Thursday, March 07, 2013

New private jet policy traps $600m abroad

Individuals and corporates in Nigeria, seeking to purchase private aircraft may lose as much as $600 million in non-refundable deposits to foreign manufacturers in the weeks to come, as the aviation ministry’s review of private aircraft operations may cause buyers to miss payment deadlines and forfeit advance payments.

The aviation ministry is currently  reviewing the policy on the importation, operation and ownership of private jets in the country, with a view to ensuring proper registration, maintenance and monitoring of such aircraft.

Some industry watchers say there is a possibility that this will result in an outright ban on private aircraft in the country.

The policy review is said to have slowed down the approval of applicants seeking to purchase private jets, and BusinessDay learnt that there are over 60 pending applications  at the Federal Ministry of Aviation, which may be affected, since approvals are now on hold due to the anticipated policy.

For a private jet that is worth $50m, a buyer is expected to deposit between $10 million and $12million with the manufacturer, while the balance is expected to be paid within 60 to 70 days.

“Many of the agents have deposited funds with companies in countries such as South Africa and the United States of America (USA), but we expect government to be up and doing in the review of the policy which is causing the long delays,” one operator said.

“For instance, after 60 days, the non-refundable fee is lost to the manufacturers or the company and the jet might be sold to other interested parties,” an industry source told BusinessDay, adding that deposits are normally forfeited when there are delays in payment of the balance.

Industry operators say the policy review was prompted by the practice by private jet owners in Nigeria, of registering their aircraft in foreign countries in a bid to prevent the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) from ascertaining their ownership and monitoring their movements and maintenance. The aviation ministry, it is said, is particular about aircraft maintenance, with a view to raising aviation safety standards in the country.

As part of the policy review, the  aviation ministry is also working to domesticate sections of the Chicago Convention, an international aviation protocol on mobile equipment acquisition, which has to do with documentation, supervision and monitoring of aircraft.

The current policy does not permit the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) the regulatory agency, to monitor the movement and operations of about 150 private jets in the country.

Also, many of the private jets come with foreign registration numbers which prevent the NCAA from questioning suspicious movements or querying the jets’ maintenance.

Some analysts also expressed fears that many of the owners attempt to hide their identities through foreign registration, adding that “one of the things the ministry may be looking at reviewing is how to still put the maintenance structure and surveillance under the country’s civil aviation regulations.

“We are still working on the new policy but a lot of progress had been made. Yes, we are awaiting the new policy before further approvals are granted”, Joe Obi, special adviser to Aviation Minister on media said.

Speaking on the development, Noggie  Meggison, managing director of Jedair said “the move by the “ministry is a good one and might just be to fine-tune the policy and not an outright ban”.

Meggison said it is not proper that currently, the NCAA does not have full control of about 150 private jets in Nigeria, adding that  the Chicago Convention on mobile equipment gives Nigeria the power to regulate it. There is a need to know what is on board a jet, there is need to know who is who, there is need for NCAA to control for instance, their maintenance and how they operate within Nigeria.

“You cannot just come to Nigeria with foreign registration on the jet and say you are not answerable to the NCAA. So I think the ministry is trying to review the policy in order to balance and get better control of the system. It is a matter of just regulating the system”, he said.

On those who have paid non-refundable fees, Meggison observed that there are no hard and fast rules, adding that they should have waited to get the approval from the ministry before paying such money.

“This is a regulated sector and one needs ministerial approval to bring in an aircraft, they need to wait on the system”, he said.

John Ojikutu, a retired airport commandant said there are some items that need to be reviewed or expunged, even from the current regulations, as they relate to private jet registration.

About 80 per cent of the private jets carry foreign registration and most of them are registered in South Africa, the United States and some European countries. This means that many are being flown and maintained by expatriates.

“I think the registration issue will also be one of the areas to be reviewed because many of the jets are flown in Nigeria by expatriates and are not accountable to the NCAA. When the policy is reviewed and there is enforcement, it will limit the number of expatriates and hidden issues with private jets in Nigeria”, an analyst said.

City of Ankeny Seeking Applicants for Polk County Aviation Authority Board: Ankeny Regional Airport (KIKV), Iowa

The city has one open seat, which term expires December 31, 2013.

From a media release by the city of Ankeny:

The city of Ankeny seeks applicants for an open position on the Board of Directors of the Polk County Aviation Authority. The Board meets the first Thursday after the first Monday of each month. The seven-member board is comprised of three Polk County, two Ankeny, one Bondurant and one Altoona representative. They oversee the operation and budget of the Ankeny Regional Airport.

The city has one open seat, which term expires December 31, 2013. Applicants must be a resident of Ankeny. Applicants are not required to have an aviation background. This is a volunteer position.

Interested applicants should complete an application which can be found on the City website.


5 suspicious packages found at NORAD base in Colorado

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.—NORAD headquarters in Colorado have been evacuated after five suspicious packages were found, but the command's control room team was working at a backup location several miles away at the time.

Officials say employees became suspicious of the packages Thursday because something looked "out of place." They declined to elaborate.

No biological, chemical or radiological agents have been found. Other tests are under way.

About 1,500 people have been evacuated from the building on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The building is also headquarters for U.S. Northern Command.

NORAD is short for North American Aerospace Defense Command. The joint U.S.-Canadian command defends the skies over both nations.

A backup control room in Cheyenne Mountain is in use because of renovations at the headquarters building.


General Civil Aviation Authority issues regulations for light aircraft in UAE: Light Sport Aircraft is a growing sector offering aviation enthusiasts access to flight

Abu Dhabi: The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), under Federal decree, announced on Wednesday a regulation for Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) in the UAE.

The LSA is a growing general aviation sector offering aviation enthusiasts access to flight, the statement showed.“LSA are light, non-complex aircraft that meet specific requirements and are authorized to operate along with an approved flying club membership,” according to GCAA.

GCAA said that in terms of geographical size, the UAE airspace is one of the busiest in the world. “The LSA implementation is conscious of the security, commercial and general aviation interests and future release of airspace and cross country routing for general aviation is planned,” said GCAA. The regulation will be published into a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) that will remain open for 12 months allowing for comment and NPA will provide clear expectations for everyone to follow to ensure safety, security and standardization in UAE skies.

The GCAA vision is to achieve safe, secure and sustainable general aviation community within the UAE. 


Letter of the Day (March 7): Airplane security - Knives aside, the Transportation Security Administration is asking for trouble with rules' change

Ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and golf clubs. Seriously? Ever since checked baggage fees were implemented by airlines, passengers are trying to bring more and more items into the cabin (“TSA gives OK to carry small knives on plane,” March 6).

Coupled with airlines reducing capacity to fill planes, the aisles have become a battle zone, with everyone trying to cram their stuff into the overhead bins. Perhaps someone from the Transportation Security Administration should venture beyond the gate and actually get on an airplane to see what’s happening in the real world.

MARC N. BURTON, Minneapolis


Family disappointed wrongful death lawsuit against city dismissed: Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (KCLT), Charlotte, North Carolina


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Lawyers and the family of Delvonte Tisdale are disappointed in a judge's decision that could finally put an end to a case that tried to raise major questions about airport security. 

 "I just felt like it was premature. We filed this lawsuit to get answers, but we've never had them and these answers are important to national security," said Chris Chestnut, the attorney for Tisdale's family.

Eyewitness News first reported in 2010 that Tisdale's body was found near a Boston airport.

Detectives believe the 16-year-old hid in the wheel well of a US Airways plane that flew out of Charlotte-Douglas, and his body fell out when the pilot let down the landing gear.

"They're blaming Tisdale for his own death and no one knows how he got on the plane," Chestnut said.

Tisdale's family raised questions about how a teenager was able to sneak past security and get into that wheel well.

His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Charlotte, which runs the airport, and against US Airways.

A judge threw out the suits Wednesday.

The attorney for Tisdale's family said that still leaves unanswered questions about airport security.

"The citizens of Charlotte, the air travelers that are coming through Charlotte and the citizens of America deserve answers. Our safety depends on it," Chestnut said.

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1time founders launch new budget airline: report

The airline, Skywise, sought to cut the costs of flying domestically by as much as 20 percent, its financial director Glenn Orsmond told the Business Day newspaper.

Orsmond is the former founding director of the airline, 1time, which went into provisional liquidation in November. Skywise is also headed by former 1time CEO Rodney James, with Michael Kaminski, Johan Borstlap and Wayne Duvenage.

The newspaper reported that the airline was granted an air service license on Monday, and now had to embark on the process of getting an air operator certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Orsmond reportedly dismissed claims by other domestic carriers that there was a capacity oversupply.

When Fastjet, the subsidiary of London-based Lonrho, applied to take over 1time's air service licence, SA Airways subsidiary Mango objected, and said this would threaten the sector's profitability, citing the failure of Velvet Sky and 1time.

However, Orsmond said there was "an oversupply of expensive seats".

"If you bring down prices you will find the demand," he told Business Day.

James told the newspaper Skywise planned to lease two Boeing 737-300s for its initial start service and would offer three daily flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Plans were also afoot to add two more planes later to service Durban, and the Port Elizabeth-East London routes.

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All-women crew to fly Air India flights

Air India will operate several all-women crew flights to commemorate International Women’s Day.

The airline on March 8 will operate an all-women crew, early morning direct flight (AI 804) from Bangalore to Delhi.

Bangalore-based Captain V Roopa will be in command along with the Captain Niranjana Ashok, the co-pilot on the Airbus A 319 flight. They will be supported by Rita Gurang as the cabin-in-charge and air hostesses, Madonna D’Souza, Chandni Bhagat and Rajni.

The same crew will operate the return flight from Delhi, IA 506, at 9.45 am and land in Bangalore at 12.30 pm.


Montserrat to host air accident investigation training workshop

BRADES, Montserrat (GIU) -- Montserrat is preparing to host a two-day air accident investigation workshop on 14-15 March, according to the Governor’s Office.

Head of the Governor’s Office, Mark Turner confirmed on Wednesday that about 30 members of fire, police senior government officials, as well as representatives from SVG Air, Fly Montserrat, the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority and the Governor’s Office are to be a part of the training.

The workshop is being delivered by senior investigators from the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and designed to provide key Overseas Territories’ personnel with the skills and knowledge necessary to manage an aircraft investigation during the first 48 hours of an incident.

According to Tom Regan of the Governor’s Office, the course will look at best practices and will also consider lessons learnt from the islands’ response to aviation incidents in 2012.

A similar workshop will be delivered in the British Virgin Islands during the following week.

Warning about job losses is more helicopter noise: Letters to the Editor for Thursday, March 7, 2013

Re "Let's encourage makers of helicopters -- and jobs" (March 1):

The recent letter opposing helicopter noise relief is off the mark. Unlike planes, which are required to fly at least 1,000 feet above the ground, helicopter pilots fly as low as they want. Helicopters cause more noise than planes, and there are more helicopter flights than ever.

Helicopter routes have been created throughout the region. The routes were established without any public notice or opportunity for input. People who are unaffected by helicopter noise are in no position to judge the impact on others.

The FAA does not prohibit helicopters from flying higher, in the same airspace as planes. Finally, nothing residents are requesting will cost jobs. All we ask is that the FAA require helicopter pilots do what it and the helicopter industry's own noise-abatement program already recommend -- fly higher.

-- John Bailey, Torrance


Let's encourage makers of helicopters -- and jobs

Re "Regulate helicopter flight paths" (Letters, Feb. 15):
The city of Torrance and its residents should be happy to have an employer like Robinson Helicopter Co. Robinson is the largest manufacturer of civil helicopters. Jobs should be concern No. 1 in this economy. The Federal Aviation Administration controls the airspace, and we have way too much restricted airspace in Southern California.

-- Greg Badum, Newport Beach


Safety Board Releases Details of Boeing Battery Fire: WSJ

United States air-safety investigators documented the extensive damage and broken components found inside a Boeing Co. 787 battery after it erupted in flames two months ago, but their report didn't resolve the central mystery of precisely what caused the blaze.

The National Transportation Safety Board's update Thursday provided some new details about how a short-circuit that began in a single cell spread to seven other cells and ended up in a uncontrollable thermal reaction that quickly reached about 500 degrees Fahrenheit, burning through the battery's metal container. The January fire occurred on a Japan Airlines Co. 787 Dreamliner parked at a gate in Boston, without any passengers.

The 38-page report also indicated that investigators basically determined that various electronic components connected to the battery—ranging from a charging unit to a sophisticated surge protector—were intact and didn't exhibit any failures or defects. Tests after the fire showed those components generally worked as expected, according to the report.

The findings are likely to focus more public attention on whether some type of internal battery defect of problem could have prompted the sequence of events that led to the fire. But as it has in the past, the safety board stopped short of indicating whether an external or internal cause was responsible.

The fire and smoke from the event were so intense that firefighters couldn't see even a few inches in front of themselves when they entered the electronics bay containing the burning battery, the report said. A fire captain on the scene told investigators that the battery was "hissing loudly and liquid was flowing down the sides of the battery case" before it "exploded."

As expected, much of the report was devoted to an examination of the Federal Aviation Administration's procedures and its oversight of Boeing tests used to certify the safety of the 787's batteries. The safety board previously challenged the validity of the engineering assumptions and risk analyses the FAA and the Chicago plane maker initially relied on to demonstrate the safety of the batteries manufactured by Japan's GS Yuasa Corp.

Before certification of the 787, Boeing's hazard assessment deemed that a battery fire would be a "catastrophic" event that could cause the loss of an aircraft, according to the report. But the company determined that overcharging was the "only known failure mode" that could result in such an outcome.

The NTSB previously determine that the Japan Airlines battery wasn't overcharged before it caught fire.

In conjunction with the FAA, Boeing years ago determined that redundant safety systems, many of which would be installed specifically to prevent battery overcharging, meant the likelihood of a battery fire was "extremely improbable." Before the FAA approved the plane to carry passengers, the agency agreed with Boeing's conclusion that the chance of a 787 lithium-ion battery fire was less than one in a billion flight hours, Thursday's report said.

The report also said that all of the tests initially to determine the safety of the 787's battery system were conducted by Boeing or its subcontractors and were reviewed by Boeing engineers, along with company employees designated to serve as the FAA's representatives.

The FAA previously said it approved the type of testing that was done, helped determine standards for passing those tests and was kept informed about Boeing's risk assessments.

Before the world-wide fleet of Dreamliners was grounded, the planes had flown in service for about 50,000 flight hours and two of them experienced burning batteries. The second plane to experience a batter incident was a 787 operated by All Nippon Airways Co. that made an emergency landing on a flight in Japan on January 17.

Investigators continue to review manufacturing and quality-control issues related to the batteries, Thursday's report said. The safety board, among other priorities, is paying "particular attention to the coordination of responsibility and authority of the contractors and subcontractors" that worked on the plane's battery system.

With the 787's grounding, resulting in international investigations and recertification efforts under way simultaneously, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said "it is essential to provide the aviation community, policy makers and the public with the factual information we are developing,"

Along with the report, Mr. Hersman announced that the board will convene a pair of public sessions next month to delve deeper into lithium-ion issues. A forum in mid-April is intended to concentrate on lithium-ion battery technology and transportation safety, while a later hearing will focus on the design and FAA approval of the 787's battery system.

Five-year capital improvements plan must be submitted to Federal Aviation Administration by April 1: Eastern Oregon Regional Airport at Pendleton (KPDT)

MARTINSBURG - Members of the Eastern Regional Airport Authority unanimously approved at their meeting Tuesday a five-year capital improvements plan that must be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for review and approval.

The Airport Authority does a CIP every year, updating it in five-year intervals, Airport Manager Bill Walkup said.

"We submit our plan and then the FAA responds," he said. "They usually give us what we want, but they prioritize projects differently."

In the Airport Authority's CIP for the 2013-14 fiscal year, $134,210 for rehabilitating the airport's taxiways is the top priority, and $15,790 for acquiring miscellaneous land is number two.

Miscellaneous land refers to "through-the-fence" properties, Walkup explained. Through the fence is the term used to describe private property that abuts the airport's property with direct access to the airport's property.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FAA wants through-the-fence properties acquired by general aviation airports like Eastern Regional for security reasons.

The Airport Authority recently completed the purchase of a through-the-fence property, which was funded with FAA Airport Improvement Program grants over three years.

"There are two existing through-the-fence properties that remain to be purchased," Walkup said.

In the 2014-15 and 2015-16 fiscal years, the Airport Authority's CIP lists $150,000 each year for miscellaneous land acquisitions.

Also in the 2015-16 fiscal year is $72,000 for a noise compatibility study. The study would be for the C-17 Globemaster transport planes that will replace the 167th Airlift Wing's C-5 Galaxy transports beginning in late 2014.

In the 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal years, the Airport Authority's CIP calls for spending $150,000 each year on rehabilitating taxiways.

The dollar amounts represent 90 percent of the FAA grants, Walkup said. Usually, the Airport Authority must come up with a 10 percent local matching grant, he said.

In the past couple of years, the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission has provided the 10 percent local match, he said. And in some years, the FAA share was 95 percent, he said, reducing the local match to 5 percent.

Walkup said there have been some years when the Airport Authority had to get the local match from Martinsburg and Berkeley County.

The CIP must be submitted to the FAA by April 1, he said. He expects the FAA to return its recommendations by the first part of May.

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Presidio Lely International (T77), Presidio, Texas: Airport gets Federal Aviation Administration-approved weather system

PRESIDIO – Pilots landing and departing from Presidio Lely International Airport now have a new tool at their disposal. The Federal Aviation Administration on February 27 inspected and commissioned an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) at the county airfield.

The weather system generates real time weather reports every minute, making those reports available to airport personnel and pilots.

“Pilots and interested parties may access the data 24 hours per day via telephone or VHF radio frequency,” Presidio County Airports Manager Chase Snodgrass said this week via email.

In addition, the Presidio AWOS will be linked digitally to the National Weather Service, “providing real time weather reporting for south Presidio County, and much improved weather forecasting for our area,” said Snodgrass.

He added that the installation of the weather system has the potential to increase medical and tourism flight access to the airport by enabling pilots to improve their preflight planning.

The move, Snodgrass said, “will enable medical life saving flights and other arrivals during times when meteorological conditions have previously prevented access using visual flight rules alone.”

To hear current weather conditions in Presidio, call 432.229.4805 or tune in by VHF radio frequency 118.0.

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Bombardier unveils high-stakes CSeries jetliner

(Reuters) - Canada's Bombardier Inc took the wraps off its $3.4 billion challenge to industry leaders Boeing and Airbus on Thursday, announcing "solid progress" on the development program for its largest plane to date.

Bombardier's single-aisle CSeries planes, now promised with seating for up to 160 passengers, represent the company's attempt to break into the lower end of a 100- to 200-seat marketplace heavily defended by its U.S. and European rivals.

China and Russia are also preparing to challenge the trans-Atlantic duopoly over the largest segment of the global jet market, valued at $2 trillion at list prices over the next 20 years.

"The CSeries aircraft program is making solid progress, having met a number of key milestones over the last few months," Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, said in a statement.

"We are now focusing on three key areas that will lead to our safety-of-flight permit: static airframe testing, building of flight test vehicles and on-the-ground testing."

Bombardier, based in Montreal, is the world's fourth-largest plane maker, with a stable that includes regional jets and propeller planes as well as a range of executive aircraft.

It lifted a large screen at the end of a glitzy slide presentation to show off the new plane to analysts and reporters at its Mirabel facility near Montreal, and said it was transitioning to flight testing ahead of a first flight scheduled by the end of June.

Bathed in blue light, the white and gray jet had a red and white nose, its two Pratt & Whitney engines spinning gently.

"It's not a paper airplane, it's a real airplane," Arcamone said. It's not a re-engined aircraft we are putting into the market ... I can tell you we are a very serious contender."

At list prices, the 110-seat CS100 costs $62 million and the 130-seat CS300 costs $71 million. In contrast, the Boeing 737 MAX costs $82 million and Airbus' A319 NEO costs $88.8 million.

Bombardier on Thursday said it would also offer a CS300 with an option for up to 160 seats, either as an initial order or as a retrofitted plane.

"The CSeries aircraft is a game-changer in a changing economic environment, and following keen customer interest and market trends, we have enhanced the productivity of the CS300 aircraft further by offering the extra capacity seating option," Arcamone said.

A company statement said Bombardier had 148 firm orders for the aircraft as of Dec. 31, but Arcamone said that number was now "close to 180".

A big buyer is Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa, the first airline to put in a firm order.

That compares with 1,064 orders for Boeing's competing 737 MAX and more than 1,440 for Airbus' NEO family, although only a small fraction of those orders is for the smaller models that compete directly with the CSeries.

Bombardier's slowly growing order book has raised concerns that the company does not have the appetite to lure customers with deep discounts, as Boeing and Airbus do, or provide financing offers and walk-away rights.

Bombardier Chief Executive Pierre Beaudoin has said he does not need to provide discounts, arguing the CSeries offers meaningful competitive advantages to airlines.

The CSeries claims a 15 percent cash operating cost advantage and 20 percent fuel burn advantage over the Boeing and Airbus models. Its airframe is lighter.

It uses conventional batteries rather than the lithium ion batteries that have caused so many troubles for Boeing's Dreamliner plane. "We are very glad about that decision," Arcamone said.

Airbus and Boeing have moved to defend their strong market shares by adding fuel-saving engines similar to those on the CSeries to their own best-selling models.

That is a draw for airlines preferring to stick with existing suppliers, whose planes pilots are already certified to fly and where spare parts are plentiful. Numerous repair stations are already qualified to service the competing jets.

Bombardier, which says it expects orders for the CSeries to pick up once the aircraft has made its maiden flight, has targeted 300 firm orders by mid-2014, when the jet enters service. It is seen as an ambitious launch schedule, with little room for error.


Lake in the Hills running hangar incentive program again

LAKE IN THE HILLS – With hopes of attracting more people to store their airplanes at the village’s airport, Lake in the Hills officials brought back the T-hangar incentive program.

Under the incentive plan, any current airport tenant would receive a $294.80 lease credit for referring a new tenant who enters into a one-year lease.

The new tenant also would have the first three months of the lease rent-free and a 10-cents-a-gallon reduction on fuel bought at the airport for 12 months.

The program began Friday and runs through Aug. 31.

Filling one hangar space would result in a $1,665 gain for the village, according to a memo from Director of Public Works Fred Mullard to the Village Board.

“If we can bring more people in, even if it means one additional aircraft, it brings in additional revenue for us,” Mullard said.

When the village ran the incentive program last year, it had interest from four possible tenants. Three accepted a one-year lease, but one person backed out. Meanwhile, two other tenants left the hangars.

Eight of the 10 hangar spots in the east hangar now are rented.

Village officials last year opened the hangars for non-aeronautical storage, such as RVs, boats, motorcycles, automobiles, snowmobiles, appliances and furniture.

All of the 10-foot-by-30 spaces in the west T-hangar are filled, and some of the 5-foot-by-10-foot and 10-by-10 spaces are occupied.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, however, requires requests to store aeronautical equipment receive priority in the hangars. If necessary, the village can give a 30-day notice to terminate a lease for nonaeronautical storage to accommodate aircraft.

“Because we receive federal money for our improvement program, our priority needs to be ... aviation-related purposes,” Mullard said.

Mullard added that offering the incentive program helps the village stay competitive with other airports.

“Not everyone owns an aircraft, people who used to own aircraft found they no longer could afford to own an aircraft,” Mullard said. “There’s not as many customers as there used to be.”

If more people decide to store airplanes at the airport and see what it has to offer, they may decide to stay long term, Mullard said.

"Our whole objective here is to ensure the airport stays busy in terms of its viability,” Mullard said.


Aviation Enthusiasts From Manitoba Enjoyed Month-Long Stay Flying In And Around Osoyoos

Derek Jenkins (left) stands in front of his Piper Cherokee aircraft, built in 1964, while Ken Pierce stands in front of his Cessna 182, built in 1973, at the Osoyoos Airport late last week. The two Manitobans, who are members of the Shoal Lake Flying Club, spent a month in Osoyoos taking day trips in and around the Okanagan Valley along with two other club members.
 Photo by Keith Lacey. 

If you think Osoyoos and the Okanagan Valley is beautiful to look at from the ground, you should see it from the sky, say Ken Pierce and Derek Jenkins. 

The longtime friends and aviators were two of four members of the Shoal Lake Flying Club from northern Manitoba who spent the past month in Osoyoos flying their airplanes in and around the Okanagan Valley.

They were joined by fellow Shoal Lake Flying Club members Bruce McEwing and Roland Kuip.

Three of the four avid aviators brought their wives for the month-long stay in Osoyoos. They all stayed at the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa.

They ended up coming to Osoyoos after Pierce and his wife spent a week here last spring on vacation.

“I started researching places to consider visiting about a year ago as a few of us from the club wanted to do some mountain flying,” said Pierce. “We came out last March and spent a wonderful week here and really liked Osoyoos a lot.

“I told the guys at the club about this place and how it would be perfect for what we were looking for and we arranged the trip over the past few months.”

During their four-week stay in Osoyoos, the Manitobans went on more than a dozen day trips flying all across the Okanagan Valley.

“We had day trips to Penticton, Enderby, Salmon Arm, Castelgar, Christina Lake … basically any small town in the area that had a landing strip,” said Jenkins.

Pierce and his wife flew into the small airport in Osoyoos after spending an extended vacation flying in and around Mexico, Arizona and California.

When they’re not pursuing their favourite hobby, Pierce is a beef cattle producer, while Jenkins is a grain farmer.

Pierce owns a single engine Cessna 182, built in 1973, while Jenkins owns a Piper Cherokee, built in 1964.

Mountain flying presents numerous challenges, but the views and scenery from the cockpit of a small airplane were spectacular during their entire visit, said Jenkins.

“Because you’re dealing with so many mountains, you have to follow different flying procedures and the approaches into the runways are all different than what we’re used to in the Prairies,” he said. “And when you’re involved in mountain flying, you use the valleys as your guide and there are some pretty awesome views from those valleys in and around the mountain passes.”

Because they had such a great time, all four aviators plan on returning to Osoyoos late next winter or early spring for a return visit and they plan on bringing more friends and airplanes, said Pierce.

“We’re also members of a couple of other flying clubs in Manitoba and I plan on telling everyone I know about our trip and how much we enjoyed it and hopefully we’ll be coming back next year with a few more people and a few more planes,” he said.

“We had a wonderful month up here and I’m really looking forward to coming back next year,” said Jenkins. 

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Oconee County, South Carolina: Company develops new aircraft kit

Just Aircraft recently completed its newest kit and testing to produce its second recreational plane, the SuperStol (above), in Oconee County. 


Oconee County-based Just Aircraft recently completed flight testing for its second recreational plane.

The Walhalla company now offers a kit to produce the SuperStol. Its other kit is for the Highlander.

Just Aircraft produces kits that a buyer can assemble into a recreational airplane. The company offers customers a factory build program where they can construct their plane in the factory, or the company will build the plane to the customers’ specifications. 

It has now sold more than 300 kits to customers throughout the country, as well as internationally, said Harry Berndt, Just Aircraft Co.’s business manager.

About 30% of the kits are exported around the world to Australia, England, France, Spain, New Zealand, Canada and Ecuador, among other places.

The SuperStol is designed as a backcountry plane. It features a slatted, metal wing, enabling it to take off and land with less than 150 feet.

It is also designed to enhance slow-flight capabilities, while also increasing cruise speed. It can cruise at 110 mph and land at 32 mph in non-runway areas.

“It is perfect for backcountry conditions and for making landings in rough grass strips, fields and river beds,” Berndt said.

The company was founded in Idaho in 2002 by aircraft designers and co-owners Troy Woodland and Gary Schmitt. They designed the Escapade airplane, and later, the Highlander.

In 2004, the company moved into a production facility with its own runway in Oconee County. It currently has 12 employees.

Just Aircraft:


Department of Transportation will help Airport Commission take care of tree-trimming project: Decorah Municipal Airport (KDEH), Iowa

A request by the Federal Aviation Administration will cost Decorah a little less, thanks to some help from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

At Monday's meeting of the Decorah City Council, City Manager Chad Bird said the FAA put the Decorah Airport Commission on notice two years ago regarding some obstructions near the airport. The obstructions refer to a stand of trees located on land near the airport owned by Olsgard Auto Sales and Hawkeye Truck and Trailer.

"The FAA has asked that those height interferences be eliminated. The Airport Commission worked with the DOT to receive 70/30 matching grants," said Bird of the project, adding the Commission will only be responsible for $1,500 of the $5,000 project.

"We're working with City Forester Drew Stevenson. Both property owners are in consent and have given written verification," said Bird.

"We've pledged to make the area as nice as we can so as not to ruin the landscape. We may end up planting some low bushes."


Flight attendants say they are "sitting ducks" with new Transportation Security Administration rules

Knives allowed, from the TSA's revised list of prohibited Items. 
(From a TSA document) 


TAMPA BAY - Walking through Tampa International Airport, it's impossible to miss signs warning passengers of prohibited items, most of which they can recite by heart. 

 It's all information that's about to change, however.

On April 25, currently prohibited items, like pocket knives and baseball bats, will return to airplane cabins.

TSA announced it plans to focus on a more risk-based strategy that allows them more time to check for high-risk items like explosives.

The knives, though, have already drawn criticism from the Federal Air Marshals and a union which represents 90,000 flight attendants, arguing they will now be "sitting ducks."

"It's sharp, it's dangerous, it could kill someone. It could slit a throat," explained passenger John Kromer, while holding up one of the pocket knives allowed on the new list.

Though knife blades will have to measure less than six centimeters in length and a half-inch in width, passengers at TIA still expressed concern.  They cannot be locked in an open position.

"I think it's just as dangerous as anything bigger," said Priscilla McCarthy.

"You can kill somebody with this," said Ana Miranda.

After showing Miranda the knife, we handed her a couple other items that will soon make it through airline security, like a baseball bat.

"This is a weapon," she said, banging the metal against her chair.

Though baseball bats also have a size rule, no longer than 24 inches if they weigh more than 24 ounces, there is no specification about material.

"I'd be terrified," said one woman while exiting the tram from her gate.

Other newly-allowed sporting goods include pool cues, lacrosse sticks, and two golf clubs per passenger.

Men appeared to be less concerned about the changes, but that seemed to follow a size rule as well.

"Most guys aren't 5'6 and 67 years old, so it's a little scary to me," Kromer laughed.

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County to solicit requests for airport manager spot: Lake County (KLKV), Oregon

Lake County will try again to find a manager for their airport.

During the County Commissioner work session on Tuesday, Feb. 19, the Commissioners continued the discussion that has been happening since current manager Bert Young, announced last May that he would retire at the end of 2012.

After examining the reasons for the first failed attempt at advertising a Request For Proposals, they decided to more aggressively extend their need for the immediate fulfillment of the position.

“Every day we’re getting closer to fire season, and I don’t know if we can keep Bert around for another one,” said county Lands and Property Mgr. Bob Pardee to the board.

For the past several months, their main expectation lay with an operation out of The Dalles who had approached and then visited the county with a tentative plan of fixed base operation for the airport.

However, as Pardee told the board, “They have yet to take any action.”

As with most of their airport talks, they found it difficult to gather specifics.

“It either comes down to hire somebody as a county employee or contract somebody,” said Commissioner Ken Kestner.

They received only two letters of interest from their first advertisement, neither of which fulfilled the terms of the RFP.


Shortage of type rated pilots: Govt

New Delhi, Mar 7 (IBNS) Minister of State for Civil Aviation K. C. Venugopal on Thursday informed Rajya Sabha that there is shortage of type rated Commanders in the country due to growth in aviation industry and induction of new aircrafts in the fleet of the airlines.

"However, sufficient numbers of co-pilots are available and employed with the airlines. These co-pilots do not possess sufficient training and experience required to become commanders on that type," said Venugopal.

He further said that Air India has trained and experienced pilots available to meet the scheduled requirements only.

"As regards Air India Express, there is a shortage of 20 trained and experienced commanders," he said.

The minister said to cover the shortage of type rated pilots, validation of foreign pilots is done as per Rule 45 of Aircraft Rules, 1937. Indian Pilots who are inducted by Airlines and are eligible to become Pilot-in-Command as per the policy of the Airlines are being trained by them to phase out expat pilots.

"As a follow up, cases of Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorization (FATA) pilots are processed on the basis of information furnished by each Airline with phase out programme of expat pilots. The Government has allowed issue of Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorization (FATA) up to 31st December, 2013," the minister said. 


LaHood Still Has Questions On 787s

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood needs more information to be convinced that Boeing Co.'s  proposed fixes to batteries on its 787 Dreamliner are adequate to enable the jet to resume commercial flights.

"I have made it very clear that I want a thorough review" of the Boeing plan, Mr. LaHood told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. "I am going to ask a lot of questions" before a final decision is made.

Mr. LaHood's comments are the latest sign that Boeing faces regulatory headwinds in getting quick approval for a package of fixes to the Dreamliner's battery system that it hopes will end the world-wide grounding of its flagship jetliner that started in mid-January.

Boeing is pushing fixes designed to mitigate the risk of fire in the 787's lithium-ion batteries despite the inability of U.S. and Japanese investigators to pinpoint a specific cause of burning batteries on a pair of 787 jets operated by Japanese carriers in January. Boeing is getting closer to winning Federal Aviation Administration support for that proposal that could enable Boeing to start test flights as soon as this month.

But the pushback against a quick final decision from Mr. LaHood—who oversees the FAA and must sign off on any package of fixes—and from regulators in Japan threatens to delay the more important resumption of Dreamliner commercial flights for months, according to industry and government officials.

Since the grounding, Mr. LaHood has privately raised questions about Boeing's proposal, urged additional engineering reviews and generally embraced a go-slow federal approach, the officials said. In Wednesday's interview, he reiterated that he intends "to get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened and what we can do prevent it."

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney, in a conversation with the secretary last week, acknowledged Mr. LaHood's "tough but fair-minded approach" on evaluating the proposed fix to the 787, according to a Boeing executive. Mr. McNerney answered questions and expressed the company's "full support and confidence" in its proposed solution, this person said.

The timing of the FAA's decision is important for Boeing, which may have to pay penalties to its airline customers for the time their Dreamliners are stuck on the ground or for delays in new-plane deliveries. Mr. McNerney has said the Dreamliner represents his company's short- and medium-term future.

Boeing's proposed changes focus on increasing separation between cells in the 787's lithium-ion batteries to prevent overheating, and on protecting the batteries inside a sturdier, more fire-resistant container, even though investigators haven't yet identified the exact cause of the burning batteries on a pair of Dreamliners.

A team of FAA technical experts is urging preliminary approval of Boeing's plan, and FAA chief Michael Huerta appears likely to agree within a week or so, the officials said. That would establish a framework that could allow Boeing to begin test flights as soon as the third week in March. Results from those flights would have to be analyzed by agency officials and reviewed by Secretary LaHood and his staff before Boeing could seek permission to retrofit aircraft and seek new certification. Routine certification tests for batteries take four or five weeks, according to industry officials.

"The due diligence of our regulators is expected and welcome, and has made air travel the safest form of transportation," Ray Conner, head of Boeing's commercial airplane unit, said in an email. "We are ready to move ahead as soon as we get the FAA's approval."

Mr. LaHood, a former Republican congressman with a history of frosty relations with some FAA leaders, has been lukewarm from the beginning about locking in changes before investigators pinpoint a specific cause of the 787's battery problems. When the 787 was grounded, he publicly pledged it wouldn't take off again with passengers until investigators determined the precise cause of the overheating batteries and regulators felt "1,000% sure" of the plane's safety.

After a phone call last month in which the FAA chief spelled out details of anticipated battery enhancements, Mr. LaHood appeared unconvinced, according to officials briefed on the session, and agency officials concluded that he wanted more certainty about potential causes of previous battery meltdowns.

The National Transportation Safety Board will release an update Thursday morning on its investigation into the battery fire in January aboard a Japan Airlines 787 on the ground in Boston, but the documents aren't expected to shed much more light on the probable cause. The NTSB has no direct say in whether Boeing's proposed fixes are approved, but its findings influence regulators' thinking and affect public opinion about aviation hazards.

Boeing has also faced skeptics in Tokyo, where regulators and investigators are conducting their own analysis of what happened and how to go forward. GS Yuasa Corp., Boeing's battery supplier, last month pushed for an additional layer of protection against external power surges, people familiar with the company said, but those concerns have since been withdrawn.

Boeing's fixes will require substantial time-consuming engineering changes to the 787, including its structure. In addition to modifying the already-packed electric equipment racks in the under-floor bays, the company will have to cut and reinforce a hole in the carbon fiber skin of the jet as part of its plan to ensure smoke or fumes are vented overboard from a failed battery, says a person familiar with the plan.

Tbilisi airport administration refutes reports of emergency landing from Aktau

The Tbilisi airport administration has refuted reports of an emergency landing by an aircraft belonging to Kazakh SCAT Airlines from Aktau. "There was no emergency landing, or aircraft ignition, and the passengers were able to safely get off the aircraft and enter the airport," Tbilisi airport spokesperson Natalia Nozadze said.

Some media outlets reported today that the emergency landing took place at Tbilisi airport. A SCAT Airline aircraft made emergency landing in Tbilisi on a spare runway. According to their report, the cabin was filled with smoke, but what caused the fire is unknown. The passengers were quickly evacuated.

Nozadze claims that the landing was a planned one, the aircraft landed on as scheduled.

Aero Commander 500, N345MP

(Photo Courtesy: Cortesía JorgeGalindoMIJ)


On Friday's news, we broke the story of a plane, an Aero Commander 500 which had left Belize airspace without filing a flight plan, or making the required checks with customs and immigration - which is both illegal and suspicious. As we reported at the time, it left Belize from the Spanish Lookout airstrip on the afternoon of February 21st., without filing a flight plan - which would make it impossible to land anywhere legally. What made it even more suspicious is that the plane had been outfitted with extended range fuel tanks - enabling it to fly long distances.

And sure enough, illegality was afoot. Reports from newspapers in Venezuela say that the day after it left Belize, the plane made an illegal, early morning landing at an unauthorized airstrip in the Northwestern region of that country known as Acarigua. The onboard GPS showed its final destination as the Apura state, which borders with Colombia. Those onboard were Canadian David William Sawatzky and Colombian Jorge Armando Bustamante. They have been charged with illicit trafficking of narcotics and conspiracy to traffic. They were also charged with interference in the operation safety of civil aviation, diversion from and fraudulent acquisition of route, illegal piloting of aircraft and transportation of dangerous goods. They have been remanded to Los Llanos Prison.

The plane was detected by the Venezuelan military who saw an aircraft flying over at 2:40 in the morning of Friday February 22nd - almost exactly 12 hours after it left Belize. Now, the plane did not have a drug cargo on board, but Venezuelan newspapers report that their Criminal Investigations Branch screened the plane for drugs and found a substance that tested positive for cocaine.

Inside the plane, authorities found four cans of gasoline, a hand pump, a hose and an additional tank for fuel. Newspaper reports quote the pilot as saying that the stop was an emergency landing since they needed to refuel.

Venezuelan authorities confirmed what we first reported, that the fuel system had been modified with a tank that could hold 148 gallons to extend flying range.

And while it is now a case for Venezuelan authorities - what happened in Belize that made it possible for the flight to leave without all the legally required checks? Well, first off, the plane left from an authorized private airstrip in Spanish lookout. That is one of about 20 licensed private airstrips in Belize - and it was first licensed in 2005. The Belize Civil Aviation Department was aware of the plane's presence in Belize - and said they found it missing when they did regular surveillance at the airstrip on February 25th.

The aircraft is US registered and a search of its call letters shows the last owner of record as Max Hetherington from Corpus Christi, Texas who is known in Belize as a retiree. Reports are that he had been trying to sell the plane for some time.

David William Sawatzky is also well known in Belize as a Canadian Mennonite from Mango Creek where he is known to fly crop dusters and owns heavy equipment for farming. He is also a farmer and fresh fruit vendor.

Civil Aviation says it is now a matter for police - and at this time no sanctions have been taken against the owners of the private airstrip which we are told is the Spanish Lookout community.

Whenever an aircraft leaves Belizean airspace it is required to file a flight plane with civil aviation and make checks with customs, immigration and BAHA at the PGIA.

An aircraft Aero Coomander, N345MP U.S. registration was held at airport Acarigua for "violating airspace". Achieved the arrest of a Colombian and a Canadian who entered the country through illegal flight from Belize

Nestor Reverol, Interior and Justice Minister, today announced the arrest of a Colombian citizen and another Canadian who entered the country through an illegal flight from Belize to "duties of illicit drugs."

Reverol said last night that members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) arrested at airport Acarigua, Portuguesa, an aircraft Aero-registered Coomander N345MP who was "violating airspace".

"The aircraft came from Belize, a Central American illegal flight," said the minister.

He explained that the aircraft were a Canadian, David William Zawaski, 51, and a Colombian, Jorge Bustamante, 31, who were arrested and brought to the order of the Prosecutor.

The official said the aircraft, which had auxiliary fuel tanks for a flight range of more than eight hours, was bound for "a track unauthorized Meta sector", Apure state (west), on the Colombian border .

"It was to be used for work of drug smuggling on the border with Colombia," he said.

Una aeronave Aero Coomander, matrícula estadounidense N345MP, fue retenida en el aeropuerto de Acarigua por “violar el espacio aéreo”. Se logró la detención de un colombiano y un canadiense que ingresaron al país mediante un vuelo ilícito procedente de Belice

Néstor Reverol, ministro de Interior y Justicia, informó hoy sobre la detención de un ciudadano colombiano y otro canadiense que  ingresaron al país mediante un vuelo ilícito procedente de Belice para "labores del tráfico ilícito de drogas".

Reverol explicó que anoche efectivos de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana (GNB) detuvieron en el aeropuerto de Acarigua, estado Portuguesa, una aeronave Aero Coomander de matrícula estadounidense N345MP que se encontraba "violando el espacio aéreo".

"La aeronave venía procedente de Belice, de un vuelo ilícito en Centroamérica", indicó el ministro.

Detalló que en la aeronave viajaban un canadiense, David William Zawaski, de 51 años, y un colombiano, Jorge Bustamante, de 31, que fueron detenidos y puestos a la orden de la Fiscalía.

El funcionario dijo que la aeronave, que tenía tanques auxiliares de combustible para una autonomía de vuelo de más de ocho horas, tenía como destino final "una pista no autorizada en el sector del Meta", estado Apure (oeste), en la frontera colombiana.

"Iba a ser utilizada para labores del tráfico ilícito de droga en la frontera con Colombia", señaló.

This plane, an Aero Commander 500 is under investigation after it reportedly left Belizean airspace from a licensed airfield in Western Belize on the afternoon of February 21st without a flight plan. It might sound like just some missing paper work, but the absence of a flight plan makes it impossible to land at any legal airport in the world. More than that, it suggests that illicit cargo could have been involved. Typically, such a flight - if it intends to leave Belizean airspace - would have to first fly to the Phillip Goldson international, check with immigration, customs and police and file a flight plan with civil aviation, and then it could leave the country.

The plane was reportedly equipped with long range tanks to enable a longer flight - about 800 miles. Due to the late breaking nature of the story, we were unable to get comment from Civil Aviation. We will follow up on Monday though.

Dylan hits the heights

Dylan Gladstone-Richards.

The first solo flight was undertaken by a young pilot last weekend at Leven. 
On Saturday March 2 Dylan Gladstone-Richards, 16, of Beverley Road, Driffield took to the skies in a Cessna 152 aircraft.

Dylan has learned to fly alongside his dad, Mark Gladstone, and had his first lesson in September 2011.

While he has ambitions of pursuing a career with the RAF or Royal Navy, Dylan currently studies at Driffield School and is a member of 873 (Driffield) Squadron Air Cadets.

Mark said: “The flight went very well, ending with a nice safe landing.

“All of Dylan’s family are very proud of this achievement.

“Dylan picked up the interest from me at an early age, I have always been interested in aircraft and flying and in my younger days was also a member of 873 Driffield.

“It isn’t as difficult as people may expect, but does require commitment.”

During his training Dylan undertook a rigorous programme of examinations, including air law and meteorology, and will continue to train for his full pilot’s licence.

The flight took place in bright, clear conditions at the Hull Aero Club, Leven, and on the same day Mark had his first solo cross-country flight from Leven to Pickering, taking an hour.

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New airport chief's compensation below average despite pay raise: McCarran International (KLAS), Las Vegas, Nevada

Rosemary Vassiliadis will rank below average among her peers when she becomes Clark County aviation director on June 3 despite a promotion that comes with a nearly 36 percent pay raise.

Vassiliadis' employment contract, approved Tuesday by the Clark County Commission, includes a salary of $199,205, plus a potential cash bonus of as much as 20 percent. The figure does not include the value of fringe benefits, such as health insurance, pension costs and matching payments into the county's deferred compensation program.

Airports Council International reports that the average cash compensation - salary plus bonus - for the large airports that responded to the trade group's annual survey ran $250,594 last year. Vassiliadis would fall below the $227,332 average for midsized airports if her bonus amounted to less than 14 percent.

Retiring Aviation Director Randall Walker has not received a bonus in five years, when the recession hit.

During the 11 months through November, the county-owned McCarran International Airport ranked as the nation's eighth-busiest airport by passenger totals and No. 23 in the world, the council said.

Walker earned cash compensation of $233,667 this year, his 16th and final year as boss at McCarran. Vassiliadis was paid $146,640 as deputy director.

Vassiliadis, 55, said she proposed her new salary as part of a cost-neutral plan to restructure the department's hierarchy. That will allow her to apply the difference between her pay and Walker's to other positions while remaining within the overall budget, which is being trimmed by about $7 million since the July 1 start of the fiscal year because of lower-than-predicted traffic.

No publicly available research lists airport chiefs' salaries. But fragmentary media accounts suggest that airports controlled by independent authorities pay better, sometimes by a wide margin, than ones owned by local governments.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest, paid its chief $221,000 a year when it hired a new director in 2010. The city of Atlanta owns Hartsfield-Jackson.

Tampa, Fla., which handles less than half the traffic of McCarran, pays its CEO $315,000 in base salary. Its airport is operated by an authority.

The CEO at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport earned $253,800 in base pay at the start of a three-year contract, with the potential for 4 percent annual raises and a bonus as much as 20 percent, reports in 2010 show.

Reno's airport, which had 3.5 million passengers last year, less than 10 percent of the 42 million that passed through McCarran, also is operated by an authority.

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