Sunday, January 08, 2012

Q&A: Increased jet noise at Oceana in Virginia Beach

This month marks the start of more intense jet practice at Oceana Naval Air Station. If you're wondering what's going on, here are some answers. And watch for weekly updates in Tuesday's military roundup in The Pilot.

Are we hearing more jets in Virginia Beach? 

Yes. The airstrip where Oceana-based jets usually do field carrier landing practice - Fentress Auxiliary Landing Field in Chesapeake - closed for maintenance last month and won't be available until August or September. In the interim, Oceana's fighter jet squadrons are doing a lot of landing practice at home. During especially busy periods, squadrons may travel to South Carolina or Florida for training.

OK, so there are more jets - but why does it also sound noisier than usual?

Because they're doing a different type of maneuver: field carrier landing practice. This typically involves five jets taking off in quick succession. Pilots fly in a left-handed oval pattern, touching the runway and then taking back off again, eight times in a row. The 40 touch-and-go maneuvers that make up one "set" of practice typically last between 45 minutes and an hour.

That's a lot different from the take-offs and landings that usually occur at Oceana as jets come and go from training over the Atlantic and at North Carolina's Dare County Bombing Range.

Capt. Jim Webb, the base's commanding officer, said he hopes that the concentrated periods of landing practice will end by 10 p.m. most nights this winter - but that doesn't mean you won't hear or see jets flying later in the evening.

Jets also will continue to leave from and return to Oceana on those other training missions. As the Navy's East Coast master jet base, Oceana has no restrictions on its airspace, which covers a 4.3-mile radius, or its operating hours.

What's on tap for this week at Oceana?

Base officials say some of Oceana's 17 squadrons will be conducting landing practice this week, so expect concentrated noise until 10 p.m. Although intense activity should cease after that, jets may be flying 24 hours a day.

Where do we make complaints about the noise?

Oceana has a community concerns hotline, (757)-433-2162, where you can leave specific complaints about operations, including time and location and your contact information. Or you can send an email to But the base's website notes that complaints won't alter flight patterns or change the hours of operation.

According to Oceana spokeswoman Kelley Stirling, the Navy investigates only anomalies - such as claims that a plane dumped fuel in a residential area or broke windows by flying too low.

You could also complain to Virginia Beach officials or federal legislators: U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell.

Whatever happened to the Navy's plan for an outlying landing field, where Beach-based jets could practice in a less-populated environment?

That's on hold until at least 2014. After trying for more than a decade to find a site in northeastern North Carolina or southeast Virginia where jets would practice carrier landing skills, the Navy halted its efforts to find a local outlying landing field last January. That's because it hasn't yet decided whether to base any of the next generation fighter jets, the F-35, on the East Coast. Until study of that issue begins in earnest - in 2014, at the earliest - the Navy won't resume its search for an outlying landing field for fighter jets.

Read more and comments:

Flipping heck

A RUN of bad luck for the Commandos Parachute Club continued at Tooradin airfield when a gale-force wind gust flipped one of its small planes on Sunday afternoon.

The GippsAero G8 Airvan aircraft had just landed after a CPC drop of parachutists when the wind struck before the pilot had a chance to tie the plane down.

No one was in the plane at the time.

The club suffered a fatality and a plane crash last year.


Bowers Fly Baby 1A, N4626: Fatal accident occurred January 08, 2012 in Jefferson, Georgia

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Final Report:

National Transportation Safety Board  - Docket And Docket Items:

National Transportation Safety Board  - Aviation Accident Data Summary:

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA141 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, January 08, 2012 in Jefferson, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/10/2013
Aircraft: BOWERS FLY BABY 1-A, registration: N4626
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The airplane was about 200 feet above ground level when it stalled, spun about one-half turn to the right, impacted the ground in a nose down attitude, and burned. A witness reported that the pilot was attempting to diagnose an engine problem prior to departure. The witness also said that the engine was running rough and backfiring. A postaccident examination revealed that the right magneto distributor gear was unsecured inside the housing, and galling signatures were present. The galling signatures were consistent with damage found after the gear became loose while the engine was under power. Since limited maintenance records were available, it could not be determined how many flight hours had accumulated since the last engine overhaul; however, it is probable that the cotter pin was not installed in either magneto rotor drive shaft and that the right magneto’s castellated nut came loose during engine operation. It is probable that the unsecured distributor gear reduced engine performance, which resulted in a partial loss of engine power. The probability also exists that, at the time of the accident, the airplane was being operated in conditions conducive to serious carburetor icing at cruise power; however, the investigation could not conclusively determine that carburetor icing occurred.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and spin. Also causal was the partial loss of engine power during the initial climb due to the improper installation of a magneto. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's decision to take off with an engine problem and the mechanic’s failure to detect the missing magneto rotor cotter pins during the last engine overhaul.


On January 8, 2012, about 1130 eastern standard time, an experimental, amateur-built Bowers Fly Baby 1-A, N4626, was destroyed when it impacted the ground immediately after takeoff from Jackson County Airport (19A), Jefferson, Georgia. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. The local, personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to one eyewitness, the airplane departed runway 35, climbed to between 100 and 200 feet above ground level (agl), stalled, spun about one-half turn to the right, and impacted the ground approximately 45 degrees nose down. The eyewitness further reported that prior to departure, the pilot had reported that he was attempting to diagnose an engine problem; however, the engine sounded as though it was producing power during the takeoff roll.


The pilot, age 51, held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land, and a third class medical certificate issued August 6, 2009. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot reported 2,082 total flight hours.


The single-seat, open-cockpit, folding-wing monoplane was manufactured in 1972. It was powered by a Continental A-65-F, 65-horsepower engine. Review of copies of the airframe maintenance logbook records showed a conditional inspection was completed November 29, 2011, at a recorded tachometer reading of 1,425.5 hour, or 343.0 total hours time in service. According to the engine maintenance logbook, the engine was found to be airworthy and installed on the airplane on November 29, 2011 by a certificated airframe and powerplant mechanic; however, the entry indicated that the total time and time since major overhaul were unknown. No other engine logbooks were located. According to an email from the mechanic, he received the engine as part of a project in April, 2010 and there were no logbooks. He further reported that the engine, when installed on the accident airplane, ran "smooth and strong" when started.


The 1135 recorded weather observation at 19A included calm wind, visibility 7 miles, scattered clouds at 4,600 feet agl, broken clouds at 12,000 feet agl, temperature 12 degrees C, dew point 12 degrees C, and barometric altimeter 30.21 inches of mercury.


The airport was equipped with a single runway oriented north to south and designated as 17/35. The runway was 5,009-feet-long and 75-feet-wide, and constructed of asphalt. The airport did not have an air traffic control tower. Communication was accomplished utilizing a common traffic advisory frequency; however, transmissions were not recorded.


According to an FAA inspector that responded to the accident location, flight control cable continuity was confirmed to all flight controls and the airplane was consumed by a post-crash fire. He further reported that an engine cowling had been replaced sometime prior to the accident flight in order to accommodate the engine installation.

A post-accident examination was conducted on the engine and propeller by an FAA inspector. Corrosion was noted on the spark plugs and a considerable amount of water was found within the engine. The engine and both magnetos were thermally damaged. The spark plugs were removed and appeared to be oil-coked. Continuity was confirmed from the propeller flange to the rear accessory pad and all cylinders operated normally. The left magneto was removed from the accessory pad and the cotter pin for the drive shaft castellated nut could not be located. The right magneto was then removed. The distributor gear was unsecured inside the housing and the castellated nut, cotter pin, and washers for the drive shaft could not be located. The inside of the housing had signatures similar to galling. No other preimpact anomalies were found that would have precluded normal operation.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot on January 10, 2012, by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Division of Forensic Sciences, as requested by the Jackson County Coroner. The autopsy findings included multiple injuries, and the report listed the specific injuries. The cause of death was reported as multiple injuries.

The FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot and no drugs of abuse were detected.


The carburetor icing probability chart from the FAA Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB): CE-09-35 Carburetor Icing Prevention, June 30, 2009, shows a probability of serious icing at cruise power at the temperature and dew point reported at the time of the accident.

According to the Illustrated Parts Catalog for the engine, both magnetos were Eisemann model AM-4. According to figure 17 "Rotor Shaft Assembly" in the Eisemann Magnetos Service Handbook for the AM-4, a cotter pin was to be installed through the castellated nut and rotor shaft.

Authorities identified the victim as 50-year-old David Rushlow of Jefferson.

Witnesses told emergency responders Rushlow had been working on the plane all morning and had been practicing takeoffs and landings. He had just recently bought the airplane, they said.

“Witnesses say the engine started sputtering, and he crashed at the end of the runway,” said Steve Nichols, director of Jackson County Emergency Services.

The plane fell about 500 feet, and Rushlow was dead by the time volunteer firefighters and EMS officials arrived on the scene. No one else was aboard the plane when it crashed.

No one on the ground was injured as a result of the crash, and firefighters were able to contain the fire caused by the crash before it spread to nearby structures or woods.

Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration responded to Jackson County on Sunday afternoon to investigate the crash.

Naples couple hopes to bring organ donor awareness with Cape-to-Cape 16,000-mile flight

Lexey Swall
Chris McLaughlin checks the fuel levels in his Cessna 172 Hawk XP airplane at Naples Municipal Airport. He and his wife Corrine McLaughlin will set out on a journey to Cape Horn in South America to raise awareness and money for organ donation, a cause that is close to their hearts. Chris McLaughlin underwent a liver transplant in 2010 after the doctors gave him two weeks to live if he didn't have one. The trip will return them to Cape Cod in Massachusetts and will take a about 160 hours to complete.

Trip began on Nantucket in December, will take couple to Cape Horn

An illness and recovery gave Chris and Corrine McLaughlin a very interesting way to promote organ donor awareness. In December, the husband and wife embarked on a 16,000 mile flight from Cape Cod to Cape Horn. According to, the plan is to fly along the coast, stopping to refuel (the plane's tank only allows for five hours of flying time) as they hop from island to island.

The idea came to Chris, a commercial pilot after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2009, then undergoing a liver transplant in 2010.  During the time it took Chris to recuperate, he came up with the idea of making the 16,000 round trip from Cape to Cape--all in hopes of raising awareness and funds for organ donation. reports the Naples couple landed in their hometown in Florida after leaving Nantucket last month. They plan to take off today heading farther south until they reach their ultimate destination, then it's back up the coast to Cape Cod.  In all, the McLaughlin's expect the trip to take two months.

Read the story at here. Visit here to learn more about the flight or to make a donation.

A flight from Cape Cod to Cape Horn. In a four-seat Cessna. Call it the trip of a lifetime.

Or, more accurately, call it the trip of someone else's lifetime.

That's because if everything goes according to Chris and Corrine McLaughlin's plans, their journey won't only be an adventure tale they'll tell for years to come, it will also raise awareness and money for organ donation, a cause that's close to the couple's heart.

"We're just going to try to get people to think about it and have some fun," Chris McLaughlin said.

In 2009, Chris McLaughlin was diagnosed with hepatitis C; the illness is believed to be related to exposure Chris, now 47, had in childhood. After the diagnosis, Chris McLaughlin successfully managed the illness with medication — or so he thought. But on Valentine's Day 2010, he collapsed.

The McLaughlins were living in London at the time, and he began to receive care at local hospitals. It soon was clear he would need a liver transplant, and he was taken to King's College Hospital, where he spent two months in intensive care, often lapsing in and out of a coma.

Corrine McLaughlin recalled being told her husband only had two weeks to live. Then, on the final day of those two weeks, the doctors brought the couple some good news: A liver was available.

After the transplant, Chris McLaughlin struggled to regain his health. The 6-foot-7-inch McLaughlin saw his weight drop to 130 pounds. Three months after the surgery, he was gaunt, his eyes sunken.

"It was pretty gruesome," he said.

Chris McLaughlin indulged in a fair amount of self-pity after the surgery, he said. But he also began to cook up ways to get excited for the future, too. One of those ways was the idea of what he calls "a crazy flight" across South America.

Before his illness, Chris McLaughlin had been a pilot for British Airways, flying 747s. Corrine McLaughlin is a private pilot and also worked for British Airways as a purser. Together, they own a 1978 Cessna Skyhawk, a four-seater, one-engine plane. Between the two, the skills and the tools for such a trip seemed to be in place.

Now, all they needed was a plan.

Read more and photos:

Health & safety ban WWII Spitfire pilot, 91, from sitting in... a Spitfire

A WWII Spitfire pilot who survived deadly dogfights with the Luftwaffe was barred from sitting in a restored model — due to health and safety rules.

Hero Eric Carter, 91, was delighted to be invited to inspect a newly-revamped Spitfire in the city where he trained to fly.

But when he asked if he could get in the cockpit, officials at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent told him it was a health and safety risk.

Eric put his life on the line day after day battling Messerschmitts in his Spitfire XVI LF RW388 over Arctic Russia.

He said: "You couldn't make it up. I used to fly those things every day fighting the Germans — now that really was a health and safety concern!

"To think that I couldn't sit in a stationary Spitfire in case I got hurt. I just wish the Luftwaffe had been so caring. The people at the museum had their reasons, but I had to laugh."

Eric took part in a secret, successful operation to keep the port of Murmansk open to preserve supply lines to Russia after the Nazi invasion in 1941. He volunteered knowing the average life expectancy for fighter pilots was 15 minutes. He is still feted as a war hero in Russia.

Eric, from Chaddersley Corbett, Worcs, said: "I was young and must have been mad, but perhaps we were a tougher generation."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council said on the day of Eric's visit there was no "proper seat" in the plane, which had been recently coated with paint containing traces of radioactive radium.

He added: "For those reasons, and because of his age, the people on the day thought it best he did not sit in the plane."

Read more and photos:

Read Lauren Scruggs post on LOLO Blog "so (very) much thanks…"

so (very) much thanks…
Posted on January 9, 2012

"i don’t know how to thank each one of you, properly, for so much love during this difficult incident in my life...."

Planes announced for Thunder Over Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- New details on the air show lineup for this year's Thunder Over Louisville.

WDRB News has learned from Thunder producers that the show will include a demonstration from an F-22 raptor. That's a stealth fighter.

At one time - it was the only military aircraft capable of cruising at super sonic speeds. It will be flying over the Ohio in a matter of months.

The air show will also include the military's workhorse - the C-130 along with demonstrations from many other aircraft.

You can catch Thunder right here on WDRB this spring.


Plane bound for Miami makes emergency landing

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky  -- An American Airlines flight made an emergency landing Sunday night at Louisville's airport after a bit of a scare.

The American Eagle jet was headed from Indianapolis to Miami when the pilot reported oil leaking from an engine.

The pilot shut down the engine and could smell smoke in the cockpit.

Airport fire and rescue were on standby as the plane landed. Emergency crews escorted the plane to gate.

28 people including crew members were onboard.

The plane was taken out of service and customers will be reaccommodated.


Pilots need to know fuel system: watchdog. Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Pilots need to be more rigorous in checking how much fuel their aircraft has before take-off and how much it uses in flight, the transport safety watchdog says.

Poor management of fuel in operating some aircraft continues to pose serious risk they will run out of fuel before they land, says the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

An average of 21 incidents involving fuel mismanagement have been reported each year over the past 10 years.

However, the ATSB says the actual number of incidents is probably higher because not all involve power cutting out.

Its report on fuel mismanagement incidents, released on Monday, found they were most likely to happen in private or charter flight operations, which normally run with the minimum fuel required.

In the decade from 2001 to 2010, there were 10 deaths and 18 serious injuries in crashes resulting from fuel starvation.

This occurs when there is enough fuel to finish the flight but for some reason the supply to the engine is interrupted.

The other type of incident is known as fuel exhaustion, when the aircraft runs out of fuel before reaching its destination.

While 82 per cent of fuel exhaustion incidents resulted in the forced or precautionary landings, no-one was hurt or killed.

The bureau said it was possible that fuel starvation incidents more often resulted in death or injury because when pilots had to work out the reason for the engine failure they did not necessarily expect it was because of a fuel supply problem.

This could be helped if pilots ensured they were fully familiar with their aircraft's fuel system.

It recommended the best way to avoid fuel starvation was for pilots to make sure they stick to procedures, including keeping a fuel log, and to know how their aircrafts' fuel supply worked.

The bureau's report noted that the more fuel tanks a plane has, the greater potential there is to select one that doesn't have enough fuel in it.

"A pilot may forget, but if fuel selections are written down, then the fuel log can act as an effective reminder," the report states.

It also highlights the importance of pilots carefully adhering to pre-flight and descent checks.

To avoid fuel exhaustion, the bureau said pilots needed to be more rigorous in cross-checking how much fuel was on board before taking off.

It also recommends pilots think of the amount of fuel in terms of flight time.

"If fuel is thought of as `time in the tanks' instead of a quantity, then diversions or stronger headwinds will not affect the time remaining," it states.


Commissioner cites comment left on aviation website regarding courtesy vehicles. Franklin County Airport (18A) Canon, Georgia.

CARNESVILLE, Ga. — Franklin County commissioners will hear details Monday on how to correct the county’s lopsided voting district lines.  County Attorney Bubba Samuels first told the Franklin County Board of Commissioners in November that its voting districts are in violation of the Civil Rights Voting Act and must be redrawn.  Failing to do so could make the county vulnerable to a lawsuit.

Samuels will present a reapportionment report during the board’s regular January meeting on Monday. Currently, Franklin County has four commission districts, and each is represented by a commissioner who lives in that district. “Based upon the 2010 Census, there’s a disparity between the districts,” Samuels said. “Two of them are about 500 people to the positive, and two are about 500 people to the negative.”  That negative, Samuels said, could make it less likely for there to be a minority candidate from a smaller commission district, which could be grounds for legal action from the state or federal government.

The Voting Rights Act requires that commission districts be roughly equal in population.  Samuels said Georgia’s Legislative Re-apportionment Office has recommended that Franklin County redraw the district lines.  In other business Monday, the board will hear the results of the recent county audit by the firm of Rushton & Co. and will re-appoint several department heads for 2012.

The board also is expected to discuss the county airport authority’s method of loaning out courtesy cars.

Questions of the county’s liability arose during the December meeting when commissioner Clint Harper pointed out that the airport has no formal process for leasing or loaning out the vehicles. At that meeting, Harper cited an email he found on the website

The email said that cars with the keys in them are there for anyone’s use so long as the driver fills out a slip of paper.

Harper said the county and the airport authority should be more prudent in designating who drives a courtesy vehicle since the county is paying for the insurance on those vehicles.

Airport Authority President Harris Little spoke to commissioners at their all-day work session Dec. 29, and commissioners are expected Monday to discuss the outcome of this meeting.


Night-vision goggles causing neck problems in military pilots

They are the embodiment of a modern, high-tech military and a fixture in Hollywood action movies, but night-vision goggles can literally be a pain in the neck, new Canadian research seems to confirm. A recent study found that most of the Canadian Forces helicopter pilots surveyed suffer from sore necks, and previous research lays much of the blame on the bulky, image-intensifying goggles worn on after-dark missions.

The effects can be debilitating for some, said Patrick Neary, a kinesiology professor at the University of Regina who has led much of the Canadian research. The hazard has been identified in other countries, too, with some pilots actually grounded because of the cervical strain.

“Talking to some individuals, I know they have problems sleeping because of this,” he said in interview Thursday.

Night-vision goggles, which amplify available light thousands of times and display images in green on built-in screens, have become standard issue throughout the armed forces, used by infantry soldiers for low-light operations as well as air force personnel. They contribute to a total weight with the helicopter pilots’ helmet of about 3.6 kilograms, said Prof. Neary.

The problems seem to come when crew move their heads to view the in-flight computer, which sits below shoulder level.

Dean Black, a retired lieutenant colonel in the air force and former CH-146 Griffon helicopter pilot, said Thursday the goggles came into use in the 1990s and are now considered essential.

“They are not only indispensable to air crew, but to people on the ground who depend on the ability of the helicopters to come and help them,” he said. “It means the helicopters can operate 24/7 and in deteriorating conditions…. It turns night into day, albeit all in a green colour, but it really brightens things up.”

A Canadian pilot with a night vision goggle system prepares for a night time training mission in 2007.

Mr. Black, now executive director of the Air Force Association of Canada, said wearing the goggles never caused him much trouble, though he found himself “getting more tired, more quickly than normal.” Some others did suffer considerable pain, however, including one female Griffon officer whom he recalls being grounded because of it.

The latest study by Prof. Neary, Prof. Wayne Albert of the University of New Brunswick and others surveyed a small sample of pilots and flight engineers on the Griffon. Just published in the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, it found that more than half the 40 personnel reported flight-related neck pain, with no difference between the pilots and engineers, who sit further back in the aircraft and perform non-flying tasks. All wear night-vision goggles.

An earlier internal study by the Canadian Forces found that almost all of the pilots who had flown at least 150 hours with night-vision goggles reported neck pain, and that 16 of those surveyed had been grounded because of the pain.

Counterweights on the back of the helmet to offset the effect of the goggles in front help somewhat but do not eliminate the problem, he said. Exercises that help develop muscle co-ordination and strength in the neck, however, appear to make a significant difference, said the kinesiologist.

Roma Rambles: Mille Lacs Tour - Low Flying Plane over Fish House Town

Video by romarambles on Jan 8, 2012

This is part 1 of our Mille Lacs Lake Tour. Wait till the end of the video to see the low flying plane over the fish houses.

Stinson 108 Voyager: Near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada

The pilot and passenger of this Stinson 108 that crashed near Rocky Mountain House Saturday, January 7, were able to walk away without a scratch.

A pilot and his passenger managed to escape injury after their plane crash landed in central Alberta.

Rocky Mountain House RCMP said a Stinson 108 crash landed at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Pilot Barrie Bouwman said he just focused on getting the plane down safely.

"I was about 15 miles out of town and the engine quit," Bouwman told CTV News, adding they were about 1,000 feet in the air.

"You just pick the best spot under those circumstances and you head for it.

"I picked a spot and that's where we went."

Passenger Gary Wickham said he was impressed by Bouwman's quick thinking.

"He just stayed calm through the entire situation.

"He never stopped flying the plane. He had complete control of it."

Wickham said they initially intended to land the plane on a highway but "because of the oncoming traffic on the highway that's when he [Bouwman] made the decision to take the field."

Bouwman said it had never happened to him before.

"And I don't' want to do it again either," he laughed but added he would definitely be flying again soon.

"I'm just glad I got to the ground in one piece."

Wickham agreed.

"It's hard to believe that we walked away from it.

"I never want to go through that again," he added.

However the plane was seriously damaged and Bouwman said it may even be a write off.

"The impact was tremendous," Wickham explained.

"There were quite a few things that went through my mind at that time."

The Traffic Transportation Safety Board has determined the crash was not suspicious.

Bouwman said he got his pilots license in 1976 and has owned the Stinson 108 since 1995.

Southern California Logistics Airport (KVCV): Ready for a financial overhaul? Victorville, California.

Southern California Logistics Airport has been bustling with business activity. Boeing recently extended its lease agreement to test engines, M&M/Mars moved its candy factory to the airport and United Furniture snagged the largest commercial space available in the area.

VICTORVILLE • If you haven’t taken a turn on Phantom West in a while, you may be pleasantly surprised at the bustling business that now characterizes Southern California Logistics Airport.

For the first time since it was formed in 1997, charged with powering economic development for the entire Victor Valley in the wake of the closure of George Air Force Base, city officials say this year Southern California Logistic Airport Authority’s operating revenues are expected to equal its expenses.

Boeing recently extended its lease agreement to test engines there, two companies fought for hangar space, M&M/Mars moved its candy factory to the airport and United Furniture snagged the largest commercial space available in the area to build coaches and chairs.

But look beyond day-to-day business, and you’ll find the airport is bonded to the hilt, defaulting on debt payments and facing investigations by local and federal authorities.

Those challenges have neighboring cities increasingly itching to take control of the airport, while outside experts say it appears ready for a dramatic change.

“It would seem that it’s ripe for some sort of financial restructuring,” said Wilson White, a municipal bond expert out of New York City who’s followed Victorville’s recent woes. “It’s not bleak. There are a lot of possibilities. But it’s going to take years to straighten them out.”

SCLAA was formed in 1997 as a joint powers authority between the city of Victorville and Victorville’s redevelopment agency. Victorville fought hard to win control of the airport, battling the city of Adelanto for rights to develop the property after George Air Force Base closed in 1991.

Though all four local cities and San Bernardino County have some oversight at the airport through the regional Victor Valley Economic Development Authority, Victorville was given full power over daily operations at the airport and the ability to take out bonds to fund improvements there.

By 2008, SCLAA had racked up $330 million in bond debt, with lofty plans for a city-owned power plant, a railroad connection and an EB-5 visa investor program that would generate additional capital.

“If all had gone well, it would appear that it would’ve been fine,” White said.

Instead, Wall Street crashed and property values plummeted, slashing the tax revenues SCLAA receives. The power plant project fell apart after the agency had invested some $80 million and BNSF said the rail connection wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, with $30 million sunk into preparations for the spur. Then Victorville’s EB-5 program became the first in the nation to be terminated by the federal government, stripping away $25 million in loans proceeds the city had been counting on.

Further complicating the situation are questions about whether the city has mishandled funds, with SCLAA bond funds used to buy land near City Hall for a library that never got built, for example. The Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into the expenditures, with the San Bernardino County Grand Jury and FBI also sniffing around.

In late December, SCLAA received notice from Bank of New York Mellon that it had defaulted on two of its bonds after missing a $535,000 debt payment.

The agency didn’t have money to make the payment, but had assumed the bank, which serves as trustee for the bonds, would cover it using reserve funds set aside for that purpose. However, the bond agreements state reserves can only be used to cover interest payments and not principal — a clause that’s unusual though not unheard of, according to Robert Doty, president of AGFS, a Sacramento firm that provides municipal bond advice to local governments.

“And the city should have known that,” Doty said. “That’s something that they were responsible for knowing.”

Mayor Ryan McEachron said he wasn’t aware of that limitation in the bond indenture. But based on his conversations with bond counsel, McEachron said the city still believes the bank could’ve chosen to make the payment but opted not to.

“Although we would have preferred the trustee to make the full payment, it is their decision,” City Manager Doug Robertson said via email.

Bank of New York Mellon did not respond to a request for comment on the issue. However, Doty said, “Normally trustees act only in accordance with the indenture.”

The city should be able to address the default by April, according to Robertson.

“We are estimating approximately $9 million in increment to come to SCLAA in the next VVEDA distribution, more than enough to cover the $7.5 million shortfall,” he said.

The bonds were sold in 2007 and 2008 to a combination of individuals and institutions — a sign that there was trouble from the beginning, according to Doty.

“To the extent that individuals are involved, what it says is that the bonds couldn’t be sold to an institution,” Doty said. “Normally a high-risk bond will be sold to institutions because they understand the risks better.”

Given the defaults, bondholders could call in immediate payment on the bonds — unlikely given the airport authority’s financial struggles.

They could also opt to bring suit against SCLAA to recover their investment. While Doty said it’s rare for individual bondholders to sue, institutions may opt to go that route to recover their funds.

“Certainly we have had a number of calls from investors in the last month,” said Jeffrey Kinsell, vice president of Kinsell, Newcomb & De Dios, the underwriter that sold the bonds. “All requests have been for facts and status, which is appropriate because that is all of the information we have available. No caller or investor has indicated an interest to us in filing any legal action against the city or SCLAA.”

San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzeltfelt, who also chairs VVEDA, said he met with the county’s CEO Thursday to discuss the implications of Victorville’s default. He declined to comment on the issue at this point.

“It’s all coming down around them right now,” said Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett, who’s been openly critical of the job Victorville has done with the airport. “I wouldn’t let Victorville manage an outhouse let alone a major airport. ...My personal opinion is that eventually control of the airport will be ceded to the county.”

White remains optimistic about SCLAA’s potential. He predicts a broker dealer will swoop in and launch an effort to get new bonds in place, perhaps taking advantage of other revenue streams. The airport authority might be able to start imposing landing fees, for example, White said.

“They have two great pluses: They have an existing tax base and they have the airport actually working,” White said. “It’s going to be a complicated process, but it’s possible bondholders could come out pretty well.”



Atlantic City casinos provide jet service if you gamble enough. Atlantic City International Airport (KACY), New Jersey.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is the only casino in Atlantic City that owns its own aircraft, a pair of 14-seat commuter jets that are used to ferry high-rollers into and out of the resort.

Here’s the way to get to Atlantic City:

Pick up the phone, dial a few numbers, and tell the person at the other end of the line you were thinking about making a trip. Within an hour, a jet is scrambled and crews rush to pick you up, flying you to Atlantic City International Airport in comfort and style. When you’re finished, that night or whenever, the casino jets you back home.

For most people, this sort of travel is a dream. But for a handful of top players, it is a way of life.

Atlantic City’s casinos have long treated their top players far differently than other gamblers. The gaming halls cater to the whims of their high-rollers, getting them the best food, tickets to the best shows and keys to the swankiest accommodations. They also get the best travel, including chauffeured jet service to and from Atlantic City.

While some of the gambling halls have cut back on the travel options, one casino — Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa — owns a pair of jets used to shuttle patrons along the East Coast. Federal Aviation Administration records show Borgata owns two British Aerospace 125s, now sold as Hawker 800s, that have the option of seating about a dozen people and have the ability to travel at a cruising speed of 463 mph, reaching 41,000 feet.

The planes, distinguished by stripes and Borgata’s capital B painted on the tail in purple, can travel between 2,359 and 3,145 miles without refueling, according to The Handbook of Business Aviation.

Joe Lupo, Borgata’s senior vice president of operations, confirmed that the casino owns the jets and keeps the pilots on staff, but would not make the pilots available for interviews, allow access to the planes or even disclose many details of the planes themselves.

Records show the planes typically stay close to Atlantic City, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking website. Between Aug. 12 and Dec. 12, one plane took off 170 times, but averaged just 36 minutes per flight. The other plane took off 115 times, with an average 43-minute flight. Many of the trips are apparently multileg jaunts, with the website’s records tracking the separate legs of the journey as individual trips.

The records also show the planes were flown mostly along the East Coast. They stopped in New York City-area airports 63 times during that time period, including 28 visits to Teterboro Airport, a popular Bergen County hub for corporate jets. It’s a time saver: A flight from Teterboro to Atlantic City averaged about 21 minutes, compared with about a two-hour drive covering the same ground.

Borgata jets also made 24 visits to Washington Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C.; five stops at Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing Township, Mercer County; four trips to Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beckley, W.Va.; and two excursions to Philadelphia International Airport.

The jets can travel far, twice flying to Toronto Pearson International Airport, and on Sept. 17 taking a jaunt to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., stopping briefly both ways in Salina Municipal Airport in Salina, Kan.

Tropicana Casino and Resort also offers high-end charter flights to certain select players, said Eric Fiocco, vice president of marketing. Fiocco said the casino bet heavily on the high-limit table games market, and many of the top players prefer to fly privately.

Tropicana does not own airplanes, Fiocco said, but its VIP staff works with outside contractors across the country, largely on the East Coast, to bring in players.

The players typically fly on six- to 12-seat, small-to-midsized Lear jets, although for larger parties they can arrange a bigger jet, such as a Gulfstream, Fiocco said. There are typically televisions on flights and a stewardess on board the larger planes.

“The best amenity is it is private.” Fiocco said. “You’re getting right to the plane and to your destination without having to go through security screenings.” And when the plane arrives, a car awaits to take the customer straight to the casino, he said.

All this can be done quickly. With sometimes as little as an hour’s notice, the casino can arrange for a jet and get a high-roller headed to the resort.

Fiocco would not say how much the casino pays for this service, nor would he allow the customers to be interviewed.

“These people are such high-visibility people they would not want to be quoted,” Fiocco said.

TWC Aviation, based in San Jose, Calif., is one of about a half-dozen aviation companies approved by New Jersey regulators to do business with the casinos. The company trades on convenience, company Vice President Scott Cutshall said.

“You don’t have to get to the airport two hours before the flight, you don’t have to go through secondary screening, you don’t have to wait to pick up a rental car or wait for your bags,” Cutshall said.

Most companies rent the planes by the hour, Cutshall said, with smaller planes such as the four-seater Cessna Citation Mustang costing between $1,700 and $1,800 per hour. Larger jets, such as as a Boeing Business Jet — essentially a 737 reconfigured for luxury accommodations — run between $10,000 and $15,000 per hour.

A number of other companies also handle flights for the casinos, treating customers to the convenience of jet travel in hopes of separating the players from their wallets.

The largest charter company in the region is Margate’s Gold Transportation, a company incorporated in 1982 to provide air transportation services to the nascent casino industry. The company, like other public charter companies, arranges air transportation for groups of passengers through set air carriers.

On its website, the privately held company said it has arranged more than 1,500 flights for its customers, with 95 percent of the flights for Atlantic City properties. The company also claimed more than 200,000 tourists arrive and depart on Gold flights.

One of its programs is arranging flights for Harrah’s Entertainment’s Total Rewards programs. Harrah’s lists 69 cities in 22 states, two Canadian provinces and Washington, D.C., that Gold Transportation arranges flights to, through agreements with Sky King, of Los Angeles, and the now-defunct Pace Airlines.

FAA records show that in 2011, Gold Transportation used Sky King for Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Harrah’s Resort, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Trump Marina Hotel and Casino, and Caesars Atlantic City. In the filings, Gold said the seats were engaged for $100 apiece, with casino accommodations included.

Through Sky King, Gold Transportation arranged more than 425 flights, using a 120-seat Boeing 737-200. But with 30 to 45 people per flight, this means the plane typically took off with a largely empty passenger compartment, giving passengers plenty of space to move around in.

Gold also scheduled 31 flights with Falcon Air of Doral, Fla., for Trump Plaza, Trump Taj Mahal and Harrah’s, according to FAA filings, and four flights with Cleveland’s Charter Air Transport for the Golden Nugget and Trump properties.

Tim Smith, vice president of Gold Transportation, said confidentiality clauses in the firm’s contracts kept it from commenting. Trump officials declined comment, while Harrah’s officials said they were barred from public comments on the firm by federal Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. Sky King officials also did not return requests for comment.


Plane lands safely at Yeager Airport (KCRW) after emergency. Charleston, West Virginia.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A small private plane landed safely Sunday evening at Yeager Airport after what airport police called an aircraft emergency.

Emergency vehicles were sent out along the runway as a precaution, but the plane landed without incident, said Officer Vinson of the airport police.

Airport director Rick Atkinson said the plane, which carried three passengers, was headed to another destination when it encountered a mechanical problem that forced it to land. Atkinson was not sure where the aircraft was headed. Atkinson said the plane landed around 6 p.m. The runway was clear by around 7 p.m.
No other information was immediately available Sunday.


Pilatus PC-12/45, VT-ACF: Accident occurred on May 25, 2011 in Faridabad, India

The probe panel set up for the Faridabad crash of a Pilatus aircraft has attributed the “probable cause” of accident to weather-related phenomenon.

The air ambulance, which had seven on board including a terminally ill teenager, crashed 14,000 feet on a two-storey house in a residential colony in Faridabad. All seven were killed in the crash, which also resulted in the death of three others on the ground on May 25. At the time of the crash, the aircraft was 25 nautical miles away from its destination — Delhi airport. Reports said the plane encountered updraft and downdraft, resulting in disorientation of the two-member cockpit crew, who lost control.

Over the next two minutes, the aircraft spiraled downward, with an “unusually high rate of descent” varying between 6,000 and 12,000 feet per minute.

Right before the nine-seater Pilatus PC-12 entered bad weather, the report points towards delay on part of flight crew in diverting from winds and Air Traffic Controller’s (ATC) failure in providing the local weather, said a source.


Princess Juliana International Airport meets with fuel suppliers to discuss aviation fuel shortage

Relief expected by month-end as Sol and Chevron address supply issues

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten - PJIAE met on January 5 with Sol and Chevron as well as other stakeholders to discuss the current shortage of aviation fuel experienced in St. Maarten. Several measures are being taken to mitigate the current effects and better secure PJIA’s operations in the future.

Among these measures is a planned relocation of the fuel farm at PJIA, which will commence during the second quarter of this year, while a Service Level Agreement that includes performance standards will be put in place with all PJIA suppliers, including those who supply aviation fuel.

Moving PJIA’s fuel farm to an offsite location will result in increased storage capacity for fuel and will also free up valuable ramp space.

Similarly, Sol has filed the required documents with the respective government authorities to enable it to commence construction of an additional storage tank that would double its storage capacity to a combined 25,000 barrels.

Storage is indeed a major factor in the current fuel shortage. Once approval is received, the construction of the new tank is expected to take some six months. This means, before this year ends, the situation at PJIA with regards to aviation fuel would have improved dramatically.

In the meantime, Sol expects relief of the current fuel shortage by the end of January. During the meeting with PJIAE, General Manager, Sol Aviation Services Ltd. (SASL), Andrew Niles, said the company is working hard to ensure that St. Maarten does not completely run out of fuel. The company gives special consideration to “feeder locations” like St. Maarten, given the island’s hub function.

One short-term solution being considered by Sol is to switch from Jet A1 fuel to Jet A specification fuel, which can be sourced more readily at other suppliers. This specification change would allow Sol to purchase fuel from additional suppliers rather than being limited to its main supplier of Jet A1 fuel, Petrotrin of Trinidad and Tobago.

The primary difference between Jet A specification and Jet A1 is the freezing point, which Sol confirmed will not affect its clients.

Although last week’s tanker brought Jet A1 fuel from Curacao, Niles noted, however, that Curacao is not as dependable a source for this type of fuel as Trinidad and Tobago.

The Sol general manager further explained why his company has not considered acquiring fuel from the US or Venezuela, given the acute shortage it is facing.

While immediately available, it was noted that deliveries from the US would take longer than direct deliveries from Trinidad and Tobago or Curacao due to “transit times” and “tanker size.” Niles noted that Venezuela does not produce Jet A1 fuel.

Niles confirmed that Sol is in direct contact with the head offices of the various airlines that service PJIA to update them on the daily fuel allotments for their aircrafts. However, Sol will also now provide daily communiqu├ęs to PJIA and St. Maarten handlers for both commercial airlines and General Aviation (GA).

“We are doing our best to manage the situation,” said Andrew Niles, adding: “We could only operate with what we have.”

The General Aviation (GA) sector is the most hit by the current fuel shortage. Sol noted it is easier to manage commercial carriers as their schedules and requirements are fixed, whereas with General Aviation this is not the case.

However, the pending deliveries and recertification of the fuel should alleviate some of the restrictions and result in possible relaxation this week.

“The GA fuel situation is a bit more complicated,” admitted Niles, “as some use brokers for their fuel purchases. Additionally, unlike Commercial flights, we do not have a clear picture of the fuel requirements for GA, as they operate and require fuel on ‘as needed’ basis.”

Following Thursday’s meeting, however, Sol agreed to look into further “relaxing” the current restrictions, especially on General Aviation. Commercial Aviation has already been moved up from 50% to 75%. Nevertheless, the fuel rationing for General Aviation may continue a little longer.

Commenting on the matter, PJIA managing director, Regina LaBega said, “the situation is really unfortunate, but it has our undivided attention.”

“We are working with our stakeholders, to share strategies that would enable us to spot potential problems in time so that we can respond in an effective, dynamic and informed manner,” LaBega said. “The idea is to find permanent solutions for this issue.”


Plane aborts flight as both pilots nearly pass out

  • Captain and first officer report feeling 'light-headed' as craft reaches 20,000 feet
  • Passengers hear 'panicked' captain call for help from senior cabin
  • They are supplied with oxygen masks and request emergency return to Heathrow

A British Airways jet was forced to make an emergency landing after both pilots almost 'passed out' at the controls.

The Captain and first officer both reported feeling light headed as the aircraft, which had taken off from Heathrow, was climbing at 20,000 feet.

As the drama unfolded passengers heard a 'panicked' captain call for a senior member of the cabin crew to come to their aid.

They were then supplied with oxygen masks as they continued the stricken flight and requested an emergency return to Heathrow.

Fortunately the plane, an Airbus A321, landed safely but when paramedics arrived the pilots both said they had felt as though they were about to pass out.

The incident, which is now being investigated by the Air Accident Investigation Branch, was also reported by a passenger on the flight on a professional pilots website.

He described how the captain of the flight, from London to Glasgow last month, sounded panicked and how cabin attendants looked worried at the turn of events.

'I was on the London to Glasgow flight yesterday, departed Heathrow at 4 pm-ish got airborne, at approx 20 mins into flight a very abrupt and panicked message came over the PA from the pilot,' he said.

He goes on to say that there were a number of 'worried faces' among the flight attendants who he saw with a oxygen cylinders and said the plane was soon heading back to Heathrow 'at great speed'.

Cabin crew then announced they were experiecing technical difficulties but the passenger added they were greeted by fire crews, paramedics and engineers on landing.

'Still being fed the tech fault line but the first on board were paramedics??

'It later transpires that both pilots became lightheaded/dizzy/unwell at the same time, in my book that's serious,' he said.

Air accident investigators will now be examining what caused the pilots to become ill at the same time during the flight.

A spokesman for BA confirmed that both pilots had become 'unwell' and followed procedures by donning oxygen masks and returning to Heathrow.

'The pilots reported feeling light headed so, as a precaution and following normal procedure, put on their oxygen masks,' she said.

'Our pilots are highly trained to deal with such circumstances. The aircraft landed safely and customers continued their journey after a short delay.'

Aircraft makes emergency landing at Newcastle International Airport - UK

AN aircraft made an apparent emergency landing after being diverted to the region on Sunday night for medical reasons.

Ryanair flight FR9128 from Liverpool to Oslo, in Norway, was diverted to Newcastle International Airport. The plane landed safely at around 8.45pm.

According to reports, the aircraft was above the North Sea when it turned around and headed for the North-East.

It then descened steeply into the airport, on-line plane movement watchers said.

Newcastle International Airport declined to comment on the reason for the diversion last night.

However, according to Ryanair flight information, it was diverted to Newcastle because of a medical emergency.


Crew meet to honour pilot

Photographer Geoff Walker in Wild Oats Cafe under a poster advertising Lance Hopping's balloon adventures. 

In a corner of a busy Carterton cafe yesterday morning - in a town subdued by the tragic and unforgettable events of Saturday - one table was more sombre than the rest.

Gathered to have breakfast at High St's Wild Oats Cafe, a favourite spot of balloon operator Lance Hopping, was the ground crew of Saturday's balloon ride, as well as photographer Geoff Walker, and Mr Hopping's fiancee, Nina Kelynack.

"It was just a chance for us to get together and just be together," said Mr Walker, a long-time friend and colleague of Mr Hopping.

"It was a little surreal, outside all the press and everyone is racing round, and there we were enjoying a quiet breakfast."

The ballooning party had intended to return to Wild Oats Cafe after Saturday's flight for a champagne breakfast. Instead, the eatery remained closed for the day out of respect for those who died.

Mr Walker said rather than going over the events from Saturday morning, those gathered yesterday focussed on what made Mr Hopping the partner and friend he was. "We just talked about Lance, my buddy Lance.

"He was such a great guy, very generous with giving away free balloon rides and that, and he's done so much for the community."

Mr Walker captured the whole traumatic incident on film, from the moment the balloon struck the powerlines on Somerset Rd "with a huge flash", to the moment the fiery balloon plummeted to earth from about 70 metres shortly after.

He has surrendered all of the images to the police and Civil Aviation Authority, saying he won't release any to the media out of respect for those who died.

He doesn't know exactly what went wrong, but is convinced "something out of the ordinary" must have taken place.

Just last week, in the same cafe, Mr Walker had chatted and joked with Lance and Nina about the possibility of a new balloon.

"I was saying he should get a nice bright one because the dark green one was a horrible colour, and we were joking about getting a special shape.

"He said he had already investigated it and he was going to get [one in the shape of the rocket] Thunderbird Two."

Mr Walker said he had been involved in 99 per cent of Mr Hopping's flights, often on board himself, and before Saturday the worst that had happened was "going through a fence" a few years ago.

He said it would be a long time before he and the town recovered from the accident.

"It was just a magic, magic morning, [those on the flight] were just such great people. We were all joking and ... and we got all the photos of them waving and then taking off."