Thursday, June 06, 2013

Sky's the limit for jet setters at Westchester County Airport (KHPN), White Plains, New York

Jun. 6, 2013 8:32 PM  

Written by  Theresa Juva-Brown

HARRISON — For sale: an Embraer executive jet with spacious leather couches, big screen TVs, wireless Internet, a queen-size bed and a shower. Seats up to 19 passengers.

Asking price? Only $55 million.

The Lineage 1000 was among the elite collection of private aircraft on display Thursday at Westchester County Airport. The National Business Aviation Association event drew some 3,000 people, presented more than 100 vendors, and featured 35 private jets and helicopters.

Panorama Flight Service, a general aviation company at the airport, hosted the one-day forum and fair. Thursday’s packed event was a sign that business aviation is regaining strength, said Panoroma spokesman Jon Boyd.

“Business aviation is extraordinarily sensitive to the economy. Like luxury boating, we are the first to go into a recession and the last to come out. We are seeing an upturn. We expected it sooner… but now things are coming back,” he said.

The mall of luxury planes wasn’t just a spectacle. Business representatives lined up to greet potential buyers, which included “a mix of Fortune 100 clients and high net-worth individuals,” said Michael Mikolay, executive vice president for Guardian Jet, based in Guilford, Conn.

For a CEO who needs to be somewhere in a snap, Mikolay was offering the Agusta AW139, a six-passenger helicopter with an $8.4 million price tag.

“This is the type of helicopter that goes in and out of New York City, takes executives and connects to airplanes such as this, the Citation Encore,” he said, referring to the jet next to him. The eight-passenger plane — previously owned by a company — could be yours for $5.9 million.

Ensuring company executives get to their destinations quickly is helping the country’s economic recovery, Mikolay said.

“You want these CEOs out there and in the forefront developing new business,” he said.

Story and Photo:

Flight Options: Jet industry takes off in Westchester, New York County Airport (with video)

 YONKERS - The private plane industry is taking off at Westchester County Airport. 

The post-recession industry is estimated to bring in more than $600 million in business and employment every year.

Flight Options, the second largest provider of private jet travel in the world, says that for about the same price as booking first class tickets, company managers can be working together on a private plane, preparing presentations and being in touch with the office through Wi-Fi connectivity.

The company says it is flying on average five or six people a day to two or three cities.

Private jet owners also say that an advantage to flying with them is bypassing security lines or delays from other passengers.

Story and Video:

Piedmont Triad International Airport (KGSO), Greensboro, North Carolina: Runways (with video)


6:18 PM, Jun 6, 2013 
By Tanya Rivera

Greensboro, NC -- As a consumer, travel is all about numbers: how much you're paying for the trip and what time you get in.

2 Wants To Know found some numbers you probably weren't aware of like 490,000 bags go through the baggage carousel at Piedmont Triad International Airport.             

Kevin Baker, Executive Director of the airport, has a few more numbers for us. He showed us an aerial view of the airport. The airport in total acres is about 4,000.

PTI has three runways. Most people don't know we have one of the longest runways in the state at 10,001 feet. The other two runways measure 9,000 and 6,340 feet.

The pilots know which runway to land on by the name. The compass reading makes the name. For example, landing on Runway 23 means the pilot would be on a path with a compass heading of 230 degrees. The other end is always 180 degrees away, so it would be the 50 heading or 5. The name of the runway would be 5/23.

The aerial shots may make the runways look thin for such large objects to land on.The pavement is not the usual asphalt we all drive on. It's three feet thick and each runway is 150 feet wide which is 6 times the width of a typical two-lane road.

Story and Video:

Deal damaging to public trust: Sikorsky Memorial Airport (KBDR), Bridgeport, Connecticut

Published 5:06 pm, Thursday, June 6, 2013

Connecticut Post 

 Whether the latest dustup at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, this one over a $400,000 driveway built by and for a well-known political contributor and paid for by the city, is yet another contemptible bit of skullduggery or a just, honest solution to a long-standing problem remains to be seen.

Whatever the final judgment, the arrangement that resulted in local developer Manuel Moutinho, best known perhaps as owner of the local Mark IV Construction Co., winning the bid to build a $400,000 driveway through airport property to his Shangri-La by the sea sure gives off a too-long-dead-bluefish odor.

And good, bad or indifferent, the fact that the airport manager, John Ricci, has business dealings with Moutinho -- certainly not in and of itself improper -- adds to the yuck factor.

For decades, the airport -- owned by Bridgeport but physically situated in the lovely Lordship section of Stratford -- has been a grain of sand in the oyster, never developing into a pearl, however, just a persistent irritant.

After years of contention, last April, city, town, state and federal leaders finally sat down to sing Kumbaya and announce that a long-sought safety zone would be built at the end of a runway. As always, the devil -- in this case the driveway leading to the property of Moutinho and three others -- apparently was in the details of the agreement.

That no one at Bridgeport City Hall thought this might be controversial and air it publicly seems like a gross miscalculation -- or a brazen gamble.

When the Connecticut Post reported on the matter, reaction, at least from the administration, was swift and predictable: City Attorney Mark Anastasi huffed and puffed and all but blew the house down with an apologia and accusations that the newspaper portrayed the matter "inaccurately," was "misleading," was trying to "create a controversy," and concluded his letter with a lecture on the role of the press in a democracy.

"There is a level of trust that residents have in their government, and false attacks like this one can have a damaging effect on that trust," he wrote.

Ready, fire, aim.

Mayor Bill Finch has rightly suspended Ricci from his job while they look into the relationship between Ricci and Moutinho.

We'd just suggest that when it comes to "damaging effect on that trust," it seems far more likely that the wink and nod ploys, the interlocking network of tax dollar beneficiaries and the general frolicking in the public trough is far more effective than a newspaper pointing it out.

Read more:

‘Jetgate’ jet made three previous visits to Bermuda

Published Jun 6, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm)

By Ayo Johnson

The private jet used to transport the Premier and two of his Ministers to a Washington DC meeting had been here three times before the now infamous trip, The Royal Gazette can confirm.

And it would have cost more than $40,000 to charter.

The Gulfstream 200 — first came here this year on February 16 arriving at 1.46pm but left the same day after just under an hour at LF Wade International Airport, according to a flight tracker service.

It was to return five days later — on February 21 at 9.45am, and leaving on the same day at 2.33pm. On March 11, the jet landed shortly before 10am and left at noon.

Nine days later it returned to Bermuda and picked up the Premier, the Attorney General and the Minister of Tourism.

Government insists that that trip — from March 20 to March 22 — represented their first and only meeting with the investor group.

All flights originated in Washington DC.

The Royal Gazette understands that the G200 — one of just 250 of its kind built between 1997 and 2011 — is a family-owned jet. When not in use by its owners, it is available for charter.

A quote obtained from the charter company which handles the jet noted that it would cost $43,178.93 to fly three people from Bermuda to Washington DC on March 20 next year, returning on March 22.

The plane can accommodate up to eight people.

Government has been harshly criticised for what has been dubbed “jetgate” by the Opposition Progressive Labour Party following revelations that the three Ministers went on a paid trip on the private jet to attend a five-hour meeting in Washington DC.

The trio stayed two nights — also at the expense of the investors.


Pilot charged with flying drunk; authorities say blood alcohol content was 0.27

TAMPA — A lone cargo pilot en route to Tampa International Airport lost touch with air traffic controllers for an hour. When the Cessna 210 started sinking over Charleston, S.C., authorities scrambled fighter jets.

The Flight Express plane landed safely in Tampa but the pilot was still flying: His blood alcohol registered 0.27 percent, according to federal court records filed Wednesday.

And that was after 2 1/2 hours of talking to investigators.

Phillip Yves Lavoie, 28, was charged Tuesday with operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Federal law presumes impairment at 0.10 percent. The Federal Aviation Administration imposes an even stricter standard: 0.04 percent.

The charging document does not address whether Lavoie drank aboard the aircraft during either leg of the Dec. 8 round trip flight from Tampa to Greensboro, N.C.

His attorney, Summer Goldman of St. Petersburg, said he drank before leaving Tampa, landed in Greensboro, dropped off the cargo, refueled and returned to the air — completing two takeoffs, two landings.

"He truly has an alcohol problem, had one, and he's taking the steps to correct that," Goldman said, noting that he entered a residential treatment program.

A plea agreement filed Wednesday, signed by Lavoie, provides this account:

Lavoie was near Charleston when FAA tower officials tried to make contact to hand him off to the next controller area. They got no radio response. They noticed he had descended, without approval, to 5,000 feet and had deviated slightly from his projected path.

Savannah, Ga., tower controllers couldn't reach him, either. By then, he had descended to 4,000 feet. Savannah notified Jacksonville controllers, and the FAA alerted Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, which dispatched two fighter jets.

Before the jets reached Lavoie, he was back on the radio, talking to the Jacksonville controllers, who tried unsuccessfully to get him to explain what had happened.

An FAA flight inspector, Paul Kahler, met the plane when it landed at the Flight Express hangar in Tampa, asked for Lavoie's flight credentials and detected the smell of alcohol. The two joined a pilot at the Tampa Police Department's adjacent hangar.

Then airport police got involved.

Airport police Officer Terence Cottman reported that Lavoie "had bloodshot and watery eyes."

"Lavoie was crying and had the distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his person," the incident report states.

Officers searched the aircraft for open beverage containers and found none.

Lavoie voluntarily submitted to field sobriety and blood alcohol tests, the report states, but he would not allow officers to look inside his backpack. Instead, he turned it over to the chief pilot for Flight Express.

Lavoie rode to Hillsborough County Central Breath Testing with Cottman, the airport officer.

On the way there, he said his career was over, the report states.

But he said he "wasn't going to fall for the short guy that was going to get a search warrant," the report states.

He surrendered his airman certificates on April 30 in response to an FAA enforcement action.

Attorney Goldman said Lavoie had been flying since age 15.

On the ground, his driving record shows he was cited for having an open container in Sarasota County in 2005 and with careless driving in 2003. In both cases, adjudication was withheld, the records show.

He has no regular DUI arrests and no criminal record at all in Florida.

"Just get a misdemeanor DUI," his attorney groused, "not a second-degree felony punishable by 15 years."

At the time of the incident, Lavoie lived near Maximo Point in St. Petersburg. He has since moved back home with family in Sarasota, she said.

He is scheduled to appear before a magistrate judge on June 13 to enter a guilty plea.

If the magistrate judge accepts the plea, sentencing before a U.S. district judge would follow later.

It's not the first time a pilot has been accused of flying while drunk. It happens even on passenger airplanes.

Aaron Jason Cope of Norfolk, W.Va., was sentenced to six months in federal prison after a Dec. 8, 2009, United Express flight from Boston to Denver. His reported blood alcohol level was 0.08 percent.

Still, a federal case is a relatively unusual occurrence.

"It's not a commonly used charge," said Amy Filjones, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida.


Wine grape drone flying over California vineyards

June 6, 2013

Pat Bailey

Western Farm Press   

Under the watchful eye of news media and area winegrape growers, a remote-controlled helicopter, fitted with a spray applicator system, was field tested over a vineyard in the heart of the famed Napa Valley by engineers at the University of California, Davis, and Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA.

For 20 years, the small motorcyle-sized helicopter, which carries the product name RMAX, has been used to apply agricultural sprays to rice fields in Japan and is now being tested for potential agricultural uses in the United States, in areas where aerial applications could prove to be safer and more efficient than tractor applications of herbicides and pesticides.

UC Davis is now one of the few universities in the nation with a Federal Aviation Administration permit to apply sprays with remote-controlled aircraft. That permit applies only to specific agricultural areas, including the University of California Oakville Station. No flights are made in the vicinity of the Davis campus.

Flanked by some of the Napa Valley’s most historic winegrape vineyards, the Oakville Experimental Vineyard at the UC Oakville Station provides the ideal site for the field tests, which began in November 2012.

“This site not only offers a working-vineyard situation, it also meets all of our federal requirements for flight zones for remote-controlled aircraft,” said Ken Giles, a UC Davis agricultural engineering professor and lead researcher on the project.

Regulated by
Federal Aviation Administration

Giles noted that the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates use of all remote-controlled aircraft and requires, for example, that the aircraft not be operated within five miles of an airport, notice of a planned flight be reported to FAA 48 hours in advance and the aircraft’s flight altitude not exceed 20 feet.

It took Giles and UC Davis development engineer Ryan Billing — both licensed commercial pilots — five months to obtain FAA clearance to operate the mini-helicopter in the Napa Valley. Experienced Yamaha flight instructors from Japan trained them on the fine points of operating the mini-helicopter.

 The two UC Davis researchers are building a valuable database that will document how the RMAX might perform in agricultural operations in California and elsewhere in the United States.

“We have more than two decades of data on the performance of the RMAX in Japan, but we don’t yet have that kind of information on its use in the United States,” said Steve Markofski, a Yamaha business planner and trained RMAX operator. He noted that in Japan more than 2,500 RMAX helicopters are being used to spray 40 percent of the fields planted to rice — that country’s number one crop.

“What Ken and Ryan bring to the table is their spray application expertise and knowledge of the current application methods that are in use in the United States,” Markofski said. “As we collaborate with them on tests of spray deposition and efficiency, we’re gaining insight into to how the RMAX performance compares to spray application methods that are being commercially used for this crop and this terrain.”

Read more here:

County council action opens door for commercial helicopter tours: Canyonlands Field Airport (KCNY), Moab, Utah

June 6, 2013

by Steve Kadel
Moab - The Times Independent

Commercial helicopter tours within 25 miles of Canyonlands Field Airport could begin in less than two weeks.

The Grand County Council approved a lease agreement Tuesday, June 4, with Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Helicopters to occupy office space at the airport. That opens the door for tours, which Pinnacle partner Ben Black of Durango, Colo., said the company hopes to begin by June 15.

The council voted 6-1 to allow the lease. Council vice chairman Lynn Jackson voted against the move, saying more information is needed about where Pinnacle will fly.

“I don’t have much comfort level right now on what their plan is,” Jackson said. “Rather than just voting on a lease, I’d rather learn a little more about their plans.”

He added he’s opposed to “the Disneyfication” of the Moab area “any more than it already is.”

But council member Jim Nyland, who made the motion to approve the lease, noted the Grand County Airport Board had already given its blessing to the proposal. The council should follow that recommendation, he said.

“That’s why we have boards,” Nyland said.

Council member Pat Holyoak said Pinnacle should be allowed to pursue its business vision.

“I’ve been on those tours and I didn’t find it that offensive,” she said.

Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison, the city’s liaison to the airport board, said during an interview that the city and county have no authority to regulate the business.

“The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] controls the airspace,” he said. “We don’t have much say. Once they get off the ground, that’s it.”

Canyonlands Field Airport Manager Kelly Braun said Pinnacle has the necessary letter of authorization through Federation Aviation Regulation Part 91. He added that the authorization limits the company to a 25-mile radius of Canyonlands Field and allows takeoffs and landings only at the airport.

“They will not conduct any flights over national parks,” Braun said. “That’s not allowed. I believe they will try to establish a route that will not negatively impact the area they’re flying over.

“Ben [Black] is very aware of the sensitive nature of our area. He is more than willing to work with the community.”

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Recreation Planner Jennifer Jones, of the Moab field office, said during an interview that a representative of Pinnacle talked with her Jan. 4 to ask some questions. She called it a “cursory” meeting.

“They seemed interested in resource concerns, but I have not heard anything from them since that January meeting,” Jones said. “I had hoped there would be more follow-up.”

She said Pinnacle asked about the possibility of landing on BLM property and giving clients “a walk-around scenic opportunity.” However, that idea was not pursued, Jones said.

She emphasized that the BLM has no jurisdiction over commercial air activities unless they land on BLM property.

Black, the Pinnacle partner from Colorado, told council members the number of flights will be determined by customer demand.

“We’re looking at the area west of the airport that is already highly impacted by jeeps, ATVs and motorcycles,” he said. “We have no desire to fly over wilderness areas.

“We are not going to be flying over rock climbers. We will not buzz people on the Green River. Our goal is to come to Moab as a reputable business. We don’t want to come here and make everybody mad.”

Black’s comments did not satisfy three area citizens who spoke during the meeting.

“We’re only talking about them benefiting a small number of tourists, but the sound will affect everybody on the ground,” said Carolyn Dailey.

Kevin Walker also spoke against helicopter tours. At the least, he said, Pinnacle officials should put their intended routes in writing.

“We all know how it will affect us,” said Kiley Miller. “Nobody wants to be in a wilderness area with the chop, chop, chop of a helicopter. Tourists come here for the silence, for that peace. A 25-mile radius is large.”


Pilot killed in motorbike crash: Willowbank Raceway, Queensland, Australia

Chris Mosca qualified as a pilot when he was 18.

June 07, 2013 12:00AM
Jeremy Pierce
The Courier-Mail

At just 22, Chris Mosca was already a qualified pilot with Jetstar and dreamed of flying the big birds.

The Gold Coaster's love of flying was matched only by his passion for motorbikes, a love affair that ended in tragedy when he was killed during a practice session at Willowbank's Queensland Raceway on Wednesday.

Mr Mosca was thrown 40m through the air when his bike clipped the back tire of another bike after the open-ride session went under a red flag due to debris on the track.

Mr Mosca, who died at the track, had been looking forward to the session for weeks.

Motorbikes were a weekend hobby for the man who loved adrenalin-charged activities in the outdoors, but flying planes was his life.

A qualified pilot since the age of 18, Mr Mosca was the first pilot in Jetstar's cadet program.

He learnt his craft flying sea planes with Gold Coast outfit Cloud 9. His early instructor, Pete Murray, said Mr Mosca was one of the most talented and enthusiastic pilots he knew.

"He was a fantastic natural pilot," he said. "What has happened is just heart-breaking."

Jetstar chief pilot Captain Mark Rindfleish said he would be sorely missed.

"He was a popular and enthusiastic team member," he said.

"The thoughts of everyone at Jetstar, in particular those based on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane, are with Chris' family and loved ones."

Friends of the Ashmore man took to social media yesterday to pay tribute.

"Thanks for the laughs, keeping me safe in the skies," wrote one former co-worker.

"It was an absolute pleasure to know you. We miss you already."

A friend wrote: "You were the most respectful, loyal, smart and loving man I know."

Mr Mosca's motorcycle will be examined by the police forensic crash unit to test for mechanical problems that may have contributed to the collision.

Story and Photos:

Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of Foothills Regional Airport (KMRN) still not done -Morganton, North Carolina

By Sharon McBrayer
Hickory Record

MORGANTON, NC – It’s been nearly a year since FBI agents raided Foothills Regional Airport and seized computers, files and conducting interviews.

Airport Manager Alex Nelson and operations manager Brad Adkins pleaded guilty to engaging in a public corruption conspiracy and embezzlement. Nelson also pleaded guilty to money laundering.

Yet neither man has been sentenced for their crimes and no one else has been charged with wrongdoing, even though federal court documents say they had co-conspirators. However, the documents don’t name names.

According to recently unsealed search warrants and documents, FBI Agent James R. Meade submitted an affidavit that said Nelson and Adkins, along with the un-named co-conspirators, executed a scheme to defraud Foothills Regional Airport Authority of at least $100,000.

The document lays out information the FBI had gathered and reasons for the search warrants. Some of the information gathered included checking accounts where money stolen from the airport was hidden.

While no co-conspirators have been charged, the investigation hasn’t been closed, said Louis Vinay, attorney for the airport board of directors and for the city of Morganton. No federal documents released on the case has made mention of discrepancies in the cutting and sale of timber from airport property or money that’s been unaccounted for from the sale of two fuel trucks.

In addition to records and files at the airport and Nelson’s property, the original search warrants included any records related to former airport board chair Randy Hullette, a Morganton businessman, Hullette Aviation, Burkemont Service Center in Morganton, RANMAC Inc., Jeffrey Rose, Grady Rose Tree Service, Jimmy “Ron” Gilbert, Gilbert Grading and Construction, Simon Roofing and Parton Lumber.

An order to unseal search warrants says US Attorney for the Western District Anne M. Tompkins showed the court the original reason for sealing the documents no longer exits.

Records from SunTrust Bank showed Nelson and the airport financial officer controlled an account in the name of “Foothills Regional Airport Authority DBA Foothills Regional Aviation Alex Nelson.” Nelson and two airport authority board members also controlled an account in the name of “Foothills Regional Airport Authority c/o Alex Nelson,” the affidavit says.

Vinay said Nelson and then board chairman Wayne Abele had access to the Foothills Regional Airport Authority checking account. Vinay said he wasn’t aware of another board member who had access to it.

Vinay said there was also a checking account for the fixed-base operation, which rents hangars, sells fuel and does maintenance on airplanes. The airport authority took over the fixed-base operation in 2008 and opened the account. Nelson was apparently the only signature on that account, Vinay said.

Since the FBI raided the airport, the board merged the two accounts and now checks written for more than $1,000 need two signatures, Vinay said. Those who now have signature authority to the account are current airport Manager Brent Brinkley, board chair Bruce Roberts and board members Joe Gibbons and Don Wright, Vinay said.

In addition, Nelson controlled bogus business bank accounts, as well as a personal account with his wife.

The affidavit says on May 29, 2012, a confidential source gave agent Meade a description of the airport premises. It describes how Nelson, Adkins and a flight instructor had office space on the main floor and Nelson had another office on the second floor, adjacent to the pilot’s lounge that remained locked.

The affidavit also says Nelson and Adkins used side business accounts to deposit airport checks made out to a bogus company. One example in the affidavit is from June 2009 to September 2011, around 21 checks were deposited into Adkin’s business accounts at Community One Bank or converted into cash.

Of the checks totaling $49,000 deposited into the “Foothills Maintenance” account, $26,000 was withdrawn as cash and $22,000 was made payable to a conspirator, the affidavit says. The affidavit doesn’t name the conspirator.

Another example in the affidavit says Nelson used the airport credit card to purchase $1,400 in items from Walmart, Sam’s Club, Staples and grocery stores that exceeded anything that showed up at the airport and that he concealed itemized expenses from the airport financial officer when he submitted monthly expense reports.

In addition, money embezzled from the airport was used to fund his personal lifestyle, including purchases of a Key West vacation timeshare, a “Party Barge pontoon boat, the building of a new in-ground pool at Nelson’s residence, and cars.”

Nelson suggested to an FBI source that the source should set up a fictitious corporation not directly linked to the source’s identity so the source could bill the airport for services. “Nelson also advised that he would also use this shell corporation to move money around,” the affidavit says. The source declined the suggestion, it says.

The affidavit says Nelson and Adkins used other conspirators to defraud the airport authority by awarding numerous contracts to conspirators at grossly inflated prices for work completed or for no work at all.

An example in the affidavit says Nelson paid at least two conspirators more than $83,000 within nearly a year and a half for things such as snow removal, tree clearing, repair work or painting even though a minimal amount of the work was completed. He paid one conspirator $7,400 for tree removal along a runway but a source told FBI agents the work was never done.

The affidavit says the real property and vehicles belonging to Nelson are subject to forfeiture as substitute property for the fraud scheme. It says restraining orders aren’t sufficient to ensure the property is available for forfeiture because vehicles can easily be moved or transferred.

Meade also asked the courts to seal the affidavit and search warrants because not all the targets of the investigation would be searched at that time.

The property the FBI seized from Nelson is supposed to replace the monetary value he stole from the airport. It doesn’t really matter if the property was bought with ill-gotten gains or not, the federal government says.

The federal government filed a response recently to an argument by Nelson’s wife, Tammy S. Nelson, that the property seized were things paid for from various funds she received, not from money embezzled from the airport.

The only connection that’s pertinent between the money stolen from the airport and property seized is improvements made on the Nelson home in Lenoir, the response says. The government only has to prove the property belonged to Nelson, it says, which it has done.

When the government placed a lien against the property last June, it said there was probable cause to believe that wire fraud and conspiracy occurred and that the proceeds of the offenses are more than $100,000. It said, in part, that the property, “May be subject to forfeiture and as substitute property…”

Property the government seized and says is replacement for the money stolen from the airport is a Mercedes, Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Corvette, Sun Tracker pontoon boat, and the home at 4640 Celia Creek Road in Lenoir, which also includes the installation of a swimming pool.

In September, Nelson and Adkins agreed to help the government in any trial, hearing or grand jury proceeding, including testifying against any co-defendants.


Airport manager suspended, pending probe into driveway purchase: Sikorsky Memorial Airport (KBDR), Bridgeport, Connecticut

Sikorsky Airport Manager John Ricci. 
(Photo: CT Post/ Phil Noel)

By Brian Lockhart,  Connecticut Post

Updated 12:18 am, Thursday, June 6, 2013  

BRIDGEPORT -- Just before hanging up the phone Wednesday morning, Sikorsky Airport Manager John Ricci admitted he had business dealings with multi-millionaire developer Manuel "Manny" Moutinho.

Thanks in part to Ricci, Moutinho is enjoying a just-opened $400,000 gravel driveway to his mansion overlooking Long Island Sound in Stratford, courtesy of Bridgeport taxpayers -- and he was hired to build it.

By 5 p.m. Wednesday, Ricci was suspended with pay from his $94,000-a-year job, and Mayor Bill Finch's administration was scrambling to investigate his relationship with Moutinho, who is also the target of an FBI probe in Trumbull.

Records filed with the Bridgeport town clerk and tax assessor offices show that Ricci and Moutinho engaged during 2012 in a handful of property transactions -- some in mid-summer, while Ricci and the Finch administration were deciding to build Moutinho's driveway so they could begin long-sought safety upgrades at Sikorsky Airport, located in Stratford but owned and run by Bridgeport.

Hours after the Connecticut Post, which first reported on the $400,000 driveway Monday, asked the mayor's office what it knew about Ricci and Moutinho, the mayor announced a probe and suspended Ricci.

"Today is the first time we have been made aware of any such alleged association," Finch said in an emailed statement early Wednesday evening. "Obviously, this newly disclosed information creates the potential for a conflict of interest or inappropriate behavior. As is our longstanding established policy, all such allegations are thoroughly investigated internally, and where appropriate are referred to other proper legal authorities."

It was an abrupt change of tune for the administration. On Tuesday, City Attorney Mark Anastasi, in a letter to the editor, insisted the Connecticut Post was fabricating a controversy about the city's hiring Moutinho's Mark IV Construction to build a 1,000-foot driveway for the developer and three neighboring property owners living near Sikorsky Airport.

"The truth is that the contract was awarded legally and properly and the driveway construction was a requirement to move forward with the necessary safety zone for the airport," Anastasi wrote. "There is a level of trust that residents have in their government, and false attacks like this one can have a damaging effect on that trust."

On Wednesday morning, Ricci initially refused to discuss what he called private matters. He eventually acknowledged he had unspecified business dealings with Moutinho, but added that the administration knew about the situation.

"I made that clear to the airport commission and city attorney's office," Ricci said.

According to property records filed with the town clerk, in February 2012, Ricci sold Moutinho property at 1483 through 1489 Boston Ave., for $150,000. In June of that year, Moutinho sold other lots on Boston Avenue to Ricci for $220,000.

The tax assessor's files show that Ricci bought a house at 1491 Boston Ave. from Moutinho in July.

Ricci was also named as a co-defendant in a January 2011 lawsuit filed against him by Phoenix of Bridgeport Lien Investors LLC over a home he owns at 76 Porter Street. Other defendants included Eric Moutinho, trustee for Baldwin Station, LLC, which shares Mark IV Construction's business address of 1137 Seaview Ave. Bridgeport's Water Pollution Control Authority was also a defendant.

Ricci has also conducted business through limited liability corporations like Cima Contractors and Quince Realty.

Moutinho is well-known in Bridgeport City Hall. He has been engaged in various legal battles with the city, but he and his family also contributed a combined $4,500 to Finch in 2007 and 2008.

Moutinho is also facing an FBI investigation into claims that he built a defective sewer system in Trumbull. The town and developer are suing each other.

Former Bridgeport Councilman Bob Walsh, a Democrat like Finch and all 20 current council members, said neither Ricci's dabbling in real estate nor his dealings with Moutinho should be a surprise to the powers that be.

"For the people in City Hall to say they didn't know about it, they've either got to have their heads in the sand or be lying," Walsh said. "They're throwing John under the bus. If John says he told people, he told people."

But Council President Thomas McCarthy, D-133, who also serves on the airport commission, insisted he does not recall Moutinho's name ever being associated with the Sikorsky runway work.

During a private council meeting Monday night, McCarthy sought to reassure his colleagues there was nothing amiss about the $400,000 driveway, which the council might have voted to fund without realizing it early last fall.

But on Wednesday, McCarthy said, "The information that I'm hearing today is causing me great concern."

It was uncertain Wednesday how Ricci's suspension and the driveway probe will affect Bridgeport's efforts to install a $40 million safety zone at Sikorsky to meet a federally mandated 2015 deadline. The federal government is paying for 90 percent, with the state and city splitting the balance.

Ricci and Lisa Trachtenburg, the associate Bridgeport city attorney assigned the airport project, in interviews last week portrayed the city's arrangement with Moutinho as crucial to moving forward.

For decades, the city has been legally bound to provide access through airport property to a handful of waterfront properties. That access took the form of an old dirt driveway, located off Main Street, across from Sikorsky's runway, which has become prone to flooding.

According to Ricci, a few years ago Moutinho decided to build a new driveway. He asked the airport commission to shift the easement rights to another location on airport property, farther east on Main Street, off Sniffen Lane.

Then last year, Moutinho received the appropriate land-use approvals from Stratford, but never broke ground.

In the meantime, the Finch administration was nearing a deal with Stratford, state and federal authorities that would finally allow the city to build a 300-foot safety zone at the end of Sikorsky's runway.

To do so, Main Street is to be rerouted through the original dirt driveway used by Moutinho and neighbors.

At that point, the Finch administration concluded that even though the city already granted Moutinho an easement to build a new driveway, essentially abandoning the dirt one, by law the city had to pay for it.

"I'm not allowed to take it away," Trachtenburg said. "I have to give them something else."

Ricci recalled approaching Moutinho with the city attorney's office about the offer.

"We went up and said, `We need to take it over. We'll build it for you just to get you out of our way,' " Ricci said.

And rather than a time-consuming bidding process, the city sought three quotes. Mark IV was the cheapest.

Last week, Ricci insisted that his only goal has been to prevent airplane crashes like the one in 1994.

"I helped bring the charred bodies out of the plane," Ricci said. "And I never want to witness human carnage like that again. Ever. So I will do whatever it takes."

Connecticut Post Staff Writers Anne M. Amato and Dan Tepfer contributed to this report.

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GUEST COMMENTARY: Columbia Regional Airport (KCOU) needs our business more than tax money -Columbia, Missouri

 Thursday, June 6, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT


I was glad to see George Kennedy's May 31 column, "Airport upgrade would be a costly mistake." I agree with him on several points, if not for different reasons.

The Columbia Regional Airport has indeed had commercial passenger air service come and go in recent years.

Since the good old days of Ozark Air Lines, federal subsidies for service to small airports have dropped off.

Then local public subsidies emerged to entice American Airlines to town, which only prompted Delta Air Lines to fly off for good, though Delta claimed it was losing money here anyway — it's hard to say.

That's because, short of maybe health care, the airline industry is one of the most darn complicated businesses there is. Nonetheless, COU (the Columbia airport) was largely neglected by city hall for a long time, so I'll hand it to Mayor Bob McDavid for taking a crack at it.

After cramming for Airlines 101, McDavid negotiated with airline executives, even wrangling up a revenue guarantee fund to (as Kennedy describes) "persuade or bribe" them.

Another business deal

Personally, I prefer calling it a pre-bailout fund. The city has essentially coordinated a business-loss insurance pool for the benefit of some of the world's largest corporations.

And with this precedent, what new airline will come here without a equally lucrative deal? We have further distorted an already highly distorted market.

Compared to the revenue guarantee, this new $33.7 million "faith-based" terminal expansion proposal is an animal of only slightly different stripes. Still to facilitate big airlines' business. Still to satisfy the desires of local economic development interests. Still sold to help everybody and "create jobs," etc. Still paid for by taxpayers.

As the revenue guarantee had the public buy airline service via profit insurance, with the terminal expansion, the public would be committed to buying a facility that  relatively few people might ever set foot in.

Along with municipal government's operation of a Police Department, maintaining streets, sewer pipes, a water and electric utility, even recreation facilities, is running a globally competitive commercial airport among City Hall's core competencies?

Even former City Council candidate Bill Weitkemper wondered aloud, "If we didn't own it, would we buy it?" Of course not. The numbers being thrown around are crazy risky.

Facing weak competition

As far as COU's competition: Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is less of a hub anymore, and Kansas City is considering an unpopular remodel. At the rate the state is going, Interstate 70 could deteriorate in the coming years, so mid-Missourians might have difficulty driving to either competitor anyway.

But let's not aspire to win by default. Instead, if the public is going to own an airport at all, how about we try building community pride, taking a sense of ownership in the place?

It sure isn't as sexy, but we should create a culture that looks to use our airport first, and do so whenever practical. This is something you, dear reader, can do yourself. (Personally, I have two of the last three times I've flown somewhere).

Though we are stuck with the revenue guarantee for a while, let's at least learn from its anti-competitive handcuffs until it expires.

Don't stick taxpayers

While I feel sorry for the '60s-era terminal's shortcomings, if issuing revenue bonds based on future airport profits alone yields a lack of willing investors, that would be a darn good gauge that taxpayers shouldn't be put on the hook for a costly mistake, either.

That means skipping (yet another) consultant's grandiose visions, instead looking to leverage local business willingness to donate money or donated/discounted design insight, construction materials and or labor, for a project we can actually afford.

It worked for Grant Elementary School's Eco School House, didn't it?

Mayor McDavid and architect Nick Peckham would make a fine team — I would show up for an airport painting/mulch day myself. Or perhaps an MU-based multidisciplinary project is in order to help get the job done?

One way or the other, we need a practical CoMo-sized solution, not the usual NYC one.

Steve Spellman hosts “The Mid-Missouri Freedom Forum” on KOPN/89.5 FM on Tuesday from 5 to 6 p.m.


As Jim Voetberg prepared to leave, two airport employees filed complaints against three city councilors: Newport Municipal Airport (KONP), Oregon

June 05, 2013
News Lincoln County
No sooner had Jim Voetberg cleaned out his desk at City Hall that two Newport Airport employees filed scathing attacks on three of Voetberg’s former bosses: City Councilors Dick Beemer, Ralph Busby and Dean Sawyer.

Airport Operations Manager Lance Vanderbeck and Fixed Base Operator Terry Durham wrote in a formal complaint against the councilors that the councilors’ frequent presence at the airport created a “hostile work environment” for them. They listed a number of incidents and situations that they said made them fear for their jobs, partly due to city budget issues but also the fact that their loyalty to Voetberg did not sit well with the councilors. Both Vanderbeck and Durham stated in their complaint that they were both strong supporters of Voetberg.

It’s well established through both employee and city council evaluations of Voetberg that he was not a popular city manager and that many employees did not have confidence in him and did not believe Voetberg truly listened to their employment related concerns. Several City Council evaluations, with one or two councilor exceptions, chastised Voetberg for not being forthcoming with them on important city issues and that they were generally dissatisfied with his performance as city manager. Late in his tenure, the city council announced that they agreed to help Voetberg become a better city manager through a list of performance points that he had agreed to review. A short time later he announced his resignation.

The airport employees listed in their “Statement of Facts” that Councilors Beemer, Busby and Sawyer, all pilots with planes at the airport, were frequent visitors to the airport terminal, and that Beemer, Busby and Sawyer are frequent attendees of social get-togethers for BBQ lunch on Saturdays. Durham and Vanderbeck contend that the three councilors, on different occasions, along with a number of other private pilots, have derided Voetberg’s performance as city manager. Durham and Vanderbeck also stated in their complaint that discussions among councilors and other pilots, mentioned that certain city operations that would be hard to maintain at current levels if city revenues continued to fall – the airport was one of them.

Durham and Vanderbeck also said in their complaint that on January 23rd that Councilman Dean Sawyer called Terry Durham and chastised him for reporting to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that a pilot, based at the airport, dive bombed a house and a charter boat out on the ocean. Durham contends Sawyer called him a “snitch.” Sawyer is a retired police sergeant. When asked if that was true, Sawyer said “No comment other than I’ll leave it to the investigator to get the whole story.”

Durham and Vanderbeck also said the councilors and other pilots were talking about a plan to ‘get rid’ of Voetberg, that the airport could be run by volunteers and that both airport employees might be reassigned to the wastewater plant. This, they said, constituted the creation of a “hostile work environment for themselves,” both Lance and Vanderbeck.

Councilor Dick Beemer has had no comment on the issue. Councilor Dean Sawyer would say only that “I sincerely welcome a thorough investigation into the allegations.” Councilor Ralph Busby said the complaints were rife with inaccuracies and that it was never his intent to cause any heartburn with the airport employees. He said “Both Lance and Terry are great assets to the city and that they do a great job running the airport. I still count them among my friends.”

Meanwhile a formal investigation has reportedly been launched by agents of the city’s insurance carrier. The action commenced on the suggestion of City Attorney Christy Monson, in Eugene.


Sheboygan County Memorial Airport (KSBM) restaurant may be grounded: Special events violate lease, state law, officials say -Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Jun. 5, 2013 

Written by Michael LoCicero

Final Approach restaurant at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport may be taken over by Sheboygan County if the owner doesn’t comply with federal, state and county requests to reduce the number of “non-aeronautic” events at its hangar-turned-banquet hall.

Ron Burrows, who owns the restaurant and the 10,000-square-foot hangar/banquet facility, among other buildings at the airport, agreed to a lease with the county in March 2011 that the banquet area was meant for “occasional” non-aeronautic activities.

Burrows pays the county $17,069 per year in rent as part of the terms of the lease that currently goes through 2031.

In two separate meetings this past February, representatives from the state Bureau of Aeronautics, which oversees the airport along with the Federal Aviation Administration, expressed concern that the hangar was too frequently being used for non-aeronautic activities — such as wedding receptions and gun shows — and that Burrows hadn’t sought approval from the county prior to some of them.

After holding events “inappropriate for airports,” Burrows was told by the county’s Transportation Committee this past March that as of April 1, only one non-aeronautical event per month would be allowed in the hangar, which is adjacent to the restaurant. He is also required to have events approved 30 days in advance by airport Superintendent Tom Boyer.

“For two-and-a-half years, we’ve been holding events and banquets and now they’re saying now you can’t,” Burrows Aviation General Manager Mindy Smith said. “They’re (Sheboygan County) saying if you have any more events, you’re not in compliance with your lease and we’re going to take back the premises.”

Burrows has been using the hangar for wedding receptions, martial arts events and held a gun show last weekend, he said. If he doesn’t comply with the committee’s request, the county may rescind his lease.

A letter obtained by the Sheboygan Press from Sheboygan County Corporation Counsel Carl Buesing to Burrows dated May 30 states: “If you continue to violate the terms of the agreement, Sheboygan County may choose to exercise its right to early termination and I will commence an action to recover the premises for Sheboygan County.”

Buesing’s letter also states that Burrows held an unapproved fundraiser event in April and a retirement event.

If the county doesn’t act to bring Burrows in compliance with the lease, it stands the chance of losing federal and state funding, Boyer said.

“The activities he continues to conduct has caused the airport to be in violation of federal grant assurances,” Boyer said. “This can have a huge negative financial impact to the citizens of Sheboygan County.”

Boyer said the FAA and WBOA have the ability to deny future funding, including a funding for a $2 million project set for this summer to convert some ramps from asphalt to concrete to accommodate larger aircraft. He said the airport has received $25 million in funding since it opened in 1962.

Burrows said he has been in compliance with all county, state and federal laws since the restaurant opened. He has threatened to file a lawsuit if the restaurant is shut down by the county.

“I pay all my taxes and rent on the building and they want to pull my lease and shut down the banquet hall,” Burrows said. “They want me to turn it back into just a hangar station.”

Boyer, in a letter to Burrows, denied approval of two events in May, including the gun show. Boyer said hosting a gun show is not an event that the WBOA “considers compatible with federally obligated land.”

Sheboygan County Administrator Adam Payne referenced the gun show as activities that shouldn’t take place at an airport.

“We are beginning to hear more and more concerns about his service to the tenants of our airport,” Payne said. “It’s very important to Sheboygan County that we have a fixed-based operator that is providing excellent, high quality service to our tenants and others that utilize our Sheboygan County Memorial Airport.”

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de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, C-GUJX, Accident occurred June 30, 2011 in Buss Lake, northern Saskatchewan, Canada

The families of three men who died in a plane crash in northern Saskatchewan are suing the charter airline that operated the flight.

The Lawrence Bay Airways float plane crashed into Buss Lake on June 30, 2011, killing the pilot and all four passengers. A Transportation Safety Board investigation into the crash concluded the airplane stalled while flying at too low an altitude to recover.

The families of three passengers filed statements of claim last month in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench seeking damages under the Fatal Accidents Act, which allows dependents to claim losses.

Allegations in a statement of claim have not been proven in court.

Wade Cooper, 44, Cam Cooper, 40, and Daniel Mantyka, 21, each left wives and children behind when they died in the crash. The lawsuits claim damages for the costs of their funerals, income losses and grief, as set out in the Fatal Accidents Act.

The fourth passenger on the plane was Max Clunie, 15. They were all returning from a northern Saskatchewan fishing camp when the plane, a Havilland DHC-2 Beaver Aircraft, crashed into the lake.

The statements of claim allege the men's deaths were caused by the negligence of Lawrence Bay Airways. They claim the company failed to maintain the airplane and failed to equip it with a stall warning device. The documents also say the men's deaths were caused by the negligent actions of the pilot, Andre Gagnon, and that Lawrence Bay Airways is liable.

They allege the pilot "intentionally operated the Beaver Aircraft at low altitude," knowing it was hazardous and in such a fashion that "it stalled at an altitude which was insufficient to recover from the stall."


Aviation Investigation Report A11C0100: 
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigated this occurrence for the purpose of advancing transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability. 

Collision with Terrain
Lawrence Bay Airways Ltd.
De Havilland DHC–2, C–GUJX
Buss Lakes, Saskatchewan, 2 nm SE
30 June 2011