Thursday, February 28, 2013

Personal connection prompts Premier Aviation employees to collect money for cancer research

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - It only cost $715 for Chris Thrash to get a haircut, but it was all money that went to help the Susan G. Komen Foundation.Thrash, an aviation mechanic at Premier Aviation in the City of Rome, lost his mother to breast cancer and now has a friend battling the illness.

He says he wanted to raise money for research and his co-workers stepped up, as long as Thrash cut his hair, which he did Thursday afternoon at his workplace.

"My hair kinda' like, out of control, and they're always bustin' me about my hair, teasing me about my hair and everything else," he said. "What a better way to do it. It's gonna' grow back. It's something fun to do, it's for a good cause, a good friend."

Thrash says he hasn't been bald since 1976 when he joined the Army.

In addition to the negotiations that helped him collect $715 in exchange for his locks,Thrash is also organizing a spring motorcycle ride benefit.  


Yuma pilots assure balloon safety record

February 28, 2013 4:02 PM 


With a recent deadly hot air balloon accident in Egypt, local pilot Colin Graham has been getting calls from people concerned with the safety of the aircraft.

“We haven't had cancellations yet, but we've been asked about the safety of hot air balloons,” said Graham, a pilot and owner of Balloons Over Yuma.

Nineteen tourists died Tuesday in Luxor in possibly the deadliest hot air ballooning accident on record. According to initial reports, fire erupted on the balloon as the pilot prepared to land, causing it to shoot up into the sky and then plummet about 1,000 feet to Earth.

Graham wants to put people's fears to rest: “Balloons, statistically speaking, are the safest form of aviation in the world.”

Jerry Paulin, another Yuma pilot who flies Wound Up, a balloon that holds 77,000 cubic feet of hot air, also pointed out that balloons are among the safest modes of transportation.

“I consider it a very safe sport. I fly as much as I can. Unfortunately, once in awhile accidents do happen. There are a few accidents every year, but it's much safer than driving to work.”

USA Today, after researching records from the National Transportation Safety Board, reported 762 hot air balloon accidents since 1964, most without fatalities.

In addition, Paulin noted that Egypt's industry “is a different form of ballooning.” In Yuma, most balloons are smaller and carry a handful of passengers. His balloon carries two to three passengers plus the operator.

Graham agreed, pointing out that the Egypt balloon industry uses mostly “huge” aircraft, with upward of 500,000 cubic feet of hot air, that accommodate close to 30 people. His balloons contain 150,000 cubic feet of hot air.

There's another difference, the pilots noted.

“In the U.S., (Federal Aviation Administration) licensing and training is required for all pilots and equipment is inspected annually,” Paulin said.

On the other hand, the Egypt industry lacks proper regulation, and the company involved in the latest accident has had problems in the past, according to reports.

“The pilots in that company for the most part are inexperienced, with low flying hours,” said Graham, a pilot with 15 years of flying experience. He has completed 2,000 flights in 31 states and five countries.

In the U.S., hot air balloonists are strictly monitored by the FAA with annual inspections, and pilots are checked every two years on a flight review.

“If you have routine problems, the FAA will pull your license, and they don't have that over there (in Egypt),” Graham said.

“We are fully insured operators, with the same policy we've had for 13 years. Our aircraft are late model, low mile, fully inspected and registered with the FAA.”

In addition, in the U.S. all pilots must be commercially certified. Graham noted that the way a hot air balloon works is a “pretty simple process, you heat the globe and it goes up. That's why it's so safe.

“But it's not so simple to fly. You have to be better than an airplane pilot to fly. We have to have the same license as an airplane pilot.”

Graham suggests questioning a company about its safety record. He suggests asking: Are your pilots certified? Is your company insured? What is your safety record?

“If someone avoids answering, then you've got a problem,” he said.

He noted that another good resource is the Balloon Federation of America (, which is working on a system to ensure every member is in good standing.

One accident should not dissuade people from experiencing hot air ballooning, Paulin said, adding that if a bus wrecks in Egypt, people don't question the safety of all buses.

“Everything has a risk, but the risk in ballooning is very low,” he reiterated.

Paulin has been flying about four years. “I'm the rookie in the family,” he said at a balloon festival, noting that his son first became a pilot and has been around hot air ballooning for more than 20 years.

“They say your first ride is your cheapest ... because then you have to buy one,” he quipped.

His business, The Filter Factory, sponsored a balloon, but he wanted to be more than a passenger and got his pilot's license.

“It's very calm, very peaceful. The Earth moves away from you. It puts a smile on your face.”

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Questions to ask operators:

• How long have they been in business?
• Do they run their own tours or outsource them to others?
• What is the average group size (there are regulations on the amount of people you can have in the basket at one time)?
• Do they own their own equipment or rent it?
• Have you ever had an accident?
• Also ask for referrals, and find out about deposit and cancellation policies.


Boeing Pares Dreamliner Workforce

February 28, 2013, 5:52 p.m. ET

The Wall Street Journal

Boeing Co. plans to cut 100s of workers at a South Carolina factory where it builds 787 Dreamliners, part of a cost-reduction initiative set in motion before battery problems caused the grounding of the company's flagship jetliner, according to a person familiar with the plan.

The cuts, which started recently and are expected to be implemented over the course of 2013, could reduce staffing levels by up to 20%—at least for certain key teams—at its North Charleston, S.C., campus, which Boeing says has at least 6,000 employees.

The cuts primarily target workers employed at the plant through outside contractors, although Boeing also would reduce internal staff positions by not replacing some workers who leave or are promoted, the person said.

Such reductions aren't uncommon as assembly lines improve productivity, but the cuts come at a crucial time for the company. Boeing is trying to double monthly output of 787s at the South Carolina factory and another plant in Washington state by year's end. The South Carolina plant also is assembling major sections of a new Dreamliner model, the longer 787-9. It wasn't clear how the cuts might affect those efforts.

Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel declined to discuss any specific job cuts at the South Carolina facility. "As we progress in improving efficiencies in our processes, training our entry-level employees, and growing the experience of our team in South Carolina, we expect to continue to reduce reliance" on contract labor in order "to meet our production objectives," he said in an email.

Overall, Mr. Birtel said, Boeing expects to hire between 8,000 and 10,000 people in 2013, including at its defense division, which would keep its overall employment levels at "flat or slightly down" at year's end. "This includes hiring in some areas and reductions in others," he said. Boeing employed 173,781 workers at the end of January.

The South Carolina job cuts were initiated late last year, the person said, before overheating problems with the lithium-ion batteries on two Dreamliners prompted the world-wide grounding of the fleet in January. The grounding prohibited Boeing from delivering any new 787s to customers, but Boeing has said the move hasn't affected its production. The company last week proposed to U.S. regulators a package of modifications to the battery system that it hopes will allow the jets to return to commercial service as early as April, according to government and industry officials.

The actions in North Charleston appear to be part of a broader effort to reduce the costs to build the 787, which was introduced 18 months ago after years of expensive delays. Boeing has staked much of its financial future on the plane and on its ability to build it more efficiently over time. The company says the 787 program is currently profitable based on an accounting measure that average its costs out over the more than 1,000 planes it expects to build during the next decade. However, analysts estimate that Boeing currently spends about $100 million more to make each 787 than the jet brings in revenue.

The South Carolina plant has been an important element of Boeing's 787 strategy. Because it has a nonunion workforce, the facility has had flexibility to bring in temporary mechanics through outside contractors. Especially in its early years, the South Carolina facilities made extensive use of such contract labor, which tended to be more-expensive but also initially more experienced than the new workforce it hired locally.

Mr. Birtel said the use of contract labor to "supplement [Boeing's] workforce during surge activities and on development programs" is standard practice for the aerospace industry.

Boeing confirms that some contractors have been offered positions as direct employees, but a person familiar with the offers say many have declined offers, citing the comparatively lower compensation of direct, rather than contract, employment.

Boeing plans to either end early or not renew contractors at the South Carolina facility and two smaller facilities that make the mid- and aft-body of the Dreamliner. The two smaller factories predate Boeing's presence in South Carolina, when the facilities were set up by 787 suppliers in the early years of the program.

The factories struggled and in 2008 and 2009 Boeing was forced to purchase both, giving the company its first industrial footprint in the state. In October 2009, Boeing announced it would build a second 787 final assembly line on the Charleston campus, marking its first such site outside of its traditional commercial base on the west coast. The site delivered its first 787 to Air India last September.


Dallas man pleads guilty to pointing laser at Dallas police helicopter

A Dallas man plead guilty Thursday morning to aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, a federal offense punishable by five years in prison.

Kenneth Santodomingo, 22, is accused of aiming a green laser pointer at a Dallas Police Department Air One helicopter minutes before 4 a.m. on Jan. 28. Air One was called to help search for burglary suspects in a wooded area when the laser shot through the pilot's window, impairing his ability to control the helicopter.
The pilot was able to lead officers to house near the 7000 block of Lake June Road after Santodomingo pointed the laser at the aircraft four times in a 10 minute period. In addition to the potential five year punishment, the 22-year-old also faces a $250,000 fine. 
Santodomingo told officers he “wanted to see how far it would go” when asked why he pointed the laser at the helicopter and handed over the laser. 
He will be sentenced on July 25, 2013, according to a press release. 
Shining a laser pointer at an aircraft became a federal offense on Feb. 27, 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s website. 
To see what it's like for a pilot when a laser is pointed into a cockpit, click here.


Chicken causes power outage at Maui airport

By Associated Press
POSTED: 01:20 p.m. HST, Feb 27, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 01:20 p.m. HST, Feb 27, 2013


WAILUKU >> A power outage at an airport on Maui was caused by a chicken.

That's right. A chicken.

The chicken got into a Maui Electric Co. transformer in the rental car area at Kahului Airport on Tuesday afternoon. It caused a power outage that began at 2:07 p.m. that left some passengers having to disembark their planes the old-fashioned way — by mobile stairway.

The airport tower and air traffic was not affected, according to The Maui News.

The chicken got into a Maui Electric Co. transformer in the rental car area at Kahului Airport, Maui Electric company spokeswoman Kaui Awai-Dickson said. Power was restored about a half-hour later. The outage affected the airport and nearby businesses, including the rental car companies, a hotel and department store.

After about a half hour, customers were restored with power with the exception of the rental car companies located just outside the airport. All power was restored at 3:25 p.m.

During the outage, security screenings were performed manually and some electronic doors had to be manned by Transportation Security Administration officials, said Maui District airport manager Marvin Moniz.

He said the outage caused some flight delays of no more than 15 minutes.


Second Glance: Flyin’ time

Published on February 28, 2013, 8:00 a.m. 

Find the 12 differences between the original photograph and the altered photograph.   Original photograph by David C. Kennedy; Biplane at the Aerodome in Bealeton in September:

Floyd Bennett Memorial (KGFL), Glens Falls, New York: New restaurant proposed at Warren County Airport

Rich Air, the company that serves as the fixed base operator for Warren County Airport, is proposing two new buildings at the airport to house a restaurant and additional offices.

The proposal is to be discussed at a county Facilities Committee meeting Thursday.

The restaurant would be six times the size of the cafe that operates at the airport, said Jon Lapper, a lawyer for Rich Air. It would be located next to the terminal.

It would be open into the evening, while the cafe on the property is open only mornings and afternoons. Lapper said what type of restaurant it will be is to be determined.

The office building would be next to Hangar 2 on the airport property.

Lapper said that Carol's Airport Cafe would be closed and turned into a lounge or office space, and the proprietors would be given the opportunity to run the new restaurant.


Philadelphia International Airport (KPHL), Pennsylvania: Cleaning Crew Steals From Plane

By Elizabeth Hur 

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Theft on the plane. Eyewitness News uncovered exclusive details about a cleaning crew that police say helped themselves to a passenger’s ID and money.

If you’ve ever flown across the country or even overseas, as was the case for the victim in this story, you know that by the time you get home, you are beat. Now imagine getting a call from your bank, telling you someone used your debit card to make purchases worth more than $1000.

“I was really shocked and saddened.”

Rachel Beasley talked to Eyewitness News via Skype and went onto explain that she was flying from Frankford, Germany to Virginia with a layover in Philadelphia. She quickly learned it was at Philadelphia International Airport that she fell victim on February 18th. Her bank, USAA Bank, notified her the next day.

Beasley said, “I actually had everything, my passport, my plane tickets, my driver’s license and credit card in a travel organizer.”

Turns out, someone somehow took of Beasley’s bank card and driver’s license. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Philadelphia police at the airport to zero in on the suspects.

Lt. Louis Liberati explained, “We determined that a purchase was made at the stores upstairs, and it was made by employees of a company that actually cleans the aircrafts. Five individuals who were observed leaving the terminals with bags from that particular outlet, it just so happens that those individuals were the assigned people to clean that particular aircraft.”

According to police, the five individuals were employees of Prospect Airport Services. The suspects were identified by police as Michelle Sampson, Vernice Robinson, Keyana Nelson, Sakya Geer and Amber Moore.

“It is a shame. When you travel, you’d like to think you’re secure with your property,” Lt. Liberati said.

Beasley added, “I just can’t thank Philadelphia Police enough. I’m just glad it happened in the way it did to bring it to closure, so that they’re not doing this to anybody else.”

When reached for comment, Suzanne M. Mucklow, Esq., the in-house counsel for Prospect Airport Services, Inc. released the following statement:

“Because airports are highly secured, all prospective employees are subject to an extensive background check as required by federal law. Individuals who are denied the credentials necessary to access secured areas of the airport cannot work for our company. The company takes the allegations involved very seriously and is cooperating fully with law enforcement on its investigation. We will follow our policies in addressing this matter internally. If these allegations are true, we believe the actions of a few should not reflect on the integrity of our entire workforce at the Philadelphia International Airport.”

Lt. Liberati explained, “Three of them reported for work last night, they were gathered up by their employer and police went to that office made the arrest of three.”

Police say the remaining two suspects surrendered on Wednesday. All five have been charged, according to police, with ID Theft, Forgery, Theft and related offenses.

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Raleigh-Durham International Airport (KRDU), North Carolina: Low flying aircraft

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Numerous people reported seeing low flying aircraft in the Raleigh area Wednesday evening.

A Raleigh-Durham International Airport spokesperson told ABC11 that the low flying aircraft are part of a military exercise.

There is no threat to the public, according to the spokesperson. 

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Federal budget cuts would end flyovers at sports events

We've oohed and aahed at the vroom of military jets flying over sporting events. That will be silenced if the federal budget cuts of sequestration are fully implemented.

A B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber flew over the Rose Bowl last month and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in July. Flyovers are part of the pre-race ritual at many NASCAR races. Precision squadrons such as the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels have been fixtures at air shows. They fly in their six-jet delta formation over sporting events, too.

But with $85 billion in federal budget cuts set to take effect Friday if no solution is found in Congress (the cuts would total $1.2 trillion over 10 years), such flyovers will be grounded, and there could be cuts to service academy athletics departments.

A low cloud ceiling prevented the Thunderbirds from making their scheduled flyover Sunday at the Daytona 500. Next on their schedule is a flyover March 10 for a NASCAR event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"The Thunderbirds are expected to stand down effective April 1. (Las Vegas) is pretty much going to be, I think, the last flyover you'll see for a while from us," Wendy Varhegyi, chief of the engagement division for Air Force public affairs, told USA TODAY Sports Wednesday.

She said the curtailment would be at least through the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), "And then at that point, we'll reevaluate. â?¦ Sequestration is a 10-year problem, so we just don't know."

