QUEENSBURY -- A proposal to charge fees to pilots who land their planes at Warren County Airport has drawn opposition from some members of Warren County Board of Supervisors.
The county board’s Facilities Committee last month approved a proposal by Rich Air, the fixed base operator at the airport, to charge fees of up to $20 to “transient” pilots who land at the airport.
The proposal was to charge $15 for single-engine planes and $20 for twin-engine aircraft. Planes based at the airport will not be charged. Warren County would get 3 percent of the fees collected.
Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mark Westcott, who has taken a particular interest in airport issues, said he was bombarded with comments from pilots during a visit to have breakfast at Carol’s Airport Cafe, recently. He said a number of the recreational pilots approached him with concerns about the fee, saying they will instead go to other airports that don’t charge.
“I got hammered on this,” Westcott said. “A number of people I spoke with said there would be fewer planes landing and it would hurt business at the diner.”
The county Facilities Committee passed a resolution last month supporting Rich Air’s request to start charging landing fees, but the full Board of Supervisors tabled the proposal at the subsequent meeting.
That action resulted in the Facilities Committee discussing the idea again this week, and passing it with only Westcott voting against it. The full Board of Supervisors will consider it again Feb. 15.
The county can only overrule Rich Air on the proposal if it finds the fees are “unreasonable,” Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said.
Airport Manager Ross Dubarry said he compared the proposed fees to those charged at other airports and did not believe they were unreasonable. A review of other airport policies in the region showed the nearest two, Saratoga County Airport and Argyle Airport, do not charge landing fees.
Two others in the region, Adirondack Regional near Saranac Lake, and Rutland Southern Vermont Regional in Rutland, Vt., charge landing fees, according to federal airport records.
Rich Air’s motivation for the new fee was not clear Friday. Calls to Rich Air owner Rich Schermerhorn were not returned Wednesday or Friday.
Searcher have found the body of a female pilot who went missing in an ultralight plane 70km north of Brisbane.
The body of the missing female pilot has been found in the wreckage.
An Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesman said the officer who discovered the scene reported the pilot to be deceased.
"The search has now ended and the Queensland Police take over the investigation," the spokesman said.
The missing Skyfox gazelle was located just north of Beerburrum on Woodford Road at Glasshouse Mountains.
Vegetation in the area was extremely dense, and explains why the aircraft was not found sooner, Caboolture Aero Club president John Dawson said.
He said the thoughts of the Caboolture Aero Club members were with the pilot and her family.
"Didn't know the lady, I know she was a part owner in aircraft which was a Skyfox Gazelle built in Caloundra," he said.
"I spoke to people yesterday who said she was most competent at flying; the lady was in a syndicate ownership and the plane was operated by the flying school."
Mr Dawson said he spoke to a number of people yesterday who knew the pilot but he was not aware of her flying history.
He said concerns were raised about by mid afternoon Sunday.
"When she didn't return by time fuel would run out the alarm was set off", he said.
The aircraft's signal dropped off the radar over the Glass House Mountains about 9.30am Sunday.
Ground and aerial search crews, involving six helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft, swept the area yesterday but found no sign of the pilot or the green-coloured aircraft.
One of the search aircraft was AMSA's high-tech Dornier, a type used in the search for the deHavilland Dragon which crashed near Kandanga last year.
Earlier, Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesman Mal Larsen said a team was dispatched at first light.
“After attempts failed last night the search resumed this morning, 12 helicopters, one fix-winged aircraft and police on foot have begun the search,” he said.
“Because of the thick bushland helicopters are the more effective search vehicle."
Four police trail bikes and three police 4WDs are assisting in the land search.
He said the search area for the day had been mapped out in the hopes of finding the accredited pilot and her green ultra-light aircraft.
“It is narrowed to 108 square nautical miles, which is roughly 220 km, in the area north-west of Caboolture,” he said.
“The search area has been narrowed to the likely area according the last known radar sighting."
Careflight Rescue Helicopter crewman Ryan Purchase told the ABC the search area covers some very difficult terrain.
"The radar can pinpoint where she lost contact," he said.
"The terrain we were flying over was dense bushland, pine plantations around the western side of the Sunshine Coast."
A police media spokeswoman said the woman was believed to only be carrying enough fuel for 150 minutes of flying.
No distress signal had been activated yesterday.
Police are investigating a report from a woman in the nearby town of Neurum who said she saw a plane flying low over the ground.
Residents in neighbouring areas offered information to Queensland Police via their Facebook page.
“My daughter was watching a green and white plane flying really low this morning about 10am at Neurum,” Teresa Stanton wrote.
Another user said: “I heard a small plane coughing and spluttering this morning. We are in Woodford and I mentioned it to my daughter as it didn't sound good at all!”
Princess Danni wrote: “I saw a plane this morning at about 9 at the glasshouse mts (sic) I was unsure if it was landing.”
Krystal Drew said she saw a dark blue plane flying low over the rural township of D'Aguilar.
“I watched it for a bit and it seemed to be circling,” she wrote.
“I had polarized sunglasses on so may have been mistaken for blue instead of green but was definately (sic) a skyfox gazelle it nearly ran into the tops of trees on the next property at about 12:30 pm today.”
Caboolture resident Kerry Willson said she heard a light plane over her house “spluttering and misfiring badly” about 9.15am.
“This plane was quite low over our house and continually spluttering and cutting out and could possibly have come down unseen from the highway or from the airport,” she wrote.
- reporting by Jacinda Tutty, Kris Crane, Kristin Shorten and AAP