Sunday, September 08, 2013

Commissioners to take up airport management lease after death of airport manager: Aztec Municipal (N19), New Mexico

When Aztec City Commissioners assemble Tuesday, they will address management of the city’s airport.

Operations at the Aztec Municipal Airport fell into question after the death of the former airport manager, Mike Arnold Sr.

Arnold, a past Aztec mayor, was killed in May when his single-engine plane crashed at the Aztec airport. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 62.

Since then, his wife, Pat Arnold, and son, Mike Arnold Jr., have continued day-to-day operations at the airport.

The city has attempted to find a permanent replacement, but suitable candidates have yet to be found. Until one is found, the Arnold family will continue to oversee the airport.

“(The family) would like to maintain the airport for one more year, and then they do not want to manage it any longer,” said Aztec City Manager Josh Ray. “The city will have to find a long-term manager after that. We will work through the year to see who is interested (in filling the position).”

The management lease expires on Sept. 20. An extension of the management contract with the Arnolds will be voted on at Tuesday’s commission meeting. An extension would give the city until September 2014 to fill the management position.

“The lease was up for renewal anyways,” said Mike Arnold Jr. “My mom is going to be the lessee, and I’m going to help in an assistant manager capacity.”

Mike Arnold Jr., a former commercial pilot, insisted operations at the airport are going on as normal. In spring 2014, he said there will be an asphalt overlay project to improve ground conditions for aircraft.

He said he still uses the airport and takes out one of his father’s prized planes, a Cessna.

“It’s still flying,” he said of the plane. “Things are rolling along.”


What: Aztec City Commission meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday. Meetings are typically on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

Where: City Hall, 201 W. Chaco St. Aztec

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash that killed Mike Arnold Sr.

A preliminary report found that his amateur built Peck Norman O Peck P-1 single-engine airplane was destroyed after it hit the ground during takeoff on May 18.

According to the report, Mike Arnold Sr. purchased the plane about six months before the accident. Investigators spoke to a person who told them Mike Arnold Sr. had complained several days before the crash that fuel had been pooling onto the floor of the cockpit.

A witness to the crash stated that just after the plane became airborne, it “impacted a berm on the right side of the runway, spun 180 degrees and caught fire,” according to the report.
The report found that weather was not a factor, and no flight plan was filed.
The preliminary report is the first in a series of reports the NTSB releases following an aviation accidents. 

The factual and final reports on Mike Arnold Sr.’s crash have yet to be released.

Original Article:

3 rescued from Alaska volcano after ice covered helicopter blades

Two researchers and their pilot were rescued Friday from an Alaska volcano after their helicopter's blades were covered in ice by freezing rain, stranding the trio.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters told The Associated Press the three were rescued at about 5 p.m. Friday. The freezing rainstorm started Wednesday evening, and the bad weather prevented an earlier rescue.

Pilot Sam Egli, United States Geological Survey geophysicist John Paskievitch, and University of Alaska-Fairbanks researcher Taryn Lopez were unscathed.

Asked how they passed the time for more than two days, Egli said they remained in the helicopter and "just yakked."

"There wasn't anything to do," he told the AP. "We work together, we've got things in common, so we just talked about that."

The researchers were working on recovering short-term volcano-monitoring equipment, the AP reported.

When freezing rain iced over the helicopter's blades, the three became stranded.

"We were unable to produce enough lift to take off at that point," Egli said, according to the AP. "The weather didn't clear up after that."

A rescue helicopter airlifted the trio to safety Friday, but the iced-over chopper was left behind on Mount Mageik, the AP said.

Original Story, Photos and Comments/Reaction:

Opinion/Letter: General aviation critical to success of Bemidji Regional Airport (KBJI), Minnesota

September 7, 2013 - 9:38pm
Bemidji Pioneer

On a recent Bemidji visit, I attended the monthly meeting of the Bemidji Regional Airport Authority. I was encouraged to hear board members working to expand travel opportunities for Bemidji residents on the airlines, along with future opportunities for charter travel. These arrangements, along with infrastructure improvements, will help put Bemidji on the map as a travel hub for northern Minnesota. While the general public readily identifies with airline travel as the primary aviation activity at the airport, I feel it's important to identify the importance of General Aviation to the continued livelihood and relevance of your local airport. 

For the uninitiated, General Aviation is aviation activity other than military or airlines. So this includes Bemidji Aviation flying air freight and charter flights, local EAA and Civil Air Patrol members serving the community with their aircraft, or private aircraft owners flying to Bemidji Regional Airport to visit the many attractions in the area. Also, local flight students and visiting UND flight students are taking flying lessons in single-engine GA aircraft.

While airlines receive the most attention at airports, most of our future airline pilots and mechanics will get their start in General Aviation. As a pilot for a major airline, my career was sparked by visits to the airport to observe GA activity. I later joined the Civil Air Patrol. When in flight training in the Air Force, I had a leg up from flying lessons taken from instructors at the Nary and Bemidji airports. These were local pilots who live and work in your local community. My brother, who established an aviation business in Bemidji, began his aviation career in high school, maintaining GA aircraft as a mechanic at the Bemidji airport.

Unfortunately, there has been a decline in GA business throughout the country in recent years, in some cases due lack of support of General Aviation by airport authorities. I am concerned this trend could have negative implications for the aviation industry, and ultimately, the viability of your local airport. Unless new hangars are built and new aviation businesses are welcomed, General Aviation can't flourish, and long-term ramifications will be felt throughout the industry, from major airlines on down to local small business. Hopefully your airport leadership has the continued foresight and vision to support General Aviation at the local airport and continues to ensure Bemidji remains an important commerce and transportation hub for North Central Minnesota.

Shawn Hokuf

St. Paul

Original Article:

Construction at Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN) set to shut down Frontier flights for two months

EWING — Frontier Airlines tomorrow will fly its last jet out of Trenton-Mercer Airport for two months, as Mercer County begins construction on the airport’s runway, terminal and parking lots.

The airline is suspending flights from Sept. 9 through Nov. 7 because the work will temporarily make the main runway too short for Frontier’s A319 jets, County Executive Brian Hughes said.

Hughes said the two-month period is one of the slowest times of the year for Frontier, as summer vacations subside. The airline will restart in time to see traffic pick up with people flying south during the colder weather, he said.

“I’m feeling very positive about them coming back in the fall and us being able to re-energize the market,” he said.

Hughes said he and other county officials recently met with Frontier CEO David Siegel to discuss the future of the airline at Trenton-Mercer.

“He seemed to be very high on the airport and the area,” he said.

Hughes said Frontier officials told him Trenton-Mercer had strong passenger rates for its first year. He believes Frontier may be interested in expanding its presence in the future by adding more destinations and increasing the number of flights to and from existing destinations, he said.

While Frontier is reportedly being sold by parent company Republic Airways Holdings, Hughes has said the partnership with Mercer County will continue to be successful regardless of the airline’s owner, and the county’s investment in the airport will pay off.

Hughes said he is optimistic that the three parts of the construction project will be completed by November. Frontier already is selling tickets for flights out of the airport on Nov. 8, according to the airline’s website.

The county executive said the runway is the most important part because it is necessary for flights to operate. At the end of the main runway, crews will install an Engineered Material Arresting System or EMAS, an area of specially designed crushable concrete blocks that stops runaway planes. The FAA is requiring the county to install the system.

The next most important component to finish before Nov. 8 is the terminal, because of its large impact on customers, Hughes said.

“What we’re trying to do is make it a better passenger experience,” he said.

Currently passengers enter the airport and have to carry their bags down an escalator or a flight of stairs. The changes to the terminal will allow passengers to check their bags when they get their boarding passes on the entrance floor, Hughes said.

The construction also will affect the terminal’s holding area, where passengers wait for flights after going through security. The holding area has no restrooms, so anyone who needs to use the restroom while waiting must leave the secured area and go through a second security check, Hughes said.

After construction the terminal will have two holding areas, with restrooms, so passengers waiting for different flights may be separated, he said.

The only portion of the construction that Hughes was not entirely confident will be completed on time is the parking lots. While they will be available to use, it is unclear whether enforcement of new parking fees will be set up from the start, he said. Currently parking is free.

After debating with the county freeholders in June over how much motorists should pay to park, Hughes proposed a compromise last month that the board passed. If approved in a second vote, motorists could pay between $4 and $10 as a daily rate, and $2 an hour for short-term parking. Hughes said at one meeting that the daily rate would likely be set initially at $5.

If the paid parking system is not ready by the time Frontier resumes flights, it will be up and running soon after, Hughes said.

Original Article and Comments/Reaction:

Streetwise: A chance to reacquaint yourself with Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH), Oshkosh, Wisconsin

During our decade here in Oshkosh, Streetwise has heard more than a little bit of pessimism about Wittman Regional Airport’s economic impact outside of AirVenture.
There’s a lot more going on at Wittman than just the Experimental Aircraft Association and EAA Chapter 252, based at the airport, wants to showcase it whilst feeding you, too.

The group has teamed up with airport businesses to host Wittman Airport Expo Day from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at the airport’s terminal building, 525 W. 20th Ave.

Aviation businesses and organizations will have informational booths set up and a pancake breakfast will be served. Volunteer pilots also will be giving children ages 8-17 a free airplane ride from 9 to 11 a.m. and will talk about how aircraft work.

Breakfast will cost $3 for children under the age of 10 and $7 for adults. Otherwise, the event is free, so stop by and take a look at all that happens at Wittman. If you have more questions, email the chapter at

Original Article:

Behind the C-17: Building the plane has been the work of families, friends

Posted: 09/07/13, 4:39 PM PDT 

 By Karen Robes Meeks, Long Beach Press Telegram

For those who don’t know Steve and Scott Hackman, it’s hard to tell who’s who unless you know who does what.

The longtime employees and identical twins work in the wing department, where Steve Hackman, a mechanic, drills thousands of rivets and fasteners into the plane and younger brother Scott Hackman — younger by five minutes — inspects that work.

“Everything has to be just right,” said Scott Hackman, lining up a small measuring tool against some of the 44,000 bolts, rivets and other parts on the plane.

“I don’t cut him any slack, and anything I find, he fixes, just like anybody else would,” the younger brother said. “He’s a really good mechanic. He’s one of my favorites. Not because he’s my identical twin brother, but I have a nice work ethic and so does he. It’s a genetic thing, you know.”

The Hackmans came to work for Boeing because their father worked here, as did their mother, aunt and uncle.

“Our dad gave us the applications, we both filled them out, we both handed them in, we both got called into the employment office together, we took the test and got hired on the same day,” Scott Hackman said. “My badge number was one different than his.”

Like the Hackmans, many graduates from Millikan High School came to work at the Long Beach plant.

“I think the reason why it’s close-knit is because every single day I come in — I’ve been here 33 years — and I see the same people every day,” Steve Hackman said. “The same guys go to the gym. I mean, you see them at the lunch truck, go in and out, it’s a family. You spend more time here than you do at home. ... When you work together like that you basically become like family.”

The twins are pretty inseparable. They are on the phone with each other on their way to work. (Before cellphones, they talked on two-way radios with linear amplifiers on their commute.) They walk in together, go to the gym at lunchtime together and chat during breaks.

“We’re best friends,” Scott Hackman said.

All in the family

Garrett Eddington, who works in fire services for Boeing, remembers being a 6-year-old sitting on the hood of a red 1965 Ford pickup at the end of the runway near his Long Beach home, watching the first C-17 Globemaster III fly out of the plant nearly 22 years ago.

“It’s something I’d never seen before,” said Eddington, 28, a third-generation Boeing employee. “It’s a C-17. It’s what my dad built.”

The three generations of Eddingtons tied to Long Beach and this company started with his grandfather, Robert Eddington, a machinist who worked on commercial planes for 39 years. His father, Gary Eddington, is a supervisor on the C-17 who started at the company on the commercial side in 1979.

“I’ve got friends here that I went to high school with,” said Gary Eddington, 55. “Some of us grew up on the same block, went to the same high school and we’re all still working here.”

He remembers when there was more than 40,000 people working there.

“When I was first hired here, we used to take trams … that pulled us all the way into the buildings because you couldn’t find a parking spot.”

He said working on the C-17 has been a blessing.

“It’s been fun. It’s been great for me, great for my family,” said Gary Eddington, adding that his job has afforded him the ability to put his three children through college. “They’ve all got college degrees and have full-time jobs. ...

“I’ll be here until they close the doors myself. I’m not quite old enough to retire yet.”

Star power

Over the years, customer relations manager Lynne Jungers has seen many high-ranking officials, presidents and dignitaries come to the Long Beach plant to see the military jet.

But perhaps the most celebrated visit was that of the late Bob Hope, who came to Long Beach in 1997 for the naming of C-17 Globemaster III No. 31, “The Spirit of Bob Hope.”

She remembered the legendary comedian sitting in a Jeep, wearing a C-17 jacket and hat.

“He was very frail until you put the microphone in his hand,” she said. “If you didn’t look at him to realize how elderly he was, you’d have thought this was Bob Hope in Vietnam talking to the troops. I mean, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’”

Jungers said it reminded her of being at a ballgame watching a player retire his number.

“It chokes you up,” she said. “He got a bigger reaction than any general. He got a bigger reception than President Clinton by far. This is a great American. I will always remember this day.”

Flying high

For seven of the 28 years he has worked at Boeing, aircraft mechanic Willie White commuted from Perris in Riverside County to Long Beach by plane.

He and eight others took two private airplanes they chartered themselves to and from Riverside and Long Beach, flying up and over the grueling rush hour traffic.

“That’s been the highlight, to be able to fly in an airplane into your work on an airplane and fly back home,” said White, who now lives in Anaheim and drives to Boeing in Long Beach. “We’d clock out of here at 2:30, get in the plane and fly 70 miles and get in our home by 3:25 on a Friday.”

He racked up more than 1,000 hours of flying during his seven-year commute to and from Long Beach.

“That’s love,” he said.

A life’s work

When Nancy Wrobleski was recruited out of college by McDonnell Douglas in 1985, she thought she’d spend a couple of years in Long Beach before moving back to her native Wisconsin.

That was 28 years ago.

“I’ve been on the C-17 program my whole career, and I absolutely love it,” she said.

She and her team provide field support for the C-17, ensuring that the more than 1,000 engines in the fleet are in good health.

The propulsion engineering manager spoke about the passion of longtime workers who mentored her.

“Everyone is so proud of this plane,” she said. “Every time it takes off, people get chills. After that many years, you still really feel this way.”

Original Article and Photo Gallery:

Beechcraft 1900C-1, Regional Air, N413CM: Accident occurred February 28, 2013 at Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS/MYNN), Nassau, New Providence

MILFORD - A widow in Milford is demanding to know exactly how her husband died six months after he was crushed while inspecting an aircraft.

Mae Charron says her husband, Ray, was killed in the Bahamas in February while inspecting a 1900 Beechcraft when the landing gear somehow failed.

Charron says that her husband was an aviation mechanic who served in the army for more than 10 years. She says he would not put himself in a dangerous situation.

She says local authorities investigated the case, but their final reports were inconclusive.

She is now raising money to pay for an independent investigation, which she hopes will provide the first true account of how her husband died. Her efforts have also won the support of Sen. Richard Blumenthal and his staff of federal investigators.

Story, Video and Comments/Reaction:


Emergency Drill Held at Southeast Iowa Regional Airport (KBRL), Burlington, Iowa

If you saw fire trucks rushing to the Southeast Iowa Regional Airport on Saturday morning, there's no need to be alarmed.

It was only a drill.

Organized by the Burlington Fire Department and the Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency, this full-scale exercise simulated a plane crash with multiple victims.

A number of local agencies took part in the drill. They said it was an important opportunity for everyone to train together to be at their best in an emergency situation.

The more we can get the community involved in drills and surrounding communities in things such as this, the more important it is," Burlington Fire Chief Kenneth Morris said. "We're all going to have to work together in an actually emergency and this is the best way for us to prepare."

Crews say they hope to have more emergency drills in the near future.

They also hope to simulate scenarios that deal with chemical warfare and hazardous materials, because of what's happening in Syria.

Story and Video:

Blue Earth Municipal (KSBU) ready to celebrate $6 million project: Ribbon cutting ceremony Sunday, September 15, for airport runway

It took a couple of years to complete, cost over $6 million, and was somewhat controversial when it was being planned.

But, now that the new runway at the Blue Earth Municipal Airport is open for airplane traffic, the city wants to celebrate.

On Sunday, Sept. 15, there will be a Fly-in/Drive-in Lunch and Grand Reopening Ribbon Cutting at the airport.

The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include a program along with the official ribbon cutting ceremony.

"We have invited several of our federal and state representatives and officials to attend," city administrator Kathy Bailey says. "So far, though, we are not sure who will be here."

The same goes for the number of planes that could come that day.

"It depends on the weather," says Barb Steier, who along with husband Tim Steier, manages the airport for the city. "The least we have ever had for one of these fly-ins is five planes. The most was over 100."

Plus, it is a drive-in event, meaning those who want to come attend the festivities don't have to arrive in a plane.

"We are hoping for a good turnout of our local residents," says Steier. "We also expect those from the surrounding area will be coming as well."

The Blue Earth Eagles Club Aerie No. 4486 is hosting the lunch of pork patty sandwiches, beans, chips, sweetcorn and beverages. Cost of the meal is $7 or $9 for two sandwiches. Children six and under meals are $3.50.

Proceeds of the meal go to the Eagles Club.

The new Blue Earth Airport runway has actually been open and in use for nearly a year.

"The project was actually done in three parts," says Bailey. "Last fall we wrapped up the final stage and the runway was actually open before that."

The project included a new taxiway as the first stage, which was completed two years ago.

That taxiway, when completed, became the temporary runway while the actual runway was being totally reconstructed as the second stage last year.

Stage three was the extension of the apron area around the hangers and other airport buildings. The new runway was open during that phase.

While the overall project had a cost of $6.4 million, the city of Blue Earth's share was $325,000.

The rest of the costs were borne by both the Federal Aviation Authority and the State of Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Much of the funding for the runway comes from the tax on airline tickets and fuel.

Even the city's share is being somewhat covered by money the city receives each year for airport upkeep and expense.

The grand reopening and ribbon cutting at the airport will be held on Sept. 15 rain or shine, says Steier.

"But, we are hoping for a nice, beautiful sunny day," Steier quickly adds.

Original Article:

Airport property reopens for archery, permits by lottery: Pittsburgh International (KPIT), Pennsylvania

In October, select hunters will be readmitted to some 2,000 acres of rolling suburban forest land in Findlay that has been posted for five years. 

Last week, the Allegheny County Airport Authority announced the launch of an archery-only hunt on roughly 2,362 acres of county land leased by Pittsburgh International Airport. The land had been open to hunting until 2008, when it was posted by the airport authority.

A lottery will be used to pick 157 archers who will be issued special hunting and parking permits needed for access during the Oct. 5-Jan. 11 hunt. Also required: a general hunting license, archery permit and, if desired, doe tags for Wildlife Management Unit 2A. Archery only. State hunting regulations apply.

Access will continue to be denied on some 7,000 acres of county-owned land adjacent to the airport between U.S. Route 376 and U.S. Route 376 Business.

Archery hunting will be permitted on 685 acres between Route 376 and Campmeeting Road and from Hookstown Grade Road south to Clinton Road; 321 acres between Route 376 and U.S. Route 30 and from Clinton Road south to U.S. Route 576, including lands surrounding part of Montour Trail; and 1,358 acres betweenRoutes 376 and 30 and from Rotue 576 south to Imperial.

The limited reopening of county lands to hunting followed pressure from state Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Moon, and state Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, a member of the airport authority.

Find complete lottery rules and an application at   Applications will be accepted through Sept. 22, with the drawing Sept. 25.

Original Article:

Work on runway expected to start this month: Marshfield Municipal Airport (KGHG), Massachusetts

Runway reconstruction at Marshfield Airport is expected to begin this month after a 12-year planning process, now that a Federal Aviation Administration grant of $11.3 million has been approved to fund the bulk of the work.

The entire runway will be moved about 190 feet southwest to reduce its effect on the adjacent Bass Creek wetland, airport manager David Dinneen said. The new runway will be 300 feet longer than the existing one, and will be widened to 100 feet from 75.

Other airfields south of Boston are also making plans to improve or have made improvements recently, including a new hangar that opened July 1 at Cranland Airport in Hanson and reconstruction of taxiways at Norwood Memorial Airport.

Mansfield Municipal Airport aims to replace its terminal within two years, if the project can win state funding. And at Plymouth Municipal Airport, a runway extension project is in the permitting phase for construction expected to start in 18 to 30 months.

The Marshfield Airport, like other general aviation airports, supports a mix of uses, including recreational, corporate, and medical flights, flight instruction, and search and rescue. The airport’s aviation company, Shoreline Aviation, can have a plane in the air within 10 minutes to aid rescue operations for a boat accident or missing child, Dinneen said.

The runway extension at the airport’s George D. Harlow Field is designed to make the runway safer and bring it into compliance with FAA standards, he said. It has not been rebuilt since its construction in 1968; the airfield’s last upgrade was the paving of the taxiway in 1972, he said.

Lighting and navigation systems will be replaced as well. Energy-efficient LED lights will be used for the taxiways, but not the runway, because they are not approved by the FAA for that purpose, he said.

The cost of engineering and construction is about $15 million; the airport anticipates receiving just over $13 million from the FAA. The $11.3 million announced last week by US Representative William Keating is likely to be supplemented with additional funds to reach $13 million, Dinneen said. Marshfield is contributing $200,000, and other funding will come from the state.

“Everybody is really excited, because it has been such a long process,” he said.

Earlier this summer, Norwood Memorial Airport reconstructed three taxiways, and the airport has received an FAA grant of $1,075,000 to reconstruct the remaining three. For the new project, the FAA will pay 90 percent, the state Department of Transportation 7.5 percent, and the town 2.5 percent, the same shares paid for the other three taxiways, manager Russ Maguire said.

Peter Oakley, owner of Cranland Airport, said the runway there was resurfaced two years ago with 80 percent funding from the state, but the small airport is not eligible for FAA grants because it is privately owned.

Although he does not regret buying the airport in July of 2011, Oakley said, the financial commitment is heavy. He had a $350,000 hangar built this summer.

“All I’ve been doing is pouring money into that place,” he said. “It’s like a black hole.”

The Plymouth Municipal Airport is seeking permits to extend the shorter of its two intersecting runways to match the longer one, which is 4,350 feet. The change means jets could use whichever runway has the best wind conditions, so both jets and smaller planes – which need to take off into the wind – could use the same runway on a given day, improving safety, according to airport manager Tom Maher.

Staff at several local airports emphasized the airports’ contribution to the local economy, saying they generate business both on and off the airport and serve as a gateway for companies looking to move to Massachusetts.

A 2011 Massachusetts Department of Transportation study found that local airports generate significant economic activity. Norwood Memorial Airport generated $51.4 million annually in direct and indirect economic benefits, Plymouth Municipal Airport $48.5 million, Mansfield Municipal Airport $9.1 million, Marshfield Municipal Airport $8.1 million, and Cranland Airport $183,000.

Maguire, manager of Norwood Memorial since 1995, said the town has been very supportive, approving its local share of funding for recent reconstruction of taxiways.

“Norwood is a very pro-business town, and the airport is an economic engine,” he said.

The airport supports 11 on-site businesses, including flight schools, maintenance shops, charter services, flight simulation, fueling, a car rental company, and a restaurant. The New England Patriots and numerous corporations use the airport, he said, and two Boston television stations keep their helicopters there.

Traffic at local airports is beginning to rebound from the recession, but has not reached pre-2008 levels, officials said.

Maher said traffic at the Plymouth airport fell about 15 percent in the recession. The airport now hosts an estimated 65,000 operations – counting takeoffs and landings separately – per year. Norwood had 78,000 operations last year, and Marshfield has 17,000 to 20,000 annually.

Airports also track business by the number of aircraft based on the property. Dinneen said Marshfield has more than 50 planes based at the airport this year, up from the high 40s last year, and fuel sales are higher, too. Rising fuel and insurance costs seem to have dampened the recovery, he said.

But aviation has a longer-term problem, according to Kelley Dinneen, sister of David Dinneen and president of King Aviation Mansfield, the company that manages the Mansfield airport.

Kelley Dinneen said many of the older generation of pilots who learned to fly in the military are no longer able to fly, and fewer young people are learning. The cost of college and flight training, combined with what she called a “dismal” starting income of about $22,000 at regional airlines, keeps them away, she said.

The Mansfield airport had about 144 planes based there seven or eight years ago; today it has more like 85, she said.

Dinneen said airports are a good place for young people to spend time, away from television and video games, and flying helps make them health-conscious, because poor health can prevent someone from getting a pilot’s license.

She said the declining population of pilots will be the subject of a roundtable discussion at the Massachusetts Airport Management Association annual conference later this month at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

Despite the decline, the Mansfield airport hopes to replace its terminal under a state Department of Transportation program that will renovate or replace between 11 and 15 buildings at airports around the state, at a total cost of $15 to $20 million, over an undetermined number of years.

Christopher Willenborg, aeronautics administrator at DOT, said that in a recent DOT review, 81 percent of the state’s general aviation airports had terminal or administration buildings, and only 37 percent of those buildings had been renovated or replaced since 1990.

Mansfield’s terminal is very old and will probably need to be replaced, he said, though neither he nor Dinneen knew its exact age.

Dinneen said she believes the building may have been moved to the airport in the 1950s.

By early spring, DOT hopes to select two or three airport buildings to include in its state budget request for the next fiscal year.

Willenborg said the agency will be looking for ways to make the new buildings environmentally sound and sustainable. Construction of selected buildings could start in the latter half of 2014.

Original Article:

Sky-high copter costs not the norm

Sunday, September 8, 2013

by Dan Casey

Debbie Franco of Roanoke got an alarming email late in August from her daughter who lives in Maryland. Franco’s son-in-law, Chris, had been seriously injured in an ATV accident on Tangier Island, in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay.

Chris was a passenger on the ATV, and he broke an arm in two places. Rescue workers at the scene decided to fly him to a hospital. Even though the isolated island is part of Virginia, a Maryland State Police helicopter responded.

Franco was concerned, because she had read my recent columns about frighteningly high $22,000 to $32,000 bills people in western Virginia are getting for air ambulance flights to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. She called Chris, and he was concerned, too.

They were both happily surprised to learn that Chris’ bill for the flight would be zero. That’s true for every patient who winds up in a Maryland medevac helicopter.

All medevac flights in the state are handled by Maryland State Police, and there’s no charge to the patients, said Elena Russo, a Maryland State Police spokeswoman. The program is funded by an annual fee tacked onto Maryland vehicle registration bills.

In some cases, there’s no charge in Virginia, either. But that depends on where you live or where you suffer a horrible injury.

If you need helicopter transport in the Richmond area or in far Southwest Virginia, there’s a good chance there will be no transportation charge. That’s because Virginia state police operate medevac helicopters based in Abingdon and Chesterfield County.

Like with Maryland, the service is funded through the Department of Motor Vehicles, said state police Lt. H. Jay Cullen, commander of the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit.

If you’re flown to the Inova Trauma Center in Fairfax County, you’re also likely to pay little or nothing. That’s because the primary medevac helicopter contractor is Fairfax County police. “We do not charge,” said Mary Ann Jennings, the department’s spokeswoman.

Until 2010, state police had a helicopter stationed near Lynchburg, too. Centra Lynchburg General Hospital provided the medical crew. But Lynchburg General Hospital cancelled that agreement in favor of a private contractor, Petroleum Helicopters Inc., Cullen told me.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean patients flown to Lynchburg General are getting sky-high helicopter bills. “We do our own billing,” said Diane Riley, a Lynchburg General spokeswoman. “We have contract pricing with all the major insurance carriers, including Anthem.”

That means that helicopter flights are covered by insurers, who pay a discounted rate for the flights. Patients typically pay a small fraction of that in coinsurance.

UVa Medical Center in Charlottesville does its own billing for hospital transports and accepts what insurance companies pay, said spokesman Eric Swensen. At Riverside Health System in Newport News, the helicopter contractor does the billing, spokesman Peter Glagola said. But it’s an Anthem provider and accepts what the insurer pays, he added.

Sentara Norfolk General Hospital owns the Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance and contracts with a company to fly it, said spokesman Dale Gauding. “It is billed through Sentara Healthcare. Our average [charge], plus or minus, is around $10,000 and we accept insurance, and we don’t balance bill,” Gauding said.

For 20 or so years, that’s the way it worked at Carilion, until February 2012, when Carilion switched air transport business models and contracted with a new provider, Med Trans Air Transport Corp.

Carilion got a third helicopter out of that deal. But since then, many patients have been getting billed $20,000 or more for emergency flights. Insurance, if a patient has it, will typically pay $6,000-$8,000 of that, depending on the length of the flight. The patient is responsible to Med Trans for the entire balance. (Unless they’re covered by Medicare, in which case they pay much less).

That’s because Med Trans does its own billing, and it has no agreements with any private health insurers in Virginia — but it does accept Medicare.

I’ve heard from a number of patients who owe Med Trans thousands of dollars that the company has recently suspended its collection efforts pending negotiations with Anthem. Those have been going on since February 2012 without result.

“Med Trans and Anthem have not yet reached an agreement, but the discussion is ongoing and moving in a positive direction,” said Carilion spokesman Eric Earnhart.

When they had a helicopter in Lynchburg, Virginia State Police used to fly patients to Carilion more frequently, said Cullen, the state police aviation commander. Earnhart said he’s aware of only one state police helicopter transport to Carilion in the past year.

At least for the time being it seems like here’s the score: If you end up on an emergency flight to just about any major hospital in Virginia, the likelihood is that you’ll pay nothing or a small fraction of the “retail price,” provided you have Medicare or some other insurance.

But if you’re not on Medicare, and your life-threatening stroke or accident happens in Western Virginia, and you are flown to Roanoke Memorial Hospital, you will wind up with a shockingly high bill.

It kind of makes you wish Virginia State Police would put some medevac helicopters around here, huh?

Original Article: