Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Okaloosa airports director to leave for Pensacola (DOCUMENT)

Okaloosa County Airports Director Greg Donovan has submitted his resignation to accept the director’s position at Pensacola International Airport.
His final day on the job will be March 1 and he will start at Pensacola March 3.
To read Greg Donovan's letter of resignation, click here.>>

The move is a homecoming of sorts. Donovan was assistant director at the Pensacola airport before he came to Okaloosa.

“I’m very excited about rejoining the Pensacola team,” Donovan said. “It is a wonderful thing to be asked to come back. I worked there for seven years and the team over there thought highly enough of me to ask me to come back as their leader, and that’s very gratifying.

 “Going to Pensacola is big career move for me and good for my family,” he added. “I still live in Gulf Breeze, so the opportunity to go back to Pensacola International is outstanding. It’s a little bit more than double the size in terms of emplacements as VPS (Northwest Florida Regional Airport). 

It’s a good career move for my part.”

The County Commission hired Donovan in January 2008 to replace the retiring Jerry Sealy.

Since then Donovan has overseen the terminal expansion, the opening of a Helen Back restaurant and the development of the USO center at Northwest Florida Regional.

Destin Airport and Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview also have seen similar successes.

He also served as the acting head of the Tourist Development Council for several months last year after the TDC financing scandal erupted.

“Greg’s just been a phenomenal asset the years he’s worked here in Okaloosa County,” County Administrator Jim Curry said. “It’s not only (the) major advancements at our regional airport that are obvious, but we also have the Destin and the Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, and all three of those facilities have grown significantly. My hat’s off to him. He’s done a really great job.”

Curry said the search for a new airports director could take four to six months. Advertisements for applicants could go out as early as next week.

Curry will appoint an interim airports director to oversee the department after Donovan leaves, but no decision on who that will be has been made yet.

Curry will retire sometime between May and October, and the search already is on for his replacement. Curry said it would make sense for the new county administrator to have a hand in choosing an airports director.

“It’s a very important position and we begin immediately the advertising,” Curry said.
Donovan said he has cultivated many strong business relationships in the past five years and hopes those will continue in his new position.

He said all the airports in Northwest Florida waste a lot of resources trying to persuade customers to fly in to or out of one airport over another, when those funds could be used more constructively to bring more people to the region.

“The true approach toward regionalism is to help each other when we can,” Donovan said. “There’s always been a level of competition between Pensacola and VPS and all the other airports in the region. But I’ve got a pretty unique perspective now, having worked at both Pensacola and VPS and now back to Pensacola. My goal is to be able to unite and bring some further steps forward in diplomacy and working together. There will be opportunities, I think, where the airports could collaborate further.”

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Regional airports to get overflow Super Bowl air traffic

WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports 

 HAMMOND, LA (WAFB) - The excitement for Super Bowl XLVII is building. Thousands of fans have flown in to south Louisiana for the week-long party - many of them on private jets. That it means business is taking off for smaller airports. 

 The party in the Big Easy is already in full swing, but those coming to town on private planes will be flying in non-stop all weekend long.

"When New Orleans fills up, and Lake Front fills up then it will be Hammond that they start sending aircraft to. And we've already been notified that they're looking to send 40 aircraft our way, which puts us up to about 117 aircraft," said Jason Ball, director or Hammond Regional Airport.

Ball says this is a big deal for smaller regional airport; but he says he and his crew have everything under control.

"We have an air traffic control tower that was brought in just for this event," said Ball. "Ours won't be done until 2014, so the state and the guard brought one in from Alexandria."

Pilot and aircraft owner Erin Pierce says the last time the Super Bowl was in New Orleans, airports around the state did get some overflow travelers but nothing like what they are about see in the next few days.

"There's just a lot of options for people to get into aircraft...private aircraft to go flying instead of using the airlines. And the airline's less pleasant if you don't want to take your shoes off and go through a full body scanner," said Pierce.

With all of the excitement behind the big game, its festivities and all New Orleans has to offer tourists, Ball also hopes this is an opportunity to promote the Hammond area to folks from all over the world.

"We'll get the FBO's to put in the aircraft, some information about our area...about the entire Northshore area...That way when they are sitting on the runway, waiting to take off, they have a little something to read and possibly can look at a long-term commitment or a long-term relationship," said Ball.

There are rumors that a few celebrity guests could be on some of those flights. If this is true, Ball says their names will not be released, but he will not be passing up the chance to take a picture of a star.

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Albertville, Alabama, considers air taxi service

Albertville residents could soon grab a taxi from Albertville to Panama City — an air taxi that is.

Advanced Flight Solution, a company based out of Guntersville, is looking to start an air taxi service that will operate out of the Albertville Regional Airport, according to Airport and Economic Development Director Jerry Cofield,
Tackle Trap

Cofield said the service allows someone to rent a plane and a pilot and go wherever they need to go.

“In my opinion this is another step to bring our airport into a complete-commercialized situation,” Cofield said. “This is continued growth, and it is continued economic development potential for this airport and this area.”

On Monday, the Albertville City Council will consider granting the request from Brett Kelley, and Cofield said Kelley is ready to get the operation off the ground as soon as he gets permission.


Clarenville Airport, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada: Night landings temporarily halted following airstrip damage

The Clarenville airstrip was closed to night landings for a week earlier this month, as a result of damages caused during snow clearing operations. 

 The Department of Transportation and Works confirmed this week that the runway edge lights were damaged on Jan. 17. The snow-clearing service is done by a company under contract to the department.

A spokesperson for the department said they learned of the damage the following day and issued a NOTAM, or notice to airmen, that the airstrip wasn’t available for night landings. Aircraft were permitted to land during the day while the department excavated soil to fix underground wiring.

The department completed repairs on Jan. 24 and the NOTAM was lifted so aircraft could begin landing at night once again.

The department spokesperson said permanent repairs will have to wait until the spring when the ground thaws.

The airstrip is located 12 kilometres north of Clarenville.


Santa Monica Airport Commission responds to test results of a muffler that could be used by local flight schools

If flight schools take to the idea, attaching mufflers to some of their planes planes could make life more peaceful for residents living near Santa Monica Airport.

The city tested a German-made muffler, called QuietFlight, on a Cessna 172 in December and recorded positive results, the Santa Monica Airport Commission learned Monday night.

"You hear [the plane] coming toward you the same way, but it disappears once it moves past you," said Stelios Makrides, the airport's operations and noise management supervisor.

At its next meeting, the commission will consider asking the City Council to discount landing fees for aircraft that use mufflers.

See also: Tension Escalates Between Airport Commission, City

"In some parts of Europe, mufflers [are used as] incentives," said John Fairweather, founder of a local advocacy group, Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic. "I think that’s what we should do in Santa Monica."

City staffers are working on a proposal to charge landing fees to Santa Monica Airport-based aircraft. Currently, fees for landing at the airport are charged to aircraft not based at the airport. A nexus study assessing fees charged at other general aviation airports will be presented to the commission in February and to the City Council in April.

"The city has wide latitude in structuring its airport fees," said Deputy City Attorney Ivan Campbell. "I don’t think the problem would be compliance… it would be whether or not it makes sense to the operators."

The city estimated that of the approximately 30 flight school planes operating at the airport, the majority are Cessna 172s. The total cost of installing mufflers (there are manufactures who make quieting systems for a variety of aircraft) would be about $300,000, commissioners said Tuesday.
Airport staffers did two tests in December using the same Cessna 172 from Justice Aviation, one of six flight schools at Santa Monica Airport. On one day, the measured sound from the plane without the muffler, and on another—when weather conditions were nearly identical—they measured the noise with the muffler.

Owner Joe Justice could not immediately be reached for comment.

At a monitoring station on 18th Street, between Dewey and Navy streets in Santa Monica, they recorded a reduction in "single event noise exposure levels" between 4.8 dBA to 8.3 dBA. At the west end of Penmar Golf Course on Warren Avenue in Venice, there was a reduction between 3.5 dBA to 5 dBA.

The duration of the noise decreased, too, Makrides wrote in a report. At the Santa Monica station, there was a reduction of between 2 to 6 seconds (or about 17 to 46 percent), and at the Venice station between 4 to 9 seconds (or approximately 33 to 56 percent).

"It goes without saying that an 8.3 dBA reduction in SENEL for the normal 'fly neighborly' departure path could truly be a game changer in terms of mitigating neighborhood noise impacts from prop planes," Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic wrote Sunday on its website.

