Monday, August 05, 2013

NASCAR Week Busiest of Year for Elmira-Corning Regional Airport (KELM), New York

BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WETM-18) – The Elmira-Corning Regional Airport is heading into its busiest time of the year. The NASCAR race at Watkins Glen International has airport staff preparing for many more planes.

”It's kind of like the holiday season,” said Airport Manager Ann Crook.

As far as Crook is concerned, this might as well be a holiday week—this is NASCAR eve. The airport's busiest week of the year comes around the race, unlike the vast majority of the country's airports, where Thanksgiving brings the most air traffic. Crook said they aren't adding any more commercial flights. But she said the planes will have more people on them as they bring in fans, crews and media. Private planes represent the biggest increase, with about fifty jets expected.

"The teams, the pit crews, the drivers; all of them fly in on their own nice Jets," explained Crook.

And whether they get off a private jet or a commercial flight at ELM, most of them need something to drive. So rental car companies are bringing in five times as many cars as normal to deal with the NASCAR traffic.

"We have fans coming in to watch the race, but then again all of the teams and executives need rental cars as well,” said Crook. “We expect about 500 rental cars will be used, which is a huge amount."

Rental companies are holding the cars in an extra lot. Some of them are already marked with the names of teams and drivers. A National Car Rental spokesperson said they expect to have enough cars to meet demand. He recommended calling ahead to be sure.

After the race cars finish going around the track, the rental cars will be returned and the planes will leave. Crook says the day after the race is actually the single busiest day of the year for the airport. And all of those visitors leave one thing behind: sales tax.

“Because of the loss of the gas industry, or the slow down, and the loss of jobs at Sikorsky, our sales tax is off 6.5%, which for the community is more than $6 million less than the year before,” said Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli (R). “Events such as this help soften that blow.”


Glynn County Airport Commission names new director: Assistant director of Tampa International moving to Brunswick for job

BRUNSWICK | The assistant administrator at Tampa International Airport is moving north to become executive director of the Glynn County Airport Commission.

The Airport Commission hired Robert Burr Monday after a lengthy application process. He’ll report to work Oct. 1, replacing Steve Brian who resigned under pressure in March but has served as interim director since then.

A $15 million runway repaving project begins on Sept. 4 and Burr, who has served as Tampa’s director of operations since December 2001, will face a steep learning curve when he takes over. To ease him into the job, Airport Commission Chairman Bill Brunson wants to keep Brian around a little longer.

“I don’t think it would be fair to bring somebody in on his first day with all the asphalt trucks running around and say, ‘Here. Do your job,’ ” Brunson said.

But Glynn County Commission Chairman Mary Hunt said that’s not going to happen.

“This is something that the County Commission made very clear,” she said. “As soon as a new director was named, Steve Brian would no longer be needed. It would be wasting money, paying two airport directors.”

Burr was picked from a pool of 90 applicants, Brunson said.

“It took several months to go through the process,” he said.

Four finalists were interviewed two weeks ago and Burr was formally hired during an Airport Commission meeting Monday.

“We had a lot of qualified candidates, but we felt like he was our best choice,” Brunson said.

Burr holds a bachelor’s degree in airport management and a master’s in aerospace education, both from Middle Tennessee State University. He went to work at the Tampa airport in 1980 as assistant director of operations.

‘He’s been there for more than 30 years and he has a lot of experience,” Brunson said. “He’s been there and done that and we just think he’s going to be a good fit for our airport.”

As director, Burr will also be in charge of
McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport.

Burr’s compensation package was still under negotiation, Brunson.

He was en route to Brunswick Monday and not available for comment.


Flying is a family affair for the Andersons: Culpeper Regional Airport (KCJR), Virginia

Vincent Vala 
 Whitehawk Aviation Chief Flight Instructor J.J. Quinn (left) poses with the members of the Anderson family and their planes which are hangared at the Culpeper County Airport. From left are Melissa, Darien, Zac and Brad Anderson. Melissa, Darien and Zac have their pilots licenses.

Ever since childhood, Darien Anderson wanted to learn how to fly - a dream he didn't truly believe was attainable - until a few years ago.

After he and his wife, Melissa, opened the Mt. Run Bowling Center in downtown Culpeper with the help of their two sons, Zac and Brad, Anderson decided during a visit to the Culpeper County AirFest in October of 2009 that it was finally time to go for it.

And within a few years of getting started, the Anderson family now frequently take to the skies as Darien, Melissa and Zac have all earned their pilot licenses, and the family has a pair of planes they keep hangared at the Culpeper County Airport.

"I came to the 2009 air show and I figured, if I didn't do it now, I never would," Darien said. "So I jumped into it."

By March, Anderson had his license and his first plane. His wife and older son began learning to fly soon afterward.

Melissa said she started out wanting to learn only the basics.

"I just wanted to know what to do if anything happened to him," Melissa said. "Once I started learning, I wanted to keep going."

Zac, 17, said he has introduced many of his friends to aviation since obtaining his license last January.

Like his brother, Brad has logged ample flying hours working with Whitehawk Aviation Chief Flight Instructor J.J. Quinn.

But with a busy high school junior year ahead, Brad said he is "at a crossroad" about continuing to work toward his license right now.   

Quinn said it is unusual to see an entire family of flying enthusiasts earn their pilot licenses.

Melissa said it is often women who do not fly - even in aviation-oriented families.

"A lot of the time the women are afraid of it, or they think it will be too complicated. If I can do it, they can, too," Melissa said. "You learn one thing at a time and then build on that."

In addition to being something the family can do together, Melissa said it's a great way for all of them to unwind after working hard at the bowling center. 

"It's a great stress reliever because, when you're flying, you can't think about anything else."

Darien said the family is participating in Virginia's Ambassador Program.

"It's a program where you fly to all of the airports in Virginia; we have about 11 left," he said. "When you finish you get leather flight jackets and flight bags."

Darien said they have also flown "angel missions," in which medical patients are transported by plane to receive treatment at facilities they could not otherwise access.

"I've taken plenty of my friends up for flights," Darien said. "Any excuse I can find, I go flying."

Darien said the family has a Cessna 172, which is a very popular plane for beginning pilots and those in training.

"It's very economical and easy on fuel," he said.

Darien said he bought the Cessna for about $12,000 - the price many people might pay for a decent used car.

The family also has a Piper Lance, a larger plane which Darien said can carry more weight and is better for the family's longer trips.

"It's a more complex, higher-performance plane," he said. "They're all the same systems, but the systems are a little more complicated."

Darien said the family saves money by keeping both planes in a single hangar; they bought a lift system which allows them to store one plane above the other.

Darien says they also do a lot of the maintenance themselves with guidance from certified mechanics at the local facility.

"There are ways to save money and make it more affordable," he said. "Some people might take $90 and go play golf. I take my $90 and buy gasoline and go flying. It's just a matter of priorities."

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COUNCILMAN: Colleague May Have Jeopardized New Airline For Pitt-Greenville Airport (KPGV), Greenville, North Carolina

 A Greenville city councilman says one of his colleagues has put an economic development project in jeopardy. 

 Councilman Dennis Mitchell claims fellow councilman Calvin Mercer released information in his recent newsletter that breached confidentiality about the project.

In a weekend newsletter, Mercer says the Pitt-Greenville Airport is working to get a second airline with a federal grant. He cited airport manager Jerry Vickers in the e-mail, adding that if it was successful the airport could see new service as early as next May or June. Contacted today about the report, Vickers wouldn't comment to WITN News.

In a news release this afternoon, Mitchell criticized Mercer. "He continues to be a rooster taking credit for the sunrise and this time he may have went to far," said Mitchell.

Mitchell is the at-large member of council, while Mercer represents District 4. Last month Mercer announced he would be running against Mitchell for the at-large seat.

"I gave out information that I thought was public, that I understood was public," Mercer told WITN. "I do not believe that I have given out any confidential information. This item was on the agenda for tonight's meeting and I try to keep the public informed."

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Indiana County names new airport manager: Indiana County Airport/Jimmy Stewart Field (KIDI), Pennsylvania

The Indiana County/Jimmy Stewart Airport recently opened its new 5,500-foot runway. Now the airport also has a new manager to go along with it.

The Indiana County Commissioners voted unanimously July 24 to approve Tom Robertson of Rayne Township for the position vacated by Todd Heming's retirement in March.

“I'm looking forward to being a catalyst to forge some strong relationships with the community here,” Robertson said of his new role.

Robertson, a former teacher and licensed pilot, has an aircraft at the airport and has served as a part-time employee there for a decade. A tentative salary for the position has been recommended and will be finalized at a salary board meeting later this month.

“I think one of the areas that we mutually agree upon with the airport authority is the importance of seeing the airport be an economic driver for Indiana County,” Commissioners Chairman Rodney Ruddock said. “We've talked at great lengths about how important it is to have a strong business plan to make the airport move along with the rest of the community.”

The commissioners also voted unanimously to enter a right-of-way agreement with Salsgiver Telecommunications, Inc., to install infrastructure for the public safety radio project on airport property.

In addition, last week it was announced that the Jimmy Stewart facility is among eight Western Pennsylvania airports that will receive a combined $1.1 million in state grant money to help pay for various improvements and equipment. The Indiana County airport is getting $18,750 to monitor wetlands.

The commissioners last week heard from Paul Hart, president of Fluid Recovery Services, LLC, the Creekside-based hydraulic fracturing fluid treatment company formed through the merger of Hart Resource Technologies and Pennsylvania Brine Treatment.

Hart said the company, which leases a county-owned property, is seeking to attract business from Marcellus Shale producers by providing multiple services at each of its five locations.

“When the state said that they didn't want any of the Marcellus producers to use a facility with a surface discharge, that meant about a 70 percent cut in our business (in Creekside) and we could only accept water from the conventional wells,” Hart explained. “That occurred back in 2011, which drove us to wanting to secure the new permits and the processes to be able to serve the Marcellus industry as well, which eventually led to our merger and the acquisition.”

The commissioners unanimously granted their approval for Fluid Recovery Serivces to submit applications to the state's Department of Environmental Protection under its new corporate entity.

Change orders relating to work on the new Creps United Publications facility at Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park were on the agenda, and commissioners approved the county Office of Planning and Development's recommendation to award the bid for demolition and removal of abandoned structures on the Windy Ridge property to Eveready Contracting of Apollo, in the amount of $64,000.

Planning and Development Executive Director Byron Stauffer said the county this month will solicit bids for grading and utilities installation work at the Joseph Land Development 119 Business Park in Center Township.

The commissioners approved numerous contracts for support services to various county departments.

The county renewed contracts with IndiGo to provide Medical Assistance Transportation and continued its contract with Indiana County Community Action Program, Inc. for its Prescription Assistance Program, which provides a consultant two days a week to help residents secure reduced-cost or free prescriptions. The contract amount for the Prescription Assistance Program is $10,000; according to Human Services Executive Director Bonni Dunlap, the program has saved residents nearly $90,000 through the first six months of 2013.

The commissioners approved contracts with companies that provide the county's Department of Children and Youth Services with cleaning, lawn care, snow removal and other services, as well as group home, psychological assessment and prevention programs.


American Airlines Hiring 80 More Reservations Representatives in South Florida: The employees will be able to work from home

American Airlines said Monday that it plans to hire 80 additional reservations representatives who will be able to work from home in South Florida.
The employees will help customers by providing them information on schedules, fares and flights.

The airline said it’s held two previous recruitment rounds for such home-based representatives in South Florida, with 88 employees graduating in April and 77 in July. A seven-week training program for the employees hired in the latest round will begin Oct. 21.

“We have been extremely impressed with the quality of candidates that we have met during the first two rounds, resulting in 165 new American Airlines employees,” said Marilyn DeVoe, American’s vice president for Miami, in a statement. “This new group of representatives will join more than 10,000 American Airlines employees in South Florida. We are committed to this area and are pleased to continue to expand our presence here.”

For the job posting and more information, visit Candidates must be at least 18 years old, have a GED or high school diploma, and be located within 75 miles of Miami International Airport.

Applications are due by Aug. 11.


Butler and Warren port authorities eye Middletown Regional/Hook Field Airport (KMWO)

Nick Graham 
An airplane comes in for a landing at Hook Field. Port authority directors from Butler and Warren counties recently visited Hook Field to meet with companies at the airport and educate them on what their agencies could offer to help with development projects.

MIDDLETOWN — The executive directors of the port authorities in Butler and Warren counties recently visited Middletown Regional Airport/Hook Field, hoping to woo existing companies who are considering expansion projects. 

 Denise Hamet, Middletown’s economic development director, says there is a lot of undeveloped acreage at Hook Field and the demand for hangars — which are currently all filled — is increasing. She said the city is looking to expand educational opportunities at the airport, such as flight and helicopter training, possibly through a partnership with Cincinnati State Community and Technical College. There is also federal money available to retrain military veterans that could be tapped, she said.

Middletown Economic Development Program Manager Matt Eisenbraun said the port authority directors visited Hook Field to meet with companies at the airport and educate them on what their agencies could offer to help with development projects.

“The ones that met with both of them are existing customers at the airport. Both have space and are either wishing to add on or to get new space and move to a new location,” he said.

City officials tout Hook Field — which has 110 based aircraft and handles more than 40,000 aircraft operations a year — as a valuable economic development tool for Middletown. The airport contains 13 city-owned buildings and a 40,000-gallon, above ground aviation fuel storage facility.

Officials have been exploring ways to increase revenues and development at the airport in hopes of reducing or eliminating the $90,000 annual subsidy that the city provides to the airport from the general fund.

Eisenbraun diffused rumors earlier this year that the city was shopping Hook Field to potential buyers by saying, “Selling the airport outright, or selling off the assets of the airport, is not going to happen.” However, he said the city would be considering different options to make the airport more self-sustaining.

In June, Martin Russell informed the Warren County Port Authority board there might be some opportunities for helping with projects at the airport. After meeting with the two airport business owners, he said one might be interested in having the Warren County Port Authority own the new structure they want to build and lease it back. The other business was interested in sales tax incentives.

“The one gentleman here, he would like us to own everything, so it would be our real asset,” Russell said. “We would almost become the private developer. We would lease it to him and his lease to us would be whatever our mortgage is, plus taxes we would owe, plus whatever little fee we might want to grab off the top.”

Mike Campbell with the Butler County Port Authority said he could offer bonding assistance — port authorities generally get lower interest rates — or perhaps facilitate loans for smaller projects at the airport.

“We’re not thinking about anything on a grander scale,” he said. “Not at this point.”

The Butler County Port Authority received $15,000 from county commissioners in July to help the financial and loan agency stay in operation because business had been slow. Campbell also pointed out the combination of a down economy and his 15-month stint as interim county administrator — County Administrator Charlie young was hired in June 2012 — didn’t help matters for the port authority. But he said things are now improving and he has asked the port’s legal and finance staff for ideas for the airport.

“I couldn’t devote as much energy to the port authority,” Campbell said. “But now I’m back and I’m devoting 110 percent to it. I think we’re going to see the benefits of that and it’s also connected to the economy.”

Eisenbraun said the Hook Field expansion is big enough for both port authorities to be involved. Middletown lies within both counties, but a city can pick any port authority they want to partner with.

“There’s definitely an opportunity for both to be involved,” Eisenbraun said. “That’s part of the discussions that are ongoing. We are really looking at the specific projects and seeing which projects are in the comfort zone for each of the two ports.”

The port authorities can work with private companies and will also likely be involved with the infrastructure the city intends to add. Hamet and Eisenbraun said it is too soon to reveal the exact nature of the projects under discussion.

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Rusk County Airport (KRFI) manager fired after 2nd DWI

Henderson police say Rusk County Airport Manager David Dumas slammed his his Ford F-150 pickup through this home’s kitchen Thursday in the 500 block of West Main Street in Henderson. Rusk County Judge Joel Hale said Monday that Dumas had been fired.

Henderson police say Rusk County Airport Manager David Dumas slammed his Ford F-150 pickup through a home in the 500 block of West Main Street in Henderson.

David Dumas

HENDERSON — Rusk County commissioners are searching for a new airport manager after they fired David Dumas this past week.

Dumas was on administrative leave Thursday when, police said, he crashed his pickup into a home Thursday afternoon, netting him a DWI arrest — his second in as many weeks.

Hours after being placed on administrative leave he was fired, said Rusk County Judge Joel Hale.

Police say Dumas, 49, of Henderson was booked into the Rusk County Jail on Thursday afternoon after he pulled out of a business about 1 p.m. in the 500 block of West Main Street. They said he apparently accelerated, ramming his red Ford F-150 into a home.

“We got a call about somebody had run a car into a house. It was characterized as being embedded into the house,” said Lt. Craig Sweeney of the Henderson Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division, noting that the investigation is ongoing and police have not nailed down exactly what happened.

“(Dumas) was looking for a particular business that wasn’t there anymore. When he left that property, it’s possible instead of using the brake he hit the accelerator instead, which caused him to jump and run into the house.”

Sweeney would not comment on what led police to arrest Dumas for driving while intoxicated, but said Dumas was taken to the hospital before he was booked into jail.

Tiffany Dixon, a neighbor home at the time of the wreck, said she couldn’t believe what she saw when she walked out of her house.

“I was taking a bath and heard a loud noise,” she said.

At first, Dixon said, she thought a vehicle hit one of the green recycling bins out by the curb. But when she came outside she saw a red pickup truck buried in the side of the house.

Earlier, she said, she had noticed a red truck in a parking lot across the street.

Dumas’ truck ended up crossing Main Street just past Downtown Henderson, where it drove into Dixon’s yard, ploughed through a fence and jumped off a two-foot tall concrete wall before coming to rest inside the home.

“The truck was sitting halfway in and halfway out of the house,” Dixon said. “We were just outside before it happened. We’re lucky we weren’t outside when he came through here,” she said, pointing out the route the truck took through the yard.

The home, a wood frame structure, suffered damage to a kitchen on the kitchen located at the home’s back, right side.

A man inside the home, Sweeney said, suffered minor injuries to his head and feet. The unidentified man was in the kitchen cooking when Dumas slammed into the house.

Dumas had been placed on administrative leave about three hours prior to the wreck, Hale said.

The judge would not comment on what led to Dumas being place on leave, but he said the county’s decision was not related to Dumas’ previous DWI arrest in Kilgore two weeks earlier.

Hale added the county had no problems with Dumas’ job performance prior to that arrest.

Dumas had worked as the airport manager for two years, Hale said, and never held any previous positions with the county.

The county is moving forward to find his replacement, Hale said, adding the job has been posted on the county’s website.

“We expect to move on this fairly rapidly,” he said.

Billy Alexander, a groundskeeper at the airport, has been tapped to fill Dumas’ shoes until the county fills the position.

Hale said Alexander has the knowledge to run the airport in the meantime and will be taking direction from Rusk County Pct. 4 Commissioner Harold Howell, county auditor Ron Moody and Hale himself.


Posted: Monday, August 5, 2013 3:20 pm | Updated: 4:53 pm, Mon Aug 5, 2013. 

The Rusk County airport director was fired after county officials learned he crashed his pickup into a home, netting him a DWI arrest — his second in as many weeks.

Police say David Dumas, 49, of Henderson was booked into the Rusk County Jail Thursday afternoon after he pulled out of a business in the 500 block of West Main Street and apparently hit the accelerator instead of the brake.

Dumas had been the airport manager for two years.

“We got a call about somebody running a car into a house. It was characterized as being embedded into the house,” said Lt. Craig Sweeney of the Henderson Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.

Dumas had been on administrative leave for about three hours when he ran his truck into the house and was terminated that day, according to Rusk County Judge Joel Hale.

Hale said Dumas' leave was not related to his first DWI and that the county had had no problems with Dumas as an employee prior to his first DWI.

Billy Alexander, who has been a groundskeeper at the airport, will fill the role of airport manager until the county finds a replacement. Alexander will act as airport manager under the direction of Pct. 4 county commissioner Harold Howell, Hale and the county auditor Ron Moody.

Drones to fly over parts of Onondaga, Madison and Oswego counties - New York

Syracuse, N.Y. - Drones have been approved for training flights over parts of Onondaga, Madison and Oswego counties, military officials announced today.

The remotely operated MQ-9 Reapers have already been flying over a far larger swath of upstate New York since October 2011. But the new federal approval has expanded that air space further south to include some of Central New York's most densely populated regions.

At a news conference, Col. Greg Semmel dismissed concerns about drone surveillance, praised their safety record and said the new air space would improve the efficiency of the Air National Guard's training operation.

"The flights have been highly successful and are critically important" for training drone operators who are then tasked with providing aerial cover for American soldiers at war, Semmel said.

The extra airspace - which stretches down to Syracuse, west to Camillus and east to Fayetteville - will give training officers more flexibility around Central New York's notoriously erratic weather, Semmel said. This will save the government money by reducing the number of delayed or canceled training exercises, he said.

The drones can also be used to gather information about natural disasters at the governor's request, Semmel said.

"There are so many opportunities to use this bird to help the citizens of New York," said Semmel, who spoke in front of a reaper and American flag at the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base.

Semmel also promised that the drones would never be used for surveillance on citizens, saying their operations are carefully circumscribed by federal laws.

"We will never perform targeted surveillance on any New Yorker or any other U.S. citizen during our training missions," Semmel said.

The 174th Attack Wing's four planes will not be used for local law enforcement either, Semmel said.

Asked how Central New Yorkers would react to the drones' presence in their area, Semmel noted that the training missions take place 18,000 feet in the air.

"They will very likely never see the airplane," Semmel said.

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Hughes 369D, Haverfield Aviation, N8688F: Fatal accident occurred August 05, 2013 in Ackerly, Texas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary  -  National Transportation Safety Board:


NTSB Identification: CEN13LA461  

14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load
Accident occurred Monday, August 05, 2013 in Ackerly, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/02/2013
Aircraft: HUGHES 369D, registration: N8688F
Injuries: 2 Fatal,1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The helicopter was being used to hoist linemen onto a power transmission line tower. Two linemen were suspended beneath the helicopter on a 100-foot-long external cargo line (long-line). Shortly after departure, as the helicopter was climbing, the long-line collided with a shield wire that was suspended between two towers. The operator reported that the long-line severed about 5 feet above the linemen, who fell about 200 feet to the ground. The pilot returned to the landing zone and made an uneventful landing. The operator reported that there were no preexisting mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have prevented normal operation.

The pilot stated that the shield wire had not been identified or discussed during the preflight briefing. He reported that the clear sky condition and the morning light made the shield wire impossible to see from the ground. Additionally, he stated that it was uncommon for the shield wire, the uppermost wire on a power transmission line, to be installed before the lower conductor wires had been installed.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to identify and maintain adequate clearance from a shield wire that was suspended between power transmission line towers.

On August 5, 2013, at 0915 central daylight time, a Hughes model 369D helicopter, N8688F, was not damaged when its external cargo long-line was severed after colliding with a shield wire suspended between power transmission towers near Ackerly, Texas. The two linemen who were being hoisted on the long-line were fatally injured after falling about 200 feet to the ground after the collision. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Haverfield Aviation Inc., under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 133 as an external load flight, without a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight, which was operating from a landing zone situated near the accident site.

According to the operator, the helicopter was equipped with a 100-foot long external cargo long-line that was being used to hoist linemen onto power transmission towers. Shortly after departure, as the helicopter was climbing toward the transmission tower, the long-line collided with a shield wire suspended between transmission towers. The operator reported that the long-line severed about 5 feet above the linemen. The pilot returned to the landing zone and made an uneventful landing. The operator did not report any malfunction or failures with the helicopter that would have prevented normal operation.

The pilot reported that during his repositioning flight he noticed that there were multiple power lines and shield cables erected on the tower structures located to the north and west of the tower to be serviced. After landing, he completed a preflight briefing with the two linemen assigned to his helicopter. After the briefing, the helicopter was brought into a 100-foot hover above the landing zone while the two linemen secured themselves to the long-line below. The pilot reported that as he maneuvered toward the tower he briefly noticed a slight kink in the long-line carrying the linemen before it was severed. The pilot stated that the shield wire installed on the tower had not been identified or discussed during the preflight briefing. He reported that the clear sky condition and the morning light made the shield wire impossible to see from the ground. Additionally, he stated that it was uncommon for shield wire to be installed on the upper tower structures before the lower line work had been completed.

The nearest aviation weather reporting station was located at Big Spring McMahon-Wrinkle Airport (KBPG), Big Spring, Texas, about 20 miles southeast of the accident site. At 0915, the KBPG automated surface observing system reported: wind from 160 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 28 degrees Celsius, dew point 16 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.10 inches of mercury.

 NTSB Identification: CEN13LA461
14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load
Accident occurred Monday, August 05, 2013 in Ackerly, TX
Aircraft: HUGHES 369D, registration: N8688F
Injuries: 2 Fatal,1 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 5, 2013, at 0915 central daylight time, a Hughes model 369D helicopter, N8688F, was not damaged when its external cargo long-line was severed after colliding with a shield wire suspended between power transmission towers near Ackerly, Texas. The two linemen who were being hoisted on the long-line were fatally injured after falling about 200 feet to the ground after the collision. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Haverfield Aviation Inc., under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 133 as an external load flight, without a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight, which was operating from a landing zone situated near the accident site.

According to the operator, the helicopter was equipped with a 100-foot long external cargo long-line that was being used to hoist linemen onto power transmission towers. Shortly after departure, as the helicopter was climbing toward the transmission tower, the long-line collided with a shield wire suspended between transmission towers. The operator reported that the long-line severed about 5 feet above the linemen. The pilot returned to the landing zone and made an uneventful landing. The pilot did not report any malfunction or failures with the helicopter that would have prevented normal operation.

The nearest aviation weather reporting station was located at Big Spring McMahon-Wrinkle Airport (KBPG), Big Spring, Texas, about 20 miles southeast of the accident site. At 0915, the KBPG automated surface observing system reported: wind from 160 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 28 degrees Celsius, dew point 16 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.10 inches of mercury.

UPDATE: The names of the two men killed in Martin County while working from a helicopter have now been released, David Oliveira from California, and Christopher Breed from Idaho were both killed while trying to inspect power lines.  

MARTIN COUNTY-- A freak accident is raising questions with several investigators in Martin County.

"More than one individual was killed today (Monday) so it's being taken very seriously," said Martin County Sheriff, John Woodward.

Sheriff Woodward tells us he received a 911 approximately 9:15 Monday morning from an individual witness on scene.

That witness and several others say two power line construction workers were hanging from tetherlines that were attached to a helicopter about 230 feet in the air.

"There was a failure with the tetherline that caused the two individuals to fall and be killed," explained Woodward.

Both men were workers with Haverfield aviation, a power line inspection company based in Pennsylvania.

While we're told there was no damage done to the helicopter, Sheriff Woodward says the construction team stayed on site for several hours to give statements and help out anyway they could.

"We're doing everything we can to do a thorough investigation and make sure that we take care of everything that needs to be done," stated Woodward.

Two workers died in an accident around 10:30 a.m. Monday in Martin County when a single cable snapped that was suspending the two workers from a helicopter. The cable carrying the two workers came into contact with a power line, according to preliminary information via the Federal Aviation Administration.

The men were working on power lines near county roads 4200 and 4501, according to an official at the Martin County Sheriff’s Department.

The FAA is conducting an investigation of the accident, Lynn Lunsford said, a spokesman with the FAA. The helicopter is a Hughes H-500 and is often used for such work, among other tasks, Lunsford said, adding that the helicopter was able to land safely. Officials from the Occupational Hazard and Safety Administration were also on the scene investigating on Monday.

The names of the men have not yet been released, according to a dispatcher with the Martin County Sheriff’s Department. Martin County Sheriff John Woodward, who was on the scene Monday, was unavailable for comment as of press time.

The accident scene, which is about 70 miles east of Odessa, is located northeast of Stanton and just west of Big Spring.

According to the FAA, the helicopter belongs to Haverfield International Inc. out of Gettysburg, Pa.

The men were sub-contractors with Wind Energy Transmission Texas, which has an office in Big Spring but is headquartered in Austin. Wayne Morton, the general manager of WETT, said the investigation into the unfortunate situation will continue. They’re making sure the families are looked after and that safety measures are reviewed.

“We’ve had a good safety record up until now. But we will do a lot of work to reinforce safety values,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board also released via Twitter at 12:45 p.m. that it’s investigating “a helicopter crash in Big Spring.”

Regulator to put in place strict fitness test for flight attendants

Move a part of larger attempt to improve safety standards; crew in India currently have to go through airline-specific tests

New Delhi: Only the fit shall fly appears to be the new motto of India’s civil aviation regulator, which plans to make it mandatory for flight attendants to clear the stringent ICAO Class 2 medical test, as part of a larger attempt to improve safety standards.

Currently, flight attendants in India have to go through airline-specific medical tests. Those seeking to clear the Class 2 test prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations that seeks to facilitate safe and orderly growth of air transport, have to undergo electrocardiography, blood, eye, blood pressure and diabetes tests, besides chest X-rays and assessment of body mass index, said a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official who didn’t want to be named.

Once the tests are in place, it will be mandatory for all airlines. They will have to maintain records and these will be subject to inspection by the regulator.

DGCA requires that pilots serving on Indian airlines need to clear the far tougher ICAO Class 1 test.

Class 1 tests are conducted by specialized medical centres cleared by DGCA, including the Air Force Central Medical Establishment in Delhi and the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Bangalore.

Globally, aviation regulators in countries such as Australia and the UK have mandated the ICAO tests for crew while the US hasn’t done so yet.

The test will be conducted by the airlines themselves, said a the DGCA official. This person added that attendants below the age of 40 will be required to take the test every two years and those over 40, annually. Only those who clear the test can fly, he said, adding that those who are temporarily unfit will be grounded temporarily, and those who are unfit, will not be allowed to fly at all.

A second DGCA official, who also declined to be named, confirmed the move.

A senior Air India executive, who didn’t want to be named, welcomed the move as it would help emphasize safety. Recent medical evaluations of crew members had found several of them suffering from medical disorders and this helped them seek treatment, he said.

An analyst claimed that the move, if implemented, would impact Air India’s senior cabin crew the most. On average, Air India’s flight attendants are older than those of other Indian airlines.
The first DGCA official said that the regulator plans to have the rules for the test in place in the next three months.

India’s airlines with a fleet of 385 aircraft currently have about 10,000 cabin crew.

An executive at a foreign airline welcomed DGCA’s plan.

“People think cabin crew is to serve them liquor,” said this person who asked not to be identified, adding that the real role of a crew is to help during evacuation and ensure safer flights. “The fitter and more motivated crew is, the better the chances that they will be able to assist you when it really is required.”

A fitter crew also sends out the right message about the airline, this person said. “And in general it helps the airline brand and perception tremendously to have a fitter, more healthy, crew,” he added.

Still, the move does appear to be directed at Air India’s attendants, who have previously come under criticism for their appearance.

“The exercise appears to be directed at Air India cabin crew,” said Mohan Ranganathan, a member of the Indian government-appointed air safety council.

It is important to focus on the real issues, according to Ranganathan. “It is not the size or looks that matter, but efficiency and professionalism. That includes training for safety and emergency procedures. In India, it is just an apology. Take the Jet Airways ‘engine fire’ event in Mumbai. The cabin crew muffed it badly,” he said.

In a Mumbai-Chennai flight in 2011, the cabin crew of Jet Airways mistook a flickering red light for a fire in the aircraft’s engine just before take-off. The pilot over-reacted and ordered an emergency evacuation that resulted in injuries to some passengers.

The cabin crew, DGCA said in its finding later, was also to be blamed, besides the captain for not ensuring proper preparation for evacuation and failing to give proper instructions to panic-stricken passengers, leading to chaos inside the aircraft.

Jet Airways did not offer a comment for the story at the time of going to press.

Ranganathan said he feels that the Air India cabin crew labour union will oppose this move.

A spokesman for the Air India’s cabin crew labour union was not available for comment immediately.

And it’s always quite possible that the medical examination process be subverted, Ranganathan he said, and added, “When you see the number of obese pilots who have got away...”


Huntsville International Airport (KHSV) remains most expensive airport in U.S.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Huntsville International Airport once again topped the list as the most expensive airport in the U.S., with fares running about $543 per passenger, according to a 2013 first quarter report by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in the U.S. Department of Transportation. 
The analysis, which is mostly unchanged from the 2012 third- and fourth-quarter BTS reports, shows Huntsville's average airfare is $164 more than the national average of $379. The Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey had the lowest average airfare at $169 per passenger.

The July airfare report marks the third-consecutive quarter Huntsville has ranked No. 1 on a list of airports with the highest domestic average itinerary fares. Other airports topping the list are Cincinnati, Houston, Washington Dulles and Savannah, Ga. 

In June, the Huntsville International Airport unveiled a $6 million incentive program to get airlines to lower fares to prevent local travelers from driving to Birmingham or Nashville, which both have low-cost carriers. Low-cost carrier AirTran left Huntsville  last year after the airline merged with Southwest Airlines.

Port of Huntsville spokeswoman Chantel Minish said the airport recently applied for a $1.5 million grant through the Small Community Air Service Development program with the DoT to help offset startup costs for new and existing carriers and to advertise the airport's incentive program.
Created to help travelers find better fares out of Huntsville, Huntsville Hot Ticket helps thousands of customers each year save on airline costs, Minish said. 

"At least try to compare us because you go somewhere else," she said. "Give us a chance. Low fares can be found if you book in advance and are willing to be more flexible."

Minish said she recently booked a flight out of Huntsville to Dallas 40 days before her trip for $376.80.

"Is it as low as we would like it to be?" Minish asked. "No. But it's significantly lower than the average fare being quoted by the (Bureau of Transportation Statistics in the U.S. Department of Transportation)."

Bill Swelbar, a research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and air travel expert, will visit Huntsville next month. Swelbar recently released a white paper called "Modeling Changes in Connectivity at U.S. Airports: A Small Community Perspective."

Swelbar, who visited with Huntsville business leaders in May, sat down with The Huntsville Times/ during his last visit to discuss ticket costs, the airline industry and challenges that small- to medium-sized airports like Huntsville International Airport face today.

Minish said Swelbar will hold a public forum on the airline industry in Huntsville on Sept. 10. Details on what time and where the meeting will take place have not been announced.

During the July meeting of the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority, officials reported airline passenger traffic in Huntsville declined more than 19 percent in June over the same period last year, resulting in a year-to-date decrease of 16.1 percent below 2012. 

Passenger totals were 8 percent below the projections in the fiscal year 2013 budget. Rail cargo traffic increased 1 percent in June, while air cargo landing weights declined 7.3 percent in May from the previous year. 

The Huntsville International Airport has conducted a market survey and tag analysis at neighboring airports to determine passenger leakage, or drive traffic, which is how many people are driving to other airports.

The tag analysis measures cars in the Huntsville airport's 18-county region that are parked in Birmingham and Nashville. During a non-holiday week, a total of 333 vehicles were parked at airports in Birmingham and Nashville in 2012, which is lower than the 2013 estimate of 370. A combined 455 cars, also lower than 2013's 527-car estimate, were parked at Birmingham and Nashville during spring break, Thanksgiving and Christmas last year.

"We take a sampling of the average number of cars during business weeks and also on peak holiday travel to gauge leisure travel," Minish said. "We have certainly seen this directly related to low fare service at HSV. When AirTran entered the market, drive traffic decreased; and now that AirTran has left the HSV market, drive traffic is on the rise again. Very few communities share the same makeup as HSV in the sense that we're in such close proximity to low fare service from both Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines."


Transport by state police helicopter is virtually free

Your daily Letter to the Columnist — August 5, 2013 

As a licensed helicopter pilot for many years, I read your columns re medical transport flight billing with great interest, however I wonder if you have overlooked another interesting fact:

In Virginia, there are many areas where the state police helicopter operations AND private ops like Air Methods overlap, thus in the event of an accident, the amount a person gets billed is totally dependent on which helicopter arrives at the scene.

Here’s an example: a few years ago there was a large highway accident involving multiple autos and the need for several crash victims to be flown to emergency centers. The victims that were flown using the private carrier, Air Methods, saw huge bills for their transport, yet the victims who flew in the state police helicopter were charged virtually nothing.

This is not an isolated incident, either. If you live in an area that has an overlap in state police helicopter service AND private carriers, it is merely a roll of the dice as to which service you are transported in and thus how much your final costs are.

And trust me, there is pressure applied to the state police to allow the private carriers to handle accident victim flights. Just check into why the state police decided to close their helicopter services at Lynchburg airport AFTER Centra Health signed an agreement to provide private helicopter services to central Virginia, thus locating a private carrier at Lynchburg airport.

These overlaps are very unfair to the general public.  This is a well-known fact among the state police and private carriers and it is very unfair to the general public.

Check it out.  If possible, please keep me anonymous. I know many pilots with the state police and the private carriers.

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Airports Lease Land To Up Revenue

Indiana airports are looking for ways to become self-sustaining, including land leases for commercial use.

Two airports are creating strategies they say will help their bottom lines.

Columbus Municipal Airport does not receive any tax dollars. Originally the Bakalar Airforce base, the airport was deeded over to the city of Columbus in 1972. The deed states the airport needs to remain, as much as possible, self sufficient.

Airport Director Brian Payne says they have more than 80 land leases total.

“This airport is a completely self sufficient entity,” Payne says. “So we actually take no tax dollars to run the Columbus airport what so ever. And the reason we can do that is because of these types of land leases.”

The airport was also given more 2,000 acres of farmland as a way to generate revenue, but with steady inflation over the past three decades, farming just isn’t enough.

Columbus Municipal Airport officials are working on a lease for Iowa based company Bluffstone to build student housing on the property. The land is already home to several universities including IUPUC, Purdue College of Technology, Ivy Tech Community College and Harrison College.

Payne hopes the housing lease will open up more doors for restaurants, coffee shops or retail establishments to open leases on the property.

Columbus is finalizing the land lease now. The housing is set to open in August of 2014.

At Terre Haute International Airport, Executive Director Bill McKown says money from their leases, including one to Indiana State University’s flight academy, is re-invested right back into the airport.

“There’s no real profit per say, but our goal here is to be self-sustaining,” says McKown. “So the more buildings we have and the more smart we do that, then obviously the more revenue will go back into the good upkeep and care of the airport for public use.”

The airports also house state owned property for the Indiana National Guard and the Army, and do not collect lease money from these entities.


Construction Continues at Hays Regional Airport (KHYS)

Construction at the airport hasn’t hurt ticket sales this year. The Hays Regional Airport has been replacing their existing asphalt/concrete runway with an all-concrete runway. Construction is required to be completed by October 28th. 

Airport Manager Bob Johnson told Hays Post that passenger count remains unaffected by the construction. “We had an extremely bad month in February, because of weather mostly in Denver.  That put us a little bit behind.  As of the end of June, we were within 20 passengers of where we were the year prior.  We’re pretty much caught up.  We should not have any problem making 10,000 passengers again this year.”

The Hays Regional Airport currently has a contract with Great Lakes Airlines.  Johnson added that when the contract with the Hays airport came up for bid, the choice was made to stay with Great Lakes because the selected airline needed to be able to land on the Crosswind runway during the entire construction period.  Other airlines that wanted to come in, such as Sky West, couldn’t be used because their aircraft wouldn’t be able to use the Crosswind runway.

Once construction is complete on the new runway, the airport can entertain bids from other airlines, including those with higher-capacity aircraft.  Johnson said that ticket prices for some companies may drop because with a larger capacity they will charge less.  It’s possible that with another airline, the airport could see a jump up to 30 passenger aircraft, or even small jets.  Final ticket prices must fall within a model and guidelines set by the Essential Air Service.

The next time the airport will be up for bid once construction is complete is next March.

The airport plans on hosting a ribbon cutting once the construction is complete.  They will also have helicopter rides so people can see the new runway from the air.  In December, they will host their Christmas celebration with Santa Clause flying in.

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Gulfstream overtakes Bombardier in value of business aircraft shipped in Q2

MONTREAL -- A surge in business aircraft shipments helped Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. to overtake Bombardier as the world's leading business jet manufacturer in terms of value in the second quarter, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

The U.S.-based manufacturer shipped 36 aircraft worth US$1.83 billion in the quarter, compared to 45 planes valued at US$1.59 billion for Bombardier. The value of Gulfstream's shipments doubled from a year earlier when it delivered 21 aircraft. Bombardier shipped one less aircraft this year but the value of planes delivered increased by US$274 million or nearly 18 percent.

Halfway through the year, the value of Gulfstream's aircraft shipments was 7.5 per cent greater than its Canadian rival.

Bombardier shipped 14 Global 5000/600, 11 Challenger 605, 16 Challenger 300 and four Learjet 60XR during the quarter. Gulfstream delivered 30 of its 450/550/650 planes and six smaller 150/280 aircraft.

Overall, the industry association said total worldwide airplane shipments rose 8.9 per cent in the first half of 2013 as billings of various smaller aircraft reached US$10.4 billion, up 26.4 percent from the prior year. It marked the first time that six-month revenues surpassed US$10 billion since 2008.

Shipments of single, twin and piston-engine airplanes increased, but industry business jet deliveries decreased 4.1 percent to 283 planes, from 295 a year ago.

"We are encouraged to see a strong increase in billings this quarter, but the mixed results in shipments -- and the differences in performance among sectors -- demonstrate that general aviation airplane manufacturers still face some strong headwinds as the global economy recovers," stated association president Pete Bunce.

Montreal-based Bombardier shipped 179 aircraft valued at US$5.8 billion in 2012, compared to 94 aircraft valued at US$4.1 billion by Gulfstream.

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Helicopter Pilot School Acquires Robinson R66 Turbine Helicopter

Guidance Aviation acquires Turbine Helicopter as flight training academy begins accepting students to its newest location in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

August 5, 2013, Prescott, Arizona – Guidance Aviation, a leading collegiate helicopter flight training organization with schools in Prescott, Arizona and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has added a Robinson R66 turbine helicopter to its fleet.

“The R66 is powered by a Rolls Royce RR300 and will cruise at 125 kts.; With significantly improved performance at high altitude, the R66 fits nicely into Guidance Aviation’s training regime.; There’s a good chance a number of our graduates may fly this type of aircraft for their first job,” states Dave Roy, Director of Flight Operations.; “The R66 will support our ongoing turbine transition training and of course our high altitude training.”

The R66 turbine helicopter acquisition follows a number of significant developments for Guidance Aviation.; In July of this year, Guidance opened its second flight training operation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.; In partnership with Baton Rouge Community College, the Louisiana program is now the first and only collegiate helicopter pilot school based in State through which students can become Certified Flight Instructors – Instrument (CFI-I) and earn their Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree.; Additionally, Guidance Aviation’s President and CEO, John Stonecipher, was awarded the prestigious Person of The Year Award during the 50th;Annual Small Business Week by the National Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C. in June of this year.

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Rudy Setyopurnomo Fired After One Year as CEO By Financially-Troubled Merpati Nusantara Airline

Rudy Setyopurnomo, recently dismissed as CEO of state-owned PT Merpati Nusantara Airlines, has told the State News Agency Antara that he has accepted his dismissal and will no longer dedicate his energies to the air carrier. 
“I accept the decision of the shareholders. If, indeed, Mr. Dahlan (the Minister of State Owned Companies) has decided this, so be it, I accept the decision,” said Setyopurnomo.

He told the press that the change in directors at the airline that has left him jobless is not a major matter. He was formally advised of his dismissal on Monday, July 29, 2013.

Rudy Setyopurnomo was appointed to head Merpati on May 11, 2012, a position he held for slightly more than one year before being fired.

The decision by the Minister of State Owned Enterprises (BUMN) replaced Rudy with Captain Asep Ekanugraha.

Rudy said he hoped the change in management at Merpati would take place in a peaceful atmosphere. “I want things to go smoothly, there should be no fuss,” said the former CEO.

Setyopurnomo, accepting his retrenchment, said it was time for younger people to take control of the Airline.

“I have passed on my knowledge and good example to the employees of Merpati so they can run the company in the future,” said Rudy.

Separately, the BUMN Minister Dahlan Iskan announced that the dismissal of Rudy Setyopurnomo as the CEO of Merpati was the result of joint decision reached in a meeting between the government and the PT Perusahaan Pengelola Aset (PPA-Asset Management Agency).

Iskan said that based on the recommendation of PPA, who is in charge of the airline’s restructuring, he signed the termination notification for Rudy Setyopurnomo.

“Whoever is the CEO of Merpati doesn't matter,” said Dahlan. “What’s important is the restructuring, sothe Company’s debt can be accomplished.

When addressing the airline’s debt, Dahlan said he favored an approach of converting debt to equity.

Current calculations put Merpati’s debt to several companies at Rp. 6.5 trillion (US$650 million). Among the companies owed money by Merpati are PT Pertamina (fuel), PT Angkasa Pura I and II (airport fees) and PT PPA.

Merpati also has subsidiary loan agreements in place to the government, plus other debts due to airplane lessors.

“I have just learned that Merpati’s debts have reached Rp. 6.5 trillion, in fact, a short time ago the debt was only Rp. 6 trillion,” said Dahlan.

San Luis County Regional Airport (KSBP) manager to take off from role

Richard Howell, who has occupied the facility’s top post since 2008, oversaw a tough time for air travel 

As the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport moves forward with its plans for a new $25 million terminal and continues to strive for a route to Denver, Richard Howell has announced that he will step down next month as airport manager.

Howell, who took the airport’s top job in September 2008, said Friday he’s stepping down for personal reasons. While he does not have a job lined up, Howell, who vied for a similar job in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 2010, said he and his wife plan to move to the East.

“Most of our family and friends are back there,” he said.

Succeeding Klaasje Nairne, who had been at the airport for 19 years, Howell came to San Luis Obispo in the midst of a recession that hit the airline industry hard.

“When the price of oil hit $150 a barrel, the airline industry had no idea what it was going to do,” he said.

Because of the rising costs, Delta Connection pulled out of the airport just days before Howell took over, and American Eagle departed a couple of months later.

Meanwhile, higher fuel prices resulted in high ticket prices that caused passenger activity to plummet. In fall 2008, the airport experienced a 38 percent reduction in seat capacity.

“That was a big shot to the airport’s budget,” Howell said.

Despite that, the airport bounced back. And while some communities lost all of their airline service during that time, by mid-2010, the San Luis Obispo airport had recovered nearly 90 percent of its passengers, Howell said.

“I know he fought a good fight for us here,” said Bruce Gibson, the chairman of the county Board of Supervisors. Gibson said he was surprised by Howell’s announcement.

The supervisors will now recruit a successor, Gibson said.

“It’s a particularly challenging job in this economy,” he said, noting that the airport is important to local businesses and tourism.

While business leaders have pushed for an expansion of the airport, plans developed during Nairne’s tenure were scaled back during Howell’s leadership by a cautious Board of Supervisors because of budget concerns. While much of the new terminal would be funded with federal government grants, Gibson said data show that a new terminal alone won’t necessarily boost the airport’s finances.

“We’re not going to throw a ton of money at it to build the Taj Mahal,” he said. “The board is concerned that we make good investments.”

The expansion — which will ultimately require approval from the supervisors — is still in the design phase, and there has been no date set for completion.

Meanwhile, the airport continues to push for a route to Denver. Currently, its two airlines, US Airways and United, offer trips to Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco.

Howell, who graduated from high school in Santa Barbara and attended college in Florida, has worked for numerous airports throughout the country, with stops in Waco, Texas, Colorado Springs and Albany, Ga.

His last day will be Sept. 27.

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Tales from the Morgue: Seven killed in Biggs plane crash

12 DEC 1953 - Law officers' cars and those of spectators cram the entrance to Crazy Cat Canyon on the west slope of Mt. Franklin, though the site was several miles south from the scene of the B-36 crash. From the canyon a steep, twisting jeep road leads up to the KROD-TV tower atop the mountain. In the background may be seen the Rim Crest home of R.L. Zeigler.

By Trish Long / El Paso Times 

Posted:   08/04/2013 03:05:59 PM MDT


While researching the cause of death for Lt. Benjamin C. Fricke, I stumbled across the El Paso Times website, which had a recollected history of the March 23, 1944, crash in which he died.

Benjamin is actually buried in the MRE Cemetery in Berne, Ind., where I am emailing you from. Would you have access to a news article describing the crash? I would like to put it into a notebook project remembering the individuals from Adams County, Ind., who died in World War II.


Shana Neuenschwander

Berne Public Library

Thanks, Shana -- what a great project. The crash occurred just before midnight on the 23rd. This was the third crash of a plane from Biggs Field in a week, with a total of 26 people killed.

The crash was report on March 24, 1944:

"Seven Biggs Field fliers were killed at 10:45 o'clock last night when a B-24 Bomber crashed on Mt. Franklin.

"The crash was approximately half way up the mountain opposite Memphis street.

"When the bomber hit the mountain there was a sound like that of a great explosion far in the distance. Windows in a wide area shook and residents were awakened.

Plane burst into flames that rose as high as 100 feet, lighting Northeast El Paso brightly. People rushed outdoors. Scores of automobiles speeded to the mountain road below the plane wreckage, which was flaming over a wide area. It was easy to see that all in the plane must be dead; that there could be no escape from so great a fire.


1st Lieut. Lyle R. Jensen, whose wife is in El Paso, and whose father is A.L. Jensen, Big Springs, Neb.

2nd Lieut. Robert Spears, son of Mrs. Robert G. Spears, Indianapolis, Ind.

2nd Lieut. Donald B. Harris, son of Mrs. Lillian B. Harris, Deming.

Sgt. Richard I. Stoney, son of Henry H. Stoney, Stoneham, Mass.

Sgt. William T. Hinston, son of Henry J. Hinston, Norwood, N.C.

Sgt. John H. House, son of Mrs. Linda O. House, Black River, N.Y.

"The Fire department answered scores of calls. Fire engines rumbled to the mountain road, with sirens screaming. Army Forces appeared, including the Biggs Field crash crew and members of the Medical Corps. They found the roads blocked by civilian vehicles. Police directed traffic.

"The plane burned brightly for about 15 minutes. Then flames slowly died. Within an hour there was only a glow here and there. Then darkness hid the wreckage.

"It was a tough climb up the mountain for the Army crews. The crash occurred behind a canyon that lies back of the Austin High School 'A.'

"Identity of the fliers was not established until daylight.

"Biggs Field officials are investigating.

"The plane crashed following a takeoff from Biggs Field. Whether it failed to gain altitude, or whether it dived down for some reason after gaining enough altitude to clear the mountain. Biggs Field officials would not say. Causes of crashes are military secrets.

"No one was found who saw the plane crashing.

"'It hit and there it was, a mass of flames,' said one investigator.

"Today the mountain was marked by two black lines where the plane had burned.

"It was the third crash of a Biggs Field plane in a week. Dead in the three accidents total 26."

Trish Long is the El Paso Times' archivist and spends her time in the morgue, where the newspaper keeps its old clippings and photos. If you want to know about El Paso's history, send Trish an email at

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Airline pilot returns to skies after surgery on spine

A pilot who feared his career was over after a serious spinal injury is now back in the skies thanks to life-changing surgery.

Commercial airline pilot Jonathan Parker, a former RAF fighter pilot, suffered three slipped discs in his neck after an accident in May 2012.

He feared he would lose his job as his injuries left him in agony and unable to use his left arm.

But surgeons at Leeds Spire Hospital spent two hours operating on his spine in June last year and now, after intensive physiotherapy, he has passed the flying fitness tests and returned to his job. Father-of-two Jonathan, of Allerton Bywater, near Castleford, said: “I was devastated to think that my career might be over. As an airline pilot and a father, it was crucial that I find immediate treatment so I could return to a normal life and resume my career.”

Consultant neurosurgeon Deb Pal said: “The prolapsed discs were compressing the nerves as well as his spinal cord. Left alone, it would likely have continued to deteriorate. “Jonathan’s lifestyle was hugely affected and most importantly he had stopped flying in his capacity as a pilot.”

Surgery involved reaching the slipped discs from the front of his neck. They were removed and a cage packed with bone graft was placed in the empty disc space. Mr Pal said he was delighted with the results: “I chose this particular procedure as the pressure on the nerves and spinal cord was in the front and therefore the approach needed to be from the front. I was confident that his arm pain would improve immediately following surgery.”

Jonathan said: “The combination of great surgery and physiotherapy meant I was back at work after just two months. At the age of 49 I could not have healed like that without the intervention of these two treatments.”

Story and Photo:
Jonathan Parker with his two children, John and Molly

Philippine Airlines expects delivery of new planes this week

MANILA, Phillippines - Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is looking at the delivery of new aircraft this week to support its aggressive refleeting program, an airline official said on Monday.

The arrival of new planes are set on Thursday this week, the official said.

PAL currently has three Boeing 777-300ERs, five Boeing 747-400s, four Airbus A340-300s, eight Airbus A330-300s, 16 Airbus A320-200 and four Airbus 319-100s.

A year ago, PAL entered into a $7-billion contract with EADS Group for the acquisition of 54 Airbus aircraft which includes 34 A321ceo, 10 A321neo and 10 A330-300s and another $2.5 billion to exercise an option to acquire 10 more A330 aircraft last September.


Discount Carrier JetBlue Goes Upmarket: New Premium Class on Transcontinental Flights Will Have Lie-Flat Beds, Suites

August 4, 2013, 4:08 p.m. ET
The Wall Street Journal

JetBlue Airways Corp.'s plans to add premium seats on some of its planes marks a major shift for the discount carrier, which aims to stay relevant against resurgent full-service behemoths and new ultra low-cost carriers.

On Monday JetBlue will provide details about the new seats, which will be located in the front of the plane, and convert into lie-flat beds. Some are walled off from the aisle by sliding doors, in what JetBlue calls "suites." Passengers opting for premium seats will receive hot meals and free alcoholic drinks.

JetBlue hopes to attract leisure travelers with premium seats.

The new seats will become available next spring, initially on flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco from New York, the two busiest and most-lucrative routes in the U.S. and ones where JetBlue's largest competitors already offer rarefied cabin service.

The move upmarket is a departure for the self-proclaimed "egalitarian" airline, launched in 2000, which won early success with a cheap-chic approach offering all-coach cabins, low fares and free DirecTV at every seat back.

"It's a big change for us culturally," said Scott Laurence, JetBlue's vice president of network planning.

The new seats are an admission that JetBlue has been missing out on the most profitable part of the market—premium seats—although it said it holds its own in revenue on a coach-class comparison with larger rivals.

Competitors routinely charge $4,000 or more for a round-trip ticket on the New York routes to L.A. and San Francisco in their first- and business-class cabins, heavily used by wealthy jet-setters from the banking, entertainment and tech industries. JetBlue's lowest coach fare on the two routes currently is about $665 to $700 round-trip.

JetBlue thinks it can attract small-business owners and leisure travelers with premium seats that are priced somewhere in between.

Executives wouldn't say what they'll charge, except that the price will be at a "significant reduction" from the competition. If it succeeds, JetBlue could expand the strategy to other routes, they said.

The move reflects JetBlue's need to adjust to radical changes in the industry that have made it a financial laggard, even though it routinely wins passenger awards and has a strong brand identity. Big airlines have lowered their costs through bankruptcies, merged and begun reinvesting in their products, targeting elite fliers but also shoring up service in their coach cabins. A new generation of super-discounters like Spirit Airlines Inc. has emerged, going after passengers who don't care about perks and want the lowest possible fares. JetBlue doesn't fall into either category.

"With returns improving at both the upper and lower end of the industry, the burden remains on JetBlue to prove it can achieve similar financial results in a different way," Barclays airline analyst David Fintzen said in a recent note.

The New York-based airline has recovered from big stumbles that caused it to lose money in the middle of the last decade. After cutting back its breakneck expansion and changing CEOs, it has been profitable since 2009—but only marginally so. Its 2012 net income of $128 million on nearly $5 billion of revenue was only slightly more than the $104 million it earned in 2003—when revenue was just under $1 billion.

JetBlue last week reported second-quarter profit that missed estimates, with a decline in operating margin that J.P. Morgan airline analyst Jamie Baker said was the worst of any U.S. airline he follows. JetBlue's market capitalization of $1.9 billion is smaller than most U.S. rivals—including Spirit, which has a market value of $2.6 billion with less than a third as many planes. JetBlue's stock, which surged to $45 a share after its 2002 initial public offering, finished at $6.50 on the Nasdaq Stock Market on Friday.

JetBlue has tweaked its model over the years, in many ways becoming more like a legacy carrier. It added a frequent-flier plan, began overseas flights to the Caribbean and northern Latin America, added rows of coach seats with more legroom that are sold for higher fares and instituted a fee for the second checked bag.

Discussing the new premium seats, Robin Hayes, an executive vice president at JetBlue said, some passengers want "a better experience than the coach experience when flying across the country. It's not a market JetBlue serves today."

Based on seat capacity scheduled in August, JetBlue has 14% of the seats from New York's Kennedy Airport to Los Angeles, fourth behind AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc., and United Continental Holdings Inc. From JFK to San Francisco, JetBlue ranks fifth in capacity, according to market-research firm Innovata LLC.

JetBlue intends to start the experiment on some of 30 new Airbus A321 planes entering its fleet this fall. That model is a larger version of the 150-seat A320 plane that is the mainstay of its 186-aircraft fleet.

Eleven of the new planes will be outfitted with the luxury cabin, with 16 seats in the front. Twelve of those 16 seats will be in the traditional two-by-two layout. The other four will be alone, shielded by the sliding privacy doors. The seats will recline into flat beds measuring 6'8", have a massage feature and can be adjusted for firmness. Unlike JetBlue's current passengers, these customers will receive meals and toiletry kits and their DirecTV screens will be a larger 15", have 100 channels and touch screens.

Mr. Hayes said that JetBlue isn't abandoning its "core" audience: leisure fliers in coach. The company said it also plans to install new seats, faster Wi-Fi, larger TV screens and new carpeting in coach cabins on most of its fleet.