Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Date change aimed at making Watsonville Fly-In soar: Watsonville Municipal Airport (WVI), California

WATSONVILLE -- Watsonville Fly-in organizers plan to move the annual air show from Labor Day weekend to October in 2014.

The date change, the second in five years, is an attempt to grow an event that showcases the Watsonville Municipal Airport and raises money for local charities, but has struggled in recent years.

The exact date has yet to be determined for what will be the 50th anniversary of the community event. But organizers said moving the event from a holiday weekend with an abundance of competing events to October, which historically provides some of the nicest weather of the year, could make the fly-in soar.

"There's no air show if we don't have the weather," said Hank Wempe, president of the nonprofit Watsonville Fly-In.

Fog put a damper on the air show in nine of 10 years before the event was shifted from its traditional slot on Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day in 2009. The weather improved, but the air show's fortunes have not.

Wendy Mann, who's been treasurer of the nonprofit for the past three years, said a sagging economy put a drag on attendance, but organizers will use the lessons learned during the rough patch to make improvements. For example, an independent survey conducted during the most recent event revealed the majority of air show attendees were 35 and older, 40 percent were 50 and older, and 40 percent had incomes of $100,000 or more. Mann said there's room to grow in the youth and Latino communities, a consideration organizers will take into account as they plan activities.

"I'm really excited about the 50th," Mann said, adding a kickoff event would be held after the first of the year and more details would be available then.

Despite a dispute that led to a last-minute withdrawal by the promoter, organizers said the air show did better this year than in 2012. More than 4,000 people attended, and the number of planes on display nearly doubled. The number of out-of-town pilots made the increase particularly encouraging, Wempe said. In 2012, of 90 planes on exhibit, 76 were based at the airport. This year, nearly all the 170-plus aircraft came from outside the area, he said.

Mann reported $4,000 in donations to local charities from the 2013 proceeds, including $2,500 to the Lions Club, $1,000 to Boy Scouts Troop 558 and $500 to the Watsonville Police Activities League.

Wempe and Mann said they plan to campaign harder for sponsorships for the 2014 event. If sponsorships cover expenses, the gate can go to charities, Wempe said. The Sentinel was a sponsor of the 2013 show.

India Begins Move to Cancel AgustaWestland Deal: Government Has Issued a Final Notice to the Company, India Official Says

By  Santanu Choudhury

The Wall Street Journal

Oct. 23, 2013 12:56 p.m. ET

NEW DELHI—India Wednesday initiated a process to cancel a 556-million-euro helicopter contract with AgustaWestland, just over two weeks after the U.K.-based unit of Italian defense contractor Finmeccanica SpA invoked arbitration against the Indian government.

India's defense ministry had in February frozen payments to AgustaWestland and suspended deliveries following allegations that bribes were paid to Indian officials to help AgustaWestland win the 2010 deal to supply a dozen AW101 helicopters. Defense Minister A.K. Antony had said the government would take strict action against anybody who acted improperly. This could include cancellation of the deal, blacklisting of those involved, recovery of money and penal action, he had said.

A final notice has been issued to AgustaWestland over the contract, a senior official at India's defense ministry told The Wall Street Journal.

The company has been given 21 days to respond, he said, but declined to elaborate on the contents of the notice.

A spokesman for AgustaWestland in India said the company "will review the letter [from the defense ministry] and we will respond appropriately."

A spokesman for Finmeccanica in Italy declined to comment.

Indian and Italian authorities are separately investigating the allegations of corruption in the deal. Both companies had earlier denied any wrongdoing and offered to cooperate with investigators in Italy and India.

The deal has become the subject of a raging controversy in India with opposition parties attacking the Congress party-led coalition government over the bribery allegations.

The country's federal auditor in an August report blamed the defense ministry of breaking bidding rules to give the contract to AgustaWestland.

The ministry had declined to comment on the allegations. AgustaWestland had not commented on the report.

The AgustaWestland issue has also led to concerns in India that future acquisitions of weapons could be delayed because of greater government scrutiny.

AgustaWestland said on Oct. 4 that it has begun arbitration proceedings against the Indian government over the contract. AgustaWestland said it took the step as it didn't receive any response from the defense ministry to several requests since April 2013 for discussions about the contract.

India had initially ordered the helicopters for use by its senior politicians. It has received three of the helicopters between November 2012 and February 2013.

—Gilles Castonguay in Milan contributed to this article.


Boeing's Profit Rises on Strength of Commercial Unit: Company Raises Earnings Outlook as Aircraft Business Offsets Weaker Defense Profit

By  Tess Stynes

The Wall Street Journal 

Oct. 23, 2013 8:08 a.m. ET

Boeing Co. said its third-quarter earnings rose 12% as strength in its commercial aircraft business offset weaker profit at its defense division.

For the year, the company raised its per-share earnings estimate to $6.50 to $6.65, from its previously increased estimate for a per-share profit of $6.20 to $6.40. Boeing also affirmed its revenue view.

Boeing's commercial aircraft business continued to report increased deliveries, helped by higher production of its 787 Dreamliner, despite glitches that have continued to plague the flagship plane.

The aerospace company still expects to deliver a record 635 to 645 aircraft in 2013 as it works to meet demand for aircraft in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, as well as replace older fleets in the U.S. and Europe.

In the latest quarter, the commercial aircraft business reported revenue growth of 15% as deliveries increased 14% to 170 planes. Operating earnings climbed 40% on stronger margins.

The defense, space and security division reported revenue improved 3%; however, operating earnings fell 19% as margins weakened.

Boeing reported a profit of $1.16 billion, or $1.51 a share, up from $1.03 billion, or $1.35 a share, a year earlier. Core operating earnings—which adjusts to exclude pension components related to market fluctuations and other items—rose to $1.80 from $1.55. Revenue increased 11% to $22.1 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently expected per-share earnings of $1.55 and revenue of $21.69 billion.

Operating margin rose to 8.1% from 7.8%.

Through Tuesday's close, the stock is up 63% this year. 


Vietnam Airlines looking for lost right nose wheel, seeking information from France: ATR-72-500, VN-B219, Flight VN-1673 -- Da Nang, Vietnam

Vietnam Airlines has mobilized forces to search for the front landing wheel of an ATR-72 plane that was found missing after the plane landed in Da Nang Airport on Monday, October 21. 

>> VNA plane missing front wheel after landing

The national flag carrier also said it would send the damaged section of the aircraft to which the wheel was attached to France to identify the cause of the incident, said Ho Minh Tan, head of the CAAV’s Flight Safety Standard Department.

The part will be sent to BEA (Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile), the French authority responsible for safety investigations into accidents or incidents in civil aviation, for examination and conclusion.

Meanwhile, the firm has mobilized all possible forces to look for the missing wheel at the Cat Bi Airport in northern Hai Phong city, where the plane took off, and in Da Nang Airport area, as well as other possible locations.

Yesterday afternoon, the search in Da Nang was ended after many airline experts from CAAV said that the wheel could have been lost some time during the flight.

Meanwhile, a group of 20 has been searching for the wheel in the Cai Bi airport area. They also coordinated with local authorities and residents to expand their search to the airport’s surrounding areas.

However, they have yet to find the wheel or any broken pieces of the part that had held it.

Lai Xuan Thanh, head of CAAV, said the search would continue today, October 23, in areas outside the airport.

Meanwhile, the entire fleet of 14 ATR-72 planes of the VNA has resumed work after undergoing technical examinations yesterday. The fleet had earlier been suspended by the CAAV following the incident.

As previously reported, the aircraft took off from Cat Bi Airport in the northern city of Hai Phong at 12:45 pm and landed in central Da Nang City at 2:15 on schedule on October 21.

After all 41 passengers and the crew had left the aircraft, airport technicians carried out a routine examination and found that it had lost one of its two front wheels.

Further examination showed that the aircraft’s front shaft had been broken at one side, causing the loss of the wheel.

Le Truong Giang, the spokesman of the national flag carrier, said this is the first incident of its kind to happen to VNA and an investigation is underway.


Nigerian Aircraft Not Maintained - Experts

Ilorin — Aviation experts yesterday attributed frequent air crashes in Nigeria to lack of capacity for aircraft maintenance and refusal to comply with standard protocols in the aviation sector.

Leo Daniel and Christopher Odetunde, both Professors of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Kwara State University, Malete said training of capacity for maintenance of aircraft as well as strict compliance with standard procedure would go a long way in checking air crashes in Nigeria.

They stated this during a seminar on aeronautics and astronautics organized by the College of Engineering and Technology (CET), KWASU.

Speaking on "World View of Aviation: A case for better Nigerian Aviation Policies", Odetunde noted that though Nigeria has adequate laws in place to secure the country's airspace, most of those laws were barely enforced.

"One of the things we talk about in aviation is, are people well prepared, do we train people well as to recognise aviation faults? How do we make sure that if we know there is a problem in aviation, we can stop it? We can do this by making sure that people follow the right procedure. What is happening is that people are cutting corners and when you cut corners in aviation, people suffer, a lot of people die.

"In fact when you look at aviation, those who fly are the creme-de-la-creme of the society. So when you kill one of them, you kill so many tentacles; people that they are supporting, you kill so many families. So it is important that we look at our communication system, the surveillance system, security system and the engineering system.

On aircraft maintenance, he said: "The first thing you do is you make sure the aircraft coming into this country are airworthy. Secondly, when they come in, you get all our maintenance people to look at it carefully and to certify that it is airworthy before you start flying. Unfortunately, many of these aircraft that are not airworthy, we still fly them thinking that act of God would save us from crashes and it has not happened. Until we start following the protocol, making sure that everybody that is involved, all the laws are followed, then we would be having crashes."

In his lecture titled, "Technological Readiness Level of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Nigeria", Leo, who is the Provost of the College said that "the cause of crashes is maintenance. Absolutely nothing more than maintenance. For example, a plane leaving Abuja to Ilorin must be checked before taking off but to my surprise, that's not done. A plane flies and drops, nobody looked at what happened. For example the hydraulic system, what happens to hydraulic system? The hydraulic system is the engine of the aircraft. If anything goes wrong with the hydraulic system, the feeding of the engine would just disappear and the engine would stop.

"So those things are part of the maintenance issues. We have to really look into that issue and see where the government can come in to help maintain aircraft, create capacity for that. Creating a capacity means training and also building infrastructure to have ability to take aircraft in most of our airports particularly the international aircraft that come to Nigeria.

"They do not have their maintenance here, they do it there and fly and then go back and do their maintenance. They don't do it here and that is a very risky business because aircraft landing in an airport, the airport should have the ability to maintain that aircraft, to see whether it is ready to fly again."


Frontier Airlines executive: Blue skies ahead at Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN), New Jersey

TRENTON — Though the ownership of Frontier Airlines is close to changing, Mercer County can expect the airline’s presence to continue to grow, a top executive told a crowd in Trenton today.

Daniel Shurz, a senior vice president at Frontier, said the airline saw great potential in the region when it chose to begin flying out of Trenton-Mercer Airport, and said the future looks bright during a luncheon sponsored by the Mid-Jersey Chamber of Commerce as part of Trenton’s Small Business Week.

“We don’t think anyone has approached this airport the right way before,” Shurz said.

There is a huge potential market for flights in the area, but it is important to focus on routes that will have a high volume of customers and less low-cost competition, Shurz said. By doing this, Frontier has tapped into an underserved market, he said.

“This is the most densely populated area in the country. There are 2.5 million people that live closer to Trenton-Mercer Airport than to any other airport with commercial service,” Shurz said.

That is comparable to population of the Denver area, where Frontier is based; an area that sees more than 700 flights a day, Shurz said. Customers can be in the terminal in Ewing 20 minutes after they leave their homes, Shurz said.

One challenge Trenton-Mercer has presented Frontier with is that the airport was not active with another commercial airline recently, Shurz said.

“We’ve marketed this airline and the airport,” Shurz said. “We’re getting more people to try the airport,” Shurz said.

In addition, it has been more difficult to measure success through the first year because Frontier is not as accustomed to setting up in an airport that does not already have commercial flights, he said. The company has, however, exceeded the goals that it set for the area.

“This has been a region that is, in a sense, crying out for lower fares,” Shurz said. “And the initial reaction suggests the future is bright.”

Shurz said that the airline will likely continue to expand at Trenton-Mercer, but he would not say if the company has any solid plans for new destinations beyond the recently announced additions of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Charlotte, N.C.

The airline, which has suspended service during a project to renovate the airport’s main runway, terminal, and parking lots, is scheduled to resume service in Mercer on Nov. 8 and has already begun selling flights for that date on its website.

“We keep telling the airport that whatever additional capacity they make available, we’ll keep putting more planes in to use up the capacity,” Shurz said.

Frontier is hesitant about flying up to the Boston area because it is less that a 5-hour drive, and that tends to reduce the demand for flights, but the airline has considered it, Shurz said.

The airline is also looking at how it can build a direct flight to Denver into the future plans at Trenton-Mercer, Shurz said, not only because the city is a great destination but also because it would present customers with the opportunity to take advantage of many connecting flights. Frontier is based in Denver and a direct flight from Trenton-Mercer to Denver would open connections as far as California, Alaska and Cancun.

As the airline nears a sale which would land it under the ownership of Indigo Partners, a firm that is associated with the budget-priced Spirit Airlines, some members of the audience questioned whether that would affect the way it operates.

“Fundamentally we’re known for being a reliable, friendly airline, and we want to continue to be a reliable, friendly airline,” Shurz said.

Frontier is different than Spirit, Shurz said, but the company would like to get their costs on par with Spirit’s.

Frontier is already charging some customers for carry-on baggage and for seat assignments. Shurz said that the most likely change would be an expansion of these policies, but he does not expect much more of an effect to customer experience.

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Cape Air launching air service to several Montana towns

Cape Air announced on Monday that flights from Billings to five Montana communities will begin December 10th.

The Massachusetts-based airline is one of the largest independent regional airlines in the country and is making its first venture into Montana.

All seats on flights will be priced at $49 each way, which includes taxes and fees.

Cape Air's president, Linda Markham, says, "We are viewing the start of service in Montana as an exciting chapter in our organization's history. The opportunity to provide frequent, consistent air service, create new jobs and become a community partner to these six cities is one that we eagerly welcome."

Here are the flight schedules:

Billings (BIL) - Sidney (SDY): 5 daily, round-trip
Billings (BIL) - Glendive (GDV): 2 daily, round-trip
Billings (BIL) - Glasgow (GGW): 2 daily, round-trip
Billings (BIL) - Wolf Point (OLF): 2 daily, round-trip
Billings (BIL) - Havre (HVR): 2 daily, round-trip

Cape Air operates a fleet of 75 Cessna 402s, three Britten-Norman Islanders, and two ATRs.

For more information, call 1-800-CAPE-AIR or visit their website.

New airline launching in Cayman Islands

A new Cayman Islands-based airline is planning to run scheduled flights connecting to the Caribbean and Latin America.

BlueSky Airlines has already launched an “executive jet” service aimed at high-end clients in the business world. 

The service, which allows executives to take day trips on private planes to meetings in the region, will also target exclusive leisure travelers.

The next and more ambitious phase of expansion for the fledgling company will be commercial routes, bypassing the U.S., and linking Grand Cayman to islands around the Caribbean, as well as central and South America.

The airline’s directors say they are still finalizing regulatory approvals and other details before announcing a timeline for the opening of the new routes. 

They plan to use a 70-seater Dash 8 Q400 aircraft, which can reach cruising speeds of nearly 435 miles an hour – similar to a Boeing 737, to run island-hopping multi-destination routes connecting to hubs in Latin America.

Potential routes could include a British Virgin Islands-Grand Cayman-Costa Rica link. 

Other potential destinations include the Dominican Republic and Colombia, though the exact schedule has not been finalized.

Aviation expert Edward Jerrard, who is a consultant for the company, said it would complement rather than compete with Cayman Airways, bringing in passengers from around the region who could then access the national airline’s routes to destinations like Cuba and New York.

The airline will initially lease pilots and crew with the aircraft but ultimately aims to recruit and train a locally based workforce of around 50 employees.

Mr. Jerrard said the company aimed to exploit a gap in the market for travelers looking to skip the headache of traveling through Miami and connect to Latin America and beyond. He said it would also link in with other airlines within the Caribbean to facilitate smoother travel within the region.

“The whole idea is a smaller airline, smaller fuel-efficient aircraft that will provide that network of connections between eastern Caribbean, western Caribbean and Latin America for both passengers and product.

“The key is bypassing Miami. For a lot of people with visa problems, for example, the issue of getting to somewhere else in the Caribbean is a nightmare at the moment.

“For us, the market is the entire Caribbean from BVI west; we are looking at the whole region, not just one territory.”

He said the connections to central and South America would open up the possibility of traveling to Australia or Europe without having to connect through the U.S.

“This will aim to make Cayman more in touch with the world,” Mr. Jerrard said.

“We have 150 nationalities represented on this island and pretty much one destination. This will enable a much greater penetration of the world business market and leisure market into Cayman.”

The directors say they are undeterred by the financial struggles of Cayman Airways, pointing out the national airline’s mandate to increase tourism arrivals for government is an entirely different business model.

BlueSky spokesman Mark Ellinger added, “BlueSky is uniquely positioned as it will not compete with Cayman Airways or any of the other carriers into the Cayman Islands. 

“We have carefully identified other routes to destinations commonly traveled by people moving in and out of the Cayman Islands. We have designed our offering to take advantage of large hubs in South America. If you want to fly to South Africa, why would you opt to first fly north?” 

The idea of “skipping Miami” is also the concept behind BlueSky’s Executive Jet service, which has been operating quietly for the past few months ahead of a “soft launch” this week.

The service targets business and high-end leisure travelers who want to hire private planes for a quick trip, usually to neighboring countries like Trinidad or Barbados, but potentially to anywhere in the world.

“Our research shows there is a market for people who need to get to these destinations quickly. At the moment, they all have to go through Miami to transfer and we all know the time taken and the problems that creates,” Mr. Jerrard said.

“Some of these business people and lawyers are charging these clients a considerable amount of money and the time taken to get there is all added to the bill.”

He said the company could get almost any aircraft for the trip at a moment’s notice. A day trip on a Learjet for five people to Jamaica would cost around $1,600 per person, he said. 

“It is also for those people who want to go for a day to Cuba or go and play a round of golf in Punta Cana or Dominican Republic.”

He said the company planned further expansions, carrying cargo and organizing and planning holidays for travelers on both the private jets and the scheduled routes.

“BlueSky Holidays and BlueSky Cargo will be established to open up new sources of tourism, trade and commerce for the Cayman Islands and the wider Caribbean,” the company added in a press statement.

Council postpones FBO / Airport Manager discussion: Independence Municipal (KIIB), Iowa

INDEPENDENCE – Jonathon Walter, the Independence Airport Manager and Fixed Base Operator (FBO) advised the entire City Council Monday night of his reasons for tendering his resignation after only a little over a year in the positions.

“My decision to leave stems from many issues pertaining to the City’s lack of development at the airport,” Walter stated. “This has caused the airport to lose potential profits … it has impacted the ability to grow my business or to bring in any new business to the airport. This direct lack of interest in producing anything positive for the community, especially the airport, has marginalized my position as Manager and my ability to curtailed such apathy. As Airport Manager I’ve been rendered all but useless. My advice has been overlooked or dismissed, and instead I have been micro-managed to such an extent that any efforts on my part to better the airport for the City have been destroyed before any progress could be made.”

Walter said his decision was not made rashly and he hopes to keep his business locally.

“Excluding any new proposals or alternate considerations to my contract offered by the City,” Walter said, “I would ask the Council for a motion to accept my request for a mutual 30-day resignation.”

After Walter’s statement, Mayor Carl Scharff allowed three airport patrons and Walter supporters to speak. The three, Lee Bowden, John Bagge and Jeff Rottinghaus, had registered to speak during the Public Forum, but requested their time be used during the discussion of the Airport Manager’s petition.

Bowden, a local pilot, educator, lecturer and promoter of aviation, reviewed Walter’s qualifications, aircraft and business.

“He has consistently had over 20 students, including students from Ontario, Canada,” Bowden said. “Lately the University of Dubuque students have been coming over here for instruction from Jonathan because they have learned of his superior ability and knowledge regarding flying.”

Bowden also discussed Walter’s banner towing business and how Walter worked with federal authorities in developing the procedures and the rules regarding banner towing. Bowden also spoke about Walter Aviation being the only banner towing service in the state of Iowa and also about Walter’s aerobatic flying certifications.

Bowden ended he his remarks by praising Walter’s attention to maintenance of the grounds and runway, and for the implementation of the summer-long bi-weekly cook-outs where the public was invited to visit and learn more about the airport.

The next speaker was local farmer John Bagge. He started out questioning why Walter’s pay and benefit package was not at the level of other Department Managers’ pay. Bagge praised Walter’s conduct, saying it very professional. Bagge told how he had taken flying lessons 20 years ago and wanted a few refresher courses without starting at square one. Bagge said Walter would not allow it because of regulations.

“Jon said ‘No, you will do it by the book’,” said Bagge. “It might offend you a little bit at first, but I learned quickly that you do it by the book or you die … Jon does not cut corners.”

Bagge also brought up the fact that there is a waiting list for hangar space.

“You can’t grow if you put people on a waiting list,” said Bagge. “They’ll go to another airport … I see [the airport] as a very good asset for the community.”

Last to speak was Rottinghaus from La Porte City. He is also a pilot, stating he was trained by former FBO Jim Connell. He runs his crop dusting business out of the Independence airport. He said his customers often ask why doesn’t operate out of an airport closer to his fields.

“I choose not to, because I like the atmosphere and the services at the Independence airport,” Rottinghaus said. “Jonathan has done a wonderful job managing it.”

Rottinghaus referred to a newspaper article about Iowa’s “Brian Drain” of young people and asked the Council to try to keep Walter here.

“He brings so much to your community in the form of aviation,” Rottinghaus said.

After the speakers the Council decided to not act on Walter’s resignation, but to set time for a closed session during the next Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 28 to discuss Walter’s contract.


Residents outraged by plan to expand Paulding Northwest Atlanta (KPUJ), Georgia


The Paulding County Commission voted Tuesday night to float a $3.6 million bond to help pay for taxiway widening at the local airport.

It’s part of a deal reached between the Airport Authority and Propeller Investments, a story Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant broke two weeks ago.

Some Paulding County residents voiced their anger Tuesday over the deal to expand what is now called Silver Comet Field at Paulding NW Atlanta to include some commercial flights.

Propeller Investments told Diamant it was already in talks with some airlines to begin commercial service and was working on proposals to lure aerospace and aviation companies to the airport.

But some residents and political leaders said they weren't informed about the deal until after it was already done.

"There's a difference between confidential and secret," said Paulding County Commission Chairman David Austin. "We dealt in confidentiality because we were asked to."

Susan Wilkins voiced her anger at a commission work session Tuesday morning and again at the commission meeting Tuesday night.

"Obviously, you are intoxicated with your power beyond reason if you think your residents are willing to accept being treated with zero respect and such little regard," said Wilkins.

Commissioner Todd Pownall represents the district where the airport is located.  He claimed many of the commissioners knew about the deal but never informed him.

"We shouldn't be doing things like that to our people," said Pownall.  "We should put it out front because, now look what it's done.  It makes me angry that I wasn't there to represent the people.  That's what makes me angry."

Austin said he found it hard to believe Pownall didn't know about the deal.

"Commissioners either choose to know information or they choose not to know," said Austin.

Airport Manager Blake Swafford claimed the deal was discussed at several different Airport Authority meetings over the past 14 months, but very few people bothered to attend the meetings.  He also said the deal will bring jobs and prosperity to Paulding County

"The economic impact is going to be big," said Swafford.  "We think there's the potential to create a couple of thousand jobs within the next three to five years.  And we think there's the potential to bring some bigger industry here."

Pownall was the only commissioner to vote in opposition.

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