sheriff's officials blame high gas fees and the county's non-response to repeated requests for a larger fuel budget.

The timing riled Supervisor Pete Rios.

"The sheriff's department has exceeded their current budget as it is, and to now say it's OK to buy a luxury item and spend another $300,000 on fuel?" Rios said. "I can't support this."

Sheriff's spokesman Tim Gaffney said the office has been given the same fuel budget since 2009 but uses about $122,000 in gas each month, mostly through prisoner transport and patrol operations.

Gaffney said helicopter fuel will be paid out of the sheriff's private fund.

"The county needs to project the rising cost of fuel properly and supplement the Sheriff's Office budget appropriately so that we don't continue to have this issue," he said.

A chopper has been on the sheriff's wish list for some time.

In July, Deputy Chief Steve Henry told the state's Joint Border Security Advisory Committee that the fight against cartels was like "going to war" each day and that a helicopter is necessary to better track smugglers and conduct night operations. A small, fixed-wing airplane is currently being used for daytime surveillance.

Gaffney said there is no mechanism in place to track the number of times the office has asked other law-enforcement agencies for helicopter assistance, but that it "far exceeds 100 times per year."

Elliott is set to pick up the single-engine chopper next week from a broker near Austin, Texas. Capital Rotor Craft was the only one of 129 companies across the nation to respond to the county's bid invitation.

The bid sought one used, McDonnell Douglas 500E or similar helicopter with seating for at least four occupants. The craft could be no more than 25 years old, have no more than 8,000 hours in the air, no history of damage, and have been maintained according to manufacturer recommendations. Capital Rotor Craft met those specifications.

"The value of even one life saved in a rescue, or avoiding a fatal crash in a dangerous high-speed pursuit should be reason enough for the county to purchase a helicopter on its own," said Gaffney. "However, our legislature and Governor (Jan) Brewer realized our need and provided 100 percent of the funding to purchase this aircraft."

Lawmakers gave Babeu $1 million after he pleaded for more resources.

India: Navi Mumbai airport stuck in fresh land row

The Mumbai airport, at present, caters to 29 million passengers a year, and the overburdened airport is expected to reach its peak saturation capacity of 40 million passengers by 2012.

Alabama: Aeronautics Get Boost at Foley High - Flight Simulator gets new life. (With Video)

It started when retired businessman Leon Royer was tutoring a student in math at Foley High. The student expressed an interest in flying--and said the school had a flight simulator.

"We took a look and it was a disaster," said Royer. So he enlisted the help of volunteers and pilots Biff Johnson and Art Perez. Months of soliciting parts, computer expertise and a little cash turned the disaster into a top-notch flight simulator.

It will add to the experience of an aeronautics course already implemented at the school. Students like senior Christian Polka hope to take advantage of it to learn the basics of flight. Polka wants to go into the Air Force.

But others wil also get the benefit of learning the math and science side, even if they don't want to pursue piloting an aircraft.

Math instructor Mike Raines says the aeronautics course is a new one with only a few students, but he expects it to grow in the semesters ahead.

Florida: Broward puts millions into West Lake Park to make up for airport runway wetlands destruction

Forced to make up for destroying 17 acres of wetlands for a new airport runway, Broward County is building a new, 34-acre nature preserve of mangroves, mud flats and upland hammocks in a public park.

When it opens to the public in about two weeks, people will hike, jog and ride bikes through a mangrove estuary in West Lake Park in Hollywood that previously was overgrown with exotic Australian pine trees.

Two miles to the north, Broward is expanding Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, building a second “main’’ runway — a $781 million sloped airstrip that will rise six stories high over

U.S. 1 and the Florida East Coast railroad tracks — to accommodate large commercial jets. Officials say the airport is among the most delay-plagued in the nation and that the new runway, opening in September 2014, will address that.

