Sunday, July 28, 2013

Opposition: Airport fence desecrates Tule Lake -- Tulelake Municipal (O81), California

Proposals to build a fence around the Tulelake Airport are stirring opposition from Japanese-American groups and individuals who question its necessity and note it would run through the center of the World War II era Tule Lake Segregation Center.

“The proposed fence will desecrate the physical and spiritual aspects of Tule Lake,” says a petition from the San Francisco-based Tule Lake Committee, the group that sponsors the Tule Lake Pilgrimage in the Klamath Basin every other year. “This massive fence will prevent Japanese-Americans who, while attempting to mourn their own past, will instead be assaulted with the reminder of rejection, exclusion and emotional pain.”

During World War II, an estimated 130,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of them American citizens, were sent to 10 detention centers following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Tule Lake became the only segregation center and at its peak held upwards of 18,000 people. A small portion of the camp, 44 acres of the original 7,400 acres, is designated as the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The fence, however, is not within the park boundaries.

The Federal Aviation Administration, at the request of Modoc County, is considering funding a fence around the Tulelake airport. Mitch Crosby, the Modoc County road commissioner who oversees airports, said the 16,000-foot long, 8-foot tall fence has an estimated cost of $360,000.

“The final design of the fence will not be complete until after an environmental assessment is completed and the project is approved by the FAA,” Crosby said.

If built, he said the Tulelake airport would be the last of the three Modoc County airports to have a new fence constructed. A fence at the Cedarville airport was completed in 2008 while a fence was built around the Alturas airport several years earlier.

“The responsibility for the county to build a fence is to operate the airport in a safe and serviceable manner,” Crosby said. “I believe we can build a fence that improves the safety of the airport operations while minimizing the impacts to the historical significance of the location. The FAA NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process should help make that happen.”

Nick Macy, owner of Macy’s Flying Service, which has based its agricultural services business at the airport since 1966, said the fence project began seven or eight years ago, before the national monument was created by President George W. Bush in 2008. The flying service is one of Tulelake Basin’s largest employers with more than 35 employees.

“This isn’t anything that came up recently,” Macy said of the fence proposal, noting that following the 9/11 terrorist attack the FAA stepped up security requirements at all airports.

Macy emphasized the fence proposal is not intended to lessen the former detention center’s historic importance or to exclude people from touring the site.

“We have never denied access. We’ve always welcomed them to come to the airport,” he said of allowing visits during pilgrimages or other organized outings, although he believes there are legitimate concerns about people and or animals on the airport runway. “We want to keep people safe.”

Macy said he is not opposed to transforming what remains of the detention center to a national park because, “The story needs to be told. We’re all in agreement on that.”

Mike Reynolds, superintendent for the Tule Lake Unit and Lava Beds National Monument, said the fence has been an issue at all of the ongoing National Park Service workshops to develop a 15-year management plan for the Tule Lake Unit.

“People feel passionate about it,” Reynold said, noting the NPS cannot legally take a position for or against the fence. “Our goal is to build and maintain a relationship between the local community and the Japanese-American community.”

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Sea Kings could be retired sooner under proposal from U.S. aircraft-maker

The Harper government has been asked to accept the air force’s long-delayed CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters as they are currently configured and gradually phase them into service using regular software upgrades intended to make the aircraft fully operational.

The proposal is being floated publicly by Sikorsky aircraft in the wake of a federal cabinet shuffle that has left both National Defence and Public Works with seasoned but not yet fully acclimatized ministers.

At the same time, the aircraft-maker and Defence have agreed to a separate plan that would allow flight testing to begin on four helicopters that have been delivered to the military air base in Shearwater, N.S. Twenty-eight of the aircraft have been ordered.

The evaluation, to begin in early August, inches the politically painful program ahead for the Conservative government, which has grown more impatient and vocal in its frustration over the replacement of decades-old Sea Kings.

The helicopters were first ordered in 2004 by Paul Martin’s Liberal government at a cost of nearly $3.2 billion — a figure which has now ballooned to $5.7 billion — and were supposed to be in service by 2008.

The failure to deliver new aircraft — detailed a few years ago in a scathing auditor general’s report — was underscored over the last few weeks with the grounding of the entire CH-124 Sea King fleet. One of the nearly 50-year-old helicopters was involved in a spectacular accident that saw the blades on one aircraft chipped away when the chopper unexpectedly careened forward.

Flight testing on the new Cyclones will begin even though the Defence Department has yet to formally accept the four aircraft that have been delivered.

Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson says the company is still in negotiations with the federal government on that aspect.

At the centre of the dispute is software to run the aircraft for the variety of missions it is expected to undertake.

Sikorsky has agreed to provide the basic program and upgrades every few months until the aircraft is fully “mission ready,” but the government — sticking to the letter of the contract — has refused to accept the aircraft until all the proper software has been installed.

“These aircraft, which are already there, can be performing service to the government in getting the Sea King fleet retired and out of service all the quicker,” Jackson said.

He said Sikorsky can foresee the Cyclone picking up some search-and-rescue duties in the meantime while it’s brought on stream, and the idea of gradual upgrades is something widely accepted in the U.S. defence industry.

The proposal puts the Harper government in a difficult position because the notion of introducing the aircraft through scheduled block software upgrades was the centrepiece of its F-35 stealth fighter plan — a program which is now on hold.

It also raises a host of potential legal problems because agreeing to Sikorsky’s plan could be a tacit acknowledgment that the Cyclones have been “under development,” which was not how the original contract and bidding process was structured.

Defence was asked to comment but did not respond.

Just before the cabinet shuffle, former Public Works minister Rona Ambrose reportedly ordered an outside evaluation of whether Sikorsky could deliver what it had promised.

United Technologies Corp., the parent company of Sikorsky Aircraft, struck a very optimistic tone with market analysts last week, saying the program is “gaining momentum” and even suggested that five more helicopters — already assembled and warehoused in New York State — could be flown to Nova Scotia to add to the training pool.

Greg Hayes, UTC’s chief financial officer, said two additional helicopters are being flight tested, and there is “a solid plan” to deliver eight more aircraft “going into the year,” for a total of 19 machines.

The nine remaining Cyclones are still on the assembly line, he said.

Hayes told analysts that “some issues” remain to be resolved with the Canadian government.

Aside from the issue of accepting the aircraft, the federal government and the manufacturer still faces the question of fines to be levied over delivery deadlines Sikorsky has missed.

To date, the aircraft-maker owes just under $86 million in penalties.

A senior defence official, speaking on background to The Canadian Press last year, said the government planned to collect the money by deducting the fines from in-service support payments once the helicopters are in fully operational.

Whether Sikorsky agrees with the plan is unclear.


A magnificent man in his flying machine

A game of physical challenge: Glenn Todhunter, a double amputee, flies for the Royal Flying Doctor Service from Launceston Airport. 
Photo Credit: Scott Gelston

Former army pilot Glenn Todhunter lay in the wreck of his crashed plane, bleeding from his legs. He looked down and saw his feet were an unrecognizable mass of blood and tissue. 

He saw fuel leaking from the plane and, trying to pull himself from his seat, felt a ''tearing sensation''. He believes that was his left foot. Both his legs were amputated to the knee.

Determined to fly again, Mr Todhunter, a former major in the army, spent eight years training to reclaim his licence and went on to become the first disabled aviator to fly with the Australian Defence Force.

Eighteen years later, the 44-year-old has become the first double amputee to fly for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.''I know what it is like to be down the back of a plane as a patient and now that I get to be a pilot and help save other people's lives means a great deal to me,'' Mr Todhunter said.

''Life has been very, very good to me since the accident and I have always been looking for ways to give something back,'' he said.

He joined the army in 1989 and became a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, flying in

Cambodia as part of the peace-keeping mission after the fall of Pol Pot. But in 1995, when he was 26, he was flying a light plane in Townsville during the last hours of his instructor's course.

Flying too low, he went into what he believed was wind shear - a rapid change of wind direction and speed. The plane flipped and fell 200 feet to the ground. He blacked out and woke to find his colleague Jeff Britten unconscious.

He realised his legs were trapped. ''I looked down and I could see my right knee was bent 180 degrees around to my groin and I could see I was losing a lot of blood,'' Mr Todhunter said. ''My feet weren't recognisable. They were just a mass of tissue because they had been driven into the ground.''

He pulled himself from the wreckage and clawed at the ground to get away from the plane, which he feared would catch fire. ''I crawled for 10 metres, screaming and losing a lot of blood.''

His army training kicked in. He used his belt to pull himself into the recovery position, knowing death could come quickly if he vomited after blacking out.

His instructor, Mr Britten, pulled himself out of the wreckage despite severe injuries, and took 3½ hours to crawl one kilometre to a phone. Both were flown to Townsville Hospital, where Mr Todhunter spent three days in intensive care.

His girlfriend, Michelle, who is now his wife, told him he had lost both legs but promised she would help him to fly again.

Mr Todhunter requalified as an army helicopter pilot in 1999 and went on to fly Beechcraft King Air aircraft in 2002. Since May he has worked from the RFDS base at Launceston Airport.

''I struggled with my identity for a long time but I didn't want to let the accident define who I was,'' he said. ''I don't think of myself as being disabled. I like to say I am playing a game of physical challenge.''

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Hang on! One of Queensland's best houses comes with a hangar

A home with a hangar has taken out two awards at the Queensland Building Design of the Year awards announced last Friday.

The four-bedroom Airlie Beach house, designed by Sunshine Coast designer Chris Clout, has a striking "triangular" appearance but it was the inclusion of a helicopter hangar that stands out the most.

Built as a holiday getaway for a Melbourne high-flyer, it is ironically located in Aviation Estate, the site of the old Whitsunday Airport.

It took out the awards for best new home over 450sq m and best use of engineered timber.

But the top award - Building Design of the Year - went to Scott Falconer from Aboda Design Group.

His design of a Coolum Beach family home has an unconventional look from the street but judges say it "captures a refined and elegant beach lifestyle without being the typical beach house."

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Some lack tact, turn to texts: Gene's Airport Restaurant -- Fitchburg Municipal (KFIT), Massachusetts

FITCHBURG -- Jennifer Young couldn't believe the text she was reading from her boss at the restaurant where she began to work just days before. "Hello Jessica, it's gene at the airport. I'm sry but I decided to keep looking for a server. Thank you for your time."

"I said wow, I'm not even a person to him. This was such a brush-off," said Young, 29, of Leominster. "I don't see it as professional at all. He should have sat down with me and been honest."

Gene Collette of Gene's Airport Restaurant, disputed Young's version of the story, saying he had previously told her in person he was going to hire someone else and only sent her the text message after she called the restaurant looking for more hours.

"She wasn't fired via text message," said Collette.

He said she was working on a trial basis and didn't smile enough, so when he told her he was making the schedule for next week he said he was going to keep looking for someone else. He said he didn't use words like "fired" to her because she wasn't an employee.

Young, who says she was never told she was working on a trial basis, uploaded a screen capture of Collette's text to Facebook and tagged the restaurant so it would appear on the business's page.

Collette said he wouldn't fire someone over text message and recently had two employees quit via text messages. He also criticized Young for posting the image to his company's Facebook page to try to shame him.

"That's not very professional at all," he said.

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160 passengers and air crew safe after plane returns to Qingdao, passenger’s safety complaint ignored

All 160 passengers and crew members aboard a Tianjin Airlines flight are safe after the plane was turned back around to Qingdao on Friday due to engine problems, which a passenger had complained about but was ignored by crew members.

The passenger, Zhang Qiuyue, said that the Wehzhou-bound Airbus A320G, which had a stopover in Qingdao after departing Tianjian that morning, should have been examined before taking off again.

During the first flight, she told a stewardess that she heard strange noises, smelled a strange odor and felt something shaking from her seat, but Zhang was told that everything was fine. Zhang reported to several other cabin crew members after the flight landed yet none of them listened either.

Some 25 minutes into the Qingdao-Wenzhou flight, crew members noticed an engine problem - other passengers also reported smoke coming from the engine with a strong burning smell - and the plane was immediately reverted back to Qingdao. 


Palestinian Authority Pirate Radio Signals Interfere with Air Traffic Controllers at Ben Gurion International Airport

Signals from Palestinian Authority pirate radio stations are interfering with the air tower communication network at Ben Gurion International Airport.

Officials from the Israel Airports Authority turned to the Ministry of Communications on Sunday, asking that the source of the interference be tracked down.

All radio transmissions are regulated by law; unauthorized signals are subject to termination, and their operators can be charged with in connection with the broadcast.

Pirate broadcast signals also interfere with reception of Israeli radio stations throughout Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron), as well as broadcast signals in the northern Negev region.

At some points along Highway 60, from northern Samaria through Jerusalem and down to the southern Judea and into the Negev, the radio band is so thick with signals from pirate Arab radio stations it is impossible to pick up any Israeli broadcast at all. 

At Ben Gurion International Airport, however, the situation is particularly dangerous, as the interference in reception impacts on air tower communication with pilots.

Departures and arrivals may be affected as a result, since the times between landing and takeoffs must be spread out in order to prevent danger to aircraft and passengers, officials said.


Ken Bates: I was sacked as Leeds president because of jet contract

• Bates says he 'did it in the best interest of the club'
• Cost of jet thought to be £500,000 over three years
Abrupt exit brings to an end five controversial decades

Ken Bates says he was abruptly sacked from his tenure as the Leeds United president by the new owners, GFH, after he entered the club into a contract with the private airplane company 247 Jet that could be used to fly him to Leeds from his Monaco home.

The cost of this contract to which Bates committed the Championship club, which is under financial strain, is thought to be £500,000 over three years.

Previously Bates has been flown by private jet. The costs of use of a private jet to the club is understood from sources who have seen the Leeds accounts to be around £120,000 a year. He told the Observer that his expenses had not changed for the eight years he was Leeds chairman, and that GFH were well aware of them when they bought the club in December. He declined to cover the details of precisely what they covered.

A key sticking point with GFH is that Bates did not gain the approval of the board for the new, three-year private jet contract. Bates argues he was not able to do so, and he was advised in June that as a director of the club, he was able to bind the club into the contract.

"I saved the club money, because this was a sterling contract, rather than euros," Bates said. "I did it in the best interests of the club."

Currently on holiday in Italy with his wife Suzannah, Bates said he received a hand-delivered letter last Wednesday from GFH, raising concerns. He expected to deal with it on his return from holiday, but instead: "Two days later, they told me I was sacked."

Describing his treatment as "despicable," Bates said he is considering suing. GFH said there were confidentiality agreements in place, and declined to comment.


Airline fees catch consumers by surprise

Buying a plane ticket today can be a dizzying consumer experience, sometimes with an overwhelming number of choices to make, each with its own price tag.

Checking a bag? With most airlines you’ll have to pay for that — and maybe for a carry-on.

Prefer an exit row? That will cost you.

Want to board early to snag overhead bin space for your roll-aboard? Be ready to pony up or use an airline credit card.

Need to change your flight? That might set you back a whopping $200 on a big carrier.

Want a Coke during beverage service? Frontier Airlines charges $1.99.

Each airline, large and small, has its own offerings and prices, creating a bewildering hodgepodge of tack-on fees.

Eventually, airline prices will simplify, industry experts say.

“The fees are so high these days that the actual price of the ticket loses its meaning,” said Max Levitte, co-founder of, which recently charted airline fees among a dozen carriers. “You feel like you’re being nickel-and-dimed all the time. Consumers don’t know what to expect unless they read all the fine print, which is a lot nowadays.”

What consumers call fees, airlines call unbundling — making a la carte choices from services formerly included in the fare.

Airline officials couch it in terms of giving fliers more choices. United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek last month likened it to customizing a pizza. “We used to serve you a pizza with all the toppings, and that’s all you got,” he said during a speech at a meeting of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Unbundling allows passengers to pay for only the services they want, he said.

Jean Medina, spokeswoman for industry group Airlines for America, said fees have a consumer benefit. “The model of charging customers for services they value and are willing to pay for has enabled airlines to keep airfare affordable,” she said, adding that airfare increases since 2000 haven’t kept pace with the national inflation rate. Without ancillary revenue, airlines in 2012 would have lost more than $8 per passenger, she said.

The fee craze began in 2008, as airlines scrambled to boost revenue to offset rocketing jet-fuel prices while not raising base fares, which would put them at a competitive disadvantage, said Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorksCompany, which regularly examines airline fees.

To be fair, some fees are for new services not formerly included in fares — wireless Internet access and new economy seats with extra legroom, for example.

Fees are big business. In 2012, airline revenue from sources other than tickets, so-called ancillary revenue, amounted to an estimated $36.1 billion worldwide, up 60 percent from 2010, according to IdeaWorksCompany. Fees were a big part of that growth.

Airline stock analyst Hunter Keay said in a report this month that fees are a key indicator of an airline’s financial prospects. “We factor in our opinion of an airline’s willingness to pursue new fees when we decide whether or not to recommend the stock,” he wrote.

But for consumers, the trend is not a good one, said Anne Banas, executive editor of, which also has published a chart to help readers negotiate the fee minefield.

“For the consumer, it is very confusing,” she said. “Unless the consumer fights back, airlines are going to keep getting away with this and make it harder to make a good decision.”

No-frills Spirit Airlines, recently named America’s most-hated carrier by Consumer Reports, is king of the nickel-and-dime. In 2012, about 39 percent of the airline’s revenue came from ancillary revenue, according to IdeaWorksCompany.

Examples? It charges $10 if an airport agent prints your boarding pass at the airport rather than you printing it yourself at home or at an airport kiosk. Its website has 38 different fees for luggage, including carry-ons. It charges $3 for soda or juice.

Spirit officials have defended the fee strategy, saying passengers who fly the airline know what to expect. “Our customers have told us again and again they want low fares and the option to choose the add-ons they want,” said Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson. “And we’re proud to give them what they need.”

While Spirit and other high-fee airlines get slammed in consumer satisfaction surveys, customers don’t seem to vote the same way with their wallets.

Spirit is thriving while America’s most loved airline, Virgin America, which has one of the best all-inclusive airfare offerings, struggles, Sorensen said. “We see surveys that say consumers hate fees, but I’m not seeing that in practical application,” he said.

Big network carriers have joined the fee party.

In May, United, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways raised ticket-change fees to $200 from $150.

While a passenger changing a flight has a real cost to airlines — they potentially won’t be able to resell the vacant seat — a $200 fee is reaching too far, Sorensen said. “It’s a decision obviously made by the bean counters rather than someone who’s in operations,” he said, calling it a fee “filled with conflict.”

“If you apply strict enforcement, you get a black eye with the consumer. If you begin to waive it based on consumers begging, then you train consumers to behave that way.”


Seeking a new Frontier: Airport officials aren't deflated by loss of airline -- South Bend (KSBN), Indiana

SOUTH BEND - Appearances can be deceiving.

Some in the community expressed shock when it was announced earlier this month that Frontier Airlines would leave South Bend after Sept. 9 because of low bookings. Most thought the airline was packing in the passengers. But for the low-cost carrier, the numbers just weren't high enough.

Frontier, which has been operating out of South Bend Regional Airport since October, offered four flights per week to Denver. And in the past several months the lowest percentage of seats filled on a Frontier flight was 79 percent, and the airline was averaging a load factor -- the percentage of seats filled by paying passengers -- in the mid-to-upper 80s.

"For Frontier, that's not good," said Michael Boyd, an aviation consultant with Boyd Group International, an air service management firm in Evergreen, Colo. The airline's typical load factors are at least 90 percent elsewhere, he said, adding that South Bend might not be large enough to support a low-cost carrier.

No one is pleased that Frontier reached this decision, said Mike Daigle, executive director of the South Bend airport. But, he adds, "we understand it."

Operating model

South Bend isn't the only airport where Frontier has recently canceled service.

In March, it announced that, effective Sept. 8, it was pulling out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, where it had been offering one flight per day since May 2010. It also stopped service May 14 at Columbia (Mo.) Regional Airport, only seven months after it started in that market. Service was also cut in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Akron, Ohio.

In each case, Frontier cited low load factors as its reason for leaving.

This is because the airline must maintain high load factors on all of its flights in order to make up for its low airfares.

In the discussions South Bend had with Frontier before it entered the market, Frontier said it needed to have load factors consistently in the high 80s or low 90s to break even, Daigle said,explaining that "an average of 15 passengers more per flight would have made this work."

Some days the flight had no open seats, he said, and other days the numbers were much lower.

"During the slow months it just wasn't enough to carry it to year-round service," he said, explaining that other carriers charge more per seat and so they can have a lower load factor and remain profitable.  "Frontier was not in that situation," he said.

In June, Frontier reported that its nationwide load factor averaged about 94 percent, considerably higher than its South Bend average. In comparison, Allegiant Air, which typically has some of the highest load factors in the industry, had national load factors of 90.6 percent in June.

"Typically, it is very difficult for airlines to achieve load factors above 90 percent," wrote Adam Levine-Weinberg in a July 9 story for The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company that focuses on investing.

Recently, in an effort to raise its load factor, Frontier cut its capacity by 20 percent, he said, eliminating many underperforming routes. Capacity cuts, he explained, tend to boost load factor on the remaining flights, since travelers have fewer options.

Unfortunately, South Bend was one of those underperforming routes.

"We talked with them briefly about going from four days to three days," Daigle said, but there wasn't a lot of support for that. Daigle explained that dropping a flight means that the airline loses some of its connectivity and market share.

"Some people believe that if you can't support an airline at the value of four to five times a week, it will fail because there is not enough market demand."

He explained that Allegiant is very successful with its single flights each week to given destinations because it has a different operating model than Frontier.

"It's not the same because they don't do connectivity like Frontier," he said. "They provide a different product. It's really point-to-point marketing and it's very focused. You can fly from here to Vegas and then take another airline from there."

Boyd, the aviation consultant, suspects that Frontier probably also had to discount its prices to fill the seats it did. So, even if the airline had consistently high load factors on the South Bend-Denver route, it probably would not have earned a high enough profit.

And the airline had to accept help to remain in South Bend as long as it did.

More than a year ago, the Department of Transportation awarded the airport a small community air service development grant of nearly  $1.1 million to establish a westbound service. When the airport was in negotiations with Frontier, it offered a maximum of $750,000 to enable

the airline to offer service for a year. A total of $749,999 was spent to support the route while Frontier attempted to turn a profit.

"Even with grant support they couldn't make it," Boyd said. "There is not enough traffic."

Impact on South Bend

Meanwhile, Frontier's decision will have both positive and negative impacts on current and future discussions with airlines interested in doing business in South Bend.

"None of this happens in a vacuum," Daigle said. Airlines are interested in what other airlines are doing. They keep track of who is expanding and who is entering or leaving a market. It gives them the information they need for their own operations.

"A lot of times when a service doesn't succeed, people try to assign fault," Daigle said. He doesn't think anyone -- airport, airline or community -- is to blame. "We've seen some success, but it wasn't enough to work."

Now, the airport can take the data gained from this experience and put it into its business model. Denver was never in South Bend's Top 10 destinations before Frontier, Daigle said. "We are going to take that new data and find out who else would be a good provider for that service."

He feels that the numbers show that Denver could be a viable destination for South Bend.

"Many times we have to prove a market before we can go and find a service provider who is going to be here for the long term," he said.

A portion of the Department of Transportation grant money is left and Daigle said that the airport will evaluate whether it can be used to help attract another service.

"There are some steps with any federal grant to do those things," he said.

Boyd thinks it will be difficult for South Bend to pull in another carrier for the Denver route. He explained that there aren't any low-cost carriers out there that could replace Frontier.

"Spirit won't consider the area and Southwest has pulled out of bigger markets than that," he said, but added: "Don't get misled by Frontier pulling out. There is nothing wrong with the community. You just don't have a market for that. You don't a market for London either."

Despite that, Boyd believes that the air service at South Bend is healthy and strong.

"It's not about the direct access," he explained. "It's about getting where you want to go. Could someone get to South Bend from Tokyo in one stop? Yes. Could someone get to South Bend from Tucson in one stop? Yes.

"From that perspective, South Bend has outstanding service."


Will you get booted off a plane?

By Stephanie Rosenbloom / New York Times News Service
Published: July 28. 2013 4:00AM PST

Last month, a group of high school students and their chaperons were ordered off a flight to Atlanta for refusing to sit down and turn off their cellphones. In May, six friends were removed from a flight to Las Vegas allegedly for talking loudly. In April, a 340-pound man said he was told to leave a Denver-bound plane because of his size.

Every few weeks we seem to hear about passengers being escorted off planes for the sorts of infractions that once only sent you to the principal's office. Is this normal? Might you someday find yourself being taken off a plane for being uncooperative, kicking a seat back or caviling with a flight attendant (all real reasons that you can be removed)?

The number of passengers classified as “unruly" cannot be accurately quantified. The Federal Aviation Administration tracks only the incidents that crew members choose to report. And its database does not include security violations (the Transportation Security Administration handles those). That said, the number of unruly passengers reported to the FAA since 1995 (the earliest date in the online database) appears to be at an all-time low. There were 129 such passengers in 2012, down from 140 in 2011. The high was in 2004, when crew members reported 330 unruly passengers.

And then there's the data from the International Air Transport Association. The trade group said its most recent available figures show that reported instances of unruliness increased about 29 percent between 2009 and 2010 (the FAA's figures show a decline in that period). Whatever the numbers, the association and flight attendants say it is a continuing problem.

“Which is why we were so outraged with the thought of knives coming back onboard," said Veda Shook, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, referring to the TSA decision, since rescinded, to allow small knives in cabins.

“The plane in my view is just a microcosm of where we're at in society today," Shook said. Gone are the days of half-empty aircraft and unhurried travel. “Now the planes are packed. Everybody's got to wait in lines." That makes it imperative that passengers follow instructions.

Airplane authority

The Association of Flight Attendants refers to its union members as “aviation's first responders," and indeed their actions can save lives. Consider the flight attendants who helped evacuate the Asiana Airlines plane that crash-landed in San Francisco this month, or the Alaska Airlines attendants who in May restrained a passenger after he allegedly tried to open an emergency exit row window during the plane's descent into Portland.

Yet consumer advocates and passengers who have been ordered off planes for seemingly petty infractions think that some flight attendants abuse their power and that the broad language airlines use to define unruly behavior makes it difficult for passengers to know how to behave and, if necessary, defend themselves.

Shook said removing passengers from planes is a last recourse. However, there are consequences for those who do not follow a rule like turning off portable electronic devices.

“For us that's the biggest challenge," Shook said. “That is where we're seeing some unruly behavior." Some passengers have the attitude that “those rules might be for everybody but me."

A passenger might not think refusing to shut off a phone is a big deal, but not adhering to a simple request on the ground suggests that you might not be cooperative in a more serious situation.

“If they refuse to turn off their phone," Shook said, “we don't want to predict what would happen in flight. It could be far worse if you're up in the air."

On the ground, passengers can be turned over to airport authorities. In the air, the plane might have to be diverted or the passenger restrained.

“We're there to protect the safety of passengers," she said.

Judgment calls

When deciding whether a passenger should be removed from a plane, cabin crews are encouraged to trust their judgment. That leaves them with the job of trying to parse impolite behavior or traits (like talking loudly) from potentially dangerous behavior.

No one wants surly passengers on a flight. And there is no telling how many terrible situations have been avoided because perceptive flight attendants have had passengers removed from planes. But consumer advocates say that the broad and vague language that airlines use to define unruly behavior (found in their Contract of Carriage) is unfair to passengers because it is unclear what can get them tossed off a plane and renders them unable to defend themselves.

“We have heard of passengers being told to get off a plane because of a 'look' or being too 'anxious' or having too 'tense a tone' when they answer a flight attendant," said Kate Hanni, the founder of, the largest nonprofit airline consumer group in the country.

Hanni said it has tried unsuccessfully to persuade the FAA to create a set of rules or legal standards so that passengers know precisely which behaviors to avoid. Currently, a flight attendant can remove a passenger for not obeying instructions or if a passenger presents a risk.

“But 'risk' is completely subjective," she said, “and when you have flight attendants and crews from different backgrounds and cultures you get a different set of rules that no one knows on every flight."

A guide to preventing and managing unruly passengers by the International Air Transport Association says that “incidents are occurring regularly, on all airlines and in every cabin class." Published late last year, it is the group's first effort to bring together information in various documents and manuals. It defines unruly passengers as those who fail to follow crew instructions and onboard rules of conduct.

Examples of disruptive behavior listed in the manual go beyond not complying with safety procedures like fastening your seat belt. Such behavior is also described as appearing agitated or numb or using profane language. It can be “communicating displeasure through voice tone or rude gesture, provoking an argument or making unreasonable demands," like refusing to “give up on a denied request."

(Also unruly: belting out the Dolly Parton song “I Will Always Love You," which a woman did in May during an American Airlines flight to New York until it was diverted to Kansas City, Mo., where she was escorted off the plane.)

'Conditions of carriage'

One way to educate yourself is to Google the name of your airline and “Contract of Carriage." The contract will include a section listing the reasons the airline may refuse to transport you, or remove you from your flight. The “conditions of carriage" for American Airlines, for instance, explain that the airline can remove you for refusing to obey instructions from any flight crew member but also for things like having “an offensive odor not caused by a disability or illness" or being “clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers."

Hanni advises travelers always to follow flight attendants' instructions . If you believe you have been removed from a flight unfairly, you can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation's consumer protection division at You can also call Flyers Rights at 877-359-3776. They will walk you through the complaint process and send a letter to the department asking for an investigation.


Early birds get the flights: Give yourself plenty of time at the airport, director says -- Great Falls International (KGTF), Montana

Better late than never doesn’t apply to boarding airlines.

Too many folks are cutting their arrival time at Great Falls International Airport too short, resulting in several people a day missing their flights, Airport Director John Faulkner said.

“We’ve heard some really hard-luck stories,” he said, such as parents taking kids to another town for medical appointments missing flights or a business person missing a flight to a city where he was scheduled to speak at a conference.

“We hear these stories all the time,” Faulkner said.

He urged passengers to arrive 90 minutes early, especially during the peak summer season when more people are flying, lengthening the time it takes for passengers to clear ticket counters and security checks. And with planes nearly filled, airlines might try to page a late passenger’s name before selling his or her ticket before takeoff.

Construction of the expanded terminal building with an improved check through system won’t be done for another month, he said, adding that the construction can add to the confusion that late-arriving passengers face.

“I know that folks have important reasons to fly, whether business or personal, so we like to remind them it’s critical to take time to arrive early enough to catch those flights,” Faulkner said.

Nearly every day as many as six to 10 people miss flights on Frontier, which is flying one of the bigger jets into Great Falls, a 138-passenger airliner, he said.

Under Frontier’s policy, passengers must have their boarding pass in hand 45 minutes prior to the flight in order to get through security, he said.

As a practical matter, that means arriving by 6 or 6:15 a.m., for the flight that departs at 7:40 a.m., he said.

And it’s not just Frontier, Faulkner said. Other airlines have similar policies, and most shut their ticket counters 30 to 45 minutes before flight time.

“Some people don’t realize that the time on their ticket is really the time when the plane is supposed to take off,” Faulkner said.

Some passengers are just a few minutes late and wonder why the flight can’t be held five minutes so they could board, he said.

“But Great Falls’ flights taking off at the beginning of the day simply can’t be held,” Faulkner said. “That’s because two-thirds of the passengers on most flights leaving here are trying to catch connecting flights once they reach such hub cities as Denver or Salt Lake City. And those folks might miss later flights if the flight out of Great Falls is delayed.”

Other people mistakenly assume they don’t have to arrive early at a smaller airport like Great Falls, but that’s not the case, Faulkner said.

“Bigger airports have more ticket counter workers and Transportation Security Administration agents doing security checks,” he said. “The number is proportional to the airport size, so Great Falls has fewer such workers then large airports and it takes just as long to get through ticket counters and security here. There’s no leeway.”

Airlines have differing policies for ticket holders who miss flights, Faulkner said.

In some cases, passengers are out of luck and can’t get refunds.

Even if they can get refunds, most airlines charge change fees of $100 before providing new tickets the next day. In addition, if passengers purchased early discount tickets for, say, $300, some airlines will charge them the spot price, which might be twice as much, for replacement tickets.

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Financial hurdles loom for Nut Tree air museum projects: Vacaville, California

Plans remain underway for the new Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum, a full-service hotel and a multiuse building on 22 acres near Nut Tree Airport, but a project spokesman said financial hurdles, specifically raising enough cash to buy a privately owned parcel, loom. 

 Brian McInerney, CEO of the museum's Education Foundation, said buying "the first piece of property," 10.5 acres owned by CT Realty Investors, "is the first priority."

The Southern California-based real estate investment and property management company wants $1.5 million for the parcel, formerly the site of a minor league baseball stadium. McInerney and the foundation retain an option to buy the land for that price until Dec. 31. In an interview Thursday, he gave no indication what would happen if the deadline came and went without its purchase.

Envisioned as a 22-acre complex between the airport and the Nut Tree shopping center, the plans call for leasing the remaining property, 11.5 acres, owned by the city of Vacaville.

"We're about one-third of the way there," that is, raising the money through a variety of donors, said McInerney, who has secured a supportive letter of intent for the project from the city of Vacaville.

Key elements in the letter cited the building of the air museum, currently housed at Travis Air Force Base, an air park, the hotel, and an education and restoration center. The letter gives the foundation the right to negotiate with the city and includes language about the creation of a mutually acceptable plan and wording about how the plan will unfold over a five-year period.

In previous interviews, city officials, among them City Manager Laura Kuhn and Mayor Steve Hardy, welcomed the project, which McInerney envisions as "a new economic focal point" for the city and Solano County, expanding the area's aviation heritage and history "to a national level."

Additionally, Solano Community College, which houses it aeronautics program in a building at the airport, may move its classrooms and facilities to the proposed site, if all goes as planned.

"We're very much planning to work with" the museum's educational foundation, said Jowel Laguerre, SCC superintendent-president. "It's definitely a good opportunity (for students)" to learn aircraft maintenance. "It's a win-win situation for the college and the community."

He also noted plans to build a multiuse building that would house up to 1,000 people for symposiums, lectures and conferences.

"The county doesn't really have a space for meetings that size," Laguerre said.

Former Vacaville Mayor Dave Fleming, a retired Air Force officer, said that the Nut Tree location for the museum was a "perfect" site and would "truly commemorate" the life of Jimmy Doolittle. A former Air Force general and an Alameda native, Doolittle, during World War II, received the Medal of Honor for leading a daring raid on Tokyo in 1942, an event depicted in the 1944 film "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," about the first American attack on Japan after Pearl Harbor.

McInerney said the museum's focus would be not only about Doolittle's legacy but also about education and patriotism.

"What does patriotism mean?" he asked. "Who was Jimmy Doolittle? He calculated risks and calculated chemistry for fuel, (helped to create) instruments for night flying. He was an innovator and risk-taker and became a patriot for doing the right things at the right time."

With the deadline on the property option approaching, McInerney sounded cautiously hopeful about raising the rest of the money needed for the private property purchase.

"Our general message is that we believe we have a pretty good vision and plan for Solano County," he said. "It's basically to develop a new economic focal point, based with aviation and education. The first stage is acquiring the land, and we could use anybody and everybody (in leadership positions) with help in closing that deal out."

The Jimmy Doolittle Museum Education Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, visit, or email


Editorial: Airport proposals could be the start of something big -- Nut Tree (KVCB), Vacaville, California

Here's a word that northern Solano County residents may want to keep in mind as proposed developments takes shape in and around the Nut Tree Airport: synergy.

The dictionary defines it as "the simultaneous action of separate agencies which, together, have a greater total effect than the sum of their individual effects" -- precisely what may be happening at the airport in Vacaville.

In April, Solano County, which operates the airport, joined with the city of Vacaville and Solano Community College in agreeing to officially negotiate with the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Education Foundation to bring a museum to the Nut Tree facility.

More than a museum, actually. The preliminary proposal for the 21-acre site includes a museum, an air park, a multi-use facility that could accommodate up to 1,000 people, a hotel, a restaurant and an education and restoration center.

The education and restoration center would include space for Solano Community College's aviation program, which already operates at the airport.

Now, another party has entered the big picture.

This month, the city of Vacaville turned what had been informal discussions into formal negotiations with ICON Aircraft Inc., a Los Angeles company that wants to build light recreational aircraft on property at the edge of the Nut Tree Airport.

Besides building and selling its lightweight sports plane there, the company eventually hopes to house a training center at the site.

Talk about potential synergy!

Those three projects alone -- an aircraft manufacturer, an accredited aviation college program and an aviation museum -- could feed off each other.

The college and the Jimmy Doolittle Foundation have already discovered that they can help each other, SCC President Jowell Laguerre recently told The Reporter Editorial Board.

In recent years, some of SCC's aviation students have been volunteering with the foundation, helping it maintain aircraft currently on display at the Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center. The foundation benefits from the volunteer labor and the students get some hands-on experience in maintaining aircraft.

If ICON comes in, it could bring as many as 500 manufacturing jobs, at least some of which will almost certainly require workers with aviation training. SCC's aviation graduates would seem to be well placed -- and President Laguerre says the college is open to expanding that program to fill the needs of the job market.

Meanwhile, ICON's proposed training center would bring in people who want to learn to fly its aircraft. In their off hours, those visitors might very well wish to spend time at an aviation museum.

If they liked it well enough, they might even fly back in to the airport from time to time to revisit it, and maybe bring along their friends.

There's also potential for other businesses to benefit from these projects. ICON will need materials and parts to build its planes. Perhaps some will be made around here.

Both pilots in training and museum visitors will need places to stay and restaurants in which to dine. That might finally bring about the hotel and upscale restaurants initially proposed to accompany the Nut Tree shopping center.

And if there are enough people trying to get from the airport to the shopping center on a regular basis, might the Nut Tree Train once again run between the two? Plenty of local residents would welcome that.

Of course, there are still a lot of "ifs" to all of these plans: The Doolittle Foundation is still trying to raise the initial $2 million to purchase the property. It hasn't even started on funding the actual museum.

ICON is still negotiating with the city and has other sites in mind, too. Even if it locates here, there's no guarantee it will succeed as a business.

The college has bond money to put toward building classrooms for its aviation program, but as a public school, its program funding is tied to the shaky fortunes of the state.

Still, even if two of these three ventures take root, it could be the welcome start of something big.

Synergy, indeed.


East Texas Regional (KGGG), Longview, Texas: Airport renovation on schedule for fall 2014 landing

 Airport Director Roy Miller goes over the floorplans for the remodel of the East Texas Regional Airport on Wednesday July 24, 2013.
(Photo Credit:   Michael Cavazos/News-Journal)

The greetings of travelers being welcomed home drifted through temporary walls separating a curtailed public area from the future lobby at East Texas Regional Airport one recent morning. 

The lobby that’s undergoing renovations inside the Henry Atkinson terminal is the first job of a multi-phase, $4.2 million renovation due for completion in fall 2014.

People waiting for loved ones will have a little more breathing room as early as November when the refurbished and enlarged public area is scheduled to reopen and work moves to other phases.

Few are crying foul, though, at being confined to the ticketing area as they wait for friends and family to land or to enter the secured passenger area.

“Right now, it seems to be going well,” said Airport Director Roy Miller. “We’ve received minimal complaints. Occasionally, we’ll get pretty crowded. That’ll be short-lived. In November, we’ll be opened up.”

Few complaints, but a pleasant surprise revealed itself when contractor RWC Enterprises pulled up the carpet in the lobby. The surprise was etched in the terrazzo tiling.

“We discovered a map of Gregg County and Northeast Texas,” Miller said. “It apparently dates to the original terminal, which was built in 1946 or ’47. It shows Longview and Tyler and Marshall and Jefferson and Clarksville (City). It apparently ran the full length of the building.”

Caked carpet glue hides all of the old floor art, except for a roughly 18-inch diameter scrubbed circle where the last two “Gs” of Gregg County are dark and clear. More will be uncovered.

“It’s in two tones. Gregg County is a darker color,” he said, pointing with his right foot to a round outline dimly visible beneath the caked-on carpet glue.

“Longview will be this circle. Over here is Marshall, right here, and Jefferson — these little circles. I think I found Pittsburg over there one day. Here’s Gladewater right there. Tyler’s down here somewhere, I just can’t find it. ... And they are connected by these metal strips. ... We’ll take a, probably, 20-by-10(-foot) square and restore it.”

With the reborn floor as a centerpiece, the renovated lobby also will include a baggage claim ramp that’s more than twice as long as the one now in use. Moving old offices from the old lobby area frees up more space, which should feel even roomier thanks to a glass front facade to the 10,000-square-foot first floor.

Fueled by a Federal Aviation Administration grant accounting for 90 percent of the cost, work on the lobby is running on time, Miller said.

“They’ve run all new ductwork, new plumbing, new electrical. They put in a new ceiling grid, they put in new lighting,” he said. “We’ll have a new, high-efficiency air conditioning system. That’s all Phase I.”

It’s not even the most challenging phase of the project for ongoing operations and the public.

Phases II will open a wider counter area for American Eagle, the airport’s passenger carrier with two flights daily.

Phase III will renovate existing public restrooms at the building’s first-floor midpoint.

Phase IV is the heart of the renovation, expanding the 50-seat, secured passenger area to 150 seats.

“That’s probably going to be the most challenging,” Miller said. “Because we’ve got to put the public somewhere, we’ve still got to screen them.”

Phase V installs restrooms in the new secured passenger area, saving flyers from repeating the Transportation Safety Administration search they now face if nature calls after they’re inside.

Somewhere toward those final phases, a covered boarding tunnel called a Jetbridge will be installed for passenger boarding protected from the elements.

The covered boarding will be complemented by an expansive awning where passengers will be able to get bags out of their vehicles without getting rained on.

“We should still be open in fall of 2014, if not before,” Miller said. “It’ll start to look significantly different toward the end of summer and early fall.”

Miller also said talks are continuing to win a third daily American Eagle flight.

“I want to get that third flight, so business people can get out of here in the morning and get back that night,” he said. “That’s real important.”

One thing won’t change: Extended parking in a parking lot rebuilt two years ago on a similar 90/10 federal/county partnership stays free.

“We’re going to get on a marketing campaign,” Miller said, “to let our friends in the communities on that map know we are their East Texas Regional Airport.”

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