Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moffitt Considering Expansion Near Tampa International Airport

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute appears to be considering an expansion onto a tract of land owned by Tampa International Airport.

Moffitt is experiencing rapid growth both at its main campus near the University of South Florida and the satellite facility at International Plaza, said Moffitt spokeswoman Michelle Foley.

"The cancer center must continue to evaluate expansion in order to meet the needs of our patients, doctors and researchers," she said. "We are currently looking into opportunities to help us meet those needs."

Moffitt officials would not comment Friday on what type of facility might go on the land or what services would be provided there.

The airport is currently evaluating its real estate holdings to determine what is necessary for aviation and what can be considered "surplus," said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink.

Those evaluations will not be completed until the end of this year.

Potential uses for any surplus land will require a detailed analysis by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration, she said.

Obituary: William R. "Bob" Martin

William R. “Bob” Martin, 81, of Amarillo died Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012.

Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. Monday in Saint Stephen United Methodist Church with Dr. Stan Cosby and the Rev. Ken Cole officiating. Arrangements are by Cox Funeral Home, 4180 Canyon Drive.

An avid aviator, Bob made his final flight, from earth to heaven to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ forever. He was born Nov. 17, 1930, in Hillsboro to William and Pauline Martin. He graduated from Texas A&M University and is probably at this moment singing the “Aggie War Hymn” with the angels.

Bob was a certified public accountant and a partner in several local accounting firms. For his avocation, Bob flew anything with wings, from homebuilt airplanes to gliders to ultralights to radio control models. He performed air show routines in his antique Piper J3 Cub. Bob was a past president of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 267 and the Amarillo Radio Kontrol Society. He taught numerous people how to fly and used his model airplanes as a guest instructor to teach aeronautical science to school students.

Survivors include his wife, Marcia; a son, David and wife Holly of Carrollton; a daughter, Cindy Myers and husband Randy of Lewisville; a daughter, Lisa Rosales and husband Francisco of San Francisco; and three grandchildren Robert Myers, Sarah Myers and Brooks Martin.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be to BSA Hospice, 600 N. Tyler St., Amarillo, TX 79107 or Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 2201 Civic Circle, Amarillo, TX 79109.

Amarillo Globe-News, Feb. 26, 2012

COMMENTARY: Leesburg shouldn't renew wasteful consulting contract

By Lauren Ritchie

Oh, Leesburg, Leesburg. When will you ever learn? When will you eeeevvvver learn?

If I had a guitar, I'd sing the ballad and strum along. Be grateful that I don't.

The city that spends money as if it came from a Monopoly game is at it again. It's no biggie this time, just another $20,000 or so that could go to run a kids' sports league, for example, instead of funding an ego-driven, expensive chimera that never will come to pass.

In September, city commissioners were asked to pay $8,000 a month for 12 months — $96,000 — for a consultant without qualifications to go out and sell the idea of the Florida Energy and Aerospace Technology Park.

They choked on that one. After all, they'd just laid out $100,500 for a sophomoric report by another of those "experts" who brought in nothing but hot air for what most experts agree is an idea with disastrous timing.

Instead, they compromised and decided to pay Jerry Bond, an architect from Tennessee, $3,000 a month for six months, for a total of $18,000. His pay was to rise immediately to $8,000 a month if one of the companies he was courting signed a contract to come to Leesburg. Big surprise: That didn't happen.

They did, however, lay out $19,936.49 — that includes expenses — to the Bond Organization, which consists of Jerry.

City Manager Jay Evans said last week that he'll be asking commissioners to renew Bond's contract, even though he now acknowledges that the two companies Bond was closest to signing — an engine manufacturer and a light-sport aircraft firm owned by the same people — likely aren't coming.

In addition, Bond has no experience and no documented success in doing what the city manager wants to rehire him for, which is creating business, marketing, finance and site plans for the city's proposed technology park and recruiting new business to the park.

A six-page report on Bond's work shows that he has been busy, delivering 150 "presentations," identifying 100 companies that would be a good fit for the proposed park, networking his head off, exploring "a potential opportunity" to establish an incubator for companies that work with algae (translation: spend more city money), developing a "master plan" for the park, writing a business plan, trying to sniff out grants for the project, drawing impressive pictures and dreaming about what types of companies could go in existing buildings.

"I am beginning to get inquiries from contacts that I did not initiate," Bond's report says. "This situation tells me that someone was talking about the Florida Energy and Aerospace Technology Park, someone else heard the story, and now they want to know more about the project from us."

What the report doesn't say is that Bond brought one solid proposal to Leesburg, and that was to take the gift of a wrecked airplane from another city with the idea that Leesburg would spend thousands to repair it so schoolchildren could be exposed to aviation.

Some commissioners aren't excited about his performance.

"There's nothing happening, and nothing is going to happen," Commissioner Bill Polk said. "I'm recommending we give him a going-away party."

Commissioner Lewis Puckett, who has been in aviation businesses for 50 years around Leesburg, said paying Bond any more would be "a gross waste of money right now."

They are right. Bond should not be rehired, and not just because he's unqualified and didn't produce anything tangible in six months.

It's because Leesburg, while pursuing the laudable goal of bringing jobs to the city — has made a serious miscalculation about what will bring jobs and gain the city renown.

Building expensive runways in an expensive park that caters to iffy startups in which the city would invest isn't the way to go with taxpayer money. Already, the city has $120,000 in this bad idea. Think of the ways that money could have been spent more wisely. They are legion.

Leesburg needs to take a deep breath and look around. The city has a thriving set of car dealers on U.S. Highway 441 around its airport. The city should focus on that area. What support businesses might work there? How can Leesburg help the ones that already exist so they will stay?

In addition, unoccupied buildings that don't involve the city paying for costly infrastructure already exist at the airport. Why not work to fill those? Economic-development efforts should be focused on making Leesburg the snazziest little general aviation airport in Central Florida, the destination of choice for the casual pilot to connect with other enthusiasts.