According to Varhegyi, the Air Force conducts about 1,000 flyovers a year at sports venues and other events. They are made in conjunction with pre-allotted training hours for pilots.

"It's no additional cost to the government for support of any public events," she said. "Typically, if you see a unit fly over a football game, that is 90 seconds out of a several hour training sorte that they're flying.''

Under sequestration, such training hours would be curtailed.

"We just have a reduced number of those training hours, and so everything is being dedicated to just preparing for that overseas deployment and for flying that's actually happening overseas," Varhegyi said.

The Air Force views the flyovers as a way to engage the public.

"Even for just 90 seconds, it is awareness," Varhegyi said. "It's just a great way that we can have connection with the American people and have that awareness to large groups of people, not to mention how patriotic everybody is."

The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., typically has flyovers at home football games. The Blue Angels were scheduled to perform in May during Navy's graduation week. But the Navy says such displays will be halted under the sequestration cuts.

"Now if it's resolved, I would hope that we would be back to the flyovers," said Chet Gladchuk, Navy's athletics director. "But right now, I don't think anything is guaranteed, unfortunately."

Gladchuk is concerned with more than flyovers.

"The Navy obviously is making some very significant cutbacks on a lot of different fronts," he said. "You read about the furloughs and the budgetary cutbacks. â?¦ There are just so many uncertainties, and no one knows."

Gladchuk says his academy's 33 varsity sports are protected because they are operated under the Naval Academy Athletic Association. He said more than 95% of its budget is made up of ticket sales, TV rights fees, corporate sponsorships and donations. "We only have a very small percentage of our operating budget that comes from government," he said.

But some of that government money goes to coaches who also serve as physical education instructors, which could make them subject to furloughs. "If that happens, they'll have to take a day off, and we'll have assistant coaches that will fill in," ladchuk said. "We'll kind of time it so the coaches will be back for the contests."

Gladchuk also said that even though Navy sports has its own funding, it will be a "bit more parochial" in sports scheduling. "I don't think you'll be finding the teams traveling all over the country like we have in the past, some of the Olympic sport teams," he said.

A spokesman for the Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., said athletics director Boo Corrigan was not available to comment on potential effects of sequestration. But the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs said it is also bracing for furloughs for its 53 coaches and several athletics administrators.

"We're kind of waiting until we know exactly what's (the impact)," said Troy Garnhart, associate athletics director for communications. "Is it going to really be 22 days, a day a week, the rest of the fiscal year, etc.?"

Garnhart said the Air Force Academy Athletic Association, similar to the entity at Navy, accounts for about half of Air Force's $38 million annual budget for athletics.

He said the cutbacks from sequestration also could affect how Air Force teams travel.

"We, a lot of times, travel on Military Airlift (military aircraft). Some of our smaller teams travel on Military Airlift, and certainly we think that's going to be affected, which means then an expense of going commercial airline," Garnhart said.

Air Force's jet flyovers at home football games also would be gone under the full effects of sequestration. But Air Force still has its live falcon mascot to perform demonstration flights at football games.

"We still do that, and I think we would probably still do that," Garnhart said. "I don't know that he'll travel to some games because we take him to away games. But, yeah, he's still here.''


14th annual South Shore Air Show may fall victim to impending automatic federal spending cuts (With Video)

As the deadline for possible sequestration nears so does the impending fate of the 14th Annual South Shore Air Show. 
The air show, scheduled for July 12 to 14, is slated to include the F-22 Raptor, the MV-22 Osprey and the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, according to a release issued Wednesday.

But unless Congress acts by Friday, $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, known as the sequester, are set to take effect. Under sequestration, the U.S. military jet teams are grounded until further notice, and additional military support for air shows will be suspended.

Officials in Indianapolis and at Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base, Arizona’s Luke Air Force Base and North Carolina’s Seymour Johnson Air Force Base already have canceled their air shows.

As of Wednesday, the South Shore Air Show's fate was uncertain, according to the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, which organizes the show.

"It's not just about the military acts — although they are a huge part of our show," Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, said in a statement issued Wednesday. "For many reasons, we cannot wait until late March or April to make a decision if the show will be a 'go' or not.

"Food vendors, merchandisers and sponsors are not going to wait around until the 11th hour for us to make a decision," Batistatos said. "These business professionals are going to maximize their resources with other events, those not impacted by federal budgeting constraints."

Batistatos said the show's organizing committee will keep a close eye on what happens at the federal level Friday, then make its decision.

"This is a very unfortunate circumstance, and it's a difficult decision" he said.

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British Columbia: Whistler SAR report highlights need for improved heli-pad access

February 28, 2013
Brandon Barrett

Whistler Search and Rescue (WSAR) used helicopters during 31 responses in the past year, highlighting the need for the resort town’s health centre to update its heli-pad for the use of single-engine helicopters, an aircraft more suited to high-altitude operations than the twin-engine vessels it currently allows.

“Twin-engine helicopters historically have not proven to be any safer than single-engines,” said WSAR manager Brad Sills, noting that the two aircraft share a common gearbox, tail rotor and hydraulic system. “The fact that you have two engines is not necessarily going to prevent you from having a catastrophic failure. What it does do is increase the weight of the helicopter considerably … so they’re not ideal for high-mountain rescue.”

WSAR has access to 16 helicopters, 11 of which are single-engine machines.

According to its annual manager’s report, WSAR received 70 calls for assistance in the calendar year leading up to Feb. 19, 2013, of which 34 required team mobilization.

Whistler Health Care Centre’s heli-pad is currently not equipped for the landing of single-engine aircraft, resulting in all but three of the 34 cases being flown to the municipal heli-pad north of Emerald Estates before being transported by ground ambulance back to the clinic. During one incident last year, Sills said his rescue team was unable to enter high terrain with a twin-engine aircraft, forcing responders to go back to retrieve a single-engine helicopter to complete the operation.

“Much of what we do is in fading light or in poor weather conditions, so the pilot is already at the upper level of his abilities and now the choice to use a twin-engine (helicopter) to comply with the heli-pad deprives him of yet another capacity and it’s not safe,” said Sills. “It doesn’t increase the safety for the SAR members, for the pilot or for the subjects that were rescuing, so using a twin-engine has a serious effect for us.”

Lobbying from local search and rescue groups led to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) officials in December to re-examine heli-pad access at the resort’s medical centre. Consultants that were involved in the heli-pad’s last upgrade allowing for twin-engine aircraft, completed this summer following two years of repeated delays, were tasked with preparing a report to determine the amount of work required around the site to allow for a clear flight path for single-engine vessels.

Whistler’s former council didn’t support additional tree cutting in the resort to allow for an effective flight path for single-engine vessels. Traffic lights close to the heli-pad would also have to altered or removed before single-engine aircraft could land there.

Several weeks ago, VCH sent a letter to Whistler Search and Rescue indicating they would not be paying for any additional upgrades at the site.

The WSAR report also noted that the “seriousness of SAR calls continues to escalate” with four fatalities and at least seven critical care medical rescues in the past year. Sills attributed the rise to not only improved downhill technologies, but also an increase in backcountry riders.

“The more serious incidents are basically a function of gravity and velocity. People are going much faster than they have previously in the backcountry,” he said. “When you put those combinations together and you increase the overall usage, you’re going to get more calls.”

Of the 34 incidents requiring WSAR mobilization, nearly a quarter of them were attributed to snowmobilers, resulting in one fatality. Ski mountaineering accounted for seven incidents and overdue skiers accounted for five. For the second year in a row, only one incident was attributed to an overdue snowboarder.

Geographically, the Spearhead Range saw the highest number of incidents at nine, nearly double Powder Mountain and Whistler backside, which both saw five incidents. Sills said he expects that number to increase with the installation of a Spearhead hut network proposed in the province’s Garibaldi Park Management Plan, expected for approval in April.

“If you’re going from the current (usage) and you look at the (increased usage) being proposed for these huts, that increase is in the magnitude of 20 to 30 times, so anytime you do that, you would certainly expect an increase in incidents there,” said Sills.

With the growing popularity of backcountry touring, Sills stressed the importance of ensuring riders are adequately prepared to enter more challenging terrain.

“We cannot stress enough that you need to have the knowledge and the equipment to enjoy (the backcountry) safely,” he said. “There is no replacement for acquiring the skills before you go out, so take a course.”


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gary/Chicago International Airport (KGYY), Gary, Indiana: Possible tower closing has Allegiant looking at options

Allegiant airline will undertake a seasonal suspension of flights from Gary/Chicago International Airport to Orlando/Sanford International Airport from April 15 to June 5.

The hiatus will be similar to the six week suspension of Gary flights that took place from Sept. 6 to Oct. 18. The airline at that time imposed flight suspensions at about half its airports because of low seasonal demand.

Reservations still can be made at the airline's website for flights before and after the spring suspension.

Allegiant airline will make decisions on a "case-by-case basis" on whether to keep flying to airports such as Gary/Chicago International, where control towers may close because of federal sequestration budget cuts.

"There are many factors at play, and we will make operations decisions on a case-by-case basis that are in the best interest of safety, above all else," Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said in an email to The Times.

Allegiant currently operates at a small number of airports without control towers. At the same time, it has found it has had to cease operations in the past at some that lack towers, Wheeler said.

Gary Interim Director Steve Landry told the Airport Authority on Monday if the federal budget cuts kick in Friday, the control tower will close while the airport will remain open. He said he could not predict if closing the tower would keep any planes away.

Gary is currently the only airport in Northwest Indiana with its own control tower, which closes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day.

Planes continue to land at the Gary airport even when the tower is closed, using procedures in place for landing without it and maintaining contact with air traffic control centers in the Chicago region as they approach, said Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis.

"Life does not stop when there is no one in the tower," Davis said. "Would we miss it? Definitely."

The Federal Aviation Administration has released a list of more than 200 control towers it is considering closing if the sequester kicks in, which includes Gary and five other Indiana airports. The agency has not said it will definitely close them.

Allegiant flies from Gary to Orlando/Sanford International Airport on Sundays and Thursdays, with departure both days at 10:05 a.m.

Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher told the business publication Vegas Inc last year that Allegiant pulled out of Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport in Colorado because of growing safety concerns related to the fact the airport did not have a tower.

Although Allegiant serves some small airports without control towers, Gallagher pointed out the skies around Fort Collins-Loveland airport were filled with enough general aviation planes that it was a safety concern for the airline.


Diamond Aircraft: Sales slump makes investors scarce, CEO says

By Norman DeBono, The London Free Press

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 8:40:16 EST PM

Diamond Aircraft needs $77 million to fund its D-Jet program and is trying to raise the money as aircraft sales slump, the company’s chief executive said Wednesday.

Until Diamond can raise the cash, the maker of small piston-powered planes at London International Airport will scale back operations and its ambitious new D-Jet program will be idled, Peter Maurer said.

“It’s very difficult to certify any aircraft and bring it to market, but that is something we are capable of. It’s frustrating.

“We started this (D-Jet program) when the economy was strong and sales were up, but since 2008 it has been difficult. Our timing is not good.”

On Monday, Diamond laid off 160 workers — Maurer corrected earlier reports of 200 cuts — while more than 50 remain on the job at the company’s plant on Crumlin Sideroad, he said.

Maurer also said the announced sale of Diamond to Medrar Financial Group out of Dubai in 2011 was not finalized even though an agreement in principle was reached, leaving Diamond without a major financial backer other than its shareholders and the Dries family in Austria who own Diamond.

Though Diamond sold 150 aircraft last year, only about 70 were from the London plant, with the balance sold from its Austrian head office and a plant in China, Maurer said.

As for sales this year, “to be honest the order board is weak. Overall sales are down,” leading to the layoff.

But the slump is global, with only 880 piston-powered planes sold last year compared with 2,700 in 2006.

“The market is about a third of what it was five years ago, and we have held our market share,” Maurer said.

Diamond needs new backers as the Dries family has invested $150 million in the D-Jet project alone, and more in Diamond Aircraft in total, and other sources of money are needed, he said.

“I’m told they are not in a position to send money over here. By now they were hoping to find new investors.”

As for whether Diamond can raise the cash needed, “it won’t be easy, but I am not giving up, so there is hope,” Maurer said.

His greatest concern is losing skilled workers who are tough to find in the aerospace sector, especially those who can work in composite materials used in Diamond aircraft.

“We will be trying to build up that intellectual capital again. We brought a lot of them here, that was good for our community.”

Maurer remains upbeat, saying the company has 200 orders for the D-Jet, a personal single engine jet that seats five and would cost about $1.5 million.

“There is long-term potential, but there’s no question sales from the piston planes cannot support it.”

Maurer sent a letter Wednesday to Diamond owners and operators, saying the plant is still operating and that though its D-Jet is suspended, it will still produce three styles of piston aircraft, supply parts for all models, and offer customer support, maintenance and sales.

“These developments will not impact our ability to meet our ongoing commitments,” stated the letter.

“We have retained the personnel required to continue our operations.”

As for whether the maker of two- and four-seat propeller aircraft that have been sold as trainers for the U.S. Air Force will survive, it’s too early to say, Maurer said.

“There has been lot of speculation about that for 10 years. We went through it in 2000 and then in 2011.”


The financial woes of London’s aircraft manufacturer were raised in the Ontario legislature Wednesday as NDP Leader Andrea Horwath grilled the Liberal government over funding to Diamond Aircraft.

Diamond received $10 million from the Ontario government in 2009, and long-term job guarantees should have come with the cash, Horwath said.

“We have seen time and again companies get investment, and we see them leave town.”

In 2009 Diamond also received $19.6 million from Ottawa.

Diamond met and exceeded all the job requirements that money came with, bringing workers here, including engineers from Europe, said Peter Maurer, Diamond chief executive.

“The government got more than their money’s worth.”

But to lay off workers four years later is not good enough, Horwath said.

In 2011, Diamond needed $90 million to keep its D-Jet program alive. The company asked the federal and provincial governments for $35 million each. Ottawa said no, and the Ontario government would not go it alone.

Diamond did raise $20 million from shareholders, but needs $77 million to keep the D-Jet program alive, Maurer said.


No insurance for most Hongkongers killed in Egypt hot-air balloon disaster: Compensation will be limited to a humanitarian payment to fly their bodies back to Hong Kong

Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 12:00am
Cheung Chi-fai, Joshua But and Phila Siu


Six balloon crash victims had bought travel insurance from China Merchants Insurance that did not cover them for compensation, except for a "humanitarian" payment of the expenses to bring their bodies home.

Company general manager Simon Chan Kwan said aerial activity was excluded from the insurance coverage and that it was so stated in the policy document.

"The policy does not cover balloon activity but we will assist and pay to transport the bodies back home on humanitarian grounds," he said.

Through travel agent Kuoni, three of the nine victims bought insurance from Generali, which covered ballooning. The rest bought it from China Merchants, through an agent known as Union Faith.

According to the website of Union Faith, travellers are asked to pay attention to activities not covered by the policy.

These included air travel other than as passengers on a properly licensed, power-driven aircraft. While this excluded hot-air balloons, parachuting was included.

A spokesman for Union Faith declined to comment.

"We just act as an agent for China Merchants," he said.

It was not known whether the agent had explained the terms of the policy clearly to the victims.

A 10-day insurance package offered by the company costs HK$107 to HK$226, depending on the level of compensation. It can be bought online. The lack of insurance coverage for the six led some to wonder if balloon operator Sky Cruise had any insurance coverage for passengers.

Kuoni said yesterday it was still trying to gather information on this.

The agency earlier said the insurance package offered by Generali included a maximum payout of HK$500,000 for accidental death.

It also covered expenses for transporting bodies home, as well as discretionary compensation of up to HK$50,000.

Industry experts said insurance companies had increasingly started to include dangerous activities in their travel insurance but that families would have to examine their specific policy to determine the scope of the coverage and the level of compensation.

Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por said it was common for travel insurance companies to add a clause excluding aerial activities. If that was the case, the families of the six victims might be left without compensation, he said.

"Aerial activities such as parachuting, bungee jumping, and water sports like scuba-diving are commonly excluded, unless stated otherwise."

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition on Feb 28, 2013 as 6 victims had no insurance coverage for a balloon trip

Buchanan Field Airport (KCCR), Concord, California: Reports of a plane crash turns out to be a false alarm

February 27, 2013 15:42 pm

Concord Police are searching for a downed plane after several reports came in about a plane crash near Buchanan Field in Concord at about 3:30pm.

As of 3:37pm, no plane has been found.

A Concord Police Officer saw a plane that was having engine trouble, but they believe it landed safely at Buchanan Field. 

A witness says she saw a plane “sputted & tilt”, and then saw smoke. 

Another witness thought they also saw an aircraft go down.

The airport tower says they have no planes missing, and cannot see any smoke or debris from their location.

UPDATE, 3:49pm:   Nothing has been found. Authorities believe the plane ended up landing safely.  The smoke the witness saw is apparently coming from an asphalt plant in the area of the airport.

Story and Reaction/Comments:

Future of some Myrtle Beach flights up in the air as automatic budget cuts loom

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013
By Dawn Bryant

MYRTLE BEACH -- The future is up in the air for some flights from Myrtle Beach as airlines wait to see how the Federal Aviation Administration responds to the U.S. budget cuts that are likely to kick in Friday.

Two airlines that serve Myrtle Beach, Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, are working through how the potential closing of control towers in cities they fly to from Myrtle Beach might effect that service, though Spirit says its flights will continue regardless.

Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, which caters to private and corporate aircraft, also is on a list of potential airports where its control towers might be closed if Congress doesn’t stem the $85 billion in automatic cuts.

But the closing of control towers doesn’t mean the airports automatically shut down or the flights are canceled. Other nearby control towers could pick up that work.

“I don’t think [passengers] should panic,” said Kirk Lovell, spokesman for Horry County Airports, which runs Myrtle Beach International Airport and Grand Strand Airport.

Spirit says its flights from Myrtle Beach International to Latrobe, Pa., and Niagara Falls, N.Y., will continue even if the FAA closes those control towers, which is one of the options to cut $600 million the FAA outlined late last week. Allegiant is still evaluating how the cuts might affect its flights from Myrtle Beach to Youngstown, Ohio, and Huntington, W.Va.

“If the towers are closed down, we will evaluate our flights on a case by case basis,” Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said. “Any change in our operations and we will contact our customers immediately. We don’t want to make any quick judgments. Certainly we are going to evaluate all of our options.”

But none of the cuts are definite. The FAA outlined several options for trimming its budget, including furloughing employees, eliminating midnight shifts at 60 towers and closing 100 control towers across the country -- warning that flights in major cities such as New York could experience 90-minute delays in peak times if the cuts take place. The proposed cuts by the FAA are among those from U.S. departments that have been rolled out as the Friday deadline for Congress to act on the automatic budget cuts nears.

“All of these changes will be finalized as to scope and details through collaborative discussions with our users and our unions,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator, said in a letter to aviation groups last week.

For now, the airlines are just waiting to see what the FAA ends up having to do.

“While we wait to see the full impact, if any, of government spending cuts which may close certain air traffic control towers, Spirit is planning to operate a normal schedule at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe,” Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said in an email. “As always, the safety of our customers and crews is our top priority. Spirit is already authorized by the FAA to operate at [Latrobe] and [Niagara Falls, N.Y.] when the control tower is closed. As such, the airline follows FAA-approved procedures to ensure safe operations without a control tower.”

Any potential changes to flights likely wouldn’t be immediate. The FAA would have to give the airports 30 days notice before a control tower closes, Lovell said. The letter from LaHood and Huerta said that facility shut downs and furloughs would begin in April.

Even if the FAA shuts down the control tower at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, it would be business as usual for pilots, Lovell said after meeting with local FAA officials Wednesday. Pilots could still fly in and out, but would be given a new control tower to contact, Lovell said.

“It’s really a non-issue,” he said. “Nothing changes for anybody out there. The airport stays open and operates like it always does.”

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Are These Model Airplanes? Most U.S. Flights Are on Smaller Jets; Tight Squeezes and 'the Right Amount of Misery'

February 27, 2013, 7:22 p.m. ET 

The Wall Street Journal

People are feeling the frustration of living in RJ Nation.

The small regional jets once loved because they replaced rickety, noisy, slow turboprops have multiplied into the majority of domestic airline flights in the U.S., and are now seen as some of the least desirable airplanes. Travelers accustomed to riding in a full-size jet instead find themselves on planes with tighter seating, lower ceilings and fewer amenities for flights as long as four hours.

Regional-jet service has grown over the last 10 years to be the backbone of much of domestic air travel, even if it is impossible to stand up straight in the bathroom. Passenger traffic on "RJs"—small jets with 30 to 90 seats—has more than tripled since 2000, according to Department of Transportation data. Passenger traffic on mainline jets, planes from major carriers with 100 seats or more, is up just 10%, with international flying accounting for a good chunk of that increase. RJs are logging longer flights, too. The average flight distance has grown 50% over the last decade, according to the Regional Airline Association.

Airlines like the small jets so much because they can efficiently match demand with seat capacity and avoid flying empty seats. Small jets allow nonstop flights in small markets and fill schedules with lots of flights on busier routes. Historically, business travelers have gravitated to the carrier with the most options for convenient scheduling. In addition, it's cheaper for airlines to outsource small-jet service to regional airlines with lower-paid pilots, flight attendants, ground workers and managers.

At United Airlines, regional jets with 50 seats or fewer don't offer the same perks as other United trips—no first-class seats or hot meals, no "Economy Plus" extra-legroom rows in coach. But they sometimes fly routes of nearly four hours from as far west as Oklahoma to Newark, N.J., offering "a nonstop option to those people to go to New York without connecting in some Midwest hub," said Brian Znotins, a United vice president who oversees the airline's route planning. "We just design our network to what passengers want to fly.''

And it isn't just small towns relying on the small jets. Regional airlines fly 64% of the takeoffs and landings at Chicago's O'Hare International, 74% at Seattle-Tacoma and 52% at New York's LaGuardia Airport. They also suffer from being so ubiquitous at big airports: Regional airlines have some of the worst on-time and baggage-handling records among airlines and highest rates of canceled flights. When bad weather forces airlines to thin flight schedules, regional airlines get whacked first because carriers would rather used limited landing slots for larger airplanes with more people.

Least favored by travelers are the smallest varieties of regional jet. Still, the 50-seat jet, which is less fuel-efficient per-seat than bigger regional jets, remains the backbone of regional airline service and 43% of the entire regional airline fleet, according to RAA.

 Bob Cortelyou, senior vice president of network planning at Delta Air Lines says that since the turboprop-replacement honeymoon in the 1990s, travelers have grown to want more. Bigger regional jets like 70- and 90-seaters have first-class cabins and extra legroom rows, but not the 50-seaters.

Over the next few years Delta will stop using hundreds of 50-seat jets. Delta has also limited 50-seat flights to trips no longer than 700 miles, or under two hours.

In place of the 50-seat jets, Delta will use larger planes: 100-seat jets that it is leasing from Southwest Airlines and additional new 90-seat Bombardier CRJ900 jets with more spacious cabins and first-class seating. The airline has already returned mainline flights to some communities such as Augusta, Ga., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Roanoke, Va., after serving those communities with only regional carrier flights for 15 years. In some cases, Delta is reducing the number of flights per day but increasing the size of the plane, bucking conventional airline wisdom that held business travelers preferred schedules with very frequent flights.

"Frequent fliers would rather get on a mainline aircraft than a 50-seat plane," said Delta's Mr. Cortelyou.

American Airlines and United Airlines both have recently negotiated new contracts with pilots that allow use of greater numbers of 70-seat and 90-seat jets flown by regional-airline partners, likely trading out 50-seat jets.

Still, regional airlines say without small jets, many communities wouldn't have air service or would have fewer options. Some say they've moved to standardize service with their mainline partners, who hire them to fly routes and bring connecting passengers into hubs. Their flights also have some benefits: no middle seats, for example, and faster boarding and deplaning with fewer passengers.

More than half of the top 15 airports in the U.S. are majority regional-airline flights. "That says to me that's the perfect airplane to serve those markets,'' RAA President Roger Cohen said.

The safety record of regional airlines has improved: Between 2008 and 2012, there was only one fatal crash involving a regional airline in the U.S., while over the previous five years there were eight fatal regional accidents.

The one recent crash, which killed 50 people near Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009, triggered a congressional mandate to increase minimum training and experience of airline pilots. Over the last 10 years, major U.S. passenger airlines have had just one fatal accident, a Southwest Boeing 737 that ran off a runway in Chicago in 2005 during a snowstorm, killing a 6-year-old boy in an automobile.

To really see the impact of regional airlines these days, just fly the longest flight in miles on a regional jet in the U.S. That's a 1,501-mile United flight between Austin, Texas and San Francisco, which takes about four hours going west into the wind. United hires SkyWest Airlines flying a Bombardier CRJ700 with 66 seats and a 6-foot-tall cabin that's a few inches taller than Bombardier's original 50-seat CRJ.

On a recent trip, passengers scooted sideways down a 16-inch aisle, some slumped over so their shoulders didn't hit the small overhead bins and their heads didn't scrape the ceiling. A 6-foot-tall man couldn't possibly stand up straight in the one lavatory in the back.

Leila Bulling Towne, an executive management coach, was happy to be on a nonstop flight home from a business meeting in Austin and liked the RJ practice of checking and retrieving carry-on bags at the jet-bridge, since regular roll-aboard bags don't fit in purse-sized overhead bins.

But overall, "this plane is not really made for four-hour flights. We're crossing many regions, so it's not really a regional jet," she said. "I'm 5-foot-2 and it feels cramped.''

Austin musician David Utterback goes to San Francisco a couple of times a year and started flying United exclusively because of the nonstop RJ flights. "I used to have to go through Denver or Dallas,'' Mr. Utterback said. "I just like to get on and get off.''

Russell Huffman, a tech company sales vice president on the flight, joked that airlines have "done a good job figuring out the right amount of misery people will put up with."

Mr. Huffman paid to upgrade to first class on United's CRJ700 on his flight to Austin. He said he wouldn't pay for first on an RJ again. "I got a snack box and free booze. There was no Wi-Fi, no amenities at all," he said. "I think beyond two hours is getting to be too long for those planes."


Davenport Municipal Airport (KDVN), Iowa

CBS4 - WHBF Quad Cities, IL-IA News Weather Sports 

Some headaches for QC travelers Tuesday. Numerous flights out of the Quad Cities Airport were canceled today and hundreds more in Chicago. 

So who makes the decision on cancellations?

The Davenport Airport Manager says it's up to airlines and private pilots to make the call. But there are extreme cases where airports just can't handle the weather.

It's not just the amount of snow they assess for potential flights, but also visibility and runway conditions.

"For this airport, we take it on a case by case basis," says Tom Vesalga, airport manager. "We'll look at it about an hour - hour and a half prior to the arrival or departure and clear what we have to clear."

The Davenport Airport Manager says on a day like today, they'll shut down the airport after the last flight early this evening. After that, they'll let the snow take its course and reassess the airport tomorrow morning.

Victoria Regional (KVCT), Texas: Airport management urges community to speak out against funding cuts

Originally published February 26, 2013 at 5 p.m., updated February 26, 2013 at 8:45 p.m.

Revenue drops, traffic decreases, safety issues and more potential federal spending cuts could mean trouble for the Victoria Regional Airport, management said. But community input might help.

Airport Manager Jason Milewski talked Tuesday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s Victoria Partnership meeting, discussing a possible $600 million Federal Aviation Administration spending cut that could go into effect Friday.

If passed, the cuts could take away funding for air traffic control centers at 25 Texas airports, including Victoria's.

Milewski said he's experienced a flood of communication between affected airports in the days since Friday's announcement but hoped to see communication go a step further. He encouraged concerned residents to contact their federal elected officials.

Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi agreed.

"They need to know," he said to the group. "They already know. But they need to hear it from you."

Although a closure would not affect the airport's current Essential Air Service program with Sun Air International, Milewski said it could make it more difficult to obtain new service in the future.

Other issues also join the mix.

The move would likely decrease the airport's traffic and revenue by more than 60 percent, he said, while large companies that must fly often, such as Caterpillar, would also suffer.

Because the military uses the airport for practice, he added, it would have to adjust its schedule and find other locations, increasing the Department of Defense's budget.

Closing the tower also raises safety concerns, Milewski said, noting benefit/cost studies show it costs less to man a tower than to handle a plane crash.

He encouraged the Federal Aviation Administration to re-evaluate budget cuts.

"This is really a White House versus Congress issue," he said. "A political game of chicken."

Bob Haueter, district director for Rep. Blake Farenthold's office, said it was the administration trying to put pressure on largely Republican areas but said the strategy didn't make sense. A person working to save money at home, for instance, wouldn't start by cutting off food for the kids and gas for the car.

"There's a sensible way to do it and a wrong way," he said. "This is the wrong way."

Story and Reaction/Comments:

Sequester cuts could impact Coast Guard


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A recent U.S. Coast Guard search cost several hundred thousand dollars and had hundreds of would-be rescuers searching for hours. That kind of money might not be easy to come by if the sequester spending cuts take effect this Friday. ABC7 News took a look at what will get cut if Congress can't make a deal. 

We've heard about furloughs for TSA agents at the airport and for Border Patrol agents, but the Coast Guard is also under the Department of Homeland Security and facing similar cuts.

ABC7 News got an exclusive look at the Coast Guard's recent search effort off the Monterey peninsula. The Coast Guard's C130 flew out of McClellan Air Force Base. The flight to Monterey took only a few minutes, but then there was a long night of flying a search pattern over the ocean 60 miles off shore. The pattern was dictated by an on board computer.

"This computer is called SAROPS and they're able to take into all of the conditions that are going on. Is it night? Is it daytime? What's the sea state? What's the visibility? What is are the ceilings at?" said Coast Guard pilot Lt. Chris Courtney.

Courtney files Coast Guard helicopters, but says the C130 is equipped with the same kind of gear.

"And so the aircraft will basically fly for us that search pattern for us and free up both pilots and the crew in the back to actively look outside for the mariner or the vessel or whoever is in distress," said Courtney.

At night the crews wears night vision goggles, but that cuts down on their field of vision and it's a big ocean.

"When you throw in white caps and eight to 15 foot swells, it just makes it super challenging," said Courtney.

And now the Coast Guard is facing another challenge -- the sequester cuts that are due to begin this Friday. Unless Congress acts, the cuts could cut more than $400 million from the Coast Guard's annual budget.

This week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that would cut Coast Guard patrols by 25 percent. I asked Courtney if he has heard about pending reductions.

"I think for the most part residents in the bay have nothing to worry about. We will continue to prosecute search and rescue as it comes in here. I can't tell you how it's going to change the overall picture for the Coast Guard, but our mission here is to provide search and rescue capabilities for the residents of San Francisco Bay Area and Central California and that should not be affected at all," said Courtney.

Courtney says last year the Coast Guard station in San Francisco conducted 287 search and rescues cases. The station saved the lives of seven people and participated in the rescue of 17 other people.

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Warbird Weekend: A salve for the wounded


Stephanie Greenberg and her husband Erwin volunteered their Citation III business jet to fly a Marine from Baltimore to Miami to meet his fiancée’s parents for the first time. The Marine had stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He lost his legs. His arm was severely injured. The Greenbergs introduced him to a renowned nerve-regeneration surgeon. Sensation was restored to his right hand. The Greenbergs went to his wedding.

“We’re the lucky ones,” says Mrs. Greenberg, a part-time Naples resident and recreational pilot who was able to meet this Marine by way of Veterans Airlift Command. “It’s a gift for us to meet the people who have served this country so selflessly and bravely.”

The fourth annual Warbird Weekend commences Saturday at the Punta Gorda Airport, raising funds to benefit the Veterans Airlift Command — VAC — and the Wounded Warrior Project. The VAC provides free air transport to the post-9/11 combat wounded and their families for medical and compassionate purposes. Wounded Warriors strives to empower service members, while raising public awareness of combat stress and injury.

Last year, the Florida Warbirds welcomed somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 guests, raising roughly $12,000 at the gate. This year they would like to double their numbers, as it’s the only EAA Warbird Squadron in Florida, organizers are anticipating visitors from all around the state, as well as out-oftowners from Georgia and Alabama.

“The first Veterans Airlift Command story you hear really pulls at your heartstrings. Then you hear the next story and the next story,” says Jim “Zack” Olzacki, president of EAA Warbird Squadron 24, host to the event this weekend.

VAC founder Walt Fricke says he has 6,500 of these stories, as his organization has transported 6,500 passengers through the generosity of 2,000 aircraft pilots and owners.

“My daughter used to say, ‘If we’re not crying by 11 o’clock in the morning, we’re having a slow day,’” says Mr. Fricke, whose daughter coordinates VAC missions.

Mr. Fricke was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. When a rocket hit his leg, his foot landed in his lap. He remembers thinking, “How am I going to land?” But he hesitates to share his own experience. He would rather share the experiences of those he has been able to help, like the triple amputee VAC flew from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to San Diego.

The soldier wanted to show his buddies he was doing OK before they deployed for their next tour in Afghanistan. He wrote the VAC asking if they could help him out with a flight. They wrote him back two hours later, saying, “You’re covered.”

The VAC has a good link to aircraft. It blasts e-mails through a database, always recruiting new volunteers. They know how to reach the servicemen and women in need of transport, whether they are quadriplegics, amputees or others suffering from traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress. Mr. Fricke says if the VAC needs anything, it needs financial support. That’s where Warbird Weekend comes in.

Why Warbird Weekend?

Close to 45 Warbird planes will be on display, including a B-25 bomber and P-51 Mustang. “When veterans and pilots hear this is for Veterans Airlift Command and Wounded Warriors, they show up,” Mr. Olzacki says.

Patrons can purchase rides on a T-6 Texan for a World War II fighter pilot experience or ride in the open cockpit of PT-17 Stearman.

“When I was learning to fly Warbirds, before my first ride up in a PT-17 Stearman, I asked a guy what it was going to feel like,” Mr. Olzacki remembers. “He told me two things: ‘When you’re back on the ground, you’ll have a big smile on your face. And she’ll be a handful to land.’”

Mr. Olzacki must clarify, Warbird Weekend is not an airshow; the planes are on static display, but if visitors stick around long enough, they will see some flyovers, maybe even some formations, with planes flying wing-to-wing.

By keeping Warbird aircraft in the public eye, Mr. Olzacki hopes to keep history alive. He knows planes may be the draw, but on a deeper level he believes everyone wants to help wounded warriors. They just don’t know how. Thinking of the crowd and the charities, he says, “This weekend gives you a chance to say, ‘I’m going to go to this event. I want to support in my own small way the organizations that care for our veterans.’”

His comrade David Jones has seen how the aircraft can stir a visceral reaction within veterans. “When they see Vietnam helicopters, they start crying, thinking, ‘That’s what saved my life,’” says Mr. Jones, president of EAA chapter 565. “They get it out of them, they may have had it pent up inside for a long time, but they’re able to release that feeling and they’re better off after they leave.”

Mr. Olzacki thinks of pictures he’s seen in magazine, pictures of men with their heads bowed and their hands on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Then he thinks of his weekend, saying, “Their hands will be on Warbirds.”

Story and Photos:

Federal Aviation Administration chief: Spending cuts could close runways

Associated Press
Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

WASHINGTON -   The government has no choice but to furlough air traffic controllers in the event of automatic spending cuts, raising the specter of widespread flight delays and runway closures, the Federal Aviation Administration chief told skeptical Republicans Wednesday.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that one of two control towers at Chicago's O'Hare international Airport might have to be closed because there will not be enough controllers to meet minimum staffing levels. If that happens, Huerta said, the airport's north runway would be shut down, which would have a ripple effect around the country.

The spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect on Friday, but furloughs of air traffic controllers won't kick in until April because the FAA is required by law to give its employees advance notice. That will delay most of the impact of the spending cuts on air travel for at least a month.

The FAA is looking for ways to minimize the impact of the controller furloughs on travelers, he said. But Heurta added that the agency has little flexibility because it's required to apply the spending cuts evenly to each part of its budget, including the portions that pay for air traffic controllers, safety inspectors, and the technicians who maintain navigation beacons and other critical navigation equipment.

GOP lawmakers told Huerta the FAA ought to be able to find a way to accommodate cuts of about $600 million out of an annual budget of about $16 billion between now and the end of September. In response to a question from Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., Huerta acknowledged that the budget cuts would return the agency to its 2008 spending levels.

"We're not going back that far, the sky isn't falling," Graves said. "We're not going to have any meteors hit because of sequestration."

But Huerta said about 85 percent of the agency's 47,000 people work "in the field," including 15,000 air traffic controllers. They're going to take the brunt of the cuts, he said, because the agency has little flexibility to cut contracts with the exception of contracts for the operation of control towers at small airports.

That didn't satisfy some lawmakers.

"This is the time to sharpen your pencil," Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the committee, told Huerta. "We believe you have the flexibility within those lines of business to move money."

Huerta has already notified the agency's employees that they should be prepared to be furloughed one or two days per bi-weekly pay period between April and September. The FAA is also planning to eliminate midnight shifts for air traffic controllers at 60 airport towers, close over 100 control towers at smaller airports and reduce preventative maintenance of equipment.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has predicted that flights to cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because fewer controllers will be on duty.

A report released Wednesday by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association estimated that furloughs will leave too few controllers to handle planes at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, forcing the closure of one of its three runways.

Instead of 126 landings per hour, there would be only 96 landings, the report said. Hartsfield handles more passengers than any other airport in the world. Houston's Intercontinental and Chicago's O'Hare airports may also have to close runways, it said.

"What Congress and everybody needs to understand is that the world's busiest airport runs like a Swiss watch," said Victor Santore, the union's Southern regional vice president. "If you slow down the arrival rate, the national airspace system will most certainly suffer. It takes hours to recover at Hartsfield."

Read more here:

Pilot received the all-clear just weeks before disaster


Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 12:00am
Lana Lam and Associated Press

The 28-year-old pilot of the Sky Cruise hot-air balloon that exploded over Luxor had reportedly had his licence renewed only weeks earlier.

The head of the Civil Aviation Administration in Egypt, Mohammed Sherif, said at the scene of the crash that Moman Mourad's qualifications were checked in January and he had no violations.

"Each time we renew the license, we check up the balloon and we test the pilot," Sherif said.

Mohamed Youssef, a friend of Mourad, told the South China Morning Post yesterday that the Sky Cruise pilot had never been involved in a fatal accident before.

Mourad had been a balloon pilot for about six years, Youssef said, after graduating from a competing ballooning company called Sindbad Balloons in 2006.

Youssef, a balloon pilot since 2004, spoke to Mourad's mother when he visited the injured pilot in Luxor International Hospital on Tuesday before he was airlifted to Cairo. "I saw her in the hospital," Youssef said. "She was crying and I told her it will be OK."

Mourad's father died about five months ago, Youssef said.

One of Mourad's two younger sisters accompanied Mourad to a Cairo hospital where he is currently in intensive care.

Youssef said Sky Cruise was one of Luxor's oldest ballooning companies, established in 1989, and that it used to be affiliated with Britain's Virgin brand under the name Balloons over Egypt.

In the mid-1990s, Hod-hod Soliman Hot Air Balloon Rides opened, while Magic Horizon started in 2000. Five more companies were launched between 2006 and 2008, making competition tough.

"Now the tour companies don't look for quality or service; all of them look for the price, the cheaper price," Youssef said.

"This is how it works in Luxor for the past five or six years."

Tuesday's tragedy is believed to be the worst ballooning accident on record. The deadliest incident before this was in 1989, when 13 people died in Australia when their hot-air balloon collided with another balloon near the town of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Nor is this the first time a ballooning accident in Luxor has disrupted the industry and raised safety concerns. In 2009, 16 tourists were injured when their balloon struck a cellphone transmission tower.

All flights were suspended for months while safety standards were tightened. Pilots were given more training and a landing spot was designated for balloons.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition on Feb 28, 2013 as Pilot given all-clear just weeks before disaster

Flying — for fun, freedom: Obtaining private pilot's license can lead to lifelong hobby or career - American Wings Aviation at Bishop International Airport (KFNT), Flint, Michigan


Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 8:50 am 
by Tim Jagielo

Flint Twp. — The tail of the Cessna 150 bobs slightly under the power of the roaring propeller.

Anthony Atkinson, 26, of Waterford, formerly of Linden, sits with flight instructor Brian Kinney, preparing to take Atkinson’s last flight before his test on Tuesday. He’s only a few steps from obtaining his private pilot’s license.

The private pilot’s license is the first step to eventually obtaining a commercial license for some, or a gateway to a unique hobby.

A private pilot’s license holder cannot fly passengers for a fare, and they are limited to smaller single engine planes. They cannot fly through a cloud without their instrument endorsement, which allows them to fly without being able to see through the clouds.

American Wings Aviation owner and Brian’s father, Tim Kinney said for some, the license is practical, for others it’s for fun. “It’s a sense of motion, it’s little bit of a sense of freedom,” said Tim. “You’re flying down above U.S. 23, and you’re looking at all these poor guys trying to get to Toledo and they’re experiencing road rage.” Tim said when you fly, it’s just a smooth straight line.

“Once you get in the air, everything kind of slows down a little bit, so you get a wide range of speeds that you sense,” said Brian. “You’re kind of up there in the weather. If there’s any turbulence, you have to deal with the turbulence.”

For Atkinson and his flight, it’s clear for February, perfect for the trip to New Lothrop and Owosso. The trip will include short takeoff and landings, steep turns, simulated emergencies, slow flight, and flying by instrument using vision distorting glasses for part of the trip.

“This is just extra proof for him,” said Brian Atkinson already has 57 flight hours. Forty is the minimum and the Monday flight was just to hammer on his upcoming test one more time. It’s been a long trip for him — life and school have stretched what could be a few month process to six years. But he casually checks the plane before Brian arrives, and before leaving the classroom, he answers several scenario questions exactly.

This is the freedom of obtaining a license — some finish the course in as a little as a few months, other take longer.

To enter the private pilot’s license program, the applicant must take a medical exam through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved physician. The applicant’s eyes must be correctable to around 20/20 vision, and they must be able to physically handle flight. Anyone with diabetes or taking blood thinners will have their records checked at the FAA Medical Center.

To take a solo flight, the student must be 16, and 17 to receive their license. A person over 18 can earn a commercial pilot’s license.

A minimum of 38 hours are required depending on the program, and it will cost at least $7,500, depending on the plane that is rented. The smaller Cessna costs $75 an hour to rent, and the larger plane costs $125. The instructor always costs $51 an hour.

Tim said most students pay as they go, and his school works with online colleges like Utah Valley University to give students credit toward a degree.

Flight school is comprised of a web-based component where students learn the basics, and they will immediately take that knowledge to the cockpit for a flight. Tim prefers that students work through the program steadily to retain their knowledge. Throughout the program, paperwork and documentation is kept up.

Assuming the student is old enough, has passed a written and oral exam, has reached the minimum hours, and has demonstrated they can successfully, consistently land the plane, they can take their final Check Flight.

This is comprised of two parts. The first includes the instructor flying along with the student. They take several maneuvers, which include many that Atkinson did on Monday. Then they land, drop off the instructor, and take their fist solo flight.

Atkinson has jumped through all these hoops because flying is a hobby he can keep up into his later years. His favorite thing is “the ability to travel and look at places with a different perspective.”

As expected, Atkinson passed his Check Ride, despite some choppy winds at higher altitudes. Now, he’ll use his license as a hobby, or way to get away from daily life. “It’s definitely something you should have on the bucket list, it’s seeing life from a different perspective, especially in a smaller aircraft,” said Atkinson.

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No Thunderbirds, no air show: If sequestration cancels Thunderbirds’ season, scheduled Thunder Over the Blue Ridge event will be canceled as well

February 27, 2013

MARTINSBURG - If the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds demonstration team's season is canceled because of the federal sequestration, the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge air show will be canceled, Nic Diehl, president of the TOBR board, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

"We've been going back and forth, but the air show is a costly endeavor and it would be difficult to generate funds without the main attraction, without the Thunderbirds," he said. "The air show is a fundraiser for local charities. It would be a lot of work for a little payout."

Sequestration is the term used for automatic spending cuts triggered by the federal Budget Control Act of 2011. Across-the-board budget cuts to nearly all federal departments are supposed to take effect Friday.

There have been several reports that the Thunderbirds' appearances at air shows this year would be canceled, as well as the appearances by the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels demonstration team, if the sequestration goes through.

The air show is scheduled for May 11-12 at the Eastern Regional Airport.

The 167th Airlift Wing was forced to withdraw from hosting the air show and open house because of U.S. Department of Defense budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty, Air Guard and air show officials announced Feb. 5.

"Unfortunately, the uncertainty in our national financial picture has forced us to consider the possibility of some rather dramatic cuts in our funding," Col. Roger Nye, commander of the 167th, said in a news release. "I must ensure all the members of the 167th Airlift Wing are fully trained and ready to do the work we do for our nation."

The 167th had hosted the air show and opened its facilities to the public the past three years.

Langley Air Force Base in Fort Eustis, Va., announced recently it would cancel its annual Air Power Over Hampton Roads open house and air show, scheduled for May 3-5, because of budget cuts. The Thunderbirds were scheduled to perform at that show.

Last year, Joint Air Base Andrews near Washington, D.C., announced it was moving its air show to a biennial schedule, rather than hold it every year, because of budget cuts. It was scheduled for the weekend of May 11 and would have featured the Thunderbirds.

The Thunder Over the Blue Ridge air show was able to secure the Thunderbirds for this year because of the Andrews schedule change.

Diehl has said that there would not be an air show at Eastern Regional Airport next year.

During its February meeting, members of the Eastern Regional Airport Authority unanimously granted a request by Diehl to hold the air show on the civilian side of the airfield this year.

"We might not know for another month (if the Thunderbirds' season is canceled)," Diehl said. "We are planning for the air show. We are planning as if we are having an air show."

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