Wednesday, April 18, 2012

FBI arrests man accused of pointing laser at jet and helicopter

A North Hollywood man was arrested Wednesday on federal charges alleging that he pointed a potentially dangerous laser beam at a private jet and a police helicopter, authorities said.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adam Gardenhire, 18, is accused of shining a green laser beam at a Cessna Citation, operated by Netjets, and a Pasadena Police Department helicopter on the evening of March 29. He was taken into custody at his home.

Gardenhire, who faces two counts, is being prosecuted under a new federal law that makes it a criminal offense to deliberately point a laser at an aircraft. His case is the first time the statute has been used on the West Coast and the second time in the nation, authorities said.

Gardenhire faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted on both charges. He also is subject to civil penalties by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Reports of laser attacks have increased significantly in recent years as the devices have become more affordable and widely available to the public. California, which has consistently led the nation in reported incidents, had more than 3,500 attacks last year.

Laser beams can temporarily distract pilots and impair their vision, which is particularly dangerous during takeoffs and landings. Pilots have reported the need to abort landings or turn over control of aircraft to another pilot after being blinded.

Drug smuggling pilot headed to state prison. Wings Field Airport (KLOM), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

NORRISTOWN – Just days after losing his “Lady,” a Colorado pilot lost at least nine years of his freedom for his role in a plot to smuggle methamphetamine into Montgomery County.

James Michael Handzus, 52, of Rifle, Colo., was sentenced Tuesday in Montgomery County Court to nine-to-22 years in a state correctional facility after he was convicted of charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, criminal use of a communication facility, possession of drug paraphernalia and conspiracy in connection with incidents that occurred in April 2011 in Plymouth and at Wing’s Field in Whitpain.

Last week, Handzus’ plane, christened “My Lady,” officially was forfeited to county authorities under drug forfeiture laws. The 1959 Piper Comanche fixed-wing, single engine aircraft has an estimated value of about $25,000 and county officials plan to auction or sell it and use the proceeds to fund other drug investigations.

Handzus’ prison sentence includes an eight-year mandatory term sought by First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, based on the amount of drugs involved in the crime. Because Handzus was convicted of possession with intent to deliver 433.6 grams of methamphetamine, prosecutors could seek the mandatory sentence under state law.

Judge Joseph A. Smyth also imposed a consecutive one-to-two year prison term against Handzus for a separate charge of possession with intent to deliver 3.42 grams of the drug. The judge said a consecutive sentence was appropriate given the sophisticated nature of Handzus’ drug activity.

“He’s no ordinary drug dealer,” said Smyth, referring to Handzus’ use of cell phones and other tactics to try to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Steele argued for a sentence of 12-to-24 years against Handzus, asking that sentences for most of Handzus’ crimes be imposed consecutively. Steele argued Handzus had “lifelong issues with methamphetamine” and that Handzus admitted in a presentence interview that his drug addiction once “cost me my wife, my ranch and my job.”

“If there’s one person that knows the insidious nature of this drug it’s Mr. Handzus, someone who clearly should have known better. Those who become addicted to this have their lives ruined. What Mr. Handzus was trying to put out on the streets…could have caused a lot of problems for a lot of people,” Steele said.

Defense lawyer Douglas P. Earl sought a sentence of not more than the mandatory eight-year prison term for Handzus.

“In the 90s he had a drug problem but he received treatment,” Earl said. “This has been a horrible experience for him.”

Handzus said his conduct was a result of bad decisions that were fueled by his grief over the loss of several loved ones, his greed and “compounded by stupidity.”

“I know I did wrong and I know I have to pay for it,” Handzus told the judge.

During the two-day trial, Steele argued the one pound of methamphetamine that was seized had a street value of between $64,000 and $76,800. Steele, who was assisted by prosecutor Lindsay Carfagno, characterized Handzus’ arrest as a “significant drug bust.”

Handzus’ girlfriend, Tamara Vincent, 41, previously pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and conspiracy in connection with the incident and is awaiting sentencing.

During his trial testimony, Handzus maintained he was set up by a police informant, claiming the informant planted the one pound of methamphetamine inside his luggage.

But prosecutors said detectives did an outstanding job investigating Handzus.

In March 2011, the district attorney’s Drug Task Force and Narcotics Enforcement Team, which had been investigating the distribution of methamphetamine in the county, learned that Handzus allegedly had been smuggling large quantities of methamphetamine into the county using his airplane.

On April 21, authorities learned Handzus was arriving at Wing’s Field in Whitpain, court papers indicate. Although Handzus did not file flight plans before piloting the aircraft on a 2,400 mile trip from Las Vegas, investigators had seen his Facebook page and learned of his travel plans, court records indicate.

After the Colorado couple was in town, an undercover detective arranged to purchase the meth from Handzus the following day, according to arrest documents. The undercover detective arranged to meet Handzus and Vincent at Ruby Tuesday’s on Chemical Road in Plymouth, court papers indicate.

At the restaurant, Vincent allegedly explained that her boyfriend had family in the area, and when the couple visited they brought the drugs to sell to pay expenses and provide spending money, according to court papers. She allegedly agreed to sell the undercover detective a pound of meth for $27,000.

After inspecting the meth, the undercover detective gave Vincent a $2,000 down payment. Detectives then moved in and arrested the couple, and the pound of “crystal meth” was seized from the couple’s luggage, according to court documents.

Prosecutors previously alleged the methamphetamine was manufactured in Mexico and sent to Las Vegas, which is “the hub of distribution” for the illicit narcotic in the United States. Prosecutors described the confiscated drugs as “very high grade.”

For sale: one used 1959 Piper fixed-wing aircraft. Powder blue in color. Probably should not be used to carry drug-sniffing dog as a pound of crystal meth was aboard at one time.

Remember the plane that was seized at Wings Field in Montgomery County last April 22, when the pilot, James Handzus, was arrested while selling the meth to an undercover detective? We do.

Handzus was convicted of drug law violations after a trial in Montgomery County Court. He’ll be sentenced on Tuesday, April 24.

Today, April 18, Judge Gerald Corso ruled that the plane, named My Lady, must be forfeited. "It is time for Mr. Handzus to kiss 'his lady' goodbye," said Assistant District Attorney James Staerk, head of the Montgomery County District Attorney's Forfeiture Unit.

Staerk said Handzus flew the plane from home in Rifle, Colo., to Las Vegas, Nev., where he bought the meth, then flew the drugs to Wings Field.

Now, just as we were rummaging in the closet for our Bomber jacket a la Amelia Earhart, comes word from DA Risa Vetri Ferman that she aims to sell the thing.

“While the novelty of having an Aviation Unit within the DA's Office is appealing, I doubt there is much realistic use for a plane within our operations,” she said. “We will plan to sell the plane, and make use of the proceeds for narcotics enforcement and investigations throughout the county.”

“I can think of no better way to use proceeds of illegal drug activity than to take these ill-gotten gains away from drug traffickers, and use their prized possessions to take other drug dealers out of commission.”

She said the plane has to be appraised before it is sold, but it could go for $25,000 or more..

Stay tuned.

New airline set to take off

 South Pacific Airways owners Robert Milne and Peter Henderson are ready to fly people around the region.

A NEW charter airline is set to take off from Maryborough airport, offering services all over the country.

Peter Henderson and Robert Milne are the men behind South Pacific Airways, which is targeting fly-in fly-out workers, medical workers and local businesses.

After getting his first pilot's license in 1968, Mr Henderson entered the industry doing charter flights to oil rigs and went on to develop a career spanning more than 30 years before he decided to start his own company.

He moved to the region last year to start the business, choosing the Fraser Coast region for its base because he believes it is about to boom.

"The Maryborough area has a lot of potential, it just needs time to develop," Mr Henderson said.

"With the potential for government departments and mining in the area, it's all going ahead."

He and his business partner Mr Milne, who is from Maryborough, have more than 40,000 flying hours between them and have previously flown for Sunstate Airlines which later became QantasLink.

South Pacific Airways specializes in trips to outback Australia, but will fly anywhere in the country in their six-seat PA-31 twin-engine Piper Navajo that can carry five passengers and the pilot.

The plane can travel at more than 200 knots, with an endurance of up to five hours between stops.

"These planes can pretty much go anywhere," Mr Henderson said.

"We will be doing ad hoc charter flights from the Maryborough Airport to wherever people want to go."

Sky Jet to start Batanes commercial flights in May

Sky Jet, a new airline, on Wednesday announced that commercial flights to Basco, Batanes, would start in May after successful provisional flights using its new aircraft.
“Sky Jet’s commercial flights are definitely in the pipeline… We are just wrapping up regulatory documents with the government,” Jun Perez, Sky Jet human resources and legal department head, told GMA News Online in a phone interview.
Perez noted their 94-seater BAe 146-200 jet started provisional flights last March 14. The flights were chartered by the Batanes Cultural Travel Agency.
“We are also looking at bringing new aircraft in the last week of April to the first week of May,” he said.
The new aircraft will be a 72-seater BAe 146-100, a lighter version of the BAe 146-200.
A one-way ticket to Basco costs P6,400, while special rates of P5,800 to P6,000 will be given to the indigenous Ivatans.
Currently, only SEAIR offers commercial flights to the Philippine’s northern tip costing around P7,500 to P8,500.
“It is hard to sustain tourist influx when you are faced with problems such as high cost of airfares and unreliable flight schedules,” Joel Mendoza, owner of Sky Jet Airlines, said in a statement Wednesday.
To most airlines, Batanes is a “missionary” route, Mendoza noted. “And it truly is, because the population alone cannot sustain the business.”
“So we had to think of a win-win solution. Setting up Sky Jet ensures that we could continue with our advocacy of helping Batanes,” Mendoza added.
“When I first set foot in Batanes, I could hardly believe a place like it exists in the Philippines. And after interacting with the people, I just got blown away,” he said.
“Their honesty, simplicity, kindness and the whole of their culture is so different in a good way,” Mendoza, who is married to an Ivatan, added.
Sky Jet is operated by Lionair Incorporated. —VS, GMA News

SpiceJet allowed to import aircraft turbine fuel directly

Mumbai: SpiceJet Ltd has became India’s first low-cost private airline to get government approval for importing aircraft turbine fuel (ATF) directly.

The approval was granted by the Director-General of Foreign Trade under the ministry of commerce & industry, clearing the airline’s application to source ATF directly from overseas suppliers, a top company official said Wednesday.

SpiceJet Ltd has became India's first low-cost private airline to get government approval for importing aircraft turbine fuel directly. AFP

“We are negotiating with leading oil marketing companies and are hopeful of starting fuel imports in due course,” said Neil Mills, SpiceJet’s chief executive officer.

He said the aviation sector would benefit from fuel imports due to the high price of ATF in India.

“Importing fuel from overseas market at comparatively lower price will help us considerably bring down operational costs,” he said.

SpiceJet runs 270 flights daily to 32 domestic and two international destinations.

The move follows a February decision by the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) to permit domestic airlines to import jet fuel directly from abroad.

Last month, Air India, the national carrier, also announced plans to import ATF directly from international suppliers to save on additional costs by way of state taxes.

The Air India board had also approved hedging of jet fuel up to 20 percent of its international intake and earmarked a specific amount for this in its budget.

My Jet reveals plans for Bendigo airport

BENDIGO charter company My Jet will today reveal plans for its $1-million development at the city’s airport.

The company will build a new hangar and has signed the Bendigo Airport’s new lease agreement.

My Jet’s Chris Richards said his company would employ up to six people and hoped to expand the business in future years.

“We operate a Citation jet that has the capacity to carry up to eight passengers at any one time. The jet can be chartered to any destination within Australia including nearby islands,” he said.

“It can also fly to capital cities and has the capability to land on short or remote airstrips such as Toowoomba, Ararat, Stawell, Young, King Island and Kangaroo Island.

“We have been servicing local business for the last 12 months, which has consolidated our belief that the growing Greater Bendigo region holds enormous potential for My Jet and we are excited to be the latest business to establish at the Bendigo Airport.”

Mr Richards and Greater Bendigo mayor Alec Sandner will unveil the plans this afternoon.

More to come.


Ventura Airconnect may discontinue Jabalpur flights

NAGPUR: Nagpur-Jabalpur flights started by Ventura Airconnect is likely to be discontinued. The airline is now planning daily flights to Indore and Raipur from the city.

The carrier had started its Jabalpur operations in December with a nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravan, the fully glassed cockpit plane, especially meant to target corporate travellers. From Jabalpur, it connected to cities like Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior and Khajuraho.

Sources informed that earlier the airline operated the Jabalpur service thrice a week and then increased it to six days. After four months, the company has realized that its Jabalpur operations are making losses.

On an average, there are hardly 2 or 3 passengers on board the Jabalpur flight while at times, the number is 4. A senior official said, "After a market research and meetings with travel agents recently, we have put up a proposal before the management to discontinue Jabalpur operations and start Indore or Raipur services instead," he added.

The official added that as of now, there are no plans to wind up Nagpur operations. "We plan to promote the airlines in a big way as it offers a comfortable flight to corporates, leisure travellers and air taxi service to people flying in groups," he said.

The Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC) and Ventura have a tie-up for intrastate air service to boost tourism in MP. Along with Indore and Raipur operations, Ventura is also planning to connect Nagpur with destinations like Latur, Baramati, Nanded, Pune and Aurangabad soon. "A proposal in this regard has already been sent to the Maharashtra government," the official added.


Alva Regional (KAVK), Oklahoma: Airport has record fuel sales in March

The departing Alva airport manager Tyson Tucker was unable to attend his final meeting because of the need to be out of town. In a written report, Tucker said, “In March, we had another outstanding month of fuel sales totaling $57,968.44. Tucker said the rainfall has accelerated the mowing season.

He reported that Western Equipment is continuing to lease them a tractor, but it is up $5.00 per hour to $30.00. He encouraged the airport board members to try to make arrangements with BJCC for inmate help. He said the inmates are very helpful when weeding around the lights and the runways.

Hopefully the technician who maintains the Automatic Weather Observation System will be in town soon to install the some new equipment that has arrived.

Tucker also mentioned the B-25 Fly-in which is scheduled for April 21, 2012. He said, “We are expecting a good crowd to come out and enjoy the fly-in.” People can get a ride on the huge aircraft for a fee of $425 per person.

Three members of the local VFW showed up asking if they could get permission to rent out some recreational vehicle spaces and utilities on the west side of the VFW building. George Kilmer, Gerald Wilson and Al Perks made the request.

The VFW already leases this land. The concern is will the FAA approve such a use. The Airport Board members guessed the agency might approve short term parking leases of no more than 30 days. They were skeptical any long-term housing type leases would be approved.

Joe Don Dunham, the city manager was in attendance and suggested plans be made to run sewer and water lines down toward the south end of the property so they would be in a better position to encourage aviation related businesses to locate on the airport. A small lift station would also need to be included to handle sewage. Dunham estimated it would cost about $700,000 for a turnkey job. No action was taken as this was part of thinking on long-range planning.

Because of drainage problems and other incomplete work regarding the new runway project, some of the grants provided to the city for the airport in 2009 and 2010 are not “closed out.” This roadblock will keep the city or airport board from applying for 2012 grants. Paul Kinzie told Dunham he was very frustrated that the completion and correction of the project is dragging on so long.

Another part of the problem is the FAA has yet to perform “approach pattern” flying tests to qualify the new runway for instrument landings. When that is done, the old runway will be decommissioned as a runway and $76,000 of repainting with proper markings will be required. Also, the landing lights on the old runway will need to be changed out to the color of taxiway lights.

In one other planning discussion, Chairman Bob Baker emphasized a dire need for more hangar space. He said next year's budget needs to include money for hangars. A figure of $200,000 for a unit of six t-hangars was mentioned. Concrete ramps for the hangars will cost another $200,000.

He pointed out that the amount of funding the airport is provided from the state is dependent upon how many aircraft are based in Alva. The more aircraft . . . the more money supplied and at present, there is a waiting list.

Finally, the board discussed Chesapeake's interest in constructing a CNG refueling station somewhere on airport property. The board wants to see plans.