Saturday, March 30, 2013

La Push, Washington: Pilot cited for landing near tsunami dock on beach

LAPUSH — An ultralight pilot's curiosity over the 185-ton concrete dock that had washed up from Japan on a remote stretch of Olympic National Park beach south of LaPush resulted in a citation and fine.

Raymond Helvey of Forks was cited by a park ranger March 4 at the Forks Municipal Airport after he illegally landed his ultralight aircraft on a beach that had been closed to the public to allow work on dock removal, according to Rainey McKenna, a park spokeswoman.

McKenna said she did not know the amount of the fine associated with the citation.

Helvey was spotted by park employees when he landed his engine-powered ultralight not far from the dock that had crossed the Pacific Ocean after the March 2011 tsunami and washed ashore near the mouth of Mosquito Creek between the Hoh River and LaPush in December.

“[Helvey] was able to land it and lift off again,” McKenna said.

Helvey told park officials he was curious about the dock and wanted to get a closer look.

Helvey also was given a written warning by an officer with the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary because he flew below the sanctuary's 2,000-foot flight limit, a limit put in place to protect marine mammals and nesting birds, ­McKenna said.

“The man had already been cited by the [National Park Service], so [the marine sanctuary officer] did not cite him a second time,” she said.

McKenna said citations such as this do not happen that often, adding that Helvey's was the only citation given in connection with the dock.

Crews from the Port Townsend-based Undersea Co. finished removing the 65-foot-long, 7½-foot-high dock last week.

The removal work, which started March 17, entailed chopping up the dock into smaller sections, which were then taken by helicopter to nearby Rayonier Inc. property and trucked to a Forks recycling station.

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Smyrna Airport (KMQY), Tennessee: Business park touts room for growth

SMYRNA — The 400-plus acres available for economic development at Smyrna Airport holds major appeal for anyone wanting to bring aviation jobs here, officials say.

“We are on the short list for a major aviation company looking for another location in the eastern United States,” Smyrna Airport Executive Director John Black said while recently pointing out the available land for lease. “That’s something a lot of airports don’t have is the ability to expand. We not only have a large economic engine here, we have a lot of potential for future growth.”

The Tennessee Economic and Community Development sees the airport’s potential, as well, and that’s why Black serves on an aerospace committee along with Allen Howell, the president of Corporate Flight Management, the largest tenant at the airport.

The committee also includes Murfreesboro City Manager Rob Lyons.

The airport is part of an aviation corridor stretching as far north to the Clarksville area, where the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division is located at Fort Campbell, Ky., Lyons said.

The committee also includes Chad Gehrke, the manager of the smaller Murfreesboro Airport. His airport provides the runway space for Middle Tennessee State University to train aviation majors.

The corridor includes the University of Tennessee Space Institute and Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma. The corridor extends south to the NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Lyons added.

“That is a unique alignment of expertise, workforce and investment,” said Lyons, adding that government and business leaders need to figure out how to attract investment for more jobs centered around aviation. “We are in the early stages of identifying what that collaboration and partnership might look like, but we see the ingredients there.”

Black also sees his airport as being in the middle of an east to west corridor that includes FedEx in Memphis and the research going on at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in East Tennessee.

“All those companion industries and support industries play into the decision of a new company locating in Tennessee,” Black said. “A lot of times when people are looking at potential sites, the airport is the first thing they see when they come to a community.”

Development potential

The Smyrna Airport has 90 acres on its east side of the runways, and this includes a six-acre solar farm and aircraft maintenance facilities.

The west side of the airport offers a 400-acre office park, of which only about 50 acres havebeen developed so far. This includes a 15,000-square-foot space for the Airport Terminal and Business Center. Another 140,000 square feet is for Corporate Flight Management, and Smyrna Air Center has 50,000 square feet.

The airport sits on grounds that started as an airfield in 1942 Army Air Force Combat Crew School to train aviators for World War II. By 1950, it became Sewart Air Force Base and operated until closing in 1970. The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority assumed control until May 15, 1991, when the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority took over.

The county controls 60 percent, and the town 40 percent. Black started his career with the authority as the assistant director in 1991 and accepted promotion to executive director in 1998.

“Since 1991, we’ve invested over $26 million in the airport,” Black said.

The airport can only lease property, and it must be at a fair market value to be eligible for federal aviation grants.

“We can do long-term leases, which are almost equal to ownership,” Black said. ““We operate like a business. All the money that is made by this airport stays on this airport. It’s put back into the airport to maintain and grow the facility.”

The airport, which has two run ways that are 8,037 feet and 5,546 feet, owns 1,700 acres and 22 buildings that are either hangars or commercial structures. The property includes the 27-hole Smyrna Golf Course and Lee Victory Recreation Park that the airport leases to the town of Smyrna, according to an economic impact study completed by Charlie Baum, an MTSU economics professor who also serves on the County Commission.

“The airport and its related business entities directly account for $44 million in output and $34.6 million in payroll expenditures and employs 3,275 workers (full-time, part-time, or in a contracted capacity,” the study states. “The Smyrna Airport also generates over $1.1 million, in economic activity from hosting the Great Tennessee Air Show, and it facilitates flight training for the MTSU Aerospace program, which has 800 majors and a host of faculty members who teach those students.

“In sum, if the Smyrna Airport and its related economic activities were not present, the value of output (sales) in Rutherford County would decrease by 0.4 percent.”

More jobs

Airport officials are working on plans to develop another 30 acres at the office park.

The plans include 20,000 square feet for a hangar with connecting taxiways, as well as office space that would be around 10,000 to 12,000 square feet.

Another part of this $10 million project is to have an adjacent 60 acres prepared for future development.

Airport officials are working to obtain the financing. It includes a $330,000 grant spread over two years from the Rutherford County Industrial Development Board.

Black, white or blue collar jobs are welcome to the airport, Black said.

“Aviation mechanics are very highly skilled and highly paid,” said Black, who oversees a staff of 15, as well as workers added in the summer. “We have leases with 35 different businesses in our airport overall.”

Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce President Paul Latture agreed that Smyrna Airport definitely has an opportunity to create even more aviation-related jobs.

“I think the investment the Airport Authority has made has allowed us to market yet another opportunity for our county,” Latture said.

Having the Smyrna Airport, Murfreesboro and MTSU being a part of a larger aviation corridor “allows us to be more competitive in the region,” Latture added.

Smyrna is known for the workforce at the Nissan auto factory, which Black sees as an advantage to attracting more companies to leases at his airport.

“The automotive industry has crossover skill sets for the aviation industry,” Black said. “The most important factor for recruitment is an available skilled workforce.

“You have to be infrastructure-ready with an available workforce and with the right incentives in a very competitive world.”

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Light Sport America: Mobile Classrooms Give New Aircraft Maker, Employees a Leg Up

BARTOW | Arthur Burns is an Air Force veteran who worked on helicopter gunships. Nicole Mutton is a young and eager graduate of an aviation academy. Larry O'Dell has an extensive background in manufacturing.

In the very near future, all three will be producing aircraft for a new Bartow firm, Light Sport America.

Getting there has been an interesting process. For the last two weeks, Burns, Mutton, O'Dell and 14 other new hires have been training for their jobs in a high-tech mobile classroom parked outside Light Sport's headquarters at the Bartow Municipal Airport industrial park.

The innovative training program, facilitated by the Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), will help Light Sport quickly establish its workforce and begin making planes.

"It's really been a godsend for us," said Harrell Ward, Light Sport's chief operating officer. "It's helped us find high-quality people and train them all at a base knowledge so we can bring them in and hit the ground, really running."

Light Sport has big plans. The new company settled here in January after buying the assets of Italian manufacturer Storm­Aircraft, and Ward said he expects to produce its first planes by mid-June.

The propeller planes, classified as light sport aircraft, are small and simple to operate, ideal for aviation enthusiasts and government use, Ward said.

Prices will range from about $89,000 to $136,000. If all goes well — Light Sport has advance orders for about 60 planes — the company will have hired 45 employees or so by the end of the year, with plans to grow to roughly 100 by the end of 2014, Ward said.

Finding qualified candidates for aircraft manufacturing is no easy matter, Ward says, but his company has received a lot of help.

The Polk Works employment services agency helped with recruiting and screening applicants, and the Celebration-based Florida MEP is providing training services at no cost through a U.S. Department of Labor grant. The government funding is intended to help manufacturing firms train new hires in the 23-county region known as Florida's High Tech Corridor, addressing a shortage of skilled workers.

"It's advanced technical training, very hands-on," said Ted Astolfi, deputy director of the Florida MEP. "We don't have to teach the theory of manufacturing — why Henry Ford started the assembly line, all of those things. We come in and teach the skills the students need to do the job."

