Monday, September 16, 2013

Air traffic controllers in trouble over pilot serenade

Madrid - A Spanish pilot was retiring after a 34-year-long career. To mark the occasion, air traffic controllers at Madrid's Barajas airport transmitted a farewell song over a dedicated radio frequency. Now they are in trouble.  Francisco Ubet flew his last flight on August 17th, and the air traffic controllers wished to give him a fond farewell in song. 

Playing a guitar and adding some fun words to Auld Lang Syne made for the perfect farewell ditty, which lasted a mere 35 seconds and can be enjoyed in the video above. 

On top of the serenade, when the plane landed, fireman at Madrid's Barajas airport performed a 'water arch' in the pilot's honor, a photo of which can be viewed here
He was emotionally overwhelmed by all the attention. 

Ubet told his colleagues:
"Thanks so much.  You are all great."
"Thank you, great service as always and thanks for all these years."

However, it seems the Spanish Airports and Air Navigation Association (AENA) didn't have the same feelings about the celebrations. 

Now the five Spanish air traffic controllers are in serious trouble over the incident. 

A note was sent to the air traffic controllers' human resources department stating that the controllers had broken the rules by broadcasting the message using the air traffic control radio frequency. 

The five controllers are now facing disciplinary action, but they are retaliating against their bosses. 

One of the employees told Spain's ABC newspaper:
"Nobody in their right mind could think a controller, or a group of controllers, including the shift supervisor, would put the security of passengers at risk. "
"This (what we did) has always been a universally accepted custom in the aviation world because pilots and air traffic controllers have a very close relationship."
Now a campaign has been started by Spain's air traffic controllers to see the punishment dropped. As part of this, the Union of Air Traffic Controllers is asking pilots to send a brief radio message of support on their approach to Madrid airport. 

A document (Spanish language) calling for solidarity with the air traffic controllers can be viewed here.

Original Article:

New Bombardier Jet Takes Flight: Canadian Aircraft Maker Seeks to Make Inroads Against Boeing and Airbus

Updated September 16, 2013, 7:26 p.m. ET 

The Wall Street Journal 

MIRABEL, Québec—Bombardier Inc.'s new CSeries jet made its maiden flight here Monday, a major milestone in the Canadian company's bid to take on giants Boeing Co. and Airbus in the market for small passenger jets.

The 120-passenger jetliner landed safely about 2½ hours after taking off under clear skies from Bombardier's factory here north of Montreal in front of thousands of employees, customers, and others who had gathered to watch.

The single-aisle CSeries makes Bombardier the first new entrant in the market for the smallest category of mainline passenger jets since 1987, when Airbus, now a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., first flew its A320. Airbus and Boeing have been the only Western producers of larger commercial jets in the market since 1997, when Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas.

The CSeries could be the last all-new aircraft from a Western manufacturer to enter the market for some time.

Companies in Japan, China and Russia are all working on new jets. But while Airbus, Boeing and Embraer SA—a Brazilian manufacturer that like Bombardier has focused on smaller, regional jets—all plan major modifications to existing models, they aren't known to be working on all-new designs now, meaning they're unlikely to bring any new planes to market before the middle of the 2020s.

The CSeries version that flew Monday lists for $63 million, with a larger version at $72 million, before discounts, compared with about $70 million to $92 million for comparable models from Boeing and Airbus, which have offered aggressive discounts to keep Bombardier from gaining traction, according to industry officials.

Bombardier has also set aggressive performance targets for the CSeries, including what it claims is 20% better fuel efficiency than competing models, to woo cost-conscious airlines.

Monday's takeoff was nearly silent, highlighting another of Bombardier's selling points for the CSeries, which it says is engineered to be quiet so that it can be used at smaller, noise-restricted airports.

Customers have ordered 177 of the CSeries jets. But airline executives are still looking for more evidence that the jet will deliver the company's touted performance—and waiting to see how much Bombardier plans to discount the plane.

The maiden flight give Bombardier "another element for their sales team to go and sell it," said Nico Buchholz, executive vice president of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which has an order for up to 60 CSeries for its Swiss International Air Lines unit. But whether it will sell well, he said, depends on how aggressively Bombardier will use discounts and other incentives.

Guy Hachey, chief executive of Bombardier's aerospace division, said the company hopes to collect data over the first 100 hours of flying the aircraft to feed to sales executives to validate its claims to customers. "We'll be able to back up all the performance guarantees we've been making all along," he said.

Mr. Hachey said Bombardier hopes the CSeries will help the company's aerospace division to increase its annual revenue by an estimated $5 billion to $8 billion—it was $8.6 billion in 2012—once it reaches production of 120 jets a year.

The CSeries program is running roughly nine months behind schedule—the first flight was originally scheduled for last December—but that pales in comparison with the delays and cost overruns suffered by Boeing and Airbus in developing their newest jets.

Bombardier expects the development to cost $3.9 billion, said Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, a unit of the aerospace division. The company had previously estimated the cost at $3.4 billion. A spokesman attributed the difference to new financial reporting standards that took effect in 2011 that prompted Bombardier to factor in interest costs.

Bombardier has said it plans to deliver the first CSeries after it completes certification by regulators, which itself could take a year following Monday's flight. Bombardier said it will evaluate the timing of the planned first delivery in coming weeks as the CSeries progresses in flight testing.

It has declined to identify who its first customer for the jet will be, but one person familiar with the company's plans says that Malmö Aviation of Sweden, a unit of Braathens Aviation Group, will take the first jet.


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San Francisco first responders trained to use Osprey aircraft


SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco emergency personnel trained with military aircraft Monday as part of a drill to prepare for a potential large-scale disaster in the area. 

 The disaster response training is taking place at the U.S. Coast Guard station in South San Francisco and involves firefighters, other first responders and members of the U.S. Marine Corps, according to Francis Zamora, spokesman for the city's Department of Emergency Management.

Zamora said the training is simulating "a catastrophic event where the military is helping us out."

An MV-22 Osprey, an aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like an airplane, is being used in today's drill, Zamora said.

The first responders are training on how to properly load casualties onto the Osprey as well as best practices on fighting fires and extracting pilots from aircraft, he said.

The exercise is a preview of what will take place during next month's Fleet Week in the Bay Area, he said.

Federal budget cuts prompted the cancellation of the popular Blue Angels air show, but the disaster response training that is a part of Fleet Week will go on as usual, he said.

"One of the things San Francisco worked hard to ensure is that this type of interoperable training continues to take place," Zamora said.

"Something we like to say in the emergency management business is that we don't want to exchange business cards during a disaster, so it's really important for the city to make sure this training continues to happen," he said.

The exercise began at 10 a.m. and will continue into the afternoon. Training will also take place during Fleet Week, which is scheduled to run from Oct. 7-12.

More information about Fleet Week can be found online at

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Woman ID'd in assault of flight attendant at Philadelphia International Airport (KPHL), Pennsylvania


SOUTHWEST PHILADELPHIA - September 16, 2013 (WPVI) -- A woman was taken into custody after police say she assaulted a flight attendant aboard a plane at Philadelphia International Airport.

It happened around 10:05 a.m. Monday on US Airways Flight 2051 parked in Terminal A.

The suspect is identified as 23-year-old Sasha Anderson from Philadelphia.

Police say Anderson threw her cell phone at the flight attendant. She also slapped and scratched his face.

The flight attendant suffered a minor scratch to his face.

Numerous passengers told police they were afraid to leave the ground with Anderson still on the plane.

Anderson was removed from the aircraft and charged with Simple Assault, Reckless Endangering another person, Harassment and Disorderly Conduct.

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Auburn University aviation receives Federal Aviation Administration flight time exemption

Auburn University’s aviation programs became the sixth in the nation to receive a Federal Aviation Administration exemption, creating a lower required flight time requirement for aviation graduates.

Aviation students in the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business are now eligible to earn an Airline Transport Pilot certification with as few as 1,000 flying hours instead of the typically required 1,500 hours.

Dale Watson, director of flight education at Auburn, said this is an opportunity for graduates of either the aviation management program or the professional flight management program to be hired sooner than they would without the exemption.

Watson said as of August, ATP certified pilots are required to have 1,500 flight hours, as mandated by a law passed with the intention of creating pilots with greater experience.

“As a result of the Colgan Air crash in 2009, Congress passed a law changing the hiring minimum requirements for passenger carrying airlines,” Watson said. “They passed that law, which took effect this past August.”

Watson said the university endeavored to prove that it is the quality of a flight student’s education that makes a good pilot more than the quantity of his educational experience.

The FAA’s new exemptions to the mandated flight hours are evidence that quality is as important as quantity, according to Watson. He said being an internationally-recognized flight program earned Auburn the right to give their students this exemption.

“We were only the sixth college in the nation to be given this authority,” Watson said. “What they are doing is authorizing the colleges to certify certain graduates for that reduced hours credit. We are now authorized to do that.”

Watson said they also have a period in which they can reach back to prior graduates to offer this certification. He said this period is not unlimited, but they’ve already been contacted by qualifying graduates interested in participating.

Watson said being one of the first schools to receive this exemption is an honor for the university’s aviation programs.

“The fact that there were only five before us I think speaks to the quality of our programs,” Watson said. “We think it’s another high-level testament to the quality of our aviation programs here at Auburn.”

Auburn is currently attempting to re-certify for its accreditation with the Aviation Accreditation Board International. This accreditation is necessary for several agreements the university holds, including a recently-signed agreement with JetBlue Airways.

“Our students can be hired through (the JetBlue) program for even less flight hours,” Watson said. “They can be hired the earliest through that program. That’s what makes accreditation so critical, because they can be hired the most quickly through that.”

Watson said they also have an agreement with an international airline that chooses to send its pilots to Auburn for their flight education.

“Our reputation is certainly very strong in the industry,” Watson said.

Original Article:

Ex-Phoenix airport worker gets jail for toilet videotapes

PHOENIX - A former Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport worker accused of placing a tiny camera inside an employee bathroom to videotape women has been sentenced to six months in jail .

Maricopa County prosecutors say 27-year-old Bruce Christopher Kludt also was sentenced Monday to three years of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender.

Kludt was charged with attempted surreptitious videotaping in February and entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Phoenix police say Kludt placed a small video camera under the toilet seat in the bathroom that wasn't available for use by members of the public.

A search warrant was served on Kludt's home in Surprise and police seized his computer's hard drive and other electronic storage devices. They say they found videos of three different women using the restroom.  

Low-flying aircraft with laser to scope Hawaii for months

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responding following dozens of inquiries about a low-flying aircraft that appeared to be shining a green light into Oahu neighborhoods.

Residents told Hawaii News Now they saw the plane at all hours of the night.

"This airplane was circling around the Ewa Beach area early this morning around 1 a.m. It circled about 6 times, passing over my house. There was this wide green laser that appears to be scanning downward," wrote one viewer in an email.

"[There was a] low flying aircraft over Honolulu the past two nights shining green lasers from the bottom," another viewer said. "Aircraft made multiple passes. At least six over Waikiki, Moiliili, Kapahulu, Manoa area with a V-shaped green laser pointed down."

The plane is a military aircraft that is collecting LiDAR data, says Joseph Bonfiglio, Chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The green laser, which Bonfiglio notes is not harmful to the eyes, is being used to map the coast of the entire state.  The data will eventually be used to create a high-resolution map.

LiDAR flights are being conducted in the overnight hours on Oahu due to flight restrictions noted by the Federal Aviation Administration. Work on Oahu should wrap up by the end of the week. The mapping will then move to the outer islands and be conducted during daytime hours, Bonfiglio says.

Data collection is expected to continue through November.


Smoke alarm prompts evacuation of Allegiant flight on taxiway: McCarran International Airport (KLAS) , Las Vegas, Nevada

LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- A smoke alarm sounded in an Allegiant flight on the taxiway, prompting the crew to evacuate the jet this afternoon at McCarran International Airport. 

There were 144 passengers and six crew members on the MD-80 jet that was bound for Peoria, Ill. 

"The crew decided to evacuate the jet using the slides and all 150 people were evacuated," Allegiant spokesman Brian Jones told News 3.   "They have been bussed back to the terminal and we are determining how to get them to their destination. There were no injuries."

Men in helicopter fire high-powered weapons at abandoned car: Charlestown, Rhode Island

CHARLESTOWN -- Police dispatch received a call reporting a low-flying helicopter with armed individuals hanging out firing high-powered weapons in the area of Narrow Lane at about 3 p.m. Sunday,

Police said the weapons being fired were semi-automatic rifles and pistols, legally registered to nine men involved in a Sunday afternoon get-together at a gravel bank at 60 Narrow Lane.

Charlestown police have now enlisted the help of the Federal Aviation Administration in Boston and Washington, as well as the state attorney general’s office and Rhode Island State Police in their investigation into the activity in which the shooters used a junked vehicle at a gravel bank for target practice.

A homeowner in the area, concerned about the safety of his family, was one of several who called after seeing the helicopter and hearing rapid gunfire.

When police arrived on the scene, the helicopter, piloted by Dean Francis Scalera, 53, of 151 Biscuit City Road, Charlestown, had landed in the gravel bank. Police said they also saw a pickup truck with a “large amount of handguns and rifles” in the back. A group of target-shooters were gathered around the truck, said police.

Sgt. Philip B. Gingerella Sr. asked Scalera why “he thought it was a good idea to perform this type of activity with large neighborhoods on both sides of a gravel bank.” Police said Scalera told them he believed the helicopter was being flown low enough to be safe and he “knows of pilots in other areas who have done the same thing.”

“In Rhode Island?” asked Gingerella.

“No, Texas,” Scalera said, according to police.

“This is Rhode Island, not Texas,” Gingerella told the pilot, according to the police report. Scalera said he keeps his helicopter at Richmond Airport and did not file any flight plans because he is not required to.

Gingerella said those involved in the incident were cooperative.

Although Chief Jeffrey Allen expressed concern regarding the type of activity, he said regarding Rhode Island General Law, it appears the men had done nothing wrong. He said they were on private property in an area that spans about 80 acres.

“The helicopter does bring another level of concern to our department,” he said. He said, beyond the FAA’s possible intervention, the department, which has dealt with calls about the use of firearms in that area before, has filed no charges.

“I think they put themselves in a harmful situation,” Allen said of the men crowded into a small helicopter.

Nine weapons were checked, including four semi-automatic pistols, four semi-automatic rifles and a pump-action shotgun.

Continued .... Read More

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Men in helicopter fire high-powered weapons at abandoned car

Private Pilot Ground School course begins October 1: Kilgore College, Texas

Kilgore College will offer a course this fall for people interested in becoming a pilot.

An information session is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, in the Bert E. Woodruff Adult Education Center, 220 N. Henderson in Kilgore

The information session will give prospective students an opportunity to meet the instructor, review course materials and have questions answered.

The 16-week course, “Private Pilot Ground School,” is the basic ground school for the Federal Aviation Administration Private Pilot Certificate that provides the necessary aeronautical knowledge used for private pilot certification.

Topics will include principles of flight, radio procedures, weather, navigation, aerodynamics and Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

David Skidmore, Federal Aviation Administration Certified Flight Instructor and FAA Support Specialist at the Gregg County Regional Airport, will teach the class which is set for 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday evenings from Oct. 1 through Feb. 4, on the Kilgore campus.

Cost of the course is $525.

PowerPoint and assignments will be available online to students.

A book and supply list will be provided at registration.

For more information, call Trudie Jackson at (903) 983-8661 or e-mail her:

Read more: The Gilmer Mirror - Private Pilot Ground School course begins Oct 1

FAA report likely to be tough on India’s aviation regulator: Directorate General of Civil Aviation plans to discuss the issues with Federal Aviation Administration in January

New Delhi: The US’ Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has listed, after its early September audit of India’s civil aviation regulator and the country’s state-run airline, several areas for improvement, and although the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Air India will not be able to meet the deadline for addressing these by late October or November when the report will be submitted, a former US transport regulator said it was unlikely that either would be downgraded by FAA.

FAA completed its audit on Friday and an official at DGCA admitted that some issues were raised but downplayed them.

“They were very satisfied with the operations of the airline (state-run Air India Ltd) but there will always be some findings. As auditors, their job is to find out (deficiencies) and not report what is already right,” added this person who asked not to be identified.

FAA audits are critical because if the agency downgrades India on finding any serious irregularities that would mean no more new flights by Indian airlines to the US and additional checks on existing flights.

FAA spokeswoman declined comment on the matter.

It will also mean international expansion of Indian airlines will face unwanted questions in other countries.

Still, that fate is unlikely to befall India.

John Goglia, former member of the National Transportation Safety Board that investigates all aircraft accidents in the US, said in an email that India’ aviation regulator is unlikely to be downgraded by FAA.

“Even if the FAA finds safety issues, my opinion is that it will not downgrade India because of current geo-political considerations. Country rankings have not been free of diplomatic considerations in the past and I expect those considerations would continue,” Goglia said. “If the FAA finds safety concerns, I believe it would quietly reach agreement with the DGCA on a program to correct any such deficiencies.”

Indeed, DGCA seems to think it has enough time to address the issues, and plans to discuss them with FAA in January, after the holiday season.

Among the issues raised by FAA are: lack of training for officials in DGCA and the absence of documented procedures for new types of aircraft being inducted into India.

Indeed, since Air India hasn’t maintained documents of its first flights with the new 787 aircraft, and fumbled to provide details, FAA believed there was something amiss, according to a second DGCA official who also asked not to be identified.

“There was only a lack of documentation,” said the first DGCA official. “There is a cultural gap too. We don’t document everything. ”

The official added that DGCA plans to induct about 100 officers to its headcount of about 350 and prepare training policies for its officials as part of its effort to address the issues raised by FAA.

FAA’s audit was triggered by an audit by UN body International Civil Aviation Organization or ICAO in December that had raised concerns on air safety oversight by India’s regulator.

ICAO removed India from its blacklist only in August after a compliance audit of DGCA’s mechanisms.

Original Article:

Christoph Franz to Leave Lufthansa at Critical Juncture: German Airline Faces High Fuel Prices, Europe’s Economic Crisis and Cutthroat Competition

Updated September 16, 2013, 1:30 p.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

Deutsche Lufthansa AG  Chief Executive Christoph Franz said he would leave the German airline in May, after just three years in the post, compelling the company to find a successor midway through a bruising restructuring.

Mr. Franz, 53 years old, was picked to be chairman of Swiss drug maker Roche Holding AG.

“There will be an orderly and structured process on the issue of my succession,” Mr. Franz told reporters and analysts Monday. “Don’t expect any major changes.” The airline’s efficiency drive “is making good progress and it will be continued under a new leadership.”

Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest carrier by passenger volume, is a sprawling company, with big divisions handling maintenance, catering and information technology. Whoever succeeds Mr. Franz will take on one of Europe’s few profitable national airlines.

But as at its rivals, Lufthansa’s margins are being squeezed by high fuel prices, Europe’s economic crisis and cutthroat competition.

On short-distance routes, it is being undercut by Europe’s fast-growing discount carriers, including Ryanair Holdings and easyJet PLC. Internationally it faces pressure from Mideast rivals Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

Mr. Franz faced the challenge of restructuring Lufthansa’s disparate European operations, which his predecessor, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, had expanded rapidly through acquisitions. Mr. Mayrhuber is now chairman of Lufthansa’s supervisory board.

Mr. Franz has built a reputation for aggressive restructuring. He turned around unprofitable Swiss International Air Lines as its CEO 10 years ago and then integrated it into Lufthansa.

Lufthansa’s overhaul remains a work in progress that has prompted labor unrest. Adding to the pressure, Europe’s airline industry is bracing for a price war as Ryanair, Europe’s biggest discount airline, is cutting its prices to fend off newcomers.

Mr. Franz on Monday acknowledged the difficult business climate, saying Lufthansa “may have underestimated the cold wind blowing in our faces.” Lufthansa shares dipped in early trading Monday as investors digested the news but recovered to close up 0.4%.

“Mr. Franz’s departure is a heavy blow for the airline,” said Jochen Rothenbacher, an analyst at brokerage firm Equinet.

Mr. Franz’s move was unexpected even to his own team. Thomas Winkelmann, head of Lufthansa’s discount carrier Germanwings, called Mr. Franz’s resignation “a bit of a surprise.”

Not all staff will miss Mr. Franz, who has been pushing to contain labor costs and change working conditions. His efforts sparked strikes that cost the airline €33 million ($44 million) last year.

Mr. Franz has said that Lufthansa must boost productivity to ensure that its losses in Europe don’t compromise its ability to order more fuel-efficient planes and expand internationally. He has aimed to slash operating costs by €1.5 billion by 2015 to improve earnings and allow the airline to renew its fleet without taking on too much debt.

Lufthansa on Thursday will announce its final selection for an order of long-range jetliners, Executive Vice President Nico Buchholz said. The order is likely to be split between Boeing Co. and the Airbus unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., people familiar with the talks said.

Lufthansa’s stock recently has outperformed shares of smaller rival Air Berlin PLC and those of other big European carriers, such as Air France-KLM SA. But Lufthansa’s stock has lagged behind the broader German market and Ryanair’s shares.

—Marietta Cauchi and Jon Ostrower contributed to this article.


Clear flying: Mineral Wells, Texas

Mornings last week provided J. D. Dunson with “beautiful, thrilling” opportunities to exercise his vintage, piston-engine 1956 North American T-28 warbird.

Dunson is a pilot and member of the Eagle Flying Museum, where he keeps his aircraft.

He had been flying over Mineral Wells Thursday morning in his classic, updated plane that he said cruises at “about 200 knots, somewhere around 250 mph to, maximum, 300 mph.”

“It was made to train jet pilots [and was] their last transition from a heavy, fast airplane ... to a jet,” he told the Index, adding that the 8,000-pound, 1,445 horsepower flying machine was made until about 1960 and served “as the primary trainer for the Navy and the Air Force and Marines for years and years and years.”

“I’ve been a pilot all my life and I lived through this transition,” he said of planes to jets. “When I was a young man, there weren’t hardly any jets, they were all pistons. And that era is completely gone in America, forever.”

Dunson said most of the old airplanes, like the warbirds, are now in museums. The Eagle Flying Museum, located at the Mineral Wells Municipal Airport, is an active flying museum. Dunson said he takes his T-28 out once or twice monthly.

The museum moved to Mineral Wells just over one year ago, according to Executive Director Scott Perdue. Its goal, he said, is to preserve heritage.

Many of the museum’s planes were used as trainers, Perdue noted as he pointed to a bright blue-and-yellow PT-17 Stearman  bi plane with fabric wings and then to an AT-6 Texan, made by North American.

For more information on the museum, visit the website at

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Aviation business began seeding fields in SE Texas in 1946


When the Mitchell family shows up at their corporate headquarters, a small collection of tin-roofed buildings on Texas 124, they're continuing a nearly 70-year tradition responsible for seeding the roots of a multimillion-dollar industry.

Two former fighter pilots, one military surplus training plane and a pair of rice-farming brothers revolutionized how growers on the Texas coast would plant their crops when they founded M&M Air Services in 1946. It led to bigger yields and spurred a boom in agriculture aviation - just a seedling industry before the company came along.

It all started with a Stearman biplane.

In the 1920s and '30s, agriculture aviation was already an established business in the country, and planes had been used at least as far back as 1929 to seed a field in Jefferson County, according to Texas Rice, a publication of Texas A&M University.

But no one had tried to plant a rice field from the sky until K.W. "Kinky" Shane and Gilbert Mapes brought the idea to rice farmers N.W. and Fields Mitchell.

Shane and Mapes talked about the idea before World War II broke out, but the conflict derailed their plans, and the two men joined up as pilots in the U.S. Army and Navy.

When the war ended, the government put their surplus training planes, the 220-horsepower prop-powered biplane the Stearman, up for sale. They weren't available to the public, but the two men's military experience allowed them to get their hands on one.

The Mitchell brothers saw the need for aerial planting, which would help beat the grass that competed with the rice seed. The four teamed up.

The Stearman's forward seat and instrument panels were torn out and the men, using common tools found on any farm, a little wood and a rain gutter, built a hopper and seed delivery system.

On an April morning in 1946, Shane climbed behind the stick of the biplane loaded with hundreds of pounds of sprouted rice seedlings. He cruised over a field at the present-day intersection of Major Drive and Walden Road and dropped the seeds.

M&M Air Services boomed. According to the Texas Rice article, the innovation spearheaded in Southeast Texas led to a bumper agricultural aviation industry in Texas.

George Mitchell, the son of founder Fields Mitchell, said he remembers when the company bought an additional 42 Stearman planes for about $55 each or $638 each in today's dollars.

In 1948, the Mitchell brothers bought out Mapes' stake in the company, and it's been a family business ever since.

George Mitchell was the second generation of the family to run the company and the family staffs each portion of the business today.

But things have changed since 1946, and the company has been forced to adapt to stay afloat, Mitchell said.

The Stearmans aren't in the skies anymore, replaced by turboprop planes that are much quieter than their predecessors. Instead of poring over maps before heading out, pilots take advantage of GPS technology.

And planting isn't as big a part of the company's business anymore.

M&M diversified its services years ago, to include firefighting operations, planting and fertilizing and seeding.

David Mitchell, a vice president and operations manager for the company, said they still do business with families in the area with whom they've worked for decades.

Over the years, the company has managed to keep in the sky through some tough times. When agriculture suffers, so do they.

Some rice farmers have reverted to the old ground planting method, but there's a place for pilots still.

In an odd turnabout, planting by air has picked up some speed among organic rice farmers, said Mark Mitchell, also a vice president and operations manager.

Southeast Texas Tales is a weekly Enterprise feature that examines regional history.

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Flying to Caribbean tricky in storm season

Flying between South Florida and the Caribbean? It's the time of year to keep a close eye on the tropics because storms are now more likely to pop up near our shores.

By the beginning of October, tropical systems tend to develop in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico or the western Atlantic, potentially putting a crimp in travel plans of those who use the Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Miami international airports.

"If there's serious threat, you want to be the first one to contact your airline, because everyone else is doing the same thing," said Alan Rosen, owner of Sand & C Travel in Boynton Beach.

Although hurricanes commonly emerge in the eastern Atlantic through the end of September, in the past week, one tropical system popped up in the western Caribbean and another in the central Atlantic.

About 50,000 passengers a day fly between South Florida and Caribbean destinations such as Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Here's what to expect if a storm appears on the horizon.

If a storm threatens and I'm booked on a flight to a Caribbean nation, should I go?

If your airline intends to conduct the flight, that means it is confident it can get you there safely, Rosen said. Just the same, you could end up being marooned for days or weeks if the storm strikes your destination.

Most airlines allow passengers to rebook or receive travel vouchers if a hurricane forces flight cancellations. Just the same, it's wise during hurricane season to purchase travel insurance and make sure the policy covers tropical storms, Rosen said.

What if I'm at a Caribbean destination, a storm threatens and I want to fly out?

Contact your airline as soon as possible. Ensure you have internet access while traveling so you can change your reservations on an airline's web site, as reservation agents are difficult to reach during storm threats. Or, book the trip through a travel agent, who can make the changes for you.

But be prepared to pay penalties if you rebook, since the airlines might not consider the storm to be a threat when you do, Rosen said.

Why is South Florida and the Caribbean so vulnerable in September and October?

Mainly because storm formation shifts to the western Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, not far from our shores. As a result, South Florida is most vulnerable to hurricane strikes after Sept. 10, said meteorologist Robert Molleda of the National Weather Service.

"Out of the 46 hurricanes that have either directly or indirectly struck mainland South Florida since 1865, 28 have made landfall after Sept. 10 — 61 percent," he said.

When will airlines cancel flights?

Generally, 12 to 24 hours before a storm is expected to arrive. This is to ensure planes do not get caught in winds that exceed 45 mph. Prior to that, carriers sometimes add flights to get out as many passengers as possible.

Can I camp out in an airport terminal during a storm?

No. The terminals are not set up as hurricane shelters and would not be able to provide food or water, airport officials say. However, all three of South Florida's main airports would assist stranded passengers in finding a hotel or shelter.

"Technically, the airport never closes, but it's actually not the best place for people to stay," said Stephanie Richards, spokeswoman for Palm Beach International Airport.

Will parking garages remain open during a storm?
Yes, unless there is a loss of power or all spaces are full. But, again, airport officials discourage people from leaving their cars there.

"There is the potential for flying debris since the garages are not enclosed," said Greg Meyer, spokeman for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

How does the Transportation Security Administration handle storm threats?

Prior to a storm, the TSA will add staff to checkpoints if the airlines add flights. When a system is closing in, the TSA, the airport and airlines establish a closing time for checkpoints.

"If South Florida is going to get a serious hit, we will strategize to have TSA officers from airports outside the strike zone travel to Florida to relieve the local staff so that they go home,  board up, buy supplies, or sometimes even evacuate," said Sari Koshetz, TSA spokeswoman.

Original Article:

Plane company hit by license ban: Blackpool Airport - UK

Important Notice to Customers

It is with regret that has ceased all operations due to a commercial on-going dispute with Blackpool Airport. For customers who have purchased Flight Vouchers from Voucher companies, please get onto your voucher company and ask for a relocation or a refund.

For customers that have in date Fly Blackpool Vouchers please get in touch with your Credit Card provider for a full refund as the service you purchased is no longer available.

All No-equity groups are non-operational and no aircraft are available to hire.

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 A Blackpool aircraft company has had its license to use a hangar at the resort’s airport terminated and its planes have been locked inside.

Fly Blackpool’s license to use hangar two at Blackpool Airport, off Squires Gate Lane, has been terminated while the company’s aircraft were impounded.

The Gazette understands the move was taken because the company has fallen behind in payments to the airport.

A spokesman for the airport today said they did not wish to comment about the matter.

But a notice attached to the entrance to the premises says: “We are instructed that the June 2013 quarter’s payment was not made and has remained unpaid for more than 28 days.”

It adds the license has been “terminated with immediate effect.”

A former employee of Fly Blackpool, who did not wish to be named, has told The Gazette he believes the notice has been served over landing fees and fuel bills which are owed to the airport.

He also claims around 15 planes have been impounded in the hangar.

The padlocks were put on the hangar on Tuesday August 27.

Balfour Beatty sold the airport in July to Midlands-based Patriot Aerospace Group, which also recently bought Exeter Airport.

A spokesman for Balfour Beatty said the company could not comment on the issue because it was an ongoing legal matter.

Blackpool Council retains a five percent stake in the airport.

Coun John Jones, cabinet member for transport, said he did not know anything about the issues with Fly Blackpool.

And despite repeated attempts to contact Fly Blackpool owner Robert Murgatroyd, the firm was unavailable for comment.

On the company’s website, a notice says: “It is with regret that has ceased all operations due to a commercial on-going dispute with Blackpool Airport.

“For customers who have purchased flight vouchers from voucher companies, please get onto your voucher company and ask for a relocation or a refund.

“For customers that have in date Fly Blackpool vouchers please get in touch with your credit card provider for a full refund as the service you
 purchased is no longer available.

“All no-equity groups are non-operational and no aircraft are available to hire.”


Rolls-Royce Pushes Focus on Singapore: Regional Director Jonathan Asherson discusses why the company is investing in Singapore

Boss Talk Asia -   September 15, 2013, 12:48 p.m. ET 


The Wall Street Journal

Roll-Royce PLC, the British aircraft and marine-engines maker, has had a bumpy ride in Asia in recent years.

In 2010, faulty parts in engines supplied by Rolls-Royce caused a Qantas Airways Ltd. flight to make an emergency landing in Singapore. No one was injured, and Rolls Royce says it has learned from its mistake, but the event damaged the company's reputation in the region.

Last year, the company found itself in hot water again when the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office alleged corruption by company officials in Indonesia and China. An internal investigation "identified matters of concern in these, and in other overseas markets," Rolls-Royce said. It is now waiting for the SFO to announce its findings on the investigation.

Elsewhere, Rolls-Royce is trying to shift attention to its $550 million plant in Singapore where it has started assembling engines for the A380 long-haul jets manufactured by Airbus. Air travel demand has surged, pushing Rolls-Royce to expand the Singapore facility and establish academic collaborations to build a stronger local talent pool.

Jonathan Asherson, Rolls-Royce's regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, told The Wall Street Journal about how the company is handling the U.K. investigation and why it is investing in Singapore. Edited excerpts:

WSJ: What's the latest in the Serious Fraud Office probe against Rolls-Royce?

Mr. Asherson: In December, we disclosed matters of concern to the SFO relating to the use of intermediaries in certain overseas markets. This followed a request for information from the SFO about allegations of malpractice in Indonesia and China. The SFO will decide what, if any, further action will be taken.

In recent years, we have significantly strengthened our compliance procedures, including new policies for global ethics and intermediaries.

WSJ: Has the issue of the Qantas A380 engine incident been resolved? What lessons did the company learn from the incident?

Mr. Asherson: Rolls-Royce supports the findings of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report on the incident. It was a very serious and rare event which we very much regret.

What is important, as the ATSB's report acknowledges, is that we have applied the lessons learned throughout our manufacturing and quality assurance procedures to prevent this type of event from happening again.

Today, the Trent 900 remains the most reliable engine on the A380.

WSJ: How important is the Asian market for Rolls-Royce?

Mr. Asherson: Asia is still and will be for the next 20 years the fastest-growing market for all our sectors. We have an order book that represents six to seven years of revenue and an increasing proportion of that is from Asia and the Middle East. It's heading toward 50%. Over the next 20 years, 45% of the revenues would be from Asia and Middle East. That will be the biggest market.

WSJ: Why did you invest in a Singapore engine plant when there are no aircraft manufacturers there. Doesn't that produce a logistics challenge?

Mr. Asherson: Logistics is obviously a part of the equation and is a bit different in different places.

We think that the focus in Asia, from an education and training perspective, will continue to be in areas of technology and engineering. The talent pipeline that we need as an industry and company will remain solid.

Getting closer to the customer is the biggest reason why we're in Asia in the first place—to invest and be more embedded—and we are taking additional steps in that direction.

WSJ: But why invest in an aircraft engine plant at all in Asia?

Mr. Asherson: We think that the focus in Asia, from an education and training perspective, will continue to be in areas of technology and engineering. The talent pipeline that we need as an industry and company will remain solid. That will influence the thinking around our investments. You need to develop technologies and business models that adapt to increasing pressure on costs, increasing pressure on reliability and the environment.

Getting closer to the customer is the biggest reason why we're in Asia in the first place.

WSJ: Why did you decide to partner with Singapore Airlines?

Mr. Asherson: Singapore Airlines  has about 130 aircraft on order with our engines. We have 80% of the Singapore fleet. The airline is highly competent, technically, and wants to be engaged with their important suppliers. It's not just the scale of the customer, it's the kind of customer.

WSJ: You've invested heavily in Singapore, but doesn't its small population leave the talent pool rather shallow?

Mr. Asherson: I think shallow is what it isn't. I would say it's quite deep but it's very focused. Singapore has focused on aerospace as a part of the strategic buildup of both manufacturing and services as a contribution to the GDP.

We've worked with government agencies around developing work skills, qualifications, and developing curricula for the polytechnics and universities, where we work with them to predict the requirement and work on how that pipeline of talent can be built. Singapore is quite flexible and nimble where they see the high multiplier effect of, for example, high-value-added manufacturing.


Education: Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Kingston University

Career: Joined Rolls-Royce as regional executive in Malaysia in 1999. Previously spent 15 years with Siemens AG in various roles. Came to Singapore as regional director in 1999 and now covers the Southeast Asia and the Pacific region for Rolls-Royce.

Extracurricular: Art, skiing, scuba diving  and golf

Corrections & Amplifications

The A380 long-haul jet is manufactured by Airbus. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Airbus makes the Dreamliner jet, which is manufactured by Boeing.