Saturday, November 09, 2013

Hundreds gather to watch Blue Angels flyover at Naval Air Station Pensacola (photos)

PENSACOLA, Florida -- Several hundred visitors turned out at the National Museum of Naval Aviation Saturday to watch a flyover by the Blue Angels over Veterans Day weekend, as the Navy's famous Flight Demonstration Squadron marked the end of its sequester-shortened 2013 season. 

The Blue Angels performed a Delta Flat Pass and a Pitch-up Break maneuver over the museum's parking lot, but the brief flyover was a far cry from the full air show or practice that usually delights crowds across the nation during air shows and at the museum every Tuesday and Thursday during the show season. 

The Blue Angels performed only two air shows this year before the budget cuts known as the sequester forced the Navy to cancel 33 scheduled shows, including the Homecoming show at Naval Air Station Pensacola, which would have been Nov. 1-2. The Blue Angels will leave soon for their winter training facility in El Centro, Calif. 

Despite the brevity of Saturday's flyover, the people gathered at the museum were just happy to see the Blues take to the sky again. David Sampson, a former Navy pilot living in Pensacola, was in the crowd with his wife Brenda. 

"We look forward to any opportunity to watch the Blues fly and with them being curtailed this year, myself along with a lot of other people seem to be very happy to see them go again," Sampson said. 

"You can never see the Blue Angels too many times," said Howard Rundell, a retired Navy pilot who is now a tour guide at the museum.

Rundell led an afternoon tour of museum that he wrapped up in time to see the flyover just after 2 p.m.

While many in the crowd have seen the Blues dozens of times or more, there were a few first-timers as well.

One of those was Mike Williams, Sr. of Beaumont, Texas. Williams witnessed the flyover with his son Mike Williams, Jr., who just graduated from the Navy's Air Crew Candidate School at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The NACCS is the only path for enlisted Navy personnel to become pilots. 

Mike Williams, Jr. is preparing to ship off to California for the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School and hopes to eventually fly F/A-18s himself. 

Scroll through the gallery for photos from the flyover and the crowd gathered to watch it at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

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Proud Bird, aerospace watering hole, about to run dry

The longtime airport-area restaurant, which for decades welcomed legendary fliers and aviation workers, falls victim to rising rents and the decline of L.A.'s aerospace industry.  

With a martini in hand, John Cashen was deep in a discussion of military electronics, when a 747 jetliner seemed to float past in slow motion onto LAX's south runway complex. 

 Cashen, who pioneered the radar-evading design of the B-2 Stealth bomber, stopped to watch the plane — just a few hundred yards away — thunder past his table at the Proud Bird, the aerospace industry's favorite watering hole for more than a half-century.

"There's no place else like this in the world," said Cashen, 76, who retired from Northrop Grumman in 1993 but still consults for the firm.

The biggest names in aerospace have sat at the bar here to watch the planes land, people such as Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh and Neil Armstrong.

But the Proud Bird's days may be numbered.

John Tallichet, the current owner and son of the late founder, said it will close Nov. 21, after an unsuccessful two-year effort to negotiate a new lease from the property owners, Los Angeles World Airports.

The Los Angeles World Airports Commission says it can't help the historic gathering place, saying that federal law, which controls some aspects of airport operations, requires current market value for rents.

Although Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman Corp., the Aerospace Corp. and Raytheon Co. all have major facilities nearby, the industry is much smaller than in its heyday and less able to support the red-meat-and-fish dining room.

Nonetheless, supporters of the restaurant are outraged by the upcoming closure, saying that it would mean the loss of an important piece of Los Angeles' history.

Tallichet blames a tangle of federal and city laws that have raised his costs.

Under city law, airport businesses must pay a "living wage" of nearly $16 per hour, even though the Proud Bird merely sits on LAX-owned land. It can't compete with nearby restaurants not subject to the rule, Tallichet said.

At the same time, federal law compels the airport to charge a market-based rent for the property. Tallichet's lease expired two years ago and he had hoped to obtain a new 20-year lease, based on the old rent of about $200,000 per year, he said. But the airport commission said it would have to set the rent at about $500,000 annually, based on its market assessment.

Airport commission Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said she does not want to drive out the Proud Bird, but the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation already has opened an investigation that includes the Proud Bird lease and has been pressuring the agency to explain why it has not already increased the rent.

"We are not seeking to close down the Proud Bird," Lindsey said. "It is not something that is fixable by the Los Angeles World Airports. We have actually done what we can to help them."

If a historic Hollywood restaurant with connections to the entertainment industry were in a similar situation, patrons say, the city would rush to save it. A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti had no immediate comment.

Tallichet is hoping for an eleventh-hour miracle, though he has formally notified employees, patrons and the airport that it is closing.

Lovers of airplanes have a lot to appreciate at the Proud Bird, which was opened in 1958 by Tallichet's father, David, who flew a B-17 over Europe during World War II.

The restaurant is surrounded by about 20 vintage aircraft, some mounted on poles and others parked on an adjacent grass field.

The collection includes some of the most important airplanes built in Southern California, including the North American P-51 Mustang, considered the top fighter of World War II, and the Douglas DC-3 transport, which dominated civil aviation for more than a decade.

A few of the planes are genuine aircraft, but others are fiberglass replicas that were produced by the Tallichet family.

"At one time, we had the largest collection of World War II aircraft," Tallichet said. "My dad traveled around the world looking for old planes. I didn't see a lot of him when I was growing up."

Inside, hundreds of photographs line the walls, paying tribute to the industry that has helped propel the Southern California economy, starting with Glenn Martin's aircraft shop in 1912 that was housed in a former Santa Ana church.

There are special exhibits for the elite contractors once headquartered in Southern California: Lockheed, Northrop, Douglas, Hughes, North American Aviation, Consolidated Aircraft and Vultee Aircraft, among others, many of them long forgotten by the public.

The most renowned test pilots have their own displays, among them Tony Levier, the late Lockheed pilot who made the first flight in the U-2 spy plane, and Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier.

The restaurant recognizes heroes of past wars, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, African American pilots who flew with a distinguished record in World War II. It named a special banquet room for them, and the few remaining members of the unit and many survivors of the late airmen make regular visits.

"There's nothing like the Proud Bird," said Theodore Lumpkin, 93, a Tuskegee Airman who served in Italy during the war. "It makes a connection with the community in so many ways, spreading the word about the Tuskegee Airmen."

"That would be a disaster if the city put them out," said Craig Huntly, the historian for the local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. "The Proud Bird is more than a restaurant. It is a custodian of a rich history of our city and made it available to the public."

In a narrow, wood-paneled hallway, there is a tribute to women aviators, among them famed racing pilot Jacqueline Cochran, wing-walker Lillian Boyer, African American pilot Bessie Coleman and, of course, Amelia Earhart.

The restaurant, and its adjoining banquet rooms, have counted on the aerospace industry near LAX for decades, hosting celebrations of mission successes, retirements and promotions.

Test pilots from Edwards Air Force Base have long held their annual bash at the Proud Bird. Hughes Aircraft has held giant parties for their missions, such as the 20th anniversary of Surveyor, the first spacecraft to successfully land on the moon.

Robert Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot who gained later fame as a test pilot, said he has been going to the restaurant since the 1960s, dining with Lindbergh, Doolittle and Yeager, as well as Paul Tibbets Jr., the pilot of the Enola Gay bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb.

"It will be a sad day for aviation in our city if it closes," Hoover said.

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Key West-Cuba charter flights postponed

Ambitious plans announced last month by a Miami travel agency to offer small charter flights between Key West and Cuba beginning Nov. 15 have been pushed back to a Dec. 15 kick-off by Mambi International's partners at Air Marbrisa Airlines.

In a Wednesday e-mail to Peter Horton, the Monroe County airports director, Bob Curtis from Air Marbrisa said the delay is due to Mambi not yet having what's called a 380 certificate.

That document, provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, establishes an operator, in this case Air Marbrisa, as a public charter based on specific regulations.

Mambi spokesman Isaac Valdes said he couldn't comment on the certificate but said flights will start Dec. 15.

But "if we performed the service [of using Key West International Airport to fly to and from Jose Marti International Airport now], we would be in violation" of federal rules, Curtis wrote to Horton. "I won't do that, therefore I have terminated any service for 30 days. It is our intent to begin the service on or around Dec. 15."

"Everything else remains the same," Curtis continued. "All our licenses and approvals are in place. We are delaying the service for 30 days so that when we do perform, we are performing in accordance with all regulations."

Last month, Horton cautioned that Mambi's plans may be overly ambitious and Curtis said the company announced the pending flights to the media prematurely.

The process of designating Key West International as an international point of entry began in 2009 with a request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Following that was a three-phase, two-year, $2.25 million project to have the airport reclassified as a federal inspection station, instead of the current label of a general aviation facility.

Horton said the feds signed off on the upgrades in October 2011.

Flights are scheduled to leave Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at 3:30 p.m., returning the following morning aboard a Metro II turboprop plane. The round trip is slated to cost $449 and each flight, lasting about 30 minutes. The plane can accommodate up to 10 people, including the pilot.

The last time planes regularly flew between Key West International and Jose Marti in Havana, just 90 miles from the Southernmost City, was in 1962.

Would-be visitors must obtain either a general or specific license from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control.


No injuries in Concordia plane crash: Blosser Municipal Airport (KCNK), Kansas

CONCORDIA - A single-engine Piper airplane crashed Saturday morning as it was taking off from Blosser Municipal Airport.

The pilot, Terry L. Lambert, 49, and passenger, Francis J. Williams, 45, both of Concordia, were not injured.

The Kansas Highway Patrol reported that the aircraft was just going airborne and making a left turn into the wind at 10:40 a.m. when it stalled and crashed while making an emergency landing, about three-tenths of a mile south of the runway.

The patrol reported that Lambert and Williams were wearing seat belts.

The airplane was to be removed after the Federal Aviation Administration concluded its investigation.


Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority commences investigation of Aero Contractors airline for ‘shoddy’ treatment of passengers

An NCAA official witnessed the poor treatment of the passengers.

Nigerian aviation authorities are currently investigating complaints from at least 12 passengers over the ‘shoddy’ treatment meted on them by Aero Contractors, an aviation spokesperson has said.

Yakubu Datti, the coordinating spokesperson for Nigeria’s aviation parastatals, confirmed the receipt of the complaints by the agency on Saturday evening.

“Yes we have received complaints from 12 passengers, and appropriate actions will be taken,” Mr. Datti told PREMIUM TIMES.

While aviation authorities investigate the allegations, PREMIUM TIMES can report that by delaying a flight for over 11 hours, all through the night, and failing to provide either refreshment or hotel accommodation for the affected passengers, Aero Contractors violated sections of the Passenger Bill of Rights.

The Bill, put in place by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to protect the rights of passengers and airlines, provides, among others, guidelines that must be followed by airlines in cases such as flight delays, cancellations, and over-bookings.

Aero had delayed its flight AJ132 from Abuja to Lagos on Friday, first for about three hours (from 6:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.), then for over 11 hours till 8:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Most of the passengers were informed via sms and email of the first delay several hours to departure.

“This is to inform you that our flight AJ132 from Abuja to Lagos Today the 8th of November 2013, has been rescheduled to 21:40hrs due to operational reasons. Check in starts two (2) hours before and ends forty(40) minutes before departure. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. For rescheduling, please call: 01-6284140 or mail,” the airline said in the message sent to the passengers.

However, dozens of the passengers who started arriving the airport as early as 1:00 p.m. on Friday were shocked when the airline announced a delay of the flight again.
When the plane that was to convey the passengers finally arrived Abuja at about 12:00 midnight, the pilot simply refused to fly.

The violations

Section states the actions that must be taken by an airline that delays a flight.

The law states that “For domestic flights, when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it shall provide the passengers the assistance specified below:

“a. immediately after one hour, the assistance specified in section (Refreshments) and section (telephone calls, SMS and E-mails).

“b. at a time between 10p.m. and 4a.m., or at a time when the airport is closed at the point of departure or final destination, the assistance specified in sections and (hotel accommodation and transport);”

In other words, Aero was supposed to provide not only refreshments, but also hotel accommodation for the almost 60 passengers it made to sleep on the airport floors because of the flight delay.

The airline provided neither.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the passengers had survived through the night at the airport, which is currently undergoing renovation with no place for rest. Some of the passengers were walked out of an Aero jet they had slept in at about 3:00 a.m. by a soldier.

“The treatment was really shoddy. Not only did they not provide any (refreshment or hotel), they could not even apologize to us officially when we eventually flew to Lagos (on Saturday morning),” Charles Musa, one of the affected passengers, said.

Mr. Musa, who is among those who complained to the NCAA, said that an official of the agency was with the passengers all through the night and pledged not to leave the airport until the passengers travelled to Lagos.

Aero’s likely penalties

Apart from providing guidelines to be followed by airlines during flight delays and cancellation, the Passenger Bill of Rights also provides penalties for defaulters that fail to adhere to the guideline.

The law provides “civil penalties as minimum, moderate or maximum for a single violation of a particular regulation.”
While the minimum penalty is N100, 000, the moderate is N250, 000, and the maximum is N500, 000.

Apart from this recommended penalty, the Bill also states that “The Authority may also refer the violator for criminal prosecution as provided in the Civil Aviation Act 2006.”

Mr. Datti explained that the NCAA was determined to enforce its laws to the latter after investigation of the complaints and urged passengers who continuously suffer from such delays by airlines in Nigeria to report such cases as the agency can only act after a formal report.

However, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that some of the passengers may be preparing a court action against Aero.

Aero is yet to react to PREMIUM TIMES inquiry. Calls made to its spokesperson, Simon Tumba’s telephone numbers were unanswered, while a text message inquiry was not responded to.


Spirit Airlines Airbus A319-100, N504NK, Flight NK-409: Dropped engine cowling at Chicago O'Hare International Airport (KORD), Illinois

A Spirit Airlines plane sits at O'Hare International Airport after it lost part of its right engine cover--known as the engine cowlings--on takeoff early Saturday. 
(WGN-TV / November 9, 2013)

A Spirit Airlines plane had to return to O’Hare International Airport soon after takeoff when part of the housing for one of its engines fell off, officials said. 

No one was injured when the cowling for the right engine on Flight 409, headed for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., became detached and the flight crew had to return to O’Hare just after takeoff a little after 5:30 a.m., said Misty Pinson, spokeswoman for the Florida-based airline.

About 5:45 a.m. after the plane took off from runway 28R, a passenger saw that the engine cowlings on the right side of the Airbus A319 were missing, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said. The crew “received an indication of a possible mechanical issue,” and declared an emergency, Pinson said in an email.

The plane returned to O’Hare and landed on runway 28, Cory said.

The plane was brought back to the gate, and customers were able to leave the plane safely with crew help, Pinson said. Those who wanted to were able to get on another plane that headed to Fort Lauderdale, while those needing to make connections were rebooked. Customers also were offered refunds if they preferred.

The Chicago Fire Department declared an aircraft standby response for the incident, which includes six ambulances being dispatched, but no one wsa injured, a Fire Department spokesman said. The right engine cowlings were found on airport property, and Spirit crews were inspecting the plane and the cowlings, Pinson said.

The FAA was to take possession of the cowlings as part of its investigation of the incident, Cory said.

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San Francisco International Airport (KSFO) Construction to Shut Down More Runways

Two runways at San Francisco International Airport will be closed next summer for the final phase of a construction project, airport officials said today.

Runways 1L and 1R will be reconfigured to create longer thresholds in case an airplane overshoots the runway as part of a federally mandated Runway Safety Area construction project, airport spokesman Doug Yakel said in a statement.

In addition, a new Engineered Material Arresting System will be installed that can safely catch a plane's landing gear if it overshoots.

Landing lights, navigation systems and other equipment will also be relocated as part of the project, Yakel said. Construction will start May 17, 2014, and last through September 2014. Work will be conducted day and night, seven days a week in order to complete the project quickly and minimize disruptions.

The airport will exclusively use its two main runways, Runways 28L and 28R, during the closures.

Travelers may experience minor delays during peak periods in good weather, and should expect more serious delays on bad weather days, similar to what the airports sees on winter days, Yakel said.

"We have been working with the FAA and the airlines for the past several years to develop a plan to adjust schedules and capacity in advance of the temporary closure in order to minimize the impact to our customers during construction," Yakel said in a statement. "Closing both runways at the same time is the safest and fastest option," Yakel said.

The airport previously closed a major runway in February this year as part of the same safety improvement project.


Virginia Beach | HamptonRoads: Mayors' trip on private jet with local developer raises questions


VIRGINIA BEACH -- Two Hampton Roads' mayors are under the microscope after hopping on a private jet with a wealthy developer to attend Terry McAuliffe's election party Tuesday night. 

 Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms and Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim flew to Washington, D.C. with developer Bruce Thompson on a small private jet, the two mayors confirm.

Thompson is the developer behind the Cavalier re-development project at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and the planned hotel and convention center in Downtown Norfolk.

Thompson received millions of dollars in public funds and tax assistance from both cities for the respective projects.

Both Sessoms and Fraim said they split the cost of the flight with Thompson.

"I'm concerned about appearances all the time," Fraim said. "I've been doing this for a while. The fact that we paid for our trip to go there, I thought was appropriate."

Sessoms also said he didn't see anything wrong with the trip, and pointed out that he abstained from the vote to approve $18 million in funds for Thompson's project at the Cavalier.

Fraim said he thinks the criticism is worth the good relationship with Thompson.

"There will be people who question our relationship with any developer," Fraim said. "Mr Thompson is going to invest nearly $70 million in this city, you know, the mayor should be friends with him."

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Readington, New Jersey: Committee sets closed-door meeting to discuss Solberg Airport (N51) family land

Family-owned-and-operated Solberg Airport in Readington Township was founded in 1941 by Thor Solberg. It covers 102 acres and is surrounded by another 625 acres owned by the Solberg Family. 

READINGTON TWP. — The mayor and Township Committee plan to meet behind closed doors to discuss Solberg Airport family land on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 8 a.m. at the Municipal Building. 

 If they take any action, that would happen in open session.

The township on Nov. 7 learned that it lost another round in the continuing court battle with Solberg Airport. Findings of an awaited Superior Court judge's decision came the day after about 500 people attended a hearing on the issue.

Barring further amendments, the case is set to go to trial in March, Solberg representatives said.

Judge Yolanda Ciccone denied the township's second amended complaint, in which the township wanted to change its lawsuit to allow Readington to buy the 102 acres used for airport operations — and then operate it as a public airport — rather that purchase the development rights only.

Ciccone further lifted a stay on a suit filed by the Solbergs in 2006 against the then-members of the Township Committee, saying that Readington officials have failed to comply with state law and zone for an airport safety zone and re-zone of the existing airport to a conforming use.

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Boeing 747’s era long gone because of jet’s jumbo size, fuel use: Plane revolutionized air travel in the ’70s

For decades, the Boeing 747 was the Queen of the Skies. But the glamorous, double-decker jumbo jet that revolutionized air travel and shrank the globe could be nearing the end of the line.

Boeing has cut its production target twice in six months. Only 18 will be produced in each of the next two years. Counting cancellations, Boeing hasn’t sold a 747 this year. Some new 747s go into storage as soon as they leave the plant.

Boeing says it’s committed to the 747 and sees a market for it in regions such as Asia. But most airlines no longer want big, four-engine planes; they prefer newer two-engine jets that fly the same distance while burning less fuel.

“We had four engines when jet-engine technology wasn’t advanced,” Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Richard Anderson said at a recent conference. “Now, jet engines are amazing, amazing machines, and you only need two of them.”

Delta inherited 16 747s when it bought Northwest Airlines in 2008. Northwest last ordered a 747 in 2001, according to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets.

Seats to fill

Part of the problem is all those seats. A 747 can seat 380 to 560 people, depending on how an airline sets it up. A full one is a moneymaker. But an airline that can’t fill all the seats has to spread the cost of 63,000 gallons of jet fuel — roughly $200,000 — among fewer passengers.

The jets also are too big for most markets. There aren’t enough passengers who want to fly each day between Atlanta and Paris, for example, to justify several jumbo-jet flights. And business travelers want more than one flight to choose from. So airlines fly smaller planes several times a day instead.

“No one wants the extra capacity” that comes with jumbo jets like the 747 and the Airbus A380, said Teal Group aviation consultant Richard Aboulafia.

The game changer

The 747 once stood alone, with more seats than any other jet and a range of 6,000 miles, longer than any other plane.

The plane is massive: six stories tall and longer than the distance the Wright brothers traveled on their first flight.

On the early planes, the distinctive bulbous upper deck was a lounge, so it had only six windows. The plane epitomized the modern age of international jet travel.

“Everyone on the flight was dressed up,” recalls passenger Thomas Lee, who was 17 when he took the inaugural passenger flight on Pan Am from New York to London in 1970. “After all, it was still back in the day when the romance of flight was alive and thriving.”

International travel was limited mostly to those who could afford the pricey flights. The 747 changed that. The first 747s could seat twice as many passengers as the preferred international jet of the time, the Boeing 707. Long flights became more economical for the airlines. Ticket prices fell, and soon a summer vacation in Europe was no longer just for the wealthy.

The plane’s profile was enhanced by its role as Air Force One and by flying the space shuttle — piggyback — across the country. The 747 became the world’s most-recognizable aircraft.

Boeing began building 747s in the late 1960s. Production peaked at 122 in 1990. Overall, Boeing sold 1,418 747s before redesigning the plane in 2011. The 747’s success helped put Boeing ahead of U.S. competitors Lockheed, which left the passenger-jet business in 1983, and McDonnell Douglas, which Boeing acquired in 1997.

But technology eventually caught up with the 747.

As engines became more powerful and reliable, the government in 1988 started allowing certain planes with only two engines to fly over the ocean, as far as three hours from the nearest airport. Within a

decade, twin-engine planes such as the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 777 began to dominate long-haul routes.

Air Force One, the sequel

At least the president of the United States still prefers to fly in a jumbo jet.

Air Force One is the world’s most-visible airplane. The two modified Boeing 747-200s that do the job now will be 30 years old in 2017. The Air Force is seeking a four-engine replacement, making the Pentagon one of the last airplane shoppers eager to buy fuel for four engines instead of two. Boeing and Airbus are the only Western jetmakers with such a plane.

Boeing has said it wants the job and has responded to an Air Force request for information. Airbus has not.

Impact on Boeing

Boeing says that slowing 747 production won’t have a significant financial impact.

Boeing’s stock closed at $133.45 yesterday, near its all-time high. It has gained 77 percent this year, nearly four times the gain in the Dow Jones industrial average.

Boeing has a backlog of 4,787 planes, most of that orders for the best-selling 737. It has sped up production of the 737, and the 777, and plans to boost its output of 787s in 2016. Boeing gets the bulk of the money from a new plane upon delivery, so faster deliveries mean better cash flow.

Boeing is expected to begin offering customers a new version of the 777 this year. With about 400 seats, that plane is widely expected to kill off demand for the 747 from passenger airlines, although the freighter version might survive longer.

Still, 747 fans can take heart. Most planes last three decades or longer, so there will be 747s in the sky for a long time.

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Iranian Passenger Jet Makes Emergency Landing in Beijing, No Injuries Reported

TEHRAN (FNA)- An Iran Air passenger plane made an emergency landing in Beijing International Airport minutes after takeoff, but none of the passengers onboard was hurt.

Speaking to FNA, an Iran Air official said that the airline’s Boeing 747 on a flight to Tehran from Beijing had an emergency landing in the Chinese capital due to technical problems.

“Engine number 4 of the plane stopped functioning minutes after takeoff and the pilot returned the plane to (Beijing Airport) with three engines and without any incident,” Iran Air Public Relations Director-General Shahrokh Noushabadi said.

Noushabadi pointed to the skillfulness and agility of the pilot, and said, “ … Iran Air immediately sent backup plane for Beijing from Tehran.”

He underlined that passengers of the plane have flown to Tehran on another flight.


New Jersey: Roseland Fire Department Responds to East Hanover NorthSTAR Medevac Landing

Photo Credit: Nick Bellomo

Photo Credit: Nick Bellomo

ROSELAND, NJ - Wednesday, at about 3:30 p.m. East Hanover police and fire departments responded to a serious motor vehicle accident at 520 Ridgedale Avenue, in East Hanover.

According to witnesses, a delivery truck hit a tree head on. At 3:48 p.m., the fire department requested that the Roseland Fire Department assist them with setting up a landing zone for the New Jersey State Police medevac helicopter which was called to the scene.  

After arriving at the location, the Roseland firefighters set up a perimeter in order to allow for a safe landing of the helicopter. The protocols for a medevac landing require that an engine company, with a hose line already filled with water and pressurized, be present when the helicopter lands in case of a fire or any other issue.

Piloted by the New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit,  the Northern Shock-Trauma Air Rescue unit (NorthSTAR) provides life support while in transit by air to trauma centers.

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Van's Aircraft: Emirates engineering team with their RV-12 - the result of thousands of hours of dedication by a group of trainees

Photo Courtesy: Emirates airline

The thousands of hours needed to assemble the 11,000 parts have proven invaluable for the 40 students, exposing them to the attention to detail needed in plane building. 

“Constructing this aircraft from scratch is a tremendous achievement for our trainees whose knowledge and hands on technical experience have now been significantly enhanced,” said Adel Al Redha, Emirates Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer.

The two-seater RV-12 is six metres long, has a top speed of 217kph and a range of 900km, meaning it could fly to Qatar capital Doha, Salalah in Oman or Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

“The trainees’ first task was to unpack the crates, check the components against the inventory and create a storage system where items could be easily retrieved,” Al Redha said.

“The canopy and rear window proved to be a huge challenge as the thermoplastic glass had to be drilled without cracking. This required extreme patience and was fortunately completed without any mishaps.”

The aircraft will be used to promote Emirates’ UAE National training programs. It will also be on display at the Dubai Air Show, which starts next Sunday at Al Maktoum International, Dubai World Central.

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More Than 30 Laser Strikes Reported at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (KMSP) in 2013

You can buy a small, handheld laser pointer for less than $20, they're used in business presentations all the time. But the Federal Aviation Administration says that cheap little light can be extremely dangerous to pilots.

Since 2006, reports of laser pointers being aimed at planes have sky rocketed. So far in 2013, the FAA says there have been more than 3,000 laser strikes across the country. 31 of those hit planes flying into or out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"It could be potentially catastrophic," explained Trever Rossini, who owns In Flight Pilot Training at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie.

The FAA says one reason it's so dangerous is light expands as it travels, so if a laser hits a plane thousands of feet in the air, the light can flood the cockpit, surprising and potentially injuring a pilot.

"If that happens to you," Rossini said, "you could potentially make a fatal error." He would know. After reading about other pilots being hit with laser pointers, he asked a friend to shine a laser pointer at his own plane so he'd know how to handle it. "I was actually surprised, A, at how far the beam could travel and secondly how powerful the light actually was."

It's why the FAA reports laser strikes to the FBI immediately, and why Rossini hopes his planned laser strike is the only one he ever has to deal with.

The FAA can fine people $11,000 for aiming a laser pointer at a plane. On top of that, law enforcement agencies can get involved too. Those penalties vary depending on where they occur.

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State filing confirms Evergreen shutdown: Evergreen International Airlines exec declares McMinnville company will close, but founder demurs

Del Smith, founder and owner of Evergreen International Aviation, issued a statement at the close of the business day Friday denying a News-Register report that it intends to close its air cargo subsidiary, Evergreen International Airlines, at the end of the month.

However, Smith's statement was flatly contradicted in an internal company memo Evergreen filed earlier in the day under the WARN Act, which requires notice of mass layoffs and plant closures.

A Friday press release from the state agency said, "The number to be laid off is 131."

In a Thursday memo copied to Smith and other Evergreen executives, and filed with the state Friday, Evergreen Human Resources Manager Monique Gregory said the cargo carrier intends to "end all operations." The memo was addressed to "All Evergreen International Airlines Employees."

“The last day of all operations will be November 30, 2013," Gregory said in her memo. "Therefore, the last day of employment for employees will range from current day (11/07/2013) through November 30, 2013, with a small number of specific employees remaining to complete the closing requirements. … The loss of our company is very unfortunate; however, we appreciate your continued excellent service during this ending phase.”

State rules require that such notices be filed 60 days in advance, but Evergreen actually provided fewer than 30 days. A former company employee estimated that the cargo hauler was already down to fewer than 140 employees when the notice was issued, but that could not be officially confirmed.

The News-Register began getting word Thursday morning, from both current and former employees, of the closure memo.

A reporter placed multiple calls to the company seeking comment, but they went unreturned Thursday and Friday, even though the story began circulating Thursday evening online and Friday morning in print.

The denial released under Smith's name arrived shortly before 5 p.m. Friday. It came less than an hour after state issuance of a press release on the company's WARN Act filing.

In the release, Smith said:

“As has previously been reported in the press, Evergreen's business has been adversely impacted over the past several years by decreased demand in military spending and weakness in global economic markets. Management has moved to aggressively address these challenges, including through the divestiture of businesses and assets and the significant reduction of secured debt. Evergreen is in discussions with its significant constituencies and is exploring available strategic alternatives with those constituencies. While Evergreen does not generally comment on market rumor or conjecture, rumors that a decision has been made to cease operations at this time are false. Evergreen remains committed to continuing to address the current business environment with its customers.”

The contradiction could not be immediately rectified, as the business day had closed by the time it was received.

The Portland Business Journal was the first news outlet to obtain a copy of the memo filed with the state and report on its contents. It filed a story early Friday evening noting the discrepancy between Smith's statement and the memo filed with the state.


In 1980, Evergreen International Airlines Inc. flew the deposed Shah of Iran from Panama to Egypt, where he gained refuge.

Six years later, the McMinnville company launched an undercover airline service to fly U.S. anti-terrorist teams to world trouble spots.

And six years after that, Evergreen shipped the Spruce Goose the late billionaire Howard Hughes’ wooden plane – to a new museum across Oregon 18 from company’s headquarters.

Fast forward to this week: Despite a denial by its octogenarian founder, the storied airline appears to be in a tailspin, planning to lay off 131 employees before closing at the end of November.

Monique Gregory, Evergreen’s human resources manager, wrote in a memo dated Thursday to all the airline’s employees that the privately held company would end operations Nov. 30.

“The loss of our company is very unfortunate,” Gregory wrote. “However, we appreciate your continued excellent service during this ending phase.” 

Staggering debt could be the main culprit in Evergreen’s demise, airline analysts said, judging by the state of the industry and payment deadlines missed by the company. High fuel prices and excess capacity also hinder the global freighter business.

Military contracts wound down along with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And privately held Evergreen has fought for years in labor negotiations with its pilots and flight engineers, enduring several strike threats.

Mike Hines, Evergreen International Aviation’s chairman, said Friday that the 131 announced job losses would follow other recent layoffs. Evergreen employed 363 in McMinnville as recently as March, when debt forced a sale of the helicopter division that employed 100 there.

“It’s a shame,” said Mary Stern, a commissioner in Yamhill County, where the airline and related enterprises amount to one of the biggest employers. “So many people in the community will be out of work.”

A big question in McMinnville, a town of 33,000 about 30 miles southwest of Portland, is whether Evergreen’s nonprofit operations – major tourist draws conceived by founder Delford Smith – will survive. The Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark and the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum rival wineries in attracting visitors to boost the local economy.

“Oh, I hope so, yeah, they’re not tied to Evergreen,” Hines said of the nonprofits’ survival. “Del wants that legacy to survive forever.”

Tax forms filed by the nonprofits reflect financially sound enterprises. But they have heavily depended on Smith’s support.

For example Smith contributed more than $23 million to the Michael King Smith Foundation in 2011. The organization – named for Del Smith’s son, who died in a 1995 auto accident – invested $35.7 million that year in the water park, an attraction deemed “educational” in tax filings. 

The Oregon Department of Justice is investigating money transfers between the nonprofit and commercial entities, so it’s difficult to tell whether the nonprofits are truly self-sustaining. In 2011 for instance, another nonprofit – Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum and the Capt. Michael King Smith Educational Institute paid $343,837 to Evergreen International Aviation for miscellaneous services.

Smith, Evergreen International Aviation’s chief executive officer, did not return phone calls Thursday and Friday.

In a statement released Friday, though, Smith acknowledged his companies had been hurt by decreased military spending and global economic weakness. But, he said, Evergreen is in talks with “significant constituencies” in an effort to continue.

“Rumors that a decision has been made to cease operations at this time are false,” Smith said. His statement contradicted Gregory’s memo and a recorded phone message received by pilots, who reported calling in this week to hear an executive announce the closure planned, they said, for Nov. 29.

Richard Gritta, a finance professor at the University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business, noted the tremendous amount of financial leverage among airlines. “This downturn has hurt them all, and if they can’t merge and get out of it then they have to restructure somehow, and that may be his plan,” he said of Smith.

Towering debt prompted Evergreen to sell off its helicopter subsidiary for $250 million. Smith said at the time that the deal would enable Evergreen to pay off as much as $276 million of its $300 million in debt.

But debt continued to hound Evergreen, according to the Air Line Pilots Association, International. In August, the union cited unpaid judgments and debts to airline vendors, crew members and other employees.

“It’s hard to go to work, sometimes on the other side of the world, and not know if the airline will shut down or if you’re going to get paid for your services,” said Capt. James Touchette, the Evergreen union chairman, in a written statement at the time.

A union statement said then that a Yamhill County judge had granted judgments against the airline for overdue contributions to the pilots’ pension plans. Yet the company missed the first agreed payment of $744,651 in May and the second payment of $680,359 in August, the union said.

Crew members experienced late paychecks, delays in their voluntary 401(k) contributions and denials of company credit cards at foreign hotels, the union said.

“We are alarmed that Evergreen has so much debt and isn’t taking the necessary steps to pay it off and get back on track to keep the airline afloat,” Touchette said in his August statement. “We have to ask, ‘Will the airline survive?’”

Other airlines are consolidating their cargo operations. Two weeks ago, Asiana Cargo airlines suspended a four-day-a-week cargo service it had operated for two years between Portland and Inchon, South Korea. The airline moved the operation to Seattle, where it also operates passenger planes.

“We still think there’s an opportunity for freighter service” to replace Asiana, said David Zielke, Port of Portland general manager of air service development. “We’re currently evaluating those options.”
As for Evergreen, it has endured near-death experiences before. 

In 1994 as investors unloaded Evergreen junk bonds, Smith held tight to the debt-ridden company he founded in 1960, bucking the advice of his lawyers to seek reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. 

Losses continued through 1996, but by 1997 the company achieved a $21.2 million profit. In 1998, the airline added service from Indonesia to New York via Columbus, Ohio. Revenues rose despite the Asian financial crisis, enabling Smith to open the aviation museum in 2000.

Eleven years later he opened the 70,000-square-foot water park. The attraction has become a local landmark, with a giant Evergreen B747-100 aircraft perched on the roof.

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