Monday, February 27, 2012

Man claims CIA, seeking Gingrich at Will Rogers World Airport (KOKC), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


OKLAHOMA CITY -- A man intent on getting to Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was arrested at Will Rogers World Airport last week. Airport Spokesperson Karen Carney says Gingrich did fly commercial through Will Rogers last Monday, but he was never in danger.

"I don't know why he (suspect) felt that Mr. Gingrich was here at that particular time," she said.

Carney was referring to 53-year-old James Jay Heidebrecht, who was arrested last Monday night after telling police he needed to speak to Gingrich at the airport.

Gingrich had been campaigning in Oklahoma City that day but had already left at the time of Heidebrecht's arrest.

"Sometimes people just think of the airport as a departure point and that's where somebody is going to be and they want to come out and see if they can talk to them," Carney said.

But police say Heidebrecht tried to walk through the exit area of TSA security.

When an officer told him he had to leave, police say he became angry.

"He began to scream very loudly throughout the airport about how he was there to meet Newt Gingrich at the airport," Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow said.

In a report, an officer said Heidebrecht talked extensively about being a member of the CIA and had documents to give to Gingrich.

The officer eventually used a taser gun on him several times when he resisted arrest.

Carney says high profile figures like Gingrich usually coordinate their arrival and departure with TSA and airport security.

A safe escort is the goal, especially when political figures draw so much attention.

"Police are certainly aware that people may be coming out to the airport so there's definitely a heightened awareness among everybody in the airport,” Carney said.

Police say Heidebrecht had a brown shoulder bag with him that only had personal items inside.

He bonded out of the Oklahoma County jail the next day.

At his northwest Oklahoma City residence, we were told Heidebrecht was seeing a doctor for psychological reasons and never meant to harm anyone.

He was arrested for trespassing, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Charges are pending.

Team To ‘Take A Leap’ Off GM Headquarters Wednesday

Look up! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… No, it’s the Red Bull Air Force team. The team will “take a leap” at General Motors Headquarters at the Renaissance Center Wednesday to celebrate Leap Year in a memorable way.

The team will be attempting the first-ever attempt at five consecutive base jumps in five different cities on the same day, including in Detroit. The one-time event will culminate in the most accomplished skydivers, BASE jumpers, wing suit fliers, and para glider pilots on the planet essentially falling through the sky and landing near the center.

The elite 11-member Red Bull Air Force team will also jump off iconic structures in Miami, Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Squaw Valley on February 29. It will happen between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The Red Bull Air Force team is assembled from the most accomplished and experienced skydivers, BASE jumpers, wingsuit fliers, and paraglider pilots on the planet. With gold medals in virtually every discipline and numerous world records to their credit, the team members combine for over 100,000 skydives and 6,000 BASE jumps.

Airport advisory commission seeking applicants

San Antonio, Texas - The city's Airport Advisory Commission is accepting applications from individuals interested in serving on the commission as representatives of stakeholder groups.

The advisory commission works with the city's aviation director in developing policies affecting the city's airports and air transportation initiatives.

The taxicab industry has one commission slot open, while the aviation industry has two slots available and community representatives can be named to three slots.

One opening is available for a representative of the travel and tourism industry and for a seat representing the Federal Aviation Administration. Two slots are available for representatives of the business community.

Applications must be submitted by March 16. For more information, call 210-207-7253.

Editorial: Crash of Cessna 150D, AP-BCS, Hybrid Aviation - Lahore, Pakistan

LAHORE: This is with reference to the tragic crash of a Cessna 150 into a house in Lahore’s Model Town on February 23 in which both the pilot and a trainee pilot lost their lives. Perhaps, the time has come for the Civil Aviation Authority to revise the minimum educational qualifications that it has laid down for trainee commercial pilots. By raising this, an attempt could be made to also increase the level of maturity of the average trainee. Such revisions have taken place in many countries in the world and there is no reason that this shouldn’t be done in Pakistan either.

When Walton and Lahore airports were constructed, they were located far away from city at that time and were not close to any highly inhabited congested areas. That has now changed and hence, the criteria set for the qualification of pilots must be reviewed. There was a vast area towards east of Walton, which now comprises of Defence Housing Authority and it is thickly populated. These developments also give rise to increasing bird populations, which if close to airports can create problems for aircrafts while landing and taking off. The CAA needs to look into this matter as well.

Tassadaq Mir
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2012.

ExpressJet brings job to Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation has partnered up with ExpressJet Airlines to create a program that allows aviation students to begin an early pilot screening process that will prepare them for and guarantee jobs as first officers with ExpressJet.

The Airline Pilot Pathway Program (AP3) is an agreement between WMU, ExpressJet Airlines and Delta Airlines that maps out the steps a candidate must take in order to be eligible for a guaranteed pilot job with ExpressJet Airlines and, subsequently, a guaranteed interview for a pilot job with Delta Airlines. Potentially, this program could lead the successful candidate to a career of 40 years or more.

Dave Powell, dean of the aviation college, said that this agreement was established to attract the best of the best from collegiate flight programs around the country.

“For the successful candidate who meets all of the criteria set, ExpressJet Airlines is prepared to offer a guaranteed pilot job,” Powell said. “The program is seeking the best of the best, so not all will qualify.”
Qualifying students will have the opportunity to work for the largest regional carrier in the United States.
The project was signed in November 2011, but this concept has been in development by ExpressJet, Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Delta Airlines for well over a year.

One of the prerequisites of the program is obtaining a license at WMU, however, the private pilot license is an acceptable exception. Completed training for the Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate and instructing as a CFI at WMU for a specified period of time are also needed to participate.

To acquire and internship applicant must pass the advanced jet training course (i.e., JET Course) with a minimum GPA and receive a letter of recommendation from Powell. There are also aviation course and cumulative GPA requirements.

Once the program is fully up and running, it will seek to identify Flight Science students as early as their sophomore year.

Currently, the plan is to administer the CogScreen, Neo Personality Test and Tabular Speed Test screening tools before junior year. Prior to the end of the senior year, there would also be a job knowledge test, human resource interview and pilot interview conducted. There would also be multiple other meetings and interviews during that same time, Powell said.

To date, there are 10 candidates signed up for the program and that number is expected to grow. The intent of this program is that it be measured more by the quality than the quantity of participants.

Delta and ExpressJet Airlines sent their pilot hiring managers and recruiters to campus last month to describe the program to aviation students, according to WMU news.

“That Western was only the fourth collegiate flight program to participate in the AP3 speaks volumes, not only about the quality of the Western graduates who have already been hired by both ExpressJet Airlines and Delta Airlines, but also the excellent reputation Western has in the airline industry by virtue of the quality of the program that prepared those and other graduates,” Powell said.

WWII plane will be repaired in Mobile, Alabama - Owner says fail safe part failed

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A former combat airplane that landed safely following landing gear trouble in Mobile is now in the shop waiting for repair parts.

Cavanaugh Flight Museum Director Doug Jeanes said he was in his Dallas home cooking when he got the call for help.

A P-51 flying over Mobile as part of a tour that brought a couple of World War II era plans to Brookley Field had a landing gear problem.

Jeanes said he radioed to someone on the ground in Mobile, who in turn relayed info to the pilot, Chuck Gardner.

"In the meantime, I called Bob Hoover who is an ex test pilot on the P-51s that I know. He told me a few things to try, and I had it relayed up to Chuck. After 75 attempts, the gear finally came down," Jeanes said.

"I was at home in bed when I got the call," said Hoover, by phone. "Doug asked me if I could offer the pilot any advice, which I did.I'm very happy that I could help."

Jeanes said they wanted to protect the plane as much as possible.

He said this P-51, worth about $3 million, is one of only a few in existence that have actual combat duty.

Its skin details the missions it has flown.

"Well, he comes in as slow as possible, lands on the good gear, might bounce it, try to knock the gear out. And typically in this situation, he'll ride on the left wing for a little bit and make a 90-degree turn and come to a stop," said Jeanes.

Jeanes described the G-force maneuvers that popped the gear into position as likely twice the G-force of a roller coaster ride.

He and Hoover agreed on what needed to be done to solve the problem.

"One of the things he said was really try to yaw it and slip it which is flying kind of sideways and try to get the air load on the door to help pull the gear out. Eventually it came out," said Jeanes.

The plane will soon be ready for its next tour date and passengers willing to pay for the experience of riding in a P-51.

"We found the problem with the airplane, and we have a part that's being sent out over night. So we should have it here tomorrow, and it's a very minor thing it's usually a fail-safe part but sometimes they go bad," said Jeanes.

Jeanes said they will come back to Mobile to give passengers who paid for a ride here their experience in the air.

Wyoming Wants its Own Aircraft Carrier

Weird or stroke of genius? Wyoming legislators want to study what the state should do in case the United States collapses economically or politically.

The legislature is considering a bill to create a government task force to prepare the state in the case of a catastrophe. Some of the items under consideration -

Whether Wyoming should issue its own currency

Look at if and when the state should raise a standing army

Should Wyoming acquire "strike aircraft" and an "aircraft carrier."

From the Casper Star-Tribune:

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton, has said he doesn’t anticipate any major crises hitting America anytime soon. But with the national debt exceeding $15 trillion and protest movements growing around the country, Miller said Wyoming — which has a comparatively good economy and sound state finances — needs to make sure it’s protected should any unexpected emergency hit the U.S.

Wyoming’s Department of Homeland Security already has a statewide crisis management plan, but it doesn’t cover what the state should do in the event of an extreme nationwide political or economic collapse. In recent years, lawmakers in at least six states have introduced legislation to create a state currency, all unsuccessfully.

The task force would include state lawmakers, the director of the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security, the Wyoming attorney general and the Wyoming National Guard’s adjutant general, among others.

Wyoming House advances doomsday bill

Pilots Would Need More Experience: Proposal

By Alan Levin

The U.S. government proposed increasing the required amount of experience and training for airline pilots to address issues that arose in a fatal crash three years ago.

Co-pilots would need close to the same qualifications as captains, with at least three times more flight hours than under current rules, the Federal Aviation Administration said today in a statement.

All pilots would have to undergo revamped training designed to prepare them for hazards that have led to accidents, such as bad weather or high-altitude maneuvering. The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal.

“This proposed rule reflects our commitment to the safety of the traveling public by making sure our pilots are the most qualified and best trained in the world,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood said in a statement in the release.

The proposed changes result from the Feb. 12, 2009, crash of a regional turboprop plane operated by Pinnacle Airlines Corp. (PNCL)’s Colgan unit that was blamed on pilot errors. The crash, near Buffalo, New York, killed all 49 people aboard and one man on the ground.

Congress in 2010 ordered the FAA to update its requirements for airline pilots to better prepare them for flying in difficult conditions, such as icing or an unforeseen emergency. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents, issued similar recommendations.
Compromise Over Hours

A co-pilot would have at least 250 hours at the controls before flying for a U.S. airline under the proposed rules. The proposal would require that co-pilots obtain the same license as captains, known as an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. It requires at least 1,500 hours experience and specific training and testing on the aircraft model they fly.

Reflecting a compromise sought by airlines, the proposal would allow co-pilots to fly with fewer than 1,500 hours when they have received other education. Pilots who have flown for the military would need 750 hours, according to the statement. Those with a college degree in qualified aviation programs would need 1,000.

Pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours would be prohibited from becoming captains, according to the release.

An advisory committee made up of representatives of the airlines, pilot unions and family members of people killed in the Buffalo crash couldn’t agree in 2010 on the number of hours flight crews needed.
Families Object

Families of the Buffalo victims and the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, which represents independent pilot unions at United Parcel Service (UPS) Inc. and Southwest Airlines (LUV) Co., said co-pilots should be required to have 1,500 hours of flight experience.

Families of the Buffalo victims are “very pleased” with the proposal, Scott Maurer, whose daughter Lorin, 30, was aboard the flight, said in a phone interview.

While it didn’t require 1,500 hours of experience for all pilots as Maurer and others had sought, the proposal added most of what they wanted, he said.

Industry representatives and the Air Line Pilots Association union, which represents 53,000 pilots in the U.S. and Canada, said that flight time by itself was a poor measure of a pilots’ skills, according to the group’s report. They said advanced training on aviation issues at a university could be more valuable than total hours.

The captain on the Colgan flight, Marvin Renslow, overreacted to a cockpit warning and pulled the plane into a steep climb, which prompted it to gyrate out of control, according to the NTSB. Renslow had failed several tests of his piloting skill, the investigation found. Both pilots had more than 1,500 hours experience.