CASMAT said the muffler has the potential to "get rid of the continuous lower level droning of pattern flying for all neighborhoods in the pattern flying loop, as well as reducing the impact of the actual takeoff overpass for the observer."

Michele Perrone questioned whether the muffler would actually help residents in Santa Monica's Ocean Park neighborhood. "Most of our noise is coming at us," she said. "Maybe it's not going to help us."

About 40 percent of Santa Monica Airport traffic is generated by aircraft that stay within the local traffic pattern or the airport's designated controlled  airspace, and many of those operations are takeoffs and landings by pilots-in-training, according to Airport Services Director Robert Trimborn.

"Airport staff receives numerous noise complaints from residents regarding these repetitive types of local operations especially during weekends and holidays when most people are at home," Trimborn said in June, when the council considered paying pilots to conduct training flights at other Los Angeles-area airports.

"It does seem like flight schools are becoming more and more prominent in the discussion and recommendations we’re making," commissioner Ofer Grossman said Monday night.


Almost quarter of a million new jobs potentially created with extended runway in Birmingham


Birmingham Airport has today posted a video online of aerial imagery of the work carried out so far on its runway extension.

 The runway, which is being extended to 3,003 meters, will offer larger aircraft the further take-off space that's needed for carrying more fuel. This will allow the airport to reach destinations once unavailable to Midlanders.

Birmingham Airport is predicting that the runway will be completed in 2014.

The runway extension will be wholly funded by the Airport Company at a cost of £33 million.

In addition, the Airport is making a further investment of £13 million for the construction of a new air traffic control tower and radar system, which will be operational in early 2013 – plus £9m on resurfacing the entire runway.
The strong economic profile of the Midlands means that businesses are crying out for direct connectivity from their local airport so it makes no sense that 3.3 million passengers from the West Midlands last year flew from airports in the South East, adding congestion on the roads and at Heathrow, which is already 99.2% full.
Our passenger growth could create in excess of 243,000 jobs in the region according to a new report by the West Midlands Economic Forum.   – Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport’s CEO
With the runway extension opening up so many new long-haul route opportunities from Birmingham, the Airport is actively talking to existing and new airlines to explore new markets and routes from the Midlands.


Franklinton (2R7), Louisiana: Airport plans... Mayor Fleming discusses facility

 If approved for funding through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Aviation Division, town officials would like to make improvements to the 3,000-foot runway at the Franklinton Airport.

 A single-engine plane is tied down at the Franklinton Airport. The five-year plan for the facility calls for additional hangars, where pilots could store their planes, to be built. Also pictured is an out-of-service Aviation Maintenance & Machine Shop.

The town of Franklinton has some big plans for its municipal airport, and the selection of an engineering consulting service was a first step in making those proposed improvements a reality. 

 During a special Board of Aldermen meeting Monday morning, a Selection Committee that included Mayor Wayne Fleming, Alderman Richard Dillon, Alderman Brad Orman and airport manager Tom Shedd presented its recommendation for an engineering consulting service. The committee’s recommendation of KSA, an Alexandria firm, was unanimously approved.

The committee members, who had a difficult task in evaluating the five bids that had been submitted, did a wonderful job, Fleming said.

The mayor also discussed the town’s long-range plans for the airport, which currently consists of the airport facility, a runway and a couple of hangars. He said the idea is to update the airport and bring it back up to standard.

The proposed work would be done in phases over a five-year period, through grant funding from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Aviation Division. Fleming said the town hopes to receive up to $500,000 in funding over five years.

The newly selected engineering firm will be responsible for applying for the funds, writing out the plans for the airport and putting those plans into effect, “depending on the monies that we can receive,” Fleming said.

Among the planned work, the town is looking to make improvements to the runway and put up new fencing at the airport, Fleming said.

“At the present time we have two roads that lead into the airport,” he said. “We will close one of those, and we will have an automatic gate.”

Fleming said town officials are considering building more hangars since this has been requested by pilots wanting to “park” their planes at the airport. Another proposed addition is a small, secure building for use by pilots.

“It will have a desk where they can sit down and map out where they might be going from there,” he said.

Restroom facilities, not currently available, would be added, too, Fleming said. The installation of a fuel system for airplanes is also being considered.

While there is already a good deal of activity at the airport and a number of planes flying in, the proposed improvements would be beneficial to Franklinton’s economy, Fleming said. For example, someone has expressed interest in the possibility of reopening the small airplane-repair shop at the site, and the new hangars would be available for rent through the town, he said.

Thus, an upgraded airport would be a good thing for Franklinton, “particularly since it’s not costing the town anything,” Fleming said.

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Committee favors airport becoming city of Yakima department

YAKIMA, Wash. — The idea of private management for the Yakima Air Terminal — one proposed solution to its ongoing financial and operational problems — has been rejected in favor of the facility becoming a department within the city of Yakima.

A joint committee of officials from the city of Yakima, Yakima County and the airport board recently rejected two proposals submitted last week for private management. Two management proposals were submitted: one by staff at the Yakima Air Terminal and one from ABS Aviation, a Tampa, Fla.-based company that offers management and marketing services for private and public aviation entities.

Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke previously promoted the idea of contracting out airport operations and management as a way to achieve cost savings for the airport at 2400 W. Washington Ave. The idea for private management came up after the city decided to assume sole ownership of the 825-acre facility earlier this month. That process is still in the works and will require formal approval from Yakima County, a co-owner with the city. County officials have indicated their support for the idea.

ABS Aviation proposed to manage and operate the airport for a $540,000 annual fee. The Yakima Air Terminal staff, in its proposal, estimated personnel costs to manage and operate the airport to be $568,652 for 2013 and dropping to $542,549 in 2014 with the retirement of a senior airport maintenance specialist. The proposals would have covered only personnel and airport management.

The airport has an annual budget of about $1.12 million, which includes personnel, management, maintenance, fees, utilities, office supplies and other expenses.

Ultimately, the selection committee found that neither proposal would sufficiently improve the airport’s financial position in the long term, O’Rourke said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Another problem with the ABS Aviation proposal, O’Rourke said, was that the committee felt the company wouldn’t take full responsibility for the airport.

With the city in the process of taking sole ownership of the airport and becoming more involved in projects such as a master plan update and air service development, making it a city department seems a better approach, he said.

“Since we’ll be heavily engaged with the airport anyway, it makes sense,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said the city will likely retain most of the airport staff for this new department to run day-to-day operations.

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Hagerstown Regional(KHGR), Maryland: Airport to finish repainting taxiway lines

Hagerstown Regional Airport plans to use $12,298 in leftover revenue from a past passenger facility charge to finish repainting lines on taxiways this year, Airport Director Phil Ridenour said Monday. 

The $12,298 is left over from a past $4.50 passenger facility charge that began in March 2002, according to Ridenour and Herald-Mail archives.

At that time, the passenger facility charge was increased from $3 to $4.50 to raise $308,000 to pay for construction of a building to house snow removal equipment, to buy snow removal equipment, and to buy a wheelchair lift device, according to Herald-Mail archives. The $4.50 fee was expected to end after that money was raised, around January 2004.

Ridenour did not know when the charge ceased, but said it was several years ago.

Ridenour said the leftover $12,298 will be applied toward the estimated $19,000 cost to finish repainting taxiway lines when the weather improves this year.

The painting project began late last summer, with the first part being paid for with about $21,000 in operations funding, he said. Operations funds will cover the difference between the $12,298 and the actual cost of the second part of the repainting, he said. Bids need to be submitted for this year’s part of the project so the actual cost is not yet known, he said.

An FAA inspection in March 2012 determined that the taxiways needed repainting because the paint had faded, Ridenour said. The paint used on taxiways contains glass beads for reflectivity and the beads get scraped off by plows or faded by weather, he said.

A statement on the airport’s website as late as Monday afternoon stated the “Airport is hereby providing notice of its intent to submit an application for authority to impose and use a Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).”

The statement linked to a document about an opportunity for public comment regarding a proposed $4.50 charge with “N/A,” for “not applicable,” listed for when the fee would start and stop.

Ridenour said a passenger facility charge is not being proposed for the airport, but that the Federal Aviation Administration requires airport officials to submit an application, as if the airport was going to charge a passenger facility charge, so the airport can use the leftover revenue for the taxiway project.

The application and process are necessary to ensure the project is eligible for the passenger-facility-charge revenue, according to the FAA.

A public hearing was held at the end of December or early January about the proposal to use the leftover passenger facility charge funding for the painting work, but no one showed up to comment, Ridenour said.

The statement had been removed from the airport homepage as of Monday night. Ridenour said earlier that it was to be removed from the website on Jan. 22, but the webmaster wasn’t contacted to remove it, he said.

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Letters to the editor: Don't allow seaplanes on Waldo Lake

Published: Monday, January 28, 2013, 4:00 AM 
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013, 4:09 AM
By Letters to the editor

 Regarding "Oregon agency wants to allow seaplanes at Waldo Lake" (, Jan. 16): Waldo Lake is the wrong place to allow seaplane use

Waldo Lake's unique water quality makes it one of the cleanest lakes in the world and an unparalleled scientific and recreational resource. 

Last year, just six seaplane landings took place on Waldo Lake. Though each of those landings had the potential to introduce invasive species, a similarly catastrophic risk is that a single crash landing would contaminate this pristine lake for generations of Oregonians. Waldo's spring-fed sources and short summer season don't allow the lake to readily purge itself of significant gas and oil contamination. 

The state of Oregon is the primary steward of this lake. Under Oregon law, seaplanes are treated as motorboats while on the water. Oregon seaplane owners should not have privileges that other motor boat owners don't have. 

Common sense and the preference of most Oregonians strongly suggest that stewards of the state's resources should protect Waldo's extraordinary water quality by removing all gas engines from the lake's surface. 

H. "Woody" Fine

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Laser aimed at Coast Guard on approach to Kahului Airport, Hawaii

Lt. Aaron Gastaldo

Lt. Casey Corpe

Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL 

 KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Another bright green laser forced a Coast Guard plane to abort its landing during a training mission on Monday night. The HC-130H Hercules aircraft was approaching the Kahului Airport with seven crew members were onboard when someone aimed a laser at the plane. Only co-pilot Lt. Aaron Gastaldo, 38, was affected. 

 "At 4,000 feet, I noticed a green flash off my left side, a little bit to my left, and I looked down and there was a green laser," said Gastaldo.

The plane immediately returned to Barbers Point on Oahu.

"It's upsetting because we had to call another pilot in who can't spend time with his family, and there's also a gap in the service that we provide to the public as far as distressed mariners," said Gastaldo.

Laser pointers can cause flash blindness or a temporary loss of night vision, but doctors cleared Gastaldo to fly again. This was the third laser incident in a little more than a year for Coast Guard crews based at Barbers Point.

Someone pointed a long-range laser at a helicopter two miles offshore of Oahu in October 2012. Another chopper encounter happened in December 2011. The FAA received 46 reports of laser incidents in Hawaii in 2012, up from 36 in 2011.

"It is difficult, but I know the federal agencies and state agencies are getting better at pinpointing," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Casey Corpe. "They will try and pinpoint that location and prosecute anybody if they do find them and it is a federal offense."

"It's not a game, so people that are doing it need to stop, and if you know people that are shooting aircraft with lasers, they need to stop, tell their friends to stop," said Corpe.

Police in Dallas, Texas arrested a man who allegedly beamed a laser at a police helicopter tracking a burglary suspect on Monday. The pilot was able to pinpoint the source and officers on the ground nabbed a 22-year-old man.

There were 3,482 last reports nationwide in 2012, according to the FAA.

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Kabul Protests United States Drug-Running Allegations

Photo Credit:  Courtesy, European Pressphoto 
Agency A U.S. soldier looked on as one of Kam Air's jets arrived at a Kabul Airport parking area in February 2012.

January 29, 2013, 4:33 p.m. ET 

The Wall Street Journal

KABUL—The U.S. military's blacklisting of Afghanistan's largest private airline on allegations that it is trafficking opiates has sparked a diplomatic crisis with Kabul, with the Afghan government defending the airline, demanding to see proof of any wrongdoing and raising a rare threat of legal action.

The airline, Kam Air, also denied the allegations, reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday, and said it has asked the U.S. military to show it the evidence. In Tajikistan, through which U.S. military officials say the drugs are allegedly smuggled by Kam Air, officials also protested.

On Tuesday, spokesmen for Central Command referred questions to the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan, which declined to comment. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul also declined to comment.

Earlier this month, the U.S. military's Central Command barred Kam Air from bidding on U.S. military contracts, acting on the results of an investigation by Task Force 2010, the anti-corruption unit of the U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan. U.S. Army Maj-Gen. Richard Longo, the force's commander, declined to make public the details of the evidence it passed to Centcom, saying they are classified.

U.S. officials familiar with the probe say the investigation looked into the alleged use of Kam Air to smuggle opium "in bulk" around Afghanistan and to Central Asia. The airline's only civilian route to Central Asia is a flight between Kabul and Dushanbe, the Tajik capital.

Afghanistan accounts for some 90% of the world's illicit opiates, according to United Nations statistics, with Tajikistan one of the main smuggling routes to markets in Russia and Europe.

The Afghan government and Kam Air learned about the blacklisting during inquiries from the Journal.

Afghanistan's council of ministers, which met to discuss the Journal report this week, called the U.S. allegations against Kam Air "an irresponsible act" and called on U.S. authorities to share the information they have on the matter with Kabul.

"If the allegations are not proved, the Afghan government will ask for legal restitution [to restore the airline's] prestige and compensation of any loss resulting from the announcement against Kam Air," the council said in a public statement. The statement didn't make clear how the government would seek restitution.

The U.S. allegations come at a sensitive time for the Afghan government, as its flagship state-run carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines, is in merger discussions with Kam Air, according to people familiar with both parties. The new entity could see Kam Air assume managerial responsibilities, according to the parties.

In a statement on Tuesday, Kam Air said it was "shocked" by the U.S. allegations.

"In our 10-year history, we have carried some six million passengers domestically and regionally, without a single reported incident of drug trafficking—however small. Few airlines—even in the U.S.—can boast such a record," the statement said. The allegations of opium smuggling may be "directly related to the fierce competition under way between Kam Air, as the leading Afghan carrier, and international contractors," the airline added.

Officials in Tajikistan also complained about the U.S. move. "This statement by the U.S. military undermines not only Kam Air's authority, it also undermines Tajikistan's international prestige," Mahmadyusuf Shodiyev, a spokesman for Dushanbe International Airport, told the local Asia-Plus news agency Tuesday.

The Afghan government says the damage caused to Kam Air's reputation will impact Afghanistan's already weak economy. Even Afghan President Hamid Karzai uses the airline for some diplomatic trips, a presidential spokesman said.

"We are taking this issue very seriously and will definitely take action if we find that Kam Air is smuggling drugs. But that's why the ministers' meeting is requesting the U.S. to share its evidence," said Mr. Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi. "If the Afghan government is supposed to take action, the U.S. should have shared this report with us before speaking to the media."

Mr. Faizi added that the country's Ministry of Interior is investigating the issue and airport security, while the ministries of foreign affairs and transportation are following up on the allegations with the U.S. Embassy and military in Kabul.

Although Kam Air said in its statement that it would "fight for our good name and the future of Afghan aviation," a lawyer for the airline said no legal action was being planned at this point.

"Kam Air is counting on American standards of fair play, transparency and due process to be exercised by the U.S. government authorities in this case," said the attorney, Ward Scott. "We are simply seeking an opportunity to present the facts and address these allegations and are hopeful this will promptly result in a removal of the ... ban."

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Dream of making World War II era plane fly in Oklahoma unites aviation fans... Project that was started in 1999 is nearing completion

James Dudnelly attaches a small hose on the engine. engine. On ground are his son, James Dudnelly Jr. and Bill Hayes, far left. The elder Dudnelly is the group leader. Hayes is director of operations. The younger Dudnelly paints parts for the plane. 

Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman Jim Beckel - THE OKLAHOMAN

GUTHRIE — When the A-26 Invader light bomber now sitting in a hangar at a Guthrie airport finally takes to the sky it won't exactly be a miracle, but it will be a testament to the value of people working together for a common goal. 

 The World War II era A-26 was acquired by the Sierra Hotel Group of the Commemorative Air Force in Arkansas in 1999. It was brought to Wiley Post for a few years before being moved to the Guthrie airport.

The vintage aircraft has become a magnet of talent and time. The restoration group, made up of about 48 members, has logged 28,500 hours working on the plane that was essentially rebuilt from scratch.

The group has spent nearly $500,000. Some of the money comes from contributions and grants. But the labor is all theirs. And there is still a lot of work to be done. The group hopes to have the plane flying within 18 months to two years.

So what keeps them coming back every Saturday?

“We ask ourselves that a lot,” retired Air Force Col. Rick Hudlow said. “It's a museum piece on its own. It has a history. This airplane in particular has an interesting story. We looked at it as a heckuva challenge, and we wanted to fly it.”

Hudlow, 87, flew during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. At one point he flew with actor Jimmy Stewart during Stewart's time as a reservist after World War II.

“Having him on base was a lot of fun, particularly on Friday afternoon at happy hour,” Hudlow said. “He knew every dirty RAF and Air Force song ever written, and he would play the piano with two fingers and sing.”

Tom Parsons, 70, spent his career at Tinker Air Force Base as a structural repair mechanic before retiring last year. Most Saturdays he's at the hangar in Guthrie by 7:30 a.m. Like the rest of the group, he'll work for 12 hours, breaking only for lunch and the occasional story.

“It's a whole lot of fun,” Parsons said. “I'm dead tired when I get home, but when I was working at Tinker I was more exhausted mentally because, believe it or not, some government jobs are stressful. I come here on Saturday morning and it feels like 15 minutes go by and it's time to go home.”

When Parsons talks about seeing the plane fly his eyes light up.

“When you hear those engines fire up it's like magic,” he said. “There's no other sound like it in the world.”

The plane that inspired their work and passion has a unique history. It was made in 1945 by Douglas Aircraft in Tulsa. Later it was deployed in Korea and again in Vietnam when it was leased to the French military during their involvement in what would become the Vietnam War.

When it was no longer in use by the military it became a corporate plane, ferrying executives for several companies over the years. It was eventually acquired by a group in Arkansas that flew it for several years, apparently unaware of its structural problems.

“It was badly damaged,” Hudlow said. “The tail was about to come off and one of the wings was broken and they apparently didn't know that. It could have come off in flight. They're lucky they all didn't get themselves killed.”

Hudlow used contacts at Boeing to have critical pieces engineered and manufactured. Though the company no longer made those types of parts or used that metal, the engineers he talked with wanted to see the plane fly.

“About a year later a big box came, and it had the parts we needed,” Hudlow said.

There were seemingly endless problems beyond a broken wing. The plane's electrical system was a mess. And what's worse, there were no schematics.

Bill Hayward, 81, who spent 28 years as a project leader for the Federal Aviation Administration, started from scratch and drew the schematic necessary to overhaul the system. He also designed a new instrument panel.

Like the others, he has a great passion for aviation. He makes the trip up from his Dallas-area home most Saturdays.

“I started flying when I was 16, and I spent nine years in the Air Force,” Hayward said. “After I got out of the Air Force I wanted to do something else in aviation. The profession has a lot of romance to it when you get right down to it.”

Group leader Jim Dudnelly, 57, has spent his career working in aviation, but his involvement in the project is a way to honor his father.

“My dad was a World War II veteran, and I've always been interested in that period,” he said. “We're just trying to keep those memories alive as a way to honor the men and women who made those sacrifices.”

And when the plane does fly, it will be the culmination of many Saturdays spent at an airport hangar in Guthrie.

“When you decide you're going to do something that everyone says is impossible and you're hardheaded enough to do it anyway there's a lot of satisfaction in that,” Hudlow said.

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Aviation restoration facility relocates to Chicago/Rockford International Airport (KRFD), Illinois

The Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD) is welcoming a vintage aircraft restoration facility that is relocating its base of operations to Rockford.

Code 1 Aviation has recently moved to a hangar at RFD and will provide aircraft maintenance, restoration, avionics, sales, training and consulting services for owners and operators of ex-military, “warbird”-type aircraft.

The company provides maintenance services to clients around the world.

“Our team includes structural and sheet metal specialists, avionics and systems technicians, engine and airframe mechanics, and more,” said Code 1 Aviation President Nathan Jones. “We also provide import/export services, crating and shipping, and other specialty services. We know how to get through the maze of government regulations and procedures that go along with owning and operating these specialized airplanes.”

“Code 1” is a military aviation term for an aircraft that is in perfect condition, and is ready to fly with no discrepancies.

Code 1’s specialists have decades of experience with aircraft as diverse as World War II fighters, 1950s-era jet fighters, MiGs and various other Eastern-bloc aircraft, and even helicopters.

Code 1 Aviation will also provide aircraft sales and brokering for warbird owners, and those who are in the market for an aircraft.

Code 1 Aviation also operates a maintenance facility in Lakeland, Fla.

From the Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2013, issue