Monday, September 23, 2013

Ex-TSA worker accused in LAX threats is indicted by grand jury

A grand jury has indicted an ex-Transportation Security Administration screener on six federal charges after he allegedly made a series of 9/11-related threats against Los Angeles International Airport, court documents show.

The indictment, issued Friday, alleges that Nna Alpha Onuoha, 29, intentionally conveyed false information and made threats against the airport after resigning from his TSA job Sept. 10. He was arrested later that day and remains in federal custody.

Onuoha was charged the day after his arrest, but the grand jury's indictment clears the way for his trial. Last week, a judge deemed him a flight risk and ordered him held without bail. Onuoha did not enter a plea.
PHOTOS: Ex-TSA worker arrested

The multiagency search for the Nigerian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen unfolded the morning of Sept. 10 after he resigned from his TSA job and allegedly left behind a trail of threats depicted in phone calls, suspicious packages and rambling letters.

According to a federal affidavit, Onuoha returned to LAX about four hours after he resigned, leaving behind a package containing an eight-page letter about his complaints over a June incident that led to his suspension.

Onuoha then allegedly made three calls to airport officials, warning that the "TSA was running out of time" and the "entire airport" should be evacuated immediately.

Authorities went to the Onuoha's Inglewood apartment -- where the former National Guard infantryman lived in a complex for military veterans -- but found no sign of him. Onuoha was gone, along with his belongings, authorities said.

The only thing left behind, according to the affidavit, was a handwritten note in his closet, reading: "09/11/2013 THERE WILL BE FIRE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!"

The search for Onuoha ended when a security guard spotted the suspect sleeping in a van parked at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside. He was arrested by a Riverside Police Department SWAT team without incident, "oblivious" to the search, Lt. Guy Toussaint said.

When Onuoha was arrested, he told authorities his intentions weren't a call to violence, according to the affidavit. Instead, he said, he planned to start "preaching in the streets."

Authorities also unearthed several online letters signed by Onuoha that included anti-American statements, references to the "end of the world" and a promise to deliver a "real message" on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The letters also mentioned the June incident that led to Onuoha's weeklong suspension a month later.

Onuoha, who had worked for the TSA since 2006, was suspended from July 21 to July 27 for criticizing a 15-year-old girl's choice of clothes, telling her to "cover up," according to the federal affidavit. The encounter was highly publicized after the girl's father -- BoingBoing blog founder Mark Frauenfelder -- wrote about the incident.

Additional court documents filed last week included religious-themed farewell letters Onuoha allegedly sent to acquaintances. The filing also included a Sept. 11 email between authorities stating that Onuoha had contacted Frauenfelder by email.

"Mr. Frauenfelder and his family are in fear for their safety," the email between authorities read, "because as Mr. Frauenfalder [sic] stated, 'if he can get my email, he can get my address.'"

Original article:

Air France-KLM Discusses Whether to Increase Its Stake in Alitalia: WSJ

September 23, 2013, 4:29 p.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

Alitalia SpA is grappling with steep losses, shrinking demand and the possible insolvency of some investors. Now its biggest foreign shareholder, Air France-KLM SA, is deciding whether to ante up or bail out.

Air France-KLM executives have long said that they wanted to decide by year-end whether to increase the carrier's 25% stake in Alitalia. The Franco-Dutch carrier said Monday after a board meeting that members want more information from Alitalia's management.

Air France-KLM wants to keep a foothold in the large Italian market but faces financial constraints of its own after posting two years of losses.

Alitalia's new chief executive, Gabriele Del Torchio, aims to raise more than €300 million, or roughly $400 million, under a plan to turn a profit by 2016 and is considering a capital increase. If that happens, Air France-KLM would face the choice of taking a bigger stake, holding its position or having its holding diluted by other investors.

Mr. Del Torchio's task will get complicated on Oct. 28, when Alitalia's corporate shareholders will be free to sell shares purchased when Alitalia emerged from bankruptcy reorganization in 2008. At least one investor is facing possible bankruptcy because of Italy's economic crisis and others are stretched too thinly to invest more.

Alitalia is one of several European airlines that have struggled since losing government protection because of deregulation in the 1990s. Scandinavia's SAS AB, Finnair Oyj, LOT Polish Airlines SA and Transportes Aéreos Portugueses SA are trying to survive increased competition from merged carriers, including Air France-KLM, and leaner budget airlines, such as Britain's easyJet PLC and Ireland's Ryanair Holdings PLC. 

Air France in 2009 bought into Alitalia as the Italian carrier emerged from bankruptcy. Alitalia in 2010 joined the SkyTeam global alliance, which is led by Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines Inc.   More recently, the Italian carrier struck a marketing deal with Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi.

Alitalia executives view a takeover as potential lifeline. "The market is consolidating and I think there is a case for Alitalia to move into a larger group," former Chief Executive Andrea Ragnetti said before resigning in February.

Outsiders have been drawn by Italy's rich mix of tourists and business travelers.

But Alitalia's appeal has dwindled as its share of its home market has eroded in recent years amid political interference, labor unrest and shifting government policies. Today, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and its subsidiaries operate roughly 44% more weekly flights into Italy than Alitalia operates outbound, according to Innovata, a British consulting firm. Meanwhile, EasyJet and Ryanair together have grabbed about one-third of Italy's domestic market.

Stopping that kind of erosion was the logic behind Air France-KLM's investment of €323 million. Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, who was the carrier's chief executive at the time, hailed the pact as a "nearly ideal case" because his airline gained influence in the slimmed Italian carrier without shouldering any of its debt. Mr. Gourgeon said his company, formed by the 2004 merger of Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, would have sufficient heft to serve Alitalia passengers and draw others from its hubs in Paris and Amsterdam.

But Mr. Gourgeon was fired in 2011 as the Air France unit sank into losses. The operation now is struggling to cut costs and protect its own traffic. And some top executives at Air France-KLM question whether they need to own part of Alitalia, people briefed on internal talks said.

"Size is not a panacea for problems nor a guarantee of success," said Chris Tarry, an independent airline consultant in London. "The bigger you are, the bigger your losses can be."

Alitalia hasn't reported a profit since it was rescued in late 2008 with an injection of more than €1 billion from shareholders including such leading Italian companies as bank Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, tire maker Pirelli & Co. and IMMSI SpA, which owns scooter maker Piaggio.

Under its new owners, Alitalia restructured inefficient operations, renegotiated labor contracts and sold assets. But pressures from Italy's economic crisis and rising competition outweighed the improvements.

Alitalia raised €95 million from a convertible bond in February but needs much more money to remain solvent. The amount fell short of the €150 million the airline had sought to raise because some shareholders were either unwilling or unable to participate.

Alitalia posted a first-quarter net loss of €157 million on revenue of €729 million. It carried net debt of €1.02 billion and had only €159 million of available liquidity. The airline expects to release second-quarter results on Thursday.


Should the United States Get Out of the Air Traffic Control Business?

The federal budget sequester may advance an old proposal that was once unthinkable: privatizing the U.S. air traffic control system.

In a story today that’s well worth reading for anyone who flies, Bloomberg News lays out the arguments being made to get Uncle Sam out of the business of directing airplanes. This debate is hardly new, although the meat cleaver Congress took to the federal budget in January has given the proposal new impetus and appears to have made leaders of the labor union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, ready to discuss fundamental changes.

“My organization has pivoted,” Paul Rinaldi, president of the controllers union, said at a symposium in June on modernizing air traffic control in response to the deep budget cuts. “If we do not mature, have this discussion, find a way to sustainably fund this system properly so that we can modernize it, we are going to fall way behind the world.” (A video of the panel discussion on FAA funding can be viewed here.) The union has not advocated any particular approach or called for air traffic control to be privatized, hoping instead to foster a wider, public discussion of the issue.

The Federal Aviation Administration cut $637 million from its $16 billion budget this fiscal year as a result of the sequester and faces similar cuts in the year beginning Oct. 1. In April, the traveling public felt the first effects of the reduced funding with furlougs hitting some 50,000 FAA employees touching off about 2,300 flight delays. Days later, after heavy press coverage and outrage from airlines, Congress passed legislation allowing the agency to transfer funds to end the furloughs.

The basic change would be to fund traffic control not with taxes but through a “fee for flight”—a twist on the medical profession’s fee-for-service model—collected by a government corporation or a public-private partnership of some sort. About two-thirds of the costs of operating the U.S. air-traffic system comes from excise taxes on airline tickets and jet fuel, Bloomberg News reported. And with appropriations from Congress serving as the basis of long-term capital projects, the FAA’s ability to complete a transformation to a satellite-based routing system—as well as other large, capital-intensive efforts—has been called into question.

“The idea that you pay for $20 billion dollar infrastructure projects out of annual operating cash flow is nuts,” Robert Poole Jr., a co-founder of the libertarian Reason Foundation and a long-term advocate of moving ATC out of the federal government, said at the June conference. “You wouldn’t run any business that way.”

Dozens of countries, including Australia, Canada and Germany, have relinquished the management of flight traffic to various private and public-private organizations in a bid to increase efficiency, lower costs, and boost safety. Funding air traffic control through fees also allows the agency in charge to issue bonds and pay for large projects, Poole has argued. Many of those agencies even enjoying investment-grade credit ratings.

There’s also the matter of public safety and bragging rights: For decades, the U.S. has boasted the safest air traffic system, and some foresee that title being supplanted by other nations that operate their airspace differently. Others, however, argue that controllers should be government employees and that privatization could compromise safety. “I do know that the current system is broken and this conversation needs to start to happen,” Rinaldi said.

Original article:

Reconstructed General Aviation apron paving began today; $1.3 million project at Riverton Regional Airport (KRIW), Wyoming

(Riverton, Wyo.) – A test strip of asphalt was laid down this morning on a newly reconstructed general aviation apron at Riverton Regional Airport as part of a $1.3 million asphalt improvement project.

Also scheduled for paving is Taxiway C, on which 2.5 inches of asphalt was milled last week and will be overlaid this week as the apron is paved.

Maxwell Construction of Salt Lake City is the general contractor on the project, and Dave’s Asphalt of Riverton is providing the hot mix. Overseeing the project today was Dave Maxwell, owner of the Utah contracting firm.

Details of the project can be found here.

Story and Photos:

Man pleads guilty to selling defective parts to military

A former Columbus bodybuilder admitted today in federal court that he sold defective self-locking nuts to the U.S. Department of Defense for use in military aircraft.

A nine-count indictment said that Martin Dale Geyer, 53, supplied counterfeit nuts, bolts and screws to the military in 2009 through Wellworth Fastener Products, a company he ran out of his Renner Road home. Invoices that Geyer submitted for payment said the parts met government specifications, but they did not, the indictment said.

As part of an agreement, Geyer pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud for shipping the defective nuts to the military, one count of possession of anabolic steroids and one count of possessing a firearm while using a controlled substance. He also agreed to pay restitution of $41,340.

Investigators found the steroids, nine firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition when they searched Geyer’s home in Norwich Township in 2010, said Michael E. Hampp, special agent with the defense department’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

Hampp said the defective parts were considered “critical application items” and also were used in nuclear power plants.

Geyer’s plea hearing was postponed earlier in the year after his attorney asked that he be evaluated by a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist concluded that Geyer had no mental disease and was competent to participate in court proceedings, Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King said.

Geyer now lives in Wentworth, Ga.

He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine on the mail-fraud charge, a year in prison and a fine of $100,000 on the steroid-possession charge, and 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the firearms charge.

According to, a website that tracks federal contracts, Wellworth had $157,285 in federal contracts in 2009.

Geyer would not comment after the court hearing. No date has been set for his sentencing.

Original article:

Aircraft noise control panel to meet in Stewart Manor, New York

TVASNAC Meeting Monday in Stewart Manor 

The Stewart Manor Town-Village Aircraft Safety Noise Abatement Committee will host a meeting Monday to discuss concerns over low-flying planes and ways to control jet noise in communities near Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.

The meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Stewart Manor Country Club, on 51 Salisbury Ave. Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have been invited to attend.

The guest speaker will be Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies, who has been lobbying for legislation that calls for the Port Authority to enact a Federal Aviation Regulation, Part 150 study. The regulations are voluntary and airport operators, such as the Port Authority, may participate in the airport noise compatibility planning program to seek a balance between their operational needs and noise impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.

McEneaney will also be speaking about efforts to exempt flights from both airports from a new federal rule that would allow the FAA to make changes to flight procedures without conducting an environmental review to study the impact of the changes. The FAA is accepting public comments on broadening categorical exclusions through Sept. 30.

For more information, call TVASNAC at 516-489-5000 ext. 3562.

Original article:

TVASNAC Meeting Monday in Stewart Manor 

Airline Employee Caught Allegedly Impersonating A Cop On The Road

Man found using flashing light, ex-police vehicle 

 ROCHESTER HILLS (WWJ) A Highland Park man was busted for acting like a cop when he flipped on the flashing blue lights to make an illegal turn – right in front of the actual police on Friday, Sept. 13.

Oakland county sheriff’s deputies say 19 year-old Kavan Wooldridge looked the part of an officer complete with an old police cruiser and look-alike badge when he was spotted using a blue police style flashing light to make a prohibited turn at Auburn and Crooks in Rochester Hills.

The vehicle Wooldridge was driving was identified as a former/resold local police department vehicle that Wooldridge had purchased for personal use, officers said.

He had identification indicating he is employed at Detroit Metro Airport as a ramp agent for Delta Airlines, police said.  He was also found to be in possession of an airsoft gun, handcuffs, police style badge and handheld radio, which had Delta Airlines markings.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard officers worry about guys wielding fake power this way, especially because it tends to become an escalating crime.

“Obviously, they know what they’re doing is illegal, they know they don’t have the power or authority to do what they’re doing, so you don’t know what’s going on inside their head,” Bouchard said. “Pulling people over is often the next step, sometimes we’ve seen things go even farther than that.”

The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office issued a warrant for “use of a flashing or oscillating light,” which is a 90-day misdemeanor.  On September 19, 2013, he was arraigned in 52-3  District Court in Rochester Hills and was given a $500 personal bond until his next court date, which has not been set.  

Original article:

Man found using flashing light, ex-police vehicle

Airline Profit Forecast Is Cut for 2013: Outlook for Asian Carriers Pulls Down Industry

September 23, 2013, 10:30 a.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

The full-year profit forecast for Asian airlines tumbled a third over the past quarter as higher oil prices combined with sluggish economic growth, the industry's global trade body said.

The International Air Transport Association said Monday that global industry profits are expected to rise to $11.7 billion this year from an estimated $7.6 billion in 2012. The latest forecast was down $1 billion from the IATA's projection issued in June.

The actual forecast, which is heavily skewed by results at the biggest airlines, is less significant than its downward revision, which highlights the challenges faced by some carriers. Many of them underpin the bulging order books at Boeing Co. and European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.

Tony Tyler, the IATA's top executive, cited slower growth in such markets as India, Brazil and China. He was more optimistic about the outlook for next year, forecasting that global industry earnings would rise to $16.4 billion, a performance that would be second only to the record profits recorded in 2010.

The 2013 projection for carriers based in North America, Europe and the Middle East all improved from the June outlook, while Latin America remained flat. But Asian airlines suffered slower growth and a flat cargo market.

The IATA downgraded its 2013 profit forecast for Asian carriers to $3.1 billion from $4.6 billion.

The trade group cut its forecast for global air-cargo growth to 0.9% for this year, down from a June projection of 1.5%. Yields were forecast to be down 4.9% from last year; operators have lost pricing power because more cargo capacity is being offered in passenger aircraft, on top of that provided by freighter jets.

Concerns are growing about the airfreight market, an important revenue generator that has experienced essentially no growth over the past 18 months. Weak demand for imports, particularly in Europe, has left cargo jets and the freight space on passenger planes less than half full.

Industry operating margins were projected at 3.2% this year, well below the industry's average cost of capital. Airlines and leasing companies will have to finance an estimated $90 billion in deliveries of new planes this year, and more than $100 billion in 2014.


Bucks County, Pennsylvania, residents look to take legal action against Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN), New Jersey

A group of citizens from Bucks County, Pa., is on the verge of taking legal action against Mercer County and a federal agency over what it claims is an illegal use of the Trenton-Mercer Airport over the past year.

Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management, or BRRAM, a group that has protested the airport’s actions a number of times since its inception in 1999, is planning to use the federal court system to try to compel the county to study the environmental impact of having Frontier Airlines, a commercial carrier, flying out of Ewing, said Holly Bussey, a spokeswoman for the group.

This study would produce an environmental impact statement, which would explain the effect that the airport has on the surrounding area. These statements generally look at the impact of the airport on noise levels, air and water quality, land use, wildlife and more.

“We want the airport to do an environmental impact study and determine if what they’re trying to do is legal,” said Bussey, a Lower Makefield, Pa., resident.

Bussey said the group believes that a 2006 decision from the Federal Aviation Administration required Mercer County to perform one of these studies before bringing another commercial carrier to the airport. Frontier Airlines began operating out of the airport last year and environmental impact statement has still not been produced, she said.

The group does not know what the study would find, or what effect it would have on the airport’s operations, Bussey said, but it is legally required.

“We’re not here to judge that,” Bussey said. “We’re trying to have them follow the law and be good neighbors.”

Mercer County did not perform this study in response to Frontier’s arrival at the airport because the FAA did not require the county to do so, county spokeswoman Julie Willmot said. If the agency does require an environmental impact study, the county will perform one and will be required to pay for it, Willmot said.

BRRAM will name the FAA in addition to Mercer County in the likely event that it takes legal action, Bussey said, because the agency has not forced the county to perform this study.

After a few years of lessened activity, BRRAM has become re-energized with the arrival of Frontier, Bussey said. In recent months they have begun to build a presence on social media, visit local municipal councils, and attempt to spread awareness of their cause through a door-to-door information campaign, she said.

The group is open to Mercer County residents as well and it welcomes anyone who is affected by the airport, Bussey added.

Aside from the fact that the group believes the county is violating federal regulations, it believes many residents of Bucks and Mercer counties suffer quality of life issues because of the new commercial traffic at the airport, said Bussey.

As the airplanes approach the airport, they pass over eastern Bucks County at such a low altitude that people can read the numbers on the side of the plane, Bussey said, and all conversations come to a halt.

“You’re in your house and have to stop conversation if your windows are open,” she said.

The noise from the planes is loud enough that Bussey does not need to set an alarm in the morning; she wakes up to the roar of the first plane to fly over her neighborhood each day.

She said she understands the planes must reach this low altitude as they approach or leave the airport, but she said the airplanes need to share the pain by spreading their flight patterns so that it is not always the same clusters of residents that suffer from the deafening sound of the commercial flights.

Whether the group is successful or not in litigation, Bussey said she wants the airport to act as a good neighbor if it expands in the future.

BRRAM would like to see better communication from the airport and Mercer County if it changes course and the group would like to see the airport spread the flight patterns more to reduce the negative impact on the residents who currently suffer the most, she said.

“We’re not trying to close the airport,” Bussey said. “We’re asking for the airport to be responsible.”

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Up to 85 percent of Spanish airports losing money

Spain has fifty-two airports. Germany, with almost twice the population, 81 million people, has just 19.

AENA have registered a decline of 4.6% in the number of passengers travelling through their airports in the first six months of the year, with 70.14 million passengers.

The reduction has produced an accumulated debt of 166 million euros.

We all know the story of Castellón airport which is currently costing 3,600 euros a day to keep closed.  It was reported last week that last week that the company currently running the site with no aircraft, Aerocas, spent 368,865 euros in 2011 on personnel costs, despite having just seven employees.

In addition they also spent more than 5 million euros on advertising, promotion and public relations.

So how many more similar cases are there amongst the fifty-two airports in Spain especially as there are more than 20 major towns or cities that have two, sometimes even three airports within a comfortable sixty minute drive

To put this into some sort of perspective, Spain is the European country with the most airports per head of population. With its 46 million people, 17 autonomous communities divided into 50 provinces, without counting Ceuta or Melilla, Spain has fifty-two airports. Germany, with almost twice the population, 81 million people, has just 19.

A report written by the Foundation for Applied Economic Studies (Fedea) based on public data, states that only eight of the forty-seven airports managed by AENA are profitable: Fuerteventura, Alicante, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, Seville, Valencia, Lanzarote and Malaga, with the airports in Palma, Ibiza and Menorca, the most popular tourist destinations in Spain,  accounting for the largest number of July passengers in Julytheir history.

The Madrid- Barajas airport with 545 daily flights and 26.7 million passengers between January and July, was the sixth busiest in Europe in the number flights. In the ninth position was Barcelona- El Prat, with 20.24 million passengers and 170,108 flights.

However the Minister of Development, Ana Pastor, revealed last February in the House of Representatives that the debt of AENA , the public company which manages 90 percent of Spanish airports, amounted to 14 billion euros.

The report says that more than half of Spain’s airports have another airfield within 130 miles,Girona,  Barcelona, Reus,  Valladolid, Salamanca, Alicante, Murcia, Granada and Malaga.  Indeed in many cases, such as Galicia, passengers can choose from three: Santiago de Compostela, Coruña and Vigo, all of which are less than a 90 minute drive.

Huesca airport, which invested 60 million euro in order to to accommodate 160,000 passengers a year, processed just  2,781 passengers in 2011. It has had no regular flights since last year. The airport Ciudad Real was opened two years ago, but will be inactive when Spanair leaves in October.

Staff at Lleida say that the airlines do not want to fly there , and it currently has just one return flight to Mallorca. Valladolid Airport recorded 192,785 passengers, a decrease of 12.5 percent from 2011, while the León had 26,948 passengers, down 28.1 percent.

Murcia’s Corvera International airport was built in 2007 with a guarantee of 200 million euros from the regional government. However despite there being no current plans to open the site Murcia’s president, Ramón Luis Valcárcel, defended its construction saying last week that San Javier airport is not an airport that can respond to the interests of Murcia.

He said that flying from Madrid to Murcia, for example, is an adventure because you have to get up at four o'clock to book in.

Other airports that failed to register any significant passenger numbers include Cordova (8,442 travellers), Albacete (8415) and Vitoria with just 48 passengers per day.

Original article:

Pilots Killed in Vietnam War to be Interred at Arlington Today

LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC/AP) — In July 1969, during the Vietnam War, Maj. James Sizemore and his co-pilot Maj. Howard Andre were shot down and killed while flying a nighttime combat mission over Laos.

Both men’s remains were unaccounted for until last year, when teams from the United States and Laos finally excavated the crash site. The pilots were positively identified in April, and at noon on Monday they will be buried side-by-side at Arlington National Cemetery.

Their families decided the friends, who were also classmates at Georgia Tech before the war, should remain together, as they have been for the past 45 years.

Because of sequestration, however, the Air Force will not provide the “missing man” flyover traditionally provided for fallen military pilots.

Instead, a Virginia-based nonprofit group made up of veteran pilots will fly their own planes over the ceremony. An A-26 Invader like the one the men died in will be included in the formation.

While the members of the group, Warrior Aviation, are donating their time, the fuel for the gesture will cost $24,000.

The families are trying to raise those funds, but as of Friday, they are $18,000 short.

To donate funds for the flyover, click here.

Original article and photo:

Man’s skydiving dream turns to nightmare

LOUISVILLE — For 26-year-old David Meek, optimism in the face of adversity is a philosophy he must live by after a skydiving accident has left him debilitated.

“I’ve always heard it has to get worse before it gets better,” Meek said from his bed at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington.

 On Aug. 3, Meek’s daredevil dreams became a reality when he participated in a tandem skydive in Lumberton, Miss.

 The Floyd County man compared the experience to swimming through open water. From three miles high, the world before him was like a puzzle, with the many roads and waterways laying out the pieces.

 This dream quickly dissolved to a nightmare.

 “I remember (my instructor) him pulling the cord and nothing happened,” Meek said referring to his partner who was tied to the same parachute. “I heard him say, ‘Oh, shoot!’ and I asked him what’s wrong but he didn’t say anything. I asked him over and over but he didn’t answer.”

 The parachute had not deployed properly from the pack. Unable to catch any wind, the chute tangled as they continued their descent.

 The instructor, James Horak, Jr., was a veteran Special Forces medic with over 8,000 jumps to his credit. Meek said that Horak frantically attempted to cut the lines of the parachute so they could deploy the emergency chute.

 “The parachute provided some resistance, but we kept falling and spinning so fast,” Meek said. “I just kept praying and praying and praying the whole way down until I blacked out.”

 He woke to find they landed in a swamp. He said the impact left him in a hole three to four feet wide.

 Meek said he was lying on Horak’s legs when he woke up and both men were paralyzed from the waist down.

 According to Meek, Horak passed away from the severity of his injuries one hour after they landed.

 “I was out there four hours, five hours,” Meek said. “I felt like I was starting to go, too. I just prayed to God and said, ‘God, please don’t let this be it, but if it is, take my body into your hands. I don’t want to go anywhere else except to you.’”

 Finally, Meek heard a four-wheeler close by.

 Meek said he cleared his airway as best he could and called out to the rider. The landowner, Patrick Halcomb, was among many searching for the two after they landed away from the planned drop zone.

 “He’s my hero,” Meek said with a smile. “God sent him straight to me. If he had shown up 15 to 30 minutes later than he did, I wouldn’t have made it.”

 Meek was unconscious for two weeks after the accident, occasionally waking for a few minutes at a time.

 His mother, Londa Sue Lafferty, said all he would utter in those moments was, “He’s dead, mommy,” in reference to Horak.  Lafferty rushed from Kentucky to Mississippi to see her son after he had undergone nine hours of surgery on his back, ribs and jaw.

 Meek’s condition continues to improve. Barely a month after the accident, Meek is able to stand with assistance.

 “I’m just meeting God halfway,” he said. “That’s why I do everything double, because I have to meet him halfway.”

 Meek attributes every bit of progress he has to the strength God is giving him right now.

 Even though he is in pain, he is very thankful for the second chance at life.

 “God gives me the pain to not forget He saved me,” Meek said.

Original article and photo:

Pilot trying to visit every public airfield in Washington

PROSSER -- There's no keeping Bill Nelson's feet on the ground. The Prosser pilot has had his eye on the sky since the 1970s, when he first earned his pilot's license in California.

He has flown small planes, paragliders and gliders and was a glider instructor for five years. Most recently Nelson, 61, has been flying light sport aircraft.

They're a special category sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Light sport aircraft are real planes. They have an engine and are enclosed. And they're capable of going cross country," Nelson said. "However, they can't weigh over 1,320 pounds, carry more than two people or go over 10,000 feet. And you can't fly at night."

The appeal of light sport aircraft is they're less expensive to buy than a regular small plane like a Cessna, which can run $100,000 and up, he said. The average cost of a light sport aircraft is between $20,000 and $40,000.

"It also costs half as much to learn to fly one as it does a regular small plane and half as much to rent," Nelson said. "The safety issues remain the same. You have to know how to fly and how to do it safely."

Since January, Nelson has been working on one of the to-do's on his bucket list: visiting every public airfield in Washington. So far he's logged 98, mainly in Eastern Washington, and flown about 3,500 miles.

"I only have 20 to 30 to left to do, and they're concentrated on the West Side, mainly around Olympia and a couple in the northeast corner of the state," he said.

Many of his stops are touch-and-go. Nelson doesn't even stop the plane or get out. That's what he did at Seatac.

"People told me I was crazy wanting to go there, but I talked to a Seatac air traffic controller -- who thought I was crazy too -- and he told me exactly how to do it. It was strictly touch-and-go. They wouldn't let me stop. I came in behind one jet and there was another right behind me," he said.

Some of the airfields Nelson's visited have been little more than a cleared area with a dirt or grass runway.

"They've been interesting. Once, flying over Snoqualmie Pass, I did a touch-and-go in a clearing surrounded by tall, tall pines," he said.

What he forgot to factor in was when pilots do a touch-and-go, they use half the runway coming in and have the other half to accelerate and take off.

"As I began to climb I saw those trees coming up fast. I told myself to stay calm and aimed my plane at the lowest trees I could find," he said.

As he cleared them, Nelson found himself flying about 50 feet above the traffic on Interstate 90.

"That was kind of exciting," he said.

Nelson's not trying for any kind of a record. Logging visits to the airports, just like flying, is for his own personal satisfaction.

"When you see the beauty of the San Juans and the North Cascades ... it's amazing to see them from the air, from God's perspective. The rolling hills of the Palouse look like a giant's golf course," he said.

Monday through Wednesday Nelson works as a respiratory therapist at Kennewick General Hospital, which leaves him half the week for flying. He's also looking to the future and plans to take a course in repairing light sport aircraft.

"And I want to become a light sport aircraft instructor too," he said. "I'm coming up for retirement next year, and I'm not one for sitting around watching reruns on TV."

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EVA Airways expands business with new manufacturing unit

EVA Airways, Taiwan's second largest airline, is developing its upstream aircraft maintenance and aircraft manufacturing businesses, with the latter seeing orders triple this year compared with last year, reports our sister paper Commercial Times, citing EVA chairman Chang Kuo-wei.

EVA's next step is to expand toward aerospace manufacturing, including aircraft maintenance and aircraft manufacturing. Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corp, the group's maintenance unit, has been in stable growth, according to Chang. The group has recently founded a new unit to focus on manufacturing engines and parts, and will expand to include aircraft precision parts and components.

The group is building a new manufacturing factory in Taoyuan in northern Taiwan, scheduled for completion in May next year and will have a registered capital of as much as NT$7 billion (US$236.6 million). Chang said that the new manufacturing unit will have a revenue of about NT$1 billion (US$33.8 million) this year, and once its new factory is completed, its revenues will see explosive growth.

Currently, the unit gets orders of engine parts and components chiefly from General Motors. It is also negotiating with Boeing and Airbus for new orders, Chang added. Evergreen Aviation, after becoming a maintenance center in Asia, has not only cultivated networks but has also obtained technology transfers from Boeing.

It is now the perfect time to enter the aircraft manufacturing business, Chang said, adding that Evergreen Group, parent of EVA Airways, will accelerate its recruitment scheme in the aerospace manufacturing industry in the next two years. However, Chang admitted that it may be hard to find domestic talent, especially engineers.

In general, aerospace manufacturing companies can outsource other satellite plants to make parts and components, but Taiwan's related firms have faced difficulty in the past in seeking certification. Now that EVA can handle the certification, the prospects of Taiwan's aerospace manufacturing industry is good, Chang said.

Evergreen Aviation has an annual revenue of around NT$18 billion (US$608.4 million) and is seeing single-digit growth every year as its technological requirement is comparatively low, Chang said. Its major clients include Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and Vietnam Airlines.

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Luxury private airport hangar completed at Dubai World Central

A luxury new private airport hangar to be used for “very, very important guests” has been completed at Dubai World Central.

DC Aviation Al Futtaim (DCAF) – a joint venture between Dubai-based Al-Futtaim Group and Germany’s DC Aviation – announced on Monday the purpose-built integrated hangar facility with lounge and office areas was almost ready for operation.

The facility includes a 5700sqm state-of-the-art hangar and a 1300sqm luxury lounge area designed to host VVIP customers, with shower areas, a conference room, covered parking and “exquisite five-star finishing”.

DCAF said it would provide aircraft management, fixed-base operations, aircraft maintenance services and business jet chartering to local, regional and international clients. It would operate 24/7 to provide immediate response to requests.

“Our decision to invest in DWC stems from our confidence in the significant role this new airport will play in complementing and enhancing the success of Dubai’s aviation industry,” DCAF general manager Holger Ostheimer said.

“Being the first business aviation player to set up its facility at DWC is a major milestone for us and we feel privileged to become a partner in the continuous progress of the UAE’s expanding aviation industry.

“Through our unique facilities, our clients will benefit from our comprehensive suite of services across aircraft management, FBO, maintenance and business jet charter.”

DWC, near Jebel Ali, also is home to the emirate’s new Al Maktoum International Airport, which is expected to begin commercial passenger services on October 27.

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Portsmouth International Airport at Pease prepares for arrival of Allegiant Airline -- Airline to start Florida flights on Oct. 25

PORTSMOUTH — Officials at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease are gearing up for the arrival of Allegiant Air, a commercial airline that recently announced it would return scheduled passenger service to the local air terminal.

With the airline slated to begin flights to and from Sanford, Fla., on Oct. 25, employees at the Pease airport have been busily preparing the terminal for the influx of commercial flights, Airport Manager Bill Hopper said.

"We're working hard to make sure that a passenger's experience is as nice as possible," he said.

In addition to the physical preparation, Pease officials have also begun to ramp up marketing efforts. The Pease Development Authority board of directors on Sept. 19 authorized $135,000 in matching funds in connection with the airline's marketing program. The board also approved an additional $60,000 in funds to be used in a separate effort by Pease to market the airline.

PDA Executive Director David Mullen said the additional money will allow for advertising on the radio and in newspapers. Mullen said the advertisement will be imperative to Allegiant's success.

"I don't want to back off," he said. "I think if you stop advertising ... they'll think you just went away."

Allegiant, which served Pease in the past, ending in 2007, will operate twice weekly, Mondays and Fridays, between Portsmouth and Orlando Sanford International Airport. Flights depart Portsmouth at 6:30 p.m. and Sanford at 3 p.m. For information, visit

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