Congress following the accident ordered the FAA to make several safety improvements. In response to one of those mandates, the agency issued rules on Dec. 21 requiring passenger airline pilots to get more rest.

Congress also ordered the agency to make broader changes in pilot training and to establish a mentoring program for new pilots. The FAA hasn’t issued rules in those areas.

Central Vigilance Commission unearths Rs 190 crore flying club fraud

NEW DELHI: A large number of flying schools across India are involved in an elaborate fraud, posing as no-profit no-loss operations while raking in crores.

An investigation by the Central Vigilance Commission has found that a majority of flying schools/clubs in India posed as registered societies, operating on no-profit no-loss basis, to avoid paying the government full fee for operations. Resultantly, the government has lost at least Rs 190 crore in revenue, according to the CVC probe.

Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials allowed 28 flying schools to wrongly claim that they were either registered educational societies or were run on no-profit no-loss basis. This qualified them to pay only a nominal fee to the government.

Sources said the CVC has written to the civil aviation ministry to take appropriate action against officials who allowed the flying schools to hoodwink the system.

The CVC probe found several deviations from rules: These clubs were not registered as educational societies, most of them were not operating on a no-profit no-loss basis and some were even involved in commercial operations.

The nominal fee for flying clubs is just 10% of the original fee to be paid to the government. This nominal charge is only permitted for those that are registered as educational societies and run on no-profit no-loss basis, and not as profit-making entities. "The concessional rates were extended to 28 flying clubs without proper examination/justification," a senior official said.

The investigation found that none of the 28 clubs was registered as a society. Only four of them operated on a no-profit no-loss basis. To the surprise of the investigators, they found that one flying club was even a non-schedule operator registered with DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation) since 2004.

In response to a questionnaire from TOI, AAI said, "Action being taken on CVC's recent instructions, outcome of the same will be made public as and when any decision is taken in this regard."

AAI asserted that it had "not allotted land to any flying school at nominal license fee since its inception" but did not discuss details of any other fee that the flying clubs may have had to pay the government.

FAA wants to boost airline pilot qualifications

By Joan Lowy, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Federal officials are proposing to increase the minimum requirements to become an airline co-pilot to the same threshold as a captain, but they're also carving out some large exceptions.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposal, published Monday online, would raise the experience threshold required to fly for a commercial air carrier to 1,500 hours of flight time. Captains already have to meet that threshold, but first officers currently need only 250 hours to fly for an airline.

The proposal says ex-military pilots can get hired with half that experience and graduates of university flight schools can have a third fewer hours.

The new threshold is required under an aviation safety law enacted in 2010 in response to a regional airliner that crashed near Buffalo, in 2009, killing 50 people.

Judge delays sentencing, berates prosecutor

By The Associated Press

WICHITA — A federal judge has postponed the sentencing hearing for a mechanic who fled to Ecuador after he was charged with stealing aircraft parts.

Former Cessna Aircraft Co. mechanic Diego Alejandro Paz Teran was to be sentenced Monday after he admitted selling stolen parts on eBay. Teran returned to the U.S. after charges were filed. Most of the stolen parts were used or taken from a scrap pile.

Sentencing was rescheduled for March 5 after a Cessna employee was unable to answer questions about the value of the stolen parts. The loss amount affects the possible sentence.

Before postponing sentencing, U.S. District Judge Monti Belot berated Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Treaster, saying the testimony presented by customer service representative Robert Orman was a waste of time.

Training exercise has C-130 flying low in Evansville, Indiana

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) -   If you've noticed a low-flying airplane around Evansville you're not alone.

Air traffic manager Rick Polete tells 14 News that C-130 pilots are training at the Evansville Regional Airport.

The pilots spent hours Monday working on their approaches.

The method is commonly known as a "touch and go" training maneuver, because pilots take off quickly after landing.

The training exercises don't happen often according to Polete.

We received calls and e-mails asking if the C-130 training was allowed at EVV because of the 1992 C-130 crash. Sixteen people were killed, 20 injured when a C-130 crashed during a training exercise.

Polete tells us there are no restrictions on C-130 training at EVV.

50-kilogram metal sphere falls from the sky over Brazilian town

An unlucky cashew tree was blasted in half last week when a 50-kilogram metal ball dropped from the sky over the Brazilian village of Riacho dos Poços. The ball left a crater one-meter deep after landing near Valdir José Mendes' house.

Mendes, who was home at the time and initially mistook the din for a plane crash or earthquake, escaped the fate of Andrei Krivorukov, whose Siberian home was demolished by plunging satellite detritus last December.

The Brazilian ball has since been collected by Brazilian military police. This space junk likely belonged to a satellite as well — unless the mysterious liquid Riacho dos Poços residents heard slushing around inside is of a much more sinister, extraterrestrial origin.

Runway work halted in Mississippi

(AP) JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi's busiest passenger airport is down to one usable runway because a $13.3 million construction project is at a standstill, already eight months behind schedule.

Completion of runway surfacing at Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport was expected in June 2011, but a dispute with the contractor has halted the work.

Airport CEO Dirk Vanderleest said the contract with Rifenburg Construction Inc. of Durham, N.C., was terminated and is in arbitration over the quality of asphalt the company was using. Vanderleest said a request for bids is planned in April to complete the job.

Rifenburg attorney Mark Herbert said the airport used quality tests not covered in the contract. He said Rifenburg wanted arbitration so an independent party could determine whether the asphalt met contractual standards.

The closed runway has caused air traffic controllers to launch departures between arrivals instead of using one runway for planes coming in and the other for departing aircraft, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac.

"This situation causes a more complex operation, but FAA controllers are trained to accommodate these types of challenges and the operation remains safe," Salac said.

Another challenge is that the open runway has what is known as an ILS, an instrument landing system for poor weather conditions, only in one direction and a global positioning system must be used for planes landing from the other direction. Both systems help guide pilots, but some older commercial aircraft are only equipped with the ILS system, and can't use the GPS approach.

Jackson Municipal Airport Authority CEO Dirk Vanderleest said there was one occasion in which a Southwest Airlines flight was diverted to New Orleans because of that, though the flight later returned to Jackson. Southwest did not immediately respond to a message.

Other major airlines — Delta and American — said the closed runway has not caused major problems for them so far.

The construction shutdown is having an impact on taxpayers. One of Mississippi's key Air National Guard units is based at the end of the closed runway, and pilots must taxi further in massive C-17 Globemasters, burning extra fuel. Guard officials said the added cost is relatively small because getting the big planes moving is what burns up large quantities of fuel, not keeping them rolling down the taxiway.

Vanderleest said the closed runway has been "more of an inconvenience than a problem," but he said its needs to be completed as soon as possible. The other runway needs resurfacing as well, but that can't be done until the first one is finished. He said the last overlay project was done in the 1990s and the life cycle of a runway is usually 10-15 years.

One of the goals of the runway construction project was to remove Yazoo clay, a common type of clay across central Mississippi that swells when saturated with water. It has long been known to cause cracks in home foundations and to create problems for roadways and other structures. The clay under the airport has caused a hump in the runway, airport officials said.

Vanderleest said the airport hopes to get back about $5.5 million already paid to the company with federal grant money.

Herbert, Rifenburg's attorney, said the asphalt passed all tests spelled out in the contract, but he said airport engineers "just decided they didn't like the way it looked and ran tests outside of the contract."

"We think that's unfortunate," he said.

Herbert said the company asked for arbitration so an independent party could determine if the asphalt met standards agreed to in the contract. He said the company had hoped to finish the project, but now doubts that will happen.

Rifenburg demanded arbitration Nov. 8 and was seeking $2.5 million in damages and expenses, according to airport records.

Records from the Airport Authority meeting in November said Hatch Mott MacDonald, the airport's engineering consultant and its subcontractor, Burns Cooley Dennis, Inc., delivered letters to the authority in November that said "Riffenburg has failed to comply with the requirements of the Contract."

The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority's Board of Commissioners voted to find Rifenburg in default on Nov. 21, according to records from that meeting. The board believed it would be faster to finish the runway by terminating the contract and finding someone else to finish it rather than waiting for arbitration to be completed.

"After careful and considerate deliberation, the board decided that the project had to move forward and the only way to do that was to terminate the contract," Vanderleest said.

Vanderleest said the airport is self-sufficient and doesn't take tax money from the city of Jackson. He said grant money was used to fund the runway project.

Vanderleest said he won't know exactly how much it will cost to complete the runway until he puts out a new request for bids in April. He hopes the runway will be finished by November, "in the worst case."

Salac said the estimated cost to complete the project is $12.2 million.

"The airport has the additional funding required to complete the project and hopes to recover damages from the original contractor or his bonding company," Salac said.

New air service coming to Lehigh Valley International Airport (KABE), Allentown, Pennsylvania

HANOVER TWP., Pa. -  There's good news on the horizon for Lehigh Valley travelers.

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority said new air service from Lehigh Valley International Airport is coming.

The authority plans to make the announcement at a news conference Tuesday morning.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey urged airlines to take another look at the Lehigh Valley.

Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, has written letters to Allegiant and Frontier airlines.

He's pushing Allegiant to add service at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Twp., Lehigh Co., and he wants Frontier to bring its service to the airport.

In January, AirTran announced it will leave LVIA in August as part of its purchase by Southwest Airlines.

There's no word on if Tuesday's announcement will include a new airline or expanded service by an existing airline.

Piper PA-32-260 Cherokee Six, Buccaneer Aviation Inc., N3688W: - Accident occurred February 14, 2012 in Amory, Mississippi

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA180
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, February 14, 2012 in Amory, MS
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2012
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32-260, registration: N3688W
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that he had topped off the airplane with 6 hours of fuel, based on a best economy mixture setting, for a planned 4-hour cross-country flight. While filing his instrument flight plan, the weather briefer advised the pilot of moderate icing along the route of flight at an altitude range that included the pilot's planned cruising altitude. Although the single-engine airplane was not certified or equipped for flight into known icing conditions, the pilot proceeded with the flight. While en route, about 200 miles from the destination airport, the airplane's engine began to run rough, and the pilot enriched the fuel mixture, which alleviated the problem and also resulted in an increased fuel burn from about 14 gallons-per-hour to about 18 gallons-per-hour. At that time, the airplane was over a large metropolitan area with an airport where the pilot could have made a fuel stop; however, the pilot did not stop. As the flight continued, he had to descend to lower and lower altitudes due to icing conditions.

About 4 hours into the flight, the pilot realized that he did not have enough fuel to reach his planned destination and attempted to divert to an airport that was 65 miles closer than the original destination airport. As an air traffic controller was providing vectors to the instrument landing system approach at the diversion airport, the pilot reported twice that he was concerned about fuel but did not declare an emergency. Even if the pilot had declared a fuel emergency, the controller’s actions would likely have been no different as he was limited in what he could do by the prevailing instrument meteorological conditions. About 5 minutes after the first report of low fuel, the pilot reported that he had a fuel problem for a third time and that the engine had lost all power. The controller then provided directions to an open field, but the airplane impacted a wooded area about 15 miles from the diversion airport.

The fuel tanks ruptured during the impact sequence, and no fuel odor was present at the accident site. Subsequent examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions. At the time of the power loss, the pilot had been flying for about 5 hours, which included flight at both the best economy and richer mixture settings. The airplane held 84 gallons of fuel and, and at the richer mixture setting, it had a fuel endurance of about 4 hours 40 minutes not including fuel needed for start, taxi, takeoff, and climb.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's inadequate preflight and in-flight planning and decision-making, including his inadequate weather evaluation and his delayed diversion to a closer airport, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

On February 14, 2012, about 0700 central standard time, a Piper PA-32-260, N3688W, operated by a private individual, was substantially damaged during a forced landing into a wooded area, following a total loss of engine power near Amory, Mississippi. The certificated commercial pilot was seriously injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the planned flight to Olive Branch Airport (OLV), Olive Branch, Mississippi. The flight departed Umatilla Municipal Airport (X23), Umatilla, Florida, about 0210.

According to the pilot's written statement, he "topped off" the fuel tanks with 6 hours of fuel for the planned 4-hour flight. While cruising at 6,000 feet near Montgomery, Alabama, the engine began to run rough. The pilot enriched the fuel mixture, which alleviated the rough running engine and also resulted in an increase in the fuel burn rate. In addition, the flight took longer than planned due to turbulence and a headwind. While enroute, the pilot realized that the airplane would not have sufficient for to reach OLV, and he requested a deviation from air traffic control (ATC) to Tupelo Regional Airport (TUP), Tupelo, Mississippi. While being vectored to TUP by ATC, the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power and he had to perform a forced landing to a wooded area several miles short of the runway. The pilot was able to call emergency services via his mobile telephone and described the area surrounding the accident site. A National Guard helicopter located the accident site about 1200, which was situated approximately 15 miles southeast of TUP. The pilot further stated that after the accident, he learned there was icing in that area between 1,500 feet and 4,000 feet.

During a subsequent telephone conversation, the pilot stated that the richer mixture setting resulted in an approximate 18 gallon-per-hour (gph) fuel burn. The pilot also had to descend to a lower altitude due to icing. At the time of the total power loss, the fuel selector was positioned to a main tank, but he had been switching fuel tanks during the flight and could not remember which main tank. The pilot did not switch fuel tanks after the loss of engine power. When asked if he activated the carburetor heat during the flight, the pilot stated that he "did not know."

The pilot, age 49, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine. The pilot reported a total flight experience of 922 hours; of which 30 hours were in actual instrument conditions.

Review of data from Lockheed Martin Flight Service revealed that the pilot telephoned flight service at 0129 to file an IFR flight plan with a planned cruising altitude of 6,000 feet. After filing the flight plan, the briefer asked the pilot if he needed updates on the latest adverse weather conditions along the route of flight, and the pilot replied yes. The briefer advised of airmen's meteorological information (AIRMET) Zulu from the Florida panhandle along the route of flight to OLV, for moderate icing from the freezing level to flight level 200, and that the freezing level was between 3,000 and 10,000 feet. The briefer also advised of AIRMET Sierra, between Montgomery, Alabama, at OLV, for IFR conditions with ceilings below 1,000 feet and visibility less than 3 miles due to mist. The briefer further stated there was moderate precipitation through southwest Georgia and Alabama, to Columbia, Mississippi.

The recorded weather at TUP, at 0653, was: wind from 210 degrees at 6 knots; visibility 7 miles; overcast ceiling at 500 feet; temperature 6 degrees C; dew point 4 degrees C; altimeter 29.97 inches Hg.

Review of ATC radar and communication data revealed that at 0614, the pilot amended his destination with Columbus Approach, to TUP. At that time, the airplane was cruising at 4,000 feet. At 0641, the pilot requested a lower altitude and was approved to descend to 3,000 feet. At 0647, the pilot was transferred to Memphis Center and advised he wanted the instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 36 at TUP, which the controller acknowledged. At 0648, the controller advised the pilot that the airplane was 500 feet below his assigned altitude and provided a vector for the ILS (15-degree right turn to approximately 300 degrees), which the pilot acknowledged.

At 0650, the controller again queried the pilot about the airplane's altitude as it was 600 feet low and too low to be vectored on to the ILS approach. He also queried the pilot about the airplane's heading, as the airplane had made a left 270-degree turn to a heading of 030 degrees. When the pilot replied that the heading was 030 degrees, the controller instructed him to fly 270 degrees. The pilot then made a left 200-degree turn to approximately 180 degrees, before making a right turn back to 270 degrees. At 0653, the pilot requested direct to TUP as the airplane was getting low on fuel. The controller responded that he was doing the best he could to get the airplane vectored on to the ILS, but that the pilot needed to not turn off course and maintain the assigned heading. The controller also reminded the pilot again to maintain 3,000 feet as the flight was starting to descend again. At 0656, the pilot remarked again about a fuel problem, but did not declare an emergency. At 0658, the pilot stated a third time that the airplane was having fuel problems and that the engine had lost all power. The controller attempted to direct the pilot to a field and at 0659 the pilot reported that he saw something straight ahead. No further communications were received from the accident airplane. The last radar target was recorded at 0658:34, indicating an altitude of 1,400 feet.

Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that it had impacted a remote wooded area. During the impact sequence, all fuel tanks had ruptured and he recovered approximately 1 cup of fuel from the right main fuel tank fuel tank. He did not smell any fuel odor at the accident site. The inspector observed the fuel selector positioned to the right main fuel tank and the carburetor heat in the off position. The engine was subsequently examined by an NTSB investigator following its recovery. The propeller was rotated by hand and valve train continuity was established throughout the engine, including the fuel pump cam gear and plunger. Suction was also heard in the fuel pump diaphragm. Compression was observed on all cylinders except for the No. 2 cylinder, which was impact damaged. Both magnetos were rotated with a drill and spark was attained on all leads. No metal was found in the oil filter or the oil sump. No obstructions were found in the carburetor venturi. The carburetor bowl was removed and was dry, with no contamination noted. The carburetor floats moved freely with no sticking. The spark plug electrodes were intact and light gray in color, except for two that were oil soaked.

Review of a pilot's operating manual for the make and model accident airplane revealed that it held 84 gallons of fuel and burned about 14 gph at 75 percent power; however, the burn rate was based upon a best economy mixture setting. The airplane was not certified nor equipped for flight into known icing.

WASHINGTON, DC. (WTVA) _ The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report into a Valentine's Day plane crash in Monroe County.

The report says the pilot, Greg Huggins, departed from the Umatilla Municipal Airport in Florida around 2:10 a.m. on February 14th.

The report says he had topped off the tanks of the single engine plane and had six hours of fuel for the four hour flight to the Olive Branch Airport.

NTSB investigators say the pilot told them the engine began to run rough when he was cruising at 6,000 feet near Montgomery, Alabama.

They say the pilot increased the fuel burn rate, but also encountered turbulence and a headwind.

The report says Huggins asked air traffic control to allow him to divert to the Tupelo Regional Airport when he realized he would not make it to Olive Branch.

While being rerouted, the pilot was unable to maintain altitude and had to descend several miles short of the runway.

The pilot says he later learned there was icing between 1,500 and 4,000 feet, which probably contributed to his inability to maintain altitude.

Huggins reported a low fuel status, and lost all power five minutes later according to a review of air traffic control data.

The plane crashed 15 miles southeast of the Tupelo Regional Airport in northwest Monroe County around 7 a.m.

Huggins contacted Itawamba County 911 by cell phone and remained on the phone until rescuers were able to locate the crash site.

The wreckage was recovered for further examination.

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA180
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, February 14, 2012 in Amory, MS
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32-260, registration: N3688W
Injuries: 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On February 14, 2012, about 0700 central standard time, a Piper PA-32-260, N3688W, operated by a private individual, was substantially damage during a forced landing into a wooded area, following a total loss of engine power near Amory, Mississippi. The certificated commercial pilot was seriously injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the planned flight to Olive Branch Airport (OLV), Olive Branch, Mississippi. The flight departed Umatilla Municipal Airport (X23), Umatilla, Florida, about 0210.

The pilot reported that he "topped off" the fuel tanks with 6 hours of fuel for the 4-hour flight. While cruising at 6,000 feet near Montgomery, Alabama, the engine began to run rough. The pilot enriched the fuel mixture to alleviate the rough running engine, which also resulted in an increase in the fuel burn rate. He added that the situation was compounded by turbulence and a headwind. Prior to reaching Tupelo Regional Airport (TUP), Tupelo, Mississippi, the pilot realized he would not reach OLV and requested a deviation to TUP from air traffic control (ATC). While being vectored to TUP by ATC, the pilot was unable to maintain altitude and had to descend several miles short of the runway. The pilot further stated that after the accident he learned there was icing between 1,500 feet and 4,000 feet, which probably contributed to his inability to maintain altitude.

Review of preliminary ATC data revealed that the pilot declared a low fuel status, and then reported the engine lost all power about 5 minutes later.

The pilot was able to call emergency services via his mobile telephone and described the area surrounding the accident site. Local search and rescue personnel located the accident site about 1200, which was situated approximately 15 miles southeast of TUP. The wreckage was recovered for further examination.

Long Island Residents Say Noise From JFK Overnight Arrivals On The Rise

FLORAL PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Nassau County residents will get to sound off about new flight patterns for John F. Kennedy International Airport at a meeting on Monday as anger grows over increased aircraft noise.

The Port Authority said air traffic controllers used Runway 22L for 800 more overnight landings between September and December of last year than in the same period in 2010.

Those living in the flight path in Floral Park, New Hyde Park and Elmont said there has been a discernible increase in noise.

The Federal Aviation Administration has said it would take measures to lessen the noise after seeing a rise in complaints.

Politicians and aviation officials will meet with residents at 7:30 p.m. at the Garden City Library to address concerns.

The Town Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee, a group that represents nearly 145,000 people in 13 communities in Hempstead and North Hempstead, is hosting the event.

Cessna 172, N665SP: Accident occurred February 15, 2012 in North Bend, Washington

NTSB Identification: WPR12FA105 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 15, 2012 in North Bend, WA
Aircraft: CESSNA 172S, registration: N665SP
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On February 15, 2012, about 0154 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172S, N665SP, cruised into the western face of Mount Si, about 1.75 miles east of North Bend, Washington. The airplane fragmented upon impacting trees and upsloping mountainous terrain, which resulted in substantial structural damage. The airplane’s registered owner, Christiansen Aviation, Inc., Wilmington, Delaware, leased the airplane to a fixed base flight school operator in Renton, Washington, called AcuWings. The commercial pilot held a certified flight instructor certificate. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed during the dark nighttime, personal sightseeing flight. No flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Renton Municipal Airport (RNT), about 0135.

A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recorded radar was performed for an aircraft having performance characteristics of a Cessna 172, that flew on a route from RNT to the accident site vicinity, and that disappeared about the time of the accident near the crash site. Only one target was found that met these criteria. The FAA’s recorded radar shows an aircraft on initial climb out from RNT. The aircraft climbed to 2,400 feet mean sea level (msl), as indicated by its altitude encoding transponder. Initially, the aircraft proceeded in a northeasterly direction. However, as the aircraft approached Snoqualmie Falls, it descended to 1,500 feet and proceeded on an east-southeasterly course. The last radar hit occurred at 0146, at which time the aircraft was about 1 mile southwest of the Falls, and about 1 mile north of Interstate Highway 90 (I-90). During the last minute of recorded flight, the aircraft’s ground speed decreased from about 112 to 106 knots.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator received information from a witness who stated that about 0150 he was driving in an easterly direction on I-90. The witness holds a private pilot certificate. He reported having observed the anticollision and navigation lights from a low flying airplane that was cruising in a southeasterly direction an estimated 1 mile north of I-90. The witness stated that when I-90 turned southeasterly, he lost sight of the airplane for a couple of minutes. However, he regained visual contact with the airplane as he and the airplane approached North Bend. At that time, the airplane had altered its course and was heading in a northeasterly direction. The witness estimated that the airplane’s altitude was about 1,000 feet above ground level. (North Bend’s elevation is 400 to 500 feet msl.) The witness stated that the visibility was at least 3 miles. There was an overcast ceiling several thousand feet above the ground, with a few lower elevation clouds. Based upon the flight path drawing provided by the witness, the Safety Board investigator notes that when the witness lost visual contact with the airplane, it was flying toward the Mount Si area and was within 3 miles of the crash site.

Beginning about 0154, several persons located in North Bend telephoned 911 and reported having heard an impact sound. At least one witness reported having observed the lights of a low flying airplane and the sound of its engine suddenly stop following its 0153 low altitude easterly direction flight over the city toward Mount Si.

The Safety Board investigator’s on scene examination of the accident site and airplane wreckage revealed evidence of multiple broken tree trunks and felled branches on the mountainside in Mount Si’s Natural Resource Conservation Area. Fragmented airframe components, including both crushed wings, were noted below dozens of felled branches on an approximate 120-degree magnetic track leading to the fuselage, which was upside down. No evidence of preimpact oil leaks, fuel filter blockage, flight control anomalies, or fire was noted at the estimated 1,950-foot msl crash site.

The chopper may have been moving the 3 dead bodies to the staging area. This crash happened on February 14, 2012 between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on the face of Little Si, near Mount Si.

  Regis#: 665SP        Make/Model: C172      Description: 172, P172, R172, Skyhawk, Hawk XP, Cutla
  Date: 02/15/2012     Time: 0900

  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: Fatal     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Destroyed

  City: NORTH BEND   State: WA   Country: US


INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   3
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   1     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Pass:   2     Fat:   2     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    

  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Unknown      Operation: OTHER

  FAA FSDO: SEATTLE, WA  (NM01)                   Entry date: 02/16/2012 

Singapore Airlines saying goodbye to Boeing 747 amid rising fuel costs

Facing a continuing global economic slowdown and rising crude oil prices, Benjamin Chan, Singapore Airlines Ltd’s president for Taiwan, talked about the company’s plans and the industry outlook on Friday as he sat down with a select group of reporters, including ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Amy Su

Taipei Times (TT): What will be Singapore Airlines Ltd’s (SIA) most important plan for this year?

Benjamin Chan : One of the company’s major plans this year is to retire all of our Boeing 747 aircraft in the passenger sector, with the last commercial service to be run on March 24 and March 25, flying between Singapore and Melbourne. In addition, the company will operate special commemorative flights between Singapore and Hong Kong on April 6 to mark the retirement of the Boeing 747 planes after nearly four decades of service in SIA.

It is not easy to say goodbye to the Boeing 747, as these airplanes have played an important role in helping the company become the global airline that it is today. However, the company has to outpace the sector in upgrading the fleet, setting new benchmarks with every new generation of aircraft that we introduce to keep passengers safer and more comfortable.

TT: Is the decision to retire the Boeing 747 related to the recent rise in crude oil prices? How will the carrier deal with this oil price issue?

Chan: The rise of oil prices is absolutely the major uncertainty for the airline sector this year, while the persistently high jet fuel price has adversely affected the SIA Group’s performance. [From April to December last year, the SIA Group posted a net profit of S$374 million (US$297.89 million), a decline of 59 percent from S$921 million for the same period in 2010.]

Indeed, this is one of the major factors of the Boeing 747 planes’ retirement in SIA, as we want to promote both environmental protection and energy efficiency. Therefore, energy-saving quality will definitely be an important element for us when picking up new aircraft in the future.

TT: Since the sector met strong headwinds in the air cargo business last year amid global economic uncertainty, what is the cargo outlook this year?

Chan: The company has decided to cut the cargo sector’s capacity by 20 percent through summer to cope with a still-weak demand this year. Unlike some of our peers, SIA has not seen the necessity to take any cargo aircraft out of service thus far, but we will carefully monitor the situation to see if it is inevitable for us to idle a cargo plane.

TT: How about the passenger sector? What is SIA’s focus this year?

Chan: We will focus more on the Asia-Pacific region this year by increasing flights to India, China, Australia, Indonesia and Japan, as we are seeing more opportunities in these markets.

As for the long-haul routes that cost the company more in fuel use, we may reduce the number of direct long-haul flights flexibly to control the operational costs. For example, the company has reduced the number flights of [our] Singapore-Los Angeles route to five a week, from one a day.

TT: What about SIA’s plan for the Taiwan market this year?

Chan: The company’s strategy in Taiwan is always to create a niche in the market by offering unique travel products. We have two special travel packages this year — one is to Australia’s Darwin, while the other is to Singapore. We expect the package to Darwin will attract many Taiwanese travelers to popular tourist destinations in Australia’s Northern Territory, while the package to Singapore will highlight the Singapore Formula 1 race.

Two cheers for Indian aviation

Things might just be looking up for India’s two worst-performing airlines, Kingfisher Airlines and Air India. The former may be on the verge of being rescued by a foreign airline. The latter – no surprise – will be rescued by its usual savior, the government.

Kingfisher’s billionaire owner, Vijay Mallya, said in an interview with The Times newspaper of London on Monday that his debt-ridden carrier was in talks with two foreign airlines about a rescue package. The newspaper named IAG, the owner of British Airways, and Etihad of Abu Dhabi as potential suitors.

The Indian government is expected soon to lift a ban on investment in the aviation industry by foreign carriers – something widely regarded as essential for an industry desperate for capital even amid soaring passenger numbers.

While Mallya has, in the past, talked a big game when it comes to possible rescue deals for his ailing airline – including a $250m deal he told the FT he was on the verge of closing in November which has yet to be announced – in this case, even a debt-ridden carrier like Kingfisher would make such a good investment for a foreign carrier that analysts are inclined to believe him.

“He doesn’t have any reason to lie about this,” said Sharan Lillaney, analyst at Angel Broking. “It is something that is likely to happen if FDI opens up.”

Meanwhile, the Economic Times reported that when the government’s budget is announced on March 16, Air India will likely be getting yet another helping hand from the taxpayer in the form of a $2bn support package (including a $1.34bn equity infusion).

The struggling national carrier is renowned for delays, strikes and surly customer service. The government has already guaranteed nearly half of its $8bn-plus debt and given it about $615m in handouts in the past two and a half years.

But Air India may also have found a new way of making money. The company, if it gets government approval, may soon begin selling the 27 Dreamliner aircraft it bought from Boeing in 2005 – delivery of the first seven of which, after a delay of over three years, is set to begin this year. (A thorough investigation of the original sale and “the fall of Air India” was provided by Praveen Donthi in The Caravan.)

Sale and leaseback is a common practice among airlines looking to keep aircraft off their books.

The sale of all 27 of Air India’s Dreamliners could generate nearly $1.5bn for the company because their price has risen by nearly 40 per cent since 2005 – which means Air India might finally recoup some of the public money poured into it over the last twenty years, without having to change the way it does business very much at all.

Top military pilots grounded by F-35 mess: Questions about safety, cost overruns raise doubts about the entire program's feasibility


EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The best fighter pilots from the Air Force, Marines and Navy arrived in the Florida Panhandle last year to learn to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive, most advanced weapons program in U.S. history. They are still waiting.

Concerns about the stealth jets' safety, cost overruns and questions about the entire program's feasibility have delayed the training and left about 35 pilots mostly outside the cockpit. The most the pilots do with the nine F-35s at Eglin Air Force Base is occasionally taxi them and fire up the engines. Otherwise their training is limited to three F-35 flight simulators, classroom work and flights in older-model jets. Only a handful of test pilots get to fly the F-35s.

"The most-frustrated pilot is one who isn't flying at all," said Marine Col. Arthur Tomassetti, vice commander of the fighter wing and a former test pilot for the F-35 prototype.

Built by Lockheed Martin under a 2001 contract, the F-35 is supposed to replace Cold War-era aircraft such as the Air Force's F-16 fighter and the Navy's and Marines' F/A-18 Hornet. It would also be sold to many NATO countries and other U.S. allies.

Costing between $65 million and $100 million each, depending on the version, the F-35 is described as a generational leap from older fighter jets. A single-seat aircraft, it can fly at about 1,050 mph and, officials say, fight both air-to-air and air-to-ground significantly better than its predecessors.

One version can land on an aircraft carrier while another can hover, landing on and taking off from a helicopter carrier. It carries more fuel and more ordnance internally than older fighter jets, allowing it to maintain stealth, and has the latest onboard computer systems, allowing the pilot to control the plane and communicate with other aircraft and interact with ground commanders like never before.

"From a flying perspective, what we call the stick and rudder is the same for any platform, but when you integrate the sensors, the pilot has the capability to make much better decisions and be much more precise," said Air Force Col Andrew Toth, the training wing's commander. His name adorns one of the school's F-35s.

And because it is to be used by all three branches of the U.S. military that fly fighter jets and by U.S. allies, training and maintenance could be handled jointly. That's intended to save money compared to having separate, parallel maintenance and training groups in each force.

But just as the program appeared to be taking off, it was grounded over a variety of concerns. They range from improperly installed parachutes under the pilots' ejector seats, to worries at the Pentagon that there has not been enough testing of the jets, to ongoing concerns by some in Congress that the entire F-35 program is too expensive. Its projected cost has jumped from $233 billion to an estimated $385 billion, including development. Forty-three F-35s have been built and another 2,443 have been ordered by the Pentagon.

'Ready to train'

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said earlier this month that the Air Force wasn't ready to start student flights at Eglin.

"The plan will be to start flying, not training, but to start flying with test-qualified aviators initially to do what we call local area orientation," he said. "We will build to a threshold, which will allow the training leadership in the Air Force to declare 'ready to train' with other than test-qualified aviators."

Questions about funding, slow production of the aircraft and uncertainty about overall strategy have contributed to inefficiencies in money and manpower, said Baker Spring, a defense analyst with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.

Spring said the complicated way the Pentagon budgeting process worked has trickled down to the pilots at the school.

"You have people out there twiddling their thumbs waiting for planes. This contributes to the high unit costs," Spring said.

All of this has left the first batch of would-be F-35 pilots in training limbo. This is supposed to be the first time fighter pilots from all three branches train together and they are looking forward to both the competition and learning from each other.

"All of the pilots here are incredibly talented, hand-picked, board-selected, they are the best of the best and the opportunity to come here is and fly the F-35 as a Marine operator is truly the career opportunity of a lifetime," said Marine Lt. Col. Jim Wellons said at ceremony for the jet at Eglin last year.

"There is so much that we can learn from each other. We in the Marine Corps are focused on supporting the Marine on the ground, even though we have an airplane that can perform air combat and the full range of tactical missions. The Air Force fighter community also supports the man on the ground but they have a significant strategic focus. The Navy is very focused on shipboard operations, so we all have our different strengths and probably weaknesses."

When the school becomes fully operational, dozens of pilots and hundreds of F-35 crew members will funnel through Eglin each year.

"Right now it looks like a large building out here with empty hallways, but we are going to have 900 students soon," said the Marine's Col. Tomassetti during a tour of the largely empty school last year.

Tomassetti said this month that the school continues to wait for a "ready to train" order from the Pentagon. The colonel said he and the Marines he commands are eager to fly new jet.

"We do have F-16s on loan and some of our pilots are going off station to fly other jets. They are flying and they understand that this is part of standing up a new program," he said.

When the Pentagon decides to allow the Eglin planes to fly is anyone's guess, said J.R. McDonald, Lockheed's Eglin-based vice president of corporate domestic business development.

"I think we are close but it is a U.S. government decision and the government enterprise will decide when it decides. The (fighter wing) just has to patient because they have done everything they can do," he said.

"I've stopped making predictions."

Costa Rica Authorities Ignore Private Aircraft Inspection

Traveling in a private jet is the ultimate. And it has is perks, at least when it comes to dealing with Costa Rica's immigration and customs on arrival and departure.

Dozens of international flights arrive monthly at Costa Rica's international airports - San José and Liberia - by way of private jets and mostly without any type of review or inspection of the inside of the aircraft.

This situation makes controls vulnerable, especially for the Policía de Control de Drogas (PCD) - Drug Control Police. Another concerned body is the Policía Aeroportuaria (Airport Police), who director, Glen Pacheco, admitted to Al Dia that inspections are performed at "random".

In fact, the Al Dia reports that in checking the control forms, "none showed any inspection by any government body".

The protocol for the inspection of private international aircraft is with the Dirección General de Aviación Civil (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), Aduanas (Customs), al Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería (Ministry of Agriculture), the PCD, the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional (DIS) -Directorate of Intelligence and Security -and the Policía Aeroportuaria.

Pacheco said that this method of "interagency crossover" hits at the different mechanisms and strategies used by criminals.

However, according to the current regulations, is no authority arrives within 30 minutes of landing, the aircraft can proceed to a hangar.

The head of the PCD - whose name was kept hidden for security reasons - said "if we board a plane is because there is some element that indicates a need for a physical inspection. If it is a routine flight, we know the people and there are no elements of suspicion, the review is simply an hello and goodbye".

Passengers on private aircraft are handled by ground services companies (ground handlers) who take them through the terminal and speed through the immigration/customs checks.

Immigration and customs officials verify the identity of the passengers and the contents of the suitcases, according to Pacecho, who added that they have never found anyone hidden in the jets to avoid customs and immigration controls. However, Pacheco, admitted it could happen.

Glen Pacheco, also admits that sometimes no one (not one authority) arrives to meet the private jet, who believes that there should be a mechanism where the various authorities work together.

The official further stressed that it was only last December that the airport police intensified inspections and that so far this year they have made 23. (No numbers on the arrivals of private jets were available.)

For their part, the head of Phytosanitary Control, said that the department does not have the necessary staff to inspect the jets for items like carrying fruits and animals without permits.

Nelson Morera said "today, in all honesty, it is something that is not done".

When a private jet arrives at the Juan Santamaria (San José) airport (we assume the same is true at the Liberia airport) ground handlers meet the plane, take the passengers through customs and immigration and escort them out through the main terminal doors. On departure the handlers meet and greet the passengers and escort them to the aircraft after passing routine controls.

The process can take between 5 and 10 minutes from the time the passengers step off the aircraft.

For the aircraft, depending on the particularity of the passenger, it will be parked until the departure or may leave.

In the past, passengers getting off or boarding a private plane in San José used the "base B" checkpoint. However, now, all must enter and leave by way of the main terminal.