Sunday, April 15, 2012

Former Yuma pilot an award-winning author

One day Mike “Zack” Franzak was going through an old cardboard box packed with things from his deployment to Afghanistan when he found three military log books he had used to keep a journal.

“There were some old ghosts in there,” Franzak, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Marine Corps, said about the box.

That cardboard box also included his Distinguished Flying Medal. “I pulled out those log books and started reading them and I got emotional. I thought, wow, there might be some material in here that might make a book.”

Those journals became the basis for the first-time author's award-winning book “A Nightmare's Prayer: A Marine Harrier Pilot's War in Afghanistan.” The book gives his first-person account of the combat missions he flew during the early days of the Afghanistan campaign.

The first book ever to be published by a Marine Harrier pilot, “A Nightmare's Prayer” was also chosen as the 2012 William E. Colby Award winner.

Franzak explained the book is more than the air war in Afghanistan as seen from the cockpit of a fighter. It's one man's thoughts of how the war would be, what he would accomplish and how that changed as he went through his time there.

“There is a little bit about flying, but there is a lot more about life and what goes on inside a man's head, and the guilt and emotions he may feel. It is an emotional book. It is a no-holds-barred look. There isn't any fluff. It is the real deal.”

Franzak was an AV-8B Marine Corps Harrier pilot who served as executive officer of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma's VMA-513, The Flying Nightmares, while deployed in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003. The squadron was the first to base Harriers in Bagram in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

After thinking about it for about a month, Franzak, who says he was never better than a C student in English, said he finally decided he had to write the book.

“I just decided like a lot of things I do in life that I would rather not think about it or talk about it, I would rather do it,” said Franzak, a contract pilot who lives in Raleigh, N.C., with his wife, son and daughter.

Writing first with pen and paper, he would get up at 4:30 every morning and work on his book for two hours because he did not want to take time away from his wife and children. It took a year, but he finally finished the book.

Although proud of his accomplishment, Franzak said he knew after having some friends read the book that he had done just about everything wrong in writing it and that it would never be published the way it was.

He realized there was no way to salvage what he had written, so he decided to start over and rewrote the first chapter, putting everything aside, writing for one person, with that person being himself.

“I didn't write it for anybody else to enjoy. When I went to go write again, I wrote for me, and I wrote without any rules. So when I wrote the second time, I tore loose. After I read that first chapter, I started crying. Then I said, well if I can bring out that much emotion in myself, I can do it.”

After another year of writing, Franzak finished the book for a second time and began sending it off to various publishing companies. Simon and Schuster eventually bought his manuscript and published the book in 2010.

“When I finished the book, I knew it was good,” Franzak said.

Although he flew many combat missions while in Afghanistan, Franzak said he dropped ordnance only twice. In both of those instances, he said, he was the first Harrier to arrive to the area to provide ground support.

“You do your best to support the guys on the ground, who you may not be able to see, whose life depends on you,” said Franzak, who went to Afghanistan as a major and was promoted to lieutenant colonels.

“It was sad to go provide ground support somewhere, only to learn someone had died and there wasn't anything you could do about it. It was difficult.”

Franzak said flying combat missions was a grind and every day started to become the same.

“It was like ‘Groundhog Day.' Your missions are long, four or five hours. I even flew some missions that were seven hours long.”

For Franzak, the hardest of those missions were the ones called the Dawn Patrol. He said pilots who flew these missions would take off at around 2 a.m. and return to base shortly after sunrise. Most of the time, the pilots were flying around the country waiting to respond to what are known as TICs, or troops in contact, reports.

“Basically you live like a vampire because you adjust your schedule to where you get up when the sun sets and you go to bed when it comes up.”

Franzak said he did not want his book to be narrative about his emotional life during his deployment, instead wanting to focus on the personal issues he had to sort through.

“This was the first time I was going to war, going into harm's way. I was leaving behind a wife and a 1-year-old son. And I found that very difficult to do. Nevertheless, I love my country and I went over there with high expectations of doing right and helping to accomplish our objectives.”

Over the course of the squadron's year in Afghanistan, the six Harriers flew nearly 4,000 hours, with each pilot flying in excess of 300 hours. Only one plane was lost, and that happened when it plunged off the end of the hard-scrabble runway at Kabul Air Base. Luckily, no one was hurt in the incident.

Spirit Aerosystems suspending operations

WICHITA, Kansas -- Spirit Aerosystems in South Wichita has suspended operations indefinitely as a result of damage sustained from Saturday's tornado outbreak.  Employees have been told not to report to work until further notice.

"We had substantial damage," said Debbie Gann, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Spirit.  "Roofs and siding have been torn off, and we have no power."

A search last night revealed no employees trapped inside buildings on the Spirit campus.  Gann says the company is in the process of double checking today.

"Our first priority is to our employees, and we executed our emergency evacuation plan like clockwork," Gann added.

Structural engineers will begin going building to building today to survey the damage.

"It looks like most of our operational capability is in tact," Gann said.  "We're working to get our facility up and running as soon as possible.  That's our goal."

Gann says they plan to update the media on the situation at Spirit about 3 p.m.

Burmese treasure: 'We've done some pretty silly things but the silliest was burying the Spitfires'

EXTRAORDINARY plans to raise a lost ''squadron'' of Spitfires that have lain buried in Burma since the end of World War II were revealed at the weekend as David Cameron, Britain's Prime Minister, visited Rangoon.

A Lincolnshire farmer who devoted 15 years of his life to finding the planes has spoken about his quest to recover them and get them airborne.

David Cundall, 62, has spent £130,000 ($200,000) of his money, visited Burma 12 times, persuaded its secretive regime to trust him, and all the time sought testimony from a dwindling band of Far East veterans in order to locate the Spitfires.

His treasure hunt was sparked by little more than a throwaway remark from a group of US veterans made 15 years ago to his friend and fellow aviation archaeologist, Jim Pearce.

Mr Cundall said: ''They told Jim: 'We've done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires.' And when Jim got back from the US, he told me.''

Mr Cundall realised the Spitfires would have been buried as they had been shipped, still in their crates. Before they were shipped to the Far East, they would have been waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred, to protect them against the elements.

The first step was to place advertisements in magazines, trying to find soldiers who buried Spitfires. ''The trouble was that many of them were dying of old age,'' Mr Cundall said. He visited Burma over and over again, slowly building relations with its junta. Finally, he found the Spitfires, at a location that is being kept a secret. Mr Cundall said: ''We sent a borehole down and used a camera to look at the crates. They seemed to be in good condition.''

In August 1945, the Mark XIV aircraft, which used Rolls-Royce Griffon engines instead of the Merlins of earlier models, were put in crates and transported from a factory in the West Midlands to Burma. Once they arrived, however, the Spitfires were deemed surplus to requirements. The order was given to bury 12 Spitfires without even unpacking them. It is possible that a further eight were then buried in December 1945.

Mr Cundall said: ''In 1945, Spitfires were 10 a penny. Jets were coming into service. Spitfires were struck off charge, unwanted. Lots of Spitfires were just pushed off the back of aircraft carriers into the sea. On land, you couldn't leave them for the locals - they might have ended up being used against you.''

Ground radar images showed that inside the crates were Spitfires with their wings packed alongside the fuselages. The Britons want to work to restore as many of the 20 Spitfires as possible and get them flying. There are only about 35 flying in the world.

The final obstacle to recovering the Spitfires, however, is political: international sanctions forbid the movement of military materials in and out of Burma, and it was also feared the regime would not allow any foreign excavations.

But because of the new, reforming stance of the government, the sanctions on movement of military material may be lifted on April 23. With the help of Mr Cameron and his visit to Burma, a deal is being negotiated and hopes are high that it will conclude with President Thein Sein granting permission for the dig.

Telegraph, London

India: Trainee pilot drowns in Sharda canal

A trainee pilot of the Indira Gandhi Udayan Academy, Fhursatganj drowned in Sharda canal while bathing here today.

Police sources here said that M Shanker (21) went to bathe in Sharda Canal along with his friends when the incident occurred. The body has been recovered an FIR registered at Milla area police station.

Fighter jet boost for Rolls Royce plant

Rolls-Royce is in line for a massive boost this week when the Government is expected to select the jump-jet version of the Joint Strike Fighter for Britain's two new aircraft carriers from 2020.

Work on the supplementary lift engine for the short take-off and landing version of the supersonic jet is already under way at the aero engine giant's plant in Bristol.

The contract could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Rolls, depending on how many aircraft are ordered. The Ministry of Defence originally ordered 150.

While a decision will be made early this week the announcement will be withheld until after local government elections on May 3, according to convention.

The MoD will argue that adapting the carriers for the short take-off and landing version of the stealth fighter will be cheaper than using the traditional method of catapulting jets into the air.

But more than £50million has been spent on designing catapults after the original plan for jump jet fighters was shelved.

The cost of the carriers, which had been estimated at £3.5billion, has ballooned to £6.2billion.

LeTourneau University students win aviation competition

FORT WORTH (KYTX) -- A group of Aeronautical Science majors from LeTourneau University won the Southwest Regional Professional Aviation Maintenance Association competition Saturday, up against other teams from Texas and Oklahoma.

Senior Patrick Harney of Lowville, NY, won first place and senior Jacob Sweers of Mount Hermon, CA, won third place. Senior Tommy Regier of Fairview, OK, sophomore Tim Powell of Klamath River, CA, and senior Luke Sjoblom of  Longview were also on the team. Their faculty sponsor was assistant professor of applied aircraft systems Andy Farrell.

"This year, the judges changed the electrical project in the competition so that the students had to troubleshoot a challenging electrical wiring harness that was like something you would see on a weapons system, not on a small airplane," Farrell said. "They had to test to see if it was good or not. After the event, the judge on that project went out of his way to come compliment our students in person because he was impressed that nobody on our team was intimidated by this unique project."

Aviation accidents decline across Africa

Statistics from the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) have shown a significant drop in air accidents in African airlines between 2010 and 2011

There were eight accidents across the continent, 10 less than 2010, but still considerably higher than on other continents.

“The challenge with African countries is that they hire cheap, non-compliant aircraft, with no proper records,” said Ignie Igunduura of the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority.

The number of accidents on Western-built jets, however, declined by 39 per cent in 2011.

It was against this backdrop that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) organized a three-day conference in late March in Kampala, which attracted more than 250 delegates from member nations.

Among the aviation bodies to attend the Regional Air Safety Conference were the African Civil Aviation Commission, the Agency for Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar, the African-Indian Ocean Regional Monitoring Agency, IATA and the European Commission.

IATA noted that Africa’s problems were complex and included insufficient government oversight and lack of infrastructure.

The conference came at a time when the African continent was considered a hot spot in the global aviation sector despite the fact that in 2009 Africa had the worst accident rate in the world.

According to a recent report on world aircraft accidents by IATA, Africa’s Western-built jet losses per million surged from 2.32 in 2008 to an alarming 6.62 in 2009. In contrast, the overall regional accident rates for the world decreased from an average of 0.92 in 2008 to 0.57 in 2008.

Africa’s accident rate was more than twice that of the Middle East, which ranked as the second worst offender and was six times greater than the third worst area, Australasia/Pacific.

Statistics obtained from the Flight Safety Foundation indicated that between 2000 and 2009 a total of 91 aircraft accidents occurred in Africa, of which 26 were in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 14 in Sudan, eight in Kenya, seven in Nigeria, six in Angola, three each in Egypt and Gabon, and 24 in the other countries.

The DRC and Sudan accounted for 44 per cent of all the fatal accidents on the continent in the ten-year period, with the top five countries (DRC, Sudan, Angola, Kenya and Nigeria) accounting for more than 67 per cent of all accidents on the continent.

Mwangi Mumero

Managing Miami International Airport (KMIA), Florida

Miami International Airport is a very familiar sight for anyone living in the Cayman Islands. It is the most frequent port of entry into the United States and the main hub for Cayman Airways.

Over the last decade the airport has gone through significant changes as the amount of traffic routed through its facility has grown exponentially in a relatively short period of time.

Some years ago a need for expansion was recognized as more and more airlines chose Miami to be included on their schedules.

As a result a four-phase plan was devised to upgrade it to a modern, efficient machine capable of processing and routing passengers with a combination of state-of-the-art technology, moving walkways and automated shuttles.

Jose Abreu is the director of the airport and has been overseeing this major project while at the same time trying to minimize inconvenience to travelers as the work progresses.

Despite the issues that ongoing construction inevitably brings, he is confident that once the job is finished, the airport will be a landmark facility making travel a much more pleasant experience for the thousands of visitors moving through the concourses on a daily basis.

Q. How long have you been the director of Miami Airport?

A. Since July 2005. Before that I was Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation under Governor Jeb Bush.

Q. What changes have you seen in the years you’ve been working there?

A. MIA has doubled in size with the opening of a new 1.7 million square foot South Terminal in 2007 and completion of the 3.5 million square foot North Terminal in 2012. Approximately 95 per cent of our passengers now use modern, award-winning facilities featuring nearly 200 restaurants and stores. New features such as the South Terminal’s 40-lane international arrivals area, the North Terminal skytrain people mover, and the MIA Mover connection between MIA and the Miami Rental Car Centre now make travelling through MIA a much more convenient and pleasurable experience.

In the last seven years, we have implemented mandatory customer service training developed by the Disney Institute, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Miami-Dade College Centre of Service Excellence, which has improved the customer service at MIA as well.

Scores in our annual customer service survey in 2011 were the highest they have been in the last four years.

Q. What accomplishment are you most proud of in the time you’ve been director?

A. When I arrived in 2005, completing the Capital Improvement Program was without a doubt the critical path to the airport’s success. The programme will be completed this July with the opening of the North Terminal Federal Inspection Service area.

Since 2005, when the county assumed responsibility for the North Terminal Development Program and a new contractor was assigned, more than $200 million in costs and two years of construction have been saved, expediting the project.

Q. What do you think makes Miami airport unique from other airports?

A. What most sets MIA apart from other airports is that it is the largest US gateway for passengers and cargo from Latin America and the Caribbean, with more flights from the region than any other US airport and more perishable imports through MIA than all other US airports combined. MIA was the fastest growing large US airport in 2011 with a passenger increase of seven per cent, and we are the number two, US airport for international passengers, behind only JFK. MIA continues to be the top US airport for international freight and is the only US airport among the top 10 airports in the world for international freight.

Q. Obviously the amount of air traffic has significantly increased over the years. What is the airport doing to accommodate the added flights on the schedule?

A. The North Terminal Development Program has added 1.8 million square feet of new space and 1.7 million square feet of renovated space to the facility that serves as the Latin American and Caribbean hub for American Airlines. The North Terminal has been expanded to 47 gates and now features dual taxiways that double the amount of flights each gate can serve per day. The facility serves more than 300 flights per day and, combined with four long runways, has the capacity for twice as many flights. The new Federal Inspection Service area opening in July is twice the size of our current facility and has the capacity to serve 3,600 international passengers per hour. The South Terminal, completed in 2007, serves 20 of our major airlines and handles nearly 25 per cent of our passengers. Therefore 95 per cent of our passengers are now using facilities that are less than five years old and have the capacity to accommodate projected growth.

Q. Until the new immigration hall projected to open in July is officially in operation, what would be your advice to visitors travelling into or through Miami before they book their tickets?

A. Unfortunately, American Airlines [and Cayman Airways] passengers and others using the Concourse E Customs area may experience longer wait times in the passport control area during peak hours on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, which are our busiest days. Passengers should schedule their travel plans accordingly if they are travelling on those days, especially for connecting flights, until the new North Terminal international arrivals facility opens in July. They should give themselves at least two hours between connecting flights. Airlines using the Concourse J Customs facility should not experience any abnormal delays.

Q. Does MIA have a long-term expansion plan to prepare for future growth?

A. We are currently in phase three of our four-phase Strategic Airport Master Planning Study, which will address capacity needs at MIA through 2050.

Tornado Damages Kansas Aviation Museum - The wind overturned at least one of the museum's planes and moved others

As a tornado ripped across southeast Wichita Saturday night, causing heavy damage at the Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems plants, it also caused significant damage at the Kansas Aviation Museum.

Several planes outside the museum, which sits near 31st Street South and George Washington Boulevard at the site of the original Wichita Municipal Airport, were damaged.

At least one of those planes, a Cessna O-2B was blown onto its top. Other planes were moved in place, according to the museum's executive director, Lon Smith. A KC 135 tanker on display at the museum was rotated nearly 180 degrees, Smith said.

"I think all-in-all we're actually lucky," he said. "It weather vaned a lot of the planes. They didn't collide too badly. I don't think there's a lot of major, major damage to the planes."

The heaviest damage to the museum building appeared to be the roof being lifted off of the old terminal building's tower. Smith estimates the damage in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it will take daylight to get the full picture.

"We'll come out tomorrow (Sunday), we'll make an assessment and take a lot of pictures and talk with the insurance company," Smith said.

Looking back toward the damaged pieces of Wichita history, Smith said the storm provided a perfect example of why the museum needs the support of the community and the state.

"This is all the more reason why, as a community, we need to come together and figure out how to make this a world class aviation museum," he said. "So we have an indoor space for these planes. We have just got to make that happen and this is perfect evidence right here."

Promoting flight, aiding others

Michael Gruenhill and Brenden Alsaffar check out an Xtra 300 plane on display Saturday at the 7th Annual Aviation Exploration Day at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in Pittston Township 

PITTSTON TWP. -- The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport provided the opportunity Saturday for the Marywood Aviators aviation club to educate and inspire area residents with an airplane flight costing only $20 and benefiting Angel Flight East.

The group is a chapter of the Angel Flight America organization, which provides air flights to those whose medical needs can be met only at health care facilities located far from their homes.

Volunteer pilots from the airport’s flight school made it possible to introduce area residents to the sky, and Saturday’s fair weather made it an especially pleasant experience.

Darrin Long, who heads Marywood’s aviation club, said he is grateful the club is able to assist Angel Flight East. Long also said the event provided the opportunity to teach area residents about the specifics of aviation.

He said many area youth were present at the event and were eagerly absorbing information as they made their way through the hangar.

Kristinia Luke, 27, a graduate of Marywood and now an employee of the Angel Flight East chapter in Blue Bell, said she is humbled every day by the commitment of the volunteers pilots who transport patients.

She noted one such patient started flying with AFE at 8 weeks old and is now 3 years old and still being served.

The first words of the tiny patient when learning to talk were “clear prop,” an aviation term that means to clear the area when the plane is about to take off. Luke said this is an indication of how the pilots not only transport patients, but truly care and become a part of their lives.

Harry Morales, himself a pilot, founded the organization in 1992.

Committed to public-benefit flying, the Angel Flight East chapter of the organization flew 17 missions in its first year. Today, almost 1,000 missions are completed annually, ensuring that patients are able to get needed medical attention even if it means traveling a great distance.

The hangar was filled with residents young and old who had an appreciation for flight and for the community spirit defined by the event.

Cecelia O’Malley, 5, enthusiastically used a flight simulator to learn about flying.

“We considered going to another airport,” said O’Malley’s father, Rob, “but we chose this event because it gave us the opportunity to fly and to benefit a worthy organization at the same time.”

Marywood also sponsored a raffle and basket drawing to raise money.

In addition, the Save-A-Life organization presented information at Saturday’s event about suicide prevention and family support for those in crisis.

Long said he anticipated that at least 1,000 people would take advantage of the day to fly in one of two planes, the Piper Warrior and the Piper Archer, made available by the airport.

Omni Aviation acquires state-of-the-art flight simulators

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga—Omni Aviation Corp., the country’s most reputable flight school, has taken flight training to another level following its recent acquisition of two highly advanced flight simulators from the United States.

According to Omni president and chairman Capt. Ben Hur Gomez, Omni’s acquisition of the high-tech Red Bird SD advanced aircraft training device (AATD) and the FD-BATD or Garmin G1000 (basic aircraft training device) will be of tremendous value to its students.

“These are the latest in general aviation simulators in the country today, and their use of realistic scenarios will enable students to develop a higher level of pilot decision-making skills thereby improving aviation safety which is our main concern,” Capt. Gomez said.

The Red Bird SD AATD offers a full vision scenario, programmable to any weather condition and easily configurable from a Cessna 172 type cockpit to a Twin Engine Piper Seneca, PA- 34-200 type cockpit.

“The Red Bird flight simulators [SD and FD] offer a lot of advantages to pilot students because students can save time and money while getting proficient in flight procedures before actually flying a real aircraft,” Gomez said.

He said added flight simulators greatly enhance students’ flight training and safety by being familiarized with features and characteristics of the real airplanes before actually flying in them at approximately half the cost.

Using the most holistic approach in flight training, Omni Aviation presently caters to more than 300 (over 100 full time) flight students from 28 different countries.

Its sprawling aviation complex was the former Clark Aero Club which boasts of its own private runway and an array of 25 trainer aircraft comprising 19 Cessna 152 of four versions namely Aerobat, Short Take Off and Landing (STOL), the Texas tail wheel, and of course the standard ones.

Omni also operates five Cessna 172’s all equipped with long range tanks, in three versions: STOL, Glass cockpit and the standard ones. Its flagship Piper Seneca PA-34-200 completes the fleet.

Omni Aviation is also the only general aviation company offering Air Tours to the breathtaking crater of Mt. Pinatubo and Aircraft-For-Rent services similar to Rent-A-Car companies, Gomez said.

Connecticut state Rep. William Wadsworth crash-lands helicopter

(NECN) - Connecticut state Rep. William Wadsworth of Farmington crash-landed a helicopter Saturday night, according to the Hartford Courant. The newspaper says the Farmington Republican was not injured, however a female passenger was taken to the hospital. Officials say the accident could have been worse. "We even see a lot of car crashes that were ten times worse than this. So it really was a lucky sight it didn't hit the transmission lines, which could've been ugly," said Farmington Fire Chief Tim Vibert.

Investors could file lawsuits over airport employees’ protest

The aviation industry was recently under the spotlight when Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) workers went on strike.  Some of the employees have now returned to work and those who had not reported back by last week were summarily dismissed for absenteeism.

The strike, according to financial analysts, is likely to have a great impact on the aviation industry.

Kenya Airways (KQ) launched its rights issue recently to raise additional capital for expansion. The rights issue has attracted many investors, with most betting on the airline’s expansion plans. The industry is also growing.

Some of the evidence of this is the expansion of Kisumu Airport and plans to build more airports and air strips round the country.

The timing of the KAA strike is very unfortunate for KQ rights issue. Some investors may be discouraged from buying the shares as an industrial action by KAA may cause uncertainty. For example, it is not known if the strike will re-occur.

It is not only KQ that will be adversely affected by the industrial action; the strike will also affect other air operators as far as indirect costs are concerned. Some of the indirect costs include losses due to flight delays and also rising fuel costs occasioned by the flight delays.

Leaving the rather interesting financial analysis aside, the strike by KAA workers has some legal implications when it comes to force majeure.

I have done a few columns on the principle of force majeure which very simply put, is one party in a contractual relationship being discharged from performing his part of the contract due to occurrence of something beyond his control.

An example of force majeure is due to the global financial crisis. In the USA, a number of suits were filed by borrowers in real estate sector claiming that they could not honour their loan obligations because of the financial crisis.

They wanted the court to classify the financial crisis as an event of force majeure. Recently, another example of where force majeure may arise in contractual relationships, is when the fibre optic cables were cut off by a ship. The issue of hardship would come in between internet service providers and their clients.

The strike by KAA workers may be another one where the principle of force majeure applies.

Strikes, industrial actions, terrorism and acts of war are all classified under the principle of force majeure. In most contracts, there is a force majeure clause that sets out events in which the parties shall be discharged from obligations.

For example, flight delays and cancellations attributed in some way to the strike by KAA would fall under force majeure. It may be as remote as a cargo plane failing to deliver some goods on time due to flight delays caused by the strike. Either way, force majeure may be pleaded...for the strike is not really anybody’s fault.

It has been said by economic analysts, that strikes really do have a great impact on the economy as they cause losses amounting to millions.

Some losses are direct while most are indirect. Analysts especially in the aviation industry have quite some interesting analysis on the impact of strikes on air operators.In one study, the analysts studied the impact of airline operator strikes on the market value of such airline stocks vis a vis their competitors’stock values.

This situation is slightly different from the KAA workers ‘strike as this strike may affect all operators equally.

Robert Ficano's aides dashed to grab upper hand on severance news, e-mails show

The reaction of the administration of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Free Press provides insight into how Ficano's insiders tried to defuse potentially unfavorable news.

Just before 5 p.m. Sept. 19, Free Press reporter John Wisely filed a FOIA request seeking severance documents for Turkia Awada Mullin, who left her job as the county's economic development boss in early September to become CEO of Metro Airport. Wisely had received a tip that Mullin had received a large severance when she voluntarily left her county job.

The county didn't provide the Free Press with a copy of the agreement for nearly two weeks.

But, according to e-mails the Free Press recently obtained under an information request, Ficano's top aides immediately started planning how to defuse the news the agreement would show -- that Mullin got $200,000 for leaving one job for another that paid even more.

The agreement included a confidentiality provision barring Mullin from disclosing the agreement except under court order.

The county reserved its right to disclose the deal "as permitted or required by law, including ... the Michigan Freedom of Information Act."

But the county appeared to want to give the story to someone other than Wisely, who had written a story in August raising questions about Mullin's appointment as airport director. The story noted that the executive search firm that helped hire her was run by Jack Krasula, an investor in a key county land deal Mullin had spearheaded.

Just before noon Sept. 20, Ficano's top aide, Deputy County Executive Azzam Elder, sent Mullin, Ficano's director of communications Lynn Ingram, press secretary Brooke Blackwell and others a copy of the severance agreement paid to Mullin's economic development predecessor, Mulu Birru.

He noted that former airport director Lester Robinson had paid severances to people who left the airport and that "although she didn't have to, Turkia agreed to reduce her severance down from 18 to 12 months."

Five hours later, Blackwell e-mailed a TV reporter she knew with the subject line "Story for you ... call me later."

The station later aired a story on Mullin's arrival at the airport and her plans to balance its budget but didn't mention the $200,000 severance payment, except in a separate online blog, which noted that it was a "standard severance" package.

When Wisely questioned Blackwell in an e-mail, she responded that it was Mullin, not her, who had given the severance details to the TV station.

Ingram, Blackwell's boss, was happy with the TV coverage, saying in a Sept. 21 e-mail to Ficano and others that the story "got the cat out of the bag for us." He wrote that Mullin appeared prepared and confident. They had arranged another interview for the following morning "and the issue will have been beaten to death," Ingram wrote.

He added: "Wisely will be left with nothing but scraps for page 8 of a week day edition."

He added a smiley face for emphasis.

Elder was pleased with the result, too. He sent Ficano and others an e-mail that night, saying: "Brooke and Lynn, I want to personally thank you for making a great result happen." He added, "Bob thank you for believing in all of us."

Airport needs more aggressive marketing effort

Oneida County’s contract with Freeman Holdings of New York to run fixed-base operations at Griffiss International Airport might best be described as a bittersweet work in progress.

On one hand, County Executive Anthony Picente says the deal is saving taxpayers money. But critics, citing profits far lower than anticipated, believe the county is getting a raw deal.

Who’s right? Maybe it’s a little of both.

What’s really needed is more aggressive marketing of the airport. That needs to be a combined effort, with the county, Mohawk Valley EDGE and the airport commissioner working in partnership with Million Air — Freeman Holdings’ franchise name — to secure more business. Their success would benefit everyone.

In 2008, Oneida County and Freeman Holdings entered into a 10-year contract, under which Million Air runs all airport operations, ranging from services offered to pilots, passengers and planes to fueling and food service. The county reaps a portion of the profits, but those profits haven’t been what were expected.

For instance, the county gets eight cents for every gallon of fuel sold, but sales have fallen short of projections. Payments to the county in 2009 and 2010 were $44,791 and $62,491, respectively. And in 2011, the take was $71,024, county figures show. Million Air had projected the county would make $190,000 off the deal in 2009 and $205,000 in 2010.

Even so, Picente says, the county is ahead of the game, saving an estimated $500,000 annually in salaries, benefits and equipment the county has not had to purchase.

Nevertheless, this operation could be much better — and should be — by securing more business at the airport.

A pending lease with MidAir to occupy the other half of Building 100, which could result in an additional 125 jobs, is a good step. But there’s much more work to do. More business could be a bargaining chip for the county when the contract with Freeman comes up for renewal in six years.

Raising the profit margin would also be advantageous for Million Air, which currently pays no rent to the county for office space like it does at some facilities. In Victorville, Calif., for instance, Million Air operates an airport at the former George Air Force Base and pays between $6,000 and $7,000 a month in rent. But there, the company has been able to attract military planes, and the city garnered close to $800,000 last year from its 10-cent-per-gallon share of the million gallons of fuel sold there.

That could happen here, especially with the spectacular Griffiss runway, and local leaders — with assistance of political representatives — need to ratchet up efforts to make it happen. Freeman has said that the lower-than-expected profits were the result of trouble attracting business, including issues setting up a U.S. Customs office here.

Currently, when military or civilian flights arrive from overseas, customs officials from Syracuse need to be called in. That makes Griffiss less attractive as a destination for such flights.

Setting up a customs office here could change that and would likely increase business. That needs to be a goal of local officials, with assistance from U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Rep. Richard Hanna. After all, this is economic development for the Mohawk Valley, and our political leaders need to become allies in the effort.

Million Air has six years left on its contract. At that point, either side can opt to part company — Freeman can walk away or the county can terminate the deal and resume base operations itself.

Neither sounds like a good idea at this point. The potential for profitability here would strongly suggest that both sides could prosper by working together to boost business at Griffiss Airport. That’s exactly what they need to do.

Employment Opportunity: Airport Manager - West Yellowstone, Montana

The State of Montana is an equal opportunity employer.

Position Title: Airport Manager
*Applications must be received by Midnight on the closing date.

Additional Salary Information:***Please See Special Information Section***

Applicant Pool:If another department vacancy occurs in this job title within six months, the same applicant pool may be used for the selection.

Special Information:

Please note the following:

Scheduled hours are 40 hours per week for approximately 8 months (usually mid-April through mid-November) and 20 hours per week for the remaining 4 months.

Position often requires a work schedule that is not 8 to 5, and variable from week to week depending upon ARFF duty times, commercial airline scheduling and other airport factors and will occasionally require working extra hours as necessary.

Position requires person to be able to be contacted by cell phone 24/7 every day, except for special circumstances where other arrangements are made in advance.

Position will require satisfactory completion of 6-month probationary period. Position may require an FBI security background check. Position must be appropriately ARFF certified or able to be certified within first six months of employment.

Successful applicants will be required to sign a release to obtain Driver's Records.

Successful applicant(s) will be subject to:
Criminal History Background Check
Driving Record Check


Oversees all aspects of airport management, operations, planning and budget, with an emphasis on economic development. Position sets both short and long term developmental and financial goals and prepares financial and activity reports. Position is primary contact and manager for all airport construction, maintenance and planning projects. Position oversees and administers all private and commercial leases.

Position is primary liaison for all local, state and federal contacts and is in charge of maintaining compliance with all applicable federal, state and local regulations in conjunction with operating an FAR Part 139 commercial service airport, including FAA compliance issues and DHS/TSA security issues. Position vigorously pursues and coordinates private and commercial development of airport in order to maximize revenues and potential development of airport properties and resources.

Position directly supervises two full-time seasonal positions and indirectly oversees other attendant airport employees and tenants. Position will routinely act in the capacity as an ARFF for commercial aircraft operations on a rotating schedule with other airport employees 


Successful candidates for this position will have demonstrated ability with the following:  Flexibility Coping and Stress Tolerance,Decision Making and Decisiveness,Resource Management, Judgement, Communication, verbal and written, Public Service and Dedication, Committment, Reliability and Dependability.

Please refer to the Job Profile for more specific requirements of the position or contact Human Resources for more information.


Minimum Qualifications:
Bachelor’s Degree in airport management, professional aeronautics, aviation business, aeronautical science, public administration, administrative management, business.    Requires two or more years of job-related work to successfully perform the assigned duties, including one year of supervision (can be concurrent). 

Alternative qualifications may be considered on a case by case basis. A master’s degree in any of the above related degrees may substitute for some industry related experience.  The ability to obtain any required certificates within 6 months of the beginning of employment may be allowed. 

This position MAY require a DHS / TSA administered background check if requested by that agency for the fulfillment of certain job duties. 

Read more:

Timmermeyer promoted to airport manager

The City of Newton is pleased to announce that Kevin Timmermeyer has been promoted to manager of Newton City/County Airport. He has served as interim manager since 2009, and has worked at the airport for more than 20 years.

The airport has also welcomed Iris DePriest to the staff as office manager. She will handle day-to-day office duties, allowing other airport staff to remain focused on field operations.

Officials fighting to keep 259th Air Traffic Control Squadron at Alexandria International Airport

Scott Gammel (left), Alexandria International Airport manager, and Pat Thompson, a Department of Defense employee who supervises Alexandria’s air traffic controllers, hope that the 259th Louisiana Air National Guard Unit will be allowed to stay at their jobs. 
 Leandro Huebner/ 

Show your support

 Want to keep the Louisiana Air National Guard 259th Air Traffic Controller Squadron at Alexandria International Airport? Here are ways to show your support:

»On its website,, the England Authority has an online petition. On the main page there is a "Click Here to Support the Effort." The petition will be forwarded to Congress.

Senior Airman Justin Dauzart and Staff Sgt. Clay Guillot guided the Delta Air Lines passenger jet to a picture-perfect landing on a picture-perfect day this past week.

The airmen have spent a few years in the control tower at Alexandria International Airport. But this might be Dauzart's and Guillot's last April as air traffic controllers at AEX if the Air Force can't be persuaded to drop plans that would disband the Louisiana Air National Guard 259th Air Traffic Control Squadron.

Dauzart and Guillot, who've both been in war zones, do not want their 110-airman unit to be broken up and transferred to as-yet unannounced U.S. locales to serve in the Air Force's drone program.

"I'd like to stay here," Dauzart said. "My family's in Alexandria. That's the main reason I wanted to come here."

Central Louisiana wants them to stay, too.

Officials at England Airpark, which operates the airport, are waging a campaign to keep the 259th here, where training is ongoing. Airpark officials are encouraging Louisiana's congressional delegation, legislators, the governor, mayors, councils, parents and kids to speak up, sign up and keep up the pressure in hopes the Air Force will change its plans.

"If (the 259th) is effective and efficient, why shouldn't it be saved?" said Jon Grafton, airpark executive director.

Grafton also said that if current Air Force plans prevail and the 259th is moved, AEX will continue 24-hour military and commercial operations.

It might, however, make the England Authority dig into its budget, Grafton said.

According to records and interviews with air travel officials, the 259th:

»Has a $3 million annual direct impact to the local economy.

»Lands private, commercial and military aircraft 24 hours a day.

»Oversees coastal disaster air operations, such as when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005 and AEX was the launching and landing pad for emergency aircraft when air facilities in South Louisiana were knocked out.

»Supports Fort Polk operations by guiding in military aircraft, usually between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., and ferrying in and flying out Army soldiers on commercial flights.

»Supports daily U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization flights that fly to Central and South America.

»Employs military flight procedures for commercial flights, which Grafton said is safer than the private flight rules.

»Is ready to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment's notice to set up mobile aircraft control operations.

The 259th provides "an absolutely critical service to the airport and the community up there," said Brad Branch, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development aviation director.

"They've also been extremely critical during disaster relief-efforts, specifically Katrina," Branch said.

Since 1997, the 259th has manned the control tower at AEX, overseen ground radar equipment and maintained controller flight equipment at AEX, one of only three Louisiana airports -- the other two are New Orleans and Shreveport -- with flights 24 hours a day.

AEX has had 24-hour flights since 1993, when England Air Force Base was deactivated and England Airpark was born. From 1993 until 1997, AEX employed contract air traffic controllers.

"From the very beginning we were a 24-hour tower," Grafton said, adding that landing and taking off at AEX are "infinitely better" since the 259th took over in 1997.

Last year, the 259th installed a ground control approach -- GCA. The GCA system allows controllers to guide pilots into AEX with radio instructions only, simulating zero-visibility conditions.

Pat Thompson, a Department of Defense employee who supervises AEX controllers, said that besides the commercial and private-plane flights overseen by the 259th, airmen conduct dozens or more "touch and go" military pilot and air controller training exercises every day.

"Our safety record is extremely good," Thompson said.

If the Air Force transfers the 259th, it could put a financial burden on AEX. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration now pays the Air Force about $250,000 a year for the 259th's services, Grafton said,

The $250,000 amount is about what the FAA pays for contract air traffic controllers at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, Executive Director Randy Robb said. He said the Lake Charles airport's hours are 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Channault does not provide commercial airline service; companies located on the industrial site have contracts to refurbish military aircraft.

At AEX, the FAA would continue to pay for tower controllers, Grafton said, but the costs of running a 24-hour operation at AEX would exceed what the FAA allots.

"(England Airpark) would have to find a way to essentially continue that tower operation," DOTD's Branch said. "But what it's going to mean, though, is they're going to have to dig into their budget and/or find external funds. ... That may take away from infrastructure and maintenance on their facility.

"That could have a major impact, especially on a commercial-service airport," Branch said.

Coimbatore Airport is battle ready

At the Coimbatore Airport on Saturday, water leaps out of a state-of-the art fire fighting unit acquired from Austria and covers nearly 300 ft. The Austria-made crash fire tender (brand name Rosenbauer) demonstrates its prowess in fighting from a safe distance a blaze in aircraft. 

This was part of a drill to mark the Fire Services Day and the start of Fire Services Week observance.

Airport Director K. Peter Abraham; Central Industrial Security Force Deputy Commandant Pushkar Parashar; Airport Deputy General Manager Jeena George; Officer-in-Charge of Fire Sector B. Ganesh; and Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services Assistant Divisional Fire Officer Krishnamurthy; were present..

The demonstration was to point out that with a 40-member fire fighting unit and the crash fire tenders, the airport was capable of tackling a major fire both in the terminal or in an aircraft, officials said. A smoke chamber, which would simulate a situation for training the airport's fire force personnel in swift evacuation, was inaugurated. Mr. Abraham has also allocated space near the residential quarters for stationing EMRI's 108 ambulance. This will shift passengers under medical emergencies to hospitals in the city.

The crash fire tender stole the show at the demonstration on Saturday. (The Coimbatore Airport has three of them, each costing Rs.3.5 crore). Each can hold 10,500 litres of water and 1,300 litres of aqua film forming foam. The foam is handy in putting out an oil fire. 

Officials explained that in case of an oil fire, water would not help in putting out the blaze quickly. The density of oil is less than that of water. Because of this, oil remains on top and sustains the blaze. The foam forms a film over the oil and kills the blaze by cutting oxygen to it. In fire services parlance, this is called blanketing the fire. This is very useful because any typical incident on an aircraft is mostly oil fire.

The chasis of the fire tender has defence nozzles that spray water to put out grass fire on the route to the main blaze area. This prevented the fire fighting unit from catching fire. This was also demonstrated during the drill on Saturday. 

From turning the ignition on, the crash fire tenders can reach a speed of 80 km in 20 seconds.

Firefighting Training Exercises May 16-19, 2012

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has scheduled firefighter training exercises for Wednesday, May 16, 2012 through Saturday, May 19, 2012.

Large plumes of dark smoke coming from the Airport's self-contained burn pit facility may be visible during the exercises. The burn pit facility is located on the south side of the Airport and is operated under an Air Quality Open Burn Permit issued by the Municipality of Anchorage, Department of Health and Human Services.

The Airport fire department conducts live fire exercises in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration training requirements for aircraft rescue and fire fighting personnel.

Questions should be directed to Chief Jesse Davis 907-266-2407.

Spirit Aerosystems suspending operations


Part of an airplane fuselage is spotted strewn near a fence after a tornado passed through Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Kan., April 14, 2012. 
(Photo: Jeff Herndon, KAKE-TV News Anchor) 

WICHITA, Kansas -- Spirit Aerosystems in South Wichita has suspended operations indefinitely as a result of damage sustained from Saturday's tornado outbreak.  Employees have been told not to report to work until further notice.

"We had substantial damage," said Debbie Gann, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Spirit.  "Roofs and siding have been torn off, and we have no power."

A search last night revealed no employees trapped inside buildings on the Spirit campus.  Gann says the company is in the process of double checking today.

"Our first priority is to our employees, and we executed our emergency evacuation plan like clockwork," Gann added.

Structural engineers will begin going building to building today to survey the damage.

"It looks like most of our operational capability is in tact," Gann said.  "We're working to get our facility up and running as soon as possible.  That's our goal."

Gann says they plan to update the media on the situation at Spirit about 3 p.m.

Reporter: KAKE News

A company spokesperson says Spirit AeroSystems received significant damage to its facility on Saturday. The company suspended operations after the tornado.

Near MacArthur and K-15, downed power lines surrounded the edge of the complex. The storm ripped siding and roofing from buildings and littered the side of the road.

A few buildings had employees working at the time of the apparent tornado.

"It was pretty bad. The wind in the tunnel took off and vacuumed from one end to the other and then it went back the other way. You could hear parts of the roof coming off. It was pretty bad," said one employee.

Employees do not have to report to work, Saturday night and Sunday, unless contacted directly.

"Our first priority is the safety and well being of our employees. We are suspending operations tonight; employees who were scheduled to report to work tonight or tomorrow should not report unless contacted directly," said Jarrod Bartlett, spokesperson, in a statement.

 WICHITA, Kan. -- Tornadoes were spotted across the Midwest and Plains on Saturday as an outbreak of unusually strong weather seized the region, and forecasters sternly warned that "life-threatening" weather could intensify overnight.

A strong tornado rolled through Wichita, Kansas Saturday evening, causing severe damage and widespread power outages to parts of the city. Spirit Aerosystems, which manufactures fuselages for all Boeing 7-7 planes in production, took major damage to two buildings with walls down and cars tossed around, KAKE-TV reported.

Damage was reported to housing and at an Air Force Base.

The airport tower in Wichita was evacuated when the tornado approached the terminal, and an automated wind gauge at the airport reported an 85 mph gust as the tornado passed.

Storms were reported in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Emergency officials in Iowa said that high winds or a tornado damaged a hospital in Creston, but no injuries were reported. Authorities also said about 75 percent of the small western Iowa community of Thurman was destroyed, with no injuries reported there either.

National Weather Service forecasters issued sobering outlooks that the worst of the weather would hit around nightfall, predicting that conditions were right for exceptionally strong tornadoes. Weather officials and emergency management officials worried most about what would happen if strong storms hit when people were sleeping, not paying attention to weather reports and unlikely to hear warning sirens.

When it's dark, it's also more difficult for weather spotters to clearly see funnel clouds or tornadoes.

"This could go into, certainly, to overnight situations, which is always of immense concern to us," said Michelann Ooten, an official with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., which specializes in tornado forecasting, said that the outbreak could be a "high-end, life-threatening event" nearly two days before the weather hit.

It was just the second time in U.S. history that the center issued a high-risk warning more than 24 hours in advance. The first was in April 2006, when nearly 100 tornadoes tore across the southeastern U.S., killing a dozen people and damaging more than 1,000 homes in Tennessee.

While there were no fatalities as of Saturday evening, storms were erupting faster than spotters could tally them all. The danger began Saturday morning when tornado sirens sounded in Oklahoma City around dawn.

One of the suspected tornadoes in central Oklahoma touched down near the small town of Piedmont and followed a similar path the one last May that killed several people, Mayor Valerie Thomerson said. Later in the day, several tornadoes were reported to have touched down in the northeast part of the state. Aside from damage to a camper, the chaos was minor.

More than 5,000 people who had gathered in Woods County, Okla., for a rattlesnake hunt scattered when a tornado touched down, said county emergency management director, Steve Foster.

In Iowa, Thurman — a town of about 250 people — was severely damaged by a possible tornado. Fremont County Emergency Management Director Mike Crecelius said that about 75 percent of the town was destroyed, but there were no injuries or deaths. Crecelius said the town was on lockdown Saturday night, and that town officials and residents expect to start cleaning up on Sunday.

In Creston, about 75 miles from Des Moines, the Greater Regional Medical Center suffered roof damage and had some of its windows blown out by a storm, said John Benson, a spokesman for Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management. No injuries were reported. Medical center officials were calling other area hospitals to determine how many beds they had available in case they needed to move patients.

The National Weather Service in Des Moines also received reports of high winds that toppled at least five semis on Interstate 29.

In northeast Nebraska, Boone County Sheriff David Spiegel said baseball-sized hail had damaged vehicles, shattered windows and tore siding from houses in and around Petersburg, about 140 miles northwest of Omaha. In southeast Nebraska, an apparent tornado took down barns, large trees, and some small rural structures. Johnson County emergency director Clint Strayhorn said he was trying to determine the twister's duration and the damage it caused.

"I'm on a 2-mile stretch that this thing is on the ground and I haven't even gotten to the end of it yet," he said, walking the path of destruction near the Johnson-Nemaha county line. He didn't immediately know of any injuries.

Two possible tornadoes were reported father south in Nebraska near the Kansas border, and as many as 10 others were reported in largely rural parts of western and central Kansas, including one north of Dodge City that was said to be on the ground for a half-hour, weather officials said.

In Salina, Kan., tornado sirens sounded after a possible tornado was spotted nearby. National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Scott also said tornadoes were reported in the central and western Kansas counties of Pratt, Stafford, Rush and Hodgeman. There were reports of a home damaged in Rush County and an old schoolhouse damaged in Hodgeman County.

Tornado threats caused some weekend festivities to be called off. The threat prompted University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletic officials to cancel the annual spring football game minutes before Saturday's kick-off.

Forecasters warned once Saturday night's danger had passed, the threat from the storm system wasn't over. Severe weather was also possible for a significant band of the center of the country on Sunday.

"The threat isn't over with tonight, unfortunately. Severe weather is possible again tomorrow from east Texas and Arkansas and up into the Great Lakes," said Bill Bunting, chief of operations at the Storm Prediction Center, which is part of the National Weather Service.