Its approval was one of Broward County’s hottest controversies — a public war over growth, noise and air traffic that continues today, even though construction begins soon. The environmental damage was just one of many things opponents were in an uproar about.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received a “couple hundred’’ opinions on the wetlands destruction earlier this year, according to Melody White at the Corps. That agency is weighing the input before giving Broward a permit to build the runway.

The environmental gain goes to West Lake Park, though, a giant preserve where Broward County restores or even constructs wetlands to make up for destroying them elsewhere. Work at the park has been done in the past to make up for damage done to environmentally precious lands in Port Everglades, which also is nearby.

The wetland-building project, tearing out thick pines and creating an ecosystem that can sustain the life of birds and fish, cost the airport $10 million. That money also paid for creation of riprap — a wall of boulders in a crib made of wood — to protect the park’s mangrove shoreline on the eastern side of the park, along the Intracoastal Waterway. On Thursday, a small boat whizzed past the park, even though it’s a no-wake zone, and the waves crashed along the new riprap.

Two-thirds of Broward County is undeveloped — lying in the vast Everglades. But in the urbanized third where 1.7 million people live, access to environmentally sensitive lands is limited. This is one place to do that, said Pat Young, a county parks administrative manager.

Broward Parks Director Dan West called the park a “jewel,’’ the largest remaining mangrove ecosystem from Miami to West Palm Beach. A compacted dirt trail through the rebuilt zone will be open to the public. It’s been closed since construction began in April 2010.

“Instead of seeing a lot of Australian pines they’ll now see areas with water … wading birds, animals … and of course the native plants, birds and butterflies,’’ Young said.

The 1,500-acre West Lake Park was once platted out for homes, and the late Joseph Young sold more than 600 lots to Northerners, Pat Young said.

“You’ve heard of selling swampland in Florida?’’ she asked. “Well, this was it.’’

Two catastrophic hurricanes in the 1920s helped end the Florida land boom, and the 1929 stock market crash finished off Young’s plans for what’s now West Lake Park.

Much later, the county bought it up and opened it to the public.

KRDU Auctions Off Items, Including Cars. Raleigh-Durham International Airport, North Carolina.


One man’s junk is another man’s treasure?

Well ... it all depends on what you're looking for.

From microwaves to other oddities people leave behind at the airport or on airplanes, it’s all yours if you've got the highest bid.

“My job is to get it sold for as much money as we can get it sold for for the airport,” auctioneer L.B. Daniel said Friday.

Daniel will be fielding bids for items that have remained in storage here for at least a year.

“You'd think people would come back to find expensive electronics and jewelry. Well..they don't,” he said.

It's incredible what people shoes to an iPod to a baby stroller to a laptop.

People even leave cars at the airport - usually clunkers - and those too are up for bid. This time, there are 13 vehicles up for auction. Also up for bid are jewelry, shoes, cameras, video game systems, sports equipment and light fixtures.

The items for sale do not include laptops, clothing, flash drives, baby care items and cell phones, which will be donated to charity.

The preview begins at 8 a.m. and auction begins at 9 a.m. Some of the profits go to the airport to cover costs, and the rest goes to the state.

To reach the auction from I-40: Exit toward RDU. Follow signs to Park and Ride 3. Turn onto National Guard Dr. Follow National Guard Dr. until it ends. Turn left onto Haley's Branch Road. The RDU Maintenance

City panel says no to ads on control tower. Rogue Valley International - Medford Airport (KMFR), Medford, Oregon.

MEDFORD, Oregon - The planning commission in Medford has voted against a proposal to put giant advertisements on the control tower at the city's airport.

But the airport's director, Bern Case, isn't giving up. He says he's going to make another pitch, to the City Council.

"My goal is for everyone to realize this is not advertising. it's a corportate standing with the airport and support us," said Case.

Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport proposes putting signs on the four sides of its 100-foot tower to advertise a business that Case hasn't yet identified. He says the deal could bring in about $300,000 over 10 years.

The signs would require an exception to the city's standards. The planning commission members on Thursday were unanimously against the idea. One said government buildings shouldn't be advertising mediums. Another said the government shouldn't compete with private sign and advertising companies.

Dangerous South Pole rescue mission under way

CONCORD, New Hampshire -- A cargo plane was to have left on a risky trip to the South Pole Saturday morning to evacuate a sick engineer.

The plane flew from Chile to the United Kingdom's Rothera Base in in Antarctica Friday afternoon Eastern time, the National Science Foundation said.

It was to head for the foundation's South Pole research station Saturday to pick up Renee-Nicole Douceur and take her first to the foundation's McMurdo station in Antarctica, then on to New Zealand which is, CBS News Correspondent Betty Nguyen pointed out on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," the closest place with advanced medical facilities.

Douceur, of New Hampshire, is a manager for research station contractor Raytheon Polar Services Co. She asked for an earlier emergency evacuation after having what doctors believed was a stroke in August. Doctors she contacted for a second opinion say a tumor may have caused her medical problems, including faulty vision and speech and memory difficulties.

After initially having half her field of vision vanish, Douceur, 58, said she can now read if she concentrates on just a few words at a time. She sometimes jumbles words and has had trouble remembering simple lists of words during medical evaluations.

Her lawyers sent a letter in early September to Raytheon, Ngueyn notes, telling the contractor, "Ms. Douceur's chances of full recovery are reduced (or perhaps impossible) if she is not moved quickly."
But officials rejected her request because of bad weather, saying that sending a rescue plane was too dangerous and that her condition wasn't life-threatening.

Brutal South Pole conditions this time of year make flying dangerous if not impossible, Nguyen explains, with temperatures and wind conditions that can render planes inoperable.

Raytheon spokesman Jon Kasle said Tuesday that the decision to evacuate Douceur rested with the National Science Foundation, not Raytheon.

The foundation says it must balance the potential benefit of an evacuation against the possibility of harm for the patient, the flight crew and workers on the ground.

In October 1999, a U.S. Air Force plane flew to the station to rescue Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, who had diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer for months before her evacuation. After she had multiple surgeries in the United States, the cancer went into remission, but it returned. She died in 2009 at age 57.

Douceur, who has worked at the South Pole for about a year, told The Associated Press Tuesday she understands the risks involved in arranging an evacuation. She said she wanted to take advantage of a good weather window.

"There's an opening," she said, "but if they don't make that opening then it's probably going to be pushed on to next week before I get a chance."

Her family set up a website seeking support for her cause.

She remarked to Discovery News that, "They have been making decisions based on budgets. Isn't a stroke a serious thing?"

Freelance journalist Eric Niiler, who's been to the South Pole and has covered this story for Discovery News, said on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" that the rescue is expensive. "Previous rescues," he says, "have cost upward after $1 million, when you look at all the deployment of individuals, you know, across the globe, from Chile to this British base, all the way over to New Zealand."

And, he added, whether or not to try to evacuate Douceur is "really a tough call. Do you put a lot of people at risk to save one person? If Renee had had a situation that was easy to diagnose and she would die within a couple of days, maybe the decision would be the other way. Lots of pilots (were) being prepared for this mission ... and there is a lot at stake."

"There are three really important things right now for the pilots," Niiler explained. "Number one is cold.

Number two are the winds. And number three is visibility. Right now ... it's minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit (at the base) with a wind chill of negative 104 degrees. ... The folks working down there, the scientists and the other workers, they're inside and they're not spending a lot of time outdoors. But, for pilots who have to land a plane, refuel, pick up the passengers and any cargo, turn around and fly out again, it's extremely dangerous."

The landing is particularly risky, Niiler says, noting that, "You can't get out there with a bulldozer to make a nice soft runway, a nice flat runway. There are gusting winds. There are winds that pick up this very fine crystals that are in the air. In fact, that's the conditions right now. The other thing that we've got to talk about is the jet fuel, the aviation fuel. It freezes at a certain temperature. Now, you can add additives and things in there, but this stuff turns into something like motor oil and if that happens, the plane is, you know -- it's really tough."