Sunday, April 28, 2013

Airliner struck by lightning: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Reported by: Erik Avanier,  WDEF-12

Published: 4:15 pm
Updated: 5:23 pm

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (WDED) – Passengers on board Allegiant Airline flight 804 to Chattanooga were startled Sunday morning when their plane was hit by lightning.

It happened about 100 miles from Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport when the MD80 aircraft was beginning to descend from a higher altitude into thick gray clouds.

“It was pretty scary and terrifying to see the actual lightning and feel the jolt of the plane,” said passenger Darcy Barella.

The plane took-off from St. Petersburg / Clearwater International Airport shortly after 7 A.M. and was due to arrive in Chattanooga by 8:30 A.M.

Prior to boarding the aircraft in Clearwater Florida, passengers were warned about a weather advisory in the Chattanooga area.

Nearly fifty minutes into the flight, the ride became very bumpy as the plane began to descend from a higher altitude with clear conditions into a lower altitude with dark clouds. When lightning hit the aircraft, many passengers including one flight attendant began to worry.

Several passengers seated near the rear of the aircraft with window seats confirmed to flight attendants that a bolt of lightning appeared to strike the planes right wing.

“I just happen to be looking out the window when lightning struck and it was like an explosion. It looked like it was inside the cabin but you could tell it was outside. My palms were never so sweaty while we were landing,” said passenger Tanaha Coontz.

The plane landed 15 minutes after it was hit and once it came to complete stop on the tarmac, a flight attendant came close to opening the rear left side emergency exit but later decided it was safe for everyone to get off at the front exit ramp.

Aside from some jilted nerves, no injuries were reported.


Gallons of fuel spill out from plane: Buffalo Niagara International Airport (KBUF), New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Gallons of jet fuel spilled of out an open fuel vent Sunday morning.

According to Vice President Marketing at Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Doug Hartmayer, around 11 a.m., Prior Aviation was refueling a jet when an open fuel vent caused 15-20 gallons to spill.

No fuel leaked on the Buffalo Niagara International Airport property, and the area has since been isolated.

Prior Aviation cleaned up the spill. The Airport Fire Department responded to the incident.

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Economic decline hurts El Paso International Airport (KELP), Texas

By Evan Mohl \ El Paso Times
Posted:   04/28/2013 01:33:36 AM MDT

The El Paso International Airport is facing a decline in passenger traffic and additional cancellations of flights -- something that is causing growing concern among city leaders.

Tight economic times and ongoing challenges of airline companies have caused city officials and leaders to search for ways to maintain and increase the airport's flights and passenger traffic.

The airline industry's struggles with profitability, increasing fuel costs and mergers have drastically affected small and midsize airports that depend on airlines for business, said Brent Bowen, professor and head of aviation technology at Purdue University.

The El Paso airport, with a taxpayer-funded budget of about $48 million, is not immune.

The airport's traffic is down 15 percent since 2010, said Monica Lombrana, the city's director of aviation. Lombrana also said Southwest Airlines, which operates more than half of El Paso's daily flights, plans to stop its direct flight to San Diego in the near future.

The announcement comes a few months after the airline stopped its two nonstop flights to Albuquerque.

"It's a pretty stark situation for medium-sized airports," Bowen said. "And it has pretty much everything to do with the airline industry, which those airports have little or no control over."

The airport's struggle to increase passengers and add flights coincides with a decade-long tailspin of the airline industry that's brought consolidation, bankruptcies, mergers and cuts. The New York Times reported that most airlines have struggled to turn a profit, while some airports, including Pittsburgh and St. Louis, are searching for ways to use empty space because of decreased traffic.

Passenger traffic at the El Paso airport used to hover at more than 3 million a year, even in the 2008 and 2009 recession years. But in 2012, the number dropped below 2.9 million.

So far this year, it doesn't look better. Through the first three months in 2013, the number of passengers was down 3 percent compared with the same period in 2012.

The airport also faces another uncertainty.

In October 2014, the federal Wright Amendment, which restricts flights from Dallas Love Field to certain states surrounding Texas, expires. The amendment was part of the International Transportation Act of 1979 and designed to protect and grow Dallas Forth Worth International Airport.

The amendment has meant that Southwest flights going from Dallas to many destinations such as San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles could not be direct and had to stop in a bordering state or Texas city such as El Paso.

Southwest, based in Dallas, states on its website that repealing the Wright Amendment will not necessarily reduce or add to flights at other airports. Rather, the company says passengers will have more options while cities, such as El Paso, can market itself to previously unreachable cities.

Southwest is based in Dallas, and Love Field is getting multimillion-dollar improvements.

Lombrana said that the El Paso airport is carefully monitoring the situation. She said the cancellation of the San Diego flight could be part of Southwest's plans with the end of the Wright Amendment.

Southwest spokeswoman Katie McDonald said that she could not comment on future plans and that scheduling strategy is based on demand. Southwest has 28 nonstop departures to eight cities out of El Paso. The next closest airline is American, with 12 daily flights that serve three cities.

"We've got some challenges," Lombrana said. "But we're not alone."

Other airports around the country are facing similar situations, Bowen said. Bowen explained that it's more profitable and cheaper for airlines to send 10 regional jet flights -- that have about 40 and 70 seats -- between two major cities relatively close to each other rather than send a full-size plane once or twice a day to a distant midsize city.

The numbers are not all doom and gloom, Lombrana said. Lombrana pointed out that while travel dropped 15 percent since 2010, prices have increased at a rate of 23 percent.

El Paso also has not suffered as much as some other Southwest cities, according to a study provided by a consultant to the El Paso airport.

From 2008 to 2011, El Paso lost 10 percent of its traffic while the Albuquerque airport traffic fell 12 percent and Reno, Nev., airport traffic dropped 15 percent. From 2008 to 2012, Tucson had nonstop service destinations fall nearly 50 percent, while El Paso lost 30 percent.

El Paso has a bigger population than all three of the other cities and fewer gates at the airport.

Bowen said El Paso has some intrinsic advantages. Though its isolation makes travel more expensive, there are no other close alternatives, and car trips are long.

"People are going to need to travel out of El Paso by air," he said. "And unlike some smaller airports that are an hour or two away from major airports, El Paso is not in that situation."


El Paso, however, cannot rely just on isolation to attract passengers, Bowen said. The city must campaign and promote the airport, tourism and business opportunities.

That's exactly what Lombrana and airport officials are doing. They have had meetings with Southwest officials and are trying to tap into the Mexican market by reaching out to Aeromexico and Volaris.

Bowen said keeping Southwest active in El Paso is critical, given the airline's financial strength and current traffic at the airport.

In a meeting with the City Council, Lombrana showed a part of a presentation given at the Southwest meeting. The slide show highlights El Paso as regional destination with Juárez and Southern New Mexico. It points out magazine rankings and accolades such as best midsize city for job growth, safest city, one of the best cities for the cost of doing business and a top metro area for projected job growth.

Border business gets significant time in the presentation -- in 2011, 18 percent of all trade between the U.S. and Mexico came through El Paso -- while the $5 billion expansion at Fort Bliss is highlighted.

Lombrana said the next step is proving that the El Paso airport is affordable and worth the airline's money. The tax the airport charges the airline per passenger is well below the national average, but she said the city needs to do more.

As a result, officials want to increase the existing incentives to airlines. Lombrana said the airport now matches the airline's marketing up to $25,000 if the airline adds a new, nonstop destination that departs at least five times a week.

Airport officials want to increase that incentive to $50,000.

Other incentives include a reduction in landing fees.

Airport officials and City Council members agree that the private sector must get involved. City Rep. Steve Ortega said Albuquerque was able to add a nonstop flight to New York City by guaranteeing a certain number of seats purchased.

Lombrana said that had to do with business, something the airport can't do under government regulations.

"We have to market ourselves as a growing city that's not just a border town but with growing industry like electronics and systems," Ortega said. "We need cooperation from the business side."

Officials in December met with Southwest officials about adding nonstop service to the Washington, D.C., area with flights to Baltimore. Lombrana said Washington, D.C., is by far the top destination for El Paso passengers the airport doesn't have nonstop service to. It has 35 percent more passengers than the next-closest city, New York.

Lombrana attributes that to Fort Bliss and government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.

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Federal Aviation Administration investigates fatal skydiving accident: Alexander Municipal Airport (E80), Belen, New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Emergency crews rushed to the Belen airport Saturday afternoon, after a day out for a New Mexico skydiver turned deadly. 
Witnesses say the skydiver's parachute did open, but he made a fast and hard turn to the ground.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Witnesses say the man was an experienced skydiver.
His name and age have not been released.
The Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating the accident. 

Shreveport Regional (KSHV), Louisiana: Airport reopens runway (With Video)

Repaving the secondary artery took 7 months, cost $5M+ 

Airport officials and community leaders had front-row seats to a takeoff and a sequence of landings Friday at Shreveport Regional Airport to celebrate the completion of a seven-month project to repave Runway 6-24. 

“This is a more than $5 million project to completely rebuild this runway,” said Bill Cooksey, deputy airports director “If you had driven this runway a year ago, you would have seen rock coming loose or gravel. It was deteriorating very rapidly and it was becoming, to us, a safety issue.”

Shreveport Regional is home to 85 general aviation aircraft. They are the ones that most often will use the secondary runway, which at 6,202 feet long can accommodate most plane types up to larger, narrow-body aircraft. Larger planes still have use of the airport’s primary runway, which is 8,351 feet long.

The repairs were funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s aviation division. While necessary, the project likely will have little effect on the local economy, according to Mark Crawford, marketing and public relations manager for Shreveport’s airports.

Airport Authority board member Margaret Sheehee said the repaired runway may have unforeseen benefits. “You never know, there could be. If we have better runways and better equipment, that does attract business,” she said, noting that Shreveport Regional is the primary airport for all of northwest Louisiana, not just Shreveport.

“We want people from Arkansas to come here, we want people from east Texas to come here, we want everybody to come here. With more safety and better equipment, the rising tide lifts all boats. It’s good for everybody.”

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Hundreds attend airport open house: Madison (I39), Richmond, Kentucky

Alek Masters, 9, of Richmond jumps from the wing of a Diamond DA40 Saturday after returning from a Young Eagle flight provided by the Madison County chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The free flights for children from age 8-17 were offered as the Madison Airport conducted its annual open house.

April 28, 2013 

By Bill Robinson, Richmond Register

RICHMOND — The Madison Airport gave its second annual open house Saturday, and despite the threat of rain, at least 300 showed up.

Among them were 80 children, or Young Eagles, who were given free rides in light airplanes by members of the local Experimental Aircraft Association chapter.

The open house was an occasion for the airport board and Eastern Kentucky University, its fixed base operator, to announce the airport had been awarded the Federal Aviation Administration's annual regional safety award.

Despite the increased traffic from EKU's flight training program, which keeps 14 leased aircraft at the airport, the extra 500 feet added to its runway and its new full-length taxiway helped the airport attain the safety record which won the award, said Jason Bonham, the airport manager.

The university, which operates the only baccalaureate aviation program in Kentucky, has 80 students taking flight instruction.  Additional students are enrolled as aviation majors.

The free flights for children age 8 through 17 were scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., but they were cut short when a light rain began to fall around 1 p.m.

That didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the children, many of whom were making their first flight, or at least their first flight in a light plane.

His flight was like riding a roller coaster, said Alek Masters, 9, a home-schooled student who lives in Richmond.

“It went up and down and then sideways,” he said after stepping from the small plane’s passenger section onto its wing and then jumping to the pavement.

Peggie Moore, 15, who recently moved to Richmond from New Orleans with her family, said she got a good view of the mountains and saw islands of trees when she flew. From the air, cattle looked like dots on the ground, she said, and described a house in the shape of a compass.

Studies have shown that children who get to fly in light planes develop an interest in science and make better grades than their counterparts who don’t have the experience, said Dr. Wilma Walker, the airport board chairman and retired head of EKU’s aviation program.

The airport is staying busy, Walker said, and it has a waiting list for hangar space.

Even tie-down space on the airport apron is getting scarce, she said, calling an expanded apron and additional hanger space among the facility’s greatest needs. Both are listed as priorities on the airport improvement plan it has filed with state government and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Tonita Goodwin, executive director of the Richmond Industrial Development Corp., said the airport is an important asset in industrial recruitment. Industrial and retail prospects, as well as existing industries and retail chains in Madison County are frequent users of the airport.

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GE Aviation: Skilled workforce keeps manufacturer flying high

 Posted on April 28, 2013

By Mike Faulk, Yakima Herald-Republic

When people think aerospace and Washington state, those thoughts drift west of the Cascades to Boeing and Seattle. But Yakima has its own successful aerospace parts manufacturing plant at GE Aviation near the Yakima Air Terminal.

The manufacturing plant, which was acquired by General Electric from Smiths Aerospace in 2007, employs 309 Yakima-area residents. That makes the company one of the largest durable goods manufacturers in the county. (The largest is Shields Bag & Printing, a plastic packaging company in Yakima, with about 500 employees.)

The vast majority of GE Aviation’s machinists, technicians and other employees work almost exclusively in constructing parts for aerospace systems from landing gear to electronics systems, Washington, D.C.-based spokeswoman Kelly Walsh said.

Walsh said nationwide about 85 percent of engines made by the company were sold as exports. She said the company doesn’t track export estimates for individual plants.

“The nice part of our business is we make it here, we sell it there,” Walsh said. “It’s a key economic driver for the U.S. economy.”

The plant is best known for making internal locking actuators and repeatable release holdback bars, which are used to launch military planes from aircraft carriers.

Nearly 35 percent of the plant’s products are built for the military, and the remainder are made for commercial customers.

GE Aviation, with its headquarters in Cincinnati, has about 25,000 employees nationally and 39,000 globally, Walsh said.

The company has increased its number of employees in Yakima by more than 50 in just the past three years, Walsh said. In 2010, she said there were about 250 employees compared with the 309 employees as of April.

The company would not release wage and salary information. David McFadden, CEO of the county’s economic development agency, New Vision, said GE Aviation has “some of the best wages of any manufacturer in the Valley.”

Last fall, the company announced it was seeking a buyer for the Yakima manufacturing plant, but Walsh said none has been found so far. Without delving into specifics, Walsh said the plant is up for sale because the parts it manufactures no longer fit into the company’s long-term vision for its portfolio.

Walsh said regardless of which company owns the plant, the Yakima location would always remain in the aerospace manufacturing business.

The Yakima plant has changed company hands several times since its founding in 1921 by brothers Roy, Henry and Ray Decoto.

GE Aviation first went into business building “turbosuperchargers” for military aircraft engines during World War I. The company eventually turned to the commercial sector and grew rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Lincoln, Nebraska: Cusick is lone Airport Authority candidate

Nick Cusick is the only candidate for an open seat on the Lincoln Airport Authority.

The 62-year-old co-founder and CEO of Lincoln manufacturer IMSCORP has served on the five-member board since May 2012, when he was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Dr. Ed Raines.

Once elected, Cusick will serve a six-year unpaid term on the Airport Authority, which meets once a month and is responsible for management of commercial air service, general aviation and the Air Park industrial park.

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Opinion: Details, if not clarity, on airport struggle -- Charlotte/Douglas International (KCLT), North Carolina

Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013 

We’re still not sure exactly what led to Charlotte being on the brink of losing control of its airport, but a more palatable path forward seemed to become clearer last week.

A draft report of a city-funded study, released Thursday, recommended that Charlotte-Douglas International Airport be overseen by an independent regional authority. That would seem to be a victory for state legislators and others who’ve pushed a bill that would take the airport from the city, but he study recommends that the authority give Charlotte more representation than is currently called for in the bill.

The recommendations may offer Charlotte at least a partial salvaging of control over the airport it has run since 1935. It also may offer the appearance of compromise for legislators pushing the bill. Is it the best solution for the airport? Given what we don’t know, that’s a difficult question.

More details surrounding the airport emerged last week from former city councilman Stan Campbell, who told the Observer’s Rick Rothacker that Charlotte business leaders and U.S. Airways representative met 10 months ago to address concerns that city officials were trying to get longtime airport director Jerry Orr to retire. That meeting, Campbell says, led to an email from US Airways containing a draft of legislation that eventually led to the bill awaiting N.C. House approval.

Details, however, don’t necessarily equal clarity. The mayor says he never tried to get Orr to retire – and in fact has turned down Orr’s offers to do so. Former city manager Curt Walton isn’t talking about those conversations, and Orr isn’t talking at all. US Airways CEO Doug Parker initially told the Observer on Wednesday he wasn’t aware of an email containing draft legislation, but the company fessed up to it Friday.

Parker, in a meeting with the editorial board last month, said the airline didn’t care if Charlotte ran its airport. That apparently wasn’t true either. But Parker did make this clear: He wants to US Airways to have a substantial say about who succeeds the 72-year-old Orr, and there are strong indications the airline didn’t get assurances that would be the case from the city. If true, the city’s hubris turned disastrous.

That leaves us on the brink of a change that seems needlessly preemptive. Charlotte’s airport is among the nation’s most successful, in large part because it keeps costs low for airlines wanting to do business here. Charlotte Douglas’ cost-per-passenger is the lowest of the top 25 U.S. airports, said the draft of the study released Thursday. Its author, former US Airways vice president Bob Hazel, said the airport was “spectacularly successful.”

Still, Hazel said Charlotte Douglas would be best separated from city finances and politics. His compromise: The airport authority should include mostly appointments from Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and other local organizations. Surrounding counties should have limited representation, he said. The state doesn’t need any.

We still believe a regional authority removes a level of accountability that comes with having the airport supervised by an elected city council. But with the city appearing to be on the losing end of a old-school power play, we hope lawmakers take Hazel’s advice and make this unnecessary change a little more purposeful.