Friday, November 01, 2013

Plane Maker Embraer Faces Bribery Inquiries: WSJ

The Wall Street Journal

By  Joe Palazzolo and Paulo Winterstein

Nov. 1, 2013 7:01 p.m. ET

U.S. and Brazilian authorities are investigating whether aircraft maker Embraer SA bribed officials in the Dominican Republic in return for a $90 million contract to furnish the country's armed forces with attack planes, according to law enforcement documents and people familiar with the case.

The probe takes aim at one of Brazil's highest-profile companies—the world's third-largest commercial aircraft manufacturer—and appears to be among the country's first forays into investigating a domestic company for alleged bribery overseas.

U.S. authorities were investigating Embraer in 2010 for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an antibribery statute, according to regulatory filings. A request for evidence sent early this year by Brazil to the U.S., and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, sheds new light on the probe.

According to the February request, reviewed by the Journal, officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC first approached Brazilian authorities about an investigation of Embraer at an international anticorruption conference in Paris in March 2012.

In the following months, the Americans said they had evidence—including bank records and emails—that they believed to show that Embraer executives had approved a $3.4 million bribe to a Dominican official with influence over military procurement, according to the request, which was made under a legal-assistance treaty between the two countries.

The alleged payment led to the Dominican government in 2010 purchasing eight Embraer Super Tucanos, turboprop attack support aircraft that have been a darling of air forces in developing countries, the request said.

Embraer, which first disclosed the FCPA probe in 2011, said it has been cooperating with authorities. It hired law firm Baker & McKenzie LLP to conduct an internal investigation after receiving a subpoena from the SEC in September 2010, according to a regulatory filing.

"Integrity, transparency in its business transactions and ethics in its relationships are the principles that always guided Embraer. The Company requires that all its employees have a conduct of strict compliance with laws and regulations, as established in its corporate policies and in its Code of Ethics and Conduct," the company said in an emailed statement Friday. "Due to the mandatory confidentiality of the investigation, the company is unable to comment on it."

Spokesmen for the SEC and the Justice Department declined to comment. Fernando Lacerda Dias and Marcello Paranhos de Oliveira Miller, prosecutors in Brazil's Federal Public Ministry, which is handling the investigation, declined to comment.

Brazil has never prosecuted an individual for paying bribes overseas, according to the anticorruption group Transparency International. The country has picked a high-profile target.

Embraer employs more than 18,000 people at its plants in Brazil, China, Portugal, France and the U.S., and its shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange.  In recent years, the company has made an effort to expand revenue from military and executive airplanes. Its third-quarter profit fell 8%, but the company reported a $17.8 billion backlog of orders at the end of September, the highest level since 2009.

Brazil's government has a golden share in Embraer, allowing it to veto some executive decisions.

The investigation of the Dominican sale centers on a retired colonel, Carlos Piccini, who in 2009 was serving as the Dominican Republic's director of special projects for the armed forces, according to the request from the Brazilians. Mr. Piccini is said to have directed Embraer executives to split the $3.4 million money among bank accounts maintained by three shell companies.

The Dominican Republic Air Force said Mr. Piccini is retired and can't be reached. Phone and email requests to reach Mr. Piccini through the office of the president of the Dominican Republic weren't answered. The president's press office also didn't reply to phone and email requests for comment on the Armed Forces' role in the purchase of Embraer airplanes.

Embraer allegedly routed the payments to Mr. Piccini through a middleman, according to the legal-assistance request. Company officials attempted to conceal the payments by booking them as fees in a deal to sell aircraft to the Kingdom of Jordan that never happened, according to the legal-assistance request.

The U.S. has jurisdiction to investigate Embraer, because its shares trade in New York and because some of the alleged payments passed through the U.S. financial system, according to the legal-assistance request, which the U.S. has honored, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The U.S. was the first country to ban bribery of foreign officials in the 1970s and has brought dozens of cases in the past decade; U.S. officials have long lobbied the international community to join them on the beat.

The Brazilians have opened an investigation of Embraer under a law that bars individuals from making payments to foreign officials to gain a business advantage, according to the request. The country passed a law in August making it a crime for corporations to pay bribes, modeled after the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, but it isn't retroactive. Four foreign bribery investigations were under way in Brazil as of this year, Transparency International said in an Oct. 7 report.

Several current and former Embraer executives have retained U.S. lawyers from Schertler & Onorato LLP, Shearman & Sterling LLP, Williams & Connolly LLP and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.


Cessna T303 Crusader, T303 Inc Trustees, N289CW: Fatal accident occurred September 04, 2013 W off St. Ouen, Jersey, Channel Islands - United Kingdom

Carl and Kathryn Whiteley died when the plane he was piloting crashed into the sea off the Jersey coast. 

 Carl Whiteley pictured beside his Cessna T303 Crusader (N289CW) aircraft during a visit to Guernsey Airport

A memorial service for a Derbyshire couple who died in a plane crash took place today.

Carl and Kathryn Whiteley died when the plane he was piloting crashed into the sea off the Jersey coast.

The service took place in St Wilfrid's Church in the couple's home village of West Hallam.

Sarah Chatburn, one of the Whiteleys' two daughters, said the service was a celebration of life.

The couple were on their way home from a holiday when their Cessna T303 Crusader aircraft ditched five miles out to sea, in thick fog on September 4.

Hundreds of people packed into the small church for the memorial service with mourners spilling out of the doors.

Sarah gave an emotional reading about her parents on behalf of her and her sister Gillian.

She said: "Mum and dad bought us up to be strong and it is a good job given the way that they have left us.

"We have no idea why they were taken from us in the manner they were.

"It always seems like the good people that are snatched from us first in life so early. But then somebody said to me that heaven needs the really good people too.

"Maybe there was a vacancy up there for a caring mother. And for dad there must have course been a vacancy for a wind-up merchant.

"The morning of the fourth of September was a day that we heard the news that nobody should have to hear and nobody should have to find the words to say.

"My whole world crumbled beneath me. At that point I didn't know how up get through the next hour let alone the rest of my life.

"There will not be a day that goes by when we don't think of you and while you are gone from here we know that you will always be with us looking after us."

Workers' Compensation Board sues aircraft manufacturer for North Vancouver pilot's death - Transport Canada also named in negligence suit

The Workers' Compensation Board is suing the aircraft company that manufactured the King Air 100 plane that crashed just short of the runway at Vancouver International Airport two years ago, killing the North Vancouver pilot and his co-pilot.

The WCB filed the lawsuit Oct. 22 in B.C. Supreme Court against manufacturer Beechcraft Corporation. Also named in the suit are Pratt & Whitney Canada, which makes aircraft engines, and Raisbeck Engineering, which makes aircraft modifications. The WCB is suing the companies for negligence causing the deaths of pilot Luc Fortin and co-pilot Matthew Robic.

The lawsuit also names the federal government, saying Transport Canada was negligent for failing to address known problems of electrical systems causing fires after airplane crashes despite recommendations from the Transportation Safety Board.

The suit also claims Transport Canada was negligent in failing to force companies to deal with potential oil leaks from loose oil caps on the plane's engines.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The lawsuit comes two years after the fatal crash that killed the two pilots and injured seven passengers as the Kelownabound plane was returning to Vancouver International Airport to deal with an oil leak in one of the engines. The pilot lost control of the plane in the final moments of the flight and slammed into Russ Baker Way in Richmond, catching fire. Passersby rushed to help injured passengers out of the wreckage, saving their lives. But the pilots were trapped in the burning plane for longer. They both died of injuries caused by the fire.

In July, the Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary findings into the causes of the crash.

The report concluded both pilots of the plane could have survived their injuries from the crash, but were killed by the fire that engulfed the wreckage after impact.

That fire was concentrated in areas where the aircraft's electrical wiring was routed.

Since 2006, the safety board has recommended that Transport Canada adopt new standards including special switches for smaller planes that would cut power to electrical systems and reduce sources of ignition following crashes. So far, however, the government has not acted on those recommendations.

If Transport Canada had required the switches be installed, the pilots would have survived the accident, the lawsuit states.

Passengers who survived the crash have also called on the government to take action on the issue.

The Transportation Safety Board report pointed to a series of problems that caused the crash. An oil leak from one of the plane's engines happened after a cap was not properly secured. The airline company had also not adopted an optional modification offered by the engine manufacturer that would have dealt with the possibility of an unsecured oil cap. Pilots also did not take action after the oil leak was pointed out to them prior to take off.

The lawsuit launched this week blames Beechcraft for failing to adequately warn pilots of proper procedures they should follow when dealing with a loss of engine oil pressure.

The lawsuit alleges modifications to the aircraft done by Raisbeck "significantly increased the drag caused by an engine operating at reduced power" and "significantly increased" the minimum speed needed to maintain control when the plane was flying with only one engine working at full power.

The lawsuit is seeking damages on behalf of the pilots' families.

A spokeswoman from Beechcraft declined to comment on the lawsuit. Spokespersons for the federal justice department and Transport Canada also declined comment.

A West Vancouver woman who was a passenger on the plane also filed a suit recently against Northern Thunderbird Air Inc., the airline company.

Carolyn Cross had her seat come unbolted from the floor of the airplane from the force of the crash, according to the lawsuit.

Cross suffered multiple fractures and soft tissue injuries, mild brain injury and psychological injuries from the crash, according to her statement of claim.

Six other passengers, including a West Vancouver businessman, previously launched a similar suit against the airline.

- See more at:

Beechcraft 100 King Air, Northern Thunderbird Air, C-GXRX: Accident occurred October 27, 2011 - E of Vancouver International Airport, BC (YVR), Canada 

 Aviation Investigation Report A11P0149

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigated this occurrence for the purpose of advancing transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

Loss of Control and Collision with Ground
Northern Thunderbird Air Inc.
Beechcraft King Air 100, C-GXRX
Vancouver International Airport
Richmond, British Columbia
27 October 2011


The Northern Thunderbird Air Incorporated Beechcraft King Air 100 (serial number B-36, registration C‑GXRX) departed Vancouver International Airport for Kelowna, British Columbia, with 7 passengers and 2 pilots on board. About 15 minutes after take-off, the flight diverted back to Vancouver because of an oil leak. No emergency was declared. At 1611 Pacific Daylight Time, when the aircraft was about 300 feet above ground level and about 0.5 statute miles from the runway, it suddenly banked left and pitched nose-down. The aircraft collided with the ground and caught fire before coming to rest on a roadway just outside of the airport fence. Passersby helped to evacuate 6 passengers; fire and rescue personnel rescued the remaining passenger and the pilots. The aircraft was destroyed, and all of the passengers were seriously injured. Both pilots succumbed to their injuries in hospital. The aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter had been removed.

Northern Thunderbird Air Incorporated (NT Air) operated from a fixed-base operator (FBO) at the Vancouver International Airport (CYVR). The aircraft had been in the hangar overnight, where it was inspected by NT Air maintenance personnel. A litre of oil was added to the left engine, and all items of the inspection were signed off as complete.

The captain came into the hangar at about 1420, spent approximately 2 minutes at the aircraft, then pulled the aircraft out of the hangar, where it was fuelled. The first officer (FO) joined the captain outside of the hangar while the aircraft was being fuelled. A complete pre-flight inspection of the aircraft was not conducted.

The flight was a sub-charter for a different carrier that operated from another FBO at CYVR. The aircraft’s engines were started, and the aircraft was taxied to the other FBO to pick up the passengers. During the loading of the passengers, a small puddle of oil under the left engine was pointed out to the pilots. The captain acknowledged the oil, but no further action was taken. The FO carried out the passenger briefing, which included a demonstration of the main-door operation. The aircraft departed the FBO at about 1535.

See full report:

NTSB Identification: ANC12WA007 
 Accident occurred Thursday, October 27, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada
Aircraft: , registration:
Injuries: Unavailable

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On October 27, 2011, about 1600 pacific daylight time, a Beechcraft King Air 100, C-GXRX, operated by Northern Thunderbird Air, Inc. as a non-scheduled passenger flight, collided with terrain while attempting to land at the Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was in effect. The airplane sustained substantial damage, and a postcrash fire ensued. The pilot was killed. The copilot, seven passengers, and two people on the ground were seriously injured.

The accident investigation is under the jurisdiction and control of the Canadian government. This report is for informational purposes only and contains only information released by or obtained from the Canadian government. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Transportation Safety Board of Canada
200 Promenade du Portage
Place du Centre, 4th Floor
Hull, Quebec K1A 1K8

Tel.: (1) 819-994-4252
(1) 819-997-7887 (24 hour)
Fax: (1) 819-953-9586


From the sky, help in fighting forest fire

DANBURY -- Local pilots and an air-traffic controller with Danbury Municipal Airport worked hand-in-hand with Ridgefield firefighters Wednesday to battle a forest fire west of Pine Mountain in the Hemlock Hills area.

In fact, it was local pilot Lloyd Salisbury who was training a student in a Cessna 152 for Arrow Aviation who first reported the blaze to authorities. When firefighters had a difficult time getting to the fire through steep terrain, local pilot Tony Debany circled the area for nearly an hour in a 1946 Piper Cub helping to direct firefighters to the blaze.

"When our engines got there we saw the smoke, but we weren't sure exactly where the fire was," said Assistant Ridgefield Fire Chief Kevin Tappe. "We got in touch with the control tower who asked the pilot to lead our firefighters into the location."

Because of the difficult terrain and steep cliffs in the area, Tappe said the pilot provided instructions to firefighters via the control tower about what direction to go to avoid impassable terrain.

"I really want to thank those gentlemen," said Tappe, who also happens to be a pilot. "They helped to guide our firefighters into the exact location."

And it wasn't the first time pilots have provided the first reports of fires in the region. It's actually a fairly regular occurrence.

Tappe said it was a pilot who first reported a fire in the same area near Pine Mountain last year.

"Usually if a pilot sees smoke they'll contact the tower who will notify us of the incident," Tappe said. "Pilots are often the first to see the smoke, especially fires like this that are up in the hills."

Dan May, the tower manager, said a pilot reported a fire underway in Weston several weeks ago and controllers relayed the information to emergency responders.

"Sometimes you can go months without an incident like that and sometimes you get a whole bunch in a short time frame," May said. "You just never know. It's part of what we do."

Tappe said the fire, which was within the Hemlock Hills open space property owned by Ridgefield and adjoining private parcels, continued to burn on Thursday afternoon. More than 50 acres had been burned by the blaze, he said, and firefighters dumped more than 24,000 gallons of water on it Thursday alone.

Because of the terrain, Tappe said there were parts of the fire that weren't accessible, but the perimeters had been wetted down and no houses were in danger.

The fire, he said, likely started from "discarded smoking material" from a hiker or hunter in the area.

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said that if it wasn't for the initial reports from pilots about the blaze, the fire "could have become more serious and impacted some of the homes in the area."


Candidates for governor use small planes for campaign travel

RICHMOND — The next governor of Virginia stoops to conquer, right at the door of a very small plane.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli II must crouch to get inside the four-seater flying machines winging them across the commonwealth in search of votes. There is no room to stand in the cabin — and nothing to get up for anyway. No bathroom. No place to fix a snack. Some of the planes have tattered upholstery and carpeting.

In a state as congested and wide as Virginia — sprawling from the Atlantic to west of Detroit — an airplane can be a candidate's ticket to the governor's mansion. But it is by no means a first-class ticket. This is travel that makes flying coach in the era of baggage and pillow fees feel like Concorde-style coddling.

"My pilot was kidding me today, 'A lot of the pilots wouldn't even fly that thing,' " said C. Richard Cranwell, a former Democratic state delegate who has let McAuliffe use his Piper Aztec at least four times since spring.

With no commercial air service to some corners of the commonwealth, candidates must rely on private planes, particularly as they barnstorm the state in the final few days before Election Day. That presents an opportunity for donors — and a potential risk for candidates.

Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. got chummy with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, R, and first lady Maureen McDonnell by offering them his plane. That opened the door to more than $160,000 in personal gifts and money, some of it characterized as loans to the McDonnell family. The gifts are now the subject of ongoing state and federal investigations.

In a state that allows unlimited campaign donations, there is no shortage of companies willing to lend a future governor their posh corporate jets. But those tend to be too large for the short runways at Virginia's smaller airports. So the candidates often take flight in less-than-gubernatorial style, relying on small borrowed planes and volunteer pilots, enduring white-knuckle take-offs and landings.

"One jet owner in southwest Virginia who shall remain nameless, he routinely flies candidates and is very generous with his aircraft, except he flies his Cessna Citation like he drives a Porsche — fast and low to the ground," said one Republican operative who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly. "I don't want to come across as ungrateful, for but the love of God, you know, sometimes it's all you can do to make it to a political rally."

McAuliffe had a posh ride for much of the past week, when he and former President Clinton flew in and out of some of the state's larger airports in a 14-seat, twin engine Falcon 2000 owned by Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television. The plane has a roomy cabin, seats that can unfold flat for naps and a lounge area. Cuccinelli quipped that the craft had "two left wings."

The Democrat doesn't always fly in such style. The four-seat plane Cranwell flies McAuliffe around in was brand new when he bought it — during the administration of A. Linwood Holton Jr., 10 governors ago, when McAuliffe was a teenager and Cuccinelli in kindergarten. The interior needs reupholstering and the carpeting is ripped.

"You can get four passengers in with the pilot," said Cranwell, a Roanoke lawyer who uses the plane for business and personal needs. "It's not an upscale airplane, OK? You might call it a puddle jumper."

Nonetheless, his plane boasts one feature absent from what Cuccinelli, currently the state's attorney general, often flies: a second engine.

The Republican candidate can rely on what his campaign calls "the Cuccinelli air force," a team of seven ex-military pilots who, on a moment's notice, will whisk him around the Old Dominion in each other's planes. They have three aircraft among them: two four-seaters, one six, all instrument-capable, but all with just one engine.

"It's like sitting in your slightly cramped living room," Al Aitken, a Marine fighter pilot for 20 years and an American Airlines pilot for 16, said of the 1989 Beechcraft Bonanza he has used to ferry Cuccinelli around.

"I flew Ken to a variety of places — Norfolk to Southwest and back to home in the Manassas area," said Aitken, a Republican activist who started flying Cuccinelli four years ago, when the Republican was running for attorney general. "Then the tempo of that operation got to be so much that I couldn't handle it alone anymore, so I got several of my pilot friends from the Culpeper airport who also owned airplanes."

The campaign pays the pilots for their fuel, which costs about $6 a gallon and gets guzzled at a rate of 16 to 18 gallons an hour. But the pilot's time and use of the plane are donated as in-kind gifts, saving the campaign hundreds of dollars an hour.

Even so, not everyone thinks it's the best way to go.

"Ken has always been comfortable flying around in anything, anything with wings, much to the consternation of his senior staff, who prefer that he only fly in a plane with two engines and two pilots, which is the standard for flying a candidate," said Chris LaCivita, Cuccinelli's chief strategist.

Safety is no minor concern, particularly this year, since one candidate for statewide office lost his father in the crash of a small campaign plane. Richard D. Obenshain, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 1978, died near his home in Chesterfield County (a tragedy that led to the long Senate career of Republican John W. Warner).

Obenshain's son, State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, a teenager at the time, is running for attorney general this year.

"Most of the airfields in the western part of the state are short runways, with difficult approaches, and are built on cut-off mountaintops," said John G. Rocovich, Jr., a Roanoke tax lawyer and pilot who will fly the entire Republican ticket around the state Monday. "The ones that are not on mountains are in valleys. You have to be very careful and very precise about what you're doing."

Rocovich flies his own 10-passenger twin engine jet, a step up from the planes in the Cuccinelli air force. The little planes can reach only about 12,000 feet, but Rocovich's jet climbs to 45,000 feet — high enough to get out of bad weather. It's still small enough to take off and land on a short runway, but it's fast, flying about 500 miles an hour, compared to 170 to 175 miles an hour for smaller ones.

"It does have lovely leather seats and wood grain and all that," Rocovich said.

Even so, Rocovich said his Cessna is nothing compared to the Gulf Streams, Learjets and Falcons that cart big-time executives to and fro. Those have kitchens, showers, two spacious bathrooms, beds and room enough to stand up straight.

"I've got an ice drawer and a place to store soda and a very small bathroom," he said. "Mine would be thought of as the pickup truck of jets."


Suspect In LAX Shooting Charged With Murder: Shooting at Los Angeles Airport Leaves TSA Officer Dead, Three People Wounded

The Wall Street Journal

By Tamara Audi and Nick Pinto

Updated Nov. 2, 2013 10:40 p.m. ET

LOS ANGELES—Federal officials charged the 23-year-old suspect in Friday's shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport with two felony counts, including a murder charge that could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

A Transportation Security Administration officer, 39-year-old Gerardo I. Hernandez, died from gunshot wounds in the attack.

The suspected shooter, identified as Paul Anthony Ciancia, was charged with killing a federal employee. He was also charged with committing a violent act at an airport, which could carry a penalty of life in prison. The shooter's motive was not known but investigators said he intended to kill TSA officers.

Mr. Ciancia was wounded in the ensuing shoot-out with police and remains hospitalized and "unresponsive," federal investigators said.

At least two other TSA officers and one civilian sustained gunshot wounds.

According to an affidavit in support of the complaint filed Saturday, Mr. Ciancia pulled a "Smith & Wesson .223 caliber M&P-15 assault rifle" out of a bag and "fired multiple rounds at point blank range" at Mr. Hernandez, who was stationed at a security checkpoint.

Mr. Ciancia then moved up an escalator toward the screening area but "looked back at the wounded officer…who appeared to move and returned to shoot the wounded officer again," the complaint says.

Mr. Ciancia continued shooting his way past security and through the terminal, investigators said, sending passengers diving to the ground for covering or fleeing the terminal.

Airport police subdued the gunman after a shoot-out in the food court deep inside the terminal, officials said.

Airport officials said 1,550 flights and 167,050 passengers were affected by Friday's incident, which plunged the nation's sixth busiest airport into chaos as passengers fled for their lives when the shooting began.

The airport was expected to returned to normal operations by Saturday evening. Airport officials said the facility would maintain "high profile" security indefinitely, with more officers visible in terminals and at the curbs.

Transportation Security Administration officer Gerardo Hernandez in a photo released by his family Saturday. Associated Press

The airport's famous multi-colored pylons were illuminated blue to honor Mr. Hernandez, the slain TSA officer.

Mr. Ciancia "made a conscious decision to kill TSA officers," said David Bowditch, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Los Angeles, which is leading the investigation.

According to the complaint, Mr. Ciancia carried a signed, handwritten note saying he wanted to kill TSA officers, that addressed TSA officers directly, saying, in part, that he wanted to "instill fear into your traitorous minds."

The U.S. Attorney General will review the case and decide if the death penalty will be pursued. The same legal protocol was followed in the case against Jared Loughner, who shot former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and murdered a federal judge. Mr. Loughner, however, struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty in exchange for life in prison.

Federal investigators said they have video tape of some of the incident, but it's unclear where Mr. Ciancia entered the airport. He was dropped off at the airport, but federal officials declined to say whether they know who dropped him off at LAX.

In Mr. Ciancia's hometown of Pennsville, N.J., outside Philadelphia, Police Chief Allen Cummings said he learned of an alarming text Mr. Ciancia sent to family members at 1 p.m. Friday, when Mr. Ciancia's father called.

Pennsville police contacted Los Angeles police, who agreed to check Mr. Ciancia's apartment.

The police chief said he learned from the father that Mr. Ciancia had attended a technical school in Florida, then moved to Los Angeles in 2012 to look for work as a motorcycle mechanic, but had been having trouble finding a job, according to the Associated Press.

Most of the properties on the road where the Ciancias live are relatively small suburban homes on close-packed plots. The Ciancia property is quite large and heavily wooded, with the house invisible from the road.

Mr. Cummings said that Mr. Ciancia's father and brother were at the family home, and told investigators they had no indication Mr. Ciancia was planning anything like this.

"Everybody's just as shocked as we are," Mr. Cummings said. "Obviously they're upset. It's a shock to them, it's a shock to our community." Mr. Cummings said the Pennsville Police Department is assisting the federal investigation.


Pittsfield Municipal Airport (KPSF), Massachusetts: Expansion project completed after 15-year journey

Those participating in the ribbon cutting spanned the entire runway.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Five mayors, two congressmen and too many local and state politicians to count have worked on the improvement project at the airport.

After 15 years, government officials on all levels joined in the ribbon cutting on the completed $22 million project.

"There are very few projects of this magnitude that go easily," former U.S. Rep. John Olver said at Thursday's ribbon cutting. "Federal dollars are short. State dollars are short ... But, it's done. It's done and with luck we can use it here for great economic advantages."

Olver helped usher in $6 million from the Federal Aviation Administration, which was combined with $13.5 million from the state Department of Transportation and $3 million from the city.

He remember his first conversation with Jeffrey Cook in 1998 when city and business officials first began pushing for the project. Then the goal was to complete it by 2004.

"It got tough. Budgets got tough. It was tough to get money together on the federal level since 2000," Olver said, but then there was a "window of opportunity" in 2008 with the federal stimulus package. Olver served as chairman of the transportation subcommittee, which worked on appropriations of that package. The first batch of funding was earmarked toward the project and ground was broken in 2010.

"[Olver] got the project started, funded, funded again and funded again," said former Mayor James Ruberto, adding that on top of that Olver needed to field numerous phone calls from a "worry wart" of a mayor (himself).

"It is a great win because it shows that an aggressive government, working together, can improve the lives and conditions of people all over this commonwealth and this country," he said before delivering his well known, "it's a great day for Pittsfield."

The project was hotly debated and Ruberto credited residents, the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and every governmental agency for finally bringing it to fruition. Ruberto spent eight years working on the project. However, he agreed with current Mayor Daniel Bianchi, who credited the process of being very public. While the debate created tension, it was a "healthy" process.

Coined as a "safety improvement project," the benefits run deeper, according to state Department of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey.

"This isn't just about just safety or pavement or runways. It is about jobs and economic development. That is what transportation is about. It is not about planes or buses — although the buses are beautiful and the planes are particularily beautiful. It is about jobs and economic development," Davey said. "That is why the Legislature stepped up working with the administration and they are going to continue to make investments across the state. If we're not investing in ourselves then we will fall behind."

The improvements included extending buffer zones at either end of the runway, lengthening the runway, removing trees, installing lighting and repositioning South Mountain Road. Now, the airport has the ability to not only safely land more recreational planes but also corporate jets — an amenity local officials hope contribute toward attracting businesses.

"There are a lot of jobs and economic development directly related to investments like this," Davey said, citing $14 billion worth of economic activity created by the state's 39 airports. "The bottom line, this is a classic example of built it and they can come."

Bianchi said the airport can now be a "cornerstone" to the economy instead of growing weeds.

Aside from the future economic growth it is expected to create, current U.S. Rep. Richard Neal said the infrastructure work like this is "the best way to get people to work quickly" while at the same time setting the foundation for future growth. He called for a "big" federal infrastructure program.

"We need a big transportation program for the country to get people back to work with reasonably but long-term investments," Neal said.

Federal Aviation Administration Regional Administrator Amy Corbett added that the safety aspect of it is important, too — not just the economics. Corbett said this type of improvement helps the entire aviation network.

"It has cost a lot of money. It has taken a lot of time. But when it comes to this type of safety improvement — it is all worth it," she said.

Also in attendance were Chris Willenborg, MassDOT Aeronautics administrator, state Sen. Benjamin Downing, former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo, state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Paul Mark and William "Smitty" Pignatelli, Airport Commission Chairman Christopher Pedersen, Airport Manager Mark Germanowski, City Councilors Jonathan Lothrup and Barry Clairmont, Chamber of Commerce President Michael Supranowicz, Register of Deeds Patsy Harris and an array of other airport, government, construction and aviation representatives.

Story and Photo Gallery:

Tri-Cities Airport (KPSC), Pasco, Washington: Port pulls back on planned airport improvements

The Port of Pasco has scaled back almost $6 million from planned renovations to the Tri-Cities Airport because of unexpectedly high costs.

The port can’t spend more than $43.7 million on the construction, which aims to double the terminal’s size from 55,000 to 110,000 square feet, officials said at Thursday’s board meeting.

The costs of the plan the port had been looking at have ballooned to $49.4 million, officials said.

Several thousand square feet of space — including about 30 seats in the waiting area near the planned Gate 5 at the terminal — will be taken out of the plan, senior architect Tim Dacey of Portland-based Mead & Hunt told the board.

A baggage delivery system to assist the Transportation Security Administration in screening luggage will also be removed, Dacey said.

A less-expensive type of glass will be used in a large window planned for the middle of the terminal, while renovations to second-floor restrooms will also be put off, Dacey said.

The space being removed from the terminal plans can be added back as the airport grows, said Jim Toomey, the port’s executive director.

That might not be the last of the cuts. Dacey showed a set of plans for what the port could do if an anticipated $8 million in Federal Aviation Administration security grant money falls through.

That would reduce the construction fund to $35.7 million, forcing the port to improve the existing ticket and lobby area rather than build new, Dacey said. The airport also might have to keep its existing baggage claim machines and use a less-efficient heating and air conditioning system.

A meeting with FAA officials went well earlier this week, airport director Ron Foraker said. He told the board he feels good about the airport’s chances of getting the $8 million federal grant.

Even if the grant doesn’t come through, Foraker expects the FAA to allow the port to take the money for airport improvements from the money the FAA annually gives to the airport, he said.

The board knew not to expect to get everything it originally wanted for the expansion, Commission President Jean Ryckman told the Herald.

“You know how it is when you’re buying a house and you want the best of everything, and you have to scale back,” she said.

Construction on the airport expansion is expected to begin in June or July and continue for about two years, Ryckman said. It will be done in phases to minimize inconvenience to passengers.

The port is expected to have more firm numbers at its Nov. 14 meeting, when the final design will be 60 percent complete, Toomey said.

The port plans to pay for the bulk of the project with a $24.6 million bond, which will be paid back over 20 years using money generated from a $4.50-per-passenger facility charge, Toomey said. Airport revenue, including parking and fees charged to airlines, will cover the rest, along with federal grants. Another hoped-for $8 million FAA grant will pay for improvements to the airport’s taxiway that will be needed because of the changes to the terminal building.

Toomey expects to see around $60 million in total improvements at the airport within the next five to 10 years. he said. Project manager David Robinson stressed the importance of bidding the airport expansion as soon as possible. Half a billion dollars in new construction projects is planned for bidding next year in the Tri-Cities, including five new schools. Getting the bidding done early would keep costs down by avoiding competition for construction workers.


Beechcraft 58P Baron, N4618M

Three men were arrested October 8th, 2013 on suspicion of possession with intent to distribute cocaine: Vincenzo Salzano (left), Armando Salzano (center), and Mohammad Nekouie (right). All three withdrew motions this week in state district court.
 (East Baton Rouge Parish Jail)

 Baton Rouge Police officer Luke Cowart and K9 Roux assisted in the search of the plane and found 10 kilos of cocaine, which hadn't been located in the initial search.



Three Colorado men arrested this month in Baton Rouge after a search of their small plane turned up 72 pounds of cocaine have withdrawn court filings that might have triggered dual prosecution in both Louisiana and federal courts.

If the drug case is taken up in both state and federal court, the men could face two separate prison sentences, one on top the other. 

The state hasn’t filed formal charges against the men, but the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office still technically could. The suspects remain in state custody, but a federal hold on them will keep them locked up if the state decides to hand over the case to the feds. 

Vincenzo Salzano, the 55-year-old apparent owner of the plane; his son, Armando Salzano, 32; and his son-in-law, Mohammad Nekouie, 32, each remain booked in East Baton Rouge Parish prison, where they’ve been since October 9th, 2013, on a $1 million state bond. 

All three suspects, each with a different attorney, had asked for a bond reduction hearing and pretrial examination -- a hearing to determine whether there was probable cause to make the arrest -- which was set for Thursday in 19th Judicial District Court Judge Richard Anderson’s courtroom. The proceedings could have prompted formal charges from the state, had motions played out. 

East Baton Rouge Parish Prosecutor John Russell said he was prepared Thursday to prosecute both Salzanos in hearings on their motions, but was notified Wednesday their defense attorneys sent a written request to Judge Anderson’s office withdrawing the motions.

Had the pretrial examinations taken place, any testimony presented in state court could potentially have been used during a federal trial. 

In his original motion for a bond reduction, Armondo Salzano said he was willing to move his family, including his wife and three young children, to East Baton Rouge Parish for the duration of the court proceedings. Vincenzo Salzano and Nekouie also said they could reside in the parish and stay with family members, which could help assure the court they wouldn't flee if released on bond. 

The case could potentially be handed over to the U.S. Attorney General as early as Thursday.

The men were arrested October 8th, 2013 on suspicion of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, according to Louisiana State Police and affidavits of probable cause. They were flying from McAllen, Texas, to Atlanta on a Beechcraft 58P Baron, and stopped to refuel in Baton Rouge.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) notified Louisiana State Police that an aircraft with a suspicious flight pattern was going to land at the airport. Officials met the plane when it landed, searched the plane and discovered 71.8 pounds of cocaine, according to records. 

The suspects have hired lawyers from three local firms. Vincenzo Salzano is represented by James Boren of the Morris Bart firm. Armondo Salzano is represented by John Di Giulio of the Manasseh, Gill Knipe Belanger firm. Nekouie is represented by John McLindon of Walters, Papillion Thomas Cullens firm.