Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reno Air Races: We need $500,000 by December 15

RENO, Nev. (KRNV & - Reno Air Racing Association President and CEO sent an open letter to public, stating the group needs $500,000 in commitments, funds and debt reduction by Sunday, December 15. The Association has implemented furloughs and wage and benefit reductions on all staff and some positions were eliminated.

The letter is posted below:

Dear Air Race Supporters,

On the heels of a spectacular and historic 50th National Championship Air Races, the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) is looking forward to the next 50 years. This year’s event marked a recovery from the many emotional, financial and operational challenges of the last three years. The crowds were back, the weather was good and the racing was thrilling and safe.

However, as we work to build for the future, we are faced with a set of significant challenges posed in the wake of a third year of financial losses. As a not-for-profit organization, RARA is committed to preserving and growing air racing and we are dedicated to creating long-term financial sustainability. As such, we have carefully evaluated our current financial position and we have been forced to make some agonizing and difficult decisions. Effective immediately, we have implemented furloughs and wage and benefit reductions on all RARA staff. Additionally, we have made the heartbreaking decision to eliminate certain positions.

I have always believed that the fans, volunteers, pilots, staff and sponsors of the Reno Air Races are a family and these decisions were not made lightly. I have been humbled by the dedication and response of our staff as they diligently work to continue this world-class event. In fact, our third-party marketing partners – both of which we have had long-standing relationships with – have committed to continuing to work with us, without a formal contract, ensuring no notable changes to our marketing and communication efforts.

As difficult as these steps are, they are intended with the sole purpose of keeping air racing alive and preserving this historic aviation event for our community and the world. In short, in order to address the operational costs of 2014 and beyond, including an oppressive insurance premium, we need to raise $500,000 in commitments, funds and debt reduction by Sunday, Dec. 15 of this year. While this might seem a daunting task, we have already made substantial strides in accomplishing this goal. Concurrently, through voting to immediately restructure the RARA board of directors and bylaws, our current board of directors is taking the steps to ensure an evolution of our fundraising and sponsorship model that allows us to grow this historic event far beyond 2014 and become more agile in the decision process.

Unquestionably, we need your immediate help and support. We are rapidly developing an exciting, new fundraising campaign that aims to quickly engage air race fans and aviation enthusiasts from all over the world and we’ll be releasing details before Thanksgiving on our website and Facebook page. Existing reserved and box seat holders are currently ordering their 2014 tickets and General Admission, unreserved Boxes and Seats will be available to the public on March 1, 2014.

We recently celebrated 50 great years of air racing and are optimistic, that we will celebrate many more. This can only happen with the continued and increased support of our worldwide family.


Mike Houghton
President/ CEO

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Reno Air Races cuts staff, salaries 

The Reno National Championship Air Races issued a statement late Friday saying it must raise commitments for a half million dollars by Dec. 15 “to address the operational costs of 2014.” 

If it can’t raise the money, “some painful decisions will have to be made,” said Air Races spokesman Mike Draper.

Those “painful decisions” could include canceling next year’s Air Races, Draper said.

“Depending on what the reception is over the next three weeks, we’ll have to see where that puts us,” Draper said. “That said, we have no reason to believe we’re not going to get there.”

The statement from Mike Houghton, president and CEO of the Air Races, said the Reno Air Racing Association has eliminated two full-time staff positions and has implemented furloughs and wage benefits reductions for the remaining employees.

“As difficult as these steps are, they are intended with the sole purpose of keeping air racing alive and preserving this historic aviation event for our community and the world,” Houghton said in the statement. “In short, in order to address the operational costs of 2014 and beyond, including an oppressive insurance premium, we need to raise $500,000 in commitments, funds and debt reduction by Sunday, Dec. 15 of this year.”

The Air Races have faced financial challenges since 2011 when the fatal crash of a race plane into the box seats at the front of the main grandstands killed 10 spectators and pilot Jimmy Leeward.

Support from the local community, the state of Nevada and the air racing community helped the races return in 2012 and to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013, but all three years resulted in financial losses for the Air Races.

Insurance to cover the event was more than $2 million in 2012 and was $1.2 million in 2013.


INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE: Emirates chief Tim Clark

Sitting somewhere in the desk of Emirates president Tim Clark is the airline's first ever statement of intent, writes Mark Summers.

These days when the Dubai carrier wants to set out its goals for the future - say like its recent announcement that it plans to fly 70 million passengers a year by 2020 - its media team can flash a statement around the globe.

But prior to the airline’s launch in 1985, things were a bit more modest. Clark was one of the “team of ten” tasked with starting up the new Dubai airline. Things weren’t easy in the beginning.

“The Gulf states wouldn’t allow us to fly to their points - Gulf Air was the dominant carrier and there was no love lost, quite a lot of blood-letting in those days,” he tells 7DAYS. With Dubai being “starved” as the number of flights in and out of the emirate was slashed, Emirates prepared to take to the skies.

Clark, then in charge of planning the fledgling carrier’s routes, was forced to identify promising routes outside the Gulf - and when the first Emirates flight took to the skies it headed for Karachi in Pakistan. At the outset of the airline’s journey, Clark sat down to sketch out its goals.

“I’ve still got the piece of paper. Hand-written. The business model. It is sitting turning sepia in my bottom drawer. We haven’t deviated from it to this day. The only thing that tickles me is that I put at the bottom ‘We must be respected, even though we will always be a small Arab carrier…’”

Fast-forward 28 years to the 2013 Dubai Airshow and Clark is speaking to 7DAYS three days after Emirates announced orders for 50 Airbus A380 superjumbos and 150 of Boeing’s ultra long-haul Boeing 777X aircraft. At just shy of $100 billion at list prices, the airline is describing the deal as “the biggest in civil aviation history.” It’s quite a story. And so is that of Clark himself.

“I make no secret of it - I am an anorak of this business,” he says. Having expected a place on a graduate training scheme run by BOAC - the forerunner to British Airways - he found “they’d canned it, because even then, in those days, times were tough for the airline industry”.

“So I said, ‘I’ll just go and get a check-in desk job’ and I absolutely loved it - walking the ramp, walking around the airplane, smelling the high-octane fuel - oh, it was wonderful,” he laughs. The early years at Emirates were heady times too, he says, creating a strong camaraderie among the airline’s early staff as the carrier added routes and was consistently profitable.

Clark claims that persists to this day.

“We never lose pilots,” he says simply. Today the Emirates brand can be found attached to some of the famous sporting franchises in the world - and Clark says marketing was an early priority.

“We spent a fortune on it,” he says. “And people used to say ‘how many aircraft have you got - 300? And we would say ‘no, we’ve got four…’” Not any more - by 2020 Emirates anticipates having a fleet of 250 wide-body aircraft. But having reached the summit of the industry - those 70 million annual passengers the Dubai carrier is targeting by the end of the decade would make it the biggest airline in the world for international flyers - don’t make the mistake of thinking things are any easier for Clark and his team.

“Things are getting difficult out there, the competitors are starting to ratchet up - finally after 28 years they have kind of woken up to the fact that ‘maybe we ought to do something about these people’,” he says. This year alone the carrier has inaugurated a complex partnership with Australia’s Qantas and shaken up transatlantic travel by starting an eye-catching new route between Milan and New York - its first not to stop in Dubai.

Ask if he can see the airline adding further routes without a Dubai connection and Clark says it’s not really part of the business model he wrote out all those years ago.

“Flying to the US from London, Frankfurt or Paris? That’s not in our plans,” he says. Following the announcement of the Milan-New York route, Clark says, “all hell let loose - everyone was suing us”. You get the impression that he still quite enjoys such clashes, having thrived in the early acrimony that followed the airline’s launch. But he really should get that early business plan out of his desk drawer and into a frame...

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Tribhuvan International Airport to install automated air traffic control system

KATHMANDU: Tribhuvan International Airport, within a month, will have a fully automated Air Traffic Control (ATC) system of European standard which will minimize 50 percent of the load at the ATC tower.

“The equipment required for a fully automated ATC tower has been set up and within a month the equipment will be installed and ready for operations,” said deputy director at TIA aviation office Bharat Sharma.

According to him, once the ATC is fully automated the total work load at the ATC tower will be minimized by 50 to 60 percent, which will enhance communication between the ATC and pilots. “Once the ATC is fully automated, there will be effective coordination and support in controlling the increasing number of flights,” said Sharma.

The fully automated Air Traffic Control system of European standard is part of the TIA enhancement project that is funded by the Asian Development Bank. Air Traffic Controllers at TIA are currently using a semi-automated ATC system, due to which they face difficulties during Very High Frequency (VHF) communication.

According to Sharma, due to lack of modern technology, there is disturbance during VHF communication with pilots and controllers do not get sufficient time for two-way communication. At present, there are more than 400 departures and arrivals each day from the country’s only international airport, due to which TIA is facing both air traffic and VHF congestion.

Along with the new equipment, TIA will also receive a new Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radar on grant from the Japanese government. The new radar will be installed by 2015, and it will cover the entire sky of the country. At present, the TIA tower has a capacity to monitor a distance of only 50 miles. The TIA radar was upgraded 15 years back, which was also a grant from Japan.

It is anticipated that with these transformations, safety will be enhanced and TIA will

be more capable of conducting safe flight operations and facilitating flexible use of operational hours by domestic and international flights.


WNWO News, Toledo, Ohio: Plane carrying Jim Blue makes emergency landing in Manila

The pilot shows a charred piece of the plane's engine that forced the emergency landing. / Jim Blue

MANILA, PHILIPPINES -- A plane carrying WNWO’s Jim Blue and a Toledo pediatrician home from a relief mission to the Philippines made an emergency landing in Manila after part of the engine burst into flames.

About 15 minutes after takeoff, the Delta 747 departing Manila experienced catastrophic engine failure. Blue witnessed the engine erupting in flames outside his window. The pilot was able to safely return and land the plane.

The pilot later said the engine failure was caused by a broken turbine inlet vane. There were no injuries in the incident. 

Blue was returning to Toledo from a relief mission to New Washington in the typhoon damage zone. Blue and Toledo pediatrician Gary Gladieux were the only members of the mission on the plane. All other members of the mission were scheduled on a later flight.

They are currently waiting for a new flight.

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Zvartnots airport confirms reports on dead passenger on board

YEREVAN. – An Air Arabia plane, en route from the United Arab Emirates to Ukraine, made an emergency landing at Zvartnots.

Airport’s spokesperson Gevorg Abrahamyan confirmed for Armeian reports about death of a passenger.

He said the cause for the forced landing was the fact that a passenger aboard felt bad and went unconscious.

“The plane landed. We called ambulance and police, but the passenger died,” Gevorgyan said.

According to recent reports, the passenger was a 37-year-old citizen of Ukraine.

Air Arabia company refused to provide details. 


Boeing asks 15 sites to submit bids for 777X jet; North Charleston ‘being considered’

Boeing has asked 15 sites across the United States through formal request for proposals to submit bids to build the company’s new 777X long-haul jet, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.

“We are being considered,” said Paul Campbell, executive director of Charleston County Aviation Authority.

Campbell said he had not been formally notified, but, “based on the success Boeing has had here, I’m confident we will be on the list.”

“Boeing loves South Carolina and our ability to turn and burn,” Campbell said. “I really do think we have a shot, but you are competing with some pretty good other areas.”

The Seattle newspaper reported Washington state, Long Beach, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah, are also on the list.

The report did not say specifically that North Charleston made the cut, only that it’s “likely” to be on the list, along with Huntsville, Ala., and San Antonio, Texas.

Other sites include existing locations where Boeing does business and new “greenfield” sites, according to the newspaper.

Several high-ranking politicians in South Carolina, including Gov. Nikki Haley, said they had been in touch with Boeing officials about building the new airplane or some part of it in North Charleston.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder told the Times the formal requests for proposals were sent out late Friday.

Alder said the sites were selected “based on conversations that those sites or locations asked to be included and met the qualifications we were looking for,” according to The Seattle Times.

Boeing wants all bids back by mid-December and will make a decision early next year.

The bids can include work for final assembly of the new twin-engine passenger plane and for construction of the new composite wings, which tips that fold up.

The work could occur at the same place or separately, Alder told The Times.

Boeing made good on its pledge to look outside Washington state for competitive bids to build the new airplane after the International Association of Machinists rejected an eight-year contract extension through 2024 that would have ensured labor peace but meant union members would have to make concessions on pensions and other benefits.

The Boeing spokesman said the company does not plan to re-enter talks with union members on a contract. The current union contract expires in 2016.

Boeing assembles and makes parts for the 787 Dreamliner at its North Charleston campus at Charleston International Airport.

The Chicago-based aerospace giant is also buying 267 acres along International Boulevard across from its sprawling 787 factory for undisclosed uses. A new paint facility for the 787 is likely to be on a small part of the property. Boeing now flies its completed 787s from North Charleston to Texas to be painted.

The airplane manufacturer also recently announced that some of the detailed design work for the 777X will be performed in North Charleston, as well as other locations across the U.S., including Huntville, Ala.; Long Beach, Calif.; Philadelphia and St. Louis. A design center in Moscow will also play a part.

The company also broke ground earlier this month on a new 225,000-square-foot factory in Palmetto Commerce Park in North Charleston to build engine components for its 737 MAX airplane. The 48-acre site can accommodate future expansion up to 600,000 square feet.

Boeing is expected to start production on the 777X by 2017 or 2018 with the first flight by the end of the decade.

Earlier this week, the company picked up more than 200 orders for the new jet during the Dubai Air Show in the Middle East. Most of the orders came from Middle East airlines.


New York Air National Guard Suspends Search for MQ-9 Debris Along Lake Ontario Shore Line

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- The 174th Attack Wing has suspended the ground search for MQ-9 reaper drone debris, after the aircraft crashed into Lake Ontario on Nov. 12 during a routine training mission.

U.S. Navy experts arrived at the Oswego Coast Guard Station on Wednesday, Nov. 20 to prepare for search and recovery efforts that may use Navy salvage divers to retrieve the MQ-9 wreckage.

The Air Force Accident Investigation Board continues to investigate the incident.

The MQ-9 aircraft debris does not contain hazardous materials but officials say any material found should be handled with caution.

The 174th Attack Wing is asking that if people find any aircraft debris that they call the wing's Emergency Operations Center at 315-233-2257 or 2258.


Directorate General of Civil Aviation taking measures to avoid US Federal Aviation Administration downgrade

NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India's aviation safety and operations regulator, is rushing to plug the loopholes ahead of a second audit by the US' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in December.

A senior DGCA official told ET that about 20 ex-commanders are being hired on a one-year contract as Senior Flight Operations Inspectors and Flight Operations Inspectors. Further, the safety and flight operations manuals are being updated as the regulator prepares for a December audit by the FAA. FAA officials are set to arrive in India by the second week of December.

The American aviation regulator had previously conducted a safety audit of the DGCA in September. The audit had thrown up 33 deficiencies in India which included a lack of adequate manpower, absence of key safety manuals, among others.

The audit had particularly hauled up the DGCA on the lack of adequate flight operations inspectors as the officers being hired in that position were from deputation from existing airlines resulting in a conflict of interest. "We had invited ex-commanders and pilots to apply for the post of Senior Flight Operations Inspectors and Flight Operations Inspectors," said a senior official of the DGCA.

"The response has been very good and we are hiring 10 ex-commanders for each of the two posts." FAA's September audit had also raised concerns on key vacancies in the DGCA. Lack of manpower is an issue that India's aviation regulator has been trying to address for some time now.

The DGCA has been hiring consultants on a contractual basis since the beginning of the year to fill up the vacant posts. "There are still some vacancies but we are much better than we were at the beginning of the year," the official quoted above said, without being able to give a number on the current staff strength.

Till July 2013, the DGCA only had 421 people in the organization against a sanctioned staff strength 574 officials.

The government also cleared a bill to create a financially autonomous and more powerful Civil Aviation Authority which would replace the DGCA. The formation of the CAA would make India's aviation regulator similar to global regulators. However, the bill needs be cleared by Parliament.

"Apart from our hiring activities, we are in continuous consultations with the FAA and are updating and providing safety and operations manuals as per internationally acceptable levels," the official quoted above said.

With the second audit from the FAA being held in a span of less than three months, a threat of a downgrade looms over the DGCA.

DGCA hopes that the corrective measures will be enough to avoid a downgrade of its safety ratings by the FAA. "Whatever corrective measures can be taken in this short time frame are being taken and we don't expect a downgrade after the December audit," said the official quoted above. "All options are being considered to make sure there is no downgrade. But we hope that the corrective measures ensure that the audit goes amicably."

Recent media reports suggested that India might stop taking deliveries for the Dreamliner for Air India, if the FAA downgrades the DGCA. Officials at the DGCA did not comment on the matter. An e-mail query sent to the FAA did not elicit a response by the time of going to print.

Apart from the FAA, the DGCA was also audited by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in September. India managed to escape a downgrade by the ICAO.

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Air Force crash that killed Scott AFB pilot highlights training shortcuts, results in training overhaul: Beechcraft MC-12W Liberty - King Air 350

On April 27 a crash killed Air Force Capt. Brandon Cyr and three others aboard an MC-12W spy plane that Cyr commanded in Afghanistan. It was the first crash to occur since the Air Force launched the highly successful MC-12W program more than four years ago.

But shortcomings in aircrew training, especially in how to avoid and recover from an orbital stall, had led to four previous near-stalls, according to an Air Force report on the crash.

The fatal crash and four near-stalls stemmed, in large part, from the Air Force's sense of urgency to get the highly valued spy planes into the skies over Afghanistan.

The Air Force's haste with regard to MC-12W crew training "led to several aspects of the program not being normalized, which created increased risk, particularly aircrew inexperience and lack of instructors in the combat zone," wrote Brig. Gen. Donald J. Bacon, the investigation board president.

This problem was most acute regarding the relative lack of aircrew training regarding stalls, which occur when the aircraft wing is no longer creating enough lift to support the aircraft's weight, causing the nose to pitch down.

The relative lack of stall training for MC-12W crews is significant because "a typical mission sortie includes substantially more time in orbit than in any other phase of flight, and the orbit is flown relatively close to stall speed," according to the report.

What's more, "Four previous MC-12W orbit stalls that resulted in significant, near-catastrophic altitude loss highlight this limited training," according to the report.

The official cause of the crash of Independence 08, the call sign of the MC-12W Liberty under Cyr's command, was a stall caused by low airspeed.

The report called Cyr, the mission commander, the pilot, Capt. Reid Nishizuka, and the sensor operators, staff sergeants Richard Dickson and Daniel Fannin, "highly respected airmen and combat veterans with 4,845 combat flying hours and 836 combat sorties between them."

The report noted that Cyr had logged 1,749 flight hours in the KC-135 air tanker, and was on temporary duty from Scott Air Force Base with the MC-12W. Nishizuka had logged 2,434 hours in the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, a C-130 Hercules transport plane modified to carry an arsenal of electronic gear to disrupt enemy communications.

While Nishizuka had deep experience as an EC-130H pilot, he had relatively little experience flying the much smaller MC-12W -- only 41.7 flying hours, according to the report.

In addition, at the time of the crash, Nishizuka had not flown into combat in a MC-12W before, and it was his first sortie of any kind in 45 days, Bacon wrote.

Nishizuka's lack of familiarity with the MC-12W's controls affected "his visual scan and instrument crosscheck proficiency..." Bacon wrote. "This delayed detection of the pitch, the decreasing airspeed, and the imminent stall."

Nishizuka's inexperience also delayed his ability to respond effectively to the spin the MC-12W went into and delayed the prompt reduction of power, Bacon wrote.

Finally, it was also Cyr's "first flight as a newly qualified certifier who was just completing his second month of his first MC-12W deployment," Bacon wrote. "This explains his delayed intervention in both preventing the stall and recovering the MA (mishap aircraft)."

Bacon noted that 20 percent of MC-12W pilots rotate into and out of Afghanistan each month, making it "not uncommon for pilots to fly together for the first time on a combat sortie, such as happened in this mishap."

Unfamiliarity hampers crew coordination, and "the result of this program risk is inexperienced MC-12W pilots deployed in combat, and inexperience substantially contributed to this mishap."

In response to questions from the News-Democrat, the U.S. Air Force announced a list of changes to MC-12W air crew flight training. A special emphasis will be placed on ensuring that aircrews learn how to detect and recover as quickly as possible from flight stalls, said Col. Phillip Stewart, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., which oversee MC-12W training.

"We're trying to give our students more robust stall awareness and recovery training," Stewart said. "So we're tryng to give them better training on how to recognize an impending stall."

The changes call for the Air Force to:

* Provide more flight hours and additional sorties for aircrew "spin-up" training, prior to deployment.

* Provide more stall training in all three phases of training: initial qualification on simulators at Beale AFB; mission qualification during actual flights at Beale; and continuation training after the end of Beale training.

* Deploy more instructor pilots to and training teams to Afghanistan.

* Teach pilots in Afghanistan to increase minimum orbit speeds to at least 140 knots per hour, to provide a larger margin above the stall speed.

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Viewpoint: Partnerships are key to expanding service at Greater Binghamton Airport (KBGM), New York


Written by John Fitzsimmons 

 In an ever-expanding global marketplace, air connectivity is an integral component for companies to remain competitive. While business needs to move quickly to compete, developing new lines of air service is a slow and deliberative process. The need for a strong public-private partnership supporting our local airport is more important than ever before. As airlines consolidate and look to operate leaner and more efficiently, there is an increased imperative to “travel global, fly local.”

To this end, the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM) have forged an important partnership to support air travel out of the region. Why? Because BGM has a significant footprint in the local economy.

Did you know that BGM generates more than $52 million annually to the local economy and creates nearly 500 jobs related to the air service industry? BGM does this while relying on relatively few local tax dollars. The relationship between the local airport and our community is a vitally important component of our economic well-being. If you take a moment to think about the time and expense to travel elsewhere, you will recognize that all of what you’re looking for is right here in our own backyard.

Currently, air service out of BGM is operated by three of the largest carriers in the world: Delta, United and US Airways. These airlines provide direct service to three international airports: Detroit Metro, Washington Dulles and Philadelphia International, respectively. What does this give the local traveler? Strong connectivity to business and leisure destinations throughout the world. In fact, many of our regional employers, such as Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, fly the majority of the time out of BGM to meet with customers or colleagues across the globe.

However, survival in an extremely competitive airline industry means always striving to do better. We must follow the mantra “travel global, fly local” to maintain the high quality of air service offered out of BGM. Over the last year, the chamber, BGM and local companies have met with major airlines to encourage new service out of BGM. We have identified specific travel destinations that we are confident will better serve businesses as well as the increasing volume of leisure travel — with the convenience of staying in Greater Binghamton.

We have made significant upgrades to the airport infrastructure to make travel out of BGM even more attractive, including a runway extension and terminal building upgrades. A project is being developed to upgrade utilities along the airport corridor, and just recently, BGM announced an innovative new partnership with Binghamton University and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to use cutting-edge geothermal technology to remove snow and ice from the airline parking ramp in a more environmentally friendly manner and to reduce BGM’s air conditioning-related energy consumption in the summertime

We need your help. The chamber will continue this important partnership with BGM to maintain and enhance the high-quality air service that also helps to support the local economy. You can support our efforts by choosing your local airport. Fly local. Fly BGM.

Fitzsimmons is the chairman of Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce’s air service development committee.


Safe landing by top-dressing plane after hitting cow - Feilding, New Zealand

A pilot has been forced to make a hasty landing after colliding with a cow at a rural airstrip this morning.

Police said emergency services were put on standby at an airfield in Feilding, after a top-dressing plane had hit a cow during take-off from an airstrip in Pahiatua - about 40 minutes away by road.

"It either damaged or lost one of the wheels."

Police central communications acting shift commander Bruce Mackay said when the pilot realized the collision had damaged his plane, he was instructed to land in Feilding.

Police, Ambulance and the Fire Service were all called to the landing, at about 6.30am, Mr Mackay said.

"It touched down without any real issue," Mr Mackay said.

While the pilot was uninjured, it is understood the cow has died, he said.

It was unclear why the cow had been on the runway, and the matter had been passed on to the Civil Aviation Authority, police said.


Flying blind: Weather radars fail, pilots look out for clouds

CHENNAI: Cruising at more than 30,000 feet at a speed of more than 700kmph in the middle of night a fortnight ago, the captain and first officer of an Air India's A320 aircraft took turns to look out for patches of clouds on the flight path as the plane's weather radar had conked off. And then, the captain spotted a white patch reflecting moonlight. They diverted the flight just in time to avoid a possible turbulence.

This scenario has been repeating in cockpits of a few Air India flights at night, as weather radars of almost 17 aircraft have been erratic for the last two months. Under pressure to maintain schedules, flight engineers run a test on the ground and clear the aircraft for service.

An Air India official said, "There were problems with weather radars on a few aircraft. Antennas were changed as and when pilots complained. The snag may also be due to change in weather radar technology. The equipment may not be compatible. Several of our old planes have been phased out. Air India will soon get 19 new A320 on dry lease." Director general of civil aviation Arun Mishra told TOI that the matter had not come to his notice.

The weather radar, located inside the nose cone of a plane, sends out microwave pulses to detect rainfall, wet hail, wet turbulence, ice crystals, dry ice and snow. Rain clouds and turbulent areas are displayed on the navigational display unit inside cockpit. Inputs from the radar are used by pilots along with weather reports from meteorological department to navigate.

An adverse weather operations note issued by Airbus says that "any return (of microwaves) at cruise altitude should be considered turbulent. In cruise, any cells (on navigational display in cockpit) with green or stronger return should be avoided by 20 nautical miles."

Experts said the weather radar is a crucial equipment for flights while flying at night to avoid areas of turbulence. Pilots can fly without the radar during the day, but it will be difficult to fly at night without one. "On most days, the sky is cloudy over the Bay of Bengal over which planes on the East Asian routes fly. Similar is the western side of the peninsula which affects flights to Mumbai and Middle East. Flying without a weather radar is tough," a pilot said.

Pilots have filed defect reports pointing out the faulty weather radar, and the airline carried out a few repairs, but the problem recurs. Most of these planes are based in Chennai and Kolkata, and are used on domestic and international routes. "These need to be phased out immediately. The flight engineer cannot run a test on the weather radar on the ground and declare it fit. We have found that equipment go blank on and off while airborne," said the pilot.

One such aircraft was grounded several times by a flight engineer of Singapore Airlines hired by Air India to certify aircraft in Changi airport. In spite of his warnings, Air India has repeatedly used the same plane on the India-Singapore route.

"It is also costing the airline in terms of money and delays because pilots tend to divert the plane on a circuitous route in order to be extra cautious to avoiding clouds. Once a plane had to be diverted way too far from its original route and had to be flown close to Port Blair en route to Kuala Lumpur. More than 15 minutes is lost due to such deviations. This affects turnaround time and may affect schedules," said a source.

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Hagerstown Regional Airport (KHGR), Maryland: Commissioners approve vehicle grant

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 on Tuesday to accept a state grant offer that will pay 75 percent of the cost for a new vehicle to be used at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The Maryland Aviation Administration grant, worth $37,497, requires a 25-percent share in the cost by the county, or $12,498. It will be used to purchase and equip a 2013 three-quarter-ton pickup truck at a cost of $49,995, airport Director Phil Ridenour told the commissioners.

Ridenour said the multipurpose vehicle will be used for airport operations, wildlife-hazard management, snow removal, and towing the airport’s extrication and mass-casualty trailer that is being built.

The vehicle replaces a 1992 GMC Yukon, which has exceeded its useful life and has more than 130,000 “hard miles” on it, Ridenour said. The old vehicle will be auctioned off, under county policy.


‘No embargo on 787 deliveries’

Director-General of Civil Aviation Arun Mishra said on Saturday there is no question of the country placing a year’s embargo on the delivery of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, especially since the aircraft was essential to the profitability of Air India. Mishra was responding to reports of India’s retaliation to the threat of a downgrade by the Federal Aviation Administration of the country’s air safety rankings.

“That’s absurd. There is no question of that. It is a contract between Air India and Boeing; how can the government intervene? In any case, the
Federal Aviation Administration is an independent authority of the US government and this is a technical evaluation, it has nothing to do with commercial or diplomatic relations,” he said. Mishra added, “Practically speaking, the sales of Air India hang on the Dreamliner. All their plans for revival are on the Dreamliner. There is no question of cancellations.”

Though the FAA raised 33 points after its safety audit, the DGCA said FAA’s main requirement is expected to be met by December 11 with the hiring of 20 new flight operations inspectors on market salaries, taking the total to 65.


Lawsuits fly as Evergreen International Airlines fights for survival (digital timeline)

The Marriott Anchorage Downtown claims Evergreen International Airlines Inc. owes it more than $77,000 in unpaid room charges.

A United Arab Emirates company is suing Evergreen for $5.4 million, claiming the McMinnville-based airline never paid it for air cargo missions in Afghanistan.

A Florida freight forwarder is suing for $2.1 million, seeking a refund for cargo flights Evergreen allegedly canceled. Hellmann Worldwide Logistics Inc. accuses the airline of fraud, saying it’s now evident from parent company chief executive Delford M. Smith’s statements that the freight carrier is in financial danger and managers knew they couldn’t provide the promised flights.

Together, these and other suits filed against Evergreen reveal an airline in a tailspin, scrambling for cash and often failing to show up in court to defend itself as its 83-year-old leader fights to regain control. Smith has averted disaster many times in more than five decades of management, but people close to Evergreen believe that this time his privately held corporate group is crashing.

“I think it’s not going to work this time,” said Harold D. “Don” New, a former Evergreen vice president of marketing and sales and longtime Smith confidant. “He’s leveraged that company ever since it started, and cash flow always took care of it. But there isn’t any cash flow and they’re caving in on him.”

Closure of the airline would end a half century of intrigue surrounding a company that earned $557 million in revenue and $35 million in profits as recently as 2007. In its heyday, Evergreen fielded a fleet of Boeing 747 freighters that continuously circled the globe, delivering both military and civilian cargo.

Evergreen’s shadowy CIA ties and its secretive foreign missions gave the company based in Oregon’s wine country an aura of mystery that its gruff, hard-charging founder did little to dispel. Smith made a fortune trading planes and building his business empire, then plowed millions into quirky tourist attractions such as a waterpark topped by a 747 jet and an aircraft museum anchored by Howard Hughes’ legendary Spruce Goose.

But the proliferating lawsuits and the loss of the airline’s crown-jewel helicopter unit are clipping its wings. One group of creditors tried to repossess a Gulf Stream jet from Evergreen. Another got a court to order immediate return of a Bell 206B helicopter and payment of back rent at $8,380 a month. Others made the company pay more than $270,000 for aircraft repairs. 

Creditors may be rushing to file claims before Evergreen files Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a move that would block suits and put a trustee in place for an orderly liquidation. Evergreen’s human resources manager told state officials Nov. 7 the company would terminate all operations at the end of this month.

But in a statement on the company Web site Nov. 8, Smith said rumors that the company would close were false. He has not returned multiple calls from The Oregonian.

Tim Wahlberg, who stepped down in February as president and chairman of Evergreen International Aviation, said he was surprised by the closure announcement, having thought that sale of the helicopter unit would address the debt problems. He believes Smith will fight hard to save the company.

“I was with him for 43-and-a-half years,” Wahlberg said. “He’s a go-getter, he’s a tiger. If he thinks there’s a way, he’s certainly going to do what he can to make it work.” 

The airline’s fate largely depends on the military, said Wahlberg, noting financial pressures from sequestration and cost-cutting. “If the military decides they’re going to make a change in how they’re going to move equipment and people, it’s really going to have an effect on all the carriers that provide those services.”

The military air cargo sector has essentially dried up with the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said airline analyst Mike Boyd, president of Boyd Group International in Evergreen, Colo. North American Airlines and Ryan International Airlines both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“That whole sector of air transportation has basically dried up,” Boyd said. “And there’s nothing on the horizon to see it coming back.” 

Yet Evergreen still pursues military work. Last month the company won a $142 million military contract for international airlift services along with four other airlines.

Evergreen International Aviation, listed by city officials as having 463 workers in McMinnville, has been one of the community’s largest employers. But layoffs, furloughs and the helicopter division sale may already have drastically reduced the workforce. 

Recently Evergreen sold off more assets, ranging from a sprawling Arizona aircraft maintenance center to McMinnville-area farmland. But the bleeding continues.

The airline is losing the ability to generate sales. It no longer operates from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, for example, which until a few weeks ago had been an important hub.

Larry Wood, the executive director of the company’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum says the nonprofit business – including the water park and an IMAX theater – will survive. But others say that’s an open question, considering Smith’s heavy personal financial support over the years and an ongoing investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice into allegations that Evergreen’s commercial and nonprofit ventures comingled funds.

A giant Boeing 747-212B Evergreen cargo jet sits out front of the museum, perhaps to be incorporated somehow into a planned hotel with a delayed construction date. The nonprofits employ about 65 and attract about 275,000 visitors a year.

Suits filed against the company seek damages ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. They originate everywhere from Oregon to far-flung countries, opening windows into the operations of a company that rakes in money but spends millions of dollars a month on loan payments, aircraft leases and repairs.

In New York, Wells Fargo Bank sued Evergreen in August saying it agreed to lease the company two aircraft engines for $60,000 a month each. Evergreen stopped paying the monthly rent for the first engine in January 2012, Wells Fargo contends.

Evergreen installed the engine on a plane that went to a repair shop in Xiamen, China, according to the suit. Evergreen didn’t pay for the repair work, so the shop didn’t release the aircraft, which has been held in China since at least December 2012, Wells Fargo said.

Evergreen lawyers never answered Wells Fargo’s complaint, so the U.S. District Court for the southern district of New York issued a default judgment Oct. 29 ordering the airline to pay more than $4.3 million to the bank.

In Florida, a company called High Standard Aviation had a contract with Evergreen to repair and overhaul Boeing 747 cargo jets operated by the airline. Ametek HSA Inc., which acquired High Standard’s assets, sued Evergreen International Airlines in federal court last year, seeking more than $159,000 plus interest for services rendered.

By Feb. 26, Evergreen had failed to plead, defend or otherwise appear, and the time for doing so had expired, according to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman.

Mosman ordered Evergreen to pay up. The company did so by June 18, court filings show.

Likewise, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown made Evergreen pay more than $113,000 to Genesis Aviation Inc., a North Carolina company that performed repairs. And the U.S. Eastern District Court of New York ordered Evergreen to pay $3.9 million to Israel Aircraft Industries for aircraft repair and maintenance.

Evergreen lawyers also failed to defend the company this year in a suit brought by Air Partner, a company based in Gatwick, England. Evergreen must pay the company more than $204,000 for aviation fuel, according to a Nov. 4 default judgment.

One reason Evergreen didn’t defend itself in suits may have been the firing of its chief counsel in July 2011. Monique DeSpain then sued Evergreen International Aviation and its then president, Wahlberg, accusing them of sex discrimination and other offenses. The case, which dragged on until August, was settled out of court on undisclosed terms, Wahlberg said.

Evergreen did mount a defense last year after Aviall Services Inc., a Chicago-based company, sued for more than $599,000 in unpaid charges for parts and supplies. But U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn, in Dallas, Texas, ordered Evergreen to pay in full, plus attorneys’ fees and interest.

In the case of the Anchorage Marriott, hotel owner Columbia Properties Anchorage sued Evergreen this week in U.S. District Court in Portland, claiming the company failed to make payments after March on its outstanding balance.

The owner added 20 anonymous defendants to the suit – referring to them as “Does,” as in John Doe – saying the true names and capacities of the hotel guests could not be determined. Columbia, which routinely held 15 rooms a night for Evergreen at $84 each plus tax, seeks $77,726.88 plus interest and attorneys’ fees.

Mike Hines, Evergreen International Aviation chairman, has not returned phone calls to speak for the company regarding allegations raised in the suits.

The number of lawsuits filed against Evergreen for nonpayment has jumped during the past two years. But some of the suits are the kind that would arise in the normal course of business.

A British insurance company, for example, is suing Evergreen, claiming the airline flew 5,568 cases of cigarettes that arrived in Japan sopping wet.

Evergreen did respond to that suit, arguing the case should be dismissed.

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No more banner planes at the Jersey Shore? Businesses fear their future at Monmouth Executive Airport (KBLM) - New Jersey

 David Dempsey and his son, Nate, pose in one of the banner planes used by Dempsey's company, High Exposure Inc. 

John Wells of United Aerial Advertising prepares a banner for towing.

WALL — Kicking the banner airplane businesses out of Monmouth Executive Airport, as the new owners plan to do, would be a kick in the gut to the Jersey Shore, said one banner tower.

“Aerial advertising has been a staple of the Jersey Shore for more than 80 years,” said John Wells, co-owner of United Aerial Advertising. “This is huge. It would be as bad as closing down the Stone Pony.”

Wells said his company, and the other banner plane business at Monmouth, High Exposure Aerial Advertising, account for about 50 percent of the banner business at the Shore.

Another company operates out of Lakewood Airport, Aerial Sign North, and another in South Jersey, Paramount Air Service. Aside from one other national company, the rest of the banner business is taken up by solo pilots, Wells said.

Wells, a former Alaska bush pilot who now flies Boeing 767s internationally for American Airlines, has co-owned United Aerial for six years with another American Airlines pilot, Eric Kowalski. 

Limited options

Wells says his options are limited. There isn’t enough space at Lakewood Airport for another operator, Wells and another company owner said.

Neither Wells nor David Dempsey, owner of High Exposure, have received formal notice evicting them, they said. A representative for the new owner said Thursday that negotiations to find another place to operate for both the banner plane companies and Skydive Jersey Shore will begin shortly.

Both men said a local farmer’s field might work for picking up and dropping off banners. The banners, about 150 feet long and 40 to 50 feet high, are picked up by a hook hanging from the plane’s tail as the plane flies 20 feet off the ground. Most of the planes used in the business are called tail draggers, Wells said.

The companies still might be able to fly in and out of the airport, using another field to pick up their banners, but even that is uncertain, Dempsey said.

High Exposure, in business for 18 years, runs 10 aircraft along the Jersey Shore and the beaches of New York. Dempsey’s company is based in Woodbine. It flies one to five airplanes out of Monmouth during the summer.

United, in business for 40 years, 20 out of Monmouth, flies five planes out of the airport. The company began operations in 1973 out of the now defunct Asbury Park airport, on Route 66 opposite the current Asbury Park Press building. 

Beaches and football

Aside from the summer work, both companies fly banners for companies during Jets, Giants and Rutgers football games and personal ads for people at various times.

Both recently flew marriage proposals along beaches in Monmouth County.

“You never know how they turn out,” Dempsey said.

Wells performed a volunteer mission two Sundays ago when he flew a banner over New York with a tip line for information regarding a missing 14-year old autistic boy from Queens.

The evictions could drive United out of business, Wells said.

“It will be much more difficult to provide service to the Jersey Shore,” Wells said.

The ready access to Monmouth County keeps down the rates for those businesses.

If he finds another place to operate out of, it would still likely drive up costs for local businesses, he said.

For beach runs, High Exposure charges as low as $180 a flight or $2,600 a day, according to the company’s website.

Calls left at Skydive Jersey Shore were not returned.

Richard A. Asper, chairman of Aviation Professionals Group, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which led the negotiations for the airport’s sale, said the stock purchase agreement between Wall Aviation and Wall Herald Corporation, owned by the family of the late Ed Brown, took place several months ago. Details are still being worked out.

Asper said he could not disclose the price, citing confidentiality agreements that were part of the sale.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Fewer flights at Four Corner's Regional Airport (KFMN) not death of Farmington, New Mexico, area economy

FARMINGTON — Four Corners Regional Airport may lose commercial flights as airline companies shift to higher-capacity planes and larger cities, officials say.

But those changes aren't expected to have a major effect on the Farmiington area's economy because it doesn't have a heavy reliance on commercial flights.

"We wish that was not the case, but, right now, it is not one of the linchpins of our economy here," said Ray Hagerman, CEO of Four Corners Economic Development, an organization dedicated to stimulating the area's economy.

The city of Farmington is updating its Airport Master Plan to brace for this and other national trends anticipated over the next 20 years. Among other things, the document guides the city's spending; identifies aviation trends; and outlines additional needed infrastructure and what the federal government's future investments may be, said Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell.

Nationally, regional airlines are switching from turboprop and piston airplanes to 50- and 90-seat jets, according to the plan. The airplanes are flying longer routes as a result. And that change has drawn traffic from airports with "thin activity" to regional hubs, according to the plan.

In the next decade, all regional jets will have at least 100 seats, according to the Boyd Group, an consulting company that specializes in the airline market.

Farmington's airport serves 118 piston airplanes, according to the plan.

Throughout the country, companies are also retiring the 50-seat regional jets that flew in and out of the smaller airports like Farmington's, according to the plan. Those jets carry fewer passengers, their fuel-per-passenger cost has risen and aging equipment requires expensive maintenance, according to the plan.

Farmington's decline in regional airplane traffic is nothing new. In fiscal year 2000, the airport flew more than 53,000 regional passengers, according to the plan. In fiscal year 2009, 11,260 regional passengers flew from the airport, according to the plan.

Hagerman said the city will just have to make do.

The Albuquerque International Sunport, Durango-La Plata County Airport and Farmington's airport all serve existing needs, he said. Passengers weigh the benefits of each airport when deciding where to fly from, he said.

"It's just going to be more challenging for the customer to travel in the future," Campbell said.


New Federal Aviation Administration rule results in pilot shortages for Great Lakes Airlines, other carriers; More local flights cancelled - Riverton Regional Airport (KRIW), Wyoming

Four members of the Riverton Regional Airport Board met Friday morning in Riverton. 
Photo Courtesy/Credit:  Ernie Over

(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Riverton Regional Airport Board looked for a silver lining today from the woes now plaguing the nation’s regional feeder airlines because of a new Federal Aviation Administration rule. They couldn’t find one.

Great Lakes Airlines, and other regional carriers, are struggling to cope with a new FAA requirement that has increased the qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines. Known as co-pilots, the new rules requires these first officers to have a minimum of 1,500 flight hours. Previously, co-pilots were only required to have a commercial pilot certificate, which required 250 flight hours.

As an unintended consequence of the new rule, pilots with 1,500 hours or more have become hot commodities in the airline industry, and are fleeing the regional feeder airlines for the majors. Great Lakes is suffering as they are running out of pilots. In a memo to Great Lakes Airlines employees, CEO Chuck Howell said Thursday that “we have seen other carriers aggressively recruiting our qualified pilots, and attrition has been more than double the normal rate.” He also wrote, “To further aggravate the situation, there are limited pilots looking for work that meet the new qualifications, therefore filling new hire classes has been challenging.”

Riverton Airport Operations Manager Paul Griffin said phone calls to Howell have not been returned.

In Riverton last month a total of 13 departures were cancelled, along with nine arrivals. For passengers caught unawares, trying to get another flight is difficult and results in missed connections and loud complaints.

“I get a phone calls every time someone is bumped off,” said Bob Steen, airport board member. “We’re getting hammered every time someone gets bumped.”

Dean Peranteax said the pilot shortage is seriously impacting the city’s efforts to promote Riverton Regional Airport. Peranteax said a flight he was on from Phoenix several weeks ago arrived in Denver on time, and the airport flight boards at DIA indicated the evening Great Lakes flight to Riverton was on time. It turned out that the flight had been cancelled two days earlier, but no one bothered to tell the passengers until they arrived at the boarding area. Peranteax said he was forced to rent a car and spend $250 to get home after a six hour drive because there was no assurance he could fly back into town. “And many people cannot afford to do that. The frustration is not with the cancellation, but the communication to the passengers,” he said. “The airline knew in advance that the flight would be cancelled, but that wasn’t communicated so we could make other plans.” Peranteaux said he could understand the frustration passengers are feeling.

The Riverton Airport Board member even acknowledged that he has driven to Casper to catch flights due to the uncertainty of flying out of Riverton.

“It will take us three to five years to get passengers like that to fly out of Riverton again,” Griffin said. “It’s just not a local problem, it’s a statewide and national problem and other airports in the state are losing passengers too.”

While the discussion was about negatives, Griffin said boardings at Riverton Regional were up by 352 passengers last month compared with the same month a year ago. A total of 11,620 passengers have flown from Riverton this year, compared to 11,268 one year ago. “We’re up three percent,” he said.

The board agreed to send a letter to Howell to urge better communication between the airline and its passengers over the cancellation issue.

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Shocking footage will not be shown, rules coroner: Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham inquest - BAe Hawk T1, XX177

Distressing amateur film footage of Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham being ejected from his aircraft will not be shown publicly at his inquest, a coroner has ruled.

Flight Lieutenant Cunningham, 35, died after his ejector seat fired while his Hawk T1 jet was on the ground at RAF Scampton on November 8, 2011.

He was shot 200ft into the air and his parachute failed to open.

An ejector seat is designed to be fired into the air and a small parachute called a drogue deploys to give stability and slow the descent.

This causes a scissor shackle link to open, allowing the drogue to drag out the main parachute.

A full inquest, to begin on January 9, will examine what initiated Mr Cunningham’s ejection, why the parachute did not open and cultural issues surrounding the team.

Central Lincolnshire coroner Stuart Fisher told a pre-inquest hearing today: “I very much hope that the video will not have to be played.

“I will make it available to advocates of necessary but I’m going to make a direction it will not be shown in public.”

The court heard an alleged ejector seat fault in Mr Cunningham’s aircraft was a “single rogue event” related to a “seized shackle”.

Mr Fisher rejected an application from the family’s lawyer Tom Kark, QC, that Martin-Baker Aircraft Company Limited and the MoD identify any “previous similar problem” with the Mark 10 seat.

“I believe this application is disproportionate and speculative,” said Mr Fisher.

“Martin-Baker has provided statements that this was a rogue event in relation to the performance of a shackle.”

Mr Fisher ruled that reasonably targeted requests for police exhibits would be considered.

But he said he would not order the disclosure of witness statements.

“I believe it may be prejudicial to the Health and Safety investigation,” said Mr Fisher.

Andrew Prynne, for Martin-Baker, said the company had no record of any like drogue shackle incidents of the kind that has prompted this inquest.

He added: “If there were reports of reports of inadvertent ejections that bore any relevance they would have been disclosed.”


Work culture of Red Arrows to be probed at pilot's inquest

The Red Arrow's working culture will be investigated at an inquest into the death of a pilot who was killed after being ejected from his grounded jet amid claims the intensive flying schedule may have been a contributory factor.

 The culture of the RAF's Red Arrows is be investigated at an inquest into the death of a pilot who was killed when he was ejected from his cockpit following claims that overwork may have played a part in his death.

A pre-inquest hearing in Lincoln was told pilots and ground crew working for the crack aerobatic team will be among over 40 witnesses called at the hearing into the death of Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, due to be heard in January.

Flt Lt Cunningham, 35, originally from Coventry, died in November 2011 after being flung 200ft in the air from his Hawk Jet by the ejection seat while he was grounded at the Red Arrows' base at RAF Scampton, Lincs, and his parachute failed to work.

Earlier this year it was claimed that pressure on the top pilots to perform as many displays as possible may have impacted on aircraft maintenance and the staff themselves and been a factor in Flt Lt Cunningham’s death.

The number of hours the Red Arrows are required to fly has been reduced by more than 10 per cent from 3000 annual flying hours to 2,600, a pre–inquest review in August heard.

The hearing this week was told issues with the ejection seat trigger and the working of the parachute will also be examined by the Central Lincolnshire Coroner Stuart Fisher.

Mr Fisher said: “What initiated the ejection seat and why didn't the parachute open are primary matters I am going to be looking at.

“I am also going to be looking at cultural issues as well. We are going to have a lot of evidence about culture.”

Five pilots are due to give evidence including Squadron Leader Jim Turner who took over as Red One, the leader of the team, for the 2012 flying season.

The first Arrows' female pilot Kirsty Stewart is included among the witnesses. She and other pilots will be legally represented at the full inquest as “interested parties”.

But the coroner ruled out hearing evidence from the civilian manager of the Hawk Simulator at RAF Valley in North Wales where the team undertakes some training.

Flt Lt Cunningham's death remains under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive following the conclusion of an earlier police investigation.

Bernard Thorogood, counsel for the HSE, told the hearing that consideration is being given to bringing criminal charges over the fatal incident.

He said “The HSE investigation is only a few months old. The files were handed over in August of this year.

“The HSE is addressing possible charges. That is what the investigation is into. It is looking into potential breaches of the criminal law."

Lincolnshire Police previously carried out an investigation into Flt Lt Cunningham's death but chose not to bring charges.


Mountain resort airports, Part 2: Tough challenges at Colorado’s high altitude runways

The is the second in a series on mountain resort airports. Read the Nov. 23 print edition for the final installment, which examines the various funding models at resort airports, as well as future flight-service challenges.

 Linda Erickson lives in Edwards and always uses Denver International Airport. She’s a frequent business traveler but typically can’t justify using the Eagle County Regional Airport.

“I can take (a Colorado Mountain Express van) to Denver and get to my destination in half the time I would spend flying all over the place making multiple connections,” she said. “Flights out of Eagle are outrageously priced. My preference would certainly be to fly out of Eagle if those two points could be resolved.”

Unfortunately for Erickson and many other frequent mountain travelers, the reasons for her frustrations can’t be easily resolved. Mountain airports are configured around many obstacles, including mountainous terrain and complex high-altitude flying conditions. 

Mountain airports face challenging weather patterns, including temperature, precipitation, humidity and wind. According to the 2010 Colorado Mountain Airport Study, even moderate temperatures in the summer can cause high density altitude, which decreases aircraft lift and engine performance. Airports are already constrained because of mountainous terrain, so a decrease in engine performance is a serious problem, according to the report.

‘Complete Chaos’

Aviation consultant Kent Myers could talk about the technical restrictions at mountain airports for hours, maybe even days.  
When airplanes depart they have to be able to perform to a Federal Aviation Administration standard known as an engine-out maneuver, he said. It’s a technique pilots need to know in case of an engine failure. Doing such a maneuver over any obstacle — especially mountains — is not wise.

“When the front wheel lifts off, if you blow the engine at that time, you have to turn around and land with one engine,” Myers said. “Because of obstructions of Red Table Mountain (near the Eagle County airport), you can’t do that maneuver, but you can do it in Aspen.”

The result is that Aspen can have a regional jet fly outbound with a limited weight restriction, but the Eagle County airport needs a more powerful, larger gauge aircraft, Myers said.

In Aspen, space is also limited. There’s one runway, just like at the Eagle County airport, but in Aspen there’s a 95-foot wingspan restriction. That limits the type of aircraft Aspen can accommodate.

“The restrictions on the wingspan here and restrictions on max gross landing weight — you’ll never see a (Boeing) 757 or an Airbus here,” said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass and the community representative who deals with the airlines.

There is a demand for use by larger wingspan aircraft, but that would require relocation of the parallel taxiway and aprons, reducing aircraft parking by as much as half, according to the Colorado Mountain Airport Study Update technical report in 2010.

Shenna Johnston, of Glenwood Springs, knows how all the high altitude science affects her. She tries to fly out of the Aspen airport when she can because she said she can often find cheaper flights there than out of Eagle County. But that choice often has its consequences.

“Aspen is tricky during the winter months because if there’s a snow storm, that shuts down the airport. You have no choice but to drive to Denver in hopes of scoring a standby flight. It’s complete chaos,” she said. “I’ve done the drive to Denver with 2 feet of snow on Vail Pass and 18-wheelers jack-knifed all over the pass.”

For some travelers, it’s simple math. If a flight into the Eagle County Airport is within $150 of the fare into Denver, Debbie Blount chooses Eagle.

“I watch the fares regularly and try to book when I see the price drop,” she said. “Unfortunately during shoulder seasons neither American or Delta are offering service. I would love to see a player such as AirTran/Southwest try service into EGE, even if it was just seasonally so we could have a little competition and see some more reasonable pricing.”

A Southwest spokesman said the airline won’t play in seasonal markets, so that option is out — at least for now. It doesn’t mean the EGE Air Alliance and other groups won’t continue to court the airline, though.

Less seats

The Boeing 757 has been a workhorse for the Eagle County Airport, but most airlines are grounding them because they’re older planes and aren’t very fuel-efficient. The planes are being replaced with Airbus 319s — great for fuel efficiency, but there’s roughly 60 less seats than on a 757.

“The most current negative impact on the Eagle Airport, as well as other resort communities, is the 757 retirement,” Myers said. “The available seats are shrinking not because it’s anybody’s fault, it’s because of what’s happening with the aircraft. Does it mean we should serve Chicago twice a day? That’s a pretty big leap.”

The Airbus that can fly into the Eagle County Airport still has about 50 more seats than the largest commercial aircraft flying into Aspen, though. Phillips said the airport estimates that roughly 20 percent of Eagle County Airport winter traffic is heading to Aspen. Aspen/Pitkin County Airport Aviation Director Jim Elwood thinks the number is more like 10 percent.

“(Aspen is) bringing 66-passenger planes in. A backup plan for someone might be to come here (if seats to Aspen are sold out),” EGE Air Alliance board member Gabe Shalley said.

Aspen and Eagle both serve many of the same destination markets, but Eagle can fly in longer-distance flights because it can accommodate larger aircraft. Aspen’s farthest market this winter is Atlanta, while Eagle will have nonstop service from farther markets such as Miami, Newark, New York City and Toronto. The Toronto flight, which clears customs in Canada before departure and then again in Canada upon return, will be the only direct international flight this winter into a Colorado mountain resort airport.

In addition to changes in fleets, the airline industry’s consolidation to just four dominant domestic carriers ­— which account for more than 80 percent of the total market — is causing a need for smaller airports to recreate relationships with airlines, said Yampa Valley Airport Manager David Ruppel. Air service at resort airports is all about relationships with the airlines, he said.

“When those connections change, it just makes it that much more challenging to get the best deal,” he said.

The importance of being able to strike the right deals with airlines can’t be understated. The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport generates $841.1 million in economic output each year, and the Eagle County Regional Airport generates $635.9 million, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s 2013 Economic Impact Study for Colorado Airports.

You can debate the methodology, Aspen Aviation Director Jim Elwood said, but either way it’s an interesting analysis that says a lot about the economic importance of airports.

Aspen and Eagle are the top economic generators behind Denver International Airport and Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, respectively, of commercial service airports in the state. That performance would be impossible without economic incentives or revenue guarantees for air service, which are made possible through relationships between resort airports and the airlines.

“The airport is like a utility for people, like turning the lights on. You go to the airport and the planes are there,” Eagle County Regional Airport Aviation Director Greg Phillips said. “It’s getting to the point where it’s not like that anymore. You’ve got to be responsive, you’ve got to be actively working to promote and build air service, particularly in smaller communities like this where we don’t have large native populations.”

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This is the first in a series on the challenges mountain resort airports face: Mountain resort airports hit turbulence in attempts to grow number of flights, seats 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

End Of An Era: Monmouth Executive Airport (KBLM) Sold - Banner planes may be a casualty of the sale of the airport that Ed Brown built

The Monmouth Executive Airport -- for 75 years run by Ed Brown and, later, his family -- has been sold, airport officials said Thursday.

The airport has been bought by an investment group named Wall Aviation LLC, a  group that has been in negotiations to buy the 645-acre airport on Route 34 for more than a dozen years, according to Richard A. Asper, chairman of Florida-based Aviation Professionals Group, a consulting company hired to shepherd Wall Aviation through the sale.

Portions of the sale were complete months ago, while some contingencies – such as a signoff from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Township of Wall – have been completed in recent days, Asper said.

The sale price is not being disclosed, Asper said.

Changes at the airport will be immediate, Asper said.

“This airport is going to join the 21st Century,’’ Asper said. “This is an airport that deserves to be first class.’’

To that end, the airport’s service station, or FBO, will be taken over by a new company – AvFuel -- effective Friday, Asper said.

The airport will beef up its safety measures, including closing off airstrips to airport tenants, and its infrastructure will be maintained and upgraded, Asper said.

“There’s going to be a completely different airport environment, not just paint and new signs,’’ Asper said. “It’s really the whole concept and notion of how to run a first-class airport, not like a hobby airport.”

Those changes may put out some of the airport’s current tenants, however.

Asper said those tenants who run “hybrid’’ businesses at Monmouth Executive, such as the Jersey Shore Skydiving or the planes flying advertising banners in the summer, may not mesh with the new vision of the airport.

“It’s very difficult to convince the pilot of a $30 million airplane to land here when he’s got to look out for people falling out of the sky,’’ Asper said.

The airport has a large number of other tenants, many of which have nothing to do with aviation, including a bank branch, a custom motorcycle shop and a two used tire sales businesses, among others.

Asper said all the tenants, who rent their space on a monthly basis, will be talked to in the coming weeks about the new vision for the airport.

“I’m hoping they’ll be all reasonable folks and anxious to ride with the tide,’’ he said.

The banner planes, nearly ubiquitous with summer at the Jersey Shore, are a business Asper said the new company likes, but he added that the fit with the airport is not exact.

“They don’t  need a 7,000-foot airstrip to be in the banner business,’’ he said. “They will be ebbing out and we hope to help them relocate to an airport that is more conducive.”

Asper said Wall Aviation did not expect an increase in air traffic, but instead a change to the kind of traffic. He said he expected more corporate and private jets, which fly less frequently than banner planes and are quieter.

"If anything you'll find that the airport is going to be quieter than it has been in the past,''  he said.

Asper said Wall Aviation has been trying to buy the airport from the Brown family, and Ed Brown specifically prior to his death in 2006, for a dozen years.

Haggling over the price with Ed Brown was the first barrier, Asper said, followed by Brown’s decision to offer the airport to Monmouth County for $1 million more than the negotiated price the two sides agreed to, and finally negotiations over the cleanup of a superfund site on the airport property and more than $2 million in back taxes owed to Wall Township clogged the works, Asper said.

About 30 years ago, the airport had a tenant that manufactured computer circuit boards. Monitor Devicies/Intercircuits Inc., dumped waste water from the manufacturing process directly into the ground, contaminating about a 2-acrea area.

Once found out by the EPA, the company went under and the airport was left holding the bag for the cost of the cleanup. Brown, not known for backing down from anything, fought the EPA.

The airport eventually agreed to pay $20 million to clean up the site. Only about $500,000 of that has been paid, however. Wall Aviation will be held responsible for the remainder, according to the EPA.

Physical cleanup of the site has been completed by the EPA, but the agency will monitor the site for the next five years.

While battling over the cleanup, Brown also did not pay property taxes to Wall Township and the airport owed the town upwards of $2 million.

The township and Wall Aviation have agreed to a monthly payment plan with installments of $75,000. All money will be paid to the town by January, 2015.

Ed Brown, a supermarket cashier, started what was then Allaire Airport in 1938 when he borrowed a World War I tank from the borough of Belmar and rigged it to grade the 7,300-foot runway. He later added a 3,307-foot cross-runway.

Brown, who frequently tangled with township officials, did work on the airport himself, sometimes without the proper permits.

In the 1980s, he built a drive-in, fly-in movie theater where pilots could fly in and taxi to a parking spot behind rows of cars to watch a movie.

He built a bowling alley and converted one side of it to a nightclub. He had a golf driving range and once built an amusement park at the airport with a mini-railroad, ferris wheel and carousel.

Ed Brown died in 2006. The airport has been run by his step son, Jack Taylor, since that time.

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