Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weather Channel flies into 'Hurricane'. Series focused on pilots to bow in July

The Weather Channel Premieres New Series "Hurricane Hunters" in July 2012

PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The Weather Channel Companies (TWCC) announced today it has greenlit "Hurricane Hunters," a new character-driven documentary series revealing the high-stakes world of pilots who fly planes into hurricanes to gather meteorological data from the eye of the storm. The show tracks their lives and dangerous missions during the height of hurricane season. Produced by Christian D'Andrea, Aleco Bravo, Rich Battista, and High Noon Entertainment, the series is comprised of 4x 30-minute episodes and will premiere in July 2012.

"Hurricane Hunters" follows the Air Force's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based in Biloxi, MS, whose mission is to fly planes into hurricanes to better understand them and gather key meteorological data that can only be captured by flying into the eye of the storm. The information they gather helps weather services predict storm paths and warn affected cities. This is meteorology in the extreme: they risk their own lives, and other people's lives depend on them. Remarkably, many of these highly trained men and women take on hurricane hunting as a second job - and their day jobs and hobbies are as varied as a FedEx pilot, an attorney and an Elvis impersonator, making for a unique and eclectic group.

"The appeal of shows like this for The Weather Channel is that these are real people and the type of work they do helps safeguard people and potentially saves lives," said Bob Walker, executive vice president and general manager of networks and content, The Weather Channel. "Few people can imagine what it would be like to travel into the eye of a hurricane - and these men and women volunteer to do it. 'Hurricane Hunters' offers viewers a rare inside look at an extraordinary group of people and the work they do in perilous weather conditions."

"Hurricane Hunters" joins TWC's growing stable of long-form original content, which includes its most recent additions, "Twist of Fate," "Storm Riders," and "Coast Guard Alaska," as well as upcoming series "Lifeguard!" and anthology series "Braving the Elements," both premiering in March 2012.

About The Weather Channel Companies

The Weather Channel companies (TWCC) are made up of The Weather Channel® television network, The Weather Channel digital properties, and WSI. The Weather Channel is based in Atlanta and is seen in more than 100 million U.S. households. TWCC also operates Weatherscan®, a 24-hour all-local weather network; The Weather Channel Radio Network; and The Weather Channel HD. The most popular source of weather news and information, TWCC properties reach 60 million monthly Web consumers ( and Desktop) and 32 million monthly mobile users (mobile Web and applications) and offers the second most popular mobile app on all smartphones. WSI, headquartered in Andover, MA, primarily provides business-to-business weather services, particularly for the media, aviation, marine and energy sectors. TWCC is owned by a consortium made up of NBC Universal and the private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital. For more information, visit .

SOURCE: The Weather Channel Companies

Long-term goals of St George Municipal Airport (KSGU) expansion still unfulfilled. St George, Utah.

ST. GEORGE - The St. George Municipal Airport made progress during its first year, but officials say it will take time before the airport fulfills promises of new destinations and significant economic expansion.

"The truest test of the airport is long-term," said Scott Hirschi, director of the Washington County Economic Development Council. "It's already had a positive effect, but it's going to continue to have a greater and greater effect on the economy and the community."

Since opening Jan. 12, 2011, the $160 million airport has experienced a rising number of passengers and hangar leases. The airport saw nearly 68,000 passengers in 2011, an increase of nearly 23 percent when compared against 2010 totals recorded at the city's old airport, said Airport Manager Rich Stehmeier.

He said that's particularly good news, considering the city projected only a 10 percent increase in passengers.

"It's pretty impressive this year that we've gone up that much," he said.

The number of hangar leases has also grown, going from 62 hangars at the old airport to 84 at the St. George Municipal Airport.

"We're going up in just about all our numbers," Stehmeier said. "That's pretty phenomenal."

Gary Sorensen, a travel agent with Morris Murdock Travel in St. George, attributed that rise in passengers to the improving economy and SkyWest Airlines offering jet service for the first time in St. George.

"It made a huge difference for the people traveling," he said. "People are more attracted to the jet and are more willing to fly out of St. George than they were before."

He added, however, there is still a lot of unfulfilled potential. While the airport's current flights to Salt Lake City and Los Angeles offer opportunities for hundreds of connecting flights, Sorensen estimated that at least 80 percent of his customers still choose to fly out of Las Vegas.

"I don't believe the airlines understand how many people are actually leaving for Las Vegas," he said. "The prices to L.A. and Salt Lake are pretty decent, but prices for connections to other places are quite a bit more expensive than Las Vegas."

SkyWest spokeswoman Marissa Snow said the airline has worked hard to keep prices competitive. SkyWest has been pleased with the passenger response at the new airport, she added, and the company expects more customers to use the airport once they discover how convenient it is.

"The effort was in place at the beginning to make sure the fares were competitive," she said. "The biggest thing is awareness. It's making sure people are aware of what they have here."

Once they do, officials say talk of flights to places like Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco and Dallas could start to become a reality.

"Those are things we'll be working out over the next couple of years," Stehmeier said. "But it's a process and it takes the whole community to get that."

Snow said SkyWest has continued to keep an eye on new destinations.

"We know it's something St. George city would like," she said. "The demand just needs to make sense."

As for the airport's promise of economic expansion, officials said the process could take time.

"As we mentioned from the get-go, we weren't building the airport for 2011 or 2012," said Assistant to the City Manager Marc Mortensen. "It's a long-term plan, and I think it will benefit the area for decades to come."

Hirschi said the airport has played a role in sparking the interest of businesses considering relocating to the area, but he added there's no set timeline on when those companies could move to the area.

"The effects are certainly there and measurable over time, but it's not specific to a calendar," he said.

Officials say, however, that some immediate economic benefits will be seen in March when the Thunder Over Utah Air Show comes to the airport. Headlined by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, Thunder Over Utah is expected to draw more than 30,000 people over two days, giving an economic boost to the area and exposure to the airport.

"It's huge for the airport," Stehmeier said. "This will be like another Ironman (event) or (St. George) Marathon. It's on one of those kinds of scales for what kind of money it can bring into our community."

After a year of steady growth, officials say the airport is entering 2012 with momentum. It's only a matter of time, they say, before it begins to meet its potential.

"Things are constantly going up and improving," Stehmeier said. "The airport is on its way to do great things."


Series recounts Avro Arrow

More than 50 years after its demise, the Avro Arrow still evokes mixed emotions.

Back in the day. Test pilots (from left): RCAF pilot Jack Woodman, Jan Zurakowski and Spud Potocki, admire a model of the Arrow. 
File photo

Not only the Arrow, but all of Avro Canada’s post-war projects were significant undertakings for this country’s aircraft industry. However, a few of these projects would never be fulfilled.

For the first time, a bilingual series tells the entire story of the Malton plant, where the aircraft was built, from its birth in 1938 until its demolition in 2003.

Written by Marc-AndrĂ© Valiquette, the Destruction of a Dream series consists of four volumes: 

• the first volume, A.V. Roe Canada’s ‘Per Ardua Ad Astra’ (Latin for ‘Through adversity to the stars,’ a popular motto for air forces around the world), was launched July 1, 2009 at Canada’s Air and Space Museum. It recounts the rise of the company, from its birth as National Steel Car up to the manufacturing of the CF-105 Arrow. The subjects covered include World War II achievements, post-war adaptation, the Jetliner, CF-100, CF-103 and the start of the CF-105 project

• the second volume, Supersonic Dreams – At the Dawn of a New Era, is dedicated to the Arrow, from its rollout to the RCAF’s acquisition of the Bomarc missile. This volume was launched Feb. 20, 2010 at the Canadian Air & Space Museum in Toronto

• the third volume, Seeds of Suspicion, deals with the final weeks of the Arrow project until its cancellation on Feb. 20, 1959. It was published in early 2011

• the fourth and final volume, Master in Our Own House?, discusses the project cancellation, the destruction of aircraft, engines and materials, post-Arrow projects, “Avroites” reunions and work at the Malton and Orenda plants until the Malton plant’s demolition in 2003. It was published last fall  

“My passion for airplanes, and aviation in general, probably began when my father helped me discover the joy of looking at these marvellous machines from the observation deck at Dorval Airport,” said Valiquette. “A few years later, I discovered the CF-105 Arrow while doing my pilot training course at Moose Jaw. Thereafter, I had the chance to meet several people who were directly involved with this great project, either at their home or at meetings of the ‘Avroites.’”

Each volume sells for $25, and is available at


Mesa County Sheriffs office has a news eye in the sky

MESA COUNTY, Colo. ( KKCO ) – The Mesa County Sheriff's Office now is one out of three law enforcement agencies in the nation to have a fixed-wing aircraft that is unmanned. The aerial vehicle is (UAV) is called the Falcon.

The new addition to the Sheriff’s Office is a big improvement over the Draganflyer X6 helicopter that the office currently has.

The Falcon can stay in-flight for about an hour, compared to the helicopter that flies for about ten minutes. The helicopter also uses more energy to run than the Falcon.

As one of the first customers the country, the Sheriff’s Office says it has an agreement with the maker allowing the office to purchase the equipment at a reduced price.

The camera on board is also special, they say, because of its color, and zooming capabilities.

According to the Sheriff's Office, If the plane is searching for someone who is covered by foliage, the camera can go infared, and look for the person's heat signature.

The plane will normally fly at an altitude of 400 ft. and will only fly in Mesa County.

Currently, the Sheriff's Office is only test-flying the aircraft, but should be ready for official use within the next couple of months.

The Sheriff’s Office says the plane will be a big help with rescues and with forest fires.

In Mesa County, there is an average of 70 rescue attempts a year.

Rescuers say having a birds' eye view is a big help and advantage for the rescue teams.


Photos: Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. (Canon Digital Photography Forums)

By Leftcoast Mike

"I spent a couple of weeks in Ontario visiting family/friends over the holidays. On the 28th I made the drive out to Hamilton to finally get my first look at the Warplane Heritage Museum, home to one of only 2 still flying Lancaster bombers in the world today."

Maine, Wisconsin fight for new airplane plant

The state is launching a new bid to bring Kestrel Aircraft -- and as many as 600 manufacturing jobs -- to Maine, but the company's top executive says he expects to see a crucial financing package from Wisconsin first.

On Friday afternoon, Gov. Paul LePage said the Finance Authority of Maine will consider a $4.75 million loan guarantee and that the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority can provide a $3 million loan guarantee or letter of credit for Kestrel.

The company announced in July 2010 that it would open a plant to build a new type of six- to eight-seat turboprop plane at Brunswick Landing, the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

LePage said state officials are waiting for updated financial information from Kestrel to move forward on the guarantees, which would let the company more easily borrow money at better interest rates than unguaranteed loans carry.

Alan Klapmeier, chief executive officer and chairman of Kestrel, said the offers help the financing package for the $100 million project, but they're not enough by themselves.

He said officials in Superior, Wis., who are bidding to get Kestrel to build the manufacturing plant there, "are very close" to completing a deal that Klapmeier said he will consider.

"We're waiting for a very few pieces of documentation" from Wisconsin, Klapmeier said Friday night. "It's still a race."

However, LePage's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said Maine's efforts are being delayed by Kestrel's failure to provide the financial information that FAME and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority need.

The authority is in charge of redeveloping the former Navy base.

"The governor has bent over backwards to see that we're accommodating," Bennett said. "It lies in the hands of Kestrel at this point. We cannot do anything else until that financial information is forwarded to us."

Klapmeier said the applications for the guarantees are being handled by Cate Street Capital, an investment firm in New Hampshire, and that after he talked to LePage about the guarantees on Jan. 6, he asked Cate Street to start compiling the information immediately.

He said timing is the key to where the plant winds up. Klapmeier said the company has lost opportunities while trying to nail down a complete financing plan in Maine and will locate the plant wherever officials first put together a deal that enables him to go forward with the project.

Klapmeier said that for the Maine deal to work, Kestrel needs the additional investment and infusion of cash that comes from more New Market Tax Credits, designed to help revitalize low-income areas, in addition to the loan guarantees.

The company was offered a $20 million New Markets investment package, which would net about $5 million for the company immediately, from Coastal Enterprises Inc., a private, nonprofit community development company based in Wiscasset.

But in his news release on Friday, LePage said the state had to step in when "Kestrel's expectations of financing from Coastal Enterprises Inc. were not met."

Bennett said she couldn't immediately say what the governor believes Kestrel was expecting from Coastal Enterprises.

Klapmeier said LePage's statement was "accurate" but he declined to specify what he was expecting from Coastal Enterprises.

For its part, Coastal Enterprises reiterated Friday that it never offered a deal other than the $20 million package.

New Market Tax Credits pull in investments for companies that locate in low-income areas. Coastal Enterprises pulled together investors to put $20 million -- which would have to be repaid -- into the company.

Such investment triggers federal tax credits, which can be sold, with most of the proceeds going to the company that got the investment.

"We've always been very clear," said Charlie Spies, chief executive officer of CEI Capital Management, a financing arm of Coastal Enterprises. "We told them that we would help them find as much allocation (of New Market Tax Credits) as we could, but we couldn't provide it all by ourselves."

Spies said Coastal Enterprises never mentioned anything other than $20 million in all of its discussions with Kestrel and used that figure in a letter of intent it issued in the fall of 2010.

"It's kind of ironic," Spies said. "We put in the first piece (of financing) of this thing and stepped up, and now we're getting criticized."

The redevelopment authority has applied to the U.S. Treasury Department to become an "allocator" of the tax credits. It requested authority to leverage as much as $62 million with the tax credits, but there's no guarantee it will get approval or the amount it has requested.

It hopes to get a decision next month.

Klapmeier repeated Friday that the financing deal he thought had been agreed to 18 months ago never materialized, and that's why the location of the plant remains up in the air.

"It will create jobs, but it needs a certain amount of financing," he said.


Big pay raise for Tampa International Airport (KTPA) chief called too much, too soon. $50,000 pay raise is more than many make in total

By: Brendan McLaughlin

TAMPA - TIA Chief Executive Joe Lopano fidgeted awkwardly at the Hillsborough Aviation Board meeting as the Chairman argued for a pay increase that was more than many people in the audience make in total.

Steve Burton proposed raising Joe Lopano's total compensation to $355,000 dollars a year - a $50,000 pay hike. He also proposed adding another year to Lopano's three-year contract.

"They're paying people in his position hundreds of thousands of dollars more" argued Burton.

All three appointed board members seemed poised to approve the pay raise. But the two elected members, County Commissioner Victor Crist and Mayor Bob Buckhorn were not convinced.

"We're very lucky and grateful to have him here and he knows that, but a contract is a contract and we're only a year into it," said Crist.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn also opposed the raise.

"I said from the beginning that this pay raise was too much and too soon. He has a contract. I expect him to live up to that contract, just as I have a contract with the voters," said Buckhorn.

Lopano has an impressive list of achievements in his first year as chief. He worked to add daily non-stop flights to London. Supported providing twice-weekly service to Havana Cuba for the first time in half a century. And in May, Lopano and his team attracted a new airline, Edelweiss that will fly direct from TIA to Zurich- a service expected to create millions in economic benefit to the Tampa Bay area.

In the end, Mayor Buckhorn and Victor Crist were outnumbered three to two so the raise went through.

Joe Lopano was offered a similar raise three months ago, but turned it down in view of the economy. He did not return our call today asking why he decided to accept the raise this time.


Setback for LightSquared

The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—A government advisory board concluded that start-up LightSquared's proposed wireless network would significantly interfere with GPS devices, in a setback for the multibillion-dollar plan.

In a letter Friday to the Commerce Department, the board also said it saw no quick way to fix the problems.

The letter came from the Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing national executive committee, which is made up of nine federal agencies that coordinate GPS issues.

Based on two rounds of tests by federal agencies and separate tests by the Federal Aviation Administration, the group said it had unanimously concluded that LightSquared's original and modified network plans "would cause harmful inference to many GPS receivers."

"Based upon this testing and analysis, there appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS," the group wrote.

The group has no formal say over LightSquared's plans, but its announcement Friday is a blow to the start-up, which needs to persuade regulators that its network won't hobble Defense Department and other critical GPS systems.

In a statement, LightSquared said "government testing has become unfair and shrouded from the public eye," and said the government advisory board was too close to the GPS industry to make a fair recommendation. LightSquared called for the Commerce Department and the FCC to re-evaluate the test results with "unbiased officials and engineers." The company also threatened legal action.

LightSquared wants to build a national 4G wireless network that would offer wholesale broadband service to corporate customers like Best Buy Co. and other wireless providers.

GPS users and manufacturers have raised concerns that LightSquared's proposed network would knock out navigation devices because its airwaves are close to GPS frequencies. The start-up has made several changes to its plans over the past year in an effort to resolve the interference issues. It has also introduced technologies that it says will solve those problems.

The start-up needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission before it can launch its wireless network. The agency has been awaiting a report from the Commerce Department, which controls government airwaves, about the potential impact of LightSquared's network on government agencies.

A Commerce Department spokeswoman said the advisory group's recommendation will "help inform" the agency's final recommendation, but it is still conducting its analysis.

Airport not asking for more funding. Authority updates county, city and asks for no additional funds. Southeast Iowa Regional Airport (KBRL), Burlington, Iowa.

Plenty of numbers are on the rise at the Southeast Iowa Regional Airport: general aviation flights, commercial enplanements and Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization extensions.

The important figure not on that list? An increase in funding requests.

Mary Beaird, the airport's manager, presented annual updates to both the Burlington City Council and Des Moines County Board of Supervisors this week and offered little in the way of bad news.

"The good news is that I'm not going to ask for any additional funding for the next fiscal year," Beaird told the Des Moines County Supervisors Thursday.

She said several steps taken in the past couple of years, including reorganizing debt and getting assistance from Burlington, West Burlington and the county for capital projects and equipment purchases, have led to a better budget picture for fiscal 2013 than in years past.

"There's been a lot of things that have made our budget look a little bit better than it did last year at this time," Beaird told the city council Monday. She said the airport has been under budget the past three years as it worked to get its finances in order.

Des Moines County contributed $23,770 to the airport authority for the current fiscal year. West Burlington contributed $22,542, and Burlington contributes through a $0.21 cent per $1,000 tax levy. The contributions are split between the airport's operating budget and capital budget, with $70,000 going toward the former and the remainder going to the capital budget.

The capital improvement projects intended for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins in July, are a land acquisition and an aircraft parking apron rehabilitation, for which the local match totals $86,681. Beaird said, however, the more costly apron rehab likely will not begin in fiscal year 2013. Capital Improvement Program projects are 95 percent federally funded through the FAA with a 5 percent local match.

A taxiway rehabilitation project also will get under way this spring, but Beaird said it was funded in the current fiscal year, and construction was delayed from last fall. The project already has been bid and will be done by Shipley Contracting Corp. and is expected to be completed in phases in less than 90 days.

Beaird also updated the boards about the airport's commercial service offered by Air Choice One, which provides three daily flights to St. Louis and two daily flights to Chicago. Beaird said the airline is considering a third flight to Chicago. The airport receives a subsidy from the federal Essential Air Service program, which aims to provide commercial air service in smaller communities where people otherwise would have to travel a distance to access air service.

She said the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the airport's EAS contract with Air Choice One for one year, with the stipulation the airline work toward getting electronic ticketing options and baggage agreements with other airline carriers.

"Air Choice One has really a challenge ahead of them to make that happen within a year," Beaird said, adding she's not sure what the repercussions are for not completing that work in a year.

She said the airline is getting closer to 10,000 enplanements. If it reaches that number, the airport will be able to take its federal funding level from $150,000 to $1 million. Beaird said the airport had fewer than 2,000 enplanements only a few years ago. It had 700 enplanements last month.

Beaird said the general aviation side also has had a lot of excitement in the past month, with private planes carrying presidential candidates and a 737 aircraft carrying returning soldiers landing at the regional airport. It also is seeing more corporate travel than in the past few years.

The FAA reauthorization that typically allows the funds for the Essential Air Service program and airport capital projects is on its 22nd extension. As the current extension ends Jan. 31 and Congress is not expected to be in session for much of this month, Beaird said she expects another extension.

She is monitoring that reauthorization bill because some in Congress want to end the EAS program and because funding for capital projects may be reduced.

Along with everything else, Beaird said the airport authority completed its master plan update and is awaiting FAA approval before holding a public meeting on the report. And it is gearing up for a Sept. 21 and 22 air show, which will include an evening act for the first time.


Airport eyes runway extension. Ashe County Airport (KGEV), Jefferson, North Carolina.

Ashe County Airport Manager Eric Payne points to the excavation site at the southwest end of the runway that will provide the fill dirt to extend it at the opposite end.
Jesse Campbell photo/AMT

Pilots who in the past could not land at Ashe County Airport may have a new destination this fall with an anticipated runway extension.

The addition to the airstrip's east end will increase the space pilots have to maneuver by 700 feet, enhancing the total length to more than 5,000 feet.

“For many pilots, it's been an issue of insurance,” said Airport Manager Eric Payne. “Their coverage providers will not let them land at facilities with runways that have less room to land than that.”

The project will also include an extra 300 feet at the end of the runway, for overrun, to be used in emergency situations.

To provide the extra space, earth moving crews with Vannoy Construction Company began excavating more than a half million cubic yards of fill dirt from the southwest end of the airport and transporting it to the opposite side in October.

The removed earth from the excavation site will be flattened and made available for future expansion projects, such as constructing additional large size hangers, which Payne said are in high demand amongst pilots.

Funding for the project was made possible through a $2.5 million matching grant — with Ashe County's 10 percent matched by 90 percent in the grant — from the N.C. Department of Transportation's Aviation Division that is funneled down from the federal level.

Although work has stopped for the winter months, Payne anticipates a renewal of efforts this spring and the fill dirt to be in place by August.

“That's the plan. It should move right along then with the paving and lighting,” said Payne.

Despite the magnitude of the blasting of rock and excavation of dirt, Payne said deconstruction efforts have shut the airport down for only brief periods of time.

Pilots may also welcome an elongated runway in the summer, as a rise in temperatures results in high density altitude. This in turn causes a thinning of the air, making lift harder to achieve and a loss of engine power.

“It takes more runway to take off when the air thins out,” said Payne.

The altitude density at ACA, Payne said, is comparable to Denver.

Along with safety, a longer runway has an economic development appeal and possibly attracting corporate contacts to the county.

“A lot of people have told me that if it was not for airport, Gates Rubber Company would not have came here because they owned a Learjet at that time,” said Payne.

Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell said a longer runway opens up new options for the airport it did not previously enjoy.

“Because of the new length, we will be able to bring in a different size jet, which the more planes we can get flying in and out, the more potential money we can make by people coming into the county, fueling up, before heading somewhere else,” said Mitchell.

More runway space could also mean additional hangar space that yields tax benefits, said Mitchell.

In addition to runway advancements, Payne said crews are planning to update the facility's fuel farm to include new jet fuel and other types of aviation gas, which could further diversify the types of planes coming into the airport.

The airport began selling jet fuel in 2000, said Payne.

Airport officials want to replace the runway's hinged access gate with an automated system that would open to the pitch of an ambulance siren for emergency scenarios.

The extended runway will also be complimented by an aircraft taxi ramp.

Currently, airplanes must taxi on the runway before takeoff, which Payne said is a safety concern.


Up in the air, after repairs: American Airlines Boeing 737-800, N971AN. Albany International Airport ( KALB), New York.

The American Airlines 737 sits on the apron of the Albany International Airport in Colonie, N.Y. Jan. 13, 2012 and will be leaving this evening at 5:00pm.
( Skip Dickstein/Times Union)

COLONIE — The American Airlines Boeing 737 that made an emergency landing at Albany International Airport after an engine failure on Monday left the airport Friday evening, airport officials said.

The plane had been en route from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to Logan International Airport in Boston when the pilot declared an in-flight emergency and landed at Albany.

The flight carried 124 passengers and six crew members, many of whom finished their trip to Boston on another plane later Monday. A few elected to rent cars to make the 170-mile drive from Albany.

Repairs to the plane took the rest of the week. Airport spokesman Doug Myers said it was being de-iced at 6 p.m. Friday before it left Albany. The plane took off a few minutes later.

It had been an unusual sight as it sat near the gate once used by American, which ended service to Albany by full-size jets in late 2002 and pulled out completely in late 2008.

Before that, American and its predecessor airlines had served Albany since 1927.

Airport officials have said they'd welcome the airline back, although American, which is undergoing reorganization in federal bankruptcy court, isn't likely to expand for the time being.


New Zealand: Civil Aviation Authority considers whether to ground Beechcraft planes

The Civil Aviation Authority is considering whether to follow the lead of its Australian counterpart and ground a type of light plane with potentially faulty cables.

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority has grounded 250 ageing Beechcraft Debonair and Bonanza planes after a control cable snapped in one aeroplane as it was taking off.

The Australian Authority subsequently found the cables in a number of aircraft were badly frayed, and has ordered cables more than 15-years-old be replaced.

New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority will compare the maintenance histories of Beechcraft planes between the countries.

If the examination finds the New Zealand aircraft are at risk, the CAA will ground them and direct that urgent repairs be carried out.

Up to nine Beechcraft Debonair and Bonanza planes are in operation in New Zealand, and are used mostly in the private sector.

Carlson Aviation Is Out As FBO. Chan Gurney Municipal Airport (KYKN), Yankton, South Dakota.

While city officials expressed optimism about the future of Yankton’s Chan Gurney Airport, some called a decision to move ahead without Carlson Aviation providing services at the facility a mistake.

City officials confirmed that negotiations with Carlson Aviation to be the fixed-base operator (FBO), and possibly the manager as well, at the airport have ceased.

In December, the City Commission approved a new job classification for an airport supervisor. City Manager Doug Russell said that he expects an employee from within the organization will be hired to fill that position — at least on an interim basis — before the end of the week.

It is unknown at this point if Carlson Aviation will be involved in a transition process after the first of the year. Russell said an agreement was offered that would allow the firm, owned by Gary and Katie Carlson, to remain until the end of January. It has not been signed by the Carlsons.

Russell said the city will be prepared to fuel planes, direct airport traffic and manage the hangars, as well as perform other duties handled by the FBO, next week.

Negotiations were halted this month after it became apparent that the two sides could not come to mutually acceptable terms, Russell said.

“We had a verbal agreement on that contract (in October),” he stated. “Three weeks later, Carlson Aviation backed out of the terms of that agreement and essentially left us looking in different directions. We decided on an avenue to approach ... and will be looking at doing what we can to continue services at the airport from that direction.”

Gary Carlson declined to comment on the situation when contacted by the Press & Dakotan Tuesday.

However, Dave Tunge, a member of the City Commission-appointed Airport Advisory Board as well as the committee formed to develop guidelines when the FBO search process began last summer, said the move is a huge mistake.

“It’s going to fail miserably,” he said. “The biggest comment I hear from people in the city is that they are shocked the whole thing happened, and nobody can understand why. I’m still that way. Why would Doug jeopardize everything we’ve done at the airport?”

Although it wasn’t asked for its input, the advisory board voted earlier this month to recommend to the City Commission that the contract under consideration be approved with several changes. Among those changes were that Carlson Aviation would continue to be allowed to occupy the front office in the airport terminal, the firm would be allowed to use the corporate hangar until the end of 2012 for maintenance services, and it would be paid $1,300 a month for airport management duties.

“It sounds reasonable to me,” board member Roger Huntley said at the Dec. 7 meeting. “I’ve seen this airport when it was a junkyard. You couldn’t get a plane in and out. I can’t believe how good it is now, and I don’t want to lose it.”

Huntley also spoke up during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, objecting to a raise for Russell “because of his failure to negotiate in good faith for the renewal of the Carlson Aviation contract. He is setting our airport up to fail. Historically, city-run airports are not successful, mainly because of the expertise and dedication required.”

Mayor David Knoff told the Press & Dakotan after the meeting that he doesn’t agree that the city can’t provide the same quality of service as Carlson Aviation.

“That is the goal — for us to continue to have good service out at the airport,” he said. “We don’t want this to become an airport that people don’t want to land at. I don’t see that happening. If any of the commissioners thought that would happen, we would have gone a different direction. Unfortunately, we were unable to work things out with the Carlsons. That’s the way it sometimes works with government contracts. We’re the stewards of the taxpayer dollars and have to watch out for what we think is best for the community.”

Russell said it was Carlson Aviation’s decision not to agree to the contract as proposed, and Russell said he does not have any ill will toward the firm for deciding it could not live with the terms.

“I think Carlson Aviation did a great job in the customer service aspect, and I won’t take anything away from them,” he said. “It was a decision that they made, and they are entitled to it. We as a city have to look at it and make decisions that we think will be best for the long term. Sometimes, there are discrepancies in what that vision is. I think we’ve got a great base to start from.”

Some things will be noticeably absent at the start, such as mechanic services, but Russell said that is an issue that could be remedied in the future. Mostly, he believes that the city will be able to provide the round-the-clock service that clients came to expect from Carlson Aviation.

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Russell said. “We have not only the individual who would be there (as airport supervisor), but would also have the ability to cross-train people from our multiple departments. The position is a salaried position and would be able to respond as needed. We’ll monitor that as time goes by. If we have a jet come in that needs fuel during off-hours, we’ll have someone that is going to be able to be out there.

“I think the biggest concern out there was that this was a last-minute decision,” he continued. “It is not. We thought we had an agreement at the end of October and it fell through in November. We’ve been working from that point on to get where we’re at. We’ll move forward. We’re pretty comfortable with the direction we’re going, and we’re confident we’ll be able to provide the services that are necessary.”


Lancaster Airport Authority OKs budget. Lancaster Airport (KLNS), Pennsylvania.

LANCASTER — The Lancaster Airport Authority has adopted a 2012 budget totaling $1.21 million.

The budget maintains the spending level of 2011 and projects income of about $1.46 million. While that income is about $39,000 less than the 2011 budget, the authority projects the airport to be about $247,000 in the black this year.

The operating budget includes a 1.6 percent wage increase for airport employees and holds the line on rent for most businesses operating at the airport.

The authority did not raise rental fees for T-hangars and fixed base operator businesses - such as repair shops, flight instruction and auto rental operations - but there are increases on corporate hangar rentals, rent on farmland it owns, and the lease on the restaurant operating at the airport.

The budget data projects the airport will lose significant revenue from its landfill operations next year - down to $50,000 from $150,000 - in part because of completion last year of the Target store in Lititz. Construction waste from that project was hauled to the airport landfill.

But some of the lost income is projected to be offset by a $60,000 increase in corporate hangar rentals and a $16,754 jump in income from fuel sales by the airport's fuel business Alliance Aviation.

The airport also cut its public relations and marketing budget by $16,000 and will save an estimated $13,000 by switching to electricity supplier Blue Star Energy.

The board also has approved a plan to shift employee health insurance to a health savings account program beginning in 2013. Airport employees currently are enrolled in an employer-controlled health care reimbursement arrangement, in which any unspent funds revert to the company.

Kearney Aviation Center working hard to stand out as new Fixed Base Operator. Kearney Regional Airport (KEAR), Kearney, Nebraska.

Yusuke Furuta (left), Phil Jossi (center) and UNK aviation graduate, Steve Cole (right)

Phil Jossi, center, opened Kearney Aviation Center, a Fixed Base Operator at Kearney Regional Airport, in June. KAC serves the flying public as well as aviation students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney including Yusuke Furuta, left. UNK aviation graduate Steve Cole, right, manages KAC.

KEARNEY — The sky is the limit for a new Fixed Base Operator at Kearney Regional Airport.

The Kearney Aviation Center made its debut as the second Fixed Base Operator at the airport June 1, giving pilots across the country a place to fuel up. But owner Phil Jossi and the Kearney Aviation Center staff provide much more.

“We wanted to create an atmosphere where people left here and would say, ‘Wow, we don’t get that everywhere we go.’ We’re trying to create the wow experience,” Jossi said.

From guiding planes in at all hours, to offering complimentary snacks and providing fee-free landing space, Jossi’s mission is to take care of his clients.

As a longtime Nebraska pilot, he knows firsthand the importance of customer service. After getting a private pilot license in the early 1980s, he went on to earn a commercial certificate, a multi-engine rating and a Certified Flight Instructor — Instrument rating.

Jossi, who is also president of the State Bank of Riverdale, said that many FBOs don’t emphasize service because there isn’t much competition.

“I’ve experienced what poor customer service is at a lot of smaller airports, and I’ve always had a vision of changing that picture.”

And serving the flying public is only half of what KAC does.

The aviation center is also the home of the Aviation Management and Flight Training program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Program director Terry Gibbs said KAC is an excellent place for students to learn to fly.

“Working with an organization like this that has a quality facility and quality equipment is vitally important.”

KAC currently has five planes available for rental and lessons. Gibbs said there are about 65 students active in the aviation program.

UNK aviation student Yusuke Furuta is on track to be the first international student to earn a flight instructor certificate and trains regularly at KAC.

“I want to be a commercial airline pilot,” he said, recalling his first days in an airplane. “When I started making landings pretty good, that was what I really liked.”

Gibbs, who is in his 20th year with the UNK program, said working with aspiring pilots is his passion.

“When the light bulb goes on you can see it much easier out here. It’s very intimate because you can almost see the instant when the light goes on. It’s a lot of fun to work individually with students.”

KAC’s manager, Steve Cole, graduated from the program in May 2010 and now handles day-to-day operations at the FBO.

He said the comfortable atmosphere and friendly faces at KAC have helped foster his fascination with flying.

“I’m just an aviation enthusiast. I’ve learned a ton from everyone — corporate pilots, airline pilots, general aviation guys, crop dusters, you get a whole view of the world of aviation,” he said. “The most fun part is just kicking back and talking to pilots about flying.”

With a growing student population, and an expanding pilot clientele, the future looks bright for KAC.

In addition, the KAC is working to get a charter certificate with the Federal Aviation Administration that will allow the center to fly local companies and people on an on-demand basis.

Jossi said he hopes to get a hangar, an aircraft storage unit, at the airport to better accommodate corporate flights, a vital resource to Kearney’s many businesses and to the city’s economic growth.

But his main goal is providing young pilots with a place for their futures to take flight and operating a quality FBO.

“The best way I can characterize it is that we’re offering good old-fashioned Nebraska service. We’ll take care of you,” he said.


Airport operator concedes it can't provide services. Padgham Field Airport (35D), Allegan, Michigan.

By Tim Keith

AV Services, the company that has operated Padgham Airfield, notified the Allegan City Council that it will not be able to provide the services the city desires at the airport in the future.

The company officially closed its doors Dec. 31.

City manager Rob Hillard said the letter marked the close of AV Services' operation as the airport's fixed-base operator.

"In light of the impending changes, I want to make sure it is clear, they decided they are no longer continuing as the fixed-base operator," Hillard said.

He noted that an inspection of the airport by the city revealed that the company's equipment and presence was "substantially gone," though he acknowledged that the company's employees were still at the airport in some capacity.

AV Services spokesperson Vickie Heckman disagreed with that characterization.

"That's not true," she said. "I'm here; I've been here every day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m."

Heckman explained that although the company was closed, the company's two workers, she and owner Jason Blair, were still at the airport providing the same services.

"We have not left the premises," she said. "We have not walked away from any responsibilities."

She noted that the company's planes had been confiscated by its bank when it seized the assets of AV Services and its flight school Sept. 10.

AV Services has been in the process of repaying approximately $134,000 in back taxes and fees to the IRS.

It has been able to pay off approximately $100,000 of the debt, according to Heckman.

Neither Heckman nor Blair have been paid while the company is seeking to pay back its debts.

In a letter, Blair informed the city it will not be able to fulfill the city's desires for services provided at the airport due to a lack of financial resources.

"At this time, AV Services and Jason Blair are unable to commit to redevelopment of the FBO services at the airport," the letter reads. "The committed financier to do this intended activity has not proven to be able to provide funds to date, and no current commitment of timing to do so have been provided."

The letter does not mention a discontinuation of current services, though Blair said he would be willing to help facilitate a transition.

The city council authorized Hillard to seek a new one-year contract with a fixed-base operator for the airport at its Dec. 12 meeting.

The decision followed the laying-off of the mechanic at the airport, something AV Services has said is not irregular during the winter. An on-call mechanic was made available as needed.

The full-time mechanic was the last of three primary services at the airport to close.

The city is currently forming a plan to purchase fuel pumps to supply fuel; it already owns the fuel-storage tanks at the airport.

Hillard said he is in contact with three potential operators; the city is seeking a one-year contract to provide services at the airport while it seeks a long-term solution.

In other business, the council approved two ordinances and two municipal policy changes, which, among other things, remove bans on firearms in city parks and cemeteries.

The ban had been at odds with the state's concealed weapons law.

Editor's note: As it appeared in print in the Jan. 12 issue, the above story contained two errors--corrected above--relating to when the flight school was foreclosed and why. The Allegan County News regrets the errors.


Baxter County Airport (KBPK) FBO closes. Mountain Home, Arkansas.

Mountain Home Flight Service at Baxter County Airport closed Jan. 5, adding a new twist to the threat of a civil rights complaint against Baxter County from Lori Benedict, owner of Mountain Home Flight Service and fueling center.

Benedict, who also is the state representative to Arkansas District 82, said Friday she closed the business due in part to a 70 percent decline in fuel sales. The decline, Benedict says, was hastened during the past two years by a lease agreement between the county and a competitive fuel seller for a large part of the county-owned main terminal building at the airport.

"I believe my competition pays $400 a month rent for the terminal building," Benedict said. "I pay more just in property taxes on Mountain Home Flight Service."

Benedict says she or no other prospective renter had a chance for a retail presence in the county-owned terminal building because it was let privately.

"The Federal Aviation Administration calls it 'economic discrimination'," Benedict said.

The Baxter County Airport Commission's Finance Committee discussed the closure of Mountain Home Flight Service during a meeting Wednesday in preparation for a meeting of the commission at 11 a.m. Monday at the airport terminal building.

Airport manager Kathy Frederick told the committee that three Mountain Home Flight Service tenants displaced by the closure have all found other hangars at the airport so there's no net loss in the number of aircraft owners served by the airport.

Benedict said she will abide by provisions of her lease agreement with the airport commission and make lease payments to the airport in lieu of fuel tax collections for the land her buildings sit on. She also said she plans to sub-lease a portion of the leased tract.

The committee also discussed and agreed to move forward cautiously with the greater commission in response to a proposal to reduce monthly lease payments for the airport's sole aircraft maintenance provider.

Les Ives, owner of Ozark Airworks LLC., has asked the commission to reduce the company's lease payments to the airport from $2,000 to $1,500 because of a recession-related slowdown in his business.

Committeeman Rob Finley, the commission's vice chairman, told his peers on the committee that granting the request would not be a good business practice if not for Ozark Airworks' status as an essential service.

The lease payments for the hangar where Ozark Airworks does business are also pledged for debt service on a bank loan used to build the hangar.

The committee took no action following discussion of the Ozark Airworks' request, but agreed that any reduction in Ozark Airworks' lease payments should be justified by reduction the airport's debt service, generally, anticipated in a reorganization airport debt via the issue of public revenue bonds.

A 15-year revenue bond issue is expected to raise $550,000 for the airport at an anticipated interest rate of 3.5 percent to retire existing debt. The new quarterly debt service obligation on the new bonds is expected to be $7,167 less than the airport's current debt-service outlay.

In other business, the committee heard a statement from Commission Chairman Greg Mills regarding the upcoming expiration of his term on the commission and a suggestion from Mills that he may not seek reappointment to the commission.

The committee voted informally to reject any request from Mills to be relieved of service. Bonnie Brown, the commission's secretary/treasurer, said the commission needs Mills' many years of service and knowledge of airport issues, are essential to the commission's work.

Gone — Ken Terry and his “Midnight Special”

By Joseph May

My original intention was to write a post comparing the two of Beechcraft’s Mentor models — the T-34B and the T-34C, a piston and a turboprop. In reality the post was a ploy to publish images of an impressive yellow Mentor and a striking navy blue with shark’s teeth Mentor.

While drafting the post I received the latest newsletter of the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, UnScramble. Ironically, it brought word of the sudden passing of Ken Terry. He, as well as Mike Fuller of Port Orange FL, died as a result of the crash of his T-34B Mentor called “Midnight Special” upon departure from Wings Field, near Williston FL on 5 November 2011. Mike Fuller was in the front seat and Ken Terry was in the back seat. Terry was quite accomplished as an aviator (60,000 hours experience), service man and family man. I also know he was well liked by those in the museum.

