Friday, May 24, 2013

Female stunt pilot began flying in 1960s

Linda Mathias, a Windsor native, started her flying career in the late 1960s. In addition to serving as an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, she also has participated in cross-country races and aerobatic stunt competitions. 
(Nicole Paitsel / Daily Press, Nicole Paitsel / Daily Press / May 24, 2013)

By Nicole Paitsel, Daily Press 
May 25, 2013

Flying over the Smithfield Foods plant in her 1978 two-seater Decathlon single-engine plane, Linda Mathias speaks through her headset.

"When the wind blows the right way, you can smell the ham," she says.

Mathias has been blazing a trail in the sky since 1968, when she was a 27-year-old government civilian learning to fly in the Navy's flying club program.

It wasn't unheard of for women to pursue a pilot's license at the time, Mathias says, but female pilots in the commercial sector, especially, were still a rarity.

"A sailor started telling me about his flying lessons through the club, and I thought 'you can do that?' And that's where it began," she says.

Mathias is selling one of her airplanes — the 1978 Decathlon — in a Memorial Day auction at Phoebus Auction Gallery in Hampton. It's the first airplane the auction house has sold, says manager Bill Welch.

"The great thing about this (auction) business is that you find things that tell the story of how society has changed over the years," he says. "You just can't find these planes made in America anymore."

Welch says he would like to see a bid of $35,000 on the plane, which is known as an aerobatic, or stunt, aircraft.

"This one is a tail dragger. See the wheel at the back of the plane," Mathias says. "It takes more skill to fly those."

Mathias, who recently moved from Windsor to Norfolk, is downsizing her plane collection, which also includes a piper cub from the World War II-era.

When her husband was alive, he died in 2011, the couple would fly and restore classic airplanes together. At one time, they owned anywhere between seven and nine planes, she says. Without her husband around, who was skilled in airplane mechanics, maintenance and repairs are costly.

Mathias, who has seen more than four decades as a female pilot, is a Designated Pilot Examiner for the FAA and the governor — which is like a regional president — for the Mid-Atlantic chapter of The Ninety-Nines, a nonprofit organization for female pilots that promotes aviation education. Amelia Earhart is listed as the organization's first president.

Over the years, Mathias has participated in cross-country races and aerobatic competitions, performing stunts such as loops, rolls, hammerhead dives, inverted flying and other tricks. That part of her flying career was just for fun, she says.

"She has always been an ambitious person in the organizations she's involved in," says Charles Griminger, of Hampton. Griminger is retired from the military and now flies World War II airplanes for the Old Dominion squadron of the Commemorative Air Force, an organization that promotes education about historical military aircraft. The pilots often perform in air shows.

"She's an excellent person," he says.

Mathias, who exudes a combination of no-nonsense efficiency and gentleness, doesn't speak much about the hardships of being an early female pilot. She does admit that she took some serious, and sometimes crude, ribbing from male pilots and instructors in the late '60s and early 1970s.

"I do remember during one lesson the instructor said that he would leave a string for me to follow so I could find my way back," she says.

She smiles about those stories, but her determination to pass on her passion to a younger generation of women is evident.

"I had considered commercial airlines, but you just didn't see very many women then," she says. "They were just starting to break in. You see a lot more women (pilots) in the terminals now."

She is exuberant when talking about the upcoming event "Women Can Fly," scheduled for June 22 at the Hampton Roads Executive Airport in Chesapeake. During the event, girls ages 8 and older will be offered free flights by pilots like Mathias.

"We want to show them how open the airlines are now," she says.

More online

See a video of Linda Mathias flying her 1978 Decathlon airplane at

Want to go?

What: Memorial Day Auction, featuring Linda Mathias' 1978 airplane, several classic cars, including a 1979 Firebird, many household items, including silk rugs, firearms and other items.

Where: Phoebus Auction Gallery, 16 E. Mellen St., Hampton

When: 10 a.m. Monday, May 27

Information: 722-9210 or

Women Can Fly

On Saturday, June 22 Linda Mathias and other female pilots will host a "Women Can Fly" event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m at the Hampton Roads Executive Airport in Chesapeake off of Route 58. Girls 8 years old and older will be offered free flights. Call 488-3166 for more information.

More information about The Ninety-Nines can be found at The group was named for the first 99 charter members at its foundation in 1931.

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Lawmaker calls for FAA office audit: Rep. Cory Gardner requests audit of regional Federal Aviation Administration office, calls agency negligent - Denver Airports District Office

By Keith Laing, The Hill

05/24/13 01:49 PM ET May 24, 2013, 3:54 pm

A Colorado lawmaker is calling for an audit of his regional Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) office.

The lawmaker, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), said the FAA has been slow to respond to requests for information that he requested on behalf of his constituents.

"It has come to my attention that the Denver Airports District Office, as part of the Northwest Mountain Region, has been negligent in processing permit applications for both commercial and agricultural usage," Gardner wrote in a letter to the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Inspector General Calvin Scovell.

"My office has received inadequate replies and even attempted to set-up a member level call with FAA administrators over three ago and received no response back," Gardner continued. "I write today to request an audit of the Denver Airports District Office by the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation. Throughout my tenure in Congress, these issues and problems with the Denver office have never been rectified and I hope a complete audit will help me and my constituents understand why these problems continue to occur."

Gardner said the FAA's permits to fly in Colorado's air space are important to his state's rural areas.

"My district in particular is over 31,000 square miles, and due to the lack of a large scale airport, small planes provide a vital service in personal transportation and are used for business purposes such as the spraying of fields by agricultural aircraft," he said.

Gardner said in a statement Friday that he was requesting the audit because "this type of laziness and disregard from a government agency is unacceptable.

“My office has been trying to reach officials at FAA’s regional office and representatives in Washington D.C. to address a pressing economic matter that affects the state of Colorado," Gardner said. "Every day they ignore us businesses are losing money and the state is losing revenue.”

The FAA said Friday afternoon that it was working "in good faith" to answer Gardner's requests.

"The Federal Aviation Administration is aware of the applications and has been working in good faith with Congressman Gardner’s office over the past several months to address questions about the operator certification process," the agency said in a statement. "The FAA will continue to work closely with the congressman and his constituents to address any ongoing questions as they move through the certification process."

-This article was updated with a response from the FAA at 5:29 p.m.

Read more:

By Allison Sherry, The Denver Post 

WASHINGTON — Rep. Cory Gardner requested an audit Friday of the regional office of the Federal Aviation Administration after he says the agency’s local office has not responded to repeated attempts to reach them.

“This type of laziness and disregard from a government agency is unacceptable,” said Gardner, R-Yuma. “My office has been trying to reach officials at FAA’s regional office and representatives in Washington, D.C. to address a pressing economic matter that affects the state of Colorado.

That matter is processing permit applications for people who want to fly for agricultural purposes. (This usually means farmers who are seeking permits to crop dust or view their land.)

According to Gardner’s office, a business in his district applied for a permit to fly a crop duster in April 2011 and the application was lost by the Denver FAA field office. The company, Nickel D LLC, never moved up in line to compensate for the lost application and now two years later they still haven’t received a permit.

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'A plane ride to hell': California man arrested after disturbances on plane, Midland International Airport (KMAF), Texas

Bryan Ray Allen

Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013 1:58 pm

A 31-year-old man was arrested Thursday night after reportedly causing trouble on a Southwest Airlines flight and then running from police on a jetway at Midland International Airport.

Bryan Ray Allen, 32302 Alipaz in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., was charged with interference with flight crew members and attendants in a federal complaint.

According to the complaint, the plane was going from Las Vegas to Dallas, with a stopover in Midland.

The flight crew told officers that Allen attempted to get in the cockpit mid-flight, and would not cooperate when told to sit down, according to the complaint. They also told officers he was unruly and scaring the passengers, some of whom offered to help calm Allen down.

When he was arrested, Allen told officers he used methamphetamine twice in the previous 24 hours and also drank alcoholic beverages before getting on the plane.

“He felt that there were evil demonic forces on the flight from Las Vegas to Midland. He thought God was speaking to him and he needed to get off the plan mid-flight or get into the cockpit because the pilots were evil,” according to the complaint. “He said ‘everyone in the cockpit was evil and it was a plane ride to hell.’”

According to the complaint, the Midland Police Department responded to the airport at about 8:50 p.m. Thursday regarding the disturbance on the inbound flight.

In addition to attempting to get into the cockpit, according to the affidavit Allen also tried to push open the exit door when the airplane landed before it reached the gate.

When the plane reached the gate, Allen pushed a flight crew member away from the door and opened the door to the jetway to run toward the gate, according to the complaint, where he was met by police.

According to the complaint, a brief struggle ensued with the officers before they were able to detain him.

Allen agreed to waive his Miranda rights to speak with FBI Special Agent Joshua Pirtle, according to the complaint, at which point he told Pirtle about the drugs, alcohol and “evil forces.”

“He said the flight attendants were trying to stop him from doing something he absolutely needed to do,” according to the complaint.

Allen then ended the interview, according to the complaint, and Allen again struggled with officers when they told him he would be held on federal charges.

He was transported to the Midland Detention Center, and then transferred into the custody of the U.S. Marshals.

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Four finalists chosen for Okaloosa airports director

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 17:13 PM.

It started with more than 100 applicants, but now the search for Okaloosa County’s next airports director is down to four finalists.

Okaloosa County Administrator Ernie Padgett narrowed the list this week. He will hold onsite interviews June 11.

The finalists are:

  • Steven V. Brian, executive director of the Glynn County Airport Commission in Brunswick, Ga.
  • Michael J. Clow, director of Morgantown Municipal Airport in Morgantown, W.Va.
  • Randall S. Curtis, an adjunct professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and former executive director of the Bay County Airport and Industrial District.
  • Sunil Harman, aviation director and CEO of the city of Tallahassee Department of Aviation.
“These four have a good track record of what they’ve done previously and actually being airport directors,” Padgett said. “They’ve all been airport directors, and that’s kind of how they came to the top as the four finalists.”

The new director will oversee Northwest Florida Regional Airport, Destin Airport and Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview. The job has a salary range of $79,913 to $145,350.

Padgett hopes to have a finalist selected in time to make a recommendation to Okaloosa County commission at their meeting June 18.

During the interviews, Padgett plans to ask the finalists what is the earliest they could start.

“I’m looking for someone who can go out there and hit the ground running, that nothing is really new to them,” he said. “I want someone that’s got the experience under their belt, has a proven track record, and our research on them has not raised any red flags. I just want someone who can get out there, knows the airport business, knows how to manage people.”


Woman in marijuana case pleads not guilty: Yoakum County Airport (F98), Plains, Texas

Posted: May 24, 2013 - 3:22pm

The owner of a Houston-area alternative medicine business pleaded not guilty to federal marijuana possession charges.

Dorothea Cangelosi, 66, of Waller, was arrested April 30 after the airplane she was a passenger in made a belly landing at Yoakum County Airport in Plains.

According to court documents, Cangelosi was flying from Sacramento, Calif. to Houston with pilot Gregory Thomas.

Cangelosi is the owner of Land of Oz Wellness Ranch in Waller.

Investigators said the airplane had about 160 pounds of marijuana. The canvas bags containing the marijuana had been removed from the airplane and thrown over a fence just after the landing.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy M. Koenig accepted the plea and ordered Cangelosi released on personal recognizance.

Koenig sent the case for a July 1 trial date before U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings.


Hammond Northshore Regional Airport (KHDC), Louisiana: Bids on tower project are over budget

By Heidi R. Kinchen,  Florida Parishes bureau

May 24, 2013

Construction bids for Hammond Northshore Regional Airport’s control tower project came in more than $500,000 over budget, giving officials just 30 days either to come up with the additional funding or go back to the drawing board on the design.

Officials budgeted just over $1.2 million for the construction of an air traffic control tower at the general aviation airport east of Hammond, but the lowest of three base bids submitted Thursday came in at $1.78 million, Mayor Mayson Foster said.

“We had expected the bids to be slightly over budget, maybe around $1.3 million, but we were also hoping, because some bids on other projects we’ve been working on had come in low, that these could possibly even be under budget,” Foster said Friday. “When that low bid of $1.777 million came in, it was really disheartening.”

The city already has invested about $100,000 in planning and preliminary engineering for the tower. Officials also have secured $1.5 million for the project through capital outlay and the Federal Aviation Administration, but that money must cover construction as well as soft costs such as engineering and site work, he said.

If another $500,000 cannot be found within 30 days — perhaps through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Aviation Division or Delta Regional Authority — the city will have no choice but to reject the bids and start reworking the design to bring down costs, Foster said.

Airport Director Jason Ball said the tower is needed both to increase safety at the airfield and to entice company executives, whose insurance policies often require flying into airports equipped with control towers.


Susi Air Opens Training Center in Pangandaran

A Susi Air aircraft at Mozes Kilangin airport, Timika, Papua.
 (JG Photo/Jurnasyanto Sukarno)

Pangandaran, West Java. Indonesian charter airline Susi Air on Friday inaugurated a training center in the West Java district of Pangandaran to improve the flight skills of its crew members.

Christian Von Strombeck, the director of operations at Susi Pudjiastuti Aviation, said the company spent Rp 60 billion ($6.1 million) to develop the center and buy a Canadian flight simulator.

“The simulator is priced at about Rp 35 billion. We’ve been using it over the past semester, and it has been used to train approximately 200 pilots,” Strombeck told Indonesian news portal on the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony in Pangandaran.

Susi Air employees 180 pilots, though only three of them are Indonesian nationals. Strombeck said the airline never used a simulator to train its pilots prior to the purchase.

Susi Air operates 47 planes and serves a total of 114 routes throughout Indonesia. Many of its flights go to remote regions that are not serviced by larger commercial airlines, and some are booked on a charter basis.


Oxnard Airport (KOXR), California: Company gets new firefighting helicopter

Aspen Helicopters, based at the Oxnard Airport, has acquired a new firefighting aircraft that will be used this fire season.

The helicopter can hold about 2,000 pounds of water and will supplement the four other helicopters used by the company.

It is equipped with communication radios, a tracking and monitoring system and dual GPS systems. It can go up to 140 mph and can hover about a fire for up to four hours, officials said.

Aspen will be working with a Bell Helicopters training team for additional training in the new aircraft.

Four mechanics were also sent to train on the new systems in this aircraft.

The helicopter will be used on a multi-mission basis for the next five years and was obtained through a U.S. Department of the Interior contract.

Aspen Helicopters has worked at the Oxnard Airport since 1980 and has provided fire fighting helicopters to the U.S. Government and California for more than 30 years.


Few complaints in Flint, Saginaw about helicopter patrols that irked Grand Rapids residents

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- The state police helicopter patrols that irked many Grand Rapids residents last weekend have generally escaped similar scrutiny from residents in cities such as Flint and Saginaw.

"They're used to it I think," said Capt. Mike Caldwell of the state police Special Operations Division.

"It was new to the residents of Grand Rapids," he said.

Flights in Grand Rapids were "curtailed" after a Saturday patrol left many Grand Rapids residents complaining about noise from the low-flying chopper. Saturday's patrol was at least three hours, going from 8-11 p.m.

The state police began sending a helicopter to Grand Rapids in early April -- usually twice a week -- to help Grand Rapids police on the ground.

"We anticipated it would spark some complaints, which is not unusual," Caldwell said. "They do make a lot of noise. We realize that."

Caldwell said state police have conducted helicopter patrols in the cities of Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw and Detroit for years, possibly up to a decade.

"We try to spend two or three nights a week in those cities," he said.

He said state police helicopter flights in Grand Rapids will not be ending altogether, but likely only be made on a per-request basis.

"If the Grand Rapids Police Department wanted out helicopter tonight, it would be there," Caldwell said.

Despite the cool reception in Grand Rapids to the helicopters, Caldwell said he thinks the state could use more patrols. The state owns two helicopters at this point.

"I'm not shy about saying I would like to expand the program," he said. "Our pilots already fly hundreds of hours of overtime."

"We turn down many requests for the helicopters now simply because our pilots have too many hours or the helicopters are already in use," he said.

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Hangar space leads Alabama Aviation Center's wish list as enrollment booms

By Kelli Dugan,
on May 24, 2013 at 10:57 AM, updated May 24, 2013 at 10:59 AM

MOBILE, Alabama – With enrollment at the Alabama Aviation Center in Mobile continuing to climb, growth must be carefully managed to ensure southwest Alabama’s increasing aviation and aerospace workforce needs are met. 

“We’re trying to make things work the best we can with what we have, and right now that means daily phone calls trying to figure out what’s going to work,” Kyle Cook told nearly two dozen business and training leaders gathered May 23 for the Aviation and Aerospace Advisory Council’s second quarterly meeting.

The council is a joint project of the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council and Enterprise State Community College, designed to more efficiently identify and address skills gaps while working proactively to meet evolving workforce development needs.

Cook, who serves as director for both ESCC’s Gulf Coast operations and the college’s Alabama Aviation Center at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex, said the program’s enrollment increased 60 percent in the fall of 2012 and current enrollment for summer courses represents a 50 percent year-over-year increase.

“We have 51 students (involved) with an ST Aerospace Mobile co-op program and another 50 we’ve gotten through a Mobile Works program, and I anticipate the fall semester will bring another big increase,” Cook said.

Prior to Airbus’ July 2012 announcement of plans to build a $600 million final assembly line dedicated to production of A320 family aircraft at Brookley, Cook said the aviation center’s enrollment hovered for the past several years between 100 and 150 students per semester. The recent surge, however, in aerospace and aviation activity is boosting interest in the programs. The Mobile campus was established in 1976 as a satellite facility for ESCC’s original aviation center in Ozark, Ala.

In fact, he said, the Mobile aviation center’s enrollment jumped another 13 percent between August 2012 and the start of the spring 2013 semester as local students jockey for skills required to be among the 1,000 Airbus plans to hire to staff its first final assembly line in the United States, slated to begin production in 2015 and deliver its first Mobile-assembled aircraft in 2016.

Ground will be broken in June on an adjacent $6 million aviation training facility to be used by the Alabama Industrial Development Training program to recruit and prepare those 1,000 employees. The facility will be used primarily for fuselage assembly training specific to the Toulouse, France-based Airbus, Cook said, but original plans called for the 35,600-square-foot facility to transfer to the Mobile aviation center after that training moved in house after three years.

Cook said after speaking this week with Lee Hammett, AIDT’s assistant director for south Alabama, it appears the statewide training program might need to add on to the size of the training facility at Airbus’ request, so “that transfer date is very fluid.”

Hammett confirmed a timeline for AIDT’s transfer of the training facility “has not been decided.”

Cook said Mobile’s aviation campus is currently equipped by Federal Aviation Administration standards to serve 500 students per semester but realistically that figure is closer to 380 if student-instructor ratios are left low and the institution continues its commitment to work around students’ work schedules offering day and night courses.

“Just to give you an idea of what we’re seeing, in the summer we have 10 classrooms, and we’ve never used all 10 at once, but this summer we’ll be using all 10 during the day,” Cook said.

Meanwhile, the aviation center’s hangar used for hands-on aircraft training is currently located across Brookley’s runway and students must currently pass through property owned by the University of South Alabama. On July 1, however, that access will no longer be available, leaving the program to scramble for additional space to house its four aircraft used for educational purposes.

AIDT had originally offered half of what will remain on the Alabama Aviation Training Center lot once construction is complete for that purpose, but if that training facility is, in fact, expanded at Airbus’ request that option vanishes.

Cook said that leaves another lot only 50 feet further away from the AIDT property, but the school has no funding toward its lease. Meanwhile, the Mobile Airport Authority could add on to the college’s existing – but soon-to-be inaccessible – hangar, but is not authorized to build an entirely new hangar for the school.

“We just have a lot of details to work through and logistics to work out,” Cook said.


Broomfield, Colorado: Business taking off for Mountain Aviation

Friday, May 24, 2013
By Heather McWilliams, Boulder County Business Report

BROOMFIELD — As the local economy continues to take flight, the area’s private aviation industry does likewise, with one Front Range company’s charter service soaring.

Mountain Aviation Inc. logged 5,500 flight hours last year during 1,300 different flights. Its charter business increased by nearly 12 percent, said Rich Bjelkevig, the company’s founder and president.

“Our core business is operating an aircraft on behalf of an owner or chartering flights,” said Julian Tonsmeire, a member of the business development team at Mountain Aviation, which delivers private aircraft services to travelers across the region.

The company operates 20 jet aircraft, each privately owned by individuals or businesses, he said. They perform all necessary maintenance and upkeep on the aircraft for safe flight, and when an owner isn’t using a jet, Mountain Aviation is certified to charter it to the general public.

“Between those two, that’s 80 to 90 percent of what we do,” Tonsmeire said. It’s a business model Bjelkevig pioneered in the area when he started the company 20 years ago with a partner and a couple of planes at what is now Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport.

“Since then we’ve slowly expanded through long-term business alliances with what I call good-citizen businesses and people,” he said. In addition to aircraft management and charters among a diversified field of businesses, Mountain Aviation helps clients buy or sell airplanes.

Headquartered in Broomfield, the company also has bases in Vail, Aspen and Boise, Idaho. They employ 100 people, half of whom are pilots.

Most Mountain Aviation clients are interested in a strategic or competitive business advantage for their company.

“You can be in multiple locations in one day,” Tonsmeire said, with a morning meeting in California, an afternoon in Arizona and back to Boulder for a good night’s sleep by nightfall. While chartered flights aren’t cheap — hourly prices range from $1,500 for a smaller aircraft typically used for short-range flights to $7,000 for a larger jet capable of international travel — they do save time.

“I can have you and your team landing on the East Coast for your pop-up meeting before you’ve even gotten through the airline process and onto your plane on a commercial flight,” said Malachi O’Neill, manager of business development for the company. It’s a business tool that can distinguish one company from the competition, he said.

Colorado and the surrounding states’ strong oil and gas industry create a robust platform for the thriving aviation company.

“The oil and gas talent generally doesn’t want to live where the oil fields are,” Tonsmeire said, and Mountain Aviation flies geologists and engineers to sites in places across Colorado, Utah and North Dakota every week.

The company also provides physician outreach flights for some area hospitals, flying doctors across the Rocky Mountain region for daylong clinics and services. They also provide flights for the Colorado and Wyoming Donor Alliance, a federally designated, nonprofit organ donation organization. Mountain Aviation completes about 135 flights a year for the program.

“That means any day of the year, any time of the day or night, if our phone rings it’s our job to fly the surgeon out to someone who has regrettably passed away, then fly that gift of life back here,” Tonsmeire said.

He called it a very special part of the job, and something possible partly because of the company’s top-notch safety record. Mountain Aviation earned the highest safety rating possible from ARGUS International Inc., an independent charter aviation rating organization which performs regular, detailed audits.

Safety is the company’s first priority, and its quality employees allow Mountain Aviation to deliver.

“Because the industry is so technically difficult, the people involved in the business ... are very knowledgeable and people with a lot of integrity,” Bjelkevig said.

A passion for airplanes and flying fuel the drive to stay in a demanding industry with demanding hours, Tonsmeire said.

“It’s a fun industry but also a 24/7 industry. When Rich’s phone rings at 2 in the morning he answers the phone, and not a lot of presidents of a company this size have to do that.”

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Pilot school takes flight: Synergy Flight Center at Central Illinois Regional Airport (KBMI), Bloomington/Normal, Illinois

By Kenneth Lowe, Pantagraph 

BLOOMINGTON — For aspiring pilots, earning a set of wings can be a drawn-out and expensive process, but the Twin City area has a number of different options for those determined to take flight.

New to the industry, Synergy Flight Center at 2823 E. Empire St., began servicing smaller aircraft in February and now is offering flight school. The company opened its doors in response to the closing of longtime maintenance company Loravco Aviation Services, said Synergy owner Andrew Dustman.

“We want to provide a flight school with leading-edge technology, doing things a little differently than the standard in the industry,” Dustman said.

To that end, Synergy’s flight school features a new Cessna 172 aircraft for training purposes, and an $85,000 Redbird FMX flight simulator. The computer simulator features a realistic cockpit with identical controls to the training plane, realistic sounds and a cockpit mechanically rigged to move around to mimic the feeling of sharp banks, steep dives and choppy turbulence.

That level of realism means students can learn piloting fundamentals in the simulator, where before the technology mainly was used to practice emergency scenarios, said Dan Amolsch, flight instructor with Synergy. Pausing the program mid-flight to coach students can keep critiques fresh in their minds, or allow the instructor to step back and let a student spread his or her wings.

“People learn best when they’re teaching themselves,” Amolsch said. “This allows me to do that with an airplane. In a real airplane, there are times I can’t let the student figure it out themselves.”

Often, flight school is billed hourly and for some, it can seem piecemeal as busy students work in lessons around their other commitments, Dustman said. Synergy offers classes at a student’s own pace, but also is offering a flat-rate, $9,995 intensive two-to-five week course, with all costs inclusive.

Students with the availability to meet several days a week can take all the time they need in the flight simulator and in the cockpit without having to pay more. Dustman said a dedicated, continuous program can save students money and time in the long run, as they avoid having to re-learn concepts that may slip away in weekslong waits between lessons.

Steady enrollment

Though demand for flight schooling isn’t on the rise, it seems to have remained steady in the Twin City area, said Ken Rittenhouse, CEO of Image Air, a longtime Bloomington-based air carrier that also provides pilot training. Students who go through Image Air’s flight school can expect to pay about $6,500 over the course of gaining their pilot’s license for a less intensive schedule of lessons than at Synergy, Rittenhouse said.

Despite the rising costs both for providers of flight training and for those taking it, Image Air has had 20-25 students in its classes consistently for the past two or three years, Rittenhouse said.

“You’ve got a lot of people who have talked to other pilots who have flown and have an interest,” Rittenhouse said. “There’s a fair amount of young people coming out and getting into the private side of aviation.”

Part of the draw in the area may be that other nearby cities don’t provide the same services.

The University of Illinois’ Institute of Aviation is scheduled to close at the end of the upcoming academic year, Rittenhouse observed.

And for Bloomington’s local Crosswinds Flying Club, membership is starting to include people from Pontiac, Logan County and Champaign-Urbana as other flying clubs are vanishing, said Ron Kelley, vice president and chief flight instructor with the group.

“I’ve been here almost 20 years now, and there used to be a flying organization in Decatur, more than one in Champaign … but they’ve kind of gone away except for Bloomington,” Kelley said. “You can see that in our membership. We’ve gotten several members from the Champaign area.”

Crosswinds Flying Club offers veterans and novices alike a chance to share ownership of a group of planes through membership dues and, as a result, can pay a lower hourly cost for their flight instruction, Kelley said.

Kelley tells people they have a wide variety of options among Image Air, Synergy, Crosswinds, or even purchasing their own planes and hiring private instruction.

“There’s advantages to all four ways,” he said.

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Aviation company looks for danger on ground: Assist Aviation Solutions at Boire Field Airport (KASH), Nashua, New Hampshire


 May 23,  2013 8:00PM

By BENJAMIN C. KLEIN,  New Hampshire Union Leader

NASHUA — During emergencies, a view from above can greatly expedite the work on the ground.

When disaster strikes, companies like Assist Aviation Solutions can help utility companies get power back online by providing live imaging of their infrastructure, as the Nashua aviation company did after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. It also provides imaging information for researchers studying topography and the ocean.

Co-founder Carolyn Abbott said the company can also aid search-and-rescue efforts, like the one going on in Oklahoma right now following Monday's massive tornado strike.

"For emergency response what we offer to do is feed imagery to federal and local rescue crews and really anyone down there looking for people or animals," Abbott said. "We can help guide them around areas that are dangerous, areas they can't see form street level."

Founded in Concord in 2010, Abbott said the company soon moved to the Nashua Municipal Airport, where it has three planes and about 15 part- and full-time employees,

"We want to help. That is one of the reasons we founded the company," Abbott said.

Of the company's three planes, two are designed as overwater observation platforms, and one is equipped with a slow motion sensor for land data acquisition.

Aviation Operations Director Rick Bartle said that one of the main positives of working at Assist is that no two days are the same.

"It's refreshing, there is lots of energy at this job. I enjoy the challenge of building solutions for our customers, it's a lot of custom work, and it takes away the humdrum desk-bound aspect of coming to the office," Bartle said.

Despite being a pilot and having graduated from the Daniel Webster College's now defunct aviation program, Bartle said Assist relies on the great community of pilots that Nashua has to offer.

"We have a great staff of local pilots, most of whom work part time. They do a great job doing challenging work in challenging conditions and bringing home the craft and crews home safely, great crew to work with," Bartle said.

Part of what makes the job so interesting, Bartle said, is that one day you could be working with a scientist interested in monitoring marine life and the next day a utility company that wants to monitor its equipment.

"We have lots of experience in a lot of different things — military, private industry, all walks of life. Working out of Nashua has been helpful," Bartle said. "Nashua Airport is very busy, and has been a real proving ground for folks, upping their experience and the talent pool."

Nashua Municipal Airport Manager Roy Rankin said that as far as he knows, Assist is not only business of its kind not just to the Nashua Airport, but in the whole of New England as well.

"They are unique in what they do," Rankin said. "It is interesting to have them here."

Assist's two planes, designed as overwater platforms, work to help colleges track and study ecosystems, wildlife populations and breeding grounds in the Atlantic. For utility companies, the overwater platforms can offer surveillance of their wind farms to ensure they remain in good working order and are not in violation of any regulations.

After the remnants of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy swept through the granite state, Abbott said Assist aided utility companies by providing instant information to repair crews on the ground, telling them where trouble spots were and how to avoid danger.

Abbott said that along with aiding search and rescue efforts after disasters, Assist also has the capability to offer monitoring of specific areas for law enforcement or to provide things like vehicle tracking. With the sensitivity of the cameras on Assist's planes, it can even aid in suspect identification or monitor firefighters as they attack a particularly deadly blaze.

Soon after a mile-wide tornado carved through an Oklahoma suburb Monday, Abbott posted on her company blog on a willingness to go to Oklahoma to aid in the search and rescue of people and animals still trapped underneath the rubble even though it is well off the beaten path.

"We are a New England-based company, but we know the devastation a tornado like that can create, and we could definitely help guide search and rescue teams on the ground and help keep them out of danger while they look for survivors," Abbott said.


'You're in their pockets': High Court row over valuation in General Electric planes deal with Lebedev-controlled Blue Wings airline

Friday 24 May 2013
The Independent-UK

One of the world’s biggest aircraft valuers was accused in the High Court of being in the pockets of General Electric’s vast GECAS commercial aeroplane leasing division.

The allegation against Avitas came during the court battle between GECAS and Alpstream, an investment company in which Alexander Lebedev - whose son Evgeny owns The Independent newspaper - is a major investor. Alpstream claims GE rigged the auction of the seven planes, selling them to itself at a knockdown price. GECAS strongly disputes all the allegations.

Avitas vice president Douglas Kelly was appearing as an independent expert witness on behalf of GECAS, and Alpstream’s QC accused him of being biased when he claimed the planes were sold for a fair price.

QC Charles Béar, accused Mr Kelly’s organisation of being too closely involved with GECAS to be independent, comparing it to Arthur Andersen’s relationship with Enron. “[Arthur Anderson] were led astray, weren’t they, by the commercial relationship that they had with their client?”

Mr Kelly vehemently denied that to be the case with his company, stating that GE only represented 2% of Avitas’s business.

Mr Béar went on to quote the International Air Transport Association chief Giovanni Bisignani who, at the time of the 2010 auction of the Alpstream planes, declared “the pace of the upturn is strong”. Mr Béar demanded to know why Mr Kelly had not mentioned that view in his valuation report.

Mr Kelly responded that Mr Bisignani had  not been specifically discussing the market for Airbus A320s, so his comments were not relevant.

But Mr Béar said: “Let’s face it, Mr Kelly, you know that if you make any admission contrary to your client’s interests, the money you earn from GECAS is at stake. That’s the reality of your evidence, isn’t it?”

“No it’s not,” responded Mr Kelly.

“You are protecting your wallet, aren’t you?” Mr Béar replied.


“You can be bought.”


Mr Kelly said he gave his valuation because he considered the auction to be a “distressed” sale. This was because Alpstream’s airline Blue Wings had defaulted on GE’s mortgage over the planes. In all but the rarest of instances, a repossession situation represented a distressed sale that inevitably carries a discount in the valuation, Mr Kelly said.

He added: “What was going on at that time… we weren’t coming out of a recession, we were still in a global downturn, and what happened was, because of the financial crisis and the weakness of the banking system, it became difficult for airlines to get financing for aircraft, except for new aircraft.”

He said it was especially difficult for anybody to get financing for A320s of the type GECAS was selling for Alpstream.

However, Mr Béar pointed out that there had been some potential buyers with access to funding at the time. In fact, Macquarie, the Australian investment giant, expressed an interest in bidding for Alpstream’s planes. An offer such as this, Béar said, highlighted that it was not a “distressed sale” and should not have been valued as one.

Mr Kelly disagreed, saying Macquarie did not state a price, and that for a mortgage company like GE suddenly getting seven aeroplanes to sell due to a mortgage default did represent a distress situation.

The case continues.


New training aircraft lands at Western Nebraska Community College

Friday, May 24, 2013 3:30 am

By JOE DUTTON,  Star-Herald

SIDNEY — Western Nebraska Community College has added a new component in the aviation program that will help students gain the hands-on training they need for their future careers to really take off.

On Wednesday, the Sidney campus got a 1981 Cessna 550 Citation II aircraft for the aviation program. The jet was flown into Sidney from Melbourne, Fla., after it was inspected by WNCC aviation instructor Jon Leever. WNCC acquired the jet from World Aviation in Orange Park, Fla., for $415,000 with help from the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program.

WNCC Vice President of Administrative Services Bill Knapper said the college was looking to purchase an airplane within the $400,000 to $495,000 price range that represented the best value to the college.

The college reviewed various used aircraft from across the nation. After numerous bids were submitted, the college negotiated the purchase price of $415,000, of which $316,500 is non-college funds, including 55 percent from the TAACCCT grant.

Knapper said the new jet’s airframe has more than 7,000 hours of flying time, 5,163 landings and less than 20 hours left on the engines, making it a good fit for the college.

“We picked up a piece of equipment that’s in real nice shape,” he said. “It was an older airframe, needed engines updated and so we were able to pick it up at a fair price.”

Knapper said the jet will never fly again, but will be used only for ground operations. The jet will immediately be used by students next year and will help WNCC become more competitive with other aviation schools in the area.

The new jet will help potential aircraft mechanics learn body and engine maintenance before they go into the aviation industry. Knapper said the purchase of the jet would keep the program up-to- date because of its modern components.

“It will be a very attractive machine to hopefully help recruit students into the program to know they will be able to work on a piece of equipment that has deicing equipment, retractable landing gear and turbine engines,” he said.

Leever said he looks forward to working on the jet this fall, and said it will help students become more viable for the workplace.

“This aircraft is going to be able to give the students so much more hands-on experience and it is something larger than we are used to,” Leever said. “It’s going to be a tremendous benefit for the students.”

WNCC plans to purchase other aviation equipment through the TAACCCT grant, including specialized tools, carburetors, starters, a used single-engine propeller plane, tow bars and a piston engine for demonstrations.

“It’s imperative that we train our students not only on piston engines, but turbine engines. This will update the program and will assist students for several years into the future,” Knapper said.

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