Friday, January 06, 2012

Drunken passenger removed from plane and arrested at LAX for allegedly hitting crew member. Delta Airlines, Flight DL2321.

A drunken traveler was arrested for allegedly hitting a crew member in the face as he was restrained aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said today.

Allen Chaves, 36, of Stillwater, Minn., was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor assault, but could face additional charges for striking the flight attendant on Wednesday evening, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

Witnesses told authorities that Chaves became unruly during Delta Flight 2321 and had to be restrained by several crew members and passengers. As he was being held down, Chaves allegedly struck a male flight attendant in the face, Eimiller said.

Chaves was removed from the plane shortly after it pulled up to Terminal 5 around 8:45 p.m. Wednesday because he was too inebriated to stand, said Airport Police Sgt. Belinda Nettles.

He reportedly was so intoxicated that he was taken to a hospital until he sobered up and was released, Eimiller and Nettles said.

An ambulance crew treated the flight attendant for injuries to his face, Eimiller said.

Prosecutors want to ground flying dope dealer

Colorado pilot flew drugs into Wings Field (KLOM), Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

James M. Handzus

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania -

First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele Friday filed notice that he will seek a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years in jail and a fine of $50,000 for James Handzus at the time of his sentencing.

Handzus, 51, of Rifle, Colo., was convicted in November of flying into the county to sell more than a pound of crystal methamphetamine.

No sentencing date has been set for Handzus.

Authorities nabbed Handzus and now former girlfriend, Tamara L. Vincent, in April after they attempted to sell a pound of high quality crystal methamphetamine to an undercover detective.

Vincent, 41, pleaded guilty to drug dealing charges. The prosecution has not filed any similar notice that it will ask for a mandatory minimum sentence for Vincent who, like Handzus, is being held in the county prison without bail while waiting for her sentencing hearing.

An informant tipped off authorities last spring that Handzus, who has family in the region and who owned a 1959 Piper Comanche airplane, visited the area two and three times a year to sell two and three pounds of crystal methamphetamine, according to the criminal complaint.

A detective, using Facebook, established Handzus and his girlfriend intended on visiting the area in April 2011.

On April 21, 2011, detectives confirmed that Handzus had flown his plane, bearing the name "My Lady," to Wings Field and that the aircraft still was at the airfield.

The undercover detective, posing as a drug trafficker, subsequently was able to contact Handzus on April 22 and meet the couple at a local restaurant in Plymouth where an agreement was reached for the detective to purchase a pound of crystal methamphetamine for $27,000. The one pound of crystal methamphetamine has a street value of between $64,000 and $76,800, according to testimony.

Vincent handled the price negotiations for the transaction, according to testimony. Also, the pair told the detective that, in the future, they could deliver as much as 5 to 10 pounds of the drug to him and that he would receive a price break for purchasing 5 pounds or more.

The detective gave the couple a $2,000 deposit on the 1-pound purchase. Telling the detective that the methamphetamine was in their luggage, the couple told him to remove the luggage from their car and, using his car, take them to their hotel room where the actual deal would take place.

The couple was taken into custody after the luggage was removed from their vehicle.

In testifying, Handzus admitted giving the detective a small sampling of methamphetamine. However, he denied that the approximate one pound of the drug found in couple's luggage belonged to them. Instead, he testified, it likely was planted by the informant.

Montgomery County Judge Joseph A. Smyth, who presided in the two-day nonjury trial, did not buy Handzus' explanation. Smyth convicted Handzus on charges of delivering drugs, possessing drugs with the intent to deliver and related charges.


Civil Air Patrol helps distribute holiday food and gifts to Stevens Village, Alaska

Rolling out a Cessna airplane loaded with presents for takeoff to Stevens Village just before dawn.

Civil Air Patrol plane loaded with presents for Stevens Village children. CAP volunteers from left to right Maj. Bob Fath, Lt. Cindy Walker, Lt. Paul Merrifield. 
Photo by Peter DeCaro

STEVENS VILLAGE, Alaska - Christmas came early for the children of Stevens Village thanks to the volunteers from the Fairbanks-based 9th Composite Operation Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol on Saturday Dec. 17. The squadron flew to the village with four airplanes loaded with Christmas gifts and turkeys. Children, parents and flight crews gathered at the local school, where the children anxiously awaited their presents.

“It’s amazing, incredible,” said Joe Waarvik, the school’s principal. “Alyeska brought some presents for the children, and now this. Santa came twice.”

In addition to serving as the school’s principal, Waarvik is also the school’s sole teacher and guidance counselor, teaching kindergarten, third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades. This is his first year at Stevens Village. Waarvik, his wife, Alice, and their four children helped hand out the gifts. The Waarviks moved from Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The airlift was the brainchild of Cindy Walker, CAP’s finance officer, who coordinated the event with CAP pilot and volunteer Jim Knopke.

“I thought it would be nice to do something different for a change,” Walker said. “Every year we do the same thing, give each other gifts. This was a nice change, especially seeing the faces of those children when they were handed all of those gifts.”

Knopke, who works for Tanana Chiefs Conference, explained to those in attendance that he helped Walker by establishing a gift list for the kids, the names of the children, their age and what they hoped Santa would bring them. He said he would like to see this become an annual event for the CAP, where they would fly presents to a different village each year. “With that,” concluded Knopke, “I’d like to say basse’ (thank you).”

Santa and the 9th Composite Operation Squadron didn’t do this alone; they got some help from University of Alaska Fairbanks ROTC cadets, who also donated presents for the event. Thirty cadets produced about 40 gifts.

“We wanted to do something to help out, something that would make a difference,” said Senior Cadet Stephanie Parker, ROTC public affairs officer, who spearheaded the drive within the unit. “When we were told about this from one of our professors, we discussed it with our commander and decided that it was a worthy cause.”

Also representing the 9th COS were Mike and Bethe Davis, Robert Fath, Eddiy Daly, Jim Watson, Paul Merrifield, Kurt McKinney and Pete DeCaro.

“I am extremely proud of the teamwork and commitment of our squadron, and the UAF ROTC members who made this mission a success,” said Brad Sipperley, the 9th COS Squadron commander. “Being able to reach out and share the joy of Christmas with our neighbors, work together as a team, and share the project with the ROTC students at UAF was very satisfying for all involved.”

(Sipperley added that it was a large operation involving every aircraft at the unit’s disposal and that it began with a thorough mass safety briefing given by Lt. Col. Mike Ferguson, the unit’s safety officer.

“It was a bonding experience not only for us within the community, but also for our squadron members. And again, I am extremely proud of all those involved,” Sipperley said.

Stevens Village resident Horace Smoke made the closing remarks.

“On behalf of Stevens Village, I’d like to thank the Civil Air Patrol and the ROTC cadets for what they’ve done for the children.”)

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Migration of whooping cranes halted in Alabama because of FAA regulation

The migration of nine young whooping cranes, led by an ultra-light aircraft, has been halted in Franklin County because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday.

The hatchlings, part of a species facing possible extinction, have been traveling a migration route from Wisconsin to Florida by following the ultra-light aircraft since fall 2011.

The flight has been halted while the fish and wildlife service's partner in the effort, Operation Migration, seeks an exemption to an FAA prohibition on compensating pilots of ultra-light aircraft.

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said once pilots are compensated for their work they are considered commercial operators, which require additional certification, training and health screenings.

"The issue in question is whether or not OM's pilots are flying 'for hire' or for the furtherance of a non-profit," David Sakrison, director of the board of Operation Migration wrote on the OM blog.

"The FAA has begun the process of evaluating a waiver to OM, exempting its pilots and aircraft from that rule. OM has always maintained that its pilots are hired for a wide range of non-flying skills and duties, and that they volunteer their time as pilots," he wrote.

The birds are being kept in Franklin County as OM and FAA work to resolve the issue, he wrote.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership "is considering alternatives for the whooping cranes if approval of a waiver is significantly delayed," Peter Fasbender, field project leader for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Green Bay Ecological Services Field Office in New Franken, Wisconsin, wrote in a news statement.

"Options could include releasing the cranes at nearby refuges, or possibly transporting them to release sites in Florida at St. Marks and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuges," Fasbender added.

Lunsford noted that Operation Migration voluntarily suspended the flight until the issue is resolved. The request for a waiver is being reviewed by federal officials, Lunsford said.

Here is a news release from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service-
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's partner managing this portion of the effort, Operation Migration, is cooperating with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to resolve regulatory issues about the flight.

The group has applied for a waiver to exempt them from the FAA regulation that prohibits compensating pilots of this category of aircraft.  This waiver, if approved, would allow the flight to continue.

Nine young whooping cranes began their first migration from Wisconsin following the ultra-lights in the fall of 2011.  Operation Migration began leading sandhill cranes as a study group in 2000, and has been piloting ultra-light aircraft to successfully lead whooping cranes on an Eastern Migratory route each year since 2001.  The FAA instituted the Light Sport Aircraft category in 2008.

The many international partners in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), are monitoring developments and hope for a speedy resolution on the waiver.

"WCEP is considering alternatives for the whooping cranes if approval of a waiver is significantly delayed," said Peter Fasbender, Field Project Leader for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Green Bay Ecological Services Field Office in New Franken, Wisconsin.

"Options could include releasing the cranes at nearby refuges, or possibly transporting them to release sites in Florida at St. Marks and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuges."

The whooping cranes are safe inside protective enclosures during the delay.  The migration has a traditional operations pause in December to allow the crew to return home for the holidays. 

Green Airport Begins Service to Denver. Theodore Francis Green State Airport (KPVD), Providence, Rhode Island.

Attention travelers, Southwest Airlines begins daily non-stop service from TF Green Airport to Denver on Sunday, January 8th. This occasion marks the first time the airport has offered service to Denver. The departing flight leaves PVD at 1:55 p.m., arriving in Denver at 4:30 p.m. (local time). The arriving flight leaves Denver at 4:35 p.m., returning to PVD at 10:20 p.m. (local time). Denver is also a popular connecting point for other West Coast destinations. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Residents sue over noise from new runway: Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (KCLT), North Carolina

Four dozen Charlotte residents sued Charlotte/Douglas International Airport on Thursday, claiming noise from the airport's new runway has lowered their home values.

Charlotte's airport, like others around the world, has wrestled for years with how to balance the noise from jet engines with nearby residents' concerns.

"These aircraft have approached and departed the airport at flight levels between 300 to 1,200 feet over and adjacent to the property," said the complaint in one lawsuit filed by Charlotte attorney Thomas Odom Jr., on behalf of homeowners Edward and Shirley Moore.

The homeowners are seeking damages from the city, which owns and operates the airport, based on the diminished value of their property that they say the new flights overhead are causing.

Airport officials declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday, citing the city's policy of not discussing pending litigation.

The lawsuits stem from the airport's newest runway, which opened in February 2010. The 9,000-foot-long strip runs north-south, roughly parallel to I-485 between Wilkinson Boulevard and West Boulevard.

Under a federal program, the airport has paid for sound insulation to 1,200 houses and bought another 400 homes to resolve noise complaints since 1990. But some residents living outside the designated noise-mitigation areas say they are still subject to near-constant overhead flights, with the accompanying noise and vibration.

There were 671 scheduled daily departures from Charlotte/Douglas in November, along with hundreds of arrivals. Odom said 40 of the homeowners who filed suit live south of the runway and eight live to the north. He said it was "unclear" whether all of them lived outside the airport's noise-mitigation areas.

The Moores live in the Eagle Lake neighborhood, in southwest Charlotte. Their house is about a mile and a half from the southern end of the new runway. According to a 2010 airport noise program map, it lies outside the noise-mitigation area.

The lawsuit filed Thursday said that since the runway opened, homeowners have experienced "a substantial increase in the frequency and number of airplane flights" overhead, and that has "impacted or completely deprived" their ability to sell the property at fair market value.

Reached by telephone, Shirley Moore declined to comment. According to property records, she and her husband have owned the house since 1978.

Charlotte/Douglas has been down this road before. About 400 residents sued the airport after a new runway was opened in 1979, city Aviation Director Jerry Orr said Thursday.

Orr said the airport lost one of those lawsuits and won another, then settled the rest.

In addition to noise complaints from residents close to the airport, Charlotte/Douglas has also recently faced the ire of residents who live further from the airport.

Those residents live along new, more concentrated flight patterns approved by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2009, which funnel the planes into the airport on a tighter path. Airport officials and the FAA have said they're working on that issue.

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Tupelo Regional Airport (KTUP) looking for company to run the operations of its fixed base operator. Tupelo, Mississippi.

Tupelo Regional Airport is looking for a private company to run the operations of its fixed base operator (more commonly called an FBO), Tupelo Aviation Unlimited.

The airport is asking for proposals for a private firm to take over staffing of TAU. The airport would retain the assets of the FBO, however.

Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said new general aviation policies have helped the airport see "large growth" in 2011 with the addition of Universal Asset Managment and Airline Maintenance Service.

From the airport:

In order to keep this great momentum going, the Tupelo Airport Authority has decided to make room for private enterprise to flourish at the airport. The first step is to issue a request for proposals to solicit a firm to take over all of the management duties of Tupelo Aviation Unlimited. The Airport Authority will establish a selection committee to ensure that Tupelo selects the best possible candidate. The goal is for the Tupelo Airport Authority completely out of the FBO business in five years.

Tupelo Aviation Unlimited is the fixed-based operator of the Tupelo Airport Authority. This is the business aviation division of the airport that provides services such as fueling, aircraft rental, hangar rental, tie-down and parking, just to name a few.

Airport officials to privatize business division

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Those who've flown out of Tupelo Regional Airport on commercial aircraft may never notice the hangars located near the facility's control tower.

Those structures house approximately 40 private aircraft, generating revenue for the facility through rental/housing fees, fuel and other items.

But airport officials say the fixed-based operator Tupelo Aviation Unlimited, which supplies these services, is hampered because it's controlled by the airport, and therefore subject to government restrictions.

Airport executive director Josh Abramson said it all boils down to one central issue: private ownership versus government control.

Abramson said he looked at many other factors before going forward with Thursday's announcement to privatize Tupelo Aviation Unlimited.

"One of the downsides of being a government entity is that we have to go through all the process, staffing and procurement that most government [organizations] do," Abramson said. "When you have a private entity, they have more flexibility and can react a lot faster to whatever the environment is."

Abramson said the decision was made for the future of the Tupelo Regional Airport -- specifically to make it more financially sound and less restricted -- but what happens to those already employed?

"Hopefully [the new management] will continue the employment of the people already working for me right now," Abramson said. "I can tell you right now, and I told my staff earlier today, we have the best qualified staff in town. They're already doing the job and they're doing it well."

FBO manager David Smith said he doesn't see the change as a bad thing at all, especially where the employees are concerned.

"I am very excited about this announcement and the possibility of another private company coming to the airport," Smith said. "I do understand that it could mean my job, but I will campaign for that and I will campaign for the jobs of my employees. The way I feel, what better employee do you have than one who's already trained?"

One of those employees, Sam Clifford, said he remains upbeat about the changeover, despite some reservations he and others have.

"Our employees here, some of them have been with this organization for over ten years," Clifford said. "They know the customers, they know the airplanes, they know the equipment and they know how to get things done. I don't see that changing. We're just gonna have another group in charge of the whole organization and we'll go on from there."

Abramson said the deadline for these proposals to be submitted is Feb. 10. After that, a selection committee will review all the proposals and hope to have a contract in place in March.

Abramson also said the building and hangar will undergo an extensive $200,000 renovation process that is scheduled to begin in April.

Disgruntled American Airlines passengers start petition

American Airlines passengers have signed a petition calling for reimbursement after they were stranded when their flight to Bermuda was turned around.

Flight 1780 from JFK to Bermuda was repeatedly delayed due to the unavailability of an aircraft and then electrical problems.

When the flight was in the air, it came within 100 miles of the Island before turning back to New York because of strong winds at the LF Wade International Airport.

Once the plane had arrived back in New York, passengers were told they would not be reimbursed for food or hotel because the problem was caused by the weather.

“Passengers had to find a hotel shortly before midnight at a cost of between $200 and $300 and could only stay in it for lest than six hours as they had to be back at JFK for the rescheduled flight the next morning,” said one irritated traveller.

“Many hadn’t eaten and the restaurants were closed.”

Around 50 passengers were so upset by the refusal to reimburse food and hotels that they signed a petition requesting compensation in the form of cash or a voucher for future travel on the airline, which was handed in to the airline’s office at the airport.

Responding to the incident, an American Airlines spokesman apologised for the delay, but said that it was out of the airline’s hands.

“All we know is that the winds a the time the plane was scheduled to be landing were in the area of 50 kts, which is extreme by safety measures,” he said.

“They knew they were not able to land and so they returned to JFK. It was caused by weather, not something we had done. If it’s something that we cause, then we take responsibility in finding them lodging. If it’s mother nature and weather, we do our best.”

While passengers said the plane might have been able to land in Bermuda had the flight not first been delayed, the airline spokesman said there was no way to tell.

“I don’t know if they are meteorologists but I don’t know what the conditions would have been if they had departed at a different time,” he said.

“Our schedules are not guaranteed. We do our best to stick to schedule, but it’s not guaranteed. We regret the inconvenience, but safety comes first.”

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Oversight at airport generates action. Barnstable Municipal Airport-Boardman/Polando Field (KHYA), Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Someone didn’t do the math.

In firing up the new Barnstable Municipal Airport terminal, management discovered that its 100KW emergency generator should have been at least a 7000KW machine. The difference is attributed to changes made when the project was downsized from 55,000 square feet to 34,000 square feet.

Airport management is looking into whether costs can be recovered, but for now wants to tap its $6.5 million enterprise fund reserve balance for $545,000 to install a temporary generator while waiting for a permanent and right-sized replacement, which may take five months.

It’s believed the airport can be reimbursed up to 80 percent of the cost by the state. The remainder could be the subject of negotiations following determination of how the goof occurred.

The town council was expected to vote on the appropriation January 19th.


Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK) to receive new snowplow. Frederick, Maryland.

Frederick Municipal Airport has added a snowplow to its small fleet.

Before the city receives any significant snowstorms, Frederick Municipal Airport expects to add a plow to its small fleet.

"It's hard to talk about snow removal when it's a balmy 52 degrees today," airport manager Kevin Daugherty said at Thursday's public hearing.

Working with the city's purchasing department, Daugherty acquired a new Z-Bar Wheel Loader for snow removal. The board voted 4-0-1 to purchase the plow for about $128,000.

An existing equipment contract provided a 35 percent discount, and the vendor, the Vernon F. Stup Co., offered an additional 10 percent deduction, bringing the original $218,000 price down to the final cost of $127,800.

"It's a win-win-win for us," Daugherty said.

The airport's current snow-removal fleet consists of one plow and two worn trucks. The new wheel loader will be a welcome addition to the airport, Daugherty said.

Krimm agreed, saying that it is important to pilots and other airport users that the runways are cleared in a timely manner.

Hardy-Anders Field Natchez-Adams County Airport (KHEZ) gets new lights. Natchez, Mississippi.

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams County Airport doesn’t look that different, but a new lighting system is blazing the airport into the future.

The airport was on the receiving end of a $120,000 Federal Aviation Administration project to replace the lighting in its taxiway guidance signs.

“These signs are so that the pilots know where they are on the airport — they tell you what taxiway you are on, what direction you can go to find runways, if you are going to cross a runway,” Airport Manager Clint Pomeroy said. “They inform the pilot they are on the right path to get to the runway they are looking for.”

The quartz lighting system that was previously in place had been in use for approximately 20 years, and was starting to show signs of age.

Rather than replacing every part of the signs, Pomeroy said the sign bodies were still usable, so the airport only replaced the insides with an LED lighting system.

“LED uses a lot less electricity,” he said. “When you turn these lights on you can reach down and hold these light bulbs because they don’t get hot, but the light is very nice and bright.”

The new LED system is noteworthy for two reasons.

The first is that it isn’t in widespread use yet.

“This LED system was just approved by the FAA for use, so we are one of the early airports to use it,” Pomeroy said.

The second reason is that the system is more energy efficient. Pomeroy said the new system could improve energy efficiency by 20 percent.

“I hope I can see just a little bit less in our electricity bill,” he said.

Ninety-five percent of the funding for the project came from the FAA. The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division and the airport evenly split the remaining five percent.

The FAA money comes from the FAA trust fund, which is funded by taxes and fees associated with flying.

“(The money) comes back from the users, which is a good way to pay,” Pomeroy said.