Friday, February 08, 2013

Watsonville Municipal (KWVI), California: Airport plots path out of debt

WATSONVILLE -- Though in the red, Watsonville Municipal Airport finances are stable and headed for improvement, city officials say.

An audit of city finances, commissioned by the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury and released in January, noted an ongoing deficit at the airport and criticized officials for not presenting a clearer picture of the problem.

With the exception of 2008-09, the city-owned airport's annual operations have been in the black for the past five years, according to Administrative Services Director Ezequiel Vega. But revenue has not been strong enough to close a long-standing multimillion-dollar deficit.

City Manager Carlos Palacios said the airport developed a negative balance after the city refinanced a hangar construction loan in 2001 to shorten the term of the debt to produce interest savings. The trade off was higher annual payments.

"It's a decision similar to refinancing a home loan from a 30-year term to a 15-year term," Palacios said in an e-mail. "We knew at the time that the increased debt payments would put pressure on the Airport Fund balance, but also knew that in the long-term it would save money and that the Airport Fund was in a strong position to bear some years of negative fund balance."

Watsonville is the county's only airport. It's home to more than 300 aircraft, mostly single-engine planes but also six corporate jets and 12 helicopters.

John Cowan, vice president of the Watsonville  Pilots Association, said it's an invaluable resource for the entire county, starting with the role it can play in disasters. After the 1989 earthquake, for example, tons of supplies were landed at the airport, he said.

Cowan noted the airport hosts to a variety of aviation-related businesses, and provides a base for companies, such as Granite Construction, to reach out-of-town job sites and business meetings. He pointed to a study done a decade ago by the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments that said the airport generated $18 million in direct economic benefit to the region and many millions more in indirect contributions.

"A lot of the airport is used for pleasure," he said. "That's not to be discounted. That's the icing on the cake. It's sort of like the (Santa Cruz) yacht harbor."

Landing in debt

According to Vega, by 2008 the airport was running more than $4 million in the red, an amount that dropped to $2.2 million in 2011. But at the end of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the deficit soared again to $3.8 million, mostly due to capital projects designed to ensure the airport's viability into the future, such as $100,000 in improvements to attract a tenant for the restaurant.

Vega said he's in the midst of running projections so couldn't provide an estimate for how the airport's balance will look on June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. But he said the airport will soon be on the road to recovery. Once the final payment of $235,000 is made for the hangars in November, the airport can begin attacking the negative balance, he said.

"If everything goes well, in a reasonable amount of time the balance can become positive," Vega said.

Ready to take off

Airport General Manager Rayvon Williams said he is confident he can turnaround airport finances.

"It's straight P&L," he said, "profit and loss."

Williams plans to boost revenues by making fuel sales more profitable and increasing hangar fees. He also plans to build more hangars to generate additional rental income.

"If I can do that in the next five years, then I'm OK," Williams said.

He faces hurdles, however. The plan to build 100 hangars has been on the books for years. The airport maintains a waiting list of 135 pilots seeking hangar space so the demand is there. But environmental considerations have stalled construction. The airport also is home to the protected Santa Cruz tarplant and the California red-legged frog.

Williams said federal authorities recently cleared a plan to rebuild a taxiway, though he still needs approval from state Fish and Wildlife Services. He said if that project goes forward successfully, he'll be able to prove he can mitigate the impact of construction. Then he can push for the hangars.

He's already overcome challenges. A few months after he took over management in July 2011, the longtime restaurant operator decided to call it quits. Then, the county issued a letter warning fuel sales would be shut down if holding tanks weren't overhauled.

New tenant at restaurant

Since then, the airport fixed up the restaurant and signed a new tenant, completed a $75,000 renovation of the terminal lobby, restrooms and offices, acquired a used street-sweeper to better maintain runways and rehabilitated the fuel sales facility.

With the improvements made to the pumping station and better inventory control, Williams aims to net $250,000 to $300,000 a year on about $1.2 million in fuel sales, profits that can be used to cover salaries, maintenance and future capital investments.

The projects were critical, Williams said, to attracting and retaining business from pilots.

He's also embarking on a marketing effort. Aiming to draw out-of-town pilots, for example, the airport hosts an aviation swap meet with discounted fuel prices the second Saturday of every month. 


Four dead as small plane crashes in Greater Buenos Aires area of Lomas de Zamora, Argentina

Four people died as a small airplane crashed this afternoon in the Greater Buenos Aires area of Lomas de Zamora. The plane had taken off from the University Centre of aviation and reportedly fell down due to a mechanic flaw, in a field next to the Lomas de Zamora federal shooting range.

Residents near Lake Apopka concerned with airstrip expansion plan



Environmentalists said plans to expand a private airstrip could end up wasting millions of your tax dollars that have already been spent to clean up Lake Apopka.

The north shore of Lake Apopka is home to the largest number of water birds anywhere in central Florida, but neighbors are afraid they could be driven off.

The owners of a landing strip in the middle of a farm along the Lake-Orange county line want to expand it and build an industrial park around it.

"I'm extremely concerned about this airport," said resident Connie Harvey. "It could destroy the north shore Apopka area."

"It creates a destination. It attracts visitors. That's what an airport is for," said Guy Haggard of the West Orange Airport Authority.

At a regional summit, officials and residents from both counties hashed out the pros and cons.

Part of the discussion was about the tens of millions of tax dollars that have been spent to restore polluted Lake Apopka. Some say more planes could ruin everything.

"Done wrong, done in the wrong places, airports have the potential to kill this dream," said Charles Lee of the Florida Audubon Society.

Some officials said the area is ripe for what they call eco-tourism and believe it's perfect for something similar to Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

But is an airport part of that picture?

""If they don't work together, then we need to say so," said Fred Brummer of the Orange County Commission. "We need to make the decision which one will go forward."

Some Lake County leaders said the choice is clear, and they think a larger airport should be off the table.

"For it to expand and then also have an eco-lodge, no," said Leslie Campione of the Lake County Commission.

Story and Video:

Aviation Firm Donates Small Plane to State Police

The New Mexico State Police’s small air wing is getting a special mission addition, courtesy of an Albuquerque-based aviation management company.

CSI Aviation is donating an SB7L-360A “Seeker,” a surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft valued at $250,000, that it no longer needs for its own business.

“The Seeker is too valuable of a resource to let it remain underutilized,” Tommy Dunn, CSI vice president for marketing and business development, said in a release about the donation. “The culture of this company is to give back to the community and we saw this as an excellent opportunity to do something for public safety in New Mexico.”

State Police Deputy Chief Pete Kassetas said the two-seat Seeker will have multiple uses, including intelligence gathering, surveillance, airborne patrol, search and rescue and narcotics interdiction.

“We’re hoping it increases our capabilities but also reduces our operating costs,” he said. “… It is not a luxury plane we’re going to be sending bigwigs across the state in.”

The Australian-designed aircraft has a high, fixed wing with a rear-mounted “pusher” engine and helicopter-like cockpit.

The Agusta helicopter the State Police has now is “used for surveillance and reconnaissance and everything else,” Dunn told the Journal. “They can do the same thing with this aircraft, except for a fraction of the cost.”

The State Police also has a Cessna 409 Golden Eagle turboprop but Kassetas said the plan is to phase it out. State Police was one of several police agencies that responded to a CSI-issued RFP in November offering the Seeker.

In business for 34 years, CSI provides a range of aviation services to corporations and government agencies, including air charters, aircraft leasing and aircraft purchases.

Dunn said CSI purchased two Seekers as demonstration planes for the aerial surveillance market in North America, but found that one was adequate for its purposes.

Commercial applications include things such as traffic reporting and aerial photography. “It’s a surveillance platform, so we’re going to market it and try to get it out there on the business side,” Dunn said. “Obviously, the meat and potatoes for this aircraft is cost savings.”

He said the donated Seeker is fully depreciated, which prevents the company from taking any type of tax deduction.


Drone dilemmas

Idaho's stand when it comes to unmanned drones seems to be a little up in the air.

Two measures regarding drones came out of the Idaho Legislature this week. On Wednesday, the Idaho Senate approved a resolution encouraging the state to apply to become one of six drone test sites to be operated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Sponsored by Republican Sen. Chuck Winder, a former Navy pilot from Boise, that bill passed 28-6.

The next day the Senate Transportation Committee approved a revised version of a bill that establishes guidelines governing when Idaho law enforcement agencies send out unmanned aircraft to gather criminal evidence.

The bill approved Thursday differs slightly from the version that won initial approval last month.

The measure was modified to give Idaho Power and other companies an exemption that allows them to conduct surveillance without getting any official permission.

Transportation Committee member, Winder, R-Boise, was involved in this bill as well. He said the intent of the legislation is to protect landowners’ privacy.

The legislation requires police to establish probable cause or get a judicial warrant before using drones in criminal investigations.

That bill became a companion to the Senate resolution passed Wednesday encouraging the state to become a drone testing site.

The Winder-sponsored pro-drone bill that passed the Senate will now go to the House. Winder said securing the state as a drone testing site could be a boost to Idaho’s economy.

Opponents including Boise Democratic Sen. Les Bock raised privacy concerns, saying they were uneasy with the specter of unmanned aircraft spying on residents.

But Sen. Marv Hagedorn, a Meridian Republican, said privacy concerns would be addressed by the bill establishing clear legal guidelines for when Idaho law enforcement agencies could use unmanned aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in the process of selecting six sites nationwide for unmanned aircraft systems testing. Unmanned Aircraft Systems — previously referred to as "unmanned aerial vehicles" — come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and serve many purposes. They may have a wingspan as large as a Boeing 737 or smaller than a radio-controlled model airplane, according to the FAA website that describes the testing project.

The project itself is to test drones equipped to improve air traffic alert and collision avoidance systems. A description of the project from the FAA states it would “allow a government public safety agency to operate unmanned aircraft weighing 4.4 pounds or less” under certain restrictions.

These restrictions include flying the drones within the line of sight of the operator, less than 400 feet above the ground, during daylight conditions in controlled air space at least five miles from an existing airport.

According to the Associated Press, at least 11 states are proposing restrictions on the use of drones over their skies because of growing public concerns that the unmanned aerial vehicles could be used to spy on Americans.

Congress has taken steps to regulate domestic drone use. When it reauthorized the FAA in 2012, Congress told the agency it had to craft a comprehensive plan for the use of drones in U.S. skies by 2015.


Remote-controlled aircraft land in the Ozarks: At least two firms are using the small helicopters for civilian uses

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Unmanned aircraft have been helping fight wars for years, and now the technology is being used in the civilian world.

Jake Wynant may have been controlling his plane on Friday,  but he stayed on the ground as his aircraft headed for the sky.  Wynant owns Wingnut Aerial Video Systems.  His company uses a remote-controlled helicopter in movies and commercial production.

"It's not cheap, when you are flying something that costs more than your house."

"They are very beneficial both on our private investigation side and also the public side because of officer safety at that point," said Tim Brennen, director of Southern Missouri Judicial Services.

Brennen's group uses unmanned aircraft for investigations and other law enforcement purposes.

"We have put them up in the air for tactical situations.  We can get an overall view of what’s going on," said Brennan.

The controversy has caught the ears of lawmakers, including Missouri state Rep. Casey Guernsey, R - Bethany.  He introduced a bill that would outlaw the use of all unmanned aircraft in Missouri for surveillance use.  The only exception would be for law enforcement agencies -- and only if they have a warrant.

Watch Video:

Canada: Cessna 310 one engine

Brazil: Cessna 210 Aileron roll

 Published on January 28, 2013 

  um tunozinho de leve só pra relaxa rsrs.
cmte, ricardo boareto

Dana Air Crash: Insurance Chief Lauds Industry On Claims Payment To Victims

Mr Fola Daniel, the Commissioner for Insurance, on Thursday, commended the local insurance industry on the payment of claims to families of victims of the crashed Dana Airline.

Dainel, who gave the commendation in Ilorin at a seminar for finance and business editors, said that all beneficiaries were being paid their entitlements.

“On the Dana claims, we are doing well, if anybody has not received claims, it is due to problem of documentation,” he said.

Daniel said that 70 per cent of the claims were being handled by foreign companies, while 30 per cent were being done by Nigerian companies.

He alleged that the payment was nearly marred by crisis as some people came up with frivolous affidavits to support claims that were not due to them.

The commissioner said that insurance was still considered elitist in Nigeria as very few persons in the urban centres subscribed to insurance policies.

He said that the insurance industry in the country had a lot of potential to grow if the business was encouraged at the grass roots.

Daniel said that in the bid to develop this potential, NAICOM was in the final stages of developing a framework for micro insurance in the country.

He said that the exposure draft of the framework had been released for inputs from stakeholders.


GMR Infrastructure gets Rs 415 cr in outstanding dues from Air India

Air India has cleared a large chunk of its dues to GMR-led operators of Delhi and Hyderabad airports. GMR Infrastructure confirmed on Wednesday that it has received payment of Rs 415 crore from Air India towards outstanding dues on account of various airport related charges for Delhi and Hyderabad airports.

"After long time they (Air India) have given us some sizable money. We received Rs 415 crore on January 30 (from them) towards payment of UDF, ADF, landing and parking, everything," GMR's CFO for airport business Sidharth Kapur said.

Of this, Rs 340 crore payment has been made for user development fee (UDF), airport development fee (ADF) and landing and parking charges at the Delhi International Airport, while Rs 75 crore payment was made for usage of similar facilities at the Hyderabad International Airport.

Post this payment, dues on Air India has come down to Rs 375 crore, Kapur said, adding that he is hopeful of Air India clearing remaining dues in next few months to reach a regular payment status.

He, however, refused to comment on whether the airport business would become profitable after this payment, as financial results of GMR Infrastructure are slated to be taken up by the company Board in next few days.

GMR also has outstanding dues of about Rs 49 crore on Vijay Mallya-promoted Kingfisher Airlines for usage of facilities at the Delhi airport as on January 15.

During the first half of the current fiscal, the airport business of GMR had reported Rs 118 crore loss before minority, the company had said in November while announcing the results for July-September quarter.

The company had then said that it has not accounted Rs 129 crore dues on Air India for the July-September quarter as a matter of prudence and the airport business would have shown profits had the dues been recognised.

Besides Delhi and Hyderabad airports, GMR Infrastructure is also the operator of Turkey's Istanbul International Airport. In December, the company had suffered a setback as it was pushed out of a contract by Maldives government to develop and modernise the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male.

The company, which had invested about $240 million on the development of Male airport before being forced to exit, is now looking for compensation from the Maldives government.

With PTI inputs

2nd International Open Door Day at Baltic Aviation Academy


 Published on February 8, 2013 A quick glimpse at the second International Open Door Day held at Baltic Aviation Academy's headquarters in Vilnius on 2nd of February, 2013. The event gathered everyone from the little aviation enthusiasts to grown-ups, foreign visitors and current students. Thanks to all of you who came and created a wonderful atmosphere! Can you spot yourself in the video?

Follow us

Zardari's palatial private villa having landing strip nears completion

Lahore: A sprawling high-security private residence for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, complete with bomb-proof structures and a landing strip for small jets and helicopters, is nearing completion.
The compound in Bahria Town, spread over some 200 kanals or 25 acres, is named Bilawal House after Zardari's son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
According to a senior Pakistan Peoples Party official from Punjab, who did not want to be named, the residence has been gifted to Zardari by property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain.
The bomb-proof home is surrounded by lawns that can accommodate up to 10,000 people and has a runway for private jets and helicopters.
The residence has bedrooms, conference rooms and offices.
The compound is surrounded by 30-inch high walls fitted with security gadgets.
Once completed, the residence will have a three-tier security system, sources said.
Zardari, who is due to arrive in Lahore on Sunday, is expected to visit Bilawal House with his son, the sources said.
Bilawal House is located about 1.5 km from former premier Nawaz Sharif's palatial residence at Raiwind Road that is spread over 300 acres.
Sharif's residence has a mini zoo and is ringed by orchards and agricultural land.
The Bhutto-Zardari family have another Bilawal House in the southern port city of Karachi.
The residence in Lahore will serve as the main base in Punjab province for Bilawal during campaigning for the upcoming general election.
Property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain, who is believed to be close to Zardari, was at the centre of a controversy last year after he alleged that he funded three foreign trips by Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
Hussain also claimed he had spent Rs 342 million on Iftikhar to influence cases in the apex court.
The Supreme Court recently declared that matters involving Hussain and Iftikhar were a private issue between two individuals and they could resort to legal proceedings against each other.


The future of helicopter technology at India's doorsteps

The Indian Navy may stand a good chance of boosting its helicopter fleets with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (SAC) having received a request for information (RFIs) from it for buying and developing 123 multi-role helicopters. Sikorsky is also working on a futuristic helicopter, the technology demonstrator of which -- called X-2 -- has recorded 250 knots in airspeed as against 160-180 knots recorded among conventional helicopters. The company has indicated that India would stand in good stead doing business with it to gain the latest in helicopter technology enhancement in future.

Air Marshal (retd) AVM Walia, regional executive (India & South Asia region), SAC,said on Thursday at the second day of Aero India 2013 that the Indian Navy was looking for 123 multi-role helicopters. It is specially looking for one of two varieties of helicopters -- the MH-60R or the MH-60H. "The RFI has been responded to and we are now waiting for a request for proposal so that we can take the matter forward," he said.

SAC has also received RFIs from the Indian CoastGuard for 14 shore-based helicopters and 16 ship-borne ones for which the company is waiting for RFPs.

But while Walia and SAC president, Mick Maurer, provided details about doing business with Indian defence and civilian companies, what could not be missed was their presentation made on the X-2 technology helicopter,the future of helicopter which flies with double tilt rotors for enhanced lift.

Having achieved its goal of flying the X2 Technology demonstrator helicopter at more than 250 knots (287 mph), Sikorsky will design, build and fly two more X2 Technology aircraft, and offer one of the aircraft to the US military for flight test and evaluation. Both prototypes will become the first of an all-new light tactical helicopter category — the Sikorsky S-97 — and will carry the designation “S-97 Raider” helicopter.

SAC is developing two prototypes for the US military, which is scheduled to carry out the first test flight of the Sikorsky S-97 in late 2014.

The Sikorsky X-2 helicopter, which features increased speed with maneuverability and agility, incorporates several new technologies and has successfully demonstrated them in a flight environment. These technologies include an integrated fly-by-wire system that allows the engine/rotor/propulsor system to operate efficiently, with full control of rotor rpm (rotations per minute) throughout the flight high lift-to-drag rigid blades, low drag hub fairings, and active vibration control at such high speeds.

In addition, the aircraft was used as a 'flying wind tunnel' to determine the main rotor to propulsor aerodynamic interaction, shaft angle optimization for performance, and blade tip clearance for a range of maneuvers. This will allow optimization of the X2 Technology suite for future products.
SAC's website says about this future of helicopters: "Historically, vertical flight has required a compromise between hover performance and forward speed...With X2 Technology, Sikorsky is focused on providing increased speed over conventional rotorcraft designs without compromising the essential attributes that make helicopters valuable." 


Suspected drunk Romanian pilot halts flight from London

(Reuters) - Romanian airline TAROM cancelled a flight to Bucharest because the pilot was suspected of being drunk before takeoff from London's Heathrow airport, it said on Friday.

In a story reminiscent of Denzel Washington's portrayal of flying under the influence of alcohol in the movie "Flight", British authorities refused permission for the pilot to take off in the Airbus A318 from Heathrow on Wednesday morning.

"We cancelled the flight because one crew member was not physically fit to operate. His medical incapacity was tracked down in London during routine checks," the state-owned Romanian carrier TAROM said in a statement.

"The pilot returned home on Thursday and we suspended him from activity until the investigation is finalized."

European Union member Romania has pledged to sell a range of state companies under an International Monetary Fund deal, including a 20 percent stake in TAROM - which operates 23 planes - by August.

"If official results we receive show he tested positive for alcohol, we'll immediately fire him," the airline said.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas)  

Tarom RO394 canceled flight from London to Bucharest on February 6, 2013Bucureşti/07.02.2013: Tarom RO394 London-Bucharest flight canceled yesterday, February 6, 2013, due to the fact that a crew member was physically unable to operate the flight. Medical unfitness was found by airport authorities in London after a routine check.

Tarom RO394 London-Bucharest flight canceled yesterday, February 6, 2013, due to the fact that a crew member was physically unable to operate the flight. Medical unfitness was found by airport authorities in London after a routine check. Currently undertaking an investigation to determine why the pilot was unable to make the flight. For safety reasons, TAROM decided yesterday cancellation and passengers of assistance received under EU Directive 261/2004 and were rerouted on other flights yesterday to reach the destination.

The pilot returned to the country during the day today and been suspended until the completion of the investigation. After receiving the official results, TAROM will take all measures will be imposed in accordance with all national and international regulations in force. If after investigation it is determined that the pilot was found positive for alcohol control, he will be fired immediately, in accordance with the internal regulations of the company. TAROM meet the highest national and international safety standards and the safety of its operations is the main priority of the company, therefore such misconduct will not be tolerated.


The National TAROM Romanian Air Transport was founded in 1954 and has grown along with Romanian aviation. TAROM operates under the Ministry of Transport and is a member of SkyTeam Alliance on 25 June 2010, offering its passengers access to more destinations and connections. TAROM is a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) since 1993 and the Association of European Airlines (AEA) of 2000.

TAROM a anulat cursa RO394 Londra-Bucuresti din data de 6 februarie 2013 

Bucureşti/07.02.2013: TAROM a anulat zborul RO394 Londra-Bucuresti de ieri, 6 februarie 2013, din cauza faptului ca un membru al echipajului s-a aflat in incapacitate fizica de a opera zborul. Inaptitudinea medicala a fost depistata de autoritatile aeroportuare din Londra in urma unui control de rutina.

TAROM a anulat zborul RO394 Londra-Bucuresti de ieri, 6 februarie 2013, din cauza faptului ca un membru al echipajului s-a aflat in incapacitate fizica de a opera zborul. Inaptitudinea medicala a fost depistata de autoritatile aeroportuare din Londra in urma unui control de rutina. In prezent se desfasoara o investigatie pentru a stabili motivele pentru care pilotul s-a aflat in imposibilitatea de a efectua zborul. Din motive de siguranta, TAROM a decis anularea zborului de ieri, iar pasagerii cursei au beneficiat de asistenta conform Directivei Europene 261/2004 si au fost rerutati pe alte zboruri de ieri pentru a ajunge la destinatie.

Pilotul a revenit in tara in cursul zilei de astazi si a fost suspendat din activitate pana la finalizarea investigatiei. Dupa primirea rezultatelor oficiale, TAROM va lua toate masurile care se vor impune, in conformitate cu toate reglementarile nationale si internationale in vigoare. Daca in urma investigatiei se stabileste ca pilotul a fost depistat pozitiv la un control al alcoolemiei, acesta va fi concediat imediat, in conformitate cu regulamentul de ordine interioara al companiei. TAROM respecta cele mai inalte standarde de siguranta nationale si internationale, iar siguranta operatiunilor sale reprezinta principala prioritate a companiei, prin urmare astfel de abateri disciplinare nu sunt tolerate.


Compania Naţională de Transporturi Aeriene Române TAROM a fost înfiinţată în 1954 şi a crescut în acelaşi timp cu aviaţia românească. Compania TAROM îşi desfăşoară activitatea sub autoritatea Ministerului Transporturilor şi Infrastructurii şi este membră a Alianţei SkyTeam din 25 iunie 2010, oferind astfel pasagerilor săi acces la mai multe destinaţii şi conexiuni. TAROM este membră a Asociaţiei Internaţionale a Transportatorilor Aerieni (IATA) din 1993 şi a Asociaţiei Companiilor Aeriene Europene (AEA) din 2000.

Air Canada unveils new seat class, recovery on track

Feb 7 Reuters) - Helped by tighter cost controls and fuller flights, Air Canada's operations returned to profit in the fourth quarter, and the airline said it would launch premium economy services on overseas flights to try to woo more higher-paying travelers.

Canada's biggest carrier also posted a net profit for 2012, its first annual profit in five years, in what analysts saw as a sign that management's 3-year-old plan to stabilize the high-cost, debt-laden airline is bearing fruit.

"Everything that you want to see from a fundamental standpoint was trending well," RBC Capital Markets analyst Walter Spracklin said of the results, pointing to higher load factors, traffic and yields at the airline.

Emboldened by new labor contracts with all its unions, Air Canada launched a number of initiatives to cut costs and boost revenue over the past year, outsourcing more regional flights, adding international routes and revising maintenance contracts. It plans to launch a lower-cost carrier, Rouge, in July.

"They are re-making the airline and that will take 2-3 years to complete. From what I am hearing, they are making all the right moves," said Toll Cross Securities analyst Jacques Kavafian.

Air Canada joins several other major airlines introducing "premium economy" seating, which offers more leg room, priority boarding and refundable tickets at higher prices.

The premium cabin will be introduced on Air Canada's Montreal-Paris flights on July 11, and added onto more routes as new aircraft enter the carrier's mainline fleet.

Air Canada, whose main domestic competitor is WestJet Airlines Ltd, also said it would add five new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to its fleet.

Air Canada's stock, which has surged 74 percent in the past year, was unchanged at C$2.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.


Air Canada Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said the carrier, which has 37 Boeing Co 787 Dreamliners on order, had "complete confidence" in the planemaker's ability to resolve the lithium-ion battery issues "quickly and safely".

Regulators have grounded the Dreamliners while they investigate the batteries.

Rovinescu said Boeing had given it Air Canada indication of any changes to the plane's delivery schedule, which in Air Canada's case, starts in 2014.

Air Canada said its operating income was C$46 million in the quarter, compared with a loss of C$98 million a year earlier.

Net income was C$8 million, or 3 Canadian cents per share, compared with a loss of C$60 million, or 22 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier. Adjusted to remove the impact of gains and losses on financial instruments, foreign exchange and other unusual items, the airline lost 2 Canadian cents per share.

For 2012, Air Canada reported net income of C$131 million compared to a net loss of $249 million in 2011. The last time the airline made an annual profit was in 2007.

Operating revenue in the fourth quarter rose 5 percent to C$2.84 billion, helped by a strong international performance, especially on its Pacific routes and across the Atlantic.

"The Pacific is the part of the world where revenue and yield growth is strong... That is also going to help propel the company down the road," said Robert Kokonis, managing director of Toronto-based airline consultant AirTrav Inc.

In November, Air Canada unveiled a major expansion of its flights to Asia, adding flights to Beijing, Seoul and Narita, Japan.

Operating expenses in the quarter fell C$2 million, mainly due to lower aircraft maintenance costs and a drop in ownership costs.

Air Canada's load factor, a measure of how many passengers its aircraft carried compared with capacity, rose to 81.2 percent in the fourth quarter from 78.9 percent in the same period the previous year.


Indian Air Force top guns from another era to fly soon

Bengaluru: First, the Tiger Moth. Next, the Harvard. Then the Spitfire, Tempest, Hurricane and Lysander! The Indian Air Force is to have not one but multiple vintage aircraft squadrons in the coming years.

“A restored Harvard vintage aircraft is all set to fly in India in two months’ time,” a senior official of the Indian Air Force told Deccan Chronicle. As soon as the Harvard — an advanced trained used by India in 1950s and 1960s — is ready, India will start working on restoring other vintage aircraft to “flying worthy condition” such as the Tempest, Hurricane and Lysander, followed by the Wapiti.

“The Indian Air Force is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the vintage aircraft. Each of these machines is unique in its own way. But the Wapiti has a special significance. When the Royal Indian Air Force was launched as the Indian Air Force in 1932, the No.1 Squadron IAF used four Westland Wapiti Biplanes,” the official said.

Much of the interest in restoring aircraft from that era has stemmed from the unexpected popularity of the Tiger Moth, the first vintage aircraft that took to the skies after it was renovated by India with the help of a British company.

India had four or five vintage aircraft in flying worthy condition till 1989. After an air crash (which curiously did not involve a vintage aircraft), India decided not to fly vintage aircraft and they were all parked at the Indian Air Force Museum, Palam. In the year 2005, India initiated the process of restoration of old aircraft and the first of the lot- the Tiger Moth – on display at the ongoing Aero India 2013 show - was ready in October last year and was displayed during Air Force Day parade on October 8 last year at Hindon air base. 


Moshi airstrip getting busier

Frequency of light aircraft landing and taking off from Moshi airport has increased to an average of 12.4 percent from 491 flights in 2009 to 638 flights last year.

Deputy Minister for Transport Dr Charles Tizeba also announced that the number of passengers using the airport has increased by 37.3 percent from 575 passengers in 2009 to 1,355 last year.

Responding to a question by Moshi Urban MP, Philemon Ndesamburo, who wanted to know the reason as why the government was, according to him, ‘abandoning’ the airport, the Deputy Minister yesterday asserted before the House that the Moshi Airstrip is ‘too valuable’ as it serves to support tourism in the area.

He said that Moshi Airport plays an important social role as it is used to transport patients who have been referred to other hospitals in and out of the country from the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre referral hospital.

“So, it is not true that the government has abandoned the airport…right now the airport is serviced by the government through Tanzania Aviation Authority (TAA) and there are six permanent employees working at the airport...” the minister said.

Last week the deputy minister, responding to Hai MP Freeman Mbowe about an apparent Precision Air interest to use the airstrip as a training college, said: “…room for talks is open…the proposed training is also highly needed at this point and time…we await contact by the airlines management and the government welcomes and supports such development programmes….”

Yesterday the deputy minister revealed that the government is set to improve runways of ten airports across the country including Moshi airport.

The World Bank has loaned Tanzania 3.2bn/- to finance the feasibility studies in the ten regional airports.

“Rehabilitation of the airports is to start soon after accomplishing then feasibility studies,” the minister said.


Critical Report Adds To Russian Superjet's Woes

Russia's flagship carrier Aeroflot marks its 90th birthday on February 9, but a leaked Aeroflot report on the brand-new Superjet 100, the first passenger plane produced by Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is no cause for celebration.

The Superjet, designed to restore pride in Russia's once-vaunted aviation industry, has suffered a string of setbacks since its maiden commercial flight in 2011.

These have included development delays, numerous malfunctions, and a crash during a promotional flight in Indonesia last year that killed all 45 people onboard.

Aeroflot's damning report, published this week in the respected "Kommersant" daily, adds to the Superjet's troubled record.

According to Aeroflot, the 10 Superjets it currently operates -- which represent 8 percent of its total fleet -- were responsible for as many as 40 percent of all technical mishaps the airline experienced in 2012.

The document, described by "Kommersant" as the most in-depth analysis of the aircraft's performance so far, cites problems with the air-conditioning system, the controls, and the landing gear.

'Don't Pose A Threat'

Many experts nonetheless still regard the Superjet as a reliable aircraft and put the glitches down to the plane's newness.

"The aircraft is only now integrating [into] airline fleets, so isolated problems can sometimes occur in these early stages," says Igor Korotchenko, an aviation expert and editor of Russia's "National Defense" magazine. "But I really don't think these problems pose a threat to the project as a whole."

The Superjet's difficulties echo the situation currently faced by Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet.

Various airlines grounded the 50 Dreamliners in operation after a battery on one plane melted and another caught fire after landing.

U.S. federal aviation officials on February 8 gave Boeing the go-ahead to conduct test flights aimed at collecting more data about the battery.

'I Don't Believe In The Superjet'

In Russia, the Superjet nonetheless continues to draw fierce criticism.

Anatoly Knyshov, a highly decorated test pilot, says the aircraft should never have been flown in the first place.

"I don't believe in the Superjet and I don't believe in the team designing and producing this plane," Knyshov says. "The catastrophe in Indonesia shows that this plane is absolutely not ready for operation."

Knyshov accuses the international partnership behind the Superjet of botching its design.

The plane was developed by Russia's Sukhoi aerospace company in cooperation with Boeing, Italy's Finmeccanica, and French firms Thales and Safran.

The main concern in Russia is that the Superjet needs well-maintained airfields, still scarce in the country.

The string of malfunctions has also grated on Aeroflot.

Its first Superjet was grounded for weeks due to an air-conditioning problem.

In March 2012, an Aeroflot official told the "Vedomosti" daily that the airline wanted compensation from Sukhoi for losses incurred due to technical issues with its Superjets and delays in the delivery of spare parts.

"This plane was imposed on Aeroflot," Knyshov says. "None of Russia's 120 airlines took this plane, although it was designed for the Russian Federation. Aeroflot took it simply to show that the money had not been wasted. But it has been wasted. This aircraft will never perform its functions in Russia."

Russia so far has invested almost $3 billion in the aircraft, almost twice its initial budget.

Can't Go It Alone

Should the Superjet surmount its difficulties it will prove instrumental in replacing Russia's creaky Soviet-era fleet of passenger planes.

On the international civil aviation market, it has been touted as Russia's answer to similar planes by manufacturers such as Canada's Bombardier and Brazil's Embraer.

But the Superjet alone will not allow Russia to regain a strong foothold on the global market.

"The Superjet fills the niche for short-haul passenger flights," says aviation expert Igor Korotchenko. "But to become serious competitors, we need the airliner MS-21 to enter its commercial niche, too. It's obvious that we will not be able to compete against Boeing and Airbus with Soviet planes built according to Soviet production methods."

The MS-21, produced by Russian corporations Irkut and Yakovlev, has a capacity of up to 212 passengers.

Russia hopes to deliver its first MS-21 in 2017.


Watchdog probes Air New Zealand credit card fees

Air New Zealand is again under investigation over the credit card fees it charges passengers.

It is the second time in a year the airline has come under scrutiny for fees that could breach the Fair Trading Act.

The airline charges a $4 processing fee on all domestic bookings made by credit or debit card. That rises to $6 for trans-Tasman and short-haul Pacific flights, $12 for a trip to Bali, and $17.50 for all other international fares.

It charges the fees per person per flight, meaning a family of four flying return within New Zealand will be charged $32 for one credit card transaction. However, the airline pays only about 1 per cent of the total flights package to the processing bank.

So a family of four flying between Wellington and Auckland for $470 would get stung a further $32 in fees - of which the airline would pay just $4.70 to the bank in what is called a merchant service fee.

The Australian consumer watchdog, Choice, estimated last year that Qantas was making a profit of about A$100 million (NZ$123m) a year on credit card surcharges after merchant fees.

The Commerce Commission, the government watchdog in New Zealand, investigated Air New Zealand in early 2012, after receiving complaints about its credit card surcharges, but decided not to take further action. Now it is relaunching the investigation.

"The commission would be concerned if businesses were . . . misleading consumers about the purpose or pricing components of the fee," a spokeswoman said.

"Retailers will attract our scrutiny if they call a charge a ‘credit card processing fee' (or similar) that is actually designed to generate profit or cover non-credit card costs.

"[The investigation] will involve reviewing how the surcharge is calculated, including profits (if any), and the description of the surcharge."

Air New Zealand spokeswoman Brigitte Ransom said the airline was not aware of any Commerce Commission investigation.

It spent $20.5m on merchant service fees a year, and recouped only $19.1m from customers, she said.

Qantas subsidiary Jetstar charges similar fees. The commission has not yet decided whether to investigate it too.

The merchant service fee, which businesses face for accepting card payments, is negotiated between businesses and banks. In Air New Zealand's case, it is understood to be about 1 per cent of a transaction.

In Australia, new Reserve Bank rules will prohibit airlines and other retailers from charging more than the "reasonable cost of acceptance" from March 18.

The Reserve Bank in New Zealand has no authority over credit card charges. It is the Commerce Commission's duty to regulate them.

Both Air New Zealand and Jetstar offer alternative methods of payment to avoid the credit card fees, through direct debit banking, Airpoints or Travelcard, or online payment system POLi.

Banks have warned against using POLi as it poses a phishing risk by asking users for their log-in details.

Visa spokesman Andrew Craig said credit card companies were against retailers passing on the fee to consumers.

"Electronic payments offer retailers a faster, more efficient and more secure payment method, compared to cash and checks, so consumers shouldn't be penalized for choosing to pay with a card." 


Air India rapped for calling claimant fake, to pay Rs 12.24 lakh for loss

NEW DELHI: National carrier Air India has been pulled up by a consumer forum here for terming a garment exporter whose baggage was lost as a fraudulent claimant, and asked to pay Rs 12.24 lakh as compensation.

The New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum said it was "shocking and improper" on the part of AI to call the businessman fraudulent merely because he had filed two other complaints in the past against another airline for losing his baggage.

"It is entirely shocking and improper on the part of the opposite party (Air India) to describe him as a fraudulent claimant for monetary gain on the basis of two complaints (for baggage loss) pending in court where he has to establish all facts to claim compensation. The opposite party should not indulge in such reckless imputation of criminal nature...

"Opposite party has not disputed the loss of four baggage weighing 100 kg, the contents of which are not denied by any evidence of Air India...We award Rs three lakh for deficiency in service by loss of goods, for harassment and legal expenses in last five years. Air India is (also) directed to make the payment of value of lost garments, amounting to Rs 9,24,000," the bench presided by C K Chaturvedi said.

The forum's order came on the plea of Delhi-resident Shakeb Khan Altamash who had said his four bags containing ladies garments were missing when he arrived at Delhi from Bangkok in an AI flight on September, 2007.

Altamash had approached the airline and had, thereafter, repeatedly followed up on his complaint but Air India did not compensate him for the loss, he had said.

Air India, while admitting that the businessman's baggage was lost, contended that he was a habitual fraudulent claimant who has filed fake claims of lost baggage against various airlines to extract unlawful gain.

The forum, however, rejected the contention saying "it is without any evidence" and "is based on conjectures".


Surprise check finds Air India staff missing in action

A crack team of senior Air India officials swooped in at the Terminal 3 of the Delhi airport on Thursday night to carry out a surprise check. The inspection was intended to check if standard operating procedures were being followed and passengers getting the facilities they had paid for.

This is what they found: only 16 of the 25 check-in counters were operational at T3, not even a single floorwalker was present to guide passengers to the aircraft or lounge, check-in taking up to eight minutes when ideally it should take less than three minutes, wheelchairs to be provided to passengers at the airport gate were only available at the check-in counters, at least a dozen officials were found missing from duty, business-class passengers were taking 20 minutes to trace the airline's premier class lounge.

All this at an airport the airline considers its hub.

The inspection was kept a closely guarded secret and only the chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan and joint managing director Syed Nasir Ali were aware. Minutes before the inspection team reached T3, the airport in charge was called and told to provide all assistance.

"The whole idea was to see for ourselves how efficient our staff is," said an official.

The flag carrier has now decided to have surprise inspections at all airports they operate.


Face-Lift for Corporate Aircraft Available In India

Mumbai: Air Works India Engineering Pvt. will now offer comprehensive interior designing, restoration and refurbishment for corporate aircraft, including rotary and fixed wings, a company official said.

Within the next couple of years it will extend the same services to airlines with capabilities in cabin modification and upgrade, making it a one-stop solutions provider to general aviation and airlines in this part of the world.

The only EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) approved third-party maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company in the country, Air Works India's 'aircraft appearance division' will focus on both the interiors and exterior appearance of corporate aircraft, helicopters and business jets.

According to Nick White, vice-president, general aviation, Air Works India, this new service offering is the culmination of a vision to provide comprehensive and cost effective solution offering its Indian customers a choice not to go overseas to Europe or America for interior refurbishment requirements.

"With the introduction of this new workshop capability in Mumbai, customers in India, Asia and the Middle East will be able to save on time and cost as well as be able to locally inspect and/or execute last minute changes or additions in their requirements," White said.

"One of our strengths will be the flexible approach we will adopt allowing our customers to make last minute adjustment as we install their refreshed aircraft interior," White added.

He said that there a lack of capability in India to refresh the interiors of a significant and growing number of corporate aircraft in India, and Air Works India's skilled workforce with the expertise to provide world class restoration and refurbishment for aircraft interiors, will offer customers that individual choice to create unique aircraft interiors.

In the past one year, the company has already provided interiors services to a select group of private business jets and helicopter owners in the country.

"We will apply for EASA approval for our interiors shop in due course which will then make us the first ever facility in India with EASA approval to refurbish aircraft," White said.

"Our capability will quickly grow to offer warranty repairs for our OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners, we will within the next 24 months grow our capability further to offer full interior upgrade under a Part 21 approval," White said.

The aircraft appearance division offers capabilities that encompass repair, restoration, refurbishment, reconfiguration and design, leather restoration, soft and hard furnishings, side panels, upgrade as well as manufacturing of galleys and other interior solutions.

Air Works India said that as per industry reports, global airlines will need 33,500 new planes in less than two decades, with Asia accounting for about 35 percent of the total.

Keeping up with this growing demand, production of aircrafts are also expected to rise and aircrafts require a full cabin modification or restoration every four to five years, said Praveen Srivastava of the aircraft appearance division.

"India is strategically poised on this side of the globe which connects to various touch points in Asia; Air Works with its various facilities in India will be able to support customers and other market players around this region," Srivastava said.

Founded in 1951, Air Works India is the country's only EASA certified MRO with approvals for ATS 42/72, Airbus A-320 family, Boeing B-737 and a range of corporate aircraft, besides a wide range helicopters.


How tainted pilots became examiners, panel asks Central Vigilance Commissioner

With no visible action from the aviation safety regulator on a complaint over allowing three tainted pilots to function as examiners, a government-appointed air safety panel on Friday approached the Central Vigilance Commissioner’s (CVC) office demanding an independent probe.

Last week the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (Casac), a body set up soon after the Air India Express crash at Mangalore in 2010, had raised objection over the inclusion of three pilots in the country’s examiner rank pilots’ list citing their involvement in serious offences compromising passenger safety.

“The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has failed to take action despite irrefutable proof against the pilots. Therefore we decided to approach the CVC directly,” said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, member Casac.

According to Casac’s complaint, which has been reviewed by Hindustan Times, the list of examiners comprised Captain HS Malhotra from Alliance Air, charged by the Central Bureau of Investigation in a question paper leak scam last April. It also included Captain PP Singh, a senior pilot with Jet Airways caught for fudging training records and Captain SB Contractor, also a Jet Airways pilot, who was benched for approving Singh’s false records.

An examiner rank pilot is among the senior-most pilots of an airline, in charge of maintaining the safety procedures mandated by the aviation regulator.

The Casac claimed that the Indian Aircraft rules has provision to cancel the license of pilots caught with such serious offences. They were instead let off with nominal punishment and their seniority was restored.

The body will also report the matter to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the global policy maker of air safety.

The issue has come to light at a time when the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is already under pressure from its US counterpart to get safety procedures in place. Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration had warned the DGCA to review pilot training procedures after a four pilots were caught faking simulator entries.

DGCA chief Arun Mishra and civil aviation minister Ajit Singh were not available for comment.


India Inc puts biz jets, copters on the block

Bangalore: A few big names of India Inc which went into chartered aviation services is beating a retreat, putting helicopters and business jets on the block. Regulatory bottlenecks have stifled their charter, or general aviation, forays despite a surge to operate private jets.

GMR Aviation had ordered a Dassault Falcon 7X business jet priced at Rs 250 crore 18 months ago, but the company has put it on sale even before taking delivery. The other corporate names trimming their fleet include Captain G R Gopinath's Deccan Charters, which has put seven aircrafts on sale through online classified aircraft listing portals AircraftMarketPlace, Aircraft Sales World and Aircraftonsale.

Reliance Transport & Travels, the travel arm of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, is divesting a Bell helicopter and a super large business jet Bombardier Global 5000. The Anil Ambani firm has previously sold Bell 407 and Beechcraft King Air B200 to US companies. A Reliance Group spokesperson said this sale is part of the routine modernization of our fleet from time to time.

GMR Aviation, which has a fleet of three fixed wing and two rotary wing aircraft including two Falcon jets, said: "We have not taken delivery as yet, and would definitely explore the possibility if someone requires it more than us. The existing fleet serve our needs as a non-scheduled operator permit."

Gopinath's Deccan Charters has put the light utility Bell helicopters on sale with an asking price between Rs 3.5 to Rs 4 crore. Sanjay Saihgal, VP-business development in the company said, "We are letting go of some of the old aircraft in our fleet. We are replacing them with new aircraft depending on the specific requirement for contracts we will be getting into." Deccan, with a current fleet of 15 aircrafts, also wants to sell Pilatus PC-12 and Super King Air B-200.

Pune-based Oxford Enterprises offering aviation services is axing a Bell 407 helicopter from the fleet. The company's operations manager Anirudha Uttam Seoleker refused to comment on the sale, but he confirmed that the company had sold a four-seater helicopter Robinson 44 (R44) recently.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report on India's general aviation said the market is expected to grow at 10% annually to cross Rs 1,600 crore in the next five years, as nearly 300 business jets, 300 small aircraft and 250 helicopters are expected to be added to the present fleet by then.

"Scheduled flights on metro sectors generally get preference over general aviation aircraft which defeats the purpose. High cost of ownership, high landing and parking charges, high cost of maintenance, and bad infrastructure at small airports have created significant challenges for owners of business jets," said Amber Dubey, partner and head-aviation at global consultancy KPMG. At the height of the economic boom, more than 35 Indian companies like Indiabulls offered chartered aviation services.

Captain Murali Ramakrishna, former CEO Crescent Air Cargo, said high landing fees affect charter operators eating into their profits. "I was chartering a flight on the Delhi-Jaipur sector and the airport authorities charged Rs 20,000 per landing. GMR that operates the Delhi airport charges Rs 13,000 per landing and Rs 2,500 per passenger for chartered flights. We also have to bear the transportation cost from the parking bay to the aircraft," he said.

PwC said more than Rs 200 billion investment would flow into general aviation during the 12th Five Year Plan. "The government needs to come out with a supportive policy regime. Our captains of industry need to have the privacy of a private jet to conduct business activities while flying. This needs to be understood rather than being scoffed at as a luxury demand of the rich and famous," KPMG's Dubey added. 


Young pilot earns his wings restoring vintage airplane

KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) – A tale involving aeronautical history and mechanical ingenuity might be expected at the Kankakee airfield that is home to the 86-year-old Koerner Aviation business.

It's also predictable that the central characters in that story would be ancestors of the aviation pioneers who first brought flying machines to this area.

In the latest story unfolding these days, 24-year-old Alex Koerner is getting noticed – along with his newly restored Luscombe 8C, a rare plane that first rolled out of the factory June 28, 1941.

“Back in its day the airplane was first of its kind,” Koerner said. “It featured all-metal construction, except for the wings that are fabric covered. That was a departure from the conventional tube and fabric construction of the day.

“This was the deluxe model, dubbed the Silvaire,” he added. “It came with an art deco-style instrument panel, full leather interior, a fancy red stripe on the wings and fuselage, one-of-a-kind, all-metal wheel fenders, and a fuel-injected 75-horsepower engine.

“It could easily cruise at over 100 mph and burn only about 5 gallons of fuel an hour. It was priced at $2,495.”

But this particular airplane was a long way from the factory when Alex and his father, Steve, discovered it. It was in pieces. According to the story the Koerners were told, the plane was first used at a flight school but wound up with a pair of hunters who used it in an ill-fated coyote chase.

“One of them flew the airplane while the other sat with his shotgun sticking out the window,” Alex related. “While flying low to the ground – trying to shoot coyotes – both men got distracted, and the airplane crashed into some trees.

“The men survived, but the airplane didn't,” Alex explained.

The plane was recovered, then disassembled and hung in a barn. Years later, it was sold and moved. Parts became separated. The engine was sent to a scrap yard. And the wings were once again hung up to wait for an owner capable of putting this puzzle together.

In 1991, a friend of the Koerner family purchased the plane – pieces. As a professional aircraft restorer, he knew the rarity of the 8C: Only 260 models were ever produced. He scoured the nation for the parts that were missing and even found the factory-original engine, still at the very same scrap yard.

With that owner's retirement, he decided that he was willing to pass the project on to a younger man. And Alex was that guy.

“My father and I looked at it, and we knew we had to have it,” Alex said, referring to that fateful encounter in Naperville, in November 2007.

“We picked it up and brought it to its new and final home,” he said, still shaking his head over the sight of boxes full of parts and a sense of being overwhelmed by the task.

“We worked on it whenever we had free time. It was always a three-step project: Forward one step, then back two. We ended up putting new metal skin on three-quarters of the fuselage and tail. We completely rebuilt and recovered the wings.

“We Installed long-range, wing fuel tanks: The original tank sat right behind the pilot's head in the fuselage,” he continued. “And we refinished the instrument panel to factory original.”

The accident left the cowling – the nose of the fuselage – flattened and twisted. The Koerners had to bring in a very talented metalworker to handcraft a brand new cowling, that now looks as good, or maybe a little better, than the original. The final steps were polishing the aluminum skin to a high gloss and painting the red stripe on it.

After a series of tests, Alex's pet project was ready to fly last summer. It would be its first flight in 61 years.

“The airplane performed like it couldn't wait to break the surly bonds of earth and jump into the sky,” he said, quickly noting that he's now looking forward to a full season of showing off this piece of aviation history.

“After four years of work on that plane, I realized on that first flight that every hour was completely worth it,” he said.

Read more and Photos:

Beechcraft B100 King Air, Stinger Welding Inc., N499SW: Accident occurred December 19, 2012 in Libby, Montana

NTSB Identification: WPR13FA073 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 19, 2012 in Libby, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/04/2015
Aircraft: BEECH B100, registration: N499SW
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

When the flight was about 7 miles from the airport and approaching it from the south in dark night conditions, the noncertificated pilot canceled the instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. A police officer who was on patrol in the local area reported that he observed a twin-engine airplane come out of the clouds about 500 ft above ground level and then bank left over the town, which was north of the airport. The airplane then turned left and re-entered the clouds. The officer went to the airport to investigate, but he did not see the airplane. He reported that it was dark, but clear, at the airport and that he could see stars; there was snow on the ground. He also observed that the rotating beacon was illuminated but that the pilot-controlled runway lighting was not. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert notice, and the wreckage was located about 7 hours later 2 miles north of the airport. The airplane had collided with several trees on downsloping terrain; the debris path was about 290 ft long. Postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The town and airport were located within a sparsely populated area that had limited lighting conditions, which, along with the clouds and 35 percent moon illumination, would have restricted the pilot’s visual references. These conditions likely led to his being geographically disoriented (lost) and his subsequent failure to maintain sufficient altitude to clear terrain. Although the pilot did not possess a valid pilot’s certificate, a review of his logbooks indicated that he had considerable experience flying the airplane, usually while accompanied by another pilot, and that he had flown in both visual and IFR conditions. A previous student pilot medical certificate indicated that the pilot was color blind and listed limitations for flying at night and for using color signals. The pilot had applied for another student pilot certificate 2 months before the accident, but this certificate was deferred pending a medical review.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The noncertificated pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering to land in dark night conditions likely due to his geographic disorientation (lost). Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s improper decision to fly at night with a known visual limitation.


On December 19, 2012, about 0002 mountain standard time (MST), a Beech B100, N499SW, collided with trees near Libby, Montana. Stinger Welding was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The non-certificated pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed from impact forces. The cross-country personal flight departed Coolidge, Arizona, about 2025 MST with Libby as the planned destination. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the nearest official reporting station, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the pilot had been cleared for the GPS-A instrument approach procedure for the Libby Airport (S59), which was located 7 nm south-southeast of Libby. The pilot acknowledged that clearance at 2353. At 2359, the airplane target was about 7 miles south of the airport; the pilot reported the field in sight, and cancelled the IFR flight plan. Recorded radar data indicated that the airplane was at a Mode C altitude of 11,700 feet mean sea level at that time, and the beacon code changed from 6057 to 1200.

A track obtained from the FilghtAware internet site indicated a target at 2320 at 26,000 feet that was heading in the direction of Libby. The target began a descent at 2340:65. At 2359:10, and 11,700 feet mode C altitude, the beacon code changed to 1200. The target continued to descend, and crossed the Libby Airport, elevation 2,601 feet, at 0000:46 at 8,300 feet. The track continued north; the last target was at 0001:58 and a Mode C altitude of 5,000 feet; this was about 3 miles south of Libby and over 4 miles north of the airport.

A police officer reported that he observed a twin-engine airplane come out of the clouds over the city of Libby about 500 feet above ground level. It turned left, and went back into the clouds. The officer thought that it was probably going to the airport; he went to the airport to investigate, but observed no airplane. It was dark, but clear, at the airport with about 3 inches of snow on the ground, and he could see stars. He also observed that the rotating beacon was illuminated, but not the pilot controlled runway lighting. He listened for an airplane, but heard nothing.

When the pilot did not appear at a company function at midday on December 18, they reported him overdue. The Prescott, Arizona, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) issued an alert notice (ALNOT) at 1102 MST; the wreckage was located at 1835.


A review of FAA medical records revealed that the 54-year-old pilot first applied for an Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate in August 2004. On that Medical Certification Application, the pilot reported having 500 hours total time with 200 hours in the previous 6 months. No alcohol or medication usage was reported; however, the pilot was determined to be red/green color blind.

On June 9, 2010, the pilot reported on an application for an Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate that he had 925 hours total time with 150 hours in the previous 6 months. He was issued a third-class medical certificate that was deemed not valid for night flying or using color signal control.

On May 16, 2012, the pilot received a driving while intoxicated (DWI) citation in Libby.

The pilot reported on an application for an Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate dated October 16, 2012, that he had a total time of 980 hours with 235 hours logged in the previous 6 months. Item 52 for color vision indicated fail. This application reported a new diagnosis of hypertension, and use of medications to control it. This application reported yes in item 17 (v) for history of arrest of conviction for driving while intoxicated. The FAA deferred the issuance of the Student Pilot and Medical Certificate, indicating that they were investigating a failure to report within 60 days the alcohol-related motor vehicle action that occurred in Montana on May 16, 2012. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) reviewed copies of the pilot's logbooks beginning on March 21, 2010, and ending November 4, 2012. The entries indicated a total time of 978 hours during that time period. Time logged for the 90 days prior to the accident was 34 hours. The logbooks recorded numerous trips to Libby with three entries in the previous 90 days. The last solo flight endorsement, in a Cessna 340, was signed off by a certified flight instructor in August 2011. The logbook contained several entries for flights in instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions.

The IIC interviewed the chief pilot for the company, who was hired to fly the Stinger Company's Cessna CJ2 jet, which they purchased about 4 years earlier. The accident pilot owned the company, and would typically have the chief pilot arrange for a contract pilot to fly with him in the accident airplane. The chief pilot was standing by to fly the owner in the CJ2, but the owner never contacted him or requested another pilot for the accident airplane.

The IIC interviewed a contract pilot who flew with the accident pilot on December 16, 2012; this was their only flight together. It was a 6-hour round trip from Coolidge to La Paz, Mexico. The airplane was in perfect condition; everything was working, and they had no squawks. The pilot had paper charts, as well as charts on an iPad. The contract pilot felt that the pilot handled the airplane well, was competent, and understood all of the systems. The pilot coached the contract pilot on the systems installed including the autopilot. They used it on the outbound trip, and it operated properly. They used the approach mode into La Paz including vertical navigation. The pilot had no complaints of physical ailments or lack of sleep, and fuelled the airplane himself.

The passenger was a company employee who was not a pilot.


The airplane was a Beech B100, serial number BE89. The airplane's logbooks were not provided and examined. 

The IIC interviewed Stinger Welding's aviation maintenance chief, whose 4-year employment was terminated about 1 month after the accident. He stated that the airplane typically flew 200-400 hours a year; the company had flown it about 800 hours since its acquisition. The chief was not aware of any unresolved squawks as the owner usually had him take care of maintenance needs immediately. The airplane had been out of service for maintenance for a long time the previous year, having taken almost 7 months to get the propeller out of the shop due to the repair cost. The maintenance chief said that the owner kept the onboard Garmin GPS databases up to date. The airplane was operated under Part 91 CFR, and inspections being delayed were: the 6-year landing gear inspection was past due; the 12-month items were due; and the 3-year wing structure and wing bolt inspection was due.


The closest official weather observation station was Sandpoint, Idaho (KSZT), which was 46 nautical miles (nm) west of the accident site at an elevation of 2,131 feet mean sea level (msl). An aviation routine weather report (METAR) issued at 2355 MST stated: wind from 220 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 10 miles; sky 2,800 feet overcast; temperature 0/32 degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit; dew point -3/27 degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit; altimeter 29.72 inches of mercury. Illumination of the moon was 35 percent.


The Airport/ Facility Directory, Northwest Pacific U. S., indicated that Libby Airport had an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS)-A, which broadcast on frequency 118.575.

Libby runway 15/33 was 5,000 feet long and 75 feet wide; the runway surface was asphalt. The airport elevation was 2,601 feet.

The airport was located within the general confines of the Kootenai National Forest, and beyond the town of Libby; the area was lightly inhabited.


The IIC and investigators from the FAA and Honeywell examined the wreckage on site. Detailed examination notes are part of the public docket. The center of the debris field was about 2.5 miles north of the airport at an elevation of 4,180 feet.

A description of the debris field references debris from left and right of the centerline of the debris path; the debris was through trees on a slope that went downhill from left to right. The debris path was about 290 feet long along a magnetic bearing of 125 degrees. 

The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was a topped tree with branches on the ground below it and in the direction of the debris field. About 50 feet from the tree were composite shards, and a piece of the composite engine nacelle, which had a hole punched in it.

The next point of contact was a 4-foot-tall tree stump with shiny splinters on the stump. The lower portion of the tree had been displaced about 30 feet in the direction of the debris field with the top folded back toward the stump. Underneath the tree trunk were the nose gear and control surfaces followed by wing pieces.

One engine and propeller with all four blades attached was about 50 feet from the stump, and on the right side of the debris path. This was later determined to be the right engine. Next on the left side of the debris path was the outboard half of one propeller blade; another propeller blade was about 10 feet further into the debris field.

Midway into the debris field were several trees with sheet metal wrapped around them. Near the midpoint of the debris field, a portion of the instrument panel had imbedded into a tree about 15 feet above the ground. The wiring bundle hung down the tree trunk to ground level. To the left of the instrument panel was one of the largest pieces of wreckage. This piece contained the left and right horizontal stabilizers, vertical stabilizer, and part of one wing with the landing gear strut attached. The rudder separated, but was a few feet left of this piece.

Next in the debris field was a 6- by 8-foot piece of twisted metal, which contained the throttle quadrant.

About 100 feet right of the debris path centerline and downhill from the throttle quadrant was a 10-foot section of the aft cabin. This section was connected by steel cables and wires to a 4- by 7-foot piece of twisted metal.

The furthest large piece of wreckage was the second engine; this was later determined to be the left engine. The left propeller hub with two blades attached had separated from the engine; the other two blades were located earlier within the debris field.


The Forensic Science Division, Department of Justice, State of Montana, completed an autopsy, and determined that the cause of death was blunt force injuries.

The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.

Analysis of the specimens indicated no carbon monoxide detected in blood (cavity), no test performed for cyanide, no ethanol detected in muscle or kidney, and no findings for tested drugs.


The IIC and investigators from the FAA, Textron Aviation, and Honeywell examined the wreckage at Avtech, Kent, Washington, on February 13, 2013.

Detailed examination notes are part of the public docket. Investigators observed no mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the airframe or engines.

The engines had been modified from Honeywell models to National Flight Services, INC., models per a supplemental type certificate (STC SE002292AT), and installed in the airplane per STC SA00856AT.

The left engine was TPE331-6-511B, serial number P-27185C based on a Beechcraft data tag on the engine. The starter/generator input shaft fractured and separated; the fracture surface was angular and twisted.

No metallic debris was adhering to the engine chip detector.

The engine inlet fractured and separated from the engine gearcase housing. Earthen debris was observed on the first stage compressor impeller. Vanes of the first stage impeller were bent opposite the direction of rotation.

Overall, the compressor case and plenum displayed crush damage. Upon removal of the airframe exhaust, investigators observed earthen debris within the engine exhaust. There was a fine layer of dried mud/earthen debris on the forward suction side of the third stage turbine blades. Investigators observed metal spray deposits on the third stage turbine stator vanes.

All four propeller blades exhibited leading edge damage; a section of one blade was not recovered with the aircraft wreckage, but this blade's tip was recovered.

The right engine was a TPE331-6-511B, serial number P27190C. 

Investigators observed rotational scoring in multiple locations on the propeller shaft. The first stage compressor impeller displayed tearing and battering damage; some vanes were bent opposite the direction of rotation. Investigators observed wood debris in the engine inlet area.

Investigators observed metal spray deposits noted on the suction side of the third stage turbine stator vanes.

All four of the right propeller's blades displayed leading edge damage and chordwise scoring. One tip fractured and separated; it was not recovered. All blades bent aft at midspan; they exhibited s-bending and tip curling.

Stinger Welding employees were told that their jobs in Libby would be eliminated soon, the company’s vice president has been relieved of his day-to-day duties, and a financial group temporarily running the company’s operations is trying to determine the market value of Stinger’s remaining assets.

Those were the latest signs that the embattled bridge-building company is getting ready to close its Libby branch and go back to Arizona.

Several parties with ties to Stinger Welding held a meeting Tuesday to discuss the possibility that the Libby branch would close by the end of February.

The meeting involved John W. Boyd, the senior managing partner of MCA Financial Group in Phoenix, Thomas Fisher, president of Fisher Sand & Gravel, Paul Rumelhart and Brigid Burke of the Kootenai River Development Council, Port Authority Chairman Jim Mayo and Director John Konzen.

“It’s a tough, fluid situation,” said John W. Boyd, the senior managing partner of MCA Financial Group in Phoenix, which has been managing Stinger since it entered receivership Jan. 18.

“(Stinger) is an active case. We’re still trying to educate ourselves about its assets,” Boyd said, stopping short of saying the company that has been building steel bridge structures in Libby is on the cusp of closure.

However, The Western News has learned that Steve Patrick, Stinger Vice President of Northwest Operations has been paid through Friday (today), and the company will close in the coming weeks.

“Yes, I have been paid through Friday,” Patrick said Thursday. And, while Patrick would not comment on whether he had a job beyond Friday, Boyd did.

“He has been paid,” Boyd said. “His job will be different (after Friday). If he is needed, it will be on a consultant basis.”

Before Patrick’s departure, he conducted a meeting of employees in which he informed workers of the demise of the Libby branch, stating there are job offers for any employee who wanted to make the move to the company’s other plant in Coolidge, Ariz.

One welder, Tyler Goff, corroborated the meeting in which employees were offered Arizona jobs, but he said he was not entertaining the offer.

“I have a wife and family here,” Goff said. “No, I don’t think so. No, not now. Not really. I got places I can go.”

Goff, who has been at Stinger since 2010, said he learned welding for the Stinger job through the Job Corps.

“I really wish it would stay open, but it doesn’t sound like it,” Goff said.

Goff has done carpentry and tile work, and he thinks he will find work when Stinger closes.

“I’ve done other stuff. I’ll find something here in Montana,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lincoln County Presiding Commissioner Tony Berget, who is privileged to information about Stinger, advised fellow commissioners about the proceedings. 

“You already know Stinger is in receivership,” Berget said. “Apparently, in two to three weeks, we are told it will close. We’re told a Montana contract awarded to Stinger has already been moved to the Arizona facility.

“We don’t know everything, but apparently, even the facility in Arizona is in jeopardy.”

Lincoln County, through the Port Authority, has invested $3.2 million in the facility where Stinger has been building its steel spans and bridges since 2010.

Virginia Sloan, a spokeswoman for Sen. Jon Tester’s office, expressed disappointment in the pending closure.

“From our standpoint, we’re extremely disappointed it didn’t work out,” Sloan said.

Libby Mayor Doug Roll said the demise of Stinger will lead to criticism, but he said all business ventures are a risk.

“We’ll probably take some criticism for this, but what do you tell a company when it comes offering jobs? No, we don’t want you because you might fail,” Roll said. “I don’t think so.”

Stinger and the Port Authority, through Rumelhart and the Kootenai River Development Council, have had a contentious four-year relationship. Initially, they were partners in bringing Stinger to Libby, but in the last year, that relationship has been strained culminating in a lawsuit in October.

Then in December, the face of Stinger, CEO Carl Douglas, was killed in a plane crash on nearby Swede Mountain.

Stinger also has been named in federal liens for delinquent taxes.

More recently, Patrick has written a guest editorial that appeared in another newspaper and conducted an interview with a Flathead County publication that was critical of Lincoln County’s lack of support for Stinger.


NTSB Identification: WPR13FA073
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, December 18, 2012 in Libby, MT
Aircraft: BEECH B100, registration: N499SW
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 18, 2012, about 0002 mountain standard time (MST), a Beech B100, N499SW, collided with trees at Libby, Montana. Stinger Welding was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The noncertificated pilot and one passenger sustained fatal injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage from impact forces. The cross-country personal flight departed Coolidge, Arizona, about 2025 MST on December 17th, with Libby as the planned destination. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the nearest official reporting station of Sandpoint, Idaho, 264 degrees at 46 miles, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the pilot had been cleared for the GPS-A instrument approach procedure for the Libby Airport. The clearance had a crossing restriction of 10,700 feet at the PACCE intersection, which was the initial approach fix for the GPS-A approach. The pilot acknowledged that clearance at 2353. At 2359, the airplane target was about 7 miles south of the airport; the pilot reported the field in sight, and cancelled the IFR flight plan.

A police officer reported that he observed an airplane fly over the city of Libby, which was north of the airport; the airplane then turned toward the airport. The officer went to the airport to investigate, but observed no airplane. He noted that it was foggy in town, but the airport was clear. He also observed that the rotating beacon was illuminated, but not the pilot controlled runway lighting.

When the pilot did not appear at a company function at midday on December 18, they reported him overdue. The Prescott, Arizona, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) issued an alert notice (ALNOT) at 1102 MST; the wreckage was located at 1835.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) and investigators from the FAA and Honeywell examined the wreckage on site. A description of the debris field references debris from left and right of the centerline of the debris path. The debris was through trees on a slope that went downhill from left to right.

The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was a topped tree with branches on the ground below it and in the direction of the debris field. About 50 feet from the tree were composite shards, and a piece of the composite engine nacelle, which had a hole punched in it.

The next point of contact was a 4-foot tree stump with shiny splinters on the stump. The lower portion of the tree had been displaced about 30 feet in the direction of the debris field with the top folded back toward the stump. Underneath the tree trunk were the nose gear and a couple of control surfaces followed by wing pieces.

One engine with the propeller attached was about 50 feet from the stump, and on the right side of the debris path. Next on the left side of the debris path was the outboard half of one propeller blade; another propeller blade was about 10 feet further into the debris field.

Midway into the debris field were several trees with sheet metal wrapped around them. Near the midpoint of the debris field, a portion of the instrument panel had imbedded into a tree about 15 feet above the ground. The wiring bundle hung down the tree trunk to ground level. To the left of the instrument panel was one of the largest pieces of wreckage. This piece contained the left and right horizontal stabilizers, vertical stabilizer, and part of one wing with the landing gear strut attached. The rudder separated, but was a few feet left of this piece.

Next in the debris field was a 6- by 8-foot piece of twisted metal, which contained the throttle quadrant.

About 100 feet right of the debris path centerline and downhill from the throttle quadrant was a 10-foot section of the aft cabin. This section was connected by steel cables and wires to a 4- by 7-foot piece of twisted metal.

The furthest large piece of wreckage was the second engine; the propeller hub with two blades attached had separated.