Light Sport is the first Polk County business to participate in the training, Astolfi said. The interior of the mobile classroom supplied by MEP is lined with computer stations running advanced virtual-reality software that simulates functions done on the shop floor.

Training wrapped up Friday for Light Sport's first group of employees, who will earn starting pay of $13.50 to $15.50 per hour.

It will be the first aviation-related job for Arthur Burns since he left the military in 2009. Burns, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said his jobs in recent years included cutting grass for the city of Lakeland and working at an Amscot office.

"A lot of people don't realize the aviation field is quite competitive, and jobs are few and far between," said the 33-year-old Winter Haven resident. "For us to be able to produce a quality aircraft like this here in Polk County, that's going to be sold potentially all over the world, it's pretty amazing."

Lakeland's Nicole Mutton, 24, said she struggled to find work since graduating from the National Aviation Academy in Clearwater last year. Landing the opportunity with Light Sport "doesn't even seem real," she said. "I'm so excited."

Larry O'Dell of Lake Wales is a former plant manager with experience in machining and design work. Despite his seasoned background, O'Dell, 68, said he spent several months looking for a job that wouldn't require a long commute.

"This is a great opportunity for me and everyone here," he said. "It gives me a fresh start. It gives me a chance to feel productive and useful."

Story and Photo:

Light Sport America:

Beechcraft Premier 1A, VT-UPN: Aircraft for sale - Accident occurred September 22, 2012 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India

LUCKNOW: The aircraft which crash landed while carrying senior UP Cabinet minister ShivpalYadav and other senior officials on board last year is all set to be put for sale by the UP government. Purchased during the tenure of former chief minister Mayawati in 2008 at an estimate cost of over Rs 40 crore the six-seat aircraft, Premier-1A (VT-UPN) is not being used anymore ever since the incident, which happened in September 2012 and left the top brass of the civil aviation department red faced. And if sources are to be believed, then the aircraft will be sold off along with three other aircraft and one Chetak chopper soon.

Civil aviation department has decided to invite bids from private consultants to evaluate these state-owned aircraft. According to sources, the department is seeking 'valuers' who are registered as surveyors with Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for providing 'market realizable value' for four aircraft and a chopper along with their spare parts, rotables etc. The 'valuers' have been asked to approach the state government by April 2 and complete the evaluation process in a month's time.

The other aircraft which are up for sale also include Super King Air 300LW (VT-UPA), King Air C90A (VT-UPZ), Beech Bonanza A-36 (VT-UPY) and Chetak helicopter.

Apart the Premier-1A, Super King is also in the working state, while others have been not flying for quite sometime. A senior official in the department said that the 'valuer' shall collect and analyse the relevant information to find out the market realizable value for these aircraft.

It is however the sale of Premier 1A that has raised many eyebrows. It was bought by Mayawati in June 2008. In September 2012, however, Uttar Pradesh PWD minister Shivpal Singh Yadav and Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary had a close shave after the aircraft skidded off the runway at the IGI airport in Delhi.

The duo was accompanied by four others, including two pilots and cabin crew. The plane's nose-wheel broke as it skidded off Runway 27 in high speed after landing. Yadav, was on his way to Masuri in Ghaziabad, where six persons were killed in riots.

Sources said preliminary findings had revealed that the pilots had not called for an emergency landing and a problem with the nose wheel was only detected during landing. The civil aviation department had then ordered a probe into the incident. Sources said that the aircraft had a history of skidding.


Kolb Firefly: Accident occurred March 30, 2013 at Smoketown Airport (S37), Pennsylvania


One man was killed when his ultralight plane crashed just after takeoff Saturday at Smoketown Airport in East Lampeter Township. 

Michael Blank, 30, was pronounced dead at the scene by deputy coroners Eric Bieber and Michelle Darlington, Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said.

The coroner said the cause of death was due to multiple traumatic injuries and had been ruled accidental. He said an autopsy was not planned.

Blank lived in the county, but Diamantoni said he did not know exactly where.

A witness said Blank took off in his one-seat Kolb Firefly ultralight around 5:45 p.m.

"He looked like he climbed out steep," said the witness — a pilot who was at the airfield Saturday and who asked not to be identified.

Climbing at too steep an incline can cause the wing to stall, the pilot added.

"I heard him throttle back, like he was going to make a left turn and leave the airspace. I turned my back to watch another plane come in … and I heard the crash. I saw the black smoke and ran inside and told them to call 911."

The witness, who said he'd been in the air earlier in the day, said the crash was sobering. "You always know anything can happen but … it's bad," he said. "(It's) obviously something you never want to see."

Officials said Blank's plane crashed into an abandoned mobile home at the end of the runway on the east side of Mount Sidney Road.

Marlin Horst, owner of the airport, said Blank was an experienced pilot who had logged more than 300 hours of certified flying time.

Horst said too it appeared the crash was the result of a stall/spin, where the plane stops and corkscrews down.

"He was a skilled pilot who made a mistake," said Horst, who was visibly upset as he watched emergency crews work among the wreckage.

Witnesses said the Kolb Firefly is a home-built aircraft sold as a kit. It wasn't known if Blank constructed the plane himself or bought it already put together.

East Lampeter Township police said late Saturday that an official from the Federal Aviation Administration was at the scene and did not require the plane to be secured for further investigation.

Authorities said the aircraft was released to Smoketown Airport.

Ultralight planes are not required to be registered with the FAA.

As the evening wore on Saturday, dozens of onlookers arrived in vehicles and on foot at the airfield just off Route 340.

Many stood and watched as crews picked at the still-smoldering wreckage.

Blank's relatives, members of the Amish community, came to the crash site and watched somberly as officials recovered his body around 7:40 p.m.

According to newspaper records, the last fatal plane crash in Lancaster County happened in August 2002 when a Mount Joy Township family was killed shortly after their single-engine plane took off from Donegal Springs Airport.

The plane's pilot, Gerald Shenk, 40, his wife Julia, 39, and their two children — Ethan, 5, and Ryan, 3 — died when the plane crashed into a cornfield about a half-mile from the runway.

The family was going for short trip around the airport when the aircraft went down. Officials said it appeared the plane's engine shut off. Shenk had 20 years of experience as a pilot.


SMOKETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) - The Lancaster County Coroner is on the scene of a small plane crash at Smoketown Airport in East Lampeter Township.  

Emergency dispatchers said the incident occurred at around 5:45 p.m. Saturday. According to a press release from Lancaster County-Wide Communications, one person has been killed.

So far, there is no word on other injuries.

The airport has had two previous non-fatal crashes over the last two years, most recently in May of 2012.

UPDATE:  Officials on scene have confirmed that one person is dead following an ultralight airplane crash in East Lampeter Township. The cause of the crash is unknown at this point. 

Emergency crews are at the scene of a plane crash at Smoketown Airport in East Lampeter Township near Old Philadelphia Pike and Airport Drive. It happened around 5:45pm, the Lancaster County Coroner has been called to the scene, but is unable to confirm any fatalities at this time. 

Opinion/Editorial: Time for Federal Aviation Administration to act on glider safety

Seven years ago, a private jet was flying 16,000 feet above Reno, Nevada, when it crashed in midair with a glider plane. Both pilots said they saw each other only one second before the collision. One of the jet's engines was destroyed, and it was forced to land "wheels up" -- that is without its landing gear. The glider was too damaged to keep flying, and the pilot was forced to bail out and make an unscheduled sky dive.

It was a miracle no one died in this incident, and it's a miracle that more people don't die in similar ones. There have been at least 28 collisions or near misses and seven fatalities in crashes involving gliders and planes since 1998, according to federal data. The reason is that gliders are exempt from federal rules requiring planes to carry transponders -- devices that alert pilots to other aircraft in the vicinity.

The original reason for the loophole was that the transponder devices were too heavy for gliders to carry. But new, lighter technology is now available, so this should no longer be an issue. So why hasn't the government closed this loophole?

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended in 2008 that the Federal Aviation Administration require gliders to carry anti-midair-collision devices. The main private association of glider enthusiasts, the Soaring Society of America, has endorsed this, as well.

But the FAA has inexplicably resisted making this change. In an April 2011 letter obtained by The Washington Examiner through the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Aviation Administration flatly rejected the NTSB's recommendation. This was after three years of back and forth between the agencies over the issue.

Former FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt said they had made information on how to install the devices in gliders publicly available. "We believe this information ... adequately addresses this recommendation."

The NTSB objected: "We continue to believe a policy statement about the installation of transponders in glider(s) would be beneficial." But the agency essentially gave up, noting that the "FAA considers its actions complete."

