Monday, March 25, 2013

Cheers as passenger attacks air crew: Incidents of rage on flights between the city and the mainland are on the rise, as witness tells of passenger who punches stewardess

Violent attacks on cabin crew during flights between Hong Kong and the mainland are becoming so common they often go unreported, it has emerged.

The threat posed by unruly passengers and a mob mentality was highlighted on Thursday, after a physical and verbal attack on a flight attendant was loudly cheered and applauded by others on board.

British business executive Graham Fewkes, who was on flight HX162, said the attack on the Hong Kong Airlines stewardess happened while the plane sat for six hours on the tarmac at Sanya Airport, Hainan, waiting for flight clearance.

He said that four hours into the delay, an elderly mainland passenger's frustration boiled over.

"He went completely mental and stormed up the plane and into the business class. I heard a punch and looked up and he was attacking the stewardess," said Fewkes, who travels to Sanya regularly for work and was on the flight's business class.

"What surprised me was that passengers were applauding as the man was hitting her. It was a crescendo of noise coming down the plane," he said.

Fewkes and another Western businessman pulled the man off the stewardess and eventually the man calmed down and was allowed to return to his seat.

None of the airline staff members made any attempt to remove him from the plane.

"We were still on the tarmac, so they could have kicked him off the plane, but they didn't," said Fewkes.

The airline said it had not received a crew report on "any case involving physical assault on HX162" on Thursday.

Last August, the airline reported an average of three incidents of disruptive passengers every week.

To deal with such incidents, Hong Kong Airlines cabin crew receive compulsory training in Wing Chun, a martial art.

The airline's corporate communications department said its flight attendants have been given basic Wing Chun training since May 2011 to boost their health and strength, and to give them more confidence to deal with emergencies on planes.

Katherine Cheung, an instructor at the Wing Chun Union in Wan Chai, said recruits undergo six hours of training.

"We teach them basic self-defence movements to deal with unruly passengers.

"It basically gives them a little more confidence to deal with those passengers. I think air crew these days are facing more of these situations."

Margie Logarta, managing editor at Panacea Publishing Asia, which produces Business Traveller, said incidents of air rage on flights from the mainland were becoming more common, fuelled by delays caused by the military using the air space.

Describing the atmosphere on board as something of a "Wild West", she said the insufficient outlets for passengers to complain and voice their grievances compounded the problem.

Of Thursday's incident, Logarta said: "[The air hostess] knew she might have a lynch mob on her hands if she didn't restore order."

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition on Mar 26, 2013 as Cheers as passenger attacks air crew

Boeing Begins 787 Test Flights

Boeing Co. began the first in a series of 787 Dreamliner test flights Monday, preparing for regulators to evaluate changes to its lithium-ion battery system and marking another step in the plane maker's effort to return the jet to commercial service.

The company flew what it dubbed a "functional check flight" on a production model 787 Dreamliner, painted in the colors of LOT Polish Airlines SA. Monday's flight at the company's Everett, Wash., factory was designed to check the systems of the jet, which hasn't flown since taking to the air for the first time on Jan. 13. The entire 787 fleet was ordered grounded by the regulators around the world on Jan. 16 after the lithium-ion batteries burned on two Japanese 787s earlier that month.

Following Monday's roughly two-hour flight, with six crew aboard, Boeing was to evaluate the performance of the aircraft's systems and move to perform ground tests for certification.

"The crew reports that the flight went according to plan," said Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel.

The LOT airplane is slated to fly next on a single demonstration test flight "in the coming days" for certification testing with the Federal Aviation Administration, said Mr. Birtel. FAA personnel are expected to participate in the airborne certification trial.

The flight is the first for a Dreamliner since Feb. 11, when Boeing conducted a pair of flight tests to gather temperature and operating data for the jet's original battery design.

The company has been conducting a series of ground and laboratory tests on the 787's new battery design, which includes increased spacing between the eight lithium-ion cells, a new stainless-steel containment casing, an updated battery charger and a venting system for any smoke or fumes, should a failure occur.

One critical ground test, which will be undertaken on one of Boeing's original 787 test aircraft, will see the battery pushed to destruction to verify the new containment and venting systems work as designed, said two people familiar with the tests.

Once Boeing receives final approval from the FAA and other global regulators, the company plans to deploy the modifications to the fifty 787 jets in operators' hands in "roughly the same order as deliveries," said Mr. Birtel, putting Japanese carriers All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. at the front of the line of the eight current operators. 

Officials are getting their ducks in a row before actively wooing a new airline: Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport (KFNL), Colorado

Airport manager Jason Licon still gets six to 10 calls a day from people inquiring about flying from the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport to Las Vegas.

He has to tell them Allegiant Air abruptly stopped flying from Northern Colorado in October and the regional airport has yet to find another carrier to take its place. But Licon hopes the commercial skies won’t be quiet for long.

“We are doing everything we can to put our case out there to try to attract another carrier,” Licon said. “As it stands, we are in big competition with other airports competing for the same thing we’re looking for.”

Fort Collins-Loveland airport, owned by the two cities but located in Loveland, has contracted with AvPorts, a Washington, D.C.,-based airport management company, to develop a strategic plan for the airport.

AvPorts officials are gathering data on emplanements, who’s flying out of Denver, what airlines they’re using and how large of a geographic area the airport can realistically draw from, said Walter Elish, CEO of Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp., which is helping the airport enhance its presentation and target some airlines.

“I’m pretty positive,” Elish said. “But it’s an uphill battle. It’s a very competitive industry.”

Northern Colorado has more than 800,000 residents who could conceivably fly out of Fort Collins-Loveland airport, Elish said. Allegiant’s planes were nearly full when the destination airline stopped flying in and out of Northern Colorado, a decision that still mystifies local officials.

What type of airline might come to the area is still to be determined. Allegiant is one of the only destination carriers around, but airport officials will look at whatever carrier could be a good fit, Elish said. The preference would be an airline that passengers could board in Loveland and connect elsewhere. “That is what the business traveler would like as well as the leisure traveler,” he said.

NCEDC expects soon to survey businesses about their travel needs and if they would fly out of Fort Collins-Loveland if it had a new carrier.

In the meantime, Licon has been busy getting in front of a number of airlines recently, although he declined to name names.

“Primarily right now we are just going out and showing what we have, what our population base is, what the market share analysis could be for a potential airline,” he said.

“I am still optimistic, but the biggest factor we have to compete against is our proximity to Denver. But we are doing everything we can.”

Attracting a new airline might require some enticements or subsidies from the cities, but officials know an airline can still pull the plug when the subsidies run out, like American Airlines did in Cheyenne.

That city provided a one-year, $1.4 million revenue guarantee, but after the year ran out, American Eagle left.

“Subsidization doesn’t always work,” Licon said. But comparing Cheyenne’s 92,000 population area to Northern Colorado’s is like comparing apples to “humongous apples,” he said. “We are trying to make a convincing argument, but it might take an investment to bring them in. It could be incentives, it could be a variety of things.”


Man sentenced to 30 months for flashing laser at private plane, Pasadena police helicopter

A North Hollywood man who aimed a commercial-grade laser at a private airplane and a Pasadena police helicopter was sentenced Monday to 30 months in federal prison.

Adam Gardenhire, 19, pleaded guilty in October to one count of aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft, which became a federal crime last year.

Gardenhire was the second person in the nation to be indicted under the federal statute, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

On March 29, 2012, Gardenhire aimed a commercial-grade laser at a privately-owned Cessna preparing to land at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. The pilot’s vision was impaired by the laser for several hours, according to prosecutors.

Gardenhire later aimed the laser several times at a Pasadena police helicopter responding to complaints by the pilot, according to his plea agreement.

The FBI, Federal Aviation Administration and police officials from Los Angeles, Burbank and Bob Hope Airport also investigated the incident.

Gardenhire was in his backyard, about a half-mile south of the airport, when he pointed the laser, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

The federal law that bans pointing lasers at aircraft carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Gardenhire was sentenced in Los Angeles by U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommended Gardenhire receive 18 to 24 months, but Wilson opted for a harsher sentence, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Melissa Mills.

At sentencing, “Gardenhire basically argued that it wasn’t dangerous, that he couldn’t have known it was dangerous — that basically he was just bored and entertaining himself,” Mills said. “The judge found the facts didn’t bear that out and his behavior was reckless and very dangerous." 

West Windsor, New Jersey: Town, PBA reach resolution on police helicopter lessons

   WEST WINDSOR — The township will reimburse two officers for their helicopter flight lessons one last time to attain financially immunity toward any further flight technology college courses taken by members of the PBA Local 271.

   With a 4-1 vote, the Township Council on March 11 passed a resolution cementing a recent settlement struck by the administration and police union.

   Under the deal, the township would front the additional $38,407 it had originally refused to pay last year, bringing the grand total to about $50,000 in aviation classes.

   In return, the two officers along with the rest of local 271 agreed to pursue any kind of desired aviation technology courses on their own dime.

   Lone dissenter Councilman Bryan Maher refused to give his vote, citing it was inappropriate for taxpayers to pay the sum and that the two officers had pushed the envelope of acceptability too far.

   ”The contract that was initially agreed to that allowed these employees to take classes in whatever they wanted should have never happened to begin with; those in power had the position to do something at the time and they chose not to,” said Mr. Maher in a phone interview. “They should stand up and take responsibility and instead they like to sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen.”

   Dave DeFillipo, the union’s attorney, emphasized the township knew the officers’ requests were well within their contract rights because it had been reimbursing the officers prior to 2012. However, he thought the settlement was fair for both sides.

   ”The officers took into account the interest of the public and the taxpayers,” said Mr. DeFillipo. “If we pursued the matter in arbitration, we stood a good chance of winning, but we decided to look at it from all perspectives and reconsider our position – for that, the officers should be commended.”

   The township has been trying to unshackle itself from these helicopter lesson reimbursements since last year. Residents and elected officials alike cited the officers in question were taking advantage of the tuition reimbursement clause included in the union’s three-year contract, which went into effect in 2010.

   The contract, which was awarded by an arbitrator, required the township to fully reimburse officers for any kind of courses taken in a higher learning institution. However, the township doesn’t own a helicopter and people argued the lessons were irrelevant to the field of law enforcement.

   Now that contract is up and the union and township are once again in negotiations for a new one. To prevent another similar controversy, Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said the administration is pushing for a contract that would restrict tuition reimbursements to courses related to criminal justice and law enforcement.

   He said he would also like to see a cap on the tuition amount that would be based on what public colleges such as Rutgers University charge per course. This would require officers to pay any tuition differences should they choose to attend a private institution.

   Mr. DeFillipo said the union is looking to maintain its place in the county compensation and salary-wise.

   ”We want to arrive at a deal that makes sense for the town and taxpayers,” he added. “But the West Windsor guys are very hard working and provide round-the-clock service and deserve a fair, equitable contract and that’s what we’re going to try to attain.”

   Both the administration and the union are confident they won’t need to go to arbitration and will be able to reach an agreement in a month or two.

   To further protect the township, under executive order, Mayor Hsueh said he created a new policy that would require all town employees requesting college course reimbursements to get prior approval from the business administrator.

   The policy attempts to protect taxpayers and promote reimbursements to employees for courses related to their fields. However, it could potentially violate current or future contract terms — particularly ones that might be approved by a state-appointed arbitrator.

   However, the mayor appeared confident it would never reach that level.

   ”Employees have the right to contest, but usually they won’t if they know this is a policy in the township,” said Mayor Hsueh. “I expect the employees who look into it will be reluctant to jump through all these hoops.”


Seaplanes to boost Kerala tourism

To give tourism further boost, the Kerala government will start its sea-plane services next month, official sources have said.

The amphibian aircraft will fly at a low height below the clouds giving travellers a chance to get a panoramic view. Other states are also planning to start seaplane services to bolster tourism.

"I am very optimistic that this will further increase the number of tourists to the state. The planes will only operate on backwaters," state tourism secretary Suman Billa said.

Kerala gets close to 1 crore visitors every year.

"We plan to carry out the test flight by April 15 and regular services will start anytime after that," MD Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Ltd Anil Kumar S said.

While the refuelling and maintenance of these aircraft will be done at Trivandrum, Cochin and Calicut airports, there would be five water dromes at Ashtamudi,Punnamada (Alapuzha), Thanneermu-kkom (Kumarakom), Bolgatty (Cochin) and Bekkal.

The seaplanes, Kumar said, could be used for joy rides besides helping tourists reach their destinations in around 30 minutes.


Congressman Mike Pompeo: Aviation industry improving but more progress needed

by Melissa Scheffler 
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News

(WICHITA, Kan.)— Cessna opened the door on its latest achievement. It is the 400th CJ3, a business jet in the Citation line.

"There are over 1,600 Citation jets flying around the world today," Ron Draper, Cessna Senior Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain, said.

Cessna invited its employees and the media to the roll-out celebration.  However, when we asked, Cessna execs declined to comment on the future of the aviation industry.  Draper only offered brief comments to employees.  "If there's one thing we build here at Cessna, it's confidence.  We build confidence with our customers," Draper said.

Confidence is something that might be lacking in the aviation industry.  We sat down with Congressman Mike Pompeo to talk about its future in the Air Capital.

"I'm hopeful we've turned the corner in that a year or six months ago we actually hit bottom. And those businesses will actually start growing and people will start buying propeller aircraft and jet aircraft again. And we [will] get folks back to work here in south central Kansas," Pompeo said.

The congressman says business is getting better.  But it's not improving as quickly as the aircraft makers would like.  "I'm optimistic in the coming months things will get better. I just wish they moved more quickly," Pompeo said.

So Cessna, and its counterparts, can hold ceremonies like this more often.  "It's you that deliver the value to the customer.  You build the high-quality aircraft that leaves Wichita, Kansas and goes all around the world," Draper said.

Congressman Pompeo also talked about Beechcraft's battle for a military contract.  Beechcraft has filed a lawsuit to fight the air force awarding a large contract to the Sierra Nevada Corporation.  Pompeo says the Air Force doesn't reverse its course often.  But, it's not unheard of.  He hopes the Air Force will re-consider its decision and buy its planes from Beechcraft.  


Long Beach (KLGB), California: Airport Is Billed $11.5 Million In Charges From Other City Departments

March 26, 2013 – The Long Beach Airport uses a number of different city services to manage its operations, including public safety, engineering, and billing and collection, among others. The airport, like all city departments, is charged for these services based on a methodology and calculation that attempts to define what is a fair share. A group of outside consultants assists the city in determining the allocation basis, helping to ensure that every department pays an equitable share for the services it receives from other departments. “Somebody has to pay for city hall,” said JC Squires, CPA, manager of finance and administration at the airport. “We get our piece of everything, just like everybody else does.”

For example, the airport will pay more than $3.5 million in the current fiscal year – October 1, 2012, through September 30, 2013 – for police services and about $5.4 million for fire services. These charges primarily cover personnel hours, but also include resources and equipment costs.  View the chart.

In all, the airport will contribute almost $11.5 million to city coffers for things like general city overhead costs (support for city hall, city management, city council and mayor); technology services (acquisition, maintenance and repair for computer systems, printers, phones, servers, data back-up, software, cabling, programming, etc.); park bureau charges (the airport runs an advertising campaign using parks department locations and publications to reach customers); and fleet services (acquisition, maintenance, repair and fueling services for vehicles, trucks, tractors, trailers and all rolling stock).

“The airport pays the fully burdened cost for all services it receives,” said Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez. “In accordance with federal regulations, airports, in general, are allowed to pay up to all costs for services received.” Moreover, the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 prohibits the diversion of airport revenue to pay for city services not related to airport operations. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, the airport cannot contribute any more or less than it receives. “There’s no burden to the community, whatsoever,” Rodriguez said.

The Long Beach City Council recently requested that financial management produce a report addressing “a potential policy and plan by which public safety enterprise fund services and weighted costs are addressed appropriately by all departments.” The goal is to review whether revenue-producing city departments, such as the airport and gas and oil department, adequately bear the full weight of costs for the public safety services they receive. Finance Director John Gross told the Business Journal the budget office is currently preparing a response, though no timeline has been set for reporting back to the council.

But, according to Squires, this kind of review already takes place – at least as it concerns the airport. “We worked with financial management the last two years going over their cost allocation and direct charges with each department to make sure that, under FAA rules, we can only pay for services received,” he said. “We’re pretty confident we’re paying for the services we’re receiving. I don’t think we’re getting gouged.”

Story and Photos:

Managers of West Virginia airports on tower closure list voice safety concerns but vow to stay open

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The three West Virginia airports scheduled to lose contract air traffic control service in coming weeks because of federal budget sequestration provisions will remain open after their towers close.

But the directors of the airports serving Lewisburg, Parkersburg and Wheeling say the loss of their air traffic control towers, announced Friday, raises safety concerns -- because pilots and maintenance crews will no longer have controllers watching their backs as they go about their business.

After meeting with pilots last week to discuss the pending tower closure, "we think we will come up with some good work-arounds" to deal with the loss of air traffic control service at Parkersburg's Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport, director Terry Moore said Monday.

"But we're all used to having the tower cover our backs," Moore said. "We need to make sure the pilots and those of us on the ground are communicating and aware of everyone's location."

The Parkersburg airport's four daily United Express flights to Cleveland will continue to operate.

"Commercial flights operate from uncontrolled fields, like the airport in Beckley," Moore said. "The pilots flying here will have to get used to not having a tower. We've been talking with Tom Cochran, the director at Beckley, to help us get acquainted with the procedures and policies that are involved so we can make the transition here be a little smoother."

While Moore said the Parkersburg airport would survive the loss of its tower, that doesn't mean he isn't "upset and angry" that it's happening.

The FAA's decision to close contract towers at the three West Virginia locations, along with 146 other airports across the nation, starting April 7, "was made with no logical method, and with no planning at all," Moore said. "It was a knee-jerk reaction."

At the Parkersburg airport, the Federal Aviation Administration owns the control tower and the navigational gear inside, including the controls to the airport's rotating beacon, runway lights and emergency siren. Whether airport personnel will have access to those controls remains an unanswered question, Moore said.

"We don't own the frequency to the system that lets the pilots remotely turn on the runway lights themselves after the tower closes at night," he added. "Will we be able to use it? Will the FAA keep paying the utilities for the tower? The lack of planning is making things a little dysfunctional."

Moore said smaller cities such as Parkersburg "have struggled for years to have a level playing field" in terms of air service. "Having an airport with a control tower is an economic development selling point," he said. "It helps form a community's identity -- it makes us a major player. Now, we're back to being one of 4,000 little airports. It's a shame, because so many people have worked so hard to promote this airport and this area."

Both Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport and Wheeling Ohio County Airport host National Guard air installations, which could see their training operations scaled back or moved elsewhere because of the tower closings, according to their directors.

Military planners took the presence of control towers into account in locating their operations at the two airports decades ago. "Now they're going to have to limit their training opportunities, or maybe have to fly someplace other than the place they invested in," said Tom Tominack, director of the Wheeling airport.

Tominack said the loss of a control tower, which has operated at his airport since 1949, "leaves me concerned about the safety factor. We have two intersecting runways, corporate aircraft, a National Guard base with an active Blackhawk helicopter unit, and an Army Reserve center that have relied on air traffic control for training purposes.

"The FAA built the safest aviation system in the world," Tominack said. "To close nearly 40 percent of that system's towers, as was called for initially, is a complete 180-degree turn. It's uncharacteristic of them. We're genuinely concerned for the safety factor being greatly jeopardized."

Despite the closure of the tower, "we will keep the airport open and we will continue to supply aviation services," Tominack said.

At Greenbrier Valley Airport in Lewisburg, an emergency meeting of the airport's governing board is scheduled for Wednesday to look at options for coping with the planned tower closure.

"We're still trying to digest what's happened here," said airport director Jerry O'Sullivan. "But the closure will clearly have a negative impact on safety."

While state, city or local governments have the option of paying for controller service on their own, that doesn't appear to be a viable alternative for the Lewisburg airport, "since it would cost about $600,000 a year to run the tower ourselves," O'Sullivan said.

The airports serving Parkersburg, Wheeling and Lewisburg make use of contract controllers, rather than controllers employed directly by the FAA. Among West Virginia control towers still in sequestration limbo regarding possible tower closures are the FAA-staffed towers at Huntington's Tri-State Airport and Bridgeport's North Central West Virginia Regional Airport. Charleston's Yeager Airport faces a possible loss of its midnight-5 a.m. controller shift.


Aviation cuts mean uncertain future for Oklahoma air traffic controllers (With Video)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Job cuts are soon coming to the aviation industry all across the country, including four airports in Oklahoma. 

 The Federal Aviation Administration is shutting down air traffic control towers around the nation.

Now some controllers are trying to figure out where to go from here.

Matt Lau has been an air traffic controller for 17 years.

He’s worked at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City for the last five years.

“I love the job; I love coming to work every day,” Lau said.

Soon the job he loves so much will be taken away.

Wiley Post is one of 149 airports around the country that will become “uncontrolled” when the FAA shuts down the air traffic control tower.

“Everything`s happened so fast, there really hasn`t been any time to plan,” Lau said. “The first inkling I heard of this was maybe a month ago.”

Lau is just one of many controllers who are reeling from the news that they’ll soon be out of a job.

Gary Clardy has been an air traffic controller for 30 years and has spent 15 years at Wiley Post.

“You get to a certain point in your life and you think something like this would happen,” Clardy said.

Some said taking away the air traffic controllers from the towers is like taking away a traffic light from a busy intersection, it`s just an accident waiting to happen.

“It can get out of hand really quick,” Clardy said. “And I don`t think the folks in Washington realize this.”

“We do count on air traffic control to help keep safety in the air,” Karen Carney, with Will Rogers Airport, said.

The cuts are scheduled to start in April.

Only time will tell how they will affect the safety of the skies.

“Right now as an airport, we have as many questions as we do answers.” Carney said.

Those with a passion for the air are now left trying to plan for an uncertain future.

“This obviously is my first choice of a career.” Lau said. “But if I had to, I would look elsewhere in the aviation field.”

“It`s just kind of a tricky situation right now – for us all.” Clardy said.

The other three towers in Oklahoma set to close are the Lawton-Fort Sill tower, the OU Westheimer tower in Norman, and the tower at Stillwater Regional Airport.

Story and Video:

Skydivers' deaths ruled an accident by Pasco medical examiner

The deaths of two Icelandic skydivers was ruled an accident Monday by the Pasco County medical examiner.

Based on the examiner's findings, both skydive instructor Orvar Amarson, 41, and his student Andrimar Pordarson, 25, died from blunt trauma.

They died Saturday during jumps at a Skydive City in Zephyrhills.

The co-owner of the facility said the pair did not deploy their main parachutes. However, the deaths are still under investigation by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

One of the men recorded the fatal fall on a camera attached to his helmet. A detective investigating the case viewed the video Sunday, a sheriff's spokeswoman said.

The sheriff's office reiterated that the video would not be released to the media until the investigation was completed.

The men jumped separately, not in tandem.

Both men had backup automatic activation devices, which deploy if the main parachutes are not deployed in time.

"Those devices activated on both of them ... but the reserves did not have time to deploy fully," Skydive City co-owner T.K. Hayes said. "They were out of the containers but not inflated in time before they impacted."

Hayes was at the scene with officials Saturday, sorting through the men's gear to determine whether all parts had been working.

The two victims had successfully completed two other jumps Saturday morning with 20 other people. But when they didn't return from their third jump, their disappearance tipped off a search, Pasco County sheriff's spokeswoman Melanie Snow said.

They were part of a group of about 12 who travel from Iceland to Florida every year to jump, Hayes said.

On Sunday, Icelandic officials said they were still contacting family and friends of the men.

"We will assist the families if they request our assistance. I'm not aware of them contacting us," said Urdur Gunnarsdottir, press officer for the Foreign Ministry of Iceland.

Chandler panel OKs apartment plans near Chandler Municipal Airport (KCHD), Arizona

Plans for a residential development near Chandler Municipal Airport have been approved by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

The commission last week also agreed to change the zoning for the apartment complex near the northwestern corner of Cooper Road and Loop 202 from commercial to residential.

The City Council will consider the plan April 11.

The plan calls for about 332 one-, two- and three-bedroom units to be built on the nearly 19-acre site. The proposal includes 10 two-story and eight three-story buildings.

“We think it’s a much better neighbor than the back of a commercial center,” because it would have a better view and add less traffic to the area, said attorney Mike Withey, who represented the proposed Cooper Place.

Some neighbors expressed concern about the height of the buildings and that the new development would cause increased traffic and lower property values.

Residents of the Canyon Oaks Neighborhood, which is north and east of the proposed development, also are concerned that their homeowner-association dues would increase as the complex would bring increased use of the park and other amenities at Canyon Oaks, which is not gated.

While the area is about 1 mile from the airport, it is bordered on three sides by residential properties. Loop 202 is next to the property on the south side.

Steps were taken in the planning documents to address the airport. The Airport Commission also reviewed the project and found no conflict with airport operations, but wanted to be sure that future residents were informed about the potential for aircraft noise, according to planning documents.

All potential tenants must sign a statement acknowledging the proximity to the airport and the potential for aircraft noise before signing a lease, the planning documents state.

The buildings must be designed to ensure that the noise level from aircraft would not exceed 45 decibels inside the building.

Airport officials say they have no safety concerns about the location or height of the proposed buildings in the project.


Easter Bunny to Arrive by Helicopter at Hiller Aviation Museum

Kids can come see the Easter Bunny arrive by Helicopter at the Hiller Aviation Museum on March 30 and get their picture taken and a free egg.

San Carlos, CA (PRWEB) March 22, 2013 

Come celebrate Easter at the Hiller Aviation Museum with the Easter Bunny as he will arrive by private helicopter at the museum at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 30. 

Kids can get their picture taken with the Easter Bunny and receive an Easter egg. There will also be face painting, slides and jumps for the kids. The event will run from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at the Hiller Aviation Museum, located at 601 Skyway Road, San Carlos. 

The event, which is included with museum admission, will take place rain or shine. The cost is $12 for adults, $8 for kids ages 5-17 and seniors 65 or older. Kids four years old or younger get in free. The museum’s popular European Train Model display will also be open for everyone to enjoy. 

The Hiller Aviation Museum’s mission is to stimulate and engage communities to discover the past, celebrate the present and imagine the future of aviation with a focus on unique technological innovations and innovators. The Easter Bunny’s visit is one of several family activities and educational events the history museum offers for visitors in Redwood City and San Mateo. 

Dedicated to the dreams of flight, the museum exhibits chronicle over a century of aviation history and provide a glimpse into air transportation's future. Inside the museum, two large display areas contain the majority of the exhibits. Vintage and futuristic aircraft, prototypes, photographic displays, and models are on display.

The Hiller Aviation Museum’s 53,000 square-foot complex consists of a main exhibit hall, an entrance atrium, 35-seat Theater, two 50-seat conference centers, gift store/restoration shop/and kitchen facilities for catered events. The museum was founded in June 1998 by helicopter pioneer Stanley Hiller Jr. For more information, visit

About the company:

The Hiller Aviation Museum, a non-profit organization, brings together historical, educational and technological resources to create programs which increase public understanding of science and aviation and inspire new opportunities. 

The Hiller Aviation Institute is dedicated to the dreams of flight – looking back into aviation’s history while exploring its future. The experience is educational and entertaining casting new light onto the technical innovations.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: 


Church to drop 50,000 eggs from helicopter

Last year's helicopter drop at SVSU.

UNIVERSITY CENTER, MI (WNEM) -   This Saturday at 11 a.m., Life Church will be dropping 50,000 plastic Easter eggs filled with candy and minitoys over SVSU's Intramural Sports Fields.

This free regionwide event will also feature four giant inflatables, two professional balloon animal twisters, and free refreshments from Coca Cola (while supplies last).

"Life Church is in the middle of its monthlong Grand Opening," explained founding pastor Jonathan Herron. "We love area families and wanted to create a fun memorymaker for our region."

The Egg Drop site will be divided into three age appropriate fields for children ages 2 through 12.

Church volunteers are planning for thousands of people to descend upon SVSU, making registration of each participating child a priority. As parents register their kids, they will receive a colored wristband granting them free admission to the festivities and indicating which field to line up at.

"The Egg Drop is one of the many reasons why our family is excited to be part of Life Church," noted SVSU student Krystal Rajewski. "Life Church feels refreshing to me. This church doesn't judge or engage in hypocrisy, its just full of real people trying to follow a real God."

Egg Drop preregistration is now open until Thursday at

Registration the day of the event opens at 10 a.m., with the helicopter dropping eggs at 11 a.m. sharp.

The event is free, although SVSU does charge $5 for parking during this event. Details on the egg drop can be found online at and

Story and Photo:

Aircraft lessor ILFC gets one plane back in Kingfisher dispute

Paris: Aircraft lessor International Lease Finance Corp said on Monday it had successfully removed one of six aircraft stranded in India by a dispute over the suspension of operations at Kingfisher Airlines.

Financiers have warned that failure to resolve the dispute between creditors over the grounded carrier's unpaid bills could starve India of funds needed to develop its aviation industry.

ILFC, a subsidiary of U.S. insurer AIG, said it had been able to remove an Airbus A321 passenger jet following a High Court decision in New Delhi on March 15.

"This first aircraft's departure demonstrates the High Court's pragmatic approach in an environment that is perceived as hostile by many foreign investors," ILFC said in a statement.

Kingfisher, controlled by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, has been halted due to a cash crunch. Lenders are trying to recover $1.4 billion of loans in default, but disagreements over who should take precedence have left jets stranded.

Germany's DVB Bank said in December it had sued India's aviation regulator and Kingfisher to have two planes it financed for the troubled carrier de-registered, a possible first step toward recouping its funds.

The fate of Kingfisher's jets is seen as an important test of an international agreement known as the Cape Town convention, designed to make it more attractive for leasing companies to invest by imposing U.S.-style repossession rights.


HealthNet Aeromedical adds four new helicopters in Huntington, West Virginia

When minutes matter, a quick helicopter flight can spell the difference between life and death for a critically ill or injured patient. Now HealthNet Aeromedical Services has added four of the latest model helicopters to its fleet.

The new helicopters are Eurocopter EC-130s, a model that offers more space for patient care and the latest technology to aid flight nurses and crew members.

"The new EC-130 helicopters add a new dimension to HealthNet's legacy of service to the region," said Clinton Burley, HealthNet's president and CEO. "They offer increased room for patient care and equipment, a lower nose signature and enhanced safety features."

One of the new $2.7 million helicopters was displayed at a news conference this month at Cabell Huntington Hospital. HealthNet and Cabell Huntington have a long-standing partnership that dates back to the 1980s.

The U.S. military was the first to employ helicopters for medical purposes, first in Korea and then in Vietnam.

In Korea, the small choppers of the day were used strictly as aerial ambulances, speeding the wounded to treatment. But in Vietnam, the larger helicopters in use by then were big enough that trained medical personnel could be carried aboard, providing life-saving treatment for the wounded while they were still in the air. Many who might otherwise have died owed their lives to the helicopters and their crews.

That lesson wasn't lost on doctors and hospitals here at home who quickly saw that helicopters could be enormously valuable in rushing patients to the hospital from an accident scene or airlifting them from a small hospital to a larger hospital when they needed specialized care.

Obviously, helicopters carry a special appeal in a mountainous state such as West Virginia, where an ambulance trip over winding two-lane roads can take hours.

In the 1970s, West Virginia National Guard helicopters were frequently used to airlift patients. But with no flight crews on standby duty, Guard members had to be summoned from their homes for each flight, posing significant delays for missions where every minute counted.

Beginning in 1978, the West Virginia State Police began offering medical transport by helicopter. But the service was underfunded and faced an uncertain fiscal future.

Determined to remove that uncertainty, the Charleston Area Medical Center and West Virginia University Hospitals in Morgantown devised a plan to promote the essential service. HealthNet was born in the summer of 1986, with two helicopters, one based in Charleston and one in Morgantown. Cabell Huntington joined HealthNet the following year.

"HealthNet has been providing safe transport and lifesaving care to our patients since their first helicopter was based at Cabell Huntington Hospital in 1987," said Brent Marsteller, president and CEO of Cabell Huntington. "This new aircraft provides us with an enhanced level of service for our patients, and it is evidence of the strong working partnership Cabell Huntington Hospital has maintained with HealthNet as we have grown together over the years."

The new EC-130s provide an additional 18 inches in width. That may not seem like much, but it gives medical crews more room to work and even enables a medical specialist to join those on board when cases call for that level of care.

Two of the four new helicopters are already in service. One is based at Hamlin and another in Martin County, Ky. A third will be based at Portsmouth, Ohio, and a fourth will provide the service a spare. In addition to Hamlin, Martin County and Portsmouth, HealthNet operates from bases in Morgantown, Ripley, Beckley, Buckhannon and Martinsburg. Since it began operation in 1986, it has successfully completed 70,000 patient missions.

Story and Photo:

Mark Earle resigns as director of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (KCOS), Colorado

Mark Earle has resigned as director of the Colorado Springs Airport amid a disagreement over how the airport should try to attract more passengers and airline service, Mayor Steve Bach said Friday.

Earle has been replaced on an interim basis by Dan Gallagher, who has been the airport’s assistant aviation director for planning and development. Earle, who served as the city’s aviation director for nearly a decade, has agreed to serve as senior adviser-airport and aviation affairs for the rest of the year to assist the city and Gallagher in the transition.

“It became clear after nine months of working together that Mark and I wanted to head in different directions,” Bach said during a telephone interview Friday. “After a lot of meetings on strategic direction in respect to marketing, it was clear we were on different tracks and he told me, ‘Why don’t you hire someone more in line with your philosophy.’”

Earle was not available Friday for comment. In a news release issued by the city, Earle said he was honored to serve in the post and praised his staff, saying he was committed to ensuring a smooth transition.

Bach said he will take over meeting with airlines that the airport is targeting for new or expanded service. He also plans to seek proposals from marketing consultants on how the airport should more aggressively market itself in the shadow of Denver International Airport, the nation’s fifth-busiest hub.

“I think we have to be a lot more aggressive in very targeted ways and we need to find somebody who is aligned with that thinking,” Bach said. “We have to do more than a simply superb job of operations. I am concerned about the continuing loss of traffic at the airport and have talked with enough employers and people in the tourism business who are concerned about the lack of flights” at the airport.

The move comes just two weeks before Frontier Airlines will end service to Colorado Springs after five years, which Bach said played a role in the change. The Denver-based carrier had made the Springs a “focus city” in May with nonstop flights to four western U.S. cities and had become the airport’s third-largest carrier before pulling the plug on the experiment in January. After Frontier’s April 7 departure, the airport still has nonstop service to 10 other cities.

As a result of a 47 percent jump in Frontier’s passenger numbers, traffic at the airport rose slightly last year for the first time since 2007. The Springs airport and other midsized airports nationwide have been hit hard as airlines reduced flights and used smaller aircraft on remaining flights as travel declined during the recession and fuel prices surged. Traffic numbers fell nearly 20 percent during Earle’s tenure as director.

“The city is confident that with a renewed effort we will be successful in attracting new airlines to the airport and substantially increase passenger volumes,” Bach said in the news release Friday. “The increased success of the airport will be a very important factor in our ongoing economic recovery.”

Doug Price, CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Friday he was “surprised and disappointed” by Earle’s sudden departure.

“I have worked very closely with Mark in the two years I have been here. He is respected throughout the community and the aviation industry. He has a unique background working with both military and civilian aviation.”

Earle became aviation director in August 2003 after spending 8½ years running Lubbock International Airport in Texas. He also spent 4½ years as assistant aviation director of McAllen-Miller International Airport, also in Texas. He serves as a member of the Colorado Springs Military Affairs Committee and as a director of the National Museum of World War II Aviation and the Peterson Air Force Base Museum.

The news release Friday included no details about the search for Earle’s replacement, other than the city plans to conduct a national search. Gallagher was hired by the airport in September 2010 after serving as capital programs manager for San Antonio International Airport.

Story and Reaction/Comments:

Bulgaria loses tourists due to charter flights

(Sofia, Mar 25) - Foreign airlines are seizing the charter flights market from and to Bulgaria, the president of the Bulgarian aviation association Svetoslav Stanulov reported. Bulgarian airlines are increasingly losing ground to the operating foreign companies in the air market. Against the backdrop of strong growth of 4.6 % of tourists coming to our country (2.612 million in 2012 from 2.496 million in 2011) home airlines reported a drastic decline of 20.9%, which has reduced their share of the Bulgarian charter air market from 51 to 38.5%. 

There is a serious concern that after taking over our charter market, the foreign airlines will increase the prices of flights which will also pump of the price of packages tours. This however, could scare away tourists from our seaside resorts, leading to a general decline in the whole industry, he said.

Bulgarian airlines are losing their charter market positions due to the short season of only 100 days, which does not generate enough revenue for them to maintain their aircraft. As a result, they  export their planes to work abroad and tourists coming to Bulgaria ride by foreign aircraft. For example, "Air Via" exported two of its planes to Saudi Arabia and the third one to Iceland, and will only operate with three aircraft in Bulgaria, its director Captain Atanas Vitkov said. Accordingly its charter flights will be reduced from 1,300 in 2012 to about 1,000 this year. The captain expects a substantial drop in the number of Israeli tourists but not because of the bombing in Burgas, but due to their turn to the cheaper Greek resorts, he explained.


Pacific Blue pilot for sentence today

The Pacific Blue pilot found to have carelessly flown out of Queenstown in 2010 will be sentenced in the Queenstown District Court today.

The 55-year-old commercial airline pilot from Auckland faces losing his commercial pilot's license and a maximum fine of up to $7000. Judge Kevin Phillips earlier this month issued written findings on the charge and concluded the pilot, who has interim name suppression, was careless in his operation of the aircraft and that he ''occasioned unnecessary endangerment to the passengers, the crew and the aircraft itself''. Civil Aviation Authority records show that since 1998 there have been 33 careless operation charges leading to conviction. However, the CAA holds no record of a commercial passenger airline pilot being convicted.

Judge Phillips' verdict follows the June 22, 2010, flight and a four-week hearing held over four months last year.

He found the defendant breached Pacific Blue's evening civil twilight departure allowance time of 5.14pm; had left Queenstown for Sydney in poor light conditions; had breached industry requirements by not having a suitable contingency plan; and should not have taken off. He concluded the CAA's allegations that the pilot flew in cloud below the minimum altitude and in a heavy crosswind and failed to prepare an anti-ice increment were also correct. The pilot was flying a Boeing 737 carrying 64 passengers and five crew bound for Sydney. Before the incident, the pilot's commercial career comprised 16,043 hours' total flying time, of which 6000 hours were spent flying a Boeing 737, and 30 years' experience flying in and out of Queenstown.


Pacific Blue pilot guilty of carelessness 

Fri, 08 Mar 2013 2:41p.m.

The Pacific Blue pilot who took off from Queenstown airport in fading light has been found guilty of carelessly operating an aircraft.

The charge against the Auckland-based 54-year-old pilot, who has name suppression, was brought by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) after the Boeing 737 took off 10 minutes after the official cut-off point in June 2010 in bad weather and fading light.

In a written decision Judge Kevin Phillips said the pilot should not have decided to take off.

"I am satisfied that the defendant ... was careless in his manner of operating the aircraft.

"The defendant ignored the mandatory requirements and, in their place, used his planned self designed contingency," he said.

During a defending hearing at Queenstown District Court spread between March and September last year, the court heard the flight bound for Sydney was meant to leave at 4:30pm but did not take off until 5:25pm - 20 minutes before official twilight - in poor weather and fading light.

The cut-off point for flights from Queenstown Airport was meant to be 30 minutes before twilight.

A former chief pilot for Air New Zealand, Colin Glasgow, told the hearing the aircraft did not reach the minimum altitude required to ensure it did not hit the nearby Southern Alps if an engine failed.

A witness to the incident told the court he feared the plane would crash while a senior CAA manager said the decision to take off was "a recipe for disaster".

"The defendant's decision to depart created a high-risk situation if the aircraft suffered an engine failure," Mark Hughes told the hearing.

The charge carries a maximum fine of $7000.


Photos and Video: Military Aircraft Departs Bermuda


March 25, 2013

On Sunday morning [March 24] the fleet of military aircraft that had stopped at LF Wade International Airport departed the island. The aircraft left in two different groups, with the first leaving at around 11am, and the second group leaving around 45 minutes later. 

A few people gathered at the airport to watch the nine aircraft depart, and a few of the planes did a ‘fly by’ over the east end after taking off. You can view photos of the military aircraft arriving in Bermuda on 20 March here, and a video of the second set of military aircraft arriving in Bermuda on 22 March here.

Photo Gallery:

The crowded airspace over the oilsands

It’s an industry boom that knows no altitude limit. As Alberta’s oil industry rapidly expands, efficiently moving workers to and from remote extraction sites has become vital. But as petroleum companies of all sizes increasingly turn to private planes and company-operated airports, the skies are getting dangerously crowded. “There is a mentality that, here in the Great White North, there is nothing but space and open skies,” says Bill Werny, vice-president of operations at the Fort McMurray Airport Authority. “That’s just not the case anymore.”

While many oil-sands airports consist of a few small planes on a single strip of tarmac, the biggest companies charter more flights than many of Canada’s top commercial airlines. Combined, oil-sands airplanes move roughly 750,000 people a year, more than municipal airports in St. John’s, Victoria, Regina or Saskatoon. But while the location of municipal airport tarmacs is regulated by Transport Canada, private tarmacs can be built wherever someone is willing to lease the land. At low altitudes, Werny says the only navigation technique available to pilots is to “see and avoid.” Near-collisions, he warns, are becoming increasingly common.

This month, following on the heels of a study by the Fort McMurray Airport Authority that found 47 private air strips in the Athabasca oil-sands region alone, Werny set up a round-table group including private airstrip owners. While oil companies are wary of having private airstrips become regulated, many are taking part to discuss safety problems. While the group has “no authority” to set regulations, it is a first attempt to improve oversight for congestion concerns that have grown too big to ignore.

Story and Photo:

Tallahassee, Florida: WTXL ABC27 premieres new station helicopter

WTXL ABC27's new helicopter, courtesy of Tallahassee Helicopters.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- WTXL-ABC27 is proud to announce a new partnership with Tallahassee Helicopters to bring our viewers news coverage in a way that's never been done before in the Tallahassee-Thomasville-Valdosta market.

The 2005 Robinson R44, Raven 2 helicopter has a glass cockpit and is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment possessed by only three helicopter schools in the nation, and we have one. 

This new partnership and tool will allow WTXL-ABC27 and our network of sister stations, WeatherNow and Bounce TV, to provide dynamic coverage of breaking news and community events.

"Try to support the station in the best way we can, many fixed events like football games, Springtime Tallahassee, Fourth of July, then there will be newsworthy events just happening," said Dr. Thomas Diefenbach of Tallahassee Helicopters. "Within five minutes we can come here from the airport, take on a camera man, we go to the site and be able to provide aerial photography of the news to our community here in Tallahassee which I think will very much be appreciated."

Story, Photos, Video:

Air cruisers touch down in Cayman

The Mauiva AirCruise touches down in Grand Cayman. 
 PHOTO: Submitted

Could the “air cruise” be the latest travel craze to take-off in the Caribbean? An American travel company is considering making Grand Cayman a regular stop on an island-hopping air tour. 

 About 20 tourists touched down in George Town on Wednesday as part of the Mauiva Sun & Fun Experience tour, which also stopped in the Bahamas and Jamaica as part of a week-long holiday package. The company, which runs similar “air cruises” within the US, hopes to establish a regular route in the Caribbean region.

Don Hundley, marketing manager for Mauiva AirCruise, said there was potential for flights to leave every other day from Florida for a Caribbean trip. He said the company, which has run four trips in the region following a soft launch, was fine-tuning its itinerary before establishing a more consistent flight schedule.

He believes there is a market for air cruising as a growth area in the Caribbean and sees the Cayman Islands as a strong destination for this type of trip.

“The whole concept is making multi-destination travel simple,” he said. “It cuts down on hassle and travel time and gives people the chance to enjoy the activities and make the most of their time at each destination.”

He said the advantage over a traditional cruise ship was a more authentic island experience and much less time travelling between destinations.

Staff from the airport and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association were on hand to greet the passengers at the general aviation terminal with fruit punch and rum cake.

Jane van der Bol, executive director of the tourism association, shared information with the visitors about the island. She added: “Private air charters have tremendous benefits to travellers such as greater convenience, comfort, privacy and productivity.

“A charter flight compared to a commercial flight requires less travel time and the travel agenda is much more flexible,” she said. “Mauiva AirCruise charter has brought about four charters to the Cayman Islands with a diverse client mix to experience the fine restaurants, hotels, attractions and water sports we have to offer.”

Caren Thompson-Palacio, the airports authority’s business development and marketing manager, said: “The Cayman Islands Airports Authority welcomes the Mauiva AirCruise charter to Grand Cayman and is delighted that they chose to include us in their Sun & Fun Experience. We trust that they will thoroughly enjoy all that our Island has to offer.”

Story and Photo:

Dr. Howard Epstein: Doctor spends spare time as volunteer pilot

Dr. Howard Epstein 

Dr. Howard Epstein stands beside his Beechcraft Bonanza near the Cuyahoga County Airport runway. Epstein is a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight, which provides charitable transportation to patients demonstrating hardship.

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 9:00 am 

Michael C. Butz
CJN Staff Reporter 

In January, Theresa Palleschi underwent a bowel surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

Palleschi, 59, lives in Brentwood, N.H., a small town about 16 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. She was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1996 and had a kidney removed by a doctor an hour’s drive away in Massachusetts.

That same doctor would subsequently perform 12 colectomies and two ileostomies on Palleschi before retiring three years ago.

“I have issues with food, obviously,” she said. “My last surgery was in 2007, and I was doing OK but struggling. Then, in December (2011), I had issues.”

With no nearby doctor to treat her, Palleschi turned to Cleveland Clinic, where she’d visited once before in 2004. Tests were performed and surgery was discussed, but out of anxiety, Palleschi put off an operation.

“Then, by December (2012), I couldn’t put it off any longer,” she said. “The way I was living was pretty awful.”

Her time and treatment at Cleveland Clinic were a success, Palleschi said, noting that one of the doctors she’s most thankful for is Dr. Howard Epstein.

But there’s a twist: Epstein, a rheumatologist, neither performed Palleschi’s surgery nor treated her condition.

Instead, on his own time and on his own dime, Epstein flew Palleschi – anxious to return to her family and reluctant to fly commercially due to her health – halfway home, to Ithaca, N.Y., where she was picked up by another volunteer pilot and taken back to New Hampshire.

“The fact that he went out of his way and opened up his schedule to take me home ... I don’t even know him, but that’s what he did for me,” she said. “That was just an amazing gift that man gave to me. I’m still overwhelmed by it.”

Interest in medicine

Epstein, 59, was born in University Heights. His “pioneer” parents moved their family to Pepper Pike in 1957 – “those were the days when no one believed there was anything east of Green Road” – from where Epstein attended Orange schools and later Hawken School.

During his latter years in high school, Epstein volunteered as a weekend orderly in the department of surgery at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, where he started to develop an interest in medicine. When it came time to do a senior project in May 1971, Epstein sought to build on that interest.

“You’d develop a proposal you’d give to your school adviser on how you’d like to spend the month,” he said. “So, I went to the department of surgery and said, ‘I have this senior project, and I’d like to do it on something medically related. Is there an opportunity for me?’

“They thought about it, and they got back to me and said, ‘We could train you how to be a technician that helps the scrub nurses in surgery,’ and that’s what they did,” said Epstein, adding that then became his summer job through college and part of medical school. “During summers, when others were on vacation, I was a scrub technician. I was the person that handed instruments to the surgeon, I kept the operating room moving, stuff like that,” he said.

Building his résumé

Epstein earned a biology degree in 1975 from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. before returning home to attend medical school at Case Western Reserve University.

In 1982, he completed a two-year internal medicine internship at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas – connected to and affiliated with Parkland Memorial Hospital, of John F. Kennedy fame – before again returning home, this time for an internal medicine residency at Mt. Sinai.

“It felt like I was coming home, it was great,” said Epstein, referring to Mt. Sinai. “It really was an incredibly special place because even though it technically was a community hospital, it had such a high level of care and such an amazing esprit de corps, it was truly a gem for our community.”

Epstein subsequently completed a fellowship at University Hospitals under the direction of Dr. Roman Moskowitz, who headed the rheumatology department. After that, he spent 10 years as an assistant professor of medicine at CWRU and working at University Hospitals.

Why rheumatology?

“I fainted at the sight of blood,” Epstein said, jokingly. “When I told my mother I was going into rheumatology, she said, ‘Rheumatology? I didn’t send you to medical school to go into hotel management.’”

On a more serious note, Epstein explained that he knew as early as medical school that internal medicine was something he wanted to do.

“Rheumatology, being a specialty within internal medicine, involves taking care of people with chronic conditions,” he said. “It was the long-term relationships and the interaction with patients that really drew me to the field.”

Joining Cleveland Clinic

In 1995, Epstein both became president of the Northeastern Ohio chapter of the Arthritis Foundation and started a new chapter in his career by joining Cleveland Clinic. He spent 10 years at the Independence Family Health Center before moving to his current office at the Beachwood Family Health Center.

Dr. Abby Abelson, Cleveland Clinic Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases chair, has known Epstein since both were in medical school.

“He’s an impressively dedicated physician, and he’s a wonderful colleague,” said Abelson, a member of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood. “He’s a really excellent and bright rheumatologist, and he’s a role model to all of us in his dedication to the community.”

In recent years, Epstein has added administrative duties to his resume as assistant medical director for Cleveland Clinic’s employee health plan – which affords him a role in rewarding the medical center’s more than 40,000 worldwide employees for “good, healthy behaviors ... and meeting healthy targets,” he said.

“He’s admired for his administrative capabilities in taking on this role in our employee health plan,” Abelson said. “He’s done a really impressive job. Everything he does, he does impressively.”

Sky is the limit

Years earlier, Epstein developed an interest in flying.

“My history of flying circles back to my days at Mt. Sinai, the summer between the end of high school and beginning of college,” said Epstein, mentioning Dr. Sidney Cohen, a urologist who was also a pilot.

“I talked with him in the course of seeing him around. He was a very gracious, warm guy, and kind of got me interested (in flying),” Epstein said. “I decided I’d take the money I’d earned from my work at Mt. Sinai and take flying lessons, which I did, and I got my private pilot’s license the spring of my freshman year of college.”

Epstein flew “just a little bit” through college and medical school, but then stayed grounded for more than 20 years. Then, in 1999, he decided to change that.

“I remember this very clearly, I was driving across the Valley View bridge on a Saturday morning going to a clinic. It was a gorgeous day and I could see all the way downtown, and I said to myself, ‘You know, I’ve been doing this long enough and I’m comfortable with what I’m doing – I think I’m going to start flying again,’” he said. “So, after clinic, I got in my car and drove up to Burke Lakefront Airport not knowing what I’d find – I figured there must be a flight school there – and that was the first time I’d gotten in an airplane again after all that time.”

Epstein then took the classes needed to gain his certification, and in 2001, he purchased a Beechcraft Bonanza. For years, he used it mostly for recreational purposes, but about four years ago that changed.

“I was at a pilot-training seminar and there were these little postcards that described the Angel Flight organization and the opportunities to volunteer for them,” he said. “I took one and thought ‘Gee, this is really a nice way to give back,’ so I filled out the necessary forms and started doing some volunteer work for them.”

Flying for others

Angel Flight provides charitable transportation to ambulatory patients who demonstrate financial hardship and are traveling to and from medical treatment. The Virginia Beach, Va.-based nonprofit has five regional offices and a nationwide network of about 10,000 pilots.

MaryJane Sablan, who triages patient requests and dispatches them to volunteer pilots for Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, described Epstein as dedicated and generous.

“His involvement is priceless,” she said. “I don’t know how I managed without him.”

One instance in which Sablan said Epstein went “above and beyond” involved an Ohio child who’d been camping in Virginia but needed to return home.

“The pilot taking the trip out of Virginia wasn’t comfortable with the forecast and canceled the trip, leaving the camper to stay the night and hope the forecast would improve to go home the following day, providing the pilot’s schedule was free to try again,” she said. “Dr. Epstein made the command decision that he would fly all the way to northern Virginia to pick up the camper and fly him all the way back home to Ohio.”

Epstein was comfortable with both his ability to handle the flight and his plane’s ability to handle the potential weather, Sablan said.

“His response when I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to do all of that flying?’ was something to the effect of ‘We have to get that child home, we can’t just leave him stranded,’” she said. “That’s how Dr. Epstein feels about all the patients he flies. He takes pride in everything he does and makes sure everyone flown has the best flight he can provide them.”

For all of his efforts, and for donating the most time among Angel Flight’s other Ohio pilots last year, Epstein was named the 2012 Ohio Angel Flight Pilot of the Year.

Epstein said he’s simply glad he’s been able to help.

“Not only do I love flying, but I also view flying as a privilege,” he said. “To give back in a positive way like this – that’s what’s really rewarding for me.”

For some time, Abelson admitted, she had no idea Epstein participated in Angel Flight.

“Someone just mentioned it to me. I was just so impressed,” she said. “You see he’s living the principle of tikkun olam in everything he does. He’s really selfless in his devotion to others, both in his practice and in the community – and in the Jewish community.”

Regarding the latter, Epstein, who lives in Pepper Pike with his partner of 27 years, Gregg Levine, is a Menorah Park board member and chair of its Aging Resources Committee. Epstein also is a board member at Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, where he’s helped organize the Shabbat Cafe.

One woman’s ‘angel’

Palleschi, whose Cleveland Clinic physician is Dr. Feza Remzi, Department of Colorectal Surgery chair, and whose January surgery was performed by Dr. Jean Ashburn, responded so well to her treatment that she was discharged that Thursday instead of that Sunday.

However, the return flight she’d booked for Sunday through Angel Flight Northeast, which covers New Hampshire, couldn’t be rescheduled because no pilots were available.

On top of that, the 5-foot-6-inch Palleschi – who weighs only 87 pounds due to her condition – had collected 16 pounds of fluid in her ankles and feet, making it difficult to walk and leaving her fearful of flying commercially.

“Finding myself in that situation that far away was really scary,” she said.

Palleschi spent that Thursday night in the Cleveland Clinic Guesthouse anxious and alone, but later learned that Angel Flight Northeast had contacted Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic in hopes of accommodating her situation.

“Dr. Epstein called me Friday to tell me he’d come get me,” Palleschi said. “He came to the guesthouse to pick me up; he didn’t even make me go to the airport. It was pretty amazing to me.”

They departed from Cuyahoga County Airport on that Saturday – before a heavy snowfall that Palleschi felt would’ve kept her in Cleveland several days longer.

In the end, Palleschi described Epstein’s help as “something I’ll never forget.”

“People today, they’re very busy, they’re into themselves, they’re on their phones, their iPads, their email and everything. But this man, who I didn’t even know, this man picked me up and took me home when I needed to get home,” Palleschi said, overcome with emotion. “He was a gift from heaven, an angel sent from God. I’ll be eternally grateful.”

Dr. Howard Epstein / Quick look

AGE: 59

RESIDENCE: Pepper Pike

SYNAGOGUE: The Temple-Tifereth Israel

INTERESTING NOTE: Involved with The Musical Theater Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the American musical through programs that educate as well as entertain people of all ages.

Story, Photos, Video:

Wallington man gives Tom Cruise film company two planes to blow up for upcoming movie All You Need Is Kill

 Film star Tom Cruise has borrowed a Sutton man's plane, blown it up and then left him to clear up the rubbish.

Fortunately, that was all part of the agreement when Wallington plane salvage expert Mustafa Azim agreed to let the producers of Cruise's upcoming blockbuster All You Need Is Kill borrow two of his planes and blow holes in them so they could be used as props.

Mr Azim, 47, runs Imperial Air Salvage. He picks up old aircraft and repairs them or salvages what he can from them. He has a large collection of craft and agreed to let Warner Brothers borrow two of his planes, including a Boeing 737.

Mr Azim said: "Basically, we gave Tom Cruise two planes, he blew them up and then we had to come back and clear up afterwards!

"Actually, they didn't actually blow them up completely. They wanted to use them as props on a beach scene where they had already crashed.

"So, they put special explosives on them and blew holes in them and then they got a load of  sand and dumped the aircraft on to it.

"Then they filmed the sequence and we came back to pick everything up."

The filming happened in Leavesden, near Watford, but Mr Azim and his team were not allowed on set at the same time as the actors, who include Cruise, Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton.

Despite this, Mr Azim was able to pick up a number of souvenirs from the filming including props like ammunition boxes, airplane controls and even two inflatable dinghies.

Mr Azim set up Imperial Air Salvage after being made redundant from his job with an airline during the global recession.

He used his redundancy to buy a decommissioned 747 which he scrapped. Since then his company has salvaged 22 more planes and has even converted one into a restaurant.

Recently he bought a plane from former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain's old fleet.

All You Need is Kill, a science fiction film about a soldier played by Cruise, is out next year.

Story and Photos: