Friday, July 05, 2013

Government of The Bahamas Responds To Criticism Over New Aviation Fees For Private Pilots

Published on July 4, 2013

Federal Uncertainty Could Push Back Completion of Airport Repairs: Peoria International (KPIA), Illinois

PEORIA - A decision on federal funding could determine to time frame of much needed repairs to Peoria's airport.

The Peoria International Airport is planning more than $5 million in renovations. Those include repairs and new pavement near the terminal and Byerly Aviation buildings. However, the completion date of the project is "up in the air" until the airport knows how much money it will get from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Gene Olson, the airport manager, says federal money usually pays for projects like this, but the
Federal Aviation Administration is handing out less money after recent budget cuts.  The airport still plans to start the project this fall.


New driveway questions: Sikorsky Memorial Airport (KBDR), Bridgeport, Connecticut

The story of the $400,000 easement road built through Sikorsky Memorial Airport to accommodate shoreline property owners including a millionaire, politically connected developer continues to develop curves.

In upholding two appeals that were brought against the Stratford Board of Zoning Appeals for approving the road, Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe has raised even more questions about the propriety of the whole mess.

To recap, the city of Bridgeport paid $400,000 to property owner Manuel Moutinho to build a gravel access road through the airport to his lavish shoreline home. How this actually ensued after Moutinho had said he was going to do the work himself -- and for $200,000 -- is the subject, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch maintains, of an investigation.

While Radcliffe's ruling that the road was built improperly will certainly be appealed as this story progresses, one of the more interesting observations in his 17-page ruling is the citation of a land record agreement filed in Stratford that says the private property owners are "to maintain said easement at their sole cost and expense."

From the city of Bridgeport's perspective, the new road had to be put in quickly to let a $40 million safety improvement project at the airport move ahead in timely fashion. The old access road to the private property is in the path of that project.

But if time really is of the essence here, the way this thing has been bungled is likely to slow everything down to a crawl.


Four injured when fireworks misfires: Tehachapi Municipal Airport (KTSP), California

 An accident during the production of Tehachapi’s July 4 fireworks show resulted in minor injuries at Tehachapi Municipal Airport, staging area for the 20-minute aerial show sponsored by the City of Tehachapi.

One of the fireworks failed to launch and instead traveled horizontal to the ground, crossing the airport runway and ignited in a crowd of nearby spectators.

Arriving fire department and Tehachapi city police responders found minor burn injuries on four spectators. Two of the victims apparently left the scene. The other two suffered minor burns on various parts of their body.

Spectator David Stauffer, there with his wife and two young sons, had burn marks on his shirt and superficial burns on his chest where the cloth had been burned away. He was treated at the scene and said he was thankful his family who was sitting with him were not also injured.

A few seats away Hayley Bebee, who was sitting with her young child in her lap, suffered a burn below her right eye. Paramedics treated her at the scene and advised her to seek further medical assistance to be sure there was no damage to the eye itself.

The accident is under investigation by the Kern County Fire Department.

Here, only goats can prevent airport fires

Last month, officials at San Francisco International Airport hired a herd of part-time employees to toil on the west side of the property and engage in an unusual - but environmentally friendly - form of fire prevention.
Anyone looking down from a plane departing the airport may have wondered, what's with the goats?
For two weeks in June, Mr. Fuzzy, Cookie, Mable, Alice and nearly 400 other goats chomped on the brush in a remote corner of the airport. The area needs to be cleared each spring to protect nearby homes from potential fires. But machines or humans can't be used because two endangered species - the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog - live there.
It's not exactly the type of job you advertise in the local classifieds. So, for the past five years officials have turned to Goats R Us, a small brush-removal company run by Terri Oyarzun, her husband Egon and their son Zephyr.
The airport paid $14,900 for the service this year.
The goats travel 30 miles each spring from their home in Orinda, Calif. to the airport in a 16-wheel truck that Oyarzun calls her "livestock limo." They come with a goat herder and a border collie named Toddy Lynn. The goats spend two weeks cutting away a 20-foot firebreak on the west side of the airport.
"When passengers take off and fly over the goats, I'm sure that's a thrill," Oyarzun says.
Whatever the emotion, it isn't reserved for air travelers. When Oyarzun's goats aren't clearing brush at the airport, they're munching away on the side of California's freeways, at state parks, under long-distance electric lines and anywhere else with overgrown vegetation. The family has about 4,000 total active goats on its payroll.
Working at an airport does come with its own set of challenges, namely loud, frightening jets constantly taking off.
"There was an adjustment period," Oyarzun said. "But they have a lot of confidence in their herder."
The goats did their job. "We're pleased with our organic process for weed abatement," said airport spokesman Doug Yakel.
At least one other airport has taken note. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has requested bids for goats to clear brush in an out of the way area of the airport's 7,000-acre property and expects them to be at the airport sometime this summer.
When goats become too old to work, they are typically sold for meat. But fear not, Mr. Fuzzy, Cookie, Mable and Alice won't end up at the slaughterhouse. The Oyarzun family lets its goats peacefully retire at its farm.
At least one part of air travel is still humane.


Low Flying Aircraft Belonged To Federal Aviation Administration -- Even Though They Denied Knowing About It

This past Wednesday, YWN Monsey published an article about numerous reports being made to the Ramapo Police Department regarding a low flying jet in the area.

It turns out, that the aircraft belonged to the Federal Aviation Administration – despite the fact that the Federal Aviation Administration had initially told the Ramapo Police Department that they were “unaware of any jets with problems and were unable to identify the jet at that time”.

The following is a statement by the Federal Aviation Administration given to YWN a short while ago:

A Federal Aviation Administration Challenger CL 60 aircraft flew at low altitudes over Ramapo, New York between 8 a.m. and 9:20 a.m.  Wednesday as part of a “flight check” of navigational aids and obstacles on the charted approach to Teterboro Airport. Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control was aware of the flight, but could not track the entire flight because the pilots had to fly below radar coverage at altitudes of 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet at several points during the flight to accomplish their mission.

(YWN Monsey Newsroom)

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Board seeks airport authority applicants

Carson City’s Board of Supervisors seeks applicants to fill three of the seven positions on the Carson City Airport Authority.

The authority, which oversees matters pertaining to the capital city’s airport, meets the third Wednesday of every month at the Community Center. Authority members serve 10 to 16 hours a month in the volunteer role, according to a news release. Terms are for four years and will expire Oct. 1, 2017.

Applications for the three slots, which are in different categories, will be accepted until Aug. 30. Interviews are tentatively planned at the city governing board meeting Thursday, Sept. 5.

Slots available are for a fixed-base operator at the Carson City Airport, for a manufacturer, and for a citizen at large from Carson City who is neither a fixed-base operator nor a manufacturer.

The manufacturer must be from within a 3-mile radius of the airport, but cannot be a fixed-base operator there. If no eligible manufacturer representative applies, the city governing board might appoint another citizen member at large.

Applications may be obtained from and returned to the Carson City Executive Offices at City Hall, 201 N. Carson St., Unit 2. The release from city government noted that all applications submitted will be considered public information.


Experimental aircraft draw lots of attention at flight breakfast: Estherville Municipal Airport

Experimental aircraft drew a lot of attention at the 6th annual flight breakfast at the Estherville Municipal Airport.

The breakfast was sponsored by the Estherville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Terry Osher of Wallingford flew in his Challenger which he bought in Spencer a year ago. Osher has been flying ultralights for 14 years, but his flying goes back much further. He got his pilot's license in 1971. His father used to crop spray and Osher flagged fields and his dad would let him fly the plane back.

Osher's Challenger comes complete with radio and intercom.

"It makes it just like you're flying a real aircraft," he said.

The Challenger will cruise at 65 and with capacity of two hours fuel, it has a range of 100 miles. Osher usually flies it at 500 feet but he's had it up to 4,000.

Osher actually bought his first plane in 1968 when he was a senior in high school.

"I never got a new car in high school but I got a used airplane," he explained, saying he paid $3,200 for it.

He's also had a Cessna 172, T-Bird ultralight, Piper Pawnee spray plane, a two-cylinder T-Bird and two air coupes.

All in all, though, he says the Challenger is probably his favorite.

"It's not the fastest but it's fun."

Paul Slaughter, manager of the Estherville Airport, was giving rides in his Sea Rey made by Progressive Aerodyne. He and Gary Haney totally rebuilt the aircraft, taking two years to do it.

The plane is set up as a flotation aircraft and cruises at about 90 with a four-hour range.

"This is not an airplane for going long distances," Slaughter explained.

The plane has a 100-horsepower 912 cc engine and Slaughter typically cruises at 5,200 RPM. Life jackets and a bilge pump are standard equipment. Slaughter explained that the landing gear pivot up and the tail wheel tucks up.

Sea Reys are found mainly in Florida as well as along the East Coast, eastern Great Lakes, Canada and West Coast.

"This is the only one in Iowa though," Slaughter said, adding there are also three in Minnesota, 25-30 in Australia and some in China, Europe and probably one in South America.

Slaughter flies the plane and lands on High Lake, West Swan Lake and Tuttle Lake.

At Thursday's flight breakfast, he was giving rides, including one to Wesley Eide, 88, who seemed a lot more eager than nervous about getting a ride and landing on the water.

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Subsidies Bolstered List of Busiest Airports in Arkansas

The four Arkansas airports that saw the biggest rise in passenger boardings in 2011 had one thing in common: government-subsidized air service offered through SeaPort Airlines Inc.

Boone County Regional Airport in Harrison, Memorial Field in Hot Springs, South Arkansas Regional Airport/Goodwin Field in El Dorado and Jonesboro Municipal Airport saw a median increase of 73 percent in boardings when compared with 2010. The figures for 2011 used to rank this year’s list of the state’s busiest airports are the latest available from the Federal Aviation Administration.

SeaPort is a scheduled commuter airline service headquartered in Portland, Ore. SeaPort was founded in Juneau, Alaska, in 1982 as Wings of Alaska, a name the company still does business under. Tim Siber, executive vice president of SeaPort, said the company currently maintains a fleet of 16 passenger planes.

In 2011 SeaPort offered subsidized air service to the four Arkansas airports through the federal Essential Air Service program. EAS was created to ensure that smaller communities had access to scheduled air service after the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act “gave airlines almost total freedom to determine which markets to serve domestically and what fares to charge for that service,” the U.S. Department of Transportation says. The DOT says that $15.4 million in EAS funds have been provided for Arkansas air service in the past two years.

SeaPort began offering flights in Arkansas in October 2009, and today it operates in Harrison, El Dorado and Hot Springs. SeaPort discontinued service to Jonesboro Municipal Airport near the end of 2011, and the airport now receives government-subsidized air service from Air Choice One Airlines of St. Louis.

Siber said SeaPort was forced to discontinue service to Jonesboro because it was too close to Memphis. He said that because the airline could offer only three flights a day under the EAS program, potential passengers often chose to drive 79 miles to the Memphis International Airport instead of waiting for a SeaPort flight. While Jonesboro saw an 89 percent increase in passenger boardings — from 522 in 2010 to 989 in 2011 — the numbers were dangerously low as far as EAS funding is concerned.

The Federal Aviation Administration & Modernization Act of 2012 required that, beginning with the 2013 fiscal year in October 2012, communities less than 175 driving miles from a medium- or large-hub airport must maintain an average of 10 passenger boardings per service day to remain in the EAS program. Because of the Jonesboro Municipal Airport’s proximity to Memphis, its EAS funding would have been in jeopardy if the same requirement had been in place in 2011.

Air Choice One announced in August that ridership at Jonesboro Municipal Airport increased 300 percent in early 2012 compared with SeaPort’s numbers for the same period in 2011. This increase, if sustained, suggests that the airport will be significantly closer to meeting the 10-passenger average when the stipulation goes into effect.

SeaPort Changes

Siber said SeaPort is making changes to reduce costs at the three Arkansas airports it still serves. He said the company has adopted “aggressive pricing” in the form of discounted fares in an effort to increase ridership, including a $39 flight from Hot Springs to Dallas. The company is also shifting from the nine-passenger Pilatus PC-12 plane to the similarly sized Cessna Caravan. The Caravan consumes less fuel and is easier to maintain because parts are more readily available, Siber said. A majority of the company’s fleet will be Caravans by the end of the year, he added.

George Downie, the Memorial Field airport director in Hot Springs, said he regrets seeing the Pilatus go. The Pilatus is “just a great aircraft for our type of service,” Downie said. He said that while SeaPort’s Caravans will be newer than the Pilatus planes, they will not be as fast or as quiet.

SeaPort’s efforts to reduce operating costs at Memorial Field are crucial because an EAS rule dating back to 1994 requires that the subsidy per passenger at an EAS-funded community cannot exceed $200 unless the community is more than 210 highway miles from a medium- or large-hub airport. Downie said Memorial Field, which is 197 miles from the Memphis airport, is being “singled out” to reduce its subsidy per passenger, which was $310 in 2011.

Downie said the airport is working to promote SeaPort’s flights in an attempt to reduce the subsidy per passenger. He said Memorial Field saw an increase of 1,420 total passengers in 2012 compared with 2011, an increase he said was the result of “the city of Hot Springs operating as a partner with SeaPort and trying to get the citizens to use our local commuter service.”

The EAS program has a number of opponents who think the government should not subsidize air services. One opponent is Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as a “nonpartisan budget watchdog that serves as an independent voice for American taxpayers.” In an April post on the TCS website, the organization cited 2011 passenger boarding statistics and pointed out that if the Jonesboro Municipal Airport failed to increase its boarding average to 10 per service day, it would not receive future subsidies. The post called Essential Air Service a “wasteful and unnecessary program” that has “long outlived its intended purpose and needs to be eliminated.”

Asked how he would respond to the EAS critics, Siber said, “They’re folks who probably don’t use it.”

Some passengers, he said, rely on the service to travel for medical treatment and business.

“For a lot of these small towns, it’s their link to the outside world,” Siber said. “It’s critical.”


New aviation regulations 'bad for tourism'

Civic leaders in Northland are challenging new civil aviation rules disrupting Air New Zealand flights to Whangarei.

Since June this year, Beech 1900 planes have had to approach the airport from a greater height and land further down the runway.

To do that safely in wet conditions they need a lighter landing weight, and that has forced the airline to take some passengers off their flights and bus them to Whangarei instead.

Northland Tourism spokesperson Jeroen Jongens says the new restriction seems unnecessary and is bad for business and tourism.

"It is very important from a reputational point of view that we can deliver reliable services to Northland and into Whangarei in particular.

"I have flown quite often into Whangarei and I've always felt pretty safe with the pilot and the landing methods over there - I feel a lot more unsafe at times when I fly into Wellington."

Whangarei MP Phil Heatley says he will be taking the matter up with Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Town of Taos annexation suits allowed to proceed

The town of Taos was dealt a blow June 26 when District Court Judge Jeff McElroy ruled lawsuits filed in opposition to the town’s annexation of the Taos Regional Airport could proceed.

The Town Council voted to annex the airport, which is owned and operated by the town, along with a “shoestring” along six miles of Highway 64 right of way in order to make the property contiguous as required by state statute. The town hopes to collect tax revenue from airport businesses and use it to fund its 5 percent matching portion of a $24 million runway project.

The annexation was soon challenged by Taos County, El Prado Water and Sanitation District and the Acequia Madre del Prado del Río Lucero, which filed lawsuits challenging the town’s action. The suits allege the town violated the appellants’ right to due process and that the town failed to go through the proper steps to annex.

All three parties are being represented by county attorney Robert Malone.

The June 26 hearing was held to decide whether the cases should be dismissed, as the town requested.

At the hearing, town attorney Brian James started by describing the 27-year-long process it took to get to this point on the runway project and the economic benefits a crosswind runway would bring to the area, as well as why the town approached the annexation the way it did. Malone later described James’ statements as an “obvious attempt to prejudice the court.”

James urged the court to respect the separation of powers and allow the legislative act of annexation to proceed despite the county’s “beefs, complaints and nitpicking about the process.” He argued none of the parties have standing to sue over the annexation as none “own a shred of property in the right of way.”

“I believe the standing argument is crystal clear,” he said. “They lack the price of admission here.”

The town did receive permission from the state Department of Transportation before it took action to annex.

James also argued that some challenges made in the suits (writs of quo warrant and mandamus) should be applied solely to administrative, rather than legislative, actions. McElroy agreed with James on that point, but he found that the parties do have standing to challenge the annexation. He said the court must show deference to the municipality’s decision, and going forward the court will only look at whether the statute used to annex is constitutional and whether the statute was properly applied.

McElroy said the facts of the case are not in substantial dispute and asked Malone and James to get together to come up with a set of stipulated facts the court can use to come to a decision.

James wondered whether the case could be expedited so the airport expansion project is not put in jeopardy.

McElroy said he understands the need to handle it quickly.

“This is the top priority of the court,” he said.

Following McElroy’s ruling allowing the suits to move forward, James said he saw the loss of the administrative route as “extremely important” and said the ruling substantially narrows the focus of the cases.

“I’m very encouraged by that,” he said.

County Commissioner Dan Barrone said he was pleased with the ruling, as did county manager Stephen Archuleta. He said the county does not oppose the airport and is only against the annexation, and wants to work with the town.

Soon after the hearing, the town issued a release saying the annexation is “on solid ground.”

Police Scotland axe volunteer pilot rescue service

Police Scotland was today condemned for its “baffling” decision to axe the use of civilian volunteer pilots who have been providing the Sky Watch service in missing people searches and other potentially life saving operations across the country.

The volunteer pilots of the UK Civil Air Patrol (UKCAP) - also known as Sky Watch - have been providing aerial support to the emergency services since being originally formed in Yorkshire in 2000.

Scotland has two operational units, the Highland Civil Air Patrol with aircraft based at Inverness, Kirkwall, Lossiemouth, Peterhead and Plockton, and the Lowland Unit which is centred on Perth airfield but also has aircraft operating from Leuchars, Fife, Kingsmuir and East Fortune airfields.

But the civilian volunteers have now been told that their services are no longer required by the new national police force in Scotland as the air support unit previously operated by the Strathclyde force is now available nationwide.

Bernard Higgins, the Assistant Chief Constable of Police Scotland said: “The UK Civil Air Patrol ‘Skywatch’ is a volunteer programme and not a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week national resource.

“Since the start of Police Scotland, the Air Support Unit has become a Scotland-wide resource with specially-trained officers using state of the art equipment which is available to assist in a variety of operations, including searching for missing people in remote areas across Scotland in a co-ordinated and operationally managed way. Police Scotland has considered all options available to them, and has come to the unavoidable conclusion that it should cease using the volunteer UK Civil Air Patrol.”


A spokesman for the Scottish arm of the UK Civil Air Patrol (UKAP) said in a statement that the volunteers had been left completely baffled by the decision.

He said: “Police Scotland has recently announced that it will no longer request the assets of the UK Civil Air Patrol in any capacity. This, we believe, is due in principal to an erroneous interpretation of the UK Air navigation Order.” The Order regulates aviation within the UK and governs the use of aircraft involved on any flight in the service of a police authority.

The spokesman said: “The UKCAP has been well aware of this legislation since its inception. It has always been at pains to completely exclude itself from falling into any category that could possibly be interpreted as being ‘in the service of a police authority’. The UKCAP is not paid by Police Scotland, neither does the UKCAP have any contract with Police Scotland, neither does the UKCAP have any obligations of any kind towards PS, neither do PS have any obligations towards the UKCAP. All flights are entirely private and under the sole control of the pilot.”

He continued: “UKCAP exists to primarily support the community and not the police. UKCAP is therefore no more ’in the service of a police authority’ than are any other independent members of the public who may be casually requested to search their gardens or outbuildings and generally keep and eye out for a missing person – a situation that is fairly common.”

And he claimed: “It is the community that may suffer as a direct result this baffling misinterpretation and we must all hope that alternative means of activation will continue to occur, such as a request for UKCAP assistance direct from the relatives of missing persons or as part of UK Search and Rescue, to which the UKCAP remains declared. “

The spokesman continued: “ It should also be noted that other police forces do not share the Police Scotland (PS) view and neither did the separate Scottish regional forces prior to the merger. UKCAP are patiently engaging in a process to reverse this move by PS which is responsible for an area in which every possible search asset is vital and over which one single police helicopter cannot possibly provide adequate cover. UKCAP would hope that the public will help by questioning this new policy of exclusion and voice support for its reversal. “

Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, also condemned the decision to axe the service provided the band of “Good Samaritans.”

He said: “I know that my local police service worked closely with Sky Watch before the creation of a single force and they had a number of successes. The fact that policing is now being controlled from Edinburgh does not change the fact that these volunteers have a genuine contribution to make across Scotland. This is a valuable resource that does not cost the taxpayer a penny.

“If there are compelling operational reasons for this decision then we need to hear them. But on the face of it, Police Scotland’s decision to cut links with these Good Samaritans is difficult to comprehend.”

The civilian volunteers of Sky Watch provide aircraft for air searches and eye in the sky cover at major events. A spokesman said: “Missing persons, vehicles, equipment, boats, livestock, downed aircraft have all been located from the air by the UKCAP.

“Aircraft are particularly useful for searching rivers and river banks, reed beds, moorland, scrubland, railway lines, ravines, loch and field margins, open undulating spaces - all of which are very time and manpower consuming to search from the ground. As well as a great deal of effort and cost, huge amounts of time can be saved. Time is nearly always a critical factor in the survival of missing persons.”


Man Tried to Breach Cockpit on Qantas Flight

Sydney - Australian police said Friday they had restrained a man as he tried to break into the cockpit of a commercial Qantas flight en route to the Philippines.

The 33-year-old was detained by Australian Federal Police (AFP) air security officers on the Sydney to Manila journey Thursday after he allegedly attempted to access the cockpit some two and a half hours into the eight-hour flight.

Police said the man had been abusive towards flight crew before he ran to the front of the aircraft and attempted to open the cockpit door.

He was restrained by air security officers.

Qantas confirmed there had been a "disruptive passenger" onboard flight QF19 from Sydney to Manila, adding that the safety of the aircraft was never compromised and the plane landed safely in the Philippines capital.

"Distracting the pilots of a commercial aircraft carrying approximately 400 passengers and flying at an altitude of 10 000 metres is a very real threat to the safe operation of that aircraft," AFP National Manager of Aviation, Assistant Commissioner Shane Connelly said in a statement.

"If the cockpit had been breached, the consequences could have been disastrous.

"Such behavior on flights involving an Australian destination or origin cannot -- and will not -- be tolerated by airlines and the Australian Federal Police."

Police said the aircraft was not endangered during the incident and the passenger involved was handed to Philippines authorities.

Air security officers fly on selected domestic and international flights to ensure the safety of travelers.

Airfield owner's new bid for bigger hangar

The owner of Perranporth Airfield is seeking planning permission to extend the facilities to make room for his private jet.
Last year Cornwall Council rejected an application to extend a hangar because of concerns regarding noise.

Now the owner has resubmitted the application to extend the hangar 25m by 22m, with a height of 4.9m, to house a Cessna Citation Mustang jet.

The 334-acre clifftop site is on the market for £1.49 million by owner John George, who founded mobile phone giant JAG Communications.

It is operated by Perranporth Flying Club Limited, which holds the Civil Aviation Authority license.

Eighteen local residents wrote to the council objecting to the proposals, along with St Agnes and Perranzabuloe parish councils.

Residents said they fear the additional storage would lead to increased use of the airfield, where, they claimed, the level of flying is already "beyond distressing", and increased noise, traffic and aircraft movements.

Some claimed the airfield's "creeping expansion" would have a negative impact on local tourism and that the hangar would be an "eyesore" visible from a coastal path.

Cornwall Council's planners said they are recommending approval, and that previous noise concerns have been addressed.

In a report to members of the area planning committee, which is due to consider the application on Monday, planners said: "The planning authority having assessed these revised details considers that the previous uncertainty regarding the potential noise increases that may be generated by the additional hangar storage has been adequately addressed and raise no objections to the current proposal on noise grounds."

A noise report by Applied Acoustic Design (AAD) claimed any change in aircraft movements would have a negligible impact on residents because of noise.

DIY planes in Kenya

Technology can inspire us to make new things -- even if we don't have official training. You might not want to work with a self-taught plumber, though self-taught coders build impressive websites all the time. So what about a self-taught airplane builder?

In Kenya, a growing group of amateur aviation enthusiasts are building homemade flying machines out of everything from junk metal to old car engines.

Jonathan Kalan, who has been reporting on these projects for the BBC, joins Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson with the details. 

You can see photos of Kenya's homemade aircraft here.

Local flights to Charleston promoted: Officials hope to bring intrastate flights to area

MARTINSBURG - While it is always difficult to expand or attract air service, Susan V. Chernenko, executive director of the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission, is always working at it.

"I'm always looking for an opportunity to talk about expanding existing air service in West Virginia and to try to attract new air service," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I have an opportunity to meet with airlines and I've been doing this for many years on a daily basis. It's very competitive."

One of those opportunities could be an intrastate commercial air service between Charleston's Yeager Airport and Martinsburg's Shepherd Field at the Eastern Regional Airport.

Chernenko recently had discussions with a commercial airline and Martinsburg was mentioned, she said.

"But I have no good news or update," Chernenko said. "Because of Martinsburg's location - it's so close to D.C. - and the length of its runway, and it doesn't have service, airlines should look at Martinsburg."

She said there could be an opportunity in the future to attract commuter or charter service to Martinsburg.

"The airport in Martinsburg is an asset to the community and the state," Chernenko said. "Maybe we'll get lucky."

Aero-Smith Inc. operates a charter service at Eastern Regional Airport, flying an eight-passenger, two-engine King Air 200.

Five airlines serve Yeager Airport, including American Airlines; United, which has flights to Dulles International Airport; Delta; Spirit Airlines; and U.S. Airways Express, which has flights to Reagan National Airport.

Six other West Virginia airports offer scheduled commercial air service: Morgantown; North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport; Tri-State Airport in Huntington; Raleigh County Memorial Airport near Beckley; Wood County Airport near Parkersburg; and the Greenbrier Valley Airport at Lewisburg.

Hagerstown Regional Airport is home to two commercial airlines: Sun Air International, which has daily flights to Dulles International Airport, and Allegiant Air, which flies to Orlando, Fla.

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Air India plane skids off runway while taxiing

An Air India flight from Delhi (AI 879) skidded off the runway while landing at Bagdogra airport in West Bengal on Friday afternoon.

All passengers and the crew members on board were reported to be safe.

The incident took place around 2 pm when the female pilot, who was not very experienced, underestimated the turn and the aircraft went off the runway, an airport official said.

Passengers were evacuated from the aircraft at the end of the runway. Work was on to restore the plane.

All passengers and crew members on board are safe and there is no significant damage to the aircraft, an airline official said. 

An Air India plane with 140 people on board on Friday skidded off the runway shortly after landing at Bagdogra airport in Darjeeling district, airport sources said.

All passengers and crew members on board are safe and there is no significant damage to the aircraft, an airline official said.

The Delhi-Bagdogra flight 880 landed at 2.15 pm but while taking a turn during taxiing one of its rear wheels veered off the tarmac and was stuck in the soft mud in a field beside the runway, the sources said.

The passengers and crew members have alighted but the plane is still stuck there.

However, normal traffic was not affected due to the incident, the sources said.

Airport advisory board discusses ongoing projects, meeting locations

The Columbia Regional Airport Advisory Board met Wednesday afternoon in the north terminal conference room to discuss ongoing projects and the new location of future meetings.

The airport manager Don Elliot reviewed two airport projects which are almost complete. The new taxi pavement project will be completed in the next few days after inspection and the new fencing around the runways will be completed in September.

Elliot also brought up the plan for a new project on the 1331 runway. The project idea is to lengthen the runway and pave it with material that can hold more weight. This project will help the airport to bring in more jets since the runway will now be able to hold the weight.

“What we are planning to do in the future is have a longer concrete runways that will be wider, it will be able to handle the weights of the regional jets,” said Elliot.

The project is still in the planning stage but the board hopes to have a plan within the next year. Elliot said he hopes the overall project will be completed in about five years.

Along with airport plans, the board had to discuss a possible new meeting location for these public discussions since the current room is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The city of course is very particular about ADA compliancy, we want to be to be in full compliance and so we advised the airport advisory board that they needed to look for a new meeting spot,” said Columbia Public Works spokesperson Steven Sapp.

A previous complaint from a Missouri resident brought this inadequate meeting area to the city’s attention. The board is now making an effort to find a new meeting location that is ADA approved.

Some locations that were mentioned in this meeting were the city hall board rooms, the Boone County Bank, and Sophia’s. Next month’s meeting will still be held in the north terminal conference room again where they will further discuss a permanent and adequate meeting room for the future.


Cracker Fly-In canceled

GAINESVILLE - For only the second time in its nearly 50-year history, the Cracker Fly-In at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville, which was to be held Saturday, has been canceled.

"Due to rain and low clouds planned for Saturday, we are scrubbing the 45th Cracker Fly In," said one of the organizers, Winn Fletcher. "Only the second time in 45 years (we've had to cancel)."

The event annually features various types of aircraft from World War I vintage biplanes to modern day U.S. Army helicopters and experimental aircraft.

It is sponsored each year by the Gainesville chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (Chapter 611).


Contract awarded for airport tree cutting

Susan and Les Bradley want to know when their trees will fall.

The Kenai residents live on Float Plane Road at the edge of the Kenai Municipal Airport, and the Federal Aviation Administration mandates that the city limb or remove almost 2,000 trees obstructing the airport’s runway.

“Right now we’re in limbo, because we don’t know what’s going on with the tree removal,” Les said at Wednesday’s Kenai city council meeting.

Trees in the Bradley’s and 13 other privately owned properties are obstructing the runway’s flight path, said Mary Bondurant, airport manager. Kenai has avigation easements on eight of the properties, but the city will need to work with the remaining property owners before it can cut their trees, she said.

“Ideally all the runway protection zones, the property around that area should be owned by the airport,” she said.

Bondurant acknowledges that the project is sensitive, but the city can set no date for tree cutting on those private properties yet, she said.

The majority of the 1,992 trees, however, sit on city and airport owned property, she said. And at Wednesday’s meeting, council awarded a contract to Gage Tree Service to trim or fell obstructing trees. The contractor estimates the project cost at $340,800. The project will begin after July 15 and end by Sept. 30.

FAA requires the airport maintain a 40-to-one departure surface. Any trees protruding into the zone must be trimmed five to 10 feet.

The project targets 1,213 trees for removal and 779 trees for partial cutting on city and airport land. It will also clear cut and seed 7.5 acres in the airport’s fencing.

The Bradleys were concerned about the buffer strip of trees separating Float Plane Road and the airport. The contractor will trim the tops of the trees parallel to Float Plane Road and city lots 123 173 and 174, and the city will plant lower-growing trees to maintain the buffer before the topped trees are finally removed, according to project documents.


Helicopter pilots' jobs a challenge in fire zone

YARNELL - One of the most visible elements of wildland firefighting is air support, and while the big air tankers work out of airports, helicopters can be based just about anywhere they can land.

At the Yarnell helibase, a large, flat field, helicopters stand by, awaiting calls to service. Thursday, four were in place: two firefighting helicopters from California and Montana; one multi-role aircraft from Minnesota that, so far, has been used for reconnaissance on this fire, and the Department of Public Safety's Ranger 52, standing by for emergency medical evacuations.

Dumping water on a fire is not easy, noted pilot Art Sanford. "Movement of the wind, going from a headwind to a tailwind when we have a heavy load," can be treacherous. "Helicopters are designed to fly into the wind... a strong wind can really complicate issues," he said.

"If the wind was 20 miles an hour but it gusts to 35, that would make it hard for a helicopter with a bucket," Mike Pelletier from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

A pilot since 1969, Sanford is from Minnesota and most recently worked a fire in Utah with his crew of firefighters. He said that, in the hot weather and high altitude of Arizona's mountains, carrying the heavy load of water in their "bass bucket" is a challenge. "You do things slower, you try to plan ahead more, and you try to plan your maneuvers so that you don't get to the point that, all of a sudden, you need to pull a lot of power - because you may not have it," he said.

"About 80 gallons would be a maximum water load in the heat of the day," Sanford added.

Sanford's crew can dump water, deliver cargo by net where there's no room to land, hauling people to the scene, or take the incident command staff up for a look at the fire, Pelletier said.

One aircrew that's happy not to be needed is the Ranger 52 crew. Their job is to airlift out injured firefighters, which they have not yet had to do.

The pilot and two medics are standing by, waiting for a call they hope will not come. If it does, Officer/Paramedic Darren Winters, the crew has experience in emergency extraction, from one-skid landings on rock faces to long-line rescues where there's no room to land at all.

"Things have been going okay for us on this fire," Winters said.


Okaloosa looks to tighten airport rules

A proposed change to Okaloosa County’s land development code would prohibit private or residential airports from operating on the waterfront.

The policy change also would restrict private airports to one of three zoning areas: agricultural, institutional or airport industrial park.

County commissioners held the first of two public hearings on the change Tuesday. The second hearing is scheduled for July 16 in Fort Walton Beach.

Commissioners asked the county staff to review regulations governing aircraft-related businesses and private airports after helicopter sightseeing businesses and aircraft congestion in general increased in the past two years.

“The only way that the county can regulate anything to do with airplanes is through zoning,” said Terry Jernigan, the county’s planning and zoning manager. “The regulation of airplanes once they leave the ground is totally pre-empted to the federal government.”

The growth management department used information from a study conducted by RS&H, the county’s airport consultant, to help craft the proposed policy change.

The study concluded that “the airspace that lies above Okaloosa County is among the busiest and most complex in the country,” the study said.

A major concern cited in the RS&H study was that “private takeoff and landing facilities” could create operational conflicts. RS&H recommended the county “use existing regulatory framework to establish sitting standards for private aviation facilities.”

“This went beyond sightseeing helicopters and into aviation and airplane congestion in general,” Jernigan said.

The main purpose behind the proposed change is to make local airspace safer, he said.

“It’s kind of a reasonable assumption that aircraft should operate from airports,” he said. “If you’re going to have a private airport, then there should be certain parameters … that you’re not going to be creating a lot of noise and nuisance for the people that are around you.”

Under the policy change, all existing private airports would be grandfathered in. In addition, crop dusters and government aircraft, including medical and law enforcement helicopters, would be exempt.

“If a new private airport comes in or if there’s an existing one that wants to relocate, the new regulations would apply,” Jernigan said.

Justin Johnson, who operates Timberview Helicopters from various waterfront locations, including Crab Island and Destin Harbor, doesn’t agree with the proposal.

“I don’t see how they can take jurisdictional control over the water,” Johnson said. “Zoning is for land development.”

He said he operates his business from a barge that floats and changes location, and expects to be grandfathered in.

But Jernigan said a business would have to remain at the location it’s in on the day the new policy is enacted to be grandfathered in.

Johnson said he operates a safe business and feels like his helicopter tours are being singled out.

“They’re obviously targeting our company,” he said. “We’ve already been approved and looked at by the all the agencies … the FAA, the Coast Guard.”