The FAA may finally be reconsidering this. A year ago, it held a public meeting on requiring devices in gliders and other aircraft without electrical systems, an FAA official told The Examiner. The agency subsequently solicited public comments on a proposed rule for this, a process that continues. Sometime, maybe this summer, the FAA may actually get around to crafting a regulation. Chances of this happening will rise if the administration, as rumored, picks Deborah Hersman to head up the Transportation Department. Now chairwoman of the NTSB, Hersman spoke in favor of requiring the devices at a recent Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

If all this seems like a minor issue, that is the point -- and the problem. The glider exemption was a simple oversight in the first place. Why it should take so many years and so much lobbying for the gears of government to turn, especially after seven people have died? It is a disturbing reminder that when it comes to safety, the government often isn't capable of acting quickly, even when the benefits are obvious and the solution easy to deliver.

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 NTSB Identification: LAX06FA277A 
Accident occurred Monday, August 28, 2006 in Smith, NV 
 Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/20/2008
Aircraft: Raytheon Hawker 800XP, registration: N879QS
Injuries: 3 Minor,3 Uninjured.

NTSB Identification: LAX06FA277B
Accident occurred Monday, August 28, 2006 in Smith, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/20/2008
Aircraft: Schleicher ASW27-18, regi
stration: N7729
Injuries: 3 Minor,3 Uninjured.

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

The Hawker and the glider collided in flight at an altitude of about 16,000 feet above mean sea level about 42 nautical miles south-southeast of the Reno/Tahoe International Airport (RNO), Reno, Nevada, which was the Hawker's destination. The collision occurred in visual meteorological conditions in an area that is frequently traversed by air carrier and other turbojet airplanes inbound to RNO and that is also popular for glider operations because of the thermal and mountain wave gliding opportunities there.

Before the collision, the Hawker had been descending toward RNO on a stable northwest heading for several miles, and the glider was in a 30-degree, left-banked, spiraling climb. According to statements from the Hawker's captain and the glider pilot, they each saw the other aircraft only about 1 second or less before the collision and were unable to maneuver to avoid the collision in time. Damage sustained by the Hawker disabled one engine and other systems; however, the flight crew was able to land the airplane. The damaged glider was uncontrollable, and the glider pilot bailed out and parachuted to the ground.

Because of the lack of radar data for the glider's flight, it was not possible to determine at which points each aircraft may have been within the other's available field of view. Although Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) require all pilots to maintain vigilance to see and avoid other aircraft (this includes pilots of flights operated under instrument flight rules, when visibility permits), a number of factors that can diminish the effectiveness of the see-and-avoid principle were evident in this accident. For example, the high closure rate of the Hawker as it approached the glider would have given the glider pilot only limited time to see and avoid the jet. Likewise, the closure rate would have limited the time that the Hawker crew had to detect the glider, and the slim design of the glider would have made it difficult for the Hawker crew to see it. Although the demands of cockpit tasks, such as preparing for an approach, have been shown to adversely affect scan vigilance, both the Hawker captain, who was the flying pilot, and the first officer reported that they were looking out the window before the collision. However, the captain saw the glider only a moment before it filled the windshield, and the first officer never saw it at all.

Although the Hawker was equipped with a traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS)-II capable of generating vertical resolution (collision avoidance) advisories (RA), the glider's Mode C transponder was turned off (and, therefore, not detectable by the Hawker's equipment) because the glider pilot wanted to reserve battery power for radio use. Although transponder installation is not required on gliders, FARs require that any person operating a transponder-equipped aircraft must use the transponder. Had the glider pilot turned on his transponder, the Hawker's TCAS-II likely would have depicted the glider on the flight crew's monitor and would have generated an RA to alert the crewmembers and prompt them to deviate their course in time to prevent the accident. According to Reno Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) personnel, it is not uncommon for arriving and departing air traffic to receive TCAS RAs because of transponder-equipped gliders operating in the area. In a 30-day interval before the accident, the facility recorded four such TCAS RA events reported by pilots. Each event involved a conflict with transport-category airplane operated under 14 CFR Part 121 and a glider.

In addition to the TCAS benefits, the accident glider's Mode C transponder, if turned on, would have provided position and altitude information to air traffic control (ATC) personnel who could have used that information to provide separation services and traffic advisories to the Hawker crew. Reno TRACON personnel reported that, although they can sometimes see primary radar returns for what they suspect are nontransponder-equipped gliders, they did not see any primary returns from the accident glider before this collision. Further, even when ATC personnel detect primary returns, they cannot ascertain the type or altitude of the aircraft. Review of the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) database revealed that, since 1988, there have been more reports of near midair collisions (NMACs) involving air carrier/corporate jet traffic and gliders in the vicinity of RNO than any other airport area. Because ASRS reports are voluntary, it is possible that other NMAC events occurred but were unreported.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has long been aware of the potential for a collision involving a glider and air carrier traffic in the vicinity of RNO. More than 10 years before this accident, Reno Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) personnel concluded that, on the basis of many NMAC reports, FAA inspectors' observations of traffic conflicts, and other information, the increasing glider operations in the departure and arrival areas around RNO represented an "extremely dangerous situation," especially because many gliders were not equipped with transponders, were difficult for air carrier flight crews to see, and were flown by pilots who were not communicating with ATC. On April 11, 1997, the Reno FSDO manager submitted a memorandum to the FAA's Office of Accident Investigation, Recommendation and Analysis Division that detailed these concerns and suggested a number of solutions, including mandatory transponder installation in gliders. In response to the concerns, the FAA published a notice to airmen cautioning pilots about glider soaring operations 30 to 50 miles south of RNO and took action that resulted in revisions to the San Francisco Sectional Aeronautical Chart and five of the RNO-published instrument procedures to include caution boxes to warn pilots of extensive glider activity. However, the FAA elected not to implement the transponder recommendation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The failure of the glider pilot to utilize his transponder and the high closure rate of the two aircraft, which limited each pilot's opportunity to see and avoid the other aircraft.

California Pacific Airlines' John Selvaggio on starting an airline (Video)

March, 28, 2013 -- George Chamberlin sits down with John Selvaggio, president and CEO of California Pacific Airlines, to discuss what it takes to launch and operate an airline. 

Watch Video:

Delivery - Cirrus SR22 GTS (N828EX)

Published on March 28, 2013

New Richmond Regional (KRNH), Wisconsin: Airport lawsuit circles back around

After more than five years in the courts, a lawsuit filed by landowners living near the New Richmond Regional Airport landed back in Judge Howard Cameron’s courtroom on Friday.

Only the first half of the case was heard during more than three hours of testimony. The second half of the case, presented by the city in its defense, will be heard Monday, June 3, at 10 a.m.

After that Cameron will consider the facts of the lawsuit and determine if property owners will be compensated for a perceived loss in value of their homes due to increased airport activity over the past five or six years.

The conflict began in 2007, after the local airport completed a 1,500-foot extension of this main runway. Because their home and property was directly under the flight path of aircraft landing and taking off from the airport, Steven and Christy Wickenhauser were paid $24,700 for an “avigation easement” to compensate them for the inconvenience of planes and helicopters flying overhead.

Other neighbors, however, were not provided such compensation.

In the months following the runway extension, the Wickenhausers claimed that airport traffic negatively impacted a larger portion of their property than originally included in the avigation easement.

Also, nearby homeowners Robert Brenner and Allan and Susan Seidling said they noticed an increase in the number of airplanes and other craft that were flying at low altitudes directly above their homes. They also noted that an increase in odors, dust, vibration, noise and runway strobe lights occurred after the runway was finished.

The families claimed that the nuisance caused by the airport limited their enjoyment of their property and asked for compensation to be awarded.

When Cameron heard the case in the summer of 2009, he eventually dismissed the lawsuit. He claimed that a complete “taking” of the neighboring properties had not occurred and the plaintiffs were not entitled to payments.

The three families appealed and Cameron’s decision was reversed in 2011. Wisconsin’s District III Court of Appeals sent the case back to county court for further findings of fact and to determine if there was a partial taking of the landowners’ property.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed in a 2012 ruling, sending it back to Cameron.

Supreme Court Justice David Prosser noted that property owners could be compensated for a “partial taking” by a governmental entity. He noted that the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits private land from being taken for public use if no compensation is provided.

Prosser noted that the question of a “taking” is especially complicated when dealing with the airspace above a home or property.

The standard for how low aircraft need to fly over a property before homeowners are eligible for compensation is a bit unclear, Prosser noted. In some cases it could be 1,000 feet (urban areas), but in other cases it could be 500 feet (rural areas) or less, he wrote.

Another factor in determining whether compensation is warranted is how often flights fly overhead.

When the parties gathered for the first time in several years on Friday, Cameron said he wanted to gather as much new testimony as possible so that the case would be solved once and for all.

“This was a tough case for a new judge to be stuck with,” said Cameron, who had only been on the job for a short while in 2009 when the lawsuit came to trial. “We’re going to do it right this time. We want this done with.”

As the plaintiffs presented their case, much of the testimony was similar to that presented in 2009. The Seidlings, Brenner and Wickenhausers said the expanded runway took away their ability to fully enjoy their homes and their properties.

Robert Strachota, an appraiser with Shenehon Co., was called to provide his estimate on the loss of value suffered by the Wickenhausers on the 77 acres of land not included in the previous avigation easement.

He said a previous appraisal in 2007 set the land’s value at $1.7 million. Because the land would not likely be a good place to construct a commercial building any more due to safety concerns, Strachota said the land is now valued at $975,000. Thus, he estimated, the Wickenhausers have suffered a loss in value of about $780,000 due to the airport expansion.

Using 2009 valuation numbers, Strachota said the Wickenhausers suffered a $636,000 loss.

Local farmer Roger Neumann, along with his sons Bjorn and Brett, farm the Wickenhauser property involved in the dispute. They each testified that airport traffic and low-flying aircraft numbers increased after the runway extension.

Roger Neumann said the noise generated from airplanes is more of an issue when they take off rather than land. Even when sitting inside the cab of a tractor, Roger Neumann said, the airplane noise is significant.

In cross examination, the Neumanns testified that they usually witnessed zero to five airplanes a day that would approach or leave the airport outside the established flight pattern.

They also said they are only working the Wickenhauser and Seidling fields less than 10 days a year.

Brenner testified that the traffic over his property is “constant” since the runway expansion was completed. Weekends are busier than weekdays, he added.

He said pilots seem to be leaving the established flight pattern in an effort to catch the updraft of prevailing winds.

Because of the flyover issue, Brenner said there are times when family members have to stop their conversations as an airplane passes. People inside the home also report strong vibrations and noise issues from airplanes flying directly above, he noted.

“It shouldn’t be part of our daily lives,” he said.

Steven Wickenhauser said he’s noticed a “big difference” between the noise levels prior to the runway extension and the noise afterwards.

He noted that his diary barn, which is currently being used for a storage business, his shop and a granary are underneath the path of many airplanes that stray from the established flight pattern.

Allan Seidling agreed that the frequency of airplanes flying overhead and the noise from it has disturbed his life. He said when airplanes fly by, he often can’t hear his television.

He said he’s concerned for his and his neighbors’ safety because many airplanes are just 100 feet above the ground when they pass.

“I’m just waiting for one of them to hit his (Brenner’s) house,” he said. “They come so close sometimes it’s amazing.”

As the plaintiff’s attorney, Phillip Krass, rested his case, the city’s attorney, Ben Southwick, outlined his intention to bring four witnesses to the June 3 trial.

He said one expert conducted three separate three-day observations of air traffic over the properties in question. Southwick said he would like to present those findings.

But Cameron has previously said testimony in the case should be limited to the timeframe between 2007 and July of 2009, when the first trial was conducted.

It remained unclear if Cameron will allow the observations to be presented.

“The defendant has a right to put its case on,” Southwick urged.

Cameron questioned whether more recent numbers would give a clear picture of how airplane traffic has changed over the homes. He said if pilots are now avoiding the practice of deviating from the established flight pattern due to the lawsuit, the study’s findings might be compromised.


Flight school fears higher landing fees at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO), California

CITY HALL — Pilots and flight school owners will keep a eye on the Airport Commission Monday night as it discusses for the first time a major change in landing fees at the airport that could cost them and their customers.

The commission will discuss a proposal to increase landing fees from $2.07 per 1,000 pounds of aircraft to $5.48 per 1,000 pounds. Unlike the existing landing fee program, the larger charge will apply to local aircraft as well as those that fly in from other places.

The fee would be assessed each time a plane takes off from the airport, and documented by a camera system that shoots photos of the planes’ tail numbers.

The money would cover costs associated with the operation of the airport areas open for public use, which include the taxi lanes and places planes park that are not subject to leases, said Martin Pastucha, director of the Public Works Department.

The Airport Fund ran a deficit between fiscal year 2006-07 and 2010-11, according to city documents.

Joe Justice, owner of Justice Aviation, opposes the new fee because he believes it will be bad for businesses like his that are struggling in the bad economy as people cut back on expensive hobbies like flight.

“It can certainly add to money going out the door,” Justice said.

Justice’s fleet is mainly composed of Cessna 172 aircraft, each of which weigh roughly 2,000 pounds. That means for every take off and subsequent landing, his company will pay between $10 and $11 more than the goose egg they’re paying now.

“It means we have to pass that on to our customers, and most of us are barely hanging on,” Justice said.

Students could choose to go to a variety of other airports in the area, almost none of which have landing fees.

Of the 24 general aviation airports in or around Los Angeles County, both with and without control towers, only three other than Santa Monica Airport have landing fees, according to records held by the Federal Aviation Administration, although others have different fees like Chino Airport’s 6.5-cent tax on gas.

Camarillo Airport’s landing fee wouldn’t apply to aircraft like Justice’s — it only covers planes 12,500 pounds and over, and is still substantially lower at $1.30 per 1,000 pounds.

David Goddard, chair of the Airport Commission, doesn’t believe the fee is unreasonable, and might have the added impact of diverting flights elsewhere.

“It may inspire some of the pattern-flying planes to go elsewhere and fly patterns because they don’t want to pay every time they want to do a flight,” Goddard said.

Previous attempts to pay pilots to fly to other airports to do repetitive maneuvers that anger residents have been greeted with anger from those who disliked the idea of City Hall subsidizing the private businesses.

Everyone’s got a vision

The commission will take a look at the final round of results from a lengthy study of SMO’s future Monday night.

Phase III of the three-part study focused on initiatives and studies designed to reduce the impacts of aircraft operations on the surrounding community.

Officials plan to talk about concepts for non-aviation land, particularly kinds of uses that the community has called for like recreation, arts or an innovation site for sustainable transportation, Pastucha said.

Parking and access will also be up for discussion.

Officials will also address ways to make SMO a “better neighbor” by cutting down on emissions and noise that bother residents, some of whom live less than 300 feet from the end of the runway.

Goddard doesn’t hold out much hope that officials or the consultant will have looked at more substantial solutions to the ongoing problems at the airport rather than just mitigations.

Ideas he and others, including the Mar Vista Community Council, have put forward are dramatic changes that they believe can go into effect as soon as July 1, 2015, when one of the agreements with the Federal Aviation Administration is said to expire.

Those include shortening the runway by 2,000 feet, refusing to sell aviation gasoline at the airport and stop renting to “industrial tenants.”

“Our position is that our rights have not been reviewed,” Goddard said. “That’s all been put behind closed doors and taken out of the sunshine of public scrutiny, and there’s no reason for it.”

Vocal members of the public have often stated that they believe all phases of the process, which began in 2010, to be flawed.

Previous rounds looked at opinions about the airport and the economic impacts of the 287-acre campus. Both reports were considered “tone deaf” by airport opponents, who early on hoped to see an examination of the “nuclear option” — shutting the airport down for good, or at least severely curtailing its operations.

The City Council will look at both the landing fees and the visioning process on April 30.


Opinion/Letter: Control tower closure will cripple Trenton Mercer Airport (KTTN), New Jersey

By Times of Trenton Letters to the Editor
on March 29, 2013 at 6:51 AM, updated March 29, 2013 at 6:53 AM

It is astonishing to me that the traffic control tower at Trenton-Mercer Airport will be closed next month. Spending cutbacks are long overdue and will always affect some more than others, depending on what has to be cut, but removing air traffic control from any airport of any size that has enough traffic to warrant a tower is ludicrous.

Despite assurances that the airport will operate safely without a tower, this is sure to have a negative effect on Frontier Airlines at this critical time, when it is building its presence and reputation in our area. This letter is an urgent plea to our legislators to keep this from happening.

-- Rita Cleary,


Beechcraft Is Hiring

Reporter: Chris Frank, KAKE 

Friday, March 29, 2013 

The help wanted sign is out at Beechcraft. The Wichita planemaker is ready to start new hiring after emerging from chapter 11 bankruptcy just last month.

Beechcraft spokeswoman, Nicole Alexander says there are more than 80 positions needing to be filled immediately. They include administrative, professional and engineering. Alexander says this is Beechcraft's first push on hiring and says there will likely be more job openings throughout the year.

So after nearly a year of dealing with bankruptcy issues the company is moving forward knowing what products it will focus on and hiring to build and market those.

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