Thursday, December 29, 2011

FAA permit approval comes 2 months too late for event

SITKA, Alaska - Federal aviation authorities have approved a plan to let a World War II-era plane take part in a celebration in Sitka. The only problem is, the event was held two months ago.

Local officials received word Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration approved a permit to let a twin-engine amphibian aircraft fly from Washington state for the Alaska Day celebration. The permit is good through Dec. 13, 2013, but the plan was scrapped when officials didn't get the permit in time.

"At this point there's nothing in the works," Sitka Historical Society Director Bob Medinger said Tuesday after receiving word of the Dec. 16 FAA ruling. "Someday it would be cool to do it. We didn't get any further than that."

The aviation history of Southeast Alaska was highlighted during this year's festival, which commemorates the handover of Alaska from Russia to the United States on Oct. 18, 1867.

Noel Rude wanted to bring his plane from Washington state. The longtime pilot in Alaska was invited to take part in a panel discussion.

The permit allows planes to be flown to events like air shows.

A message left with the FAA's regional office in Renton, Wash., seeking an explanation for the delay was not immediately returned.

U.S. Coast Guard unit intercepts over $10 billion tied to drug trade

  • The Coast Guard helicopter unit operates in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific
  • Crews on its 10 armed helicopters can shoot out the engines of suspect ships
  • The $10 billion figure includes the results of 209 interdictions since 1998

(CNN) -- A U.S. Coast Guard unit that uses armed helicopters to go after maritime drug runners announced on Thursday that, working with federal partners, it has intercepted more than $10 billion in illegal drugs and related assets since it was commissioned in 1998.

The milestone for the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) includes intercepts in and around the Caribbean and eastern Pacific.

"There's been a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into this," said Capt. Donna Cottrell, who took command of the squadron in June.

The Jacksonville, Florida-based squadron is the only fully operating unit of its kind in the Coast Guard. Its 10 helicopters are armed, allowing them to shoot out the engines of boats -- but not at their passengers -- if those on board fail to heed verbal requests and warning shots to stop, according to Cottrell.

The squadron works closely with a host of other agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Navy, whose planes may be used to spot suspect ships -- they typically don't fly under any nation's flag, have numerous packages and carry large fuel barrels -- from high above.

"This was really thinking outside the box," said Cottrell, noting the dual challenges of preventing drug shipments and not harming those aboard ships in international waters. Before, we could catch (suspected drug traffickers), but we couldn't make them stop."

The $10 billion milestone over the past 13 years, notably, marks a fraction of the total amount of illegal drugs that get into the United States each year. HITRON is one of many initiatives aimed at curbing the flow of illegal drugs, many of which comes into the country by sea.

On its website, the DEA estimates that more than 90,000 merchant and passengers ships, carrying 400 million tons of cargo on more than 9 million shipping containers, dock at U.S. ports each year. And that doesn't include the 157,000 smaller vessels that travel to smaller ports. Finding and intercepting illicit cargo in the midst of this sort of traffic is a daunting challenge.

Many of those ships go through the Caribbean and along the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean from South and Central America, where the drugs originated.

"It's a big problem," Cottrell said of the challenge in tracking seaborne drug shipments. "It's a lot of water to cover, (which is one reason) we are in high demand."

As of Thursday, her squadron's crews had interdicted 209 vessels carrying "illegal contraband" -- some by shooting out engines, and others after the crew members assented to requests to stop. Cottrell said that the Coast Guard crews haven't been fired on over the 13-year period, while 645 suspected drug traffickers have been detained.

The $10.065 billion figure announced Thursday includes more than $8.7 million in cash and the street value of numerous drugs, including more than 412,000 pounds of cocaine, 21,000 pounds of marijuana, 300 pounds of heroin and 135 pounds of hash oil.

AvCraft Technical Services announces Myrtle Beach expansion. Aircraft maintenance company to add 150 workers in Grand Strand.

To apply for any of the jobs at AvCraft, click here.

  A local aircraft engineering company's expansion plans mean new jobs for the Myrtle Beach area.

AvCraft Technical Services on the old air force base said a $1 million investment should mean 150 new jobs.

AvCraft began its work on planes locally in 2010 but can only work on four planes at a time currently.

Demand for plane repairs is much higher than that, said AvCraft President Mike Hill.

"We will be able to more than double that input,” Hill said. “We're also looking to expand our capacity in working on other areas of aviation."

Hill said further expansions could require building additional facilities in time, and with space now dedicated for just that in the International Technology and Aerospace Park, economic developers strategize over the industry's local expansion.

"Economic development is a team sport. So, we've got great support from Horry County council, from [the Northeastern Strategic Alliance], [and] from the state department of commerce," said Brad Loftin, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Economic Development Corp.

Horry County council and the S.C. Department of Commerce gave AvCraft $100,000 each in incentives for the expansion project

Hill said those funds will improve and grow the facilities to make way for the added planes and additional staff.

The company will mainly hire mechanics and technicians but it also will hire supporting jobs as well, said Hill.

The starting pay for the jobs is around $15 or $16 an hour.

"We felt that the expansion here was where we could best meet our needs at a cost that would be affordable to us," Hill said.

Hill said the company chose to expand in Myrtle Beach because of the airports facilities and the cost effectiveness.

He also said its customer base ranges from Canada down to Central America, so the geographical location is the company’s advantage as well.

To apply for any of the jobs at AvCraft, click here.

AvCraft Technical Services, an aircraft maintenance, repair, and modification provider will expand in Horry County. The $1 million capital investment will generate 150 new jobs in the Grand Strand area.

AvCraft provides on-call services to most airlines servicing the Myrtle Beach International Airport

AvCraft began operations in Horry County in 2010, servicing the Dornier 328 jet and turboprop, Piaggio Aero Avanti I and II, Bombardier Dash 8 and ATR 42 and 72 turboprops and other components.

Commercial planes are required to undergo periodic inspections after a certain amount of flights or time. AvCraft specializes in servicing those planes.

The company also provides on-call services to most of the airlines servicing the Myrtle Beach International Airport.

“There is a huge market for regional aircraft in South America and the Caribbean,” AvCraft president Mike Hill told South Carolina Radio Network, “The southeast U.S. was very conducive to us being in a centralized location for our target market area.”

According to a press release, South Carolina’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved the company for $100,000 in capital improvements, and the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (MBREDC) matched with an additional $100,000 from Horry County local incentive funds.

The company has been at the site since it was founded as AvCraft Support Services in 2004. The company was bought by new owners in 2010. The new partners broadened the number of models that could be inspected and serviced at the site. Now, Hill says AvCraft needs the expansion to handle the additional planes.

“We have room… but some of that hangar space is not conducive to production at this particular point,” Hill said.

The company says most of the 150 new employees will be in technically skilled occupations, and the remaining new hires will be in administrative and support functions. AvCraft is also using the nearby location of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) for workforce training of future potential employees.

Israeli bird radar technology promises clear skies for pilots

by ReutersVideo on Dec 28, 2011

Dec. 28 - The Israeli Air Force is using bird tracking radar technology to ensure safe aviation over Israeli skies, one of the busiest junctions of avian migration routes world-wide. In the past 25 years, 10 Air Force planes have crashed in collisions with migrating birds, but the new system, developed at Tel Aviv University can now tell pilots where the birds will be in real time. Joanne Nicholson reports.

Five Israeli women get their wings

Prime Minister congratulates female army pilots

Netanyahu says during IDF flight course graduation that 'in a country where women sit in the pilot's seat, they should be able to sit anywhere.'

The female graduates (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the graduation ceremony of a co-ed IAF flight course Thursday and took the opportunity to remind the audience that women in Israel can achieve any goal.  "There is no bigger proof to the absurdity of the exclusion of women than the fact that you stand here today," he said, addressing the five female graduates.

"There is no bigger proof to the absurdity of the exclusion of women than the fact that you stand here today," he said, addressing the five female graduates.

"A country where women sit in the pilot's seat is a country where women should be able to sit anywhere," Netanyahu added, referring to the recent national upheaval over sex-segregated buses in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.  Only 14 have managed to complete the course, out of hundreds who began it two years ago. The graduates have signed a nine-year contract with the IDF.

'Zionist answer to women's exclusion'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak joined the prime minister in congratulating the female pilots.  "You are the latest Zionist answer to anyone who attempts to exclude women," he told them. "You make the entire society mightier. All of us, secular and religious alike, must not only treat you with respect but also to make efforts, as a society, to erase the stain that is women's exclusion."

IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz addressed the hot topic as well, telling the young female soldiers that they are an indicator of "women's considerable contribution" to society.

According to data released by the IDF ahead of the ceremony, 31% of the graduating pilots have grown up in cities, 21% come from moshavim, and 5% come from the kibbutz. Moreover, 58% hail from the center of the country, 36% come from the north and only 6% come from the south.  The vast majority of the newly-minted pilots – 72% – are secular, while 17% are traditionalist and 10% are religious. The oldest graduate is 26 years of age, and most of the rest are 21.

December 29, 2011

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- A record five women were awarded their pilots wings in a graduation ceremony for the Israel Air Force's pilots course.  Fourteen soldiers completed the three-year course, which includes a bachelor's degree; each has signed on to serve the Israeli military for nine years.

"A country where women sit in the pilot's seat is a country where women should be able to sit anywhere," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the graduates, referring to the recent controversy over women in the public sphere.  "There is no bigger proof to the absurdity of the exclusion of women than the fact that you stand here today," he told the female graduates.

U.S. Army Soldiers Assault & Firefight In Kunduz.

by SuaSponte88 on Dec 29, 2011

"U.S. Army Soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, assault a village and engage in a firefight with Insurgents in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan."