Friday, September 21, 2012

Mandan Municipal (Y19), North Dakota: Bids awarded for airport work

The Mandan Airport Authority awarded $5.7 million in contracts to resurface and relight its runway. Northern Improvement will do the construction work and Strata will replace the lights, said Mandan Airport Manager Jim Lawler.

The bids came in about $1.2 million higher than engineer estimates, Lawler said, but the Federal Aviation Administration has amended its grant offer to match the steeper costs. The FAA will pay for 90 percent of the project, the state Aeronautics Commission 5 percent of costs and the Mandan Airport will pay 5 percent of the costs.

The runway surface is 35 years old.

Work will involve replacing the asphalt with concrete.The 4,400-foot main runway serves 15,000 single-engine and light twin-engine plane takeoffs and landings per year.

Lawler said no dirt work will be done at the site this fall, but said the contractor may start stockpiling material in preparation. He said work could start after the ground thaws. Resurfacing work should be completed in October 2013.

The project will close the main runway for at least five months and all plane access to the airport for 30 days, he said. A grass runway will be open for most of the construction process.

The FAA moved the resurfacing project from 2016 to 2013.


More Seaplanes in Sag Harbor, New York

By Kathryn G. Menu 

For the first time in three years, the Village of Sag Harbor received a handful of complaints and issued one citation about seaplanes landing, taking off or taxiing near village beaches. At the same time, according to one seaplane charter service, Sag Harbor has never been a more popular destination and may eventually evolve into becoming a second hub for seaplanes flying into East Hampton from New York City.

“It’s definitely been more of an issue this year,” said Sag Harbor Village Harbor Master Bob Bori in an interview last week.

Bori noted one of the reasons he believes seaplane traffic, and complaints, have risen is because one company – Fly the Whale – actually installed a mooring in a pop up mooring field just outside of the village’s jurisdiction.

While for the most part, Bori said seaplanes have complied with the village’s ordinances, — which prohibit landings and takeoffs in the harbor management zone, 1500 feet from most villages beaches — he added the increase in seaplane traffic does come with concerns from a harbor master’s perspective.

“Well, obviously, my biggest concern is safety,” said Bori. “One of the days, a seaplane came in and it was Sunday afternoon and the kids were sailing at the Breakwater Yacht Club. The seaplane was taxiing right next to the kids in these small sailboats. I know these pilots know what they are doing, but God forbid there was a mechanical issue or something.”

According to Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Thomas Fabiano, this year there have been four complaints logged with the police department through Bori about seaplanes. There were no complaints in either 2010 or 2011, said Chief Fabiano.

For Shaw Road resident John Parker, this summer has been unprecedented in the amount of seaplane traffic he has seen from his waterfront home. One afternoon, Parker and his wife, Joyce, were on their deck when a seaplane flew about 20 to 30 feet over his house, he said.

“We thought we were watching a plane crash,” Parker said. “It just barely cleared the tree in front of our house and landed right near where I moor my boat.”

From there, said Parker, the seaplane taxied to a yellow buoy, indicating a mooring set up in a mooring field outside of Sag Harbor’s jurisdiction, arranged by the seaplane charter company, Fly the Whale.

Parker stressed that while aviation traffic has been a controversial subject on the East End, he is not someone who is opposed to air traffic. Parker was a captain in the air force and a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer.

“I just want people to be aware of this before there is an accident,” added Parker. “By the end of the summer, we were seeing two or three planes a day, easily.”

He suggested one solution could be designating a seaplane landing zone, far from local beaches and other boats, perhaps near Barcelona Neck in East Hampton – a quick launch service boat ride to Sag Harbor.

Melissa Tomkiel, with Fly the Whale, said her pilots consider safety a top priority and the company arranged the mooring in a different color – yellow – so it would be unique and easy to see from the air.

Having the mooring enabled the three-year-old company to land in Sag Harbor in the event of an emergency, like this summer’s plane crash, said Tomkiel, but also allows them to fly people to Sag Harbor from the East Hampton Airport.

“The reason we got a mooring this year is because there is an increase in demand for Sag Harbor, so we wanted some kind of infrastructure in place,” said Tomkiel. “Our two seaplane captains are Sag Harbor residents, and we maintain a positive relationship with the village launch service.”

Tomkiel added that Fly the Whale has not received any citations despite the complaints and that it is in the company’s best interest to operate safely.

Particularly since, if demand for Sag Harbor service continues, Fly the Whale may start offering direct service from Manhattan to the village using that mooring, Tomkiel said.

According to Sag Harbor Village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr., outside of the harbor management area, where Fly the Whale has its mooring, Sag Harbor Village has no jurisdiction. Regardless, he said the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will discuss the issue at its October 9 meeting at 6 p.m.


Cape Air Cessna 402C, N771EA: "This is flying!!" Departure: Boston -- Landing: Martha's Vineyard (KMVY), Massachusetts

Tracy Municipal (KTCY), California: Lawyer seeks answers to airport issues

Tracy Municipal Airport (KTCY), California
Glenn Moore/Tracy Press

by Jon Mendelson

A local lawyer is looking for answers regarding the source of a lingering problem with the main runway at Tracy Municipal Airport.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, attorney Steve Nicolau addressed the City Council and requested an investigation regarding a paving job on the airport’s main runway that pilots and an earlier inquiry determined was poorly done.

He alleges the city was alerted to defects in the paving the same year the work was started, but that nothing was done until after the warranty on the work had expired.

Nicolau is seeking answers about what happened and who was responsible.

“We are now looking at the very real possibility of more taxpayer money being spent to correct problems that should’ve been corrected on the contractor’s dime, not ours,” he told the council during Tuesday’s public comment session.

In 2007, the city contracted with California Pavement Maintenance Inc. to repave the airport’s main runway, which runs northwest to southeast. Ninety percent of the nearly $598,000 cost was picked up by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to previous Press reports, while 8 percent came from the state and 2 percent came from the city.

The contract between the city and CPM, a copy of which was provided to the Press by Nicolau this week, stipulated that the city had one year after the work’s completion to identify any work that was inadequate.

The work was acknowledged as completed Feb. 5, 2008, according to a document signed by Mayor Brent Ives, and the city released CPM in a document dated Feb. 11, 2010.

However, an email provided by Nicolau that was sent by airport coordinator Bruce Ludeman to then-Parks and Recreation Director Rod Buchanan suggests that people at the airport identified problems before the work was accepted as finished.

“I have voiced our concerns in recent weeks about the quality of the work being performed at Tracy Municipal Airport,” states Ludeman’s email, dated Sept. 13, 2007. “… In summary: There are huge areas of the airport that need further application of material to ‘glue’ down the loose aggregate, and a solution needs to be found to make sure that we don’t continue to have paint coming loose and lifting up the underlying slurry mixture. … We have an uneven crumbling slurry layer that is also being pulled apart by the paint.”

City Manager Leon Churchill acknowledged Nicolau’s concerns later in the week.

“I think we had some project management issues at the time that, if we had the chance, we would do differently and do better,” he said Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Problems with the pavement at the airport continue to be reported.

Several pilots told the Press in February 2011 that loose bits of the resurfaced runway were damaging propellers and posed a safety risk to pilots.

Donald Huag, aviation safety officer for the California Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, penned a letter dated Feb. 28, 2011, documenting the “progressive disintegration of the slurry seal layer” at the Tracy airport, according to a previous Press report.

John Favors, the president of the Tracy Airport Association, said this week that the repaving in 2007 also shortened the main runway from its designated 4,002 feet to 3,996 feet.

The difference of 6 feet is huge, he said, because many insurance companies only cover planes to touch down on runways longer than 4,000 feet.

Favors said the result is that many jet-turbine planes no longer land at the airport, putting a dent in fuel sales and prompting a hike in Tracy’s typically cheaper-than-average fuel prices.

“When we had the 4,000-foot runway, … we had a lot of jet traffic,” Favors said. "There was always a line at the gas pumps. Now, there’s nothing.”

Churchill said city staff has received clear direction from the City Council to ensure that the runway’s length is restored to longer than 4,000 feet and that the quality of the surface is improved.

“The next part of this issue is we need to make it right,” he said. “We’re going to make it right.”

Churchill said the city is seeking a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration that would largely pay for the Tracy airport’s runway to be repaved. He said the city’s chance of landing the grant was “pretty good.”

Churchill added that even if the 2007 slurry job had been perfect, the lifespan of such a seal is only about five years.

Story and comments:

Beechcraft 95-C55 Baron, N265Q: Accident occurred September 20, 2012 in Gulf of Mexico

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA652  
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, September 20, 2012 in Gulf of Mexico, GM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/06/2013
Aircraft: BEECH 95-C55, registration: N265Q
Injuries: 2 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

While on a cross-country flight, the pilot detected smoke in the cockpit. He attempted to identify the source of the smoke but was not successful. When the pilot saw flames behind the cockpit panel, he descended and ditched the airplane in the water. The pilot and passengers got out of the airplane and the airplane sank. Due to the depth of the water at the accident location, the airplane was not recovered. Without recovery of the airplane’s wreckage, further examination was not possible, and the source of the fire could not be determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
An in-flight fire, which resulted in the airplane’s forced landing in water. The source of the fire could not be determined because the airplane wreckage was not recovered.

On September 20, 2012, about 1545 central daylight time, a Beech 95-C55 airplane, N265Q, ditched into the Gulf of Mexico waters. The commercial pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane sank in deep water and was not recovered. The airplane was registered to and operated by Government Auctions Online LLC, Henderson, Nevada, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from the Baytown Airport (KHPY), Baytown, Texas, about 1400, and was destined to the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport (KSRQ), Sarasota, Florida.

According to the pilot's statement provided to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while the pilot was en route to his destination, when he detected smoke in the cockpit. In an attempt to troubleshoot the smoke, the pilot turned off the master switch. Due to reduced visibility, the pilot vented the smoke by opening the cabin door and pilot’s storm window. The pilot and passenger saw flames through a gap between the cockpit panel and glare shield. The pilot activated the emergency locator beacon as he descended to ditch the airplane in the water. After ditching the airplane, the pilot and passenger exited the airplane, donned personal floatation devices, and were rescued by the United States Coast Guard.

Due to the accident location, the airplane was not recovered for an examination. Despite multiple attempts, the pilot did not complete an NTSB Form 6120. Information was not available to determine if previous maintenance issues were present. A review of the FAA Service Difficulty Reporting database did not reveal any entries for the accident airplane. Without recovery of the airplane's wreckage, an examination was not possible and the source of the fire could not be determined.

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA652 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, September 20, 2012 in Gulf of Mexico
Aircraft: BEECH 95-C55, registration: N265Q
Injuries: 2 Minor.

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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 20, 2012, about 1545 central daylight time, a Beech 95-C55 airplane, ditched into the Gulf of Mexico waters. The commercial pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane sank in deep water and was not recovered. The airplane was registered to and operated by Government Auctions Online LLC, Henderson, Nevada, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight plan. The flight originated from the Baytown Airport (KHPY), Baytown, Texas, about 1400, and was destined to the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, Sarasota, Florida.

According to initial statements collected by the Federal Aviation Administration, the pilot was en route to his destination, when he detected smoke in the cockpit. The pilot attempted to troubleshoot the smoke, and saw a fire behind the cockpit panel. The pi
lot then elected to ditch the airplane in the water.

 NEW ORLEANS – Two Texas men are lucky to be alive after their plane crash landed in the Gulf of Mexico east of South Pass Thursday. 

 The Coast Guard rescued the men from the water near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

According to the Coast Guard, the men, identified as Theodore Wright and Raymond Fosdick were spotted floating in the water after a Guard helicopter was dispatched to the area.

The men were hoisted out of the water and taken to the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station.

The aircraft was flying from Baytown, Texas to Sarasota, Florida when its emergency beacon alerted.

Wright declined medical attention, Fosdick was taken to a west bank medical center for treatment. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

United Airlines Buys 25 New Boeing 737 MAX Jets

United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it is buying 25 new Boeing Co.737 MAX jets and bumping up its orders for dozens more as it positions its fleet for a travel rebound.

The deal is a boost for Boeing, which has lost hundreds of MAX orders during a nearly two-year grounding following two fatal crashes of the jet. The U.S. in November approved the MAX for passenger flights again, requiring the plane to undergo software updates and pilots to go through additional training, among other measures.

Andrew Nocella, United’s chief commercial officer, said in a memo Monday that the MAX would be key to the company’s long-term growth and its ability to serve demand, which it expects to rebound in the coming years, as the carrier starts to replace aging aircraft that are nearing retirement. United resumed flying passengers on the MAX in February.

“As the end of the pandemic nears and vaccines continue to roll out, today’s fleet announcement helps position us to meet the demand we expect to see in 2022 and 2023,” Mr. Nocella said.

United’s move is the latest indication that the industry is planning for demand to revive as more people are vaccinated. The number of people passing through U.S. airports has climbed in recent weeks, even though passenger volumes remain 50% to 60% below pre-pandemic levels.

Major U.S. airlines lost about $35 billion last year, and 2021 got off to a rocky start, with governments imposing fresh restrictions on travel as new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus began to take hold. Many international borders remain closed, and businesses are still keeping heavy-traveling road warriors at home.

Airline executives have different views on how quickly pent-up demand for travel could return. Some are gearing up for what they hope will be a surge in summer vacations. But most carriers expect it will be years before demand is fully back to normal levels, with business and international demand likely to take longer to come back.

Delta Air Lines Inc. has said it would bring 400 pilots back to active duty by summer, and the airline told pilots last week that it plans to bring them all back by October. The airline said it is preparing to build its schedule back to 2019 levels of flying by summer of 2023.

United, which lost over $7 billion last year, has said it is ready to begin rebuilding, aiming to exceed its 2019 profit margins by 2023. The airline has charted a cautious course through the pandemic, with sharper reductions in flying than many of its competitors, and Chief Executive Scott Kirby has said previously that the recovery may not begin in earnest until later this year.

Unlike some rivals, United has largely held off on permanently retiring swaths of its fleet, arguing that having the planes gives it flexibility to take advantage of returning demand. At the same time, oil prices have started to climb, which could make the more fuel-efficient MAX jets appealing. United said its new MAX jets will allow the airline to get back to its strategy of boosting traffic to its hubs in Chicago, Denver, and Houston, which had been a big focus in recent years.

United didn’t disclose financial terms of the deal. The MAX sells for $122 million to $135 million at list prices depending on the model, though airlines typically receive discounts for large orders.

Mr. Nocella said United is still lobbying for a third round of federal aid to avert job losses at the end of March but needs to place aircraft orders more than a year in advance of taking delivery. The 25 newly ordered planes are slated for delivery in 2023.

Regulators around the world grounded the MAX jet in March 2019 after two crashes killed 346 people. Regulators in Europe, Canada and other regions have cleared the plane to fly again.

Boeing said customers canceled orders for 511 MAX jets last year, with hundreds more in question as the coronavirus pandemic has reduced travel demand and forced airlines around the world into retreat. Many have been able to walk away from their orders without penalty, as generally allowed by Boeing contracts, because their deliveries were more than a year late because of the grounding.

Other carriers have added to their MAX orders. Ryanair Holdings PLC said in December it had agreed to buy 75 new MAX jets from Boeing. Alaska Air Group Inc. added to its MAX order last year, opting to replace most of its Airbus planes in the coming years with MAX jets.

United said Monday that it would move up the delivery of 40 previously ordered MAX jets to 2022 and bring forward another five deliveries to 2023. In total, United has 188 firm commitments for MAX planes in the coming years, according to a regulatory filing Monday.

The airline said in the filing that it expects to receive 11 of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner wide-body jets this year, including three delayed from the final quarter of 2020. Boeing hasn’t delivered a Dreamliner since October, hamstrung by inspections and rework linked to production problems. That has built up a backlog of dozens of Dreamliners even as the plane maker cuts monthly production to five. Boeing said last week that it still aims to resume deliveries this quarter.

'Unnecessary' purchase of aircraft: Supreme Court issues notices to government, Air India over Boeing purchase and lease

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre and Air India on a plea seeking a CBI/SIT probe into alleged irregularities in the purchase of 111 aircraft for the national carrier costing Rs.67,000 crore to the exchequer when Praful Patel was Civil Aviation Minister.

A bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad sought response from the government, the national carrier and CBI on a petition filed by an NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, alleging that various decisions taken during the tenure of Patel were meant to benefit private airlines and caused huge loss to Air India.

The CPIL has also sought probe into taking on lease aircraft that again dented the exchequer by "thousands of crores of rupees".

The NGO, in its petition, has referred to several of Patel's decisions, including the "massive" purchase of 111 aircraft for national airlines costing about Rs 70,000 crores,taking a large number of planes on lease, giving up profit-making routes and timings in favour of private airlines and the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.

The NGO approached the apex court challenging a Delhi high court order dismissing its plea into the alleged irregularities.

The high court had refused to pass any order on the NGO's plea for a probe into Air India's fleet expansion programme and its decision to purchase 111 planes at a whopping Rs 67,000 crore, saying that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament is already looking into it.

"A responsible committee like PAC is looking into the matter and we are not giving any direction at this stage but expect PAC to look into the matter from all angles...," the high court had said.

Besides this, the CPIL has also prayed for probe into the national carrier leaving profitable routes and timings "for the benefit of private airlines".

A probe has also been sought into Air India giving away its bilateral rights to foreign carriers.The notice is returnable in four weeks.

Acquisition of 111 aircraft for Air India in 2005-06

Former civil aviation minister Praful Patel defended the acquisition of 111 aircraft for Air India in 2005-06 after a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report indicated that this purchase led to the downfall of Air India .

The CAG said that the entire acquisition (for both Air India and Indian Airlines) was to be funded through debt (to be repaid through revenue generation), except for a relatively small equity infusion of Rs.325 crore for Indian Airlines.

The CAG report slammed the decisions made by the government to buy new aircraft, which was driven by the aviation ministry, and the dismal management practices had led to the downfall of Air India.

Reviewing the decision to buy 68 Boeing aircraft for Air India and 43 Airbus planes for Indian Airlines, the report termed the acquisition process ill-timed and driven from the top, resulting in the airline accumulating a massive debt of Rs.38,423 crore as on March 31, 2010.

Malaysia: ‘Investigate air traffic system failure’

PKR wants probe on the cause of the total system failure at the Air Traffic Control Centre last week. DCA, however, claims it was not a total failure.

SUBANG: Aircraft in the local airspace were “flying blind” last week when the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre (ATCC) suffered a “total failure in the system with no radar, no radio” for almost one-hour-plus, alleged PKR today.

The incident occurred between 2.50am and 4.15am on Sept 12, according to a systems log of the Subang Air Traffic Control Centre and a preliminary report of the incident was revealed to the press by PKR vice-presidents Nurul Izzah Anwar, Tian Chua and N Surendran today.

“A total system failure occurred for almost two hours and throughout that time, the Malaysian airspace was rendered blind, with all departures cancelled and existing air traffic handed over to neighbouring countries,” said Nurul outside the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) traffic control centre at the Subang airport.

She said the system failure had put civilian passengers on board the planes at risk as they were cut off from any guidance from ground control, and during the down time Singapore and Thailand were in total control of the traffic system, which “left us completely defenceless”.

Retired Royal Malaysian Air Force director-general of operations, brigadier-general Abdul Hadi Abdul Khatab who joined PKR last year, said that what occurred must be taken seriously as there were “high risks” when the airspace is blind, which can even lead to possible air collisions.

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