That would be a natural fit with the seaplane traffic that Tavares already has attracted.

These certainly aren't the only ideas that would work for Leesburg. They're simply obvious ones. Leesburg is making economic development far more expensive and complicated than it need be.

Commissioners on Monday should decline to rehire Bond and instead pursue more attainable goals.

By Lauren Ritchie  

Anne Arundel teacher learns to fly to help students soar: Chesapeake Sport Pilot at Bay Bridge Airport (W29), Stevensville, Maryland

Rob Rice trains to fly at Bay Bridge Airport so he can better teach his aeronautics class at South River High School. 
(Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

South River High School teacher Rob Rice could have taught his aeronautics class without ever leaving the ground. Instead, he's bolstering his teaching skills by soaring over the Bay Bridge in a two-seat propeller plane, learning to become a pilot.

Taking off and landing can be harrowing at times, but Rice says the experience he's bringing to the classroom is worth it, making his students eager to take flight themselves.

"Hopefully they can get as excited as I am about it," said Rice, "and maybe a little bit jealous, because they're doing all the bookwork and I'm doing all the flying. I try to relate my most recent lessons to what I'm teaching in class."

Rice, 24, has taken more than a dozen classes at Chesapeake Sport Pilot flight school in Stevensville en route to earning his pilot's license and learning to become an FAA ground instructor. A Maryland education official said Rice is the only one the state is aware of doing this type of professional development.

Rice's yearlong aeronautics course at South River prepares students for their FAA ground school exam and readies them for flight lessons, he said. About 18 students are in the class this year.

Rice keeps them informed of his experiences with a blog that also provides information to bolster their classroom study. Rice said he draws from his flight school experiences to teach lessons about airplane performance, engines and maneuvers.

"I'm currently teaching them about radio communication, and I have to do that every single time I go into the air," said Rice. "It's easier now to teach them concepts about flying a plane."

Rice's students are avid readers of his blog.

"He's a role model for future pilots," said South River 10th-grader Nick Platek, one of Rice's students who delights in hearing about the course his teacher is taking. "He's someone you can look up to and say, 'Hey I want to be like him, flying with all the knowledge.'"

The course is part of Anne Arundel County public schools' efforts to offer teachers professional development opportunities beyond traditional settings.

"This professional development experience is so rich that you can't compare it to two hours in the classroom," said Maureen McMahon, the school system's assistant superintendent for advanced studies and programs.

South River and North County High School house Anne Arundel's STEM Magnet programs, which Rice's class is part of. They offer project-based, hands-on learning environments in science, technology, engineering and math classes. STEM courses and programs expose students to science and technology-based careers, an area of emphasis throughout the state and nation.

McMahon said Rice's flight school lessons were funded as part of a $1.5 million NASA Earth and Space grant. She said the school system shares the three-year grant with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

Katharine Oliver, state assistant superintendent for career and college readiness, says the South River STEM Magnet's collaboration with a flight school is the only one she knows of in the state.

"We are very anxious to see how we can link our high school programs, particularly in that pre-engineering area, because it's a nice fit," she said. "Our pre-engineering programs have an opportunity for an aeronautical specialty."

Rice said he still is nervous when he flies, but "it's getting easier."

"The first time we went up, because of the class I'm teaching, I knew a lot of the basics," he said. "When it was time to actually fly, the flight instructor was giving me a little bit of leeway, saying, 'Go ahead, you can taxi out.'

"And the minute we took off, you felt lighter. It was just exciting, here we were above the Bay Bridge, and I couldn't believe it," Rice added.

McMahon said school officials sought to take advantage of the many small airports nearby in crafting South River's aerospace engineering program. "The whole notion is that STEM has to come to life for these students or it just becomes something that remains academic," she said. "We want to tell these kids that are so many opportunities out there."

Rice's Chesapeake Sport Pilot course consists of a ground school component that, like his STEM class, involves textbook instruction. Then there are a series of lessons that build toward flying a plane solo. The instruction's final exam is administered by an FAA-designated examiner.

"This part of aviation is not about producing airline pilots," said Chesapeake Sport Pilot chief flight instructor Helen Woods. "This side of aviation is all about recreation and enjoyment."

On a recent afternoon, Rice took off in a Sky Arrow 600 Sport two-seater propeller plane with Woods, soaring in a rectangular pattern a little more than 1,000 feet over the airport and Chesapeake Bay. As traffic steadily gridlocked on the Bay Bridge, Rice practically had the skies to himself, save a few migrant birds gliding in their own flight patterns adjacent to the runway.

Lately, Rice has been working on smoother landings so he can ultimately fly solo. During his recent class, he touched down nearly half a dozen times while on several occasions conducting a go-around, or aborting a landing.

His first-ever landing, he said, was "traumatizing realizing that we have to get this back on the ground. The nose is pointing and everything. There are so many things going on. You're checking your airspeed, your altitude. Are the flaps down? Are we parallel with the runway? It can get very frustrating."

Yet Woods says that Rice is an excellent learner, adding that among the keys to successfully landing an aircraft is knowing when to conduct a go-around.

"He does his homework and studies," Woods said of Rice. "He has a lot of aptitude as well as a lot of interest, enthusiasm and motivation."

Since spending time in the cockpit, Rice said he now insists on booking seats on commercial flights near the wings "so I can watch the flaps go down. When my students tell me that they're going on a commercial flight I tell them, 'Make sure you sit by the wings so you can get a snapshot and tell me what the captain is telling you.' They get excited about being on a commercial flight now more than they were before."

South River 10th-grader John Garrison said that he's taking the STEM aeronautics class with hopes of someday gaining his pilot's license and joining the Air Force. He said that Rice's experiences have become an invaluable part of the class.

"When he told us, it sounded very exciting that our own teacher was going to be a pilot," said Garrison. "He's a role model for future pilots."

Teen's love for aviation lives on 2 years after his death

Patrick Marzitelli
Photo Courtesy: Facebook

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. -- Carly Rylander is one of 20 kids at White Bear Lake Area High School enrolled in the school's first aviation and aerospace class.

She was always interested in weather but the class now has her thinking even deeper than that.

"I'd like to get my pilots license hopefully get my license this summer," she said. 

Patrick Marzitelli, a former White Bear Lake student, also wanted to get his pilot's license. He was just months away from finishing his pilot training when his life ended in an ugly accident. The 17-year-old student died almost two years ago after he fell into a fuel tank at the Anoka County Airport.

He left behind broken hearts and broken dreams. But his family was determined to keep his love of aviation alive. Last year they started the Patrick Marzitelli Scholarship Fund. The fund pays for the class that helps kids like Carly fulfill their dreams. 

Prior to Patrick's death he and his father, John Marzitelli, talked about approaching the school to start a similar course.

"I was hoping to do it with Patrick...but I'm just carrying on with myself now," John Marzitelli said.

For many of the students the class is their first experience with aviation. It's also become a big deciding factor on where they will go and what they will do after high school.

"I've always wanted to be a pilot but this class kind of confirmed that it's something that I'm willing to do," Alex Vang, another student, said. 

There are plans to open the class to students from outside the district next year. 

"I think we've got something going here and we can only take off from here," Peter Pitman, a former pilot who leads the class, said. 

For Patrick's dad watching other kids live out their dreams is bittersweet.

"It could have gone two routes. We could have buried our head in the sand or we could have tried to do something positive out of negative so that's what we're concentrating on," he said. 

It cost the school roughly $6,000 to offer the class, according to John Marzitelli.

A new flight simulator, which is being installed soon, will cost another $6,000. 

To learn more about the fund or to donate go here:

New flight simulator unveiled at the Waukesha County Airport (KUES), Wisconsin

WAUKESHA COUNTY – There’s a way to soar to new heights in our area. People in Waukesha County get the chance to check out a new flight simulator.

Spring City Aviation unveiled its new flight simulator on Saturday.

Egon Grothe has been flying for more than fifty years and wanted to check it out for himself.  Grothe says, “I like the vision like you could see all around, and I like the capabilities of it.”

The simulator has computer monitors that set the scene as if you were actually flying out of various cities.  Aviation enthusiast, Timothy Prudlow, says, “It’s an awesome, full motion platform.  It gives you forty degrees of roll , 50 degrees of pitch, 60 degrees of yaw.  So it’s a realistic experience, which you can’t get that sitting at a desk.  You can train in a basic single engine plane to a faster plane.”

Officials say the simulator can be used as a cost-efficient teaching tool for students learning how to fly.

Museum of Flying reopens at Santa Monica Airport, California

About two dozen flying machines, along with exhibits on the Southland's aviation and aerospace industry, are featured in the third iteration of the museum, founded in 1974.

By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times

After a nearly decade-long hiatus, the Museum of Flying has once again spread its wings at Santa Monica Airport.

Under blue skies, a new 22,000-square-foot facility opened its doors Saturday to hundreds of aviation enthusiasts who stood in line for a chance to check out about two dozen flying machines on display.

Guests ranged from babies in backpacks to retired aviation and aerospace workers such as Richard Schneidmiller, 82, who analyzed failed aircraft parts at the airport for two years after World War II.

Griffin Gamble, 10, of Brentwood was among the first to man the controls of a Boeing 727, donated by FedEx, that juts straight out of the museum's corrugated metal wall on Airport Avenue.

"It's really cool, with so many buttons," said Griffin, who wore a NASA T-shirt from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, where he witnessed the final launch of the Discovery space shuttle a year ago.

The planes on display ran the gamut, from replicas of a Wright Flyer and a Lockheed Vega (the type of plane flown by Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post) to a single-seat microjet featured in the opening scenes of the James Bond movie "Octopussy."

On its ground floor and mezzanine, the museum features artwork and displays about Douglas Aircraft Co., founded by aviation pioneer Donald W. Douglas, and other Southland companies that helped propel the region's once-robust aviation and aerospace industry.

Out front stood the DC-3 that for years was Douglas' personal plane. It was the last one built, said museum Chairman David Price, and its passengers included President Eisenhower, actor William Holden and crooner Bing Crosby.

Santa Monica Airport was established in 1917. After the city of Santa Monica acquired the property in 1926, it became the home of Douglas Aircraft, which at its peak had 44,000 employees. The site was the birthplace of the Douglas World Cruiser, the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe.

In the early 1930s, the airport saw the first flights of the famed DC-3 planes that introduced average Americans to commercial air travel. During World War II, the facility played a key role in the production of military aircraft.

"Few people remember how it all started," said Robert Trimborn, Santa Monica Airport's director. "This museum will help ground people back to the roots of this incredible industry."

The museum mezzanine features a 30-seat theater, a replica of the Douglas Aircraft executive boardroom and Donald Douglas' desk and drafting table.

This is the museum's third iteration. It originally was founded in 1974 at the airport's southern end and then reopened on the north side in 1989 with a collection of more than four dozen vintage planes. Facing economic pressures and a decline in visitors, the museum closed in July 2002 and stored or donated its aircraft.

Through donations, the museum has raised about $2.5 million of the $5 million needed to pay for construction and to establish an endowment. Museum officials plan to meet in April with their counterparts at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, which has offered to lend artifacts for display.

The museum also plans soon to launch the California Aviation Hall of Fame, which is expected to have about two dozen inaugural inductees, including Douglas, Howard Hughes, John Knudsen "Jack" Northrop, John Leland "Lee" Atwood and T. Claude Ryan.

"We want to be a place that recognizes those achievements," said Daniel J. Ryan, the museum's managing director.

For Schneidmiller's wife, Dorothy Bellina, 83, of Venice, the opening felt like having an old friend back. She is part of a group of 15 former museum volunteers who have become friends. They call themselves the "grounded eagles."

The museum, a nonprofit organization, is at 3100 Airport Ave. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and $6 for children ages 6 to 12. In April, the museum expects to begin taking reservations for school tours. For information, visit the museum website.

Mexican Airline to Return to the Skies Under New Ownership

MEXICO CITY – Mexican airline Mexicana de Aviacion, grounded since August 2010 while in bankruptcy proceedings, is set to return to the skies under new ownership.

Early this month, private company Med Atlantica deposited $300 million and showed proof of its ability to recapitalize the airline, which could resume operations in April, officials said.

“The new owners have decided to invest another $300 million in hotel projects and $50 (million) more for contingencies, which amounts to $650 million,” SNTTASS transportation workers union chief Miguel Angel Yudico said on Friday.

The union leader said Mexicana, once one of Mexico’s two leading airlines, will start flying again with a staff of just 2,500 employees and therefore will begin negotiating severance packages with its remaining 5,500 employees in the coming days.

“The next step will be to sign an agreement with its creditors and for this country’s aviation authorities to provide Mexicana de Aviacion with authorization to fly, which is expected to happen in the next few weeks,” Yudico said.

“The important thing is it’s a done deal that Mexicana de Aviacion will return to the skies after a year and six months of anguish and despair for thousands of workers and their families,” he said.

The Mexicana group of airlines, which also includes sister budget carriers Click and Link, grounded its operations in August 2010 after nearly nine decades in business and filed for bankruptcy protection to restructure a debt load of more than $800 million.

Bankruptcy Judge Felipe Consuelo Soto said in a press conference Friday that Med Atlantica beat out more than a dozen other potential suitors by providing documentation to certify the existence and availability of the funds needed to recapitalize the airline.

Med Atlantica is led by Spanish businessman Christian Cadenas, although 80 percent of the group’s capital comes from Mexican investors.

Soto said the airline could begin flying again in April with a fleet of seven planes.

For his part, the head of the Communications and Transportation Secretariat, Dionisio Perez Jacome, said in a radio interview that Mexicana will receive its new air operator’s license “once Med Atlantica signs the restructuring agreement with Mexicana’s creditors.”

The airline said that once the bankruptcy proceedings are finalized it will look to recover slots for domestic and international flights that had been temporarily awarded to other carriers.

Apalachicola Regional (KAAF), Florida: Fly High new airport operator

Mari-Elena Baldwin and Karel Van Der Linden, owners of Fly High, answered questions at Tuesday's county commission meeting.

A new fuel vendor is scheduled to take over as fixed base operator at Apalachicola Regional Airport on May 1, but the length of the contract remains up in the air.

On Tuesday morning, the county commission voted 3-1 to award the contract to Fly High of Lexington, NC. Commissioner Noah Lockley voted no and Bevin Putnal was absent. The commission directed Shuler to enter into negotiations with Fly High.

The airport advisory board approved recommending Fly High after reviewing four bids at their meeting last month, one of which was from Apalachicola International Airport Training Center (AIATC), the current fixed base operation (FBO).

AITC has since taken steps to dispute the advisory board’s recommendation. County Attorney Michael Shuler said AIATC attorney Joe Silva sent a letter “demanding that the county engage in good faith negotiations to extend the lease by an additional 10-year period.”

Shuler told commissioners he did not believe AIATC had a right to extend the lease under the current contract without the commission’s mutual approval. He said their lease, which commissioners extended by three months in February to allow an easy transition to any new FBO, is set to end May 1.

Commissioners expressed concern about granting a 20-year extended contract to Fly High. “One way to be sure you get jobs is to have a shorter term contract,” County Planner Alan Pierce.

He pointed out that a new FBO would take over an existing facility, so less money and time would be required to set up operations.

“What I really want to see is a number of jobs,” said Commissioner Noah Lockley. “I want to see a lot of jobs; you know so many jobs in a number of years.”

Commissioner Smokey Parrish said “they’re going to come in and train some locals to run it to their standards but they’re going to be in North Carolina. I don’t know how that’s going to work. You’re dealing with someone you really don’t know. On paper they look very good. I’m not comfortable looking at a long-term contract now.”

Ted Mosteller, chairman of the airport advisory board said representatives of Fly High were on hand to answer questions. Karel Van Der Linden and his wife, Mari-Elena Baldwin, owners of Fly High, took the podium and were prepared to answer questions fielded by the board.

Van Der Linden described their experience in the aviation industry. According to their proposal packet, he has 25 years experience in FBO management, fuel, hotels and casinos. He served as vice president finance officer and corporate controller for Mercury Air Centers from 2000 to 2009, managing 30 FBO locations including five maintenance facilities.

Baldwin has 22 years of travel and tourism industry experience. She is the owner of Island Spice, Inc., which represents Renaissance Aruba Resort, Renaissance Curacao Resort and Grand Cayman Beach Suites. She is also a member of the Travelocity advisory board.

“You can look at our records an see in one year what we achieved in North Carolina,” Van Der Linden told commissioners.

He said Fly High increased fuel sales at the Lexington Airport by 50 percent over the first year by using media to market the facility, including building a website for the airport and courting Facebook followers to engage potential customers. He said Fly High has relationships with fleets of commercial aircraft that use fuel cards to purchase fuel nationally.

He said Fly High has 11 employees in Lexington and hopes to eventually employ the same number here. The Apalachicola airport has the potential to sell as much fuel as Lexington because the airport is well appointed and the area a tourist destination, he said.

He stressed the need for excellent on-ground service to attract pilots. “I want to come here myself with one of the senior guys but everyone else we want to hire here,” Van Der Linden said.

Fly High began with five employees in Lexington and at the end of six months, employed 11; Van Der Linden expected to employ at least nine people here.

Line employees will earn $8 hourly, managers $12 hourly and mechanics $15 hourly, he said.

Baldwin said the company has a policy of hiring pilots, veterans and aviation students. She and her husband said they are committed to being hands-on managers and will spend substantial time in the county. Van Der Linden said Fly High has infrastructure that allows him to manage most problems from anywhere in the world.

“He answers his phone at night,” Baldwin said.

Van Der Linden said the FBO station will be open seven days a week, 12 hours a day, but that he would make special arrangements to serve emergency vehicles whenever needed.

Flying high . . . . .

BAHRAIN resident Vanessa Umba has made history after becoming the first female captain in the 62-year history of Gulf Air.

The 31-year-old Belgian took up the post late last year and has still not come down to earth.

"I always wanted to become a pilot and the minute I started my career I wanted to be a captain," she told the GDN.

"The only difference between being a first officer and captain is you are like the manager of the team.

"When everyone turns his head to you and asks 'what should we do?', it makes the job more interesting and it's very challenging."

Captain Umba began her Air Transport Pilot Training at Sabena Flight Academy in Belgium in 1998.

After graduating she worked on the ground for two years and in 2003 she began flying for Brussels Airlines as first officer on BA146.

In 2006, she joined Gulf Air as first officer on A330/340 and now flies A320s.

She flies mostly in the Gulf, but has also reached India, Milan, Rome and destinations in North Africa.

"I'm the only female captain at the moment, but there are eight other girls who are first officers, so it's growing," said Captain Umba, who is a member of the Arabian Section of the 99s International Women Pilots Organisation.

"But it's still male dominated and the Middle East is not really open to women having decision making jobs.

"In the beginning they would look and say 'she's a woman', but then they realise that she can do the same as a man, so it becomes normal."

Captain Umba first made history in Gulf Air in 2007 by being the first female pilot to become pregnant and as a result prompting the airline to create an employee policy specifically for female pilots.

"The administration for Gulf Air didn't have a policy for female pilots, so when I said in 2007, 'I'm pregnant', they had to write one," she explained.

Captain Umba now has two daughters Oceane, four, and Laura, two, and is taking a Master's in Air Transport Management with City University, London.

She says her achievements were made possible thanks to the support of her family and French husband Benoit Moreau, who is a Bahrain-based wood trader for Swiss company Interholco.

"The Middle East makes it much easier to do this because you have help with the cleaning and nannies who support the family because sometimes I'm not there at night or in the day," she said.

"But when I'm there, I'm there 100 per cent with them, so it works out good for the family.

"I hope I can inspire other women and especially those in the Middle East who are shy or not encouraged to have this type of career."

Conservation groups blast Idahos decision to kill wolves from helicopter

Conservation groups are blasting Idaho's decision to kill wolves along the Idaho-Montana border from the air, saying the move is "misguided" and not backed up with scientific evidence.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game caused a flurry of response from wolf advocated Thursday when it announced it helped fund USDA Wildlife Service's successful efforts to kill 14 wolves from a helicopter in the Lolo Zone of the Clearwater National Forest.

The state says in the Lolo zone, hunters had killed 11 wolves this year, with another 11 caught by trappers and half-a-dozen killed through "control efforts" last spring. Along with the 14 wolves shot from the air earlier this month that brings the total wolves removed to 42.

In September 2010 Idaho Fish and Game set a target of 40 to 50 wolves to be removed to help maintain healthy elk populations on the Idaho side of the border. Biologists say the wolves are the "primary cause of death" for cow elk and calves under six months old.

Deputy Director Jim Unsworth says the state would "like to see one of Idaho's premier elk populations recover as much as possible." But Defenders of Wildlife is blasting the move, and previous occasions where it says the state has killed wolves through aerial gunning.

"It's wrong to ask American taxpayers to subsidize the pointless killing of wolves in order to boost game populations. The removal of wolves in the Clearwater National Forest runs counter to science-based wildlife management and is an inappropriate use of limited resources that should be aimed at conserving wildlife," said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for the Defenders.

"Hunters and trappers have already killed more than 20 wolves in the area in the last six months, and the season continues until the end of March. There's no scientific evidence that the ecosystem is out of balance due to the return of wolves and thus no justification for having Wildlife Services kill more wolves to boost elk numbers."

Defenders of Wildlife worries the state will try a similar approach elsewhere in Idaho.

Employment Opportunity: Flight Instructor - Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation

As the largest independently held regional airline in the United States, Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation performs flying services for US Airways, and ground handling services for United Airlines.

Flying 71 CRJ-200 regional jets as US Airways Express, AWAC brings passengers from their hometowns large and small to hubs that provide them with a gateway to countless travel destinations. Additionally, AWAC is a ground handler for United Airlines in United's Washington Dulles International hub and numerous cities throughout the country.

Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation's team is made up of around 2,700 members dedicated to making our travelers’ experiences safe and pleasant. With service to approximately 70 cities throughout North America, we carry an estimated 6 million passengers a year.

Why are planespotters in deep trouble?

They wait for hours near an airport and then, suddenly, they are propelled by the scruff of their collar. Some are slapped, others beaten. Some are branded terrorists, others hauled to the police station. And all because they love taking photos of airplanes. 

Welcome to the world of planespotting - an innocent pursuit whose followers are now being forced to do it surreptitiously, thanks to the ignorance and short-sightedness of authorities.

For many of them, capturing a majestic A-380, a dreamy B787 or a noisy IL-76 on film is as heady as flying. Mumbai-based financial analyst Vishal Jolapara says, "Planespotting is an enthralling obsession world over. But what few realize is that not only are we capturing aviation history, but we can often also be the eyes and ears of the police and the airport community."

A case in point: On February 15, 2010, two British planespotters were detained from a hotel near IGI airport, Delhi. The police claimed they were tracking flights. The duo insisted they hadn't done anything illegal. They were released, of course, but the incident just proved how risky, especially in these days of high and incessant security alerts, planespotting can be.

Rutvij Talavdekar, a 23-year-old who lives in Mumbai, remembers being questioned inside a police jeep in 2010 while he was shooting. "The police tried to confiscate my camera and it was only when I began speaking in Marathi that they let me go." Jolapara asks, "Why would a potential wrong-doer venture into the open with a big, expensive camera when a tiny digi-cam can serve the purpose? If the authorities are so touchy, why not ban Google Earth?"

Abroad, though, the scene is slightly different. While Manchester airport has created artificial mounds for spotters to have a good view of planes, Sydney airport launched a planespotters' website on January 11 where photos of aircraft and information on vantage points can be shared. The Australian Federal Police promised to reward them with free airside bus tours and simulator flights if they informed them of suspicious activities around the airport. In the UK, the Bedfordshire police gives planespotters ID cards and car disks which have to be displayed on the dashboard to help security forces identify unattended vehicles.

Arpit Agarwal, 24, a business analyst from Chandigarh recounts: "In 2010, when I was taking photos outside Manchester airport, the police questioned me. But when I told them that I was a planespotter, they let me continue."

It's only the Bangalore airport that has an official planespotting group of around 400 members. All permissions from regulatory and security agencies for photography are obtained by the airport. A special platform has been built for spotters and I-cards issued. "Our thinking has always been that the airport belongs to the city and its citizens should feel a sense of ownership," says an airport spokesperson.

As for other airports, they're a tangle of bureaucracy. A spokesperson at the Mumbai airport says planespotters should get prior approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to shoot pictures on the air side. E K Bharat Bhushan, D-G of DGCA, however, says no planespotter has approached him for permissions. "The community can get in touch with us and we'll take it forward. But security is the first priority."

That'd make people like Anand, who was willing only to give his first name, happy. Two years back, as he was photographing near Delhi airport, the police caught him. "I was thrashed and treated like a criminal. My parents were called and I was sternly told to lay off this activity. I haven't done planespotting since." But he can still identify a plane just by its sound. "A Russian IL-76 with its four engines in full throttle is a roar that tingles my senses," he says, excited like a kid. It seems a shame to douse such passion.

Fruitless, costly search by several police departments, military: Mystery plane confirmed over Lake of Two Mountains

MONTREAL - There was in fact a plane flying very low over the Lake of Two Mountains Thursday night, despite a costly, all-out search for the aircraft that turned up empty, police said Friday.

"Canadian Forces Base Trenton (in Trenton, Ont.) confirmed to us that they did locate a small low-flying plane flying over the lake" about 6 p.m., Lake of Two Mountain police Constable Christopher Harding said. The base has air traffic control equipment.

Because there are fewer restrictions on small planes the aircraft must have landed without any record, so police do not know more about the plane or its pilot.

Search teams from three police departments, an ambulance and a helicopter from the Canadian Forces were dispatched to the area near Pointe Calumet, west of Montreal, after two calls from residents. One resident said he saw a low-flying plane over the lake, Harding said. Another resident saw a "ball of fire" approaching the lake. Police never located the second caller, he added.

It's hard to say how much the search cost, Harding added. But once triggered the search had to be concluded, he said. They conducted a thorough search of the area and found no trace of the plane. Police also called local airports and there was no report of a missing plane.

"It's safe to say that if we do find the pilot we will have a few questions for that person," Harding said. Small planes can fly low but "probably not so low as to make people on the ground think that they are in trouble" and about to crash.

Flights diverted as stranded cargo plane blocks runway

CHENNAI: Several take-offs from Chennai airport were delayed for nearly an hour and four incoming flights were diverted after a cargo aircraft got stuck on the main runway on Friday.

The cargo flight was being towed from the cargo terminal to a remote parking bay at the airport when the tow vehicle developed a snag. The incident happened at 11pm, when a large number of domestic flights were coming in to land at the airport.

The giant Russian-made IL76 transport aircraft belonging to a cargo airline almost crossed the main runway when a tow bar used by the towing vehicle snapped. The plane got stranded at the point where the main runway intersects the secondary runway near the cargo terminal. Flights were not able to use the full length of the runway because the cargo aircraft stood too close to the main runway.

Sources said about 1,000 feet of the 12,000-foot runway could not be used. "We allowed smaller aircraft like ATR, which requires just 4,000 feet of runway length, to land. But take-offs were suspended because the length of the runway was not adequate to ensure safety," said an airport official.

Airport director E P Hareendranathan said the plane had some heavy cargo and it was being moved to vacate the apron when the incident happened. "The airline brought its pilot and moved the plane away from the runway," he said. The incident sent airlines and airport officials into a spin since it coincided with the busiest slot, 9pm to 11.30pm. The airport has only one runway in use.

"The plane was allowed to be towed when there was no traffic. They were supposed to cross the runway in a few minutes, but did not.

Technicians were rushed to the spot to find out if the plane can be moved. As their efforts failed, apron staff relayed the information to the air traffic control officials who in turn informed incoming flights. Pilots were told that a portion of the main runway will be closed. Bigger planes were diverted to other airports, while smaller aircraft were allowed to land," said an official.

Opinion: Phoenix, Arizona residents simply need to look up at the sky

With regard to recent letters discussing "chemtrails" and contrails over Phoenix, residents simply need to look up at the sky (between Arizona 51 and I-17, from Northern Avenue to McDowell Road) on any given day to see a constant drone of non-commercial aircraft flying in circuitous patterns without destination.

These jets (several red, others white with blue underbellies), as well as numerous gliders, circle around and around at altitudes of 500 to 700 feet in repetitive patterns.

Meanwhile, higher-flying jets (white) crisscross the skies above the lower-flying aircraft, leaving massive stretches of "chemtrails" in long opposing, sweeping patterns, oftentimes intersecting. The result in many cases is shown as giant "X" in the sky.

Although contrails are formed at 16,500 feet, the jets that I have witnessed leaving "chemtrails" appear to be flying no higher than 1,500 feet.

What are these jets and gliders flying in non-FAA flight zones?

--Keith Wigman, Phoenix

Born to fly

Clockwise from top:

Sunset brings out the dramatic lines of the J-10 jet fighter's design. General Deng Changyou (right) greets returning pilot Cao Zhen. Pilots monitor flight simulation exercises on the training field. Having wowed the crowd, this pilot's day is done. This tandem performance is as graceful as a pas de deux. Yan Feng is back on the ground after a roll and a spin. On-ground flight simulation exercises on the training field help pilots prepare for flight.

Wang Jing and Shen Jinke follow the fabled August 1 Aerobatics Team of the People's Liberation Army Air Force with their cameras as the pilots get ready to strut their stuff.

In an airport in northern China, six pilots sit confidently in the sun, each in the cockpit of a gleaming J-10 jet fighter.

In a few minutes the fighter planes will take off in formation - three, then two, then one - in a demonstration of the planes' dexterity for the assembled press on the ground.

A few moments after the announcer's signal, the pilots are turning their flying steeds into a five-column formation.

Sitting inside the cockpit show model of the J-10, Yan Feng, an air-force flight instructor, waits for his turn to join the group in the sky. When the announcer's voice comes through the headset, Yan puts down his helmet visor and starts his engines.

A roar of flame comes out of the plane, and Yan heads down the runway. After about 300 meters, his plane is airborne, tucking in the landing gear as the pilot aims the nose of the plane up in a 70- degree angle toward the formation of five other planes.

One hundred meters above the ground, Yan does a series of tricks, including a roll and a spin, all despite the 8 G's of pressure he is feeling because of the speed of his plane. Suddenly the plane accelerates until it reaches 862 meters above ground. The audience is flabbergasted as Yan's plane rockets skyward and seamlessly joins the formation.

The new formation is beautiful, like a giant sapphire in the sky. It's just part of a performance by the August 1 Aerobatics Team of the PLA Air Force.

The 50-year-old squad has performed a total of 406 times for delegations from 147 countries and regions. All of the performances have been successful, including three appearances as part of the National Day parade and four in the Zhuhai International Air Show.

The team has been described by many as the country's "Honor Guard in the Sky" and the "image ambassador" of the Chinese Air Force.

I hit the ground at 50mph - and lived! Incredible survival of teenage skydiver

Greg Benson's fall from a plane

A teenage skydiver who survived after hitting the ground at more than 50mph has spoken for the first time about his accident.

Greg Benson plunged uncontrollably when he became tangled in his parachute last weekend – but, amazingly, he escaped with relatively minor injuries.

The 18-year-old student, who flew up in a Cessna 206 aircraft from Strathallan Airfield in Perthshire, was taking part in his fourth skydive.

He leapt out of the plane at 3,500ft but a mistake led to the lines of his parachute becoming wrapped around his leg so that it failed to open properly.

The error also meant his reserve chute did not open.

Greg, who is studying chemical engineering at Strathclyde University, landed in a field and was taken by air ambulance to hospital. However, he was released just 48 hours later.

Cost controls boost Air Arabia's profit as route network expands

Dubai: Tight cost controls saw Air Arabia's net profit inching up seven per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to Dh78.7 million against Dh73.6 million in the same period a year earlier, the budget carrier said yesterday in a statement.

The Sharjah-based airline's turnover went up 17 per cent to Dh638 million against Dh544.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The solid financial results were due to the carrier's excellent cost controls and appealing product offering, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Thani, Air Arabia's chairman, said in the statement.

The airline said its net profit for the full year was Dh274 million and turnover rose 16 per cent to Dh2.4 billion. It added six destinations to its network.

The Dubai Financial Market-listed airline said its board of directors proposed a dividend distribution of 4.5 per cent of capital, equivalent to 4.5 fils per share, subject to ratification by the shareholders of Air Arabia at the company's upcoming annual general meeting.

Operational efficiency

"While these challenging market conditions continue to impact the performance of the aviation sector here in the Middle East and worldwide, we have focused more keenly than ever on ensuring the highest level of operational efficiency," Shaikh Abdullah said.

Air Arabia carried 4.7 million passengers in 2011 and took delivery of six new Airbus A320 aircraft. It is due to take delivery of another six this year, from its total order of 44 planes.

Serving around 70 routes from its three hubs in the UAE, Morocco and Egypt, Air Arabia's 2011 seat load factor was 82 per cent.

"As the first low-cost airline in the GCC, its huge footprint, coupled with bases in Morocco and Egypt have helped to offset demand fluctuations seen in Egypt last spring, while deliveries of new planes have helped to push fuel bills down whilst continuing to add new destinations to its network," Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at Strategic-Aero Research, told Gulf News.

"It should also be noted that the carrier will also opt for the new fuel-efficient A320neo during the year.

"Whether these comprise a new order or a lease deal from Kuwaiti lessor Alafco is not yet clear, but if the carrier aims to stay in the top two alongside flydubai, it will have to invest in new airplanes before the year is out or risk losing slots at Airbus for future deliveries and growth," he added.

Air Arabia deferred plans to establish its fourth hub in Jordan owing to the geo-political tensions in the region and high fuel prices.

New hangar facility
Meanwhile, the final quarter of 2011 saw Air Arabia inaugurating its aircraft hangar facility and multimillion-dollar flight simulator at Sharjah International Airport, in addition to its Centro Sharjah Hotel.

"Moving ahead, we look forward to providing our customers with even more value-for-money options in 2012, as well as an even wider range of services and destinations," Shaikh Abdullah said.

Pay my salary or I won’t fly... Living out loud with *Sunita mehta (22) Air hostess

Scores of women dream of a career up in the skies. They want to be air hostesses! In recent times, for many living that dream, life has become a nightmare; they are staring into a bleak future. Here’s a story of a young woman who is holding dearly to her dreams, hoping to see a rainbow...

I used to fantasize about flying in a plane.

I have always wanted to be an airhostess... travel the world, see new places, wear a glamorous uniform...and I took the first step toward acheiving my goals in 2007.

I’m from a middle-class family in North India. When I was in the twelfth standard I attended a workshop conducted by an air hostess training school in my hometown. I thought this was the route to realise my dream. But I was disappointed by the lackadaisical training; later I came to know that the teachers were failed hostesses. I was studying for a BA degree through correspondence when I came across an ad by the most glamorous airline – Kingfisher Airlines. I went for the walk-in interview and got selected. It was the happiest day of my life; I could now realise my dreams of flying, give my family a better life and even send my parents on a holiday. I am the oldest of three siblings and I wanted to help my father in some way, maybe some extra cash to tide over the month if required. With a job at the most envied airline, everything seemed within reach.

I had to pay a deposit of Rs 50,000 to the airline; my father readily paid up because he wanted me to be happy. Leaving home to embark on my career was a bittersweet experience. My family had come to the station to see me off. I came to Bangalore in 2008. I loved the city, the people, the weather and above all my job. I had to undergo three months’ training during which I was not allowed to take leave at all. I discontinued my studies and concentrated on my dream career.

After training, I signed a three year contract with the airline for a salary of Rs 24,500 per month; plus I was to be paid Rs 400 for every extra hour of flying beyond the stiupulated 70 to 85 hours. I was to get a lay-over allowance when I had to stay outside my base. I flew the Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkotta sector. I was literally flying in air; life was all peachy.

I loved it when people stopped and stared as I went by in my smart red uniform and pearl earrings and chain. I was thrilled to stay in five star hotels; the grand rooms and the room service...ah, it was bliss. I saved diligently, after all, I am a small town girl and careful with money.The funny thing was that my salary never even touched the base salary as taxes were deducted at source. My colleagues and I asked for Form 16 but we were never given any legal documents.

Mid-last year things began to change. We were now staying in three star hotels instead of the usual five star. Soon we were put up in guest houses. Our salaries were getting delayed, initially by a month or so. Then we went without salaries for months together. I have not been paid from December 2011. Initially, it was easy to manage. I dipped into my savings to pay the rent and for other expenses. Last month, I broke my fixed deposit. I don’t want to ask my parents for help; however, I know they are my last fall-back option if things get worse. I am single, but I do have my EMIs to pay for all the household gadgets I have bought for home. Running a house becomes a difficult puzzle to solve when you have a job with no salary. My situation frustrates me, but I cannot give up hope. I keep telling myself there is light at the end of the tunnel.

My family asks me to give my employers an ultimatum: Pay my salary or I won't fly. But that will not work. I will be fired and someone else, who also needs the money, will take my place. My colleagues and I are all in the same position. Some of my colleagues have it worse. How on earth are we going to manage in future? How will we face the tough times? One of my male colleagues is stuck without pay or prospects. Male stewards cannot head the crew nor can they be trained for serving in first class, which is reserved for women. When we are feeling depressed, we try and motivate each other. But I can feel his pain as he has decided to postpone his wedding until things get better. We had attended interviews with international airlines together. They prefer female crew, but I am doubtful if I will get anything, simply because there’s tremendous competition. I feel that I have to get out of the industry itself as other airlines are also facing the similar problems. But where can I go?

I have reached a stage where I am ready to trade my dream for stability and security. Do I spend sleepless nights thinking of my future? Well, I will be lying if I say I am not worried. I have attended a few interviews in the hospitality industry and am hoping for something to click. But I wish, with all my heart, that I will be able to continue to fly.

I don't bemoan my fate. Life is about hope and I am young. I smile and greet passengers wholeheartedly. Now I am on 'home stand-by' (i.e I have to remain at the base and wait to be called for work) I will not be paid for days at home. Here I am, without money or a better alternative. I am left in a nowhere zone, just like the airline. But on the days I am flying, I leave my worries on the ground. When the plane takes off, my heart soars, for at that moment I know I'm living my dream.

(*Name changed to protect identity)

—As told to Jayanthi Madhukar

Tracy Municipal (KTCY), California: Officials vouch for airport's security

Padlocks and warning signs are some of the security measures meant to keep people away from the aircraft at Tracy Municipal Airport off Tracy Boulevard. 
Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Aircraft at Tracy Municipal Airport sit on the tarmac behind two fences. 
Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Aircraft are lined up along the tarmac at Tracy Municipal Airport off Tracy Boulevard behind two fence meant to keep unwanted people out. 
Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Signs mark the restricted area at Tracy Municipal Airport off Tracy Boulevard. 
Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Aircraft at Tracy Municipal Airport sit on the tarmac behind two fences. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press

by Denise Ellen Rizzo / Tracy Press
Feb 16, 2012

Pilots and officials at Tracy Municipal Airport are in agreement that security at the facility is fine, following reports of a Tracy man stealing a plane near Fresno.

Raymond Romero Pirro, 52, allegedly stole a Cessna 172 from Buchanan Field Airport around Feb. 5 and crashed it a mile outside of Fresno on Feb. 7.

Tracy airport, although not guard-patrolled, is believed secure with the help of staff and facility users, officials said. By using a program similar to the residential Neighborhood Watch, airport users have become the security watchdogs of the facility.

“People out there have a strong sense of security,” Police Capt. John Espinoza said. “We don’t know who does and doesn’t belong on the airport, but people out there know everybody. They will call us with anything suspicious.”

Espinoza said it’s not the first time he has heard of someone taking a plane for a joyride, but he said it does raise a concern about what they would do with it. He said law enforcement and other city staff conduct tabletop emergency preparedness exercises for different scenarios, including a plane crashing in city limits.

“You can’t stop them (in the air), but you can deal with the aftermath,” he said.

Pilots who utilize the airport said they feel safe for themselves and their aircraft.

“It’s locked up pretty tight,” Tracy Airport Association Vice President Dave Anderson said. “We drive through on our way out and make sure the gates are locked and (that there’s) no suspicious activity. The tenants keep it fairly self-policed, and the police department is pretty responsive.”

But pilot Gary Harding said he wished there were people out there 24-hours a day.

“We all know the way the economy is going, so I wouldn’t mind having camera surveillance,” he said. “It’s cheap. I think it would be a great idea. Nobody has taken the chance yet (to steal a plane). Everything is fine right now.”