Thursday, October 31, 2013

Future of Thunder on the Lakeshore Up In The Air: Manitowoc County Airport (KMTW), Wisconsin

Manitowoc - For more than 20 years, big crowds have turned out for "Thunder on the Lakeshore" high above Manitowoc County airport. But the future of the show is uncertain after its headline military acts were grounded last year due to the federal sequestration budget cuts. 

Thunder on the Lakeshore producer Curt Drumm says he is concerned about the show being able to continue without the important military acts.

"It's a great show for the community. But when you have a big show with a lot of expenses and the people don't come and you lose a lot of money, you can't continue," Drumm said "Our attendance was down 70 and 80 percent last year primarily due to the military not showing up."

Drumm estimates the show lost close to $60,000 last year.

He says for now things are in a holding pattern as the air show waits to hear back from federal officials about whether military acts will resume at events across the U.S. including Manitowoc.

"We have to decide what we're going to do, when we find out what the military is going to do," he said.

While Drumm is holding out hope the show will take to the skies again, he expects the Thunder on the Lakeshore board to make a final decision in December.

"If we get the air show back that's great, we're looking forward to it. If it doesn't, maybe we have to skip a year and see what 2015 brings," he said.

Bell 206B JetRanger II, N16673: Accident occurred October 28, 2013 in Milo, Oregon

NTSB Identification: WPR14CA052 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, October 28, 2013 in Milo, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/05/2014
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N16673
Injuries: 3 Serious.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot stated that the purpose of the flight was for the two passengers, who were both biologists, to conduct a low-level river/land survey. Prior to departure, the pilot discussed the route of flight with the passengers and they all reviewed the maps and sectionals for possible hazards with an emphasis on wire crossings. After departure, the pilot attempted to facilitate the biologists' view out the windows by maneuvering the helicopter in a crab angle with the flight path tracking down the riverbank and the nose pointing left. The pilot maintained an altitude just above tree-top level and about an hour into the flight the pilot observed the first high power line crossing. Approximately 20 minutes thereafter, one of the passengers called attention to another line crossing, which was equipped with marker balls.

The pilot stated that as they continued, the river divided into numerous channels and one of the passengers advised him which path to follow. After surveying one of the channels, he maneuvered the helicopter in a 90-degree turn to circle back and then it was decided they did not need to return to the channel's origin. The pilot then made a left turn to adjoin the river and immediately observed blue sparks and a wire contact on the upper windscreen bubble. The helicopter was substantially damaged after it descended and came to rest in 4.5 feet of water about 50 feet from the power line. 

The pilot reported no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to see and avoid wires while maneuvering at a low-altitude, which resulted in the main rotor blades striking the wires.

A Rogue River pilot injured in a helicopter crash near Days Creek earlier this week has been downgraded from fair to serious condition.

Fred Wittlake, 55, suffered a broken arm and ribs after the helicopter he was flying hit power lines and crashed into the South Umpqua River Monday. He was airlifted to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, where he was listed in fair condition Tuesday. But by Wednesday, a hospital spokesperson said his condition was listed as serious.

The crash also injured two Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists who were conducting fish surveys along the Umpqua. Holly Huchko, 34, remains in serious condition at Sacred Heart with a broken back, according to officials.

Biologist Eric Himmelreich, 35, was listed in good condition Wednesday morning at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The Bell 206B JetRanger crashed into the river at about 11:40 a.m. within feet of the Tiller Trail Highway in the 13000 block. The cause of the crash remains under investigation, but an accident notification posted Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration noted the helicopter struck power lines before it fell into the river.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Hollow said he had no new information Wednesday about the crash.

Huchko has been with ODFW for 10 years, and Himmelreich has worked for the agency for just more than a year. Both work out of the Roseburg office of the Umpqua Fish District.

The helicopter is registered to Robert Ferreira of Ashland, according to the FAA. Siskiyou Transportation and Timberland Helicopters also are listed as owners. Ferreira is president of T L Forest Products on Dead Indian Memorial Road, according to state business records.

A Bell JetRanger helicopter crashed shortly before noon Monday into the South Umpqua River in the 13000 block of Tiller Trail Highway.

Cape Air to open office in Owensboro's new Hampton Inn

 Guests at Owensboro's soon-to-be-built Waterfront Hampton Inn will be able to book their next trip to Owensboro before checking out.  Cape Air plans to move its downtown office from its current location at the Crème Coffee Shop to Owensboro’s new Hilton property, the Waterfront Hampton Inn and Suites, by early January.

“We’ve had a wonderful experience with the Crème Coffee Shop,” said Linda Fitzgerald, Director of Call Center Support at Cape Air.  However, our local ticket office also handles overflow from our corporate call center, and call volume has reached the point where we need our own space.”

The Waterfront Hampton Inn is currently under development by The Malcolm Bryant Corporation and is slated to open this winter.  The property will be located adjacent to the new Owensboro Convention Center.

The new location will be open to the public and will give customers the opportunity to book their travel in person, rather than online or over the phone.  Cape Air reservations agents will also be available to answer questions about the service.  “Having an onsite Cape Air location will be a great opportunity for guests to learn about the commercial air service available in Owensboro, and hopefully get them thinking about their next trip back,” said Malcolm Bryant, President of the Malcolm Bryant Corporation.

Cape Air will join a number of other local vendors with locations in the hotel, including Lure Seafood Restaurant, Changes Spa and Salon, and Blossom's Boutique.  

New South Wales, Australia: Pilots beware

Essential Energy is reminding pilots and property owners to be aware of the potential dangers of overhead powerlines after two incidents in Cowra this week where aircraft contacted the electricity network.

Essential Energy's regional manager Southern, Steven Ilitch, urged pilots and farmers to adopt safe work practices and identify the location of the overhead electricity network before taking to the air.

"This week local crews have responded to two separate incidents where aircraft have made contact with high voltage overhead powerlines," Steven said.

"In both instances, crews were able to isolate supply, make the site safe and restore power to affected customers as quickly as safety allowed.

"I remind anyone engaging in aerial activities such as aerial application or mustering, that the smallest contact between a plane and powerlines can be fatal.

"As the height of overhead powerlines can vary significantly with changing topology, pre-flight planning and briefing is essential to safe air travel."

Farmers and pilots should remember to stay alert while in the air as powerlines can be difficult to see from above, especially at dawn and dusk, and on rainy or overcast days.

"You have to keep your wits about you when flying near the overhead electricity network," Steven said. "Essential Energy maintains around 200,000 kilometres of powerlines across 95 percent of New South Wales and safety is our highest priority."

Essential Energy recommends farmers install line markers to increase the visibility of powerlines on their property. Flag markers are lightweight, are visible both day and night and flap in the breeze to attract attention. They can be fitted by Essential Energy for a small cost.

"We cannot stress enough the importance of knowing the location of overhead powerlines on properties and surrounding areas - the information could save your life," Steven said.

Maps detailing the location of Essential Energy's overhead electricity network are available on request for individuals and companies involved in aerial activities. Contact Essential Energy on 13 23 91 or visit

To report an incident involving an overhead powerline, contact Essential Energy immediately on 13 20 80.


Light plane hits tree after wind gust

A pilot has walked away largely unscathed from a light plane crash near Burra, in the state's Mid North. 
The plane crashed while trying to land near Braefoot Rd at Hanson, about 15km southwest of Burra, about 1pm yesterday.

A gust of wind pushed the Cessna 172 four-seat plane off course and into a tree.

The pilot, a Mid North man, 43, suffered only minor injuries and went to the Clare police station to report the crash.

He was the only person on board.

The plane was a write off and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating.


Victoria Regional Airport (KVCT), Texas: Online survey under way to evaluate region's travel needs

Crossroads travelers can now weigh in on the region's air service needs.

The Victoria Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday emailed the link to a 15-question online survey asking about travelers' airline preferences, business travel budgets, travel frequency and more.

It's all part of an ongoing marketing study by Seabury Airline Planning aimed at presenting a clear picture of Victoria's travel needs, Victoria Regional Airport Manager Jason Milewski said.

"It's to help us build a better case to attract more air service to our area," he explained.

The airport has faced issues with air carrier Sun Air International regarding baggage troubles, plane size, cancellations and delays, the Advocate previously reported.
Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said the survey has already seen positive results. As of Wednesday afternoon, about 50 percent of those who had opened the email took time to fill it out.

"We're very appreciative of that," he said. "The more information we get, the better we know the public's opinion."

The survey will be available online for about a week.

Milewski encouraged people to respond as soon as possible and to do so regardless of whether they use the Victoria airportt.

"Nine out of 10 people, or maybe even greater than that, don't use the airport, for good reasons," he said. "This is to make the airport more usable."


La Crosse Regional Airport (KLSE), Wisconsin: Cashiers lose jobs to automated pay stations

LA CROSS, WI (WXOW)— Doug Gourley has loved coming to work as a cashier at the airport for the last four years. 

 "I thought I'd grow old at this job. We'll see what happens," Gourley said.

On December 9, the La Crosse Airport is letting their contract expire with Standard Parking, the company that operates the parking lot pay booths.

Eight employees, that run one booth, will be replaced with two automated pay stations.

"Lots of words come to mind," Gourley said. "I don't know what I can say. It bites."

Clint Torp, Airport Manager said their existing gear is aging.

"It was time to replace equipment," Torp said. "The same move the rest of the industry is moving towards automating these systems."

Ultimately, the decision came down to customer experience.

"Right now we are only able to keep one booth open," Torp said. "So when a flight lets go we get significant backups."

"I think for the business people it will be great because they'll be able to credit card. 80-percent of business here is credit card they'll be able to zip in zip out," Gourley said. 

People wanting to pay cash will have to go inside the airport.

Anyone with problems out at the booths can get help with the touch of a button.

"That person is going to be looking through a little camera trying to figure out what your problem is. Where as I know what your problem is and I can fix it right now," Gourley said.

But there is nothing he can do about it besides counting down the days and hitting the job boards.

"It took me two years after I got hurt on another job to get this job," Gourley said. "So I don't know how long it's going to take me to find another job. Who wants to hire a 53-year-old with health problems?"

Torp said the airport will be posting two part time jobs to help with maintaining the new automated systems.

He said people currently working in the booth are able to apply.


Masters Week airport reservation system going online: Augusta Regional, Daniel Field, Thomson-McDuffie Regional and Aiken Municipal


Private aircraft landing at four Augusta area airports during Masters Week 2014 will use a new online reservation system. 

 Augusta Regional, Daniel Field, Thomson-McDuffie Regional and Aiken Municipal airports have asked a consultant to tweak the reservation system that underwent a major overhaul for this year’s tournament. Mike Gunn, of Wexford Consultant Group, will help the airports book aircraft parking using an automated software system, largely replacing phone calls.

“Now, they will be able to do it on the Internet through a secured Web site,” Gunn said.

The software will help avoid double bookings and no-shows of private jets and planes, Gunn told the Augusta Aviation Commission on Thursday.

A reservation system was implemented for the 2013 Masters to help spread out aircraft to all the regional airports. For several years, heavy air traffic at Augusta Regional Airport caused the Federal Aviation Administration to issue ground stops, or prohibitions on landing and taking off. Private aircraft were diverted to nearby general aviation airports.

Although Gunn was not ready to discuss full details of the new program, he said after the meeting that customers can receive a reservation confirmation via text message and e-mail. Reservations can still be made by phone or walk-in at the airports where staff can use the reservation software, he said.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the commission began a 12-to 16-month process of writing a new master plan for the airport that will be led by consulting firm Mead & Hunt.

The master plan, the airport’s first since 2002, will lay out long-term physical development for new buildings, said Mark McFarland, of Mead & Hunt. A committee will meet several times in the next year to help tie the improvement plan to the airport’s strategic goals for growth.


City To Challenge Federal Aviation Administration In Court Over Future Control Of Santa Monica Airport

The City of Santa Monica has sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish the City’s right to control future use of the Santa Monica Airport property, which the City has long owned. 

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, asks the court to declare that the City holds clear title to the land. And, it also challenges, as unconstitutional, the FAA's claim that the City must continue to operate the Airport indefinitely, even after contracts establishing the City's Airport obligations expire.  

In 1984, the City and FAA entered into a Settlement Agreement with the FAA that obligates the City to operate the Airport until 2015. 

In anticipation of the expiration of that contract, the City undertook a three-year Airport Visioning Process, intended to identify options for the Airport's future. 

Hundreds of community members participated in this three-phased process – the largest ever conducted by the City. In April of this year, the Council received a comprehensive report on the results.

After considering the report and conducting a lengthy public hearing, the City Council directed City staff to report back in March of 2014 for further public discussion and a decision about the future use of the Airport land. 

Meanwhile, the Council also directed staff to continue to explore any and all possibilities for a voluntary agreement with the federal government that might modify Airport operations so as to significantly curtail adverse impacts on the community.

Since then, City representatives have continued to meet with FAA representatives in Washington. 

City Manager Rod Gould explains, "We met in Washington many times, and conveyed community concerns and proposed possibilities for changes, including operational changes, that could significantly reduce many of the Airport’s adverse impacts. The FAA representatives were polite and respectful.  But, they were simply unwilling or unable to agree to any changes that could bring significant relief to Airport neighbors.  They believe that the City is legally obligated to continue operating the Airport as it now operates and to keep operating it forever because of the post-War transfers."

The City has owned and operated the Airport since the 1920's. 

During World War II, the City leased it to the federal government for a nominal amount in support of the war effort. 

During the War, the City and the federal government worked together to expand and improve the Airport; and, after the war, when the federal leases expired, the Airport was returned to the City through an Instrument of Transfer. 

The federal government claims that the Instrument of Transfer obligates the City to operate the Airport "in perpetuity" (forever) or forfeit its ownership interest to the federal government. 

The City disputes this claim based, in part, on the City's near 100-year ownership of the Airport land, the fact that the Airport was merely leased (not sold), and constitutional guarantees that prohibit commandeering property without compensation and forcing local governments to perform the federal government's work.

Speaking of the lawsuit, Santa Mayor Pam O'Connor said, "We need to get these legal questions answered. The community expects us to protect their health, safety and welfare.  And, of course, the community’s demands for relief from Airport impacts have only increased since last month's terrible crash. We need the court to decide whether the City has control over its land so that, next year, we can make a decision about the Airport's future.  Because this dispute is unique and incredibly important, the City Council directed the City Attorney and her staff to partner with the best outside legal team they could find."

The City Attorney and senior members of her office conducted a competitive process that resulted in the City hiring Morrison & Foerster – a global firm with 16 offices and more than 1,000 attorneys.

Explained City Attorney Marsha Moutrie, "We were particularly impressed with the Morrison & Foerster team's litigation credentials, aviation experience, and appellate expertise.  I'm certain that they will provide excellent representation in this singularly important case.  And we look forward to working with them to resolve the dispute about the City's authority to control the use of its Airport land."

The case will be heard in Federal District Court in Los Angeles.

Federal rules give the federal government 60 days to respond to the City's complaint.


Santa Monica officials taken the Federal Aviation Administration to court in a bid to gain control of the city's airport, shown above in a file photo. Local groups want to turn the airport into a park. 
Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Time

Sumner County Regional Airport (M33), Gallatin, Tennessee: Board voids airport manager's contract - Sudbury to stay on with same pay, reduced duties

Steve Sudbury / FILE

The Sumner County Airport Authority board classified the airport’s only worker — its manager — as an independent contractor rather than an employee, and deemed a five-year contract for that worker passed by a former board in February invalid.

The 9-2 vote Monday was taken because the new board was “concerned about federal liability with the IRS and taxes and things that aren’t being paid,” said Treasurer Dianne Denson.

The contract of airport manager Steve Sudbury passed at the beginning of the year included a 50 percent pay raise, which the board did not reduce Monday out of concern that the move could result in legal action. Sudbury will continue to earn $3,750 per month, which was approved by a unanimous vote. The contract was approved by a slate of old board members who were replaced in June after a long-running legal battle with the county.

The board also unanimously approved a four-part recommendation of an ad hoc audit committee that took accounting and financial transaction duties away from Sudbury. The committee was created as one of the first orders of business of the new board.

As part of classifying the management position as an independent contractor, the board directed its attorney, Mark Smith, to negotiate with Sudbury’s son, Josh Sudbury, who has represented his father since September. The two will aim to work out a mutually acceptable independent contractor agreement, though over the past month they have failed to do so.

The board refused to look at or even consider Josh Sudbury’s proposed rewrite of the contract to define the position as an independent contractor that retained a term of five years.

Steve Sudbury had worked as an independent contractor since 2005 without a contract. At the old board’s last meeting in February, before they were replaced, the members unanimously approved an employment agreement that has since been in dispute because Sudbury took the stance that he was not an employee and paid his own taxes.

The new board, with 10 out of 11 members taking office since March, spent hours at its last three meetings expressing concern over tax problems that could arise from the employment agreement.

The authority’s audit committee submitted a four-part recommendation to the full board to change software, transfer accounting and financial duties from Sudbury to a bookkeeper or accountant, submit three years of back records to an audit firm in Nashville and ask for funding from the county for a forensic audit if needed. A forensic audit applies evidence in civil and criminal legal matters and may include courtroom testimony on accounting and auditing standards by expert witnesses.

The committee’s report said Denson had looked through the financial documents and found “nothing alarming.” Its chairman, Ben Williams, said Sudbury should not have been handling the airport’s finances and that doing so did not follow “best business practices.”

“That’s not a normal duty,” he said.

The possibility of litigation regarding Sudbury’s status and contract arose repeatedly.

“We may still have the specter of the feds coming in and saying, ‘Folks, he said he’s an employee. You’re not withholding. You’ve got to pay back until February or possibly even further,’ ” Smith said.

Josh Sudbury urged board members to “reform the language” of the contract but was rebuffed. After the contract was canceled, he tried to introduce a rewritten contract but was advised it was not on the agenda.

Dan Downs, the old board’s only remaining member, and newest board member Camden McConnell were the two recorded “no” votes.

Loan approved

As the new airport board moves forward, it made progress Wednesday in shoring up its finances when the state Comptroller’s Office of State and Local Finance approved the county government’s request to provide an internal loan to the cash-strapped Airport Authority.

“We were pleased that the state would give its blessing to put the airport back on a sound financial footing,” County Budget Chairman Jerry Stone said.

Stone, County Executive Anthony Holt, County Attorney Leah Dennen, County Finance Director David Lawing and Airport Authority Chairman Jim Egan met with four representatives of the comptroller’s office Wednesday. State Sen. Ferrell Haile and Rep. Courtney Rogers attended the meeting in support of the county’s request. Rep. William Lamberth was unable to attend but made calls on the county’s behalf in advance.

The plan approved by the County Commission last week is an interest-only loan of $800,000 at 3 percent to pay off about $430,000 of bank loans and wrap in an outstanding county loan of $197,500. The rest would cover matching grant money needed to fix runway grading in order to use all 6,300 feet.

The new monthly loan payments of $2,000 will be significantly less than the $3,700 a month the airport currently pays for bank loans and $2,500 a month owed to the county.

County officials consider it a win-win situation because the hospital capital fund that will be used currently earns only about a quarter of a percent in interest.

Paperwork must be filed with the state to make the loan legal. The term is for nine years in three 3-year periods with two renewals.

The loan must be approved by the Airport Authority board and by its attorney, Egan said.

Story and Photos:

Courtesy Car: Retired Dodge Charger Police Squad Car at Milaca Municipal Airport (18Y), Minnesota

The Milaca Airport now has a new service it can boast to its pilots and potential users. Thanks to some collaboration, the municipal airport can offer land-based transportation as well as one of the nicest grass landing strips in the state. 

The city of Milaca has donated the retired Dodge Charger police squad car to be used as a Milaca Airport Courtesy Car.

Local pilots and volunteers cleaned and serviced the car and helped develop a use policy. The car is provided on a first-come basis for use by pilots to travel locally to the city of Milaca for business or other authorized business.

“This is another asset we can use to attract people to the airport and to Milaca,” City Council Member and airport commission chair Ken Muller said at a recent meeting.

City Manager Greg Lerud said Milaca typically puts retired squad cars up for public sale.

The airport courtesy car remains the property of the city and will be maintained by the Milaca airport manager, Steve Burklund, or another authorized representative.

At times, corporate executives, real estate agents, attorneys and others fly to Milaca for various business reasons and could use a lift to their nearby destinations. Muller said a corporate executive from the new Dollar General store called to inquire if Milaca had a courtesy car available so he could visit their new store.

Now, the city and the airport tell those travelers that they do offer courtesy car service, which may increase interest in using the local facility.

To further boost the attractiveness of the Milaca Airport, the commission is also looking for a fixed-base operator to service general aviation. A fixed-base operator, or FBO, is a commercial business granted the right by an airport to operate on the airport and provide aeronautical services such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance or flight instruction. In common practice, an FBO is a primary provider of support services to general aviation operators at a public-use airport.

For more information about this opportunity, contact Burklund at 320-492-8246. 

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Federal Aviation Administration Says Fliers Can Use Devices During All Phases of Flight: WSJ

The Wall Street Journal

By  Jack Nicas and  Andy Pasztor

Updated Oct. 31, 2013 12:47 p.m. ET


Federal aviation regulators on Thursday unveiled steps to lift restrictions on electronic devices in flight, saying that fliers generally should be allowed to use tablets, e-readers and other gadgets during all phases of flight by the end of this year.

The Federal Aviation Administration's decision, embracing recent recommendations by a high-level advisory group, effectively ends years of safety debates over the use of the devices. The FAA said it is providing airlines with guidelines to carry out the new policy.

Current rules require passengers to turn off all electronic devices on planes below 10,000 feet. Under the new rules, passengers will be able to use hand-held devices such as tablets and e-readers from gate to gate. Larger items like laptops will have to be stowed during takeoffs and landings.

Passengers will be able to use smartphones below 10,000 feet to watch movies, listen to music or access the onboard Wi-Fi system, if available, but the cellular signal must be turned off.

"We believe today's decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer's increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

Before airlines can allow their customers to use electronics below 10,000 feet, they must comply with a new five-step process for proving their aircraft can tolerate any electronic emissions from fliers' devices. The FAA said specific implementation plans and timetables will vary, but that it expects many carriers to be able to allow their fliers to use devices gate to gate by year-end. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told reporters that the FAA aims "to promote consistency for passengers" traveling on different airlines. He said he anticipates "expanded use will come very soon."

Airlines are already racing to be the first to allow their customers to use devices from gate to gate, giving the carriers a marketing advantage and expanding the window when they can sell content and connectivity.

Delta Air Lines Inc., for instance, said it has already completed tolerance testing and "is ready to allow its customers to be the first to use their portable electronic devices below 10,000 feet as early as Nov. 1," pending FAA approval.

JetBlue Airways Corp., meanwhile, said it has already completed step one of the five-step process "and is well under way" on step two.

"We intend to be the first commercial airline in the United States to allow gate-to-gate use of personal electronics devices," Robin Hayes, JetBlue's chief commercial officer, said Thursday. "To support that goal, we began the certification process with the FAA today."

While virtually all U.S. carriers are expected to eventually allow fliers to use their devices, the industry differs greatly on the ability to offer Wi-Fi during all phases of flight.

JetBlue, Southwest Airlines Co. and United Continental Holdings Inc.  may emerge as winners, as their Wi-Fi providers said their systems generally function at all altitudes.

But Gogo Inc., which provides Wi-Fi to roughly three-quarters of the approximately 2,100 connected commercial aircraft in the U.S., said its Wi-Fi isn't designed to function below 10,000 feet, largely because it connects via cell towers on the ground, rather than via satellites like its rivals. That means its airline clients, including Delta, AMR Corp.'s  American Airlines, US Airways Group Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc.  will still be unable to offer Internet to their passengers during takeoffs and landings.

As expected, the new FAA guidelines still won't' allow passengers to use cellular phones to make phone calls, as in-flight cellular signals remain banned by the Federal Communications Commission.

But the FAA's policy shift encompasses basically everything that many passengers and manufacturers and marketers of devices wanted.

Noting that the previous rules have been in place largely unchanged for five decades, FAA chief Michael Huerta told reporters "the world has changed a lot" in that time and "I did feel it was important" to take a fresh look at the restrictions.

FAA officials estimated that perhaps on 1% of all flights, passengers may be asked to turn off devices below 10,000 feet to avoid potential interference with instrument-landing systems in low-visibility conditions

What won't change, according to the FAA, are announcements by flight attendants instructing passengers to stop reading or talking and listen to emergency evacuation procedures.


Home near Hazel Green, Alabama, has airplane hangar, four-story silo

Home with a hangar built around a silo owned by Joyce & Peter Pryor. 

HAZEL GREEN, Alabama - Being 250 feet from a runway wouldn’t be a typical selling point, but that’s exactly why Peter and Joyce Pryor bought their house near Hazel Green. Peter was reading The Huntsville Times one Sunday morning last spring when he saw a classified ad for the house, which came with its own hangar and access to the runway that is the Hazel Green Airport. The couple has flown for years and currently owns a two-seater CTLS Light Sport airplane.

Joyce had just walked in with her cup of coffee when Peter asked her “’Do you want to decorate a new house,’” she said, remembering that conversation. “I said, ‘why, are you leaving me’?”

Peter made a call and arranged to meet the real estate agent down the country road that leads to the house early that afternoon. That’s when the couple discovered they didn’t just have a hangar to consider, but a house that ended up being one pretty cool space.

The house, it turned out, was built around a silo the original owner’s father had built many years ago in the Midwest. He had the large, cast-concrete blocks that made up the silo disassembled and shipped to Alabama. He then reconstructed the silo, adding Sheetrock and windows to create spacious, sunny, round rooms.

“He must have really loved his father,” Joyce said, to be willing to move the massive blocks that made up the silo to their current Madison County site.

To build the silo, the slabs of concrete, or staves, are stacked together and then bound by steel rods, Peter Pryor said of the construction technique. Think about how a barrel is built, for instance.

“If you look up concrete stave silo on the internet, you’ll see ,” he said.

While the silo is four stories tall, the original owner, Billy Bernard, added a two-story addition that includes a kitchen, a large family room, and a bedroom. That addition is typical two-by-four construction with right-angled rooms.

It’s the silo that makes it cool, Joyce said. “I had never been in a house with round rooms, or at least that many round rooms.”

The Pryors don’t live in the house at the airport. They already have a beautiful home on Green Mountain in South Huntsville. They have spent the night there and have used it as a guest house. Joyce has also brought her bridge group out for lunch and a few rounds of cards.

The couple is looking forward to Joyce’s sister, Tina, moving in soon. She’s selling her house in Florida and has already brought up a lot of her things in preparation for the move. She plans to use one of the silo rooms for her master bedroom and another for her office. The bottom floor of the silo is the dining room, which Joyce has furnished with a round table and other antiques.

On a nice day, the top floor of the silo would be the place to be, if you don’t mind climbing the steep, spiral staircase that leads to the room full of windows that look out on the trees that surround the house. On any day, though, the house is situated on a quiet lot near farmland and down the road from other homes with their own hangars.

“Almost everybody who lives along here are pilots,” Joyce said. “They have get-togethers once a month and do a pot-luck.”

“Cool Spaces” is a weekly feature looking at interesting rooms in Huntsville-area homes. Do you have a suggestion for a cool space? Email Pat Ammons at

Story, Photo Gallery and Video:

My ex-wife . . . .

My ex-wife started taking flying lessons about the time our divorce started and she got her license shortly before our divorce was final, later that same year.

Yesterday afternoon, she narrowly escaped injury in the aircraft she was piloting when she was forced to make an emergency landing in Southern Tennessee because of bad weather.

Thank God our kids were with me this weekend.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a preliminary report, citing pilot error: Judy was flying a single engine aircraft in IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions while only having obtained a VFR (visual flight rules) rating.

The absence of a post-crash fire was likely due to insufficient fuel on board.

No one on the ground was injured.

The photograph below was taken at the scene and shows the extent of damage to her aircraft.

She was very lucky.


Happy Halloween!