Friday, October 28, 2011

What did $543 million buy John Wayne-Orange County Airport (KSNA)?

John Wayne Airport is wrapping up a major expansion without huge delays, without blowing its budget, without becoming embroiled in lawsuits and without firing its lead contractor.

That might seem like a low bar to clear, but it's a big deal when viewed against the problems of the last major expansion, which finished in 1990.

The airport's project opens in two weeks, and while it hasn't been without hiccups, it is arriving on-time and within budget, a significant accomplishment given the vast scope and $543 million price tag.

"We're very pleased with how the project's gone," said Alan Murphy, airport director. "There are a lot of moving pieces ... and that always opens up the potential for problems."

The airport is a largely self-sustaining operation that, while publicly run, doesn't rely on Orange County taxpayers to pay its bills. Instead, the nine-figure tab was mostly covered by bonds, revenue from airlines and concessions, a $4.50 fee levied on departing travelers and federal grants.

Headlining the expansion are a new terminal and a new parking structure, but numerous other elements are expected to make JWA more efficient, more attractive and more convenient.

An on-site power plant is covering most of the airport's energy needs, remodeling will make the older terminal areas look like the new ones, and modernized systems for parking garages and ticket counters should soothe the many headaches of traveling.

"We're not just building a new terminal," said Jenny Wedge, airport spokeswoman. "We're bringing you a new, improved John Wayne Airport."

More space means the airport is designed to serve 10.8 million passengers annually, the maximum allowed under a legal settlement crafted to limit noise in surrounding neighborhoods.

Some observers question the need for such a pricey expansion, especially since JWA is regarded as a relatively stress-free place to fly.

"It's not really necessary to have that big building," longtime airport activist Charles Griffin said of the new terminal. "It could handle 10.8 as it was."

Traffic has dipped considerably at JWA, a nationwide phenomenon as the country limps along economically. With the airport operating about 20 percent below its passenger cap, critics say not enough has been done to boost demand.

"Once they decided to build (the terminal), I wish they had given more effort to filling it with airplanes," said Len Kranser, another veteran airport observer. "We're going to have a lot more seats in the terminal and a lot more spaces in parking lots, but we really don't have a lot more flights."

Airport officials recently offered incentives for airlines to offer service to Mexico, but argue they have limited power to add destinations.

"We can't make the airlines do anything," Wedge said. "They're going to operate at whatever the demand of the market is."

Also, officials say excessive demand was being placed on parking, baggage handling and gate availability.

Those points, coupled with the airport's stable finances, make the expansion a "good investment," said Paul Eckles, another JWA watcher.

"The airport has always been very busy, and the airlines like it, and adding a little bit of capacity to it was probably a good idea," Eckles said.

JWA hasn't been alone in growing during a sluggish time for the airline industry. Mineta San Jose International Airport completed a $1.3 billion expansion last year, and Los Angeles International Airport spent $737 million last year to upgrade the Tom Bradley terminal.

For JWA, the $543 million figure includes the prices of the power plant and various capital improvements – some of which are yet to be completed – that weren't part of the original estimate of $435 million.

Overall costs are coming in as projected, but finances didn't always look great during five years of work. Design and construction of an aircraft parking lot cost more than $40 million, double what was expected before the awarding of a contract.

"The estimate really was not good on that project," Wedge said.

Plans for the power plant became gradually grander, and even after officials settled on a design, it still came in $6 million more expensive than expected.

In some instances, paperwork errors cost the airport serious cash. The lowest bidder on the terminal transposed numbers on its quote and was disqualified; the next-closest bid was about $3 million more. On a project involving new ticket counters and a universal computer system, the lowest bidder again lost out because of technical issues, a mistake that cost the airport $750,000.

And at one point, airport officials tacked on $135 million to the price tag because of projected spike in costs of energy and raw materials.

Ultimately, that increase didn't materialize. Instead, the recession intervened and created an ultra-weak construction sector, resulting in bids that were dramatically lower than officials projected.

"We were able to take advantage of one of the silver linings of the recession," Murphy said.

To the extent there were difficulties, they didn't compare with a previous expansion in 1990. That effort saw construction start before designs were complete, leading to confusion and delays. By the time work concluded nearly six months behind schedule, lawsuits had been filed, the lead architect had forfeited hundreds of thousands of dollars to offset late work and the head contractor had been fired from part of the project.

The likelihood of JWA witnessing another major expansion – successful or otherwise – appears low, both because of legal constraints on flights and practical limits on the 500-acre property.

"I don't see any more improvements of this nature happening in the next 50 years," Supervisor John Moorlach said.

Murphy was more circumspect, but suggested JWA is close to being fully grown up.

"It's hard to say, because who knows what the aviation business is going to look like 20 years from now, but ... we are running out of space," Murphy said. "We've basically developed everything we can develop."

Briscoe Field’s business debated. Gwinnett County Airport-Briscoe Field (KLZU), Lawrenceville, Georgia

For more than a year, the debate over commercial flights at Briscoe Field has played out in public hearings and protest rallies across Gwinnett County.

But far from the noisy hearings, two companies with plenty at stake have waged a quieter campaign to influence the airport’s fate.

New York-based Propeller Investments wants to launch commercial flight service at Briscoe. The company has employed polling, a website, billboards and even a job fair to convince Gwinnett residents of the merits of passenger service.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has urged Gwinnett officials to reject passenger flights. Those flights could force the airline to transfer some flights from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to compete for passengers.

With the two companies competing for influence, it’s clear there’s more at stake in the debate than what makes sense for Gwinnett taxpayers and nearby residents.

County commissioners recently set aside the debate over commercial flights for now. But the debate likely isn’t over.

A majority of commissioners wants specific proposals from companies interested in running the airport. They say those proposals will help them cut through the theoretical pros and cons being lobbed by both sides in the debate.

“One side wants me to completely drop it,” said County Commissioner Lynette Howard. “One wants me to push it faster and faster like a roller coaster. Both of them are wrong.”

Gwinnett officials have talked of selling or leasing the county airport for two years.

Briscoe serves corporate jets and other small aircraft seating up to 19 passengers. One of three firms that expressed interest in running it — Propeller Investments — has said it wants to launch commercial flights on jets seating up to 140 passengers.

The proposal has polarized Gwinnett residents and elected officials. Proponents say passenger flights at Briscoe could drive economic development and provide an alternative to Hartsfield-Jackson. Opponents fear noise and declining property values near the airport.

Last year Propeller commissioned a poll showing 69 percent of Gwinnett residents favored allowing commercial flights. The company also has used its own website, Facebook and billboards to rally support for its proposal.

Propeller also has pledged to hire local residents if it operates the airport and sent representatives to a local job fair to solicit résumés.

Propeller managing director Brett Smith said his company has invested more than $1 million in its Briscoe Field proposal so far, nearly all of it for research and legal work.

“I’ve done this because I believe in this project,” Smith said.

Some of Propeller’s tactics have riled opponents. Jim Regan of Citizens for a Better Gwinnett, which opposes commercial service, objects to the company soliciting résumés when it hasn’t won the right to run the airport.

“[Smith is] literally out there intimating to people that there are jobs to be had if this goes through,” Regan said.

If Propeller has waged a public campaign, Delta has worked behind the scenes to influence commissioners. Several commissioners said they had been contacted by Delta officials who urged them to reject commercial flights.

The airline opposes any effort to develop a second metro Atlanta commercial airport because it would be forced to move some of its flights from Hartsfield-Jackson to compete. That could weaken the airline’s hub at Hartsfield-Jackson.

Commissioner John Heard said Delta “made it very clear to me months and months ago they have no interest in coming to Gwinnett” but will if competition requires it.

Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter said it doesn’t make sense to open another major airport when there is still capacity at Hartsfield-Jackson.

“Diverting resources and traffic away from Hartsfield-Jackson would not be in the best interests of the region, particularly with the opening next year of the Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal,” Banstetter said.

Propeller’s Smith said Delta’s position is self-serving.

“They’re opposing something because it doesn’t make sense for them,” he said. “I would say to them, the metro region has been very good to Delta. I would hope that a responsible company like Delta Air Lines would want the best for the community.”

With business interests seeking to influence the debate, Sabrina Smith of Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government worries the concerns of ordinary people might get overlooked.

“The commissioners may view us as, here come those pesky people again,” she said.

Commissioners recently appointed a citizen committee to advise them on Briscoe Field. They say they’re committed to a public debate.

“Nobody can say we haven’t talked about the issues,” said Commissioner Mike Beaudreau. “It’s being fully vetted.”

Weslaco debates future of airport: Mid Valley Airport (T65), Weslaco, Texas

WESLACO—Only four airplanes have landed at the Mid-Valley Airport from Mexican soil since the location became able to accept international flights more than five months ago.

City leaders are struggling to determine what to do with the neglected airport, which they describe as full of potential, but a drain on city coffers and in need of a decision on whether to bring in independent operators.

“We have a wonderful airport,” said Hernan Gonzalez, director of Weslaco’s Economic Development Corporation. But “when we had the opportunity to land international flights here, we learned very quickly that elements were missing.”

The municipal airport has always operated at a loss. It cost the city $227,900 during fiscal year 2011.

“If it was a business, you’d be going broke,” City Manager Leo Olivares said.

“It is a business and you are going broke—let’s be clear,” replied Abraham Tanus, a businessman, plane owner and airport board member.

City leaders have traditionally operated on the belief that whatever the airport costs the city, it makes up for in bringing business opportunities to the city. But now they’re questioning how to make up the shortfall.

“What is it we need to do to make this airport more profitable to reach a break-even point?” Commissioner John Cuellar asked.

One improvement could be to bring in fixed-base operators, or FBOs—businesses that would be able to operate at the airport providing services that could include fueling, maintenance, hangar-rentals and transportation.

“What does an FBO do?” Gonzalez said. “Well, in car analogy,, it’s a full service gas station. You get your window washed, you go in there, they have clean bathrooms and they sell you fuel.”

The city serves as the airport’s FBO, but is lean in the services it provides. Airport hours are limited, as are the amenities available. There are no hangars available to rent, and pilots must generally pump their own fuel.

Last summer, city officials received a proposal from Rajet, an FBO based in Saltillo, Coah., to move into the Mid-Valley. Gonzalez traveled to Saltillo to meet with representatives from the company, but the city failed to determine whether they wanted to work with Rajet quickly enough to do so.

“Because we took too long, since June we couldn’t get that act together, that opportunity is off the table,” Gonzalez said.

Now, city leaders are evaluating whether they want to seek out other FBOs or whether it’s better to have the city manage services.

Mayor Miguel Wise suggested the option of moving the airport to the control of the development corporation, which Gonzalez said would ensure that it was prioritized.

Flyers, pilots and businessmen attended a meeting Thursday to express opinions and float ideas about the facility. Many were distressed about details of the Rajet proposition, which leaked from the development corporation’s control into public dissemination.

Discussion was able to quell several misconceptions during the meeting, but the message came through loud and clear that the airport is not working as is. Plane owners complained that hours are limited, services are limited and things like bathrooms are often unavailable.

“People who fly privately want convenience,” one pilot said. “We need to show we’re open for business.”

Cape May County Airport (KWWD) loses operator, services for pilots. Wildwood, New Jersey.

Photo Credit:  Dale Gerhard

Big Sky Aviation has ceased its operations at the Cape May Airport in Erma, Lower Township, but still runs its operations at the Millville Airport. Friday, Oct. 28, 2011.

LOWER TOWNSHIP — The fixed-base operator for the Cape May Airport withdrew from the airport this month, leaving pilots with fewer services.

Big Sky Aviation based in Millville previously offered flight training, refueling and other services at the airport, said James Salmon, spokesman for the Delaware River and Bay Authority. The authority oversees the airport.

Pilots who fly into Lower Township can still get fuel, but they have to serve themselves.

“There really aren’t that many changes,” Salmon said. “We still provide hangar services. We still provide self-serve fuel.”

A spokeswoman for Big Sky Aviation was not available on Friday. A voicemail at the airport warns pilots about the limited services.

“Currently the airport is undergoing a transition period where personal services will not be available during the winter months,” the message says. “Pilots are encouraged to check for fuel availability.”

Cape May County Administrator Stephen O’Connor said pilots reported limited fueling options at the airport.

“We’ve been trying to diplomatically pressure them to recruit a new provider. The immediate concern is to make sure pilots have fuel, that it is accessible and is convenient to fill their planes,” he said.

O’Connor said the county would like a full-service operation at the airport.

The county is also weighing the long-term plans for industrial expansion at the airport. Cape May County is opposing efforts to give portions of the airport a historical designation for fear this would impede economic development and expansion there.

The Cape May Airport was a training ground for U.S. Navy pilots during World War II.

“The county will have to decide in the near future how much effort it wants to put into a partnership with the DRBA to try to strengthen the economic potential of the industrial park,” O’Connor said.

The Cape May Airport is one of three in Cape May County. Another, the Woodbine Municipal Airport, is investing nearly $1 million in state grants to expand the aprons around the two runways where planes can tie down.

The project will add 120,000 square feet of room for planes along with another access road north of Henry DeCinque Boulevard.

Woodbine has been seeing more interest from pilots since Bader field in Atlantic City closed in 2006.

Colville Lake's $12 million airport a community effort. Aurora College taking advantage of construction training opportunities. Northwest Territories, Canada.

Colville Lake's new $12 million airport, set to open in the summer of 2012, will feature a new terminal building as well as a longer and wider 1,198 metre runway.

“It’s something that came from the whole community,” said Joseph Kochon, president of Behdzi Ahda First Nation Economic Development Trust. “For a small community we have a lot of traffic.”

Aside from passenger and cargo service to the community of 126, aviation traffic in the area is largely due to oil and gas exploration in the area.

As an added bonus, the Department of Transportation is working with students from Aurora College to build the airport, giving them a chance to train on multiple machines as well as gain valuable experience for two weeks.

Colville Lake's Tracy Eddibar has been working on the new airport for two years as part of the Aurora College program.

“They had good instructors that explained things really well,” said Eddibar, “I caught on real fast. It was awesome because I love this job; it’s what I want to do.”

Thirty-four people have been hired from the Colville Lake community to complete the airport. Work is divided into two shifts of 10 hours each from June until September and progress is overseen by the community. Superintendent of the operation, Jules Frechette, is the only person not from the community.

“We hope the new airport will serve the community better and provide a safer means of transportation,” said Bill Chapple, the project manager for the development of the airport. “We hope that larger freight planes bringing in supplies will reduce the cost of living here.”

Colville Lake currently has a cost of living three times higher than that of Yellowknife.

“Our main concern is getting larger planes to land” said Chapple. “We don’t really have much tourism in the area.”

The old airport’s runway prevented larger planes, such as the Dash-8 which can carry up to 30 passengers, from landing as the runway was too short. Expanding the old airport wasn't an option because it was next to Colville Lake and a cliff face. A relocation of the airport was required and construction began in 2009.

With funding from the federal infrastructure stimulus fund, consultations and surveys were conducted by the Denendeh Development Corporation (DDC) in 2007 to gauge the need to expand airports in the Northwest Territories Area. Most communities were satisfied with their current airports except Colville Lake and Gaméti/Rae Lakes which had safety concerns about their airports.

Surveys conducted by the DDC found the length of runways did not increase the risk of accidents in the area. They also concluded that the increase in traffic to Colville Lake is not great enough to warrant an extension to the Colville airport, though they also cited that an increase in living costs could arise because the current airport could not support all plane types.

Transport Canada regulations specify that 914.4 metre runways are not adequate for planes that could service the community most effectively. The common length of runways, according to Transport Canada, is 1,524 metres and Colville Lake’s Airport runway is only 836 metres.

“It’s nice to work as a team with people in your community,” said Eddibar. “It felt good to build roads and the airport in my own hometown.”

Though the runway has been cleared of bush and gravelled, the terminal building, electrical work and lighting still need to be completed before it can open. Work will halt this winter while supplies are brought in over the ice road and it will resume again in the spring.

Materials for the terminal will be shipped on this season's winter road, said Kochon. The terminal will be a small building with a waiting room and washroom facilities.

“Hopefully next summer we’ll have a brand new airport to land on,” said Kochon.

Pilot of downed aircraft was experienced flier. Beechcraft King Air 100, Northern Thunderbird Air, C-GXRX. Vancouver International Airport.

VANCOUVER — Staff at Northern Thunderbird Air are reeling over the loss of Luc Fortin, an experienced 44-year-old pilot who died in Thursday's fiery plane crash near Vancouver International Airport

"It's very sad. People are shocked," said Bill Hesse, the company's general manager.

"He was highly experienced. He's basically been around the world flying these types of aircraft. He's one of our senior captains and it's a big loss," he said of the North Vancouver-based pilot, who had been with the company for four years.

Fortin died after the small aircraft he was flying crashed and burst into flames just short of the airport in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday.

The B.C. Coroner's service reported that Fortin was pronounced dead at 9:10 p.m. Thursday local time of "severe fire-related injuries." An autopsy was to be conducted Friday.

Fortin was a 14,000-hour pilot who had worldwide flying experience taking him to Canada's North, Antarctica, the Maldives and many other places around the globe, Hesse said.

Bill Hesse, general manager of Northern Thunderbird Air, said Fortin leaves behind a wife and child.

Hesse added that Fortin's co-pilot, Matt Robic, 26, who only had been hired in June and had 1,400 hours of flight experience, was still in hospital in critical condition.

Meanwhile, several of the seven passengers have been identified in media reports.

They are:

- Kelly Jablonski, general manager of Ultimate Skateboarders Distribution. Jablonski reportedly suffered multiple fractures and smoke inhalation. He is in intensive care, but was reportedly alert and talking to family.

- Lorelei and Cameron Sobolik, a married couple with five children. Cameron Sobolik is president of Teligence, a Vancouver-based IT company that runs several dating chat lines. Both were in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

- Troy Zanatta, owner of Restwell Sleep Products in Surrey, B.C. The White Rock, B.C., resident is now at home recovering after being discharged from hospital.

- Carolyn Cross, CEO of Ondine Biopharma Corp., a Vancouver-based company that works on anti-microbial technologies, was also on the plane.

- Another man identified himself as "Jeff" to passerby Eric Hicks, the man who pulled him from the wreckage.

The group apparently were on their way to a business retreat in Vernon, B.C.

The plane was chartered by Northern Thunderbird Air and was bound for Kelowna. It departed Vancouver at about 3:40 p.m., encountered difficulties while flying over Maple Ridge about 15 minutes into its flight and turned around to try to land back at the Vancouver International Airport.

The plane missed the south runway by about 900 meters and appeared to have struck a lamp post before crashing into a vehicle on the northbound lanes of Russ Baker Way.

All aboard were taken to hospital. Two people on the road were also reportedly struck.

Lead crash investigator Bill Yearwood told a news conference Friday that it was an oil indicator light that prompted the pilots to turn back for Vancouver airport while flying about 4,600 metres above Golden Ears Provincial Park.

About 900 metres from the runway back at Vancouver International Airport and with its landing gear down in a stable approach, the plane veered 90 degrees to the left and crashed into Russ Baker Way, Yearwood said.

"That's our challenge: to determine why what appeared to be a benign indicator problem turned into such a tragic event," Yearwood said.

As it crashed, the plane hit a lamppost and a car. The car wasn't badly damaged, but its occupants were taken to hospital, Yearwood said.

"It was fortunate that it was clear enough for them to come to a stop before colliding with too many objects or people."

Recordings and radar data from the control tower have been taken by investigators and witnesses have been interviewed, Yearwood said.

The plane's black box containing the pilots' cockpit conversation — but no physical data such as the plane's altitude — was recovered roughly intact.

The recordings were sent to the Transportation Safety Board lab in Ottawa on Friday to be downloaded. Yearwood said he expected to have the audio from those last few minutes before the crash in his hands by the end of next week.

Hesse said the company also wanted to offer its deepest condolences to the passengers and families affected.

"It's beyond words. I can't imaging what they are going through," he said. "It's a very, very difficult time and our hearts are just heavy for them."

"Our entire focus at this point is just to deal with the people that were involved in this, and the family of the passengers and crew, and of course, our own people who are deeply affected by this," he said.

A veteran Canadian small-aircraft pilot who was at the scene of the crash said the pilot died a hero in his eyes.

"He is a hero, I would say," said John Lovelace, the well-known TV host of the Wings Over Canada series and a Richmond, B.C., resident who has been flying small planes for 35 years.

"The bottom line it looks like the passengers survived, so he did his job, didn't he? He brought that airplane down from 15,000 feet," Lovelace said.

"He wanted to make that happen for everybody, and unfortunately, it didn't work out for him in the very end."

NT Air has been in business since 1971, when it was created by the merger of two northern airlines, according to the company website.

The company has a fleet of at least 10 aircraft, and 70 employees with seven scheduled destinations, as well as charter services. It is headquartered in Prince George, B.C.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Sara Johnston said Friday that the federal department last conducted an inspection of Northern Thunderbird, including the aircraft involved in Thursday's crash, in April 2010 and did not uncover any problems.

In discussing their safety standards online, the company states: "The management team at Northern Thunderbird Air believes safety is of utmost importance and is dedicated to ensuring that our employees and the travelling public see our corporate identity reflecting safety as a crucial element in all operations at all times. As a company we strive to have zero accidents and to eliminate dangerous situations that may result in injury to personnel or damage to equipment."

The company has had two previous incidents. One, in 2005, resulted in the death of two pilots, when their twin-engined aircraft crashed near Squamish. In 2001, one of the company's single-engine Cessnas crashed north of Prince George, but the pilot and passenger survived.

Hesse said that his company flies about 10,000 hours a year.

"We work very hard to mitigate these risks," he said.

Beechcraft 100 King Air, Northern Thunderbird Air, C-GXRX: Accident occurred October 27, 2011 east of Vancouver International Airport, BC (YVR), Canada

NTSB Identification: ANC12WA007
Accident occurred Thursday, October 27, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada
Aircraft: , registration:
Injuries: Unavailable

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On October 27, 2011, about 1600 pacific daylight time, a Beechcraft King Air 100, C-GXRX, operated by Northern Thunderbird Air, Inc. as a non-scheduled passenger flight, collided with terrain while attempting to land at the Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was in effect. The airplane sustained substantial damage, and a postcrash fire ensued. The pilot was killed. The copilot, seven passengers, and two people on the ground were seriously injured.

The accident investigation is under the jurisdiction and control of the Canadian government. This report is for informational purposes only and contains only information released by or obtained from the Canadian government. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Transportation Safety Board of Canada
200 Promenade du Portage
Place du Centre, 4th Floor
Hull, Quebec K1A 1K8

Tel.: (1) 819-994-4252
(1) 819-997-7887 (24 hour)
Fax: (1) 819-953-9586

Luc Fortin was an experienced pilot. Despite this, the plane he was flying crashed at a busy intersection just short of the runway at Vancouver International Airport Thursday, killing the Mr. Fortin and sending 10 others to hospital.  The National Post’s graphics team takes a look at what happened in the final moments of the flight.


North Vancouver man identified as pilot killed in crash; co-pilot badly burned. It was an oil indicator light that prompted the pilots of the flight to turn back for Vancouver International Airport. Beechcraft King Air 100, Northern Thunderbird Air, C-GXRX.

Luc Fortin, 44, of North Vancouver, was the pilot killed during yesterday's fiery plane crash near Vancouver International Airport.
Photo Credit:  Facebook

VANCOUVER - The pilot killed during yesterday's fiery plane crash near Vancouver International Airport has been identified as 44-year-old Luc Fortin of North Vancouver.

The B.C. Coroner Service confirmed this morning that Fortin died from "thermal" injuries.

The co-pilot, 26-year-old Matt Robic, remains in critical but stable condition with burns to 80 per cent of his body, according to Bill Hesse, the general manager of Prince George-based Northern Thunderbird Air, which operated the downed charter.

Fortin died just after 10 p.m. last night, at Vancouver General Hospital, said coroner Owen Court. An autopsy is currently underway, he said. "The next of kin was present at the time of his death," Court told The Sun Friday morning.

Court said the coroner service will continue to work closely with the federal transportation safety board (TSB), moving forward with the investigation.

"He [Fortin] was a pretty experienced pilot," Hesse said in an interview. "He's been with us since 2007."

Fortin was a 14,000-hour pilot who had worldwide flying experience taking him to Canada's north, Antarctica, the Maldives and many other places around the globe, Hesse said.

Hesse, who arrived in Vancouver this morning, said Fortin leaves behind a wife and child.

Robic, a 1,400-hour pilot, joined the company in June of this year, Hesse added.

The airline is a small company with between 60 and 70 employees. "We just want to know what happened," he said, adding that he has more questions than answers at this point about caused the crash.

Hesse said the company was in communication with the plane via radio and satellite before it crashed, but he wouldn't share other details.

As of 9 a.m. Friday morning, two patients involved in the crash remained in the intensive care unit at VGH, according to a Vancouver Coastal Health release. Four other patients from the crash are in stable, but serious condition at VGH, and two others were released from hospital last night after receiving treatment—one from VGH and one from Richmond.

No patients remain at Richmond Hospital, said VCH spokeswoman, Trudi Beutel, in the release, adding that all next of kin have been notified.

Lead crash investigator Bill Yearwood told a news conference Friday that it was an oil indicator light that prompted the pilots of the flight to turn back for YVR while flying at about 4,600 metres above Golden Ears Provincial Park.

The caution light did not prompt an emergency, but, as per procedure, forced the pilots to turn around roughly 15 minutes into the flight.

About 900 metres from the runway back at Vancouver International Airport and with its landing gear down in a stable approach, the plane veered 90 degrees to the left and crashed into Russ Baker Way, Yearwood said.

"That's our challenge: to determine why what appeared to be a benign indicator problem turned into such a tragic event," Yearwood said.

As it crashed, the plane hit a lamppost and a car. The car wasn't badly damaged, but its occupants were taken to hospital, Yearwood said.

"It was fortunate that it was clear enough for them to come to a stop before colliding with too many objects or people."

Recordings and radar data from YVR's control tower have been taken by investigators and witnesses have been interviewed Yearwood said.

A "blackbox" containing the pilots' cockpit conversation - but not any physical data like the plane's altitude - was recovered roughly intact.

The recordings were sent to the TSB's lab in Ottawa on Friday to be downloaded. Yearwood said he expected to have the audio from those last few minutes before the crash in his hands by the end of next week.

Meanwhile investigators completed the physical inspection of the crash site early Friday morning and soon will do more in depth study of the plane's machinery as it sits in a YVR hangar, according to Yearwood.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Sara Johnston said Friday that the federal department last conducted an inspection of Northern Thunderbird, including the aircraft involved in Thursday's crash, in April 2010 and did not uncover any problems.

The captain and first officer had valid commercial pilot licenses and valid medical certificates.

Johnston noted that Northern Thunderbird Air is a fully owned independent subsidiary of Central Mountain Air and operates from Prince George, with a sub-based in Vancouver.

The company is authorized for flights under both instrument and visual flight rules; until the crash, it had a fleet of eight aircraft, including three King Air 100 planes, three Beech 1900 aircraft, one Cessna Caravan, and one King Air 350.

A Transport Canada minister's observer has been assigned to monitor the transportation safety board's investigation and plans to follow up with Northern Thunderbird in the next few days, she said.

The crash occurred shortly after 4 p.m. at the intersection of Gilbert Road and Russ Baker Way. Bridges around YVR, including the No. 2 Road Bridge, were closed into the evening, disrupting the afternoon commute.

Officials said all traffic disruptions have been resolved as of Friday morning.

Terry McBratney, a Metro Vancouver district supervisor for BC Ambulance who was at the scene of the crash, said it was "amazing anyone survived."

The plane landed when there was a break in traffic, he said.

"It was lucky."

"If the plane had landed 30 seconds later, it would have taken out a row of cars."

McBratney said the plane took out a light standard and part of a concrete median, losing its propeller along the way.

Nikolai Jensen was walking in the area when he saw the plane going sideways, "one wing was dipping down," he said. "It was coming straight for me, of all people to go toward, I'm alone and this plane's coming straight for me."

He said the plane was trying to use the road straight in front of it as a runway. By the time it stopped it was only about nine metres (30 feet) away from him. "I was thanking the maker by then," he said, "and I'm not a very religious man."

He told Global News that when the plane came to a halt, people in cars around the crash jumped out and rushed toward the wreckage to help. "They were dragging these people out," he said. " ... Way before police arrived or anyone."

He said the rescuers seemed unfazed by the burning wreckage — they just wanted to save peoples' lives despite the risk to their own.

"Heroic qualities really," he said.

Vincent Varona was driving southbound on Russ Baker Way when he noticed the plane flying erratically.

"Directly ahead of me in the sky I saw the plane bank really hard to its left, and then immediately to its right, as if it were out of control," he said.

"It was still going very fast, and at that speed it was lower to the ground than a plane making a normal descent would be, so putting all of these things together, I thought to myself, 'It's going to crash.' "

Varona turned a corner, where trees momentarily blocked his view of the plane, "and sure enough once I drove forward another few metres, I saw smoke billowing from maybe another kilometre or so in front of me."

Yearwood said the Beechcraft King Air 100 is common in the industry, and the Pratt and Whitney engine has a reputation for reliability. "There was nothing on our watch list about this aircraft or this type of operation," he said.

The transportation safety board had five investigators on the site late Thursday night. The source of the problem will be the focus of its investigation in coming days.

The stretch of Russ Baker Way is expected to be closed until at least this morning.

Two pilots died in 2005 when a twin-engined Northern Thunderbird King Air 200 crashed near Squamish.

Yearwood said that crash occurred when the plane was transitioning from Vancouver to Prince George. The pilot flew up a valley and was in a steep climb trying to avoid terrain when the plane crashed.

In 2001, a Northern Thunderbird single-engine Cessna 185 crashed north of Prince George while under government charter to do a wildlife survey. The pilot and passenger survived.

The Beechcraft King Air 100 was built in 1970, according to aircraft registration information.

Northern Thunderbird's website states that the company, also known as NT Air, has been providing charter and scheduled services to B.C. and Yukon since 1971.

"Our roots are in the float, ski and off-strip work in BC's north and although we have moved on to modern aircraft, practices and covering a larger geographical area; it is this historical experience that drives our company today. We take pride in doing the hard jobs and doing it without compromising safety or professionalism.

"We hold our people to a high level of accountability and reward them based on performance and leadership. We put careful thought into what we promise and never make our problems our clients' problems. Thinking and delivering 'outside the box' is what we do best."

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University not opening residential campus in Houston, Texas

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has decided not to open a new residential campus in Houston.

Instead, it will move its campus currently located on Space Center Boulevard to a bigger building at Ellington Airport, admit more students and offer additional degrees.

Mark Friend, dean of academic affairs of the university’s central region office in San Antonio, said the university hired a consulting firm to do a study, which concluded that there will be no additional residential campus at this time.

“We determined that we can meet the needs of industry and Houston community with an extension of our Worldwide Campus,” he said.

The Houston campus is part of the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based university’s central region and its “Worldwide Campus,” which entails 150 small campuses and education centers in the United States and around the world – many of them on military bases.

It has two full residential campuses in Daytona Beach and Prescott, Ariz., and Houston would have been its third.

Until the recent decision against another residential campus, the choice was to be between Rockford, Ill. and Houston.

Friend said the Houston campus will move from Space Center Boulevard to a yet-to-be-determined building at Ellington Airport “no later than spring.”

The plan is to grow enrollment from currently 400 students to about 1,000 and offer logistics and supply chain management, project management, occupational safety and systems engineering as additional degrees. The Houston campus currently offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in professional aeronautics, aeronautical science, management and technical management, according to its website.

Embry-Riddle first offered courses in Houston in 1997 in various locations around Ellington Field. It moved to its own space at 16441 Space Center Boulevard in 2005, said Bill Gibbs, marketing director for the central region.

Friend said Houston and Embry-Riddle are a perfect match because Houston has so much to offer for the aviation industry, especially at the Johnson Space Center.

“Houston is nothing but dynamic, growing and positive,” he said, “and it’s certainly one of the primary aviation centers in the United States.”

Gibbs said the Rockford, Ill., campus is also in the process of moving to a bigger location and enroll more students.

He did not exclude the possibility of another residential campus in the future and that the decision is merely “temporarily postponed.”

Dan Seal, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s executive director of Special Initiatives, welcomed the university’s decision to expand.

“The real prize in this announcement is the additional growth that will result from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Houston expansion,” he said in an e-mail. “Airports, like Ellington Airport, are always catalysts for economic development. Adding the prestige of Embry-Riddle, as the world’s premier aeronautical university, to the equation as it develops a world class workforce at Ellington Airport, is like a (super) magnet multiplying the opportunities for business growth in the Bay Area Houston region!”

Seal met many times over the last 12 months with Embry-Riddle administrators, including John P. Johnson, president of the university, along with Mario Diaz, director of the Houston Airport System, members of his staff, and representatives from Houston.

Airline says it told Monroe Regional Airport (KMLU) of its wiring needs in advance

American Airlines says a problem it faced with its plane de-icer at Monroe Regional Airport last week was because of incompatible wiring at the airport’s new terminal.

The airline had informed airport officials of its specific wiring needs in order for its de-icer machine to work before the new terminal’s construction, said Ed Martelle, spokesman for American Eagle, a regional partner for American Airlines.

Last week, passengers were frustrated that flight 4780 to Dallas-Fort Worth was delayed by about two hours because the plane was coated with ice. The airline's de-icer machine wouldn’t work, said passenger David Abbitt, and the pilot told passengers it was because the new terminal wasn’t equipped with the power outlets needed to support it, he said.

Airport Director Cleve Norrell this week said that wasn’t the case.

The airport is fully equipped with power outlets that are compatible for “all kinds of connections,” he said.

It was the airlines that had incorrectly identified the voltage for their machine, he said.

“It was a problem that they had, but they thought it was our plug,” Norrell said. “They thought their machine was 230 volts but it was actually 120 volts.”

But airport officials knew about the voltage requirements before the new terminal was constructed, according to Martelle.

“During the terminal planning and construction process, Eagle had indicated to the airport that the de-icing equipment required 240-volt power in order to operate,” he wrote to The News-Star. “Our general manager was not notified until the first day of operation at the new terminal that is was wired only to 208 volts, which was inconsistent with the specifications that were submitted.”

Norrell on Thursday said the voltage incompatibility was swiftly addressed by the airlines’ mechanic, which Martelle confirmed Friday.

“To ensure we were able to de-ice our aircraft and maintain safe, uninterrupted service to our customers, Eagle sent a maintenance team to Monroe at company expense, to re-wire the equipment in order to be compatible,” Martelle said.

RAW VIDEO: Man injured in Cessna 172 Skyhawk crash at Smoketown Airport (S37), Pennsylvania

Man injured in small plane crash at Smoketown
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One man was injured Friday when his small plane crashed at Smoketown Airport.

The unidentified pilot suffered facial and head injuries but was reported to be alert and speaking, according to Lafayette Fire Company Deputy Chief Scott Hershey.

He was taken to Lancaster General Hospital for treatment.

Witnesses said the plane, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, circled the area three times at about 300 feet before attempting to land.

Hershey could not confirm if the aircraft was landing or taking off but said it reportedly clipped a tree at the western end of the airfield.

The single-engine plane crashed on the north side of the runway, sustaining severe damage.

The Federal Aviation Administration was called in to investigate the cause of the accident.

Man sentenced for piloting aircraft while drunk. York Municipal Airport (KJYR), Nebraska

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A Seward man who's been convicted five times of driving a motor vehicle under the influence is adding another to his record. This time, though, it's for operating an aircraft.

55-year-old Colby Bartholomew pleaded no contest and was sentenced last week.

He was arrested on April 24 after a state trooper and an airport service officer saw strange activity on the runway at the York Municipal Airport.

The pair saw an ultralight aircraft enter a ditch near the runway, go back on the runway and then off again.

It damaged marker lights.

Bartholomew failed an alcohol test and smelled of liquor. He will spend 60 days in jail.

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne II, OE-FKG. JRS - Johannes Ruttinger Systemtechnik GmbH: Accident occurred October 28, 2011 at Toulouse Blagnac Airport (LFBO), France

Crash d'un avion : le garçon de 9 ans décède des suites de ses blessures 

 Seul survivant du crash d'un avion de tourisme survenu vendredi soir à l'aéroport de Toulouse-Blagnac, un enfant de 9 ans est décédé lundi soir des suites de ses blessures.

Grièvement blessé aux deux jambes, l'enfant semblait pourtant hors de danger. Selon le procureur Michel Valet, "son état s'est dégradé pendant les dernières quarante-huit heures". Les fumées et émanations de produits toxiques liées à l'incendie de l'avion seraient à l'origine de la mort du garçonnet.

Ce décès vient porter à quatre le nombre de personnes mortes à la suite de cet accident. Les perents de l'enfant, un chef d'entreprise autrichien de 49 ans qui pilotait l'avion et son épouse toulousaine de 41 ans, sont morts sur le coup. La soeur, âgée de 13 ans, est quant à elle décédé samedi matin.

Une autopsie devrait être réalisée sur les corps du pilote et de son épouse afin de déterminer les circonstances de l'accident.

A tourist plane from Germany crashed late Friday at the Toulouse-Blagnac airport in southwest France, killing at least two people and seriously injuring another, officials said.

The Austrian-registered Piper Cheyenne aircraft carrying four people crashed before reaching a runway at the airport said the prefecture's office.

The condition of the fourth person was not yet known.

Authorities have not yet released the nationalities of those on the plane.

Air traffic at the airport has been disrupted but was expected to resume around midnight. Some 12 flights were directed to other airports.

AFP: Two dead in tourist plane crash at Toulouse airport

Toulouse. A tourist plane coming from Germany crashed late Friday at the Toulouse-Blagnac airport in southwest France, leaving at least two dead and one seriously injured, local authorities said, AFP reports. There were four people on the plane, authorities said. Air traffic at the airport has been disrupted but was expected to resume around midnight.

Possible investment in Piper Aircraft Inc to stimulate Brunei field of general aviation

In increasing the drive towards diversifying the economy, the Investment Division under the Ministry of Finance is looking at investing in Piper Aircraft Inc, a 72-year-old general aviation company which is one of the three major US manufacturers of GA Aircrafts in Vero Beach, Florida, in hopes of stimulating activities in the field of general aviation for the country.

The investment would come under the Strategic Development Capital Fund (SDC Fund), which is under the Sustainability Fund Act.

The new area of investment was briefly revealed yesterday by Frances Ngau, a senior manager from the Investment Division, in her presentation at a forum on Land Optimisation Strategy for Industrial and Commercial Growth in Brunei Darussalam, organised by the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) with SGS Economics and Planning Australia.

Another project that SDC Fund has undertaken is Vivapharm Brunei, an investment from our mandated fund of Aureos looking to set up a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Brunei, which intends to be a leading manufacturer and supplier of halal-certified medicine, vitamins and nutrition not only for the local market but also in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Middle East.

Said Miss Ngau, "Other investments that SDC has undertaken are Ghanim International Food Corporation, the distribution company for Brunei Halal products in collaboration with MIPR, BIG (Brunei International Gateway) in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications, DST and TelBru."

Earlier in her presentation, she explained, "The Sustainability Fund Order 2008 came into force March 11, 2008 and then the order was converted into the Sustainability Fund Act in March this year. Under Section 4 of the act, it provides for the establishment of a government trust fund known as Sustainability Fund and Government Trust Sub Fund of Fiscal Stabilisation Reserve, Retirement Fund and Strategic Development Capital Fund.

"The main objective of the SF Act is to facilitate the collection, accounting for and allocation of an appropriate portion of the three trust sub funds and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the finances of the Brunei government.

"The purpose of the SDC Fund is to provide risk capital for strategic local development that contributes to economic growth and diversification across various sectors and that broadens the revenue base of the government."

The eight identified target sectors for the fund, she outlined, were "Hospitality and Tourism, Financial Services, Business Services, Transportation and Logistics, Agricultural Products and Food Processing, Medical, Infrastructure as well as Education and Knowledge Creation.

"These are the target sectors in which Brunei is capable of establishing to stimulate the economy and diversify from oil and gas," she said.

In the evaluation and selection process, she highlighted "there are the various networks in government and private agencies as well as local companies looking at investment proposal. It goes through rigorous process of analysis evaluation".

"Firstly, the investment proposal provided by contacts, other ministries as well as departments will go through Analysis and Evaluation carried out by SDC Fund Manager with inputs from relevant ministries as well as departments. Then the proposal will move to the Investment Approval stage where the project will be presented to SDC Executive Board or Fund Manager BoD. After getting past this stage, there will be signing of investment agreements then performance monitoring and implementation," she explained.

SDC Fund comes in two different funds, namely Mandated Funds of Aureos and Imprimis to invest in companies which are aligned with SDC's objectives, while the Direct Investment is through SDC's vehicle, where we consider a proposal directly and to invest directly.

The sister fund of Aureos is a B$40 million fund that was established on January 22, 2008, looking primarily into Brunei-based SMEs sector and oversea SMEs which will create economic benefits within Brunei.

Similar to Aureos, only bigger, Imprimis Strategic Investment Cooperation is a B$310 million fund established in 2008. It looks at bigger projects like infrastructure, power, telecommunications, general aviation, aircraft manufacturing fixed base operations, pilot training facilities and others.

Crashed plane seemed to have only 'routine' issue. Beechcraft King Air 100, Northern Thunderbird Air, C-GXRX. Near Vancouver International Airport, Canada.

The small plane that slammed into a busy Richmond, B.C. roadway Thursday, killing its pilot and injuring everyone else onboard, appeared to be experiencing just a routine engine issue before the crash, according to its operator.

The Kelowna-bound Beechcraft King Air 100 airplane had only been in the air about 15 minutes when an oil pressure indicator light came on at around 4 p.m. Thursday.

The pilot, 44-year-old Luc Fortin of North Vancouver, requested a return to Vancouver, and was asked if he required emergency services. He declined.

The Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, says the plane appeared poised to land safely at YVR when it suddenly plummeted onto Russ Baker Way in Richmond.

"With the landing gear down, everything looked normal," said TSB spokesman Bill Yearwood. "But just short of the airport perimeter, the aircraft banked sharply to the left, turned 90 degrees and crashed."

Bill Hesse, Fortin's employer at Northern Thunderbird Air, said the deceased was an experienced pilot who had flown 14,000 hours and reacted appropriately to the situation.

"Every indication is just that it was a routine return," Hesse said. "With the issues that he had, he didn't do anything untoward. He just operated the flight routinely."

It does not appear that Fortin intended to land on the road, Hesse added.

"That wasn't the goal. They ended up there because something obviously happened in the very final stages of the flight, and we just don't know what that is."

The BC Coroners Service says Fortin was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead at 9:10 p.m. from severe fire-related injuries. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter.

The co-pilot, Matt Robic, remains in critical but stable condition. The 26-year-old is an entry-level pilot with 1,500 hours experience. Sources say he may have sustained burns to up to 80 per cent of his body.

The seven remaining occupants, all passengers, were taken to hospital with various injuries. Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed Friday that one remains in intensive care, four in serious condition and two others have been treated and released.

The aircraft collided with a car before bursting into flames. A number of motorists who witnessed the crash pulled fire extinguishers from their vehicles, attempted to put out areas of the fire and began helping people from the wreckage before first responders arrived just minutes after the crash.

Their efforts were applauded by the City of Richmond and B.C.'s Solicitor General.

"It made a big difference and it's a miracle that this wasn't a much worse tragedy," Richmond city spokesman Ted Townsend said.

The TSB sent five investigators to the crash site overnight, and the wreckage was removed at around 4 a.m. Friday.

Yearwood said the aircraft has been secured at YVR, where the engines will be more thoroughly examined.

"While damaged from impact, [they] appear to be in reasonable enough condition that we should be able to get good information from them as to how they were operating just before contact with the ground," Yearwood said.

Northern Thunderbird Air says the aircraft is 40 years old, and has been refurbished four or five times. Hesse said the plane is constantly maintained and an engineer looked over it on Thursday before the flight.

Learn to fly high with club offering lessons at Payson Airport (KPAN), Arizona

Bob Giarraputo/Roundup

The Payson Flying Club offers flight instruction and plane rentals at Payson Airport. The club currently has a Cessna 172 available for use.

Would-be pilots and those with licenses but nothing to fly finally have a way to take off.

A group of local residents has launched Payson Flying Club.

The group offers flying lessons and aircraft rentals.

Before the club, there were no rental planes available at the Payson Airport.

When Bob Giarraputo, a pilot of 40 years, moved to Payson several months ago, he was surprised and disappointed to see there was no way for him to fly not owning a plane himself.

Luckily, others shared Giarraputo’s frustration and Payson Flying Club quickly formed.

“This is a way for people in town who want to learn to fly to get their private and commercial licenses,” he said.

Certified instructors

The group has three Federal Aviation Administration certified flight instructors and a “well maintained” Cessna 172 for instruction.

The group plans to add other planes in the near future.

“Our goal is to provide the best experience for those seeking the skills to pilot a plane and also seasoned pilots,” he said. “Imagine flying over the White Mountains, flying the family to Prescott for lunch or to Las Vegas for the weekend.”

Those already certified, are welcome to rent the Cessna. There is a fee to join the club.

To schedule an introductory flight or for more information, contact Giarraputo at (928) 474-9482 or (931) 220-7858.

AUDIO ONLY: Phone interview with survivor of plane crash. Beechcraft King Air 100, Northern Thunderbird Air, C-GXRX. Near Vancouver International Airport, Canada

Global News - Interview with survivor Carolyn Cross, CEO of Ondine Biomedical, interviewed by Aaron McArthur on Oct. 28, 2011

Beechcraft King Air 100, Northern Thunderbird Air, C-GXRX

Investigators have recovered the flight recorder from yesterday's fatal plane crash in Vancouver, and are optimistic that it and other data from the control tower will shed some light on the accident that left one dead and two critically injured.

The voice recorder "appears to be in good shape" and has been sent to a lab in Ottawa for further study said lead investigator Bill Yearwood, of the Transportation Safety Board, speaking to reporters Friday in Vancouver.

Investigators are taking a close look at an oil indicator that prompted the Beechcraft King Air 100 to turn around shortly after take-off, he added, and whether it is linked to the cause of the crash.

The charter flight took off with two crew and seven passengers, bound for Kelowna, B.C., at about 3:40 p.m. local time.

At about 4:12 p.m., somewhere over Maple Ridge, B.C., it turned around and headed back to the airport.

"Any caution light or indicator would trigger them to return, that's the normal procedure and the safe thing to do," said Yearwood, though the pilot and co-pilot were calm and seemed not to have thought the situation critical because they did not request emergency services. Five TSB investigators have been on the scene since late Thursday.

Yearwood said the plane was about 900 meters short of the runway when it banked sharply and clipped a light pole, crashing and burning in a nearby intersection amid afternoon rush hour traffic.

Frantic passersby rescued the passengers and crew from the plane, operated by Northern Thunderbird Air, based in Prince George, B.C. All nine were taken to hospital.

The pilot, 44-year old Luc Fortin of North Vancouver, died Thursday night of fire-related injuries, said the B.C. Coroners Service.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority said two passengers are in intensive care and four people are in serious but stable condition. Two others were released from hospital overnight

The crash also injured a pedestrian who was struck by a flying object. One car was also struck in the crash and its occupants were taken to hospital. Their condition is not known though Yearwood noted that the car was not badly damaged.

Malcolm Brodie, the mayor of Richmond, B.C., where the crash occurred, said he's sad to hear someone has died in the incident.

"That is tragic and obviously our hearts go out to that person and their family and loved ones and also the other victims of this crash. It's just a horrific event."

Brodie said he's asked the federal government several times to consider moving smaller planes to other regional airports.

"It just seems to me that if you have these huge airliners that are using YVR, once you get to a certain point you should start channelling the other planes to other locales," he said.

Thursday's crash was the third such incident involving a small plane in recent years.

In October 2007, the pilot of a Piper Seneca twin-engine plane died after his aircraft plowed into a highrise apartment building in Richmond.