Friday, October 26, 2012

Rescues, drops made easier, safer with helicopter hoist

CalFire helicopters are well known for fighting wildfires and making rescues of people injured and stranded in difficult to reach areas.

The helicopter at the CalFire Vina Helitack has conducted both of those missions on dozens of occasions.

But those operations came with a lot of risk.

That risk factor has dropped significantly now that the Vina helicopter has been equipped with a new motorized cable hoist system.

On Wednesday, CalFire Battalion Chief Randy Rapp, who oversees the Vina Helitack and the Red Bluff Unit, presented the new equipment and CalFire firefighters demonstrated its capabilities.

"The 170-pound motorized cable hoist has a 600 pound load capacity, a 258 foot cable and cost $188,000," Rapp said.

The hoist, and nine others like it equipped in CalFire helicopters throughout the state, were all state funded, Rapp explained.

"This is a great tool and we are really excited to have it here," he said.

Previous to the new equipment, for 15 years the Vina helicopter used the "shorthaul" system to drop firefighters into wildfire areas and to make rescues.

"In that system we had to make rope rescues where we dropped a rope down, attached a rescued victim, and with them suspended from the rope down below, the helicopter flew them, sometimes miles, to a safe place to unload," the battalion chief said.

The system was fraught with dangers, both to the dangling victim and to the helicopter and its crew.

"With the new equipment we no longer have someone suspended below the helicopter. It is a much safer operation as we can hoist them right into the copter," Rapp said.

The motorized hoist is attached to the helicopter a few feet behind a pilot's seat at the side opening of the copter and has an arm that can rotate from inside the copter to outside.

Controlled by a mechanical "pendant" handled by the operation's crew chief, the hoist's cable is stainless steel and about the width of a pencil.

Depending on the rescue mission or if the copter is deploying firefighters to a wildfire, the hoist system has at least six different types of equipment that attaches to the victim, rescue personnel or firefighter, such as a stokes litter, screamer suit, and belly band, which in turn is clamped onto the hoist cable to send someone to the ground or hoist them up into the helicopter.

"Each is designed to be quick and safe," said CalFire Capt. Ethan Darnell.

The motorized cable hoist is removable from the copter for the fire season when the helicopter is busy fighting wildfires, landing crews in and out of fire areas and dropping water and fire repellent.

"During the off-fire season, the hoist will remain in the helicopter," said Rapp.

Even during the fire season, if the helicopter is available and a rescue operation is needed, Rapp said it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get the hoist installed and the copter off the ground.

Each and every firefighter at the Vina Helitack, 12 firefighters and four captains, are trained in using the hoist system and has undergone at least 40 hours of initial training and additional training since April.

Utilizing the hoist requires a crew of three people — the crew chief who operates the pendant control, and two rescuers.

"For this area the new hoist can be used for water rescues in rivers or lakes, tandem rescues, cliff rescues and rescues from extremely remote sites," Darnell said. "We even have the capability to hook up a medic during the rescue so he can be with the patient at all times. This equipment can get us to and through just about any scenario you can think of."

Vina Helitack Forestry Pilot Brent Starr said from the pilot's perspective flying the helicopter with the new hoist system versus the former shorthaul system is "night and day."

"Before the pilot was burdened with having someone suspended 70 to 200 feet under the helicopter, sometimes at dusk or in the dark. It was very difficult and dangerous," he said.

He explained that three years ago he was piloting the helicopter in an ATV rollover rescue mission near Whiskeytown and he had to fly the suspended victim nearly 15 miles to a helibase for rescue.

"This hoist eliminates all that," Starr stated. "We now can hoist the victim right into the helicopter and safely fly them to wherever they need to go."

The CalFire Vina helicopter is the only one in the area with the motorized hoist system and a crew to man it.

Starr said California Highway Patrol has a motorized hoist system but it is unmanned and the Butte Sheriff's Department helicopter is still only capable of shorthauls.

The pilot said the Vina helicopter has a "long history."

"It flew missions in Vietnam during the war in the 1970s. We acquired it in 1992 when it was phased out by the military," Starr explained.

Capable to flying at 120 knots it can carry enough fuel to fly for 2.5 hours and can carry 10,500 pounds, and carry 11 people, including the pilots.

Its water bucket can hold and disperse 324 gallons of water during a single flyover.

Starr said the helicopter flew 405 hours this fire season and dropped 780,000 gallons of water.

It is completely taken apart, inspected and updated, down to every nut and bolt, and put back together every 10 years, said the pilot.


Kenya Airways to convert aircrafts to freighters


Kenya Airways has announced that it will convert four of its Boeing B737-300 passenger jets into freighters as it ramps up its cargo unit to meet surging cargo transportation demand across Africa and beyond

Both Air India and Kingfisher are in crisis but Air India crew command higher market value

Air India staff, often seen as relatively dowdy compared with the suave Kingfisher crew, are heaving a sigh of relief.  By virtue of working in a public sector organization, their jobs are secure, and their comparatively higher experience means they command a higher market value.

In contrast, Kingfisher employees are struggling to make ends meet, though things have gotten a bit better, as the management has just cleared payment of salary arrears.

Both airlines have had salary and staff issues in common. Both airlines have not been able to pay their employees for months together in the past, inciting numerous protests and strikes by workers. But while Air India salaries are higher than the market average, they are also sure to come through from time to time due to government support.

On the other hand, till just a few days ago, it was touch and go as to whether the dues of Kingfisher employees would come through at all. "There are workers' issues here too, but comparatively we are in a much better position than Kingfisher employees. We get late salaries, but we do get the full amount now and then," an executive pilot from Air India said, adding that this is the unanimous view of the entire AI workforce.

As of now, Air India is yet to clear five months of salary backlog but the company is doing it very slowly. Kingfisher staff says that most of them have been breaking fixed deposits and using up other savings during the past seven months of going unpaid. The airline has not given form 16 to its staff since 2009, which is making it difficult for them to avail even bank loans.

Even though income tax authorities recently freed Rs 60 crore that Kingfisher Airlines owes in taxes to the government on humanitarian grounds, this has not been passed on to employees as salaries. While Kingfisher Airlines' owners' son Siddharth Mallya, for whom the carrier was an 18th birthday present, is hunting for models for the Kingfisher calendar in London, the airline's flying permit has been suspended and workers still don't know when they will be paid in full.

Another Air India employee related a colleague's story: "One of our friends left AI due to salary issues and joined Kingfisher Airlines last year. Now, he is in a complete mess and looking at him we know it's better here. We are in more demand than Kingfisher crew and have more opportunities." In the last couple of months, 15-20 commanders have left Air India and joined Gulf carriers like Etihad and Oman Air.

Insiders say an equal number may leave soon because these foreign carriers are expanding overseas operations with the help of wide-bodied Boeing (777, 747) aircraft. But Kingfisher pilots, on the contrary are all ATR or Airbus-320 pilots, suited for short and medium haul flights. "It is difficult for 500 of us to find opportunities as the industry doesn't have space for so many of us," a Kingfisher pilot said.

Meanwhile, experts also feel that the comparatively older Air India cabin crew are more experienced in terms of air safety than their younger Kingfisher counterparts.

"The role of cabin crew is air safety. I would feel much safer with AI cabin crew in an emergency situation than young Kingfisher cabin crew, who are inexperienced. Big airlines across the globe like Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Air Canada etc prefer having older cabin crew on long-haul flights for this reason," said travel technology solutions provider Bird Group ED Ankur Bhatia.

Reminiscing: Flying high at No. 5

The Second World War began on Sept. 3, 1939, when Commonwealth countries Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany.

Canada closely followed on Sept. 10. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King stated that through these troubled years no stone had been left unturned and no road unexplored in the patient search of peace…

After the declaration of war, recruiting stations were flooded with men volunteering to fight for freedom. In December 1939, a massive air-training plan was undertaken by the British Commonwealth countries to ensure that there was a ready supply of trained airmen. Canada became a major location because of its good weather and large areas of land.

One of the finest fields was established on the Burford Road where the present airport is. Farms were purchased from Mrs. N. Dyment, William Dynes, Mrs. Joseph Williams, William Green, Werner Brams and part of the Takacs farm.

The sod turning event on June 5, 1940, to establish the No. 5 Service Flying Training School featured a 20-ton Caterpillar tractor and scraper. Work began immediately to level and grade land. The runways, which were equivalent to 20 miles of highway, were completed to form a double triangle so that planes could always take off into the wind regardless of its direction.

Buildings sprang up like mushrooms, six buildings each housing 100 men, a drill hall, sports pavilion, a 60-bed hospital, guardhouse, watch tower with a glass dome near five double hangars, each able to hold 100 smaller planes or 40 bombers. A spur line from the Brantford-Tillsonburg branch of the CNR was built to serve the airport. A sub post office, fire hall, quarters for civilian employees and civilian and RCAF canteens were also included.

With the large number of people using the air school, it was necessary to find a reliable source of water. The City of Brantford promised to supply the water but wells that were drilled on the William Wallace farm on the south side of the highway, supplied ample pure water.

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Piper PA-24-250 Comanche, N5423P: Odessa, Texas
ODESSA- A plane made a surprise landing in an Odessa neighborhood Friday afternoon. It landed on 87th Street between Harvard Ave. and Rainbow Dr. after the plane ran out of gas and had to make an emergency landing. NewsWest 9 talked to neighbors about the incredible sight in their front yards. 

 "I came to get my mail and I said and I saw the plane sitting in the street and I thought, wow, a new runway," resident, Sandy King, said.

The Department of Public Safety said the plane was flying into Schlemeyer Field Airport from Arizona when apparently it ran out of fuel.

"The pilot stated his instruments showed he still had fuel left but evidently his gage was a little off and he ran out of fuel just shy of Schlemeyer field and when he realized he wasn't going to make it, he looked the biggest open area he could land and 87th Street is the spot that he chose," Department of Public Safety Sergeant, Hunter Lewis, said.

JR Flores was working on the homes off 87th and Harvard when he saw the whole thing happened.

"The airplane came down over this way, the first set of power lines, he barely went over those ones and then when he got to the second power lines, he barely missed them, he just went right underneath them. It was pretty crazy man, I got pretty shaken up but you know you got safe down and safe on the ground," Flores said.

Three people were inside the plane and no one was hurt. It was just a little excitement for folks living in the neighborhood.

"Something different I never seen, I only lived out here for a month and this is a little bit exciting for our neighborhood, as long as everybody is safe," King said.

A fuel truck was called in to fill up the plane and authorities let the pilot go and land at Schlemeyer Field.

Several streets were blocked off Friday afternoon for about two hours but then they were re-opened. DPS says they won't cite the pilot for landing on the street. 

UPDATE: 2:24 P.M. - The plane that made an emergency landing in Odessa has taken off.

UPDATE: 2:05 P.M. - Here's some more information on the plane that made the emergency landing. According to, the flight originated from Ontario, California then landed in Blythe, California on Thursday night. The plane then took off this morning and was en route to Schlemeyer Field but ran out of fuel. The plane is a Piper PA-24 Comanche Aircraft.

UPDATE: 2:00 P.M.

Traffic Advisory: The following roadways/intersections have been shut down while law enforcement investigate the emergency landing of a single engine aircraft; 87th from Cornell Street to Dawn Ave east and westbound lanes.

UPDATE: 1:46 P.M.

NewsWest 9 has learned that the plane that landed at 87th and Rainbow was from Arizona and was going to land at Schlemeyer Field in Odessa. Officials on the scene tell NewsWest 9, the pilot thought he had enough fuel to get him to Schlemeyer Field but the gauges in the plane were malfunctioning, which caused the plane to have to make an emergency landing.


Odessa Police Department Statement - The pilot of a single engine aircraft made an emergency landing on Highway U.S. 385 at 87th Street. He was not injured. The East bound lane of U.S. 385 is closed to traffic. Officials asked that people avoid that area while the scene is being investigated. This incident will be investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Once the plane is refueled it will be allowed to take off.


We're told that three occupants were on board the plane that landed at 87th and Rainbow in Odessa. It appears the plane landed safely. No word on why the pilot had to make an emergency landing. We do have a crew on the scene and will bring you more information when it becomes available.

ODESSA - NewsWest 9 has learned that a plane has made an emergency landing in Odessa.

Details are limited at this time, however, the plane landed at 87th and Rainbow in Odessa. It is not yet known why the plane made the emergency landing.

Allegiant Airlines offers $99 one-way fares from Bellingham to Hawaii

No-frills, limited-luggage Bellingham price close to Canadian departure taxes alone, says travel expert

VANCOUVER -- If you’re dreaming of a sunny, warm holiday relaxing by the pool, Allegiant Airlines has a treat for you. The airline is offering flights to Hawaii from Bellingham for just $99 each way, including taxes.

The deal is limited to select seats on certain flights on certain dates, and will come with added fees if you want to carry on luggage, reserve a seat or eat on the plane, but nonetheless it’s certain to lure some Lower Mainland travellers away from Vancouver International Airport.

Claire Newell, a Vancouver-based travel expert and owner of Travel Best Bets, said the flights are great news for the consumer, but yet another blow for YVR, which loses about 950,000 passengers to the Bellingham airport each year, according to a report prepared by the Canadian Airports Council in March.

Senator Dennis Dawson is chair of the Senate committee that wrote the report, and he said at the time that Canada is losing $1 billion a year in air travel alone from Canadians who choose to travel out of U.S. airports.

“We are losing a huge amount from our economy, and not just the taxes and fees, but also the employment,” Newell said. “It’s a real shame.”

Canadians make that choice not only because of lower base fares, but also because the taxes and fees are lower.

“This fare is probably less than most Canadian departure taxes for a flight to Hawaii,” Newell said, adding that there are fees added to the Bellingham flight, including an online booking fee that brings the lowest fare to $206.

Comparable fares out of YVR found online on Friday started at about $500 including taxes and fees and went up from there.

That fare doesn’t include any luggage that won’t fit under the seat in front of you. A carry-on bag that will be stowed in the overhead bins costs $50 return, while a checked bag is $70 return, Newell said.

The low fare is offered sporadically on Allegiant’s booking calendar.

“Anybody looking to go to Hawaii this season should book now,” Newell said. “They will sell out very soon.”

The Bellingham airport is in the middle of a $17-million, 60,000-square-foot addition to the main terminal, ticketing and baggage claim area, and a 20,000-square-foot renovation of the passenger gates was completed last year. Parking at the Bellingham airport recently went up to $15 a day, Newell said.

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Pinnacle Airlines posted large loss in September, worst since bankruptcy filing

Pinnacle Airlines Corp. in September posted a $79.6 million net loss, its worst showing since filing for bankruptcy protection in April.

It was primarily driven by a decision to write down the value of 16 CRJ900 regional jets and incur a noncash charge of $72.8 million.

The Memphis-based operator of Delta Connection flights, in a court filing Thursday, said its operating loss for the month was $2.5 million and its actual loss, including restructuring fees, was $6.8 million. Total operating revenues were $60.2 million.

The company said nothing had changed on two key points: The outcome of Pinnacle's motion in bankruptcy court to reject a collective bargaining agreement with its 2,700 pilots, and deliberations on whether to keep headquarters in Memphis or move it to Minneapolis.

The bankruptcy court has until mid-November to rule on the labor issue, which would go a long way toward determining if Pinnacle can achieve the pay, benefit and work rule concessions it says are needed to survive bankruptcy.

Pinnacle's restructuring comes at a tumultuous time for the regional airline industry. Brand-name carriers, which typically contract with regionals to serve smaller markets, are squeezing out operating costs by moving to larger, more cost-efficient jets. Delta Air Lines pulled the plug on its Cincinnati-based regional subsidiary Comair in September.

Pinnacle's filing said the company on Oct. 1 drew down the $8 million balance of its $74,285,000 debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing from Delta.

Pinnacle drew $10 million in DIP financing on July 17 and $10 million on Sept. 11. The remainder, $46.2 million, was used to pay off a 2010 Delta loan that financed Pinnacle's purchase from Delta of the now-closed Mesaba Aviation unit.

Pinnacle said the value of 16 CRJ900s was written down to the current debt balance with aircraft financier, Export Development Canada. The 76-seat regional jets are fulfilling a capacity purchase agreement that has been amended to wind down by May 2013.Before filing for bankruptcy protection, Pinnacle provided regional feeder flights to Delta, United/Continental and US Airways.

Monthly reports submitted to U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, show operating revenues and expenses have steadily fallen as Pinnacle shuttered its Colgan subsidiary, ended capacity purchase agreements with United and US Airways and reduced its overall number of flights.

Before September, the worst month had been April, when the company estimated a $60.6 million net loss.Over the six months, combined operating revenues have outstripped operating expenses by $11.6 million, while cumulative net losses were estimated at $177.7 million, largely due to noncash impairments related to the aircraft fleet.

Bombardier Global Express 5000, N565RS: Emperor Amaechi’s New Jet

Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi has had a rough couple of weeks. It started with the murderous villagers in the Aluu community and their wickedness in cutting short the life of four University of Port Harcourt students in a brutal fashion. 

 Then the floods arrived, displacing tens of thousands of Rivers State residents, depriving them of basic human necessities like food, shelter or clothing.

All these series of tragic events put Governor Amaechi in a state of depression. As the leader of his state and his people, he was saddened by the dark events and needed something to cheer himself up. What better than a $50 million private jet? The Governor, according to Saharareporters, recently took delivery of a brand new Bombardier Global 5000 (N565RS).

People may say Amaechi doesn’t care about his people with such a gesture, in the same way American ip-hop star said George Bush doesn’t care about black people after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, but Amaechi does care.

Rumor has it that every time Emperor Amaechi boards one of his private jets, he thinks about the poor and illiterate people of the Aluu community, or the 12 souls that perished in the floods in just one local government community, Ahoda. He sees himself soaring above them like Superman without supersonic hearing unfortunately, or he would swoop down on them to rescue them from impending disaster now past.

Amaechi likes to fly in style

People grieve in different ways, when a fat girl is dumped by her boyfriend or upset for some other reason, she will eat ice cream to console herself. Never mind the fact that the ice cream is adversely affecting her body mass index and weight adversely. We must remember she got fat for a reason, she likes the taste of sweet things.

So how can we expect less of the Emperor? He is after all a human being, and after banning okada in his state earlier this year, he has to ensure that he has a more convenient alternative.

Amaechi likes his jets and if Jay Z, Ifeanyi Uba or David Oyedepo can have one, then by God and by Federal Allocation sharing, he must have one too. Rivers State has enough money to have several private jets. The people of Port Harcourt understand that their governor must fly in style and in private, whilst they worry about jobs, food and minimum wage because that is not really in his purview as their leader.

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Hartford-Brainard (KHFD), Hartford, Connecticut: Noise Complaints Spike At Airport -- Officials Attribute Rise To Unusual, One-Time Events

HARTFORD ——   Brainard Airport received an unusually large number of noise complaints in the last quarter, but an airport official downplayed the spike, attributing it to several uncommon, one-time events.

Airport Operations Manager Kurt Sendlein noted that complaints have fallen to none so far this month, an unusually low number.

Sendlein gave his report this week at the quarterly meeting of the Brainard Airport Noise Abatement Committee.

One night of unusually heavy helicopter activity generated a large number of complaints, Sendlein said. Six choppers were in the air that evening, he said.

"It just happened to be that both Lifestars were in the air," he said. "There was some flight training. It was just kind of a strange night."

In addition, the airport received a significant number of complaints from a single Newington resident about helicopters flying over his home, Sendlein said. It turned out that several corporate helicopters were diverging from the recommended flight path, and gladly changed their practices, he said.

The rest of the 28 complaints were from Wethersfield residents, Sendlein said.

Sendlein said that several jet pilots unfamiliar with the airport generated some of the complaints by approaching the airport over Wethersfield instead of the river.

Paul O. McDonnell of Clough, Harbor and Associates, a consultant helping the airport update its master plan, said that his company would soon begin noise monitoring for the plan. He noted that noise levels must be very high for the Federal Aviation Administration to deem them unacceptable.

"It has to be pretty bad before the FAA says it's too loud," McDonnell said.

McDonnell said that he expects to schedule a public hearing in December or January on the noise portion of the master plan.

The airport is required to update its master plan once a decade, he said.

McDonnell also reported that the crosswind runway would remain open. The neighboring Metropolitan District Council wanted at one point to take part of the runway for its expansion, but has since dropped those plans, he said

The proposal sparked strong resistance from pilots, who packed a public hearing to protest, McDonnell said.

"A lot of people came out of the woodwork to keep the runway," he said.

Closing the runway, which his rarely used and short, would lead to little to no reduction in noise, McDonnell said.

Air National Guard unveils new hangar in Bangor


 BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER)--When the Air National Guard base opened in Bangor in 1946 pilots were flying fighter planes. Since then the mission of the airmen and women has changed and now they are being recognized as one of the most efficient refueling crews in the nation.

Senator Susan Collins joined other officials at the base to unveil a new aircraft hangar. The expansion has many people excited because only a short time ago the base was being considered for federal budget cut backs.

The hangar will house aircraft used to refuel planes as they fly over seas. It cost 18 million dollars to build.

The old hangar was built in 1954. Officials say the old building has out-lived its usefulness.

Coast Guard Heads Out To Warn Ships To Stay Out Of Hurricane Sandy’s Path

SANDWICH (CBS) – The Coast Guard is gearing up for Hurricane Sandy. On Friday, a C-144 flew out of Air Station Cape Cod, with the crew broadcasting an alert to offshore fishermen.

“We’re trying to warn them that this is a powerful storm and should create some dangerous conditions,” Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Berry said. “We hope they hear the warning, and seek safe harbor.”

A WBZ-TV crew went along on the four-hour flight, and saw commercial fishing boats out at sea, along with several cargo ships.

“The tuna fleet is offshore,” said co-pilot Lt. Art Mahar. “So our ultimate goal is to prevent any tragedies, and help them distance themselves from the storm.”

The C-144 covered about 700 miles, broadcasting the warning every half-hour. The signal is far-reaching.

FBI issues subpoenas to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - The FBI has subpoenaed documents from the board that oversees the D.C. region's two major airports following an audit that questioned the board's contracting policies.  

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority confirmed Friday that the board has received subpoenas, but said it has not received any official notice of an FBI investigation.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny whether an investigation is under way.

The board has overhauled its ethics policies recently after facing scrutiny for its management of the $5.6 billion project to extend the region's Metrorail system to Dulles International Airport.

An interim audit from the Department of Transportation's inspector general earlier this year questioned the board's use of no-bid contracts.

The FBI subpoenas were first reported by the Washington Examiner.

Washington, D.C.: Area Airports Prep For Hurricane Sandy

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - Area airports are preparing for weather impacts related to Hurricane Sandy, according to the Airports Authority.

Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National are working with airlines to make sure items on the airfield are secure, testing backup generators and clearing storm drains in advance of the storm.

Passengers should check with their airline about any flight delays or adjustments to rebooking policies.

The Airports Authority will update the official Twitter account @dcairports about storm preparation and will retweet airlines as they make changes related to Hurricane Sandy.

Large transport plane crash resulted in the loss of 4,700 pounds of inbound mail

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Federal officials say that absentee ballots being sent to U.S. military serving in Afghanistan may have been burned in a plane crash.

A top official in the Federal Voting Assistance Program this week notified election officials across the nation that a transport plane crashed at Shindad Air Base on Oct. 19.

The crash resulted in the destruction of 4,700 pounds of mail inbound to troops serving in the area.

Federal officials in their email to state election offices said they did not know if any ballots were destroyed. They also said the lost mail was limited to one zip code.

But they recommended that election officials resend a new ballot to anyone who requested one since the first ballot may have been destroyed in the crash and fire.

New report shows Dulles board's problems even worse

Liz Essley
The Washington Examiner


A federal investigation into the authority overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project, set for release next week, will show that nepotism at the agency is far more widespread than previously believed and that authority employees may have benefited personally from some of the contracts they awarded, The Washington Examiner has learned.

The final report from the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general will detail contracts that Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority staff steered toward certain companies and that later may have benefited authority employees, according to sources familiar with the inspector general's investigation.

The FBI also is investigating potential criminal activity in the agency's contracting practices, sources said. Officials of the authority confirmed late Wednesday that they had been subpoenaed by the FBI.

The Inspector General's Office said in an interim report released in May that the authority -- which oversees Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports and the $6 billion construction of Metro's Silver Line to Dulles -- awarded more than $220 million worth of contracts with limited competition.

Sources say this month's final report will offer fresh revelations about that contracting process and employees who participated in it.

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Seaplane Stable After False Alarm in Marina: Emergency crews are on the scene

A resident called police reporting a private seaplane that appeared to be sinking after it landed in Marina del Rey at approximately 11:15 a.m. in the channel between Bora Bora Way and Fisherman's Village.

However, when emergency crews arrived on the scene, the plane was not sinking, but firefighters said had just experience a "sloppy landing."

Airlines allowing passengers to change flights in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy

NEW YORK — Some U.S. airlines are giving travelers a way out if they want to scrap their plans due to Hurricane Sandy.

JetBlue, US Airways and Spirit Airlines are offering waivers to customers who wish to reschedule their flights without paying the typical fee of up to $150. The offers cover passengers flying just about anywhere from Latin America to New Hampshire.

Most other airlines are monitoring the storm and plan to update passengers later Friday. The airlines have only canceled a handful of flights so far, nearly all of them in and out of Florida and the Caribbean.

Hurricane Sandy plowed through the Bahamas early Friday after leaving 38 people dead across the Caribbean. Forecasters say it could blend with a winter storm to produce a so-called "Frankenstorm" along the U.S. East Coast next week.

Those hoping to fly in or out of affected areas are asked to check their flight status before heading to the airport. To cancel, they should call the airline directly.

The last major storm to threaten airline operations was Hurricane Isaac, which led to a few hundred canceled flights. A major storm on a path along the East Coast is especially threatening to airline operations because traffic there is heavily concentrated in several major metropolitan areas.

Teterboro (KTEB), New Jersey: Two charged in pellet gun possession near airport

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS — Two men were charged Friday with unlawful possession of a weapon after witnesses saw them pointing a gun near Teterboro Airport.

Police were dispatched to 39 Industrial Ave. about 10 a.m. after witnesses saw Julio Lopez, 30, of Westwood and Erick Zambrano, 23, of New York City looking through the scope of a rifle. The gun turned out to be a pellet gun, which is illegal in the state, said Detective Michael Colaneri.

Colaneri said the pair were examining a new scope that was on the gun.

Both men are charged with unlawful possession of a weapon; Lopez also is charged with possession of marijuana. Both initially were being held on $20,000 bail with an option to post a 10-percent bond.

Irish Aviation Authority: Pilot college financing like a Ponzi scheme

The Irish Aviation Authority has likened the financing of the ill-fated Pilot Training College in Waterford to a Ponzi scheme, and said the director of corporate enforcement should investigate the company’s collapse.

The authority’s director of safety regulation, Kevin Humphreys, yesterday told the Oireachtas transport committee the "absence of cadet sponsorship by airlines" has meant private pilot training is "open to this kind of abuse, that is operating as a Ponzi scheme", as huge injections of finance were regularly required to ensure quality training.

He lamented the lack of airline-sponsored cadetships, such as those previously offered by Aer Lingus and the air corps, describing it as "a lacuna".

IAA chief executive Eamonn Brennan was criticised by TDs and senators, who accused the body of failing to better regulate the school, but the IAA refused to take the blame, saying it is only responsible for safety regulation and that questions on the financing of the company should "go to the director of corporate enforcement".

Senator Denis O’Donovan took aim at Transport Minister Leo Varadkar for his failure "to take control" in the past four months and "find out where the buck lies".

It was agreed that a committee of the Dáil and Seanad will undertake a "full and forensic" investigation of the collapse of the college, which left up to 190 private and partially sponsored students out of pocket by up to €5.5m.

Mr Brennan said the directors of the company should be brought before the committee. "The one people not being called to account are the directors of this company," he said. "The minute this happened, they headed for the hills. We could not contact them. They have not been held to account and we are going around in circles here with the department and IAA."

Fine Gael TD Joe O’Reilly was sharply critical of the college going into liquidation on Oct 2, and then a day later, its chief executive and directors setting up another aviation company, Clearsky.

"It was the reincarnation of a sick, old animal," he said.

Mr Brennan said the IAA will "keep Clearsky under observation".

The IAA and the department were repeatedly criticised for failing to reimburse and compensate students.

Mr Humphreys defended the IAA’s actions, saying it sent inspectors to Florida when the course first collapsed, repatriated trainee pilots, seized their training records from the college, and helped students out in any way it could.

He said inspectors also met with Weston National Flight Centre and Atlantic Flight Training Academy in Cork to develop packages to assist former trainees of the Waterford college.

Trenton Mercer Airport (KTTN), Trenton, New Jersey: Mercer County Mobilizes Resources in Advance of Hurricane Sandy

At Trenton-Mercer Airport, administrators are monitoring the weather and sending advisories to TTN tenants requesting that they ensure all materials and objects are secured, including aircraft.

“Although we hope to keep the airport operational, if sustained winds reach 58 mph, we will be required to close the control tower,” Hughes said. In case of closure, aircraft would be diverted to other regional airports.

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Papua New Guinea pilots earn wings

FOR eight Papua New Guinean airline pilot cadets earning their golden wings at this week's graduation has been the culmination 18 months of intense theoretical and practical training.

But the tireless days, long nights and early morning starts while at professional pilot training were a small price to pay in comparison to what they have achieved.

Of the thousands who applied for the cadet training course, only the creme de la creme were chosen. Some even had to choose between their studies in university and pilot school.

Cadet Philip Polum left his Applied Physics course in his final year of studies to pursue this career.

"It was always my dream to be a pilot and I have always worked towards that my whole life," Philip said. Under the sponsorship of Papua New Guinea's airline, Air Niugini, the cadets were able to fulfil their dream.

Upon their return to Papua New Guinea, they'll undergo further training to become first officers on the Dash 8.

Fellow cadet Alwas Popo said the opportunity to fly over the Coffs Coast has been a truly magnificent experience but the friendships forged has been a greater reward.

"We haven't only enjoyed your skies and the weather here, we've made heaps of friends and I don't think we'll ever forget the memories we've made here" Alwas said.

Clearwater's Avanatir voluntarily grounds its fleet of planes for safety reasons

 CLEARWATER — Avantair, a company that offers customers the chance to own shares of private planes at a fraction of the cost of buying their own jet, has grounded its entire fleet.

Avantair, which operates its "fractional ownership" business out of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, said in a statement Thursday that it grounded its aircraft and hired experts to inspect its fleet of almost 60 Piaggio Avanti aircraft and review all of the company's maintenance records.

The voluntary stand-down was done in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the company said.

"For the past week, we have been undertaking extensive inspections of our fleet and our operating procedures," said Avantair's CEO, Steven Santo, in a prepared statement. "These inspections and other actions are still underway."

The FAA's only statement on the matter is that the agency "has not taken enforcement action against Avantair."

An Avantair spokesman was not immediately able address whether the company has laid off or furloughed employees during the stand-down, when service will be restored and what the company is doing for its customers.

Avantair said it hired safety expert Nick Sabatini, a former FAA official, to oversee the review of its aircraft and records.

According to Aviation International News, Avantair started grounding its fleet on last Saturday. The article said Avantair's decision to ground its fleet was linked to a July 28 incident involving one of the company's Piaggio P180s that landed in Nevada without its left tail elevator.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board report on that incident, the Avantair flight took off from Camarillo Airport in California, picked up two passengers in San Diego, then landed at Henderson Executive Airport in Nevada.

After landing, the report said, crew members inspected the plane and discovered the left elevator missing from the tail. The elevator helps control the plane's pitch, allowing the pilots to aim the nose up or down.

Two crew members and two passengers aboard the plane were not injured, according to the NTSB report, but the plane "was substantially damaged." The crew noticed nothing unusual during takeoff, the report said, but the captain reported more "back pressure" affecting the flight controls during landing, according to the report.

The NTSB report said that the Piaggio P180 had been flying without the left tail elevator at least since it first took off that day from Camarillo. Airport personnel there found the elevator near a runway on July 31.

"We know this is an extremely difficult period for our loyal employees and frustrating to our devoted owners," Santo said in the statement. "We are grateful for their understanding and patience as we work through this important process. We are confident we are laying the groundwork necessary to offer outstanding service and reliability going forward."

The "fractional ownership" business model allows customers to buy shares of the company's private planes, which allows them to be flown where and when they want. Avantair said it's a cheaper option than a company owning its own jet or chartering one. Avantair is also the only fractional air service that uses the Piaggio's rear-facing, turbo-prop engines that the company said burns less fuel than conventional private jets.

Avanatir has more than 500 employees and offers fractional air service across North America and the Caribbean. In 2010, the company showed off its new control center at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport to the Tampa Bay Times. Three 200-inch projection screens helped employees direct about 80 flights a day.

The article said the price of a 2½-hour flight to New York was about $6,500.