Read more and photos:

Kestrel Aircraft CEO Speaks on Potential Aircraft Facility (With Video)

The potential for hundreds of local jobs hangs in the balance for the City of Superior. Will Kestrel Aircraft build it's new manufacturing plant in Superior or in Brunswick, Maine?

Kestrel Aircraft Chairman and CEO Alan Klapmeier gave Eyewitness News unprecedented access to Kestrel Aircraft's Design and Engineering offices in Duluth, as well as to the much talked about Kestrel airplane itself.

Klapmeier's passion for this airplane is evident and he said wants a decision on where the new facility will go more than anyone; should they locate in Superior or Maine?

"I was on the phone this morning with people in Maine who were telling me that it had been reported we had made a decision, and they were calling to find out if it was accurate," Klapmeier said. "No! We're either close, or more accurately, behind in both places."

Klapmeier said both communities know his company's stated goals, and in some ways, are facing a race to win. Whoever meets the goals first would get the plant and 600 potential jobs in their respective city.

"We've said, this is what it is, this is the hurdle. Show us you can get over the hurdle, whoever gets over the hurdle first wins. Both would be great locations to do this," Klapmeier said.

While that may be true, Klapmeier complimented Superior leaders for virtually creating this economic opportunity for themselves.

"The Superior people came over and basically said, 'Why not, Superior?', and I said because everything is working in Maine and Maine is going to be wonderful.'"

But Klapmeier called Superior city leaders impressively diligent in pressing forward for ways to contribute.

In the meantime, the decision also remains is in the hands of local, state and federal government entities. As the details are ironed out, Klapmeier had this to say to Northland residents in waiting: "I think the two things they need to know is, first, that no decision has been made yet. And while we are very happy with where things are going... if it happens we expect to do things that are great for the economy."

Klapmeier said he hopes the first Kestrel plane will come off the line in 2014. If Superior is chosen, he said the first 250 manufacturing jobs would be located at property on Winter Street, .with an additional 350 jobs at an Aircraft Assembly Facility on the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

The Douglas County Board meets on January 19 to discuss a potential land transfer of 13.3 acres to Kestrel to help make the deal a real possibility.

Original Article and Video:

Georgia: New film details Athens brothers' aerial circus

Wayne Ford/Staff 
Film producer Matt DeGennaro examines some of the film clips on a computer, while Grady Thrasher III, observes.

The photographs, 8mm film, yellowed newspaper clippings and other dusty memorabilia from the high-flying daredevil days of 1945-50 lay stored away for decades in dark closets.

But in coming days, those images will have new life when “The World’s Smallest Airport,” a documentary film about The Thrasher Brothers Aerial Circus, will be shown at the CinĂ© Bar Cafe and Cinema in Athens. The shows are a benefit for the Athens Film Arts Institute.

Showings are set for 5:15 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and a showing at 7:30 p.m. Monday with a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers. A special by-invitation showing is set for Jan. 21 in Elberton, where the Thrasher brothers based their business.

Retired lawyer Grady Thrasher III, who calls Athens and Watkinsville home, hired writer Matt DeGennaro to produce the film.

The Aerial Circus was owned by Thrasher’s father, Grady Thrasher Jr., and his brothers, Richard, known as “Bud,” and Tunis Thrasher, all deceased. The men performed aerial stunts, including one in which Bud Thrasher stood on top of the plane as it coursed the skies. But their most popular stunt was landing a plane atop a moving car.

The idea for a movie came while Thrasher was compiling the memorabilia for a DVD to give relatives at a family reunion.

“My father had accumulated all this stuff we used,” Thrasher said. “What I intended to do was preserve these old films — the 8mm was deteriorating — and somebody said it could be a documentary.”

“The coolest thing about this is we have Grady’s father telling the story,” said DeGennaro, a native of Connecticut, who has lived in Watkinsville the past eight years. Finding an old video of Thrasher’s father giving a presentation about the business in 1989 bolstered the film’s impact, according to DeGennaro.

The Aerial Circus was born after World War II when Thrasher purchased some surplus planes — Piper Cubs, a Stearman biplane and two Ercoupes — from the U.S. Army for $200 to $500 each and a new 1946 Ford car.

“They planned to teach people how to fly and give rides, but couldn’t generate much business,” said Grady Thrasher, who was only 4 years old at the time. “My dad really thought that personal aviation was going to be the transportation preference of the future with small airplanes, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.”

The Thrashers would fly over Athens dropping advertising leaflets for the business and the local airport authority thought they shouldn’t be doing that, Thrasher said. Nor were they keen on stunt fliers at the airport.

So the brothers moved their business to Elberton’s airport, which at the time consisted of a pasture and one hangar. From there, the circus went on the road from New York to Texas to Miami.

They performed 384 times over a five-year period closing the show in 1950 in Charleston, S.C.

“He couldn’t buy insurance or get a bank loan,” Thrasher said as lenders were wary of men participating in such a risky death-defying business. So the brothers “sold everything and pursued other careers,” Thrasher said.

Among the most celebrated stunt was the landings and takeoffs on a wooden platform on top of a moving car.

The driver of the car would slow down when he felt the wheels touch the platform and the pilot would cut the engine of the plane, Thrasher said.

“They had to do this without having access to communication between each other and they had to do it fast because they only had about 2,000 feet (of runway) to do it,” he said.

The elder Thrasher also took two Ercoupe planes and bolted them together to make one plane — piloted from one cockpit. No one else had done this, but the plane flew. And Thrasher said he knows of no one else, other than his father, who has tried this feat.

When the business ended, the elder Thrasher remained in the aircraft field working on an army base at Dothan, Ala., where he maintained and flew helicopters.

“He was a daredevil,” DeGennaro said about the man. “But he was very matter-of-fact about all of this.”

Original Article and Photos: