Jim Finley of Destrehan plans to celebrate 50 years of flying on Saturday by 'just going to up and fly around a little while,' he says.
Photo Credit: Rusty Costanza, The Times-Picayune
Jim Finley, 72, says he fell in love with flying on his first flight, and by the end of that year, he had earned his pilot's license.
By Matt Scallan, The Times-Picayune
Jim Finley plans to climb into his small, no frills plane at the St. John the Baptist Parish Airport on Saturday and take it for a spin. Nothing unusual about that.
Between piloting Air Force jets that snatched film capsules from military satellites out of the sky, to flying children to Shriners burn units, and participating in search and rescue operations in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Finley has logged some 9,200 hours of flight time.
What will make Saturday's flight a special one is that it will mark the 50-year anniversary of Finley's first time in the cockpit.
Finley, a 72-year-old Destrehan resident, said he has no particular place to go on Saturday.
"I'm just going to up and fly around a little while to celebrate," he said Thursday.
Finley, who owns C.N. Finley Plumbing Co. sold his Cessna 210 and bought a 1946 Piper Cub J-3 a year ago, the same model plane that he flew in for the first time while in college.
The bright yellow plane has no avionics, no electrical system and no battery. Finley carries a portable radio with him. The 765-pound plane, which Finley easily rolls around the airport apron with a dolly that attaches to the rear wheel of the "tail-dragger," has a top speed of 72 mph.
"I enjoy it a lot more," he said. "The Cessna was transportation. The J-3 is flying."
A fellow student of Finley's at Louisiana Polytechnic Institute in Ruston took Finley on his first flight on Jan. 7, 1962.
"I fell in love with it immediately," he said.
A month later he took his first solo flight and by year's end he had his pilot's license. Finley joined the Air Force after college graduation, and was assigned to classified projects that included retrieving the satellite surveillance data over the Pacific Ocean as part of the nation's intelligence gathering efforts during the Cold War.
"If one broke up, or we missed one, a Russian submarine would always be there to pick it up," he said. Finley said he didn't fly for about 10 years after leaving the Air Force, but missed it more than he realized.
"I started to get so psycho about it, I couldn't go near airports. So my wife Lynne said, 'Start flying again,' " he said.
There are relatively few pilots Finley's age. only 28,000 of the 628,000 licensed pilots in the United States are 70 or older, according to Federal Aviation Administration estimates.
But Finley said he is healthy and has no plans to leave the cockpit anytime soon.
"There's a sense of freedom up there. It's very relaxing," he said "You have to focus on the flying and forget about everything else."
Penngrove pilot accused of drunken flying. California Highway Patrol air patrol officers say man flew erratically over Hwy. 37
By SAM SCOTT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
CHP officers who arrested a Penngrove man on suspicion of flying drunk say they were so concerned by his erratic flying that they feared he might crash.
But pilot Michael B. Ferrero, 62, said Wednesday that he was sober and in control before landing Tuesday at Petaluma Municipal Airport and that he failed a sobriety test because of whiskey consumed after the flight.
"Sometimes I celebrate my flights and have some booze afterward," he said. "I had some booze in my hangar, and I drank it and then they showed up."
The episode began around 4 p.m. Tuesday when a CHP air patrol crew reported spotting Ferrero's plane skimming as low as 50 feet off the ground and within about 100 feet of traffic on Highway 37.
Federal regulations require pilots to keep sufficient altitude to make an emergency landing without undue hazard to people or property below.
The officers tailed the plane to its landing where they landed and confronted Ferrero about his apparent reckless flying and in so doing smelled alcohol on his breath.
The CHP dispatched a patrol car to the airport where Ferrero's blood-alcohol level measured 0.09 percent, more than twice the legal limit. Officers cited and released Ferrero.
Pilots are deemed impaired when their blood-alcohol level is 0.04 percent or above. The legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent.
Ferrero, a retiree, disputed that he'd be drunk or reckless while in the air. He said he has hundreds of hours of experience flying low over desolate, unpopulated country, such as the open pasture he was covering Tuesday.
He said he often turns to follow rivers and other geographic features in a way that might seem erratic, meandering a lot more than "your average Cessna pilot going out for a $100 hamburger."
After landing the plane, an Aerotrek A220 that he's been taking out daily since acquiring it 45 days ago, he gulped some whiskey in his hanger unaware he had been followed, he said.
"They don't have rear-view mirrors," he said of his plane.
Sgt. Trent Cross said officers reached Ferrero shortly after he landed. Officers cited him for flying drunk based on the totality of the evidence, including erratic turns, low-altitude flying and his blood-alcohol level, he said.
The incident comes after a holiday season awash with drunken-driving arrests. The Sonoma County DUI task force arrested 163 people during a 17-day heightened enforcement period, about a quarter more than last year.
But drunken flying is a much rarer allegation.
Officer Jon Sloat, spokesman for the Sonoma County CHP, said he'd never heard of a local CHP officer involved in a similar case.
"I've been up here over 10 years now," he said. "I have never heard of any of us arresting a pilot."
Alcohol-related flying accidents have happened, however. In 2005, a 53-year-old Sonoma County man died after his ultra-light plane nosed-dived into a hay field south of Santa Rosa. Toxicology reports indicated his blood alcohol level was 0.25 percent.
The CHP will forward its investigation of Ferrero to Sonoma County prosecutors to determine what formal charges may be filed.
A first conviction for flying drunk is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000, according to state law.
Federal Aviation Administration officials also will investigate the allegations, which, if proved, could cost Ferrero his license for a year.
WOODBINE - Mayor William Pikolycky is pleased to announce that the Woodbine Municipal Port Authority will receive bids for Apron & Taxiway Crack repair - Phase II on Jan. 18, 2012, at 11 a.m. at the Woodbine Municipal Services Building.
The project is for construction work to repair cracks and isolated areas of pavement heaving for Taxiway A and B. Work will involve pavement crack repair, airfield pavement markings with reflective media, as well as patching of pavement where necessary.
It is funded by a $75,000 New Jersey Department of Transportation grant.
“Doing this work will help prevent the taxiways from further deterioration and extend its longevity,” added Mayor Pikolycky. “at the same time maintaining the safety of our pilots and their aircraft.”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mountain State University President Charles H. Polk has repeatedly used the university's two private airplanes to jet to an airport near his North Carolina home, and visit his hometown in Texas on the university's dime, according to interviews and flight records.
Since 2007, Polk has made more than 100 flights to and from the Statesville Regional Airport in North Carolina -- an airport about 20 minutes away from Polk's Mooresville, N.C., house, Federal Aviation Administration records show
Polk has also used one of the university planes to make at least 18 flights to and from his hometown in Lufkin, Texas, where his mother still lives, according to flight records.
On Wednesday, Polk denied taking hundreds of flights on the university jet and said all the flights to Texas and North Carolina were for university business.
Polk did tell the Gazette he used MSU's smaller airplane to fly to his house in North Carolina.
The flights to North Carolina have cost MSU, which is reeling from serious accreditation problems, tens of thousands of dollars each year and at least $170,000 since 2007.
The Texas flights have cost the university more than $62,000.
The cost estimates are based on per-hour cost figures provided to The Wall Street Journal by aviation consulting firm Conklin & de Decker Aviation.
Polk's flights to his hometown in Texas and to his house in North Carolina were just a fraction of the hundreds of flights made on the university jet since January of 2007.
There were also 236 flights made to and from Beckley, where MSU's main campus is located. There were also 68 flights to and from Martinsburg, where MSU has a branch campus and more than 20 flights to and from Orlando, Fla., the site of another branch campus.
Polk is one of the most highly compensated university presidents in the country, earning more than $1.8 million in total compensation in 2009, according to a form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
MSU's two airplanes
Mountain State University purchased its 1974 Cessna 500 jet in 2001, according to FAA licensing records.
In an interview with the Gazette on Wednesday, Polk said MSU's board of trustees approved the purchase of the plane because MSU was "making a very strong commitment as a university to transcend the boundaries of West Virginia and be able to work the market share in other places."
MSU paid between $1 million and $1.5 million for the Cessna jet, said Polk, which he says the school received at a discounted rate.
The jet can hold seven passengers and is used to fly university faculty and staff to satellite campuses around the country, Polk said. The purpose of the plane is to save money on travel costs like hotels and dinners that would eat into the university budget, he said.
In addition to the university jet, MSU purchased a 2002 single-engine Cirrus Design Corp SR22 airplane in 2009 for about $200,000, Polk said.
The school decided to purchase a second airplane as "a more cost effective way to shuffle people back and forth between campuses than if we used the Cessna jet," according to Polk.
No public universities in West Virginia own private aircraft, said the Higher Education Policy Commission.
WVU leases a jet from an aviation company but does not own an airplane independently, said John Bolt, director of communications for WVU.
From July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, WVU's leased plane made 127 individual flights, Bolt said. WVU President Jim Clements was on 68 of those flights.
"The plane's not used all that often," Bolt said. "The president or vice president uses it for travel to Charleston to go there for a meeting, but we just lease it when we have the need."
Flights to North Carolina
Since August, Polk has made 10 flights to and from the North Carolina airport near his home, according to the most recent FAA records.
"I can't tell you what the purpose of these flights are because I don't keep a record of that," Polk said on Wednesday. "Specifically, I can't address those flights."
All of MSU's flights are expensed to the university's operational budget, which is about $55 million this year, Polk said.
He said that while he does not personally keep track of the number of flights he takes, the plane's pilot, David Robbins, maintains detailed flight logs and passenger lists. Robbins is also the Director of Aviation at Mountain State's flight schools.
Polk denied taking more than 100 flights to Statesville, N.C., on the Cessna 500 jet, saying the FAA flight records logging those trips were in error. The FAA tracks the flights based on each aircraft's unique tail number.
He did say that he uses MSU's other plane, the Cirrus Design Corp SR22, to often fly to and from his North Carolina home -- an arrangement Polk said was approved by MSU's trustees.
"When we purchased the small plane, one of the reasons was so I could get to the campus much better," Polk said. "The Board of Trustees decided that the way to keep me here for much more time and cut down on travel time was to use the plane rather than drive three or four hours."
Polk purchased his home in Mooresville, N.C., for $395,000 in 2000, according to housing records. The residence is now worth $457,000.
That property is in addition to another 12-acre piece of land Polk purchased in 2008 worth more than $101,000, according to housing records. Polk said he hopes to build another home on the 12-acre lot in the future.
While Polk is given the option of living in the presidential accommodations on MSU's Beckley campus, Polk says he calls his Mooresville property home. Both Polk's wife and daughter live in North Carolina.
'A business purpose'
Roslyn Artis, executive vice president at MSU, said that staff and faculty at Mountain State do not have a "blank check" to charter the university planes for either personal or business use. She said the president's office must approve flights made on the jet and that the school tries to conserve costs whenever possible.
"If I'm going to take a team to Martinsburg and there are only two people are going to make that trip, that plane doesn't get off the ground," Artis said Wednesday. "We try to be cost efficient to fill that plane. All of our budget expenditures have to be justified."
While neither Polk nor Artis could personally provide the Gazette with records or details about all the flights made on both of the university planes, Polk said "every flight that was made has a business purpose."
Mountain State University has one of its four branch campuses in Mooresville, N.C., and conducts business in Texas, Polk said.
In addition to its main campus in Beckley, MSU maintains branch campuses in Martinsburg, Center Township, Pa., Mooresville, N.C., and Orlando, Fla., according to MSU's website. Programs are also offered at sites throughout West Virginia; in Hickory, N.C., and online.
MSU's Mooresville campus began offering classes in the fall of 2009 in a building about 15 minutes from Polk's home. The school leases half of the second floor and the entire third floor from a construction management and general contracting firm called Spectrum, said property owner Charlie Caputo.
The Mooresville campus has three full-time faculty members and enrolled 43 students this year, said MSU spokesman Andy Wessels.
Polk, however, has been taking the university jet to the Statesville, N.C., airport since at least February of 2007 -- two years before MSU officially opened up a Mooresville branch of the school.
Artis said it takes time to organize the launch of a new campus and that MSU had to "identify a space, had to train staff and interview and hire faculty -- all things that began "long before" the school begins enrolling students.
Polk has also used the university jet to fly to his hometown of Lufkin, Texas, in Angelina County. Birth records show that Polk was born on July 11, 1942, in Lufkin.
Since 2007, Polk has made at least 14 flights on the university jet to the Angelina County Texas Airport in Lufkin, the city where his mother still lives.
Polk said the flights to Lufkin have been for business purposes because MSU has employees in Texas and relationships with police and firefighters in Houston and Austin. MSU also holds graduations for students in Texas who take online leadership classes from MSU, he said.
Polk said MSU's planes land in Lufkin when MSU has business in Texas because the Angelina County airport has "cheap gas and no landing fee."
Jeff Price, airport manager, stands next to a Cessna 182 parked at Meriden Markham Airport Wednesday January 4, 2012. The city has taken over control of Meriden-Markham Airport after terminating its contract with its most recent operator last month.
MERIDEN - The city has taken control of Meriden-Markham Airport after terminating its contract with its most recent operator last month.
City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said that Meriden Aviators, which signed a five-year contract with the city in June 2010, failed to meet several requirements set by the agreement, such as paying for snow removal.
"There were some issues with his performance," Kendzior said. "It was pretty clear he wasn't going to meet those benchmarks."
Finding a new operator for the 157-acre airport, which straddles the Wallingford border along Evansville Avenue, could prove difficult. Meriden Aviators was the only company to respond to a request for proposals from new operators in 2010.
For now, day-to-day operations will fall to a crew led by Ron Price, whose company, QED Airport and Aviation Consultants, was hired Dec. 1 to manage the airport on an interim basis.
Price said that the airport has been slow since the change of hands, mostly because the previous manager left a massive fuel tank empty, and took other amenities such as a flight school with him. The fuel tank is expected to be filled by mid-month, and companies have already begun issuing proposals for maintenance work and another flight academy.
"People have heard that the airport is without these services, and they are contacting us," he said.
Before 2010, the airport was operated by the same company for close to two decades. To have it turn over so quickly this time was disheartening, according to Price, especially since Meriden Aviators' owner Arian Prevalla appeared to have grand plans for it, including a proposed deal with a skydiving company that has likely been dashed.
"It's always disappointing when you go into a contract with someone in good faith and it doesn't work out," he said. "But it's not the end of the world."
Prevalla was also responsible for moving Connecticut Flight Academy from Brainard Airport in Hartford to Meriden, and had announced plans to develop an air-taxi service to nearby destinations like Martha's Vineyard or Montreal, although that never materialized.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved a $150,000 budget for the airport. It will have no impact on the city's operating budget or general fund, but will simply utilize the airport's own revenue to cover fuel, maintenance and other operating expenses.
Councilor Walter A. Shamock Jr. said he had little choice but to vote in favor of the budget, but urged Kendzior and Purchasing Director Wilma Petro to act quickly to find a new operator.
"I certainly don't want to be in the business of running an airport," he said.
Petro said she will take stock of revenue and expenses at the airport over the next three to six months before accepting proposals from new operators. It will likely take close to a year before a new company can take over, and it could be even longer before a viable entity can be found.
"It's difficult, in my view, to attract a qualified and sufficiently capitalized operator for such a small airport," said Price. "We don't want a repeat of what just happened."
THE pilot of a plane being used to fight a forest fire in Argentina's Patagonia region has survived a crash, officials say.
Firefighters found the pilot, whose plane went down while battling the out-of-control fire in the province of Chubut.
The pilot was taken to a hospital in the tourist town of El Hoyo, which was declared an emergency area because of its proximity to a burning hill, Chubut forest service chief Rodrigo Robeta said.
The blaze has scorched about 100 hectares on the hill, Robeta said.
The emergency management office has evacuated dozens of tourists who were camping around the Los Alerces lagoon, located across from the burning hill, which is in the Andes mountain range on the border between Argentina and Chile, Robeta said.
The drought in Patagonia has helped fires on both sides of the border to spread, Robeta told Argentine radio station.
The fire was caused by someone and is out of control despite the efforts of about 80 firefighters to put it out, El Hoyo Mayor Mirco Szudruk said, adding that aerial water tankers began providing support on Wednesday.
About 30 people living in the forest near the burning hill will be evacuated in the next few hours, Szudruk said.
Tens of thousands of hectares of forest have burned in neighbouring Chile in the past few days.
The biggest blaze has destroyed more than 19,000 hectares of forest and cropland in the southern Chilean region of Bio Bio.
A fire affecting Torres del Paine National Park in Chile's remote southern Magallanes region has destroyed more than 13,300 hectares since last week and is being fought by about 1,000 people, including soldiers and forest service personnel, as well as firefighters from Argentina and Uruguay.
Connie Nicholson, a pilot with SeaPort Airlines, checks the prop on her craft after a flight from Astoria in this 2010 photo. SeaPort announced a change in its operating strategy recently, which includes dropping flights between Portland and Seattle.
NEWPORT – On Jan. 15, SeaPort Airlines will start flying out of North Bend. After that, it will add service to Jackson, and Nashville, Tenn. And in March, the airline will begin flights out of Yakima and Wenatchee, Wash.
The question is: How long will it last?
In less than three years, SeaPorthas added and abandoned service in five different communities, most recently announcing last week it would abandon its Portland-to-Seattle route and cease operations at Seattle's Boeing Field.
That has some people questioning SeaPort's motives. Are they sincere about their commitment to small town air service? Or are they in it for the subsidies, the incentives and free marketing?
A SeaPort official says the airline is trying to make things work for everyone -- but it can't fly where it can't make a profit.
Still, the Portland-based airline has lost some fans.
"Their track record is not very good at this point," said Newport Mayor Mark McConnell. "If I was a city of people trying to make a decision to help them out, absolutely I'd be leery about giving them a whole of money up front." .
SeaPort started service between Portland and Seattle in the summer of 2008, and the following spring, subsidized by $4.5 million in state and federal grants, began service to Newport and Astoria. It left Astoria about the same time the subsidies ran out in March 2011, then added a stop in Salem in late April. The airline left Salem after barely three months, giving less than a week's notice to the city that spent $10,000 marketing it.
"I was shocked, upset, angry," said Tim Hay, chairman of Salem Airport Advisory Commission. "Normally, they give 60-90 days notice. We were given five days notice. That doesn't seem right."
The airline also stopped service in Newport in July 2011, ending two years of often contentious communications with the city for failing to honor stipulations in the contract.
Tim Sieber, SeaPort vice-president of strategy and corporate development said the airline tried to make it work in the coastal towns and Salem, but there were just not enough passengers to make it profitable.
"We tried to use more economical planes to lower costs," said Sieber. "We stayed in Newport after the subsidy, and tried the stop in Salem. That didn't even pay to cover the cost of wear and tear on the brakes to be quite blunt about it."
But it was a different story in Idaho Falls, where airport aviation director Len Nelson says business was good and getting better. SeaPort began flying Idaho Falls to Boise in July 2011, but gave notice they were leaving less than six months later.
"We were really, really disappointed to see them leave," said Nelson. "We were just starting to fill the airplanes up. Out of nine seats, we were filling it a lot of times, and averaging five – six passengers a flight."
The problem with the Idaho Falls/Boise route had to do with the long distance – 200 miles – and the airline's plans to switch from the Pilatus PC 12 turboprop to the more economical, but slowerCessna Caravan, Sieber said. The flight in the PC 12 takes about an hour, but in the Cessna, it's closer to 1 1/2 hours.
"There were some lessons learned in Boise/Idaho Falls," said Sieber. "There is a direct highway link. Traffic wise it was good, but there was a tipping point where people were willing to fly in an airplane and then as you edge up the fare, people say, no, I'm going to drive."
The recent lessons learned have inspired SeaPort to come up with a new profile for the airports it wants to service, Sieber said.
In the future, it will look to develop routes in rural towns that are not linked to bigger cities by interstate highways and they'll aim to keep to routes less than 200 miles. They are also looking for airports where other airlines are already flying.
In North Bend, that'sSky West. The airline will end its daily flights to and from Portland next month, but will continue flying from North Bend to San Francisco. Airport executive director Therese Cook believes SeaPort has a better chance at success with the North Bend/Portland route than Sky West because it is flying smaller planes, but with more frequent flights – three a day.
The airport isn't offering any subsidies, but it is waiving landing and counter space fees for the first six months, providing personnel on the tarmac and at the customer service counter for the first four months and will also market the airline.
"We did the math, basically the revenue exceeds the waivers," said Cook. "No matter the history of Seaport, I have to look at a whole new scenario. We are a different airport. I honestly believe Seaport is going to be a really good fit."
A Central American airline that established commercial passenger service between Honduras and Grand Cayman last summer has reported steady growth during recent months, including a sizeable jump in holiday traffic.
Bob Connor, a representative in the Cayman Islands for Aerolineas Sosa, said Monday the Honduras-based carrier had to bring in extra flights to support additional holiday travellers and their luggage. A pair of Wednesday flights were added – the first on 21 December, 2011, and the latter today (Wednesday, 4 January, 2012) – to complement the regularly scheduled flights offered by the airline on Fridays and Sundays since August.
Mr. Connor said Aerolineas Sosa, which offers twice-weekly roundtrip passenger service between its hub at Goloson International Airport in La Ceiba, Honduras and Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman, also had to fly in a cargo plane to help with excess holiday luggage. Aerolineas Sosa operates the route with a 50-seat Bombardier regional jet.
Though the addition of the Wednesday flights was a temporary response to increased holiday traffic and not scheduled for routine service, Mr. Connor said demand for the regular Friday and Sunday flights has grown steadily since August. He said further growth may lead to additional routine service, as is becoming the overwhelming trend for carriers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
On 19 August, Aerolineas Sosa flew its inaugural flight between La Ceiba and Grand Cayman with fewer than 10 passengers.
“I would say it took a few months to build up to what it is now,” Mr. Connor said. “(Typical flights) now go out with about 30 passengers, maybe more.
“Holiday traffic was very busy with all of the flights fully booked (50 passengers) up through the holidays,” he said. “Flights are full coming back from Honduras until 13 January.”
On Fridays and Sundays, the plane regularly departs La Ceiba at 11am, Cayman time. Return flights are scheduled to leave Grand Cayman at 1pm. The flight takes about one hour. Single passenger roundtrip airfare is US$249.
“I would say the public has responded quite well,” Mr. Connor said. “We received several compliments from people about the low airfares allowing them to travel for the first time in years. (Airline ownership) is very pleased with the way things are going. Right now they have said they plan to stay with the Friday and Sunday flights. It just depends on demand to say whether they will pick up additional flights.”
Prior to August, only Cayman Airways had flown regularly scheduled commercial passenger flights between Honduras and Grand Cayman, offering the large Honduran national population and their relatives in Cayman direct air travel. In 2009, the national flag carrier of the Cayman Islands established service between La Ceiba and Grand Cayman after a string of other airlines failed to maintain reliable service along the route. Cayman Airways offers flights between the destinations on Mondays and Fridays.
In recent years, led by significant growth in Brazil and Panama, the Latin American and Caribbean air transport market has been a bright spot in the aviation world, witnessing the development of a new travelling middle class and vastly improved airline safety records.
Plans to tap the lucrative South American market have long been touted by Cayman government officials and tourism industry leaders, and again was at the heart of a public discussion led last month by government’s acting tourism chief Shomari Scott. Whether that means additional routes by government-owned Cayman Airways or the introduction of other Latin American carriers operating to and from Cayman remains unknown.
But the Latin American market is the only region in the world to generate aggregate profits for three consecutive years, leading airlines to desire a significant footprint in a region featuring robust growth. Strong economic growth, market liberalisation and industry consolidation have helped drive positive results, according to the Centre for Aviation, an aviation industry think tank. Rapid growth is expected to continue throughout the region.
“Economic growth is enabling the rise of a new travelling middle class,” said Airbus’ Rafael Alonso, vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean. “At a time when the global economy is trying to stabilise, Latin America’s GDP is growing faster than the world at an average annual rate of 5 per cent, while the region’s middle class is expected to surge 75 per cent in the next 20 years.”
Airbus and Boeing, the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world, both forecast significant continued growth in airline traffic and airframe demand throughout Latin America in the years to come.
And Cayman isn’t going without experiencing an uptick of its own.
Through October 2011, the most recent period for which figures have been released, air arrivals to the Cayman Islands have increased 14 consecutive months compared with the same time frame the previous year. While the overwhelming majority of passengers continue to arrive from the United States – roughly 80 per cent of all air arrivals – the largest percentage of growth during the past year has been seen in the upsurge in traffic from Canada.
Much of that increase is attributable to the introduction of service by low-cost Canadian carrier WestJet in November 2010, the last airline to bring commercial passenger service to Cayman before Aerolineas Sosa. WestJet flies non-stop three times a week between Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and Grand Cayman.
Overall, the Cayman Islands were on track to welcome more than 300,000 air arrival passengers in 2011. That figure is down from the total during the heyday of 1998 when Cayman welcomed more than 404,000 passengers, but better than the past two years when fewer than 300,000 arrived.
Maintaining the trend of increasing air traffic in the region, including to and from Cayman, will be met with challenges, not the least being continued global economic uncertainty and the necessity for airport facilities upgrades.
Canadian Commercial Corporation, an international firm specialising in primary contracting and procurement services, signed a nonbinding agreement with the Cayman Islands Airports Authority in August to explore the feasibility of potential upgrades at both Owen Roberts International Airport and Gerrard-Smith International Airport in Cayman Brac.
The airports authority has stated it will not discuss the status of findings between it and the Canadian firm before the expiration of the memorandum of understanding between the entities on 1 February, 2012.
“Looking around (Latin America and the Caribbean), it is clear that investment in runways and airport facilities has not kept pace with the region’s impressive traffic growth,” said Tony Tyler, chief executive officer and director general of the International Air Transport Association.
However, “Taking a long-term view of Latin American aviation, one can only be optimistic,” Mr. Tyler said.
The FAA is requiring the installation of spongy material meant to stop runaway planes on runways at SFO.
The planned installation of spongy material at the ends of San Francisco International Airport’s runways — to protect passengers if aircraft overrun the landing strip — is about to enter the design phase.
The airport must install these so-called runway safety areas within three years to comply with Federal Aviation Administration requirements. While the agency requires a 1,000-foot safety area, it has provided an exemption for two of SFO’s four runways, which have no room for them since they are constrained by the Bay and Highway 101.
On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee approved the airport’s request not to put the design project out to bid since there is only one company, New Jersey-based Engineer Arresting Systems, authorized by the FAA to do the work. The installation must be completed by December 2015. The design contract is $420,000.
The federal government will pay for 75 percent of the expected total $200 million project, according to a financial plan adopted in May 2010.
The so-called engineered-material arresting system is described as “crushable concrete placed in beds at the end of runways to stop aircraft overruns. The beds cause the tires of an aircraft to sink into the lightweight concrete and the aircraft decelerates as it rolls through the material.”
The technology has been installed on 58 runway ends in 40 airports in the U.S., with the first system of its kind installed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1996. As of October 2011, there were seven incidents where the system stopped overrunning aircraft, according to the FAA.
The full Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on the bid requirement waiver.
At the second meeting in less than three weeks, Louisville residents expressed their frustration over a Regional Airport Authority plan to cut trees on private property and in parks and golf courses near Bowman Field to make take offs and landings safer.
More than 125 people attended a meeting held by the authority Wednesday night at the Breckinridge Inn.
At times, many in the audience could be heard groaning or collectively saying “no” to comments by authority officials or the moderator, Stan Lampe, president of Kentuckians for Better Transportation.
The format prohibited public discussion, requiring instead that participants submit questions in writing. But some objected to not being able to ask follow-up questions or express their opinions and spoke anyway, contributing to tension at the meeting.
Dan Gimbel, a Kinglsey resident, was among those who insisted on talking. He said he was concerned about large trees in his large yard as well as the aesthetics of the whole community near Bowman Field.
Lampe responded: “I guess the question is, ‘Do you want to hold your own meeting?’”
As some people started to groan, he quickly added, “I'm sorry.”
The tree-cutting proposal was announced in early December and presented in a public workshop Dec. 19.
Federal Aviation Administration officials told The Courier-Journal last week that as the airport's approach systems become more modern, based on global-positioning systems, there are new requirements for expanded airspace protections. They said the Louisville airport has a problem meeting those requirements, and that trees obstructing one approach forced the closure last year of one runway on nights when there is poor visibility from inclement weather.
Metro Councilman Tom Owen, who represents the area, has scheduled a third public meeting for Jan. 19. He has promised a moderated but more open meeting format. Owen will be joined by Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh at his meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Douglass Community Center, 2305 Douglass Blvd.
The Dec. 19 meeting featured officials at several stations talking to people in groups about how their neighborhood areas might be affected. Some complained, so airport officials Wednesday night added an auditorium-style presentation, followed by written questions and answers.
About an hour and 15 minutes into the meeting, Lampe sought to break it up and send people to separate rooms to see how their properties might be affected. Small groups formed in nearby rooms to look over maps.
Katy Schneider, who is helping Mayor Greg Fischer form a city tree board to advocate for the Louisville's urban forest, said she doesn't live near the airport, but came to learn more about the issue.
She said she was disturbed by the airport officials focus on individual property owners.
“It will affect the whole community,” she said of the tree cutting. “It will affect Seneca Park. That's what bothers me.”
Authority spokeswoman Trish Burke said after the meeting that her office has emphasized local homeowners because they are the one who are going to be most affected.
Estimates of how many trees would need to be cut vary.
Michael Hayman, the Seneca Gardens arborist, estimates as many as 1,000. Miller earlier told a reporter it could be as many as 200 but that officials won't know until they conduct a survey.
Three neighbors have sued the Ashland Gun Club and the city of Ashland, alleging that lead ammunition is contaminating the environment and stray bullets are striking the property of one of the neighbors.
Dr. Edward Kerwin and Cathy DeForest and her husband, Leon Pyle, filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Medford on Dec. 23.
They are represented by attorney Tom Dimitre, who is also chairman of the Rogue Group Sierra Club.
The gun club has leased city-owned land east of the Ashland Municipal Airport since the 1960s.
DeForest and Pyle own a 5,085-square-foot 2007 home on 13 acres on Emigrant Creek Road southeast of the Ashland Gun Club, according to Jackson County records.
Kerwin built a 19,045-square-foot house on 56 acres on Dead Indian Memorial Road to the north of the gun club in 2004, according to county records.
The gun club's various shooting ranges generally point to the north and northeast. Kerwin alleges that bullets are striking his property.
Pyle said this week that he can't discuss the lawsuit at this point. DeForest and Kerwin were each out of town and unavailable for comment.
City Attorney David Lohman said he cannot discuss the lawsuit in detail.
But he said that city officials worked hard to incorporate environmental safeguards when they renegotiated a lease with the gun club in 2011.
Among other provisions, the lease tasks the gun club with regularly cleaning up lead on the property. It also places the responsibility for final lead clean-up on the gun club, should the site ever cease operations as a shooting range.
The neighbors' lawsuit targets the city, the gun club and seven past and present members of the gun club's board of directors — including city Finance and Administrative Services Director Lee Tuneberg.
The lawsuit contends that activities at the gun club are violating a number of environmental laws, including federal laws to protect water and endangered species.
The lawsuit states that the defendants are polluting nearby Emigrant Creek and its connected wetlands, which threatens coho salmon habitat. They are also contaminating the ground, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit states that the city has added to problems on the land by dumping street sweeper debris near Emigrant Creek.
The neighbors are asking a judge to block activities at the gun club that violate environmental laws, to require the defendants to pay for soil and water sampling arranged by the plaintiffs and to pay for any needed environmental restoration.
The neighbors also want the defendants to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for every day they allegedly violated the Clean Water Act — dating back for decades.
They also want payments for attorney's fees, costs, mental anguish and other damages.
Wreckage: The C-47 was discovered over 13,000ft up a mountain in the Chinese province of Yunnan
Transport plane: The C-47 was used to fly in supplies to China as they fought the Japanese occupation forces
It took 69 years, but at last a family has ended its grieving for a dead American airman after the discovery of a plane lost over China during World War II.
The wreckage of the C-47 transport aircraft was found 13,400ft up a Himalayan mountain - the final resting place of co-pilot Jimmy Browne.
For decades, his family had wondered about his fate and whether the plane might ever be found.
Browne was just twenty-one when the C-47 was shot down or crashed on a flight between Kunming in China and Dinjan, India, on November 17, 1942.
Now thanks to the persistence of Browne's cousin Bob Willett, a retired banker, the search for answers is over.
Mr Willett, from Merritt island, Brevard County, Florida, said: 'It could be said that these efforts were like tilting at the windmill.
'But to those involved, it is very personal and emotional.'
Browne was with pilot John J. Dean and Chinese radioman K.L. Yang on a mission for the China National Aviation Corp (CNA). during the Japanese occupation of China.
They were flying over the intimidating Himalayan mountain range known as 'The Hump' which was the only way of getting supplies to keep China fighting a million Japanese occupying forces.
Flight 60 left Kunming where it had dropped off a load of gasoline and ammunition, and was heading back to Dinjan when it disappeared.
They were first American CNA casualties. Browne, from Winnetka, Illinois, was not forgotten, but his family could not afford to mount an expedition to find out what happened to him.
It wasn’t until Mr Willett met Arizona businessman and adventurer Clayton Kuhles that the hunt became a reality.
Mr Kuhles had brought closure to other families through his self-financed searches for American pilots lost and unaccounted for during World War II in China, Burma and India.
He led the team which found and identified the wreckage in China’s Yunnan province. It was one of only a few CNA aircraft losses that had never been recovered.
The book Aluminum Trail lists official reports of all aircraft lost flying 'The Hump' at over 700.
The number of aircrews killed is well over 3,000 - many still unrecovered in the vast and rugged Himalayas.
While the U.S. Government has established agencies to deal with the airmen still missing, most of the aircraft found in recent years have been the result of private expeditions or accidentally discovered.
A fatal accident and declining oil exploration activity mark the demise of the charter air service.
KARACHI: A year after a deadly accident killed 21 people, JS Air – reputed to be have been one of the leading chartered air service providers in the country – has decided to shut down its operations after several of its customers were scared away towards its competitors, senior company officials told The Express Tribune.
“We were not making any money so there was no option but to cease the operations a couple of weeks back,” said Munawar Alam Siddiqui, chairman of JS Air. “All our clients switched to other service providers.”
JS Air’s downfall started when one of its Beechcraft 1900C-1 crashed minutes after take-off from Karachi airport on November 5, 2010, killing all 21 people on board. The victims included 15 engineers from the Italian energy firm ENI who were going to Bhit gas field in Dadu.
Siddiqui said that the company kept paying all of its employees, including its pilots, for a year but finally decided to pull the plug when it became clear that demand for JS Air’s services would not revive. “We invested $7 million to start JS Air and could not even recover that capital investment.”
The airline was started in 2005 with three leased aircraft and quickly built up its market share.
Another reason for the airline’s demise was the declining number of petroleum geologists travelling to remote oil and gas fields. Energy sector companies formed the bulk of JS Air’s clientele, which included such names as Pakistan Petroleum (the second largest company in the country), Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, Dutch petroleum services giant Schlumberger, and European oil firms ENI and OMV.
Industry experts say that all charter services are dependent on the oil and gas companies, which have now rolled back their exploration and drilling operations in recent years due to security concerns.
The Civil Aviation Authority has at least 20 charter companies registered, with a total of 85 aircraft. Yet most industry experts say that most of these companies exist only on paper. Apart from JS Air, the two other major companies in Pakistan are Schon Air and Aircraft Sales and Services.
Bad luck seems to have played its part in JS Air’s demise as well, said Siddiqui, a licensed pilot who has pictures of vintage aircraft and their models all over in his office.
In 2007, it successfully earned rights to start a domestic air service in Sri Lanka. “That was a very good deal for us. We were ferrying passengers and cargo. But then the war against the Tamil Tigers ended, the roads opened up and there was no need for our aircraft.”
JS Air is owned by Jahangir Siddiqui and Company, the holding company of the JS Group, which is also a shareholder in the passenger airline Airblue. “So there was no incentive for us to go into regular air transport business,” said Siddiqui.
The CAA’s attempts to introduce a liberal aviation policy for promoting charter air services have so far met with failure. A few years ago, former CAA Director General Farooq Rehmatullah envisaged letting investors build private airstrips in small cities and towns.
Aviation industry officials insist that appetite for air travel has to be created as rural income has improved on the back of higher wheat, rice and sugar prices. “But still, these wealthy landlords travel by road in Pajeros and Land Cruisers from their villages to cities,” said a senior CAA official.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.
Max Lichty of Middle River opens the door of his 1946 Aeronca 7 AC airplane, which he keeps at Essex Skypark. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / December 28, 2011)
( Patrick Maynard, Tribune / January 4, 2012 )
By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
7:17 p.m. EST, January 4, 2012
Tom Katzenberger calls the Essex Skypark "a blue-collar airport" — a place where the pilots have dirt under their fingernails.
"All of us change our own oil," said Katzenberger, who owns a small concrete construction company and flies a 1996 Maule, a four-seat airplane. "All of us fix our own flats."
Katzenberger and other members of the Essex Skypark Association recently learned the waterfront airport could be lost, and with it an aviation tradition that they say they couldn't afford to continue elsewhere. Members have no plans to leave — and they're gearing up for a fight.
Baltimore County officials have developed a plan to clear the site's 2,000-foot runway and its hand-built hangars, planting the area with oak and maple trees to improve water quality, protect native species and replace forests destroyed by development elsewhere in the county.
The local government has owned the property since 2000, when it spent $2.1 million to buy more than 500 acres on the Back River Neck Peninsula from the Shapiro family through the Maryland Environmental Trust. Since then, the airport has leased land from the county just as it did from the previous owners.
"[The airport] is a 40-acre doughnut hole in the middle of a 500-acre forest," said Vince Gardina, director of the county's environmental department.
County officials say they never agreed to let the skypark association stay permanently, and that they expected the group to eventually leave the site after the county bought it.
The group now has five years to move or close the skypark.
"The airport's woven into the fabric of the community," Katzenberger said. "I don't think the county is aware of how passionate we are."
He said nearby Martin State Airport, which provides an array of services to pilots – including a lounge with recliners and a big-screen TV, and rides to local hotels and restaurants -- is geared toward people with more money.
Martin State is far larger, with a 7,000-foot runway and about 270 aircraft, including corporate jets and military aircraft, spokesman Jonathan Dean said. A T-hangar costs $195 a month to rent, compared to $95 at the Essex Skypark. Pilots can't perform major maintenance work on their planes at Martin State.
The atmosphere at Essex, which has 46 aircraft, is "much more laid back," said skypark association president Ron Lane. Pilots enjoy fixing their own planes. They gather for coffee in a cottage-like building where model airplanes dangle from the ceiling.
Association senior trustee Max Lichty learned to fly at the Essex airport in 1959. The 74-year-old retired Bethlehem Steel machinist is still at it today, piloting a 1946 refurbished Aeronca that took him more than two years to build.
"On a fixed income, this is one of the few airports that I can afford," Lichty said.
The airport, which opened in 1942, goes hand in hand with the area's aviation history, the skypark group contends. During World War II, the Glenn L. Martin Co.'s plant, where workers built the China Clipper and B-26 bombers among other aircraft, spurred rapid population growth in Middle River and Essex.
Aviation buffs have feared that the county would want the skypark property before, but this is the first time officials have spelled out a specific plan for the land, Katzenberger said.
Last year, the association failed to give 120 days notice that it wanted to renew its five-year lease, in what members say was a clerical error.
Then, in a letter sent to association members in November, a county attorney said the county would put them on a month-to-month lease and would not renew the association's five-year lease until the members turned over a relocation plan.
"The County purchased the property in order to permanently protect the exemplary forest, wetlands and buffers that are present," the letter states. "We now wish to enhance these natural resources, and significantly improve water quality in the adjoining Back River, by converting the area occupied by the skypark to a forested state."
The skypark group regularly talks with county officials about issues such as a project to stop erosion along the shoreline, and the county had not indicated its plans before sending the letter, association members said.
Long ago, the paved runway and grassy field were farmland. An aviation enthusiast named William Diffendahl bought property in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Lane said.
Today, the area is important to the county's forest management plan, Gardina said. Planting trees would protect birds and other wildlife.
The county also could generate revenue by charging developers who clear forests elsewhere to plant at the peninsula site in what's known as a "forest mitigation bank," Gardina said.
And removing impervious surfaces and reforesting the area also would help the county meet some of its obligations under requirements that Maryland and other states cut pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, he said.
Environmental protection was the reason the county bought the land, Gardina said.
"The airport happened to be there, and at the time, they made a decision to allow them to continue," Gardina said. "And at this point, we're trying to deal with multiple environmental issues, including the Chesapeake Bay watershed issues, as well as the fragmented forest."
The skypark group says it has taken care of the land and that the surrounding neighborhoods have embraced the site. Local kids learn to fly there. Families gather for an annual fly-in called Wings and Wheels every September. Boy Scouts camp there, and volunteer firefighters have used the site for training.
Carl Maynard, president of the Back River Neck Peninsula Community Association, said neighbors support the skypark, as long as the group takes care of the land and doesn't expand.
"The skypark itself lends that atmosphere of the old, country-type feeling down here," Maynard said.
Association members believe the easement indicates that the family that sold the land to the county wanted the airport to stay. The document exempts the airport from a prohibition against commercial activities on the property.
County officials say they have no legal obligation to keep the skypark open. Don Mohler, chief of staff to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, said the group let its lease lapse, adding that the officials believe they are giving members plenty of time to move.
"Five years by anybody's standards I think would be a very fair time frame to find an alternate location," Mohler said.
Katzenberger called the idea of finding another location for the skypark "ridiculous."
"If you told any community, 'We're going to put an airport in,' they would probably be up in arms," he said. "I don't think we could find land, and I don't think Baltimore County would give us the zoning."