Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vintage B-29 bomber being restored by Cleveland-based U.S. Aviation Museum

Whatever happened to the vintage B-29 bomber being restored by the Cleveland-based United States Aviation Museum?

Earlier this month a new group took over the 25-year effort to save and refurbish a Boeing Superfortress bomber built for service during World War II. 

The group, called "Doc's Friends" --for the character from the Disney movie, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," that is painted on the bomber's nose -- consists of several businessmen and aviation enthusiasts in Wichita, Kans., where the aircraft is being restored. 

The group is chaired by Jeff Turner, a former Boeing Commercial Airlines executive and soon-to-retire CEO of aircraft manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems Inc. 

Local aviation enthusiast Tony Mazzolini, 78, of South Euclid, who saved the bomber from demolition in 1988 and spent recent years working on it with other volunteers, will continue to be involved in the project. 

Mazzolini said he welcomed the change. "I've made a lot of personal sacrifices in terms of time and resources, and I just can't do it anymore," he said. "I'm getting down to the final end of my runway, so to speak." 

The new group brings additional assets and impetus to the effort, according to Mazzolini. 

"Everything we said we need, they just said tell us when and where," he noted. "They want to make sure it flies, and help me reach my dream of getting it in the air." 

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Museum of Aviation dropping 32 aircraft

WARNER ROBINS -- For the first time in its 29-year history, the Museum of Aviation is downsizing.

The museum is getting rid of 29 planes and three missiles, which is about a third of its total collection.

Museum Director Ken Emery said the move is largely due to Air Force personnel cuts in 2011 that eliminated eight civilian positions at the museum, most of whom were restoration specialists.

The museum doesn’t have enough personnel to properly maintain the aircraft, especially those outdoors, Emery said.

“We’ve only been growing since we started,” Emery said last week as he showed some of the planes slated for removal. “This is really the first time we’ve had to make real decisions on downsizing the collection to preserve quality versus quantity.”

Some of the planes to be removed may not be missed much, but others certainly will. Probably the most notable one is the B-52 Stratofortress, a Cold War icon and one of the largest planes at the museum.

From a distance, the plane appears to be in good shape. But Emery showed places underneath where the hull has rusted through. Some of the spots are covered by painted-over tape.

Repairing such a large plane would be very expensive, Emery said, and it would continue to take many man-hours annually to maintain. Ultimately, he added, no plane left outdoors is going to last indefinitely.

He said the B-52 is the plane he most hates to see go, but there wasn’t much choice.

“The airplane is slowly deteriorating to the point that it is literally rusting away,” he said. “Even if I were to invest a whole lot of money and put it in good condition, it’s still sitting outside.”

Another notable plane on the chopping block is the EC-135 Stratotanker. The large, white plane near Russell Parkway looks like a passenger jet. The EC-135 is an aerial refueler, but the one at the museum was modified and served as Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf’s plane as he conducted Desert Storm.

Some of the planes have been slated to be scrapped, some are being sent to private museums, while others are being sent to the Air Force’s storage facility in Arizona.

The National Museum of the Air Force determines the fate of the aircraft, and that hasn’t been decided for about half the planes on the list.

For those headed for a private museum, that museum is paying the cost of the disassembly and transport. That’s why large planes like the B-52 and EC-135 are being scrapped. The cost of moving those would be too much for most any museum.

Eight of the planes and one missile already are gone, and some others are being disassembled. Emery expects it will take about a year before all of the planes on the list are removed.

The B-52 is expected to be removed late this year. A specialized machine will be used to tear it apart and crush it.

Some of the planes to be removed are in hangars. While those planes do not require maintenance, Emery said it will free up space to move other planes indoors that the museum considers more significant.

The upside of it all, he said, is that the museum will be in a better position to acquire prized aircraft. The museum has long sought to get a B-17 bomber, the famed World War II plane known as the “Flying Fortress.” By freeing up hangar space and ensuring the collection is not too big for the staff to maintain, Emery hopes the National Museum of the Air Force gives it a B-17. The Air Force has 16 B-17s at its museums nationwide, and nine of those are outdoors. The Museum of Aviation has argued, unsuccessfully so far, that one of those outside should be moved here.

Houston County Commissioner Tom McMichael, who serves on the museum board, said he believes downsizing is the right move and will benefit the museum in the long run.

He said the museum had two planes of the same model in some cases.

“One of the things we are having to do is be a little more efficient,” he said. “It was kind of win-win. There were a lot of things we overstocked.”

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Location key as charter service moves to Oakland County International Airport (KPTK), Pontiac, Michigan

Greg Stallkamp, CEO of Lakeshore Express Aviation, which is moving its home base to Oakland County International Airport. / Ron Wu

Location and timing are everything as entrepreneur Greg Stallkamp explains why he is moving his two-year-old air carrier -- Lakeshore Express Aviation -- from Chicago's Midway to Oakland County International Airport as its home base. 

It will save the company money as the costs of operating from Oakland will be markedly less.

And it will allow Lakeshore Express, a charter service that sells tickets individually, to tap into an even bigger potential market of underserved travelers between metro Detroit and Chicago.

Starting June 7, Lakeshore Express will begin regular flights from Oakland to Midway. Tickets will be priced $109 each way (it will offer a $99 starting price the first month of service).

For that, passengers get free drinks and no baggage fees.

And what's important in Stallkamp's playbook for success -- convenience. "It's all about location," he said.

Offering a flight from a smaller terminal where you park for free and have a short walk to the terminal will be popular, Stallkamp said.

Lakeshore has 20 employees with a team of four setting up the new operation at the Oakland airport. He expects that number of employees to grow to 10 by June.

Stallkamp grew up in Michigan (his father is former Chrysler executive Tom Stallkamp).

After moving to Chicago a few years ago, Greg Stallkamp saw how many people from Michigan living in Chicago continued to travel to northern Michigan. He thought a service from Midway to northern Michigan -- specifically Pellston Regional Airport -- would do well. It provides a central point whether going to Mackinac Island, Traverse City or other northern Michigan destinations.

He did market research and found an eager market waiting to be tapped.

They also met with executives of Pentastar Aviation, which is based at Oakland airport.

Tom Stallkamp knew Edsel Ford, who owns Pentastar Aviation, and asked whether the Pentastar team might talk to his son and the others about the industry.

"We all thought his idea was a good one," Edsel Ford told me when asked about Greg Stallkamp's plan to tap into underserved markets like Midway to Pellston.

Despite the prickly economy, the airline, which began service in June 2011, has succeeded. Their annual sales topped "a few million," said Stallkamp of the privately held firm.

Stallkamp began seeing the costs associated with being housed at Midway. He also began surveying the local marketplace and saw that a lot of people in southeast Michigan were interested in flying to Chicago.

Conversations with the Pentastar team led to a partnership that will bear fruit with new flights departing from Oakland County.

Pentastar Aviation Charter, the direct air carrier, will handle all flight operations, crews, maintenance and other aspects of Lakeshore's Saab 340B twin-engine turboprop, which seats 30.

Flights will take off from Pentastar's Stargate Terminal at Oakland.

Lakeshore Express will also continue to offer flights from Midway to Pellston.

"It's a really good venture and we hope to help him expand," Ford said.

Initially, there will be four roundtrips per week from the Oakland airport.

"We want to eventually offer regularly scheduled flights every day of the week," Stallkamp said.

Stallkamp's team did some research into the impact of the service from Midway on Michigan and found it "caused people to travel to Michigan two times more often than they did before our service existed," he said.

"And since they are saving five hours on their trip -- each way (instead of driving) -- they are spending an extra $141 in the community," he added.

Stallkamp has similar hopes for the new Oakland service.

For more information:

Headquarters: Waterford

Background: Charter air carrier service launched two years ago.

Executives: Greg Stallkamp, CEO; Rus Behnam, general counsel; Jason Ribits, director of sales and marketing.

Route: Service between Chicago Midway and Pellston Regional Airport. Starting June 7 will begin adding service from Oakland County International Airport to Midway.

Stallkamp’s advice on starting a business: “The most important attribute when starting a business is persistence and determination.”

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Cessna woos Guyanese to purchase luxury jet

The Cessna Citation XLS+ jet in a hangar at Ogle after being flown here from Miami yesterday 
(Photo by Arian Browne)



Wealthy Guyanese and corporate citizens are being urged to save time and money when flying by purchasing executive jets, which cost between US$4 million and US$12 million and can now operate out of the expanded and recently certified Ogle International Airport.

Yesterday, a Cessna Citation XLS+ jet, for the first time, landed at the Ogle Airport, to not only coincide with the 100th Aviation Anniversary celebration activities but also to market the jet to prospective buyers.

Speaking at a press briefing held at Ogle yesterday the company, Cessna Aircraft Company, through its distributor, Tropical Aviation Distributors (TAD), said that it saw this country as a lucrative market.

“This is a new option that is available to the Guyanese business traveller that was not available… possession of a plane like that could facilitate a number of executives flying in and out of Guyana,” Communications Consultant Kit Nacimento said yesterday.

The jet seats eight passengers, has a stand-up cabin, bathroom facilities and a bar. According to company officials, it provides the client with speed, comfort, safety and class. It flies to most Caribbean and South American countries non-stop and is both fuel and time efficient.

With trade between Caricom and South America being at its highest ever, members of the corporate community are being urged to invest in a jet as it can save much on executive time.

Pilot Brian Roggenbaum, who flew the plane from Miami to Guyana, informed that it took his four-member crew just four hours to get from Miami to Ogle.

By the same flight calculations, Chris Correia informed, the plane would take only 15 minutes as compared to get to the Kaieteur Falls area, as compared with 45 minutes on regular aircraft.

Time saving was stressed by the John Prince, Vice-President of TAD, as he compared using a jet to a regular aircraft. “The difference with travelling with [the airline] and a jet… is you can come out to Ogle airport get on the aircraft and leave… You would probably drive to Timerhi for an hour; you are supposed to check-in three hours before, so that’s four hours right there … [With] this one you can walk out to the airport get on and leave whenever you like. So the time saving is huge,” he said.

He further underscored the importance of savings on executive time and other benefits to the corporate worker. “It can be high-level employees who travel a lot.

Some people have jobs that require a lot of travel and puts them away from home… It allows you to be back home with your family the same day… It’s more efficient; it’s convenient and it’s the ability to travel around the Caribbean and South America and come back the same day. So basically a three-day trip turns into a one-day trip” he stated.

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Chief Flight Instructor 'sickened' by Bulli Tops tragedy: Robinson R44, VH-HWQ

After watching two men die when their helicopter crashed and burned at Jaspers Brush last year, Andrew Campbell was sickened by news that a similar crash had claimed four lives at Bulli Tops last week.

The chief flying instructor at Jaspers Brush Airfield said the crash which killed film producer Andrew Wight and filmmaker Mike deGruy in February 2012 was ‘‘scarily similar’’ to last Thursday’s fatal accident.

‘‘Both crashes involved Robinson R44 helicopters with aluminium fuel tanks – and the same type of helicopter was involved in a fatal crash at Cessnock in 2011,’’ Mr Campbell said. ‘‘The real issue is the fact that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority knows about the problem with this particular helicopter and fuel tank – when they crash, they catch fire. So why are they not being taken out of the air until they are fixed? We had one fly into the airfield [on Saturday] with the same tank.’’

Mr Campbell  tried his best to save the film crew members from the inferno on February 4 last year. This month  he received a bravery award from the Royal Humane Society for his efforts.

‘‘They were filming down at Jervis Bay for film director James Cameron and using our airfield as a staging area,’’ Mr Campbell, the Cambewarra resident, said.

‘‘When they got the call to action, they jumped in the helicopter. But soon after they lifted off the ground the helicopter fell back, and rolled over onto the ground really softly, without any heavy impact.

‘‘Before its rotors even stopped moving the mast had caught fire. Myself and the other instructors got fire extinguishers but the fire engulfed the helicopter within seconds.

‘‘We were very close – close enough to see the pilot trying to get out and gasping for breath ...because the explosion had sucked all the oxygen out of the air. I even found it very difficult to breathe and got superficial burns and all the hair burnt off my arms.’’

MORE: Helicopter fitted with risky fuel tank: safety expert

MORE: Jaspers Brush chopper crash: fuel tank warning

MORE: Second fatal crash for helicopter company

Mr Campbell said  footage captured by a bystander was instrumental in the Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation.

An ATSB spokesman yesterday confirmed  the findings from the Jaspers Brush investigation were due to be announced by the end of April.

Mr Campbell said he would like to offer the witnesses of the Bulli Tops crash any support he could.

‘‘From the accounts I’ve read of the Bulli Tops crash, the helicopter fell from treetop height which generally isn’t a fatal accident – it should have been completely survivable.

‘‘In this and the [Jaspers Brush] crashes witnesses saw people in the helicopter alive after the crash, only to be too quickly consumed by the post-accident fire.’’

A CASA spokesperson said after the Bulli Tops crash that it would be ‘‘extreme’’ to ground all Robinson R44 helicopters.

Bankstown Helicopters, the company that operated choppers in both crashes, declined to comment on whether it would ground its fleet.

ATSB duty officer Joe Hattley said through its Safety Watch initiative the bureau had highlighted how all-aluminium fuel tanks had proven susceptible to post-accident fuel leaks, increasing the risk of a potentially fatal post-impact fire. 

Manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Company  required  R44 helicopters with all-aluminum fuel tanks to be retrofitted with bladder-type tanks no later than April 30 this year. To date, more than 1700 retrofit kits have been shipped for fitting.

High-flying New Hampshire company serves rock stars, pro athletes: Man started company above garage (With Video)

SEABROOK, N.H. —A New Hampshire businessman flies chart-topping rock bands, sport teams and business people around the world on his private jet service.

Greg Raiff dreamed up his business, Private Jet Services Group, about a decade ago, and it has taken off.

"I have the best job in the world, certainly the best job in the Seacoast of New Hampshire," Raiff said.

From his hub in the Granite State, Raiff arranges first-class air travel around the world for his clients, many of whom he can't reveal. But the Boston Bruins welcomed News 9 onboard its plane, a remodeled Boeing 767 that carried them through their Stanley Cup season.

"We like to kid on the big airplane that we have that everyone gets their own area code on board," Raiff said.

Private Jet Services customizes each plane, which can include onboard offices, beds and showers. Planes are available for rock bands on tour for a year or billionaires making business trips.

The company also flies six professional teams and more than a dozen NCAA teams. Because some passengers are long-legged athletes, seats are removed so they have room to stretch out

Raiff said his clients are financially savvy. They know it makes more sense to use one of his leased jets rather than owning their own planes.

"I go to a party and people say, 'Oh, you fly people around, and it's champagne in the sky all the time,'" Raiff said. "That's not always true. A lot of the customers are either corporations fulfilling a business or sports teams that are collegiate or professional that are commuting to work basically, and in all cases, the common denominator of our customers are people who understand that the cost of not getting there on time exceeds the cost of the transportation itself."

The cost is $5,000 to $25,000 per flight hour, depending on the type of aircraft, the destination and how many passengers are on board.

"The people that fly with us are people who value their time and value getting there on time far more than that price point," Raiff said.

The company caters to its clients' every need or whim.

"We had to send a helicopter to pick up a salad in Mexico City once for an artist," Raiff said.

Raiff started his company above his garage with a contract for one rock band. It was, however, a very big rock band.

"The first band I ever worked with: the Rolling Stones," he said.

Raiff keeps souvenir photos, memorabilia and thank-yous at his office in Seabrook. His keepsakes include items from bands such as Queen and Maroon 5 to a Boston Bruins Stanley Cup ring from the team's 2011 season.

"The team flew 65,000 miles that year," Raiff said.

He has kept the company small and personal, with just two dozen employees who he said are encouraged to use what he calls Seacoast values. He said a little New Hampshire keeps worldly clients coming back.

"This is the coolest job I could ever have," he said. "I get to live in the Seacoast of New Hampshire, raise my three little kids, and I'll be on the other end of the phone from the CEO of a Fortune 100 company or the world's biggest band and be organizing their flights and doing all this from New Hampshire."

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Aviation junkies: Meet the bears who get high on fuel

These brown bears are keen to play with discarded barrels - because they have developed a nose for aviation fuel.

The creatures sniff kerosene and gasoline from containers left in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve in the far east of Russia.

They take deep breaths for minutes at a time before digging a shallow hole and lying in a 'nirvana' position.

The fuel is used to power generators and helicopters used by nature reserve workers.

Photographer Igor Shpilenok, 52, spent seven months with the community of bears.

He said some of the addicted predators even stalked helicopters, waiting for take off and drops of fuel to leak onto the hard soil for them to hoover up.

He added: 'In another case a helicopter brought a few barrels of gasoline.

'Workers of the nature reserve didn't take them in time and a female bear named Suzemka - who is apparently fasciated by the smell of fuel - used the opportunity.

'She seems to be one of the addicts.'

The Kronotsky Nature Reserve, in South Kamchatka, is home to more than 700 brown bears.

They are thought to be the largest brown bears in the world, weighing up to 1,200lb.

The sanctuary covers 225,000 hectares of land and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

The climate ranges between extremely hot and cold - earning it the label 'land of fire and ice'.

You can view the images of the bears here.

Sioux Gateway Airport (KSUX), Sioux City, Iowa: Cafe has lost $81,900 since '09

SIOUX CITY | A city-operated cafe and gift shop at Sioux Gateway Airport is anticipated to lose $8,000 this fiscal year, pushing total losses to more than $81,900 since 2009. Officials say they’re working to address the problem.

"We're closing the gap, and as we get more flights, we'll make more money," said Airport Director Curt Miller.

The city last year took over running Marna's Cafe and Gift Shop, which an outside contractor previously operated. The glass-lined corner of the city-owned airport has sandwiches, beverages, snacks, books/magazines and travel items. It is the only retail and dining operation in the terminal, which has two daily flights.

According to city financial records, the last time Marna's made a profit -- $1,141 -- was in 2008, when the airport had eight daily flights. Since then, expenses have outstripped revenues every year -- by $7,383 in 2009, $16,042 in 2010, $25,436 in 2011 and $25,079 in 2012.

Even though a contractor operated the business, the losses were passed on to the city, which covered the income shortfall.

As of Feb. 28, losses for fiscal year 2013 were $5,380. Based on sales projections and city estimates, revenue is expected to drop an additional $2,620 by the end of the fiscal year, on June 30.

Dave Bernstein, president of the seven-member board that runs the airport, said officials are closely monitoring revenues and are taking steps to stem the losses. He said conditions have improved since the city stepped in.

"My personal perspective is, I think it's important we have that open," he said. "Our goal is to at least break even, if not making a profit."


Marna's was created in 2011 when the 1940s terminal was renovated. It's named after longtime airport office worker Marna Samuel.

The previous terminal had a full-service restaurant managed by a series of operators over the years, including It's All Good Barbecue. The catering company Distinctive Gourmet assumed running the site in 2008 and continued at the cafe after the 2011 airport renovation.

Distinctive Gourmet, now called Centerplate, also provides catered food to the Sioux City Convention and Tyson Events centers.

During the period between 2008 and 2012, the airport was dealt a series of blows, including the loss of carrier Frontier Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy.

The financial crises and recession also harmed air travel numbers. In 2011, the airport's lone carrier, Delta Air Lines, which offered three flights a day, said it could no longer afford to fly to Sioux City and other small communities.

The U.S. Department of Transportation eventually awarded American Airlines a $1.5 million annual subsidy to operate two daily flights at Sioux Gateway. The flights are to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. American officials have said they may add a second route, possibly to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Bernstein said café sales should improve as more people take advantage of the flights. The city in August received a $160,000 federal grant to help market the Chicago service. Airport officials have said flights have been about 85 percent full.

"Right now, we've got very solid numbers with our service to Chicago," Bernstein said. "I think that reinforces the demand to use our airport. We would love to see expanded service with American. It just takes time."


Bernstein said airport board members have considered closing Marna's and having just vending machines, although they concluded visitors need amenities, even at a small airport.

"The restaurant is especially needed when there is a flight that is delayed due to crazy weather – ice, storms or fog – and people are stuck there an hour and a half extra," he said.

The size of the airport is one of the selling points of Sioux Gateway, said traveler Paige Moser, of Vermillion, S.D., who sat sipping drinks at Marna's before boarding a plane for Chicago recently.

"I like the smaller airports," she said. "It's not a zoo out there."

It costs $2.2 million a year to operate the airport.

Bernstein said the board has addressed the Marna's issue by limiting hours. The business is now open 5-7 a.m. and noon-3 p.m. Sundays-Fridays and for just two hours Saturday mornings. The menu also has been scaled back to sandwiches instead of full-scale meals.

He said airport officials are confident profits will grow as passenger numbers increase. The café, he said, is vital to making sure passengers pick Sioux Gateway.

"We want to make their travel experience more customer friendly," he said.

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