Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum's future in doubt as creditors claim Spruce Goose, other planes

The 1945 Grumman Avenger.
Richard Read/The Oregonian

McMINNVILLE – The Spruce Goose, a gigantic wooden plane built in 1947 by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, looms above other aircraft as the crown jewel of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

News that creditors are trying to force Evergreen International Airlines Inc., the company across the highway, into Chapter 7 bankruptcy raises new concerns about the fate of the plane and the museum, which has long relied on support from founder Delford Smith and his privately held businesses.

Museum director Larry Wood says the nonprofit and the company are entirely separate, assuring anyone who asks that the museum owns the Spruce Goose free and clear. 

But Robert E. Lyon, a Palos Verdes, Calif., lawyer, begs to differ. "There's still money owed" on the flying boat, Lyon said.

At 77, Lyon is one of the few people alive who recalls meeting Hughes, the engineer, investor and aviator who backed the Spruce Goose -- and who narrowly missed Lyon's Beverly Hills house when crashing a reconnaissance plane that exploded in a ball of fire in 1946. "There's one scenario where we would end up having to repossess the thing and find another buyer," Lyon says now of the Spruce Goose.

 The flying boat isn’t the only plane in question.

A 1945 Grumman Avenger and a 1928 Ford Tri-Motor glitter like gems in the aircraft collection. Evergreen bought the torpedo bomber and the cross-country passenger carrier, restored for millions of dollars, in 1989 and '90.

But now the two planes are for sale, unbeknownst to thousands of visitors who view them each month. A broker, Courtesy Aircraft Sales, has listed the Avenger for $250,000 and the Tri-Motor for $1.75 million
Smith lost ownership of the planes after using both in May as collateral to lease a Gulfstream corporate jet for his holding company, according to an attorney representing lessors who sued Smith and five of his businesses. The Gulfstream was recently repossessed after Evergreen International Aviation Inc. and affiliated companies fell more than $17 million behind in payments, Portland lawyer Joseph VanLeuven said.

For the museum, the question now is how many other planes could be withdrawn from display and whether it and an adjacent water park can survive on their own, absent millions of dollars in bailouts Smith and his companies have made over the years.

Together with the water park, a theater and a chapel, the museum constitutes a Yamhill County landmark whose fate probably interests the public more than the collapse of Smith’s aviation empire. Visitors to the museum in wine country southwest of Portland are struck by the breadth of the collection, the lessons in innovation and history and human nature that the planes provide and the immense knowledge and dedication of the docents.
But the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating alleged commingling of funds between Evergreen’s commercial and tax-exempt entities -- which occurred frequently, according to Lyon, who has examined the nonprofits’ annual financial statements since 1992 in his attempt to calculate how much the museum owes.

Wood insists all is well in the nonprofit's climate-controlled buildings. He maintains the organization can survive on its own even as the airline implodes across the highway.

Wood guesses that about half the museum’s planes are in the collection on loan. He points out that the planes for sale are only two of about 167 major aviation and space artifacts on display.

Wood supposes Lyon's client, the Aero Club of Southern California, could repossess the Spruce Goose. "I wonder if they have enough money to take it apart and get it out of the building," he said, however. "When I took this job in 2010, I didn't know anybody owed any money on it. I found out when I met Mr. Lyon in California at a meeting. I said, 'What?'"

Lyon said Smith personally guaranteed a promissory note in 1992 backing purchase of the Spruce Goose. He said Evergreen recently made the last of 240 monthly payments – over 20 years – that totaled $500,000 for the plane.

That account contradicts a fable repeated by docents that the museum bought the plane for $1. It lends credence to suspicions of former Evergreen pilots who believe Smith, 83, plowed company profits into the museum and water park, hastening the airline’s demise.

But Lyon said the Aero Club is still due at least $50,000 – a percentage of the museum’s earnings, per the sales agreement – before ownership can be transferred to Evergreen through a complex stock-swap scheme.

Who wrote the checks for the $500,000?

"Interesting you should ask," Lyon said. "They came from Evergreen Aviation,” rather than the museum.

The source of the money, not to mention museum planes posted as collateral for corporate assets, might concern the Department of Justice. A museum controller asked Lyon about it, he said, inquiring why the museum wasn’t making the payments on the Spruce Goose.

“I said, uh, ‘I was going to ask you that question,’” Lyon said. “I said, ‘Well, we’re thankful for getting the money but it doesn’t look kosher to me.’”

Wood says the museum loaned about $700,000 in 2012 to Evergreen Aviation, which paid it off within a month, adding 9 percent interest. That loan triggered the Justice Department probe, he said.

“When the guy that owns your building asks you to loan some money, you do,” said Wood, referring to Smith.

Justice Department lawyers who have combed through the museum's files for more than a year say they hope to complete their investigation soon.

That’s not soon enough for Lyon. He says he can't calculate the exact amount owed on the Spruce Goose until the Justice Department releases its grip on the museum's financial statements. "I was feeling pretty confident that we were getting to the end of the road until the Department of Justice stepped in," Lyon said.

"I've had numerous conversations with Larry Wood about this," Lyon said. "We agreed that when the final payment is made, members of our board of directors will come up and have a ceremony where we actually grant them title to the Spruce Goose."

Asked about Lyon's assertions, Wood acknowledged talking with him.

"I've been trying to call him," said Wood, sounding frazzled. "We paid what is essentially the -- oh, dear, um -- the price of the thing. But one of the stipulations is they want part of the profits of the museum. Our lawyers are looking at it to see what we owe whom and why. It's a portion of the profits since 1990-whatever-the-devil-it-is, I don't know."

Lyon views repossession of the plane as unlikely. "To call it a white elephant would be an understatement," he said. "But concern has arisen of what are we going to do if they default on the note and we have to take the boat back."

The colossal gray flying boat, five stories tall, dwarfs planes including the Avenger and the Tri-Motor, which remain on display. Fifteen other planes in the museum are owned by Evergreen Vintage Aircraft Inc., another of Smith’s companies, making them vulnerable as creditors look for any valuable assets to cover debts.

Included among them are mainstays such as a MesserSchmitt fighter plane, a Supermarine Spitfire Mark XVI, a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk and a Curtiss Wright Sedan.

“Del has put some of them up as collateral,” said Wood, referring to Smith and the Vintage planes, “but I don’t know how many or which ones. You’d have to ask the holding company or Mr. Smith.”

Smith, chairman of the board of the museum and founder-owner of the companies, said in a phone interview Thursday that the museum was doing very well. He said he would deal with the Aero Club’s claim immediately.

“I had no idea that they felt we still owed them money,” Smith said. “I thought we were free and clear on that one.”

For now, the Avenger and the Tri-Motor will remain in the museum, where they are well cared for and accessible to potential buyers, said VanLeuven, the Portland lawyer who represents the Gulfstream lessors that acquired the two planes as collateral.

“It’s in everybody’s interest to leave them there for the time being,” VanLeuven said. “I don’t know that we’ll leave them there indefinitely.”

Wood said most of the museum’s planes are on loan from other institutions, such as the National Naval Aviation Museum and the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Some are loaned by individuals, he said.

“If you loan us something and you want it back, we have to give it back,” Wood said. But he said he’s confident that the “biggest chunk” of the collection will remain intact.

Wood said the museum, which has no debt, usually breaks even. “Or we lose money,” he said, “but right now we’re breaking even.”

The museum gets about 150,000 visitors a year, about the same as the water park, Wood said. The museum and water park employ between 150 and 175 at peak times, including part-time workers, he said. Museum admission costs $25 for an adult.

A review of Evergreen’s nonprofit tax returns shows a $1.7 million contribution by Smith in 2009 to The Michael King Smith Foundation, which owns the space museum, water park, chapel and some planes.

In 2010, Smith gave $1.2 million to the foundation, which is named for Smith’s son, who died in a 1995 auto accident. Smith gave $23.1 million to the foundation in 2011, the same year his Evergreen Vintage Aircraft company, which owns the aviation-museum and theater buildings, donated $23.7 million.

Lyon, the Aero Club lawyer, said there were times when the museum required contributions in the millions of dollars from Smith and the companies to stay solvent. But he believes the organization could survive.

“I’m no financial expert but I would think so,” Lyon said.

Lyon said the Aero Club received title to the Spruce Goose in the early 1980s. The previous owners – Summa Corp., the Smithsonian Museum and the U.S. government – transferred the plane to the club so it wouldn’t have to be cut into pieces for display in Washington, D.C.

The Aero Club leased the plane to the Rather Corp., which did little to merchandise it, meaning the club received scant revenues, Lyon said. Club members decided to sell the plane to Evergreen, which promised to display and market it and pay a fixed amount plus a percentage of income. The club held title to the plane as a security interest through a for-profit company and its stock.

Evergreen moved the plane in 1993 to McMinnville in pieces on barges and trucks, installing it in the museum. Evergreen Aviation began making the monthly payments but never sent income statements, which Lyon kept requesting.

Finally an Evergreen controller sent Lyon the statements, which he said showed only about four or five years when the museum had positive income flow.

The Aero Club has used its income from the Spruce Goose to give scholarships to students interested in aviation. The club puts on an annual Howard Hughes memorial dinner, giving awards to the likes of aviation pioneer James Doolittle and astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Lyon has alerted the Aero Club’s board to the possibility of Evergreen defaulting on payments for the Spruce Goose.

“There are some new young members who probably would have an interest in trying to find another home for it,” Lyon said. “But we would prefer to collect the last few thousand dollars owed to us and hope that someone takes care of the aircraft.”

-- Richard Read

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An Evergreen International Airlines Boeing 747-212B at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the airline was evicted from its base for nonpayment of rent. New York creditors aim to force the McMinnville-based airline into Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

By Richard Read | Oregon Live
on December 19, 2013 at 2:15 PM, updated December 19, 2013 at 3:38 PM 
Creditors in New York moved Thursday to force McMinnville-based Evergreen International Airlines Inc. into involuntary bankruptcy, although company founder and chief executive Delford Smith said he still has plans to save the airline.

The unsecured creditors filed a summons Thursday under Chapter 7 of the U.S. bankruptcy code requiring Evergreen to answer a petition entered the previous day. Two hotels seek more than $440,000 for lodging Evergreen crew members, and a plowing company wants $25,000 for clearing snow from Evergreen cargo jets at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Other creditors may join the case filed Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York. Numerous creditors have sued the airline, which flew its last flight Dec. 2, ending three decades of service for a company that once operated a global fleet of Boeing 747 cargo jets.

“Unfortunately they are not paying their debts as they come due in the normal course of business,” said Kenneth Reynolds, an attorney at McBreen & Kopko in Jericho, New York.

Reached by phone at Evergreen Thursday, Smith said he wasn’t aware of the Chapter 7 filing. “I don’t think 7 will work, I think we’ll need 11,” said Smith, referring to the bankruptcy code’s Chapter 11, which would enable the company to be reorganized, not liquidated.

“We’ve virtually shut the airline down,” Smith said. “It’s not a big rhubarb,” he said, meaning that issues could be settled without a major fight. “We’re going to perpetuate the company.”

Smith noted that he’d sold Evergreen Helicopters Inc. for almost $300 million to pay down debt. “Now we have an $80 million debt on a second lien,” he said.

Smith said he planned to wait for the cargo market to turn around before bringing back the airline.

“The trading company is doing very well, the museum’s doing very well, the ground handling company is doing very well,” Smith said. “We’re just going to shut that airline down and we’ll crank it up when the military has a need. We’re not falling off a cliff or committing suicide.”

Smith referred a reporter to Jay Goffman, a New York attorney who is global leader of Skadden Arps’ corporate restructuring group. Goffman said Thursday he was unaware of the Chapter 7 filing.

Reynolds, who entered the filing, represents Five Towns Motor Inn, Inc., of Lawrence, N.Y.; Sunrise One, doing business as The Rockville Centre Inn, of Lynbrook, N.Y.; and Aero Snow Removal Corp., of Port Washington, N.Y.

Reynolds said his clients were concerned by news reports indicating that Evergreen was liquidating assets and paying some creditors before others. He said his firm has an aviation background, and that he has handled bankruptcy cases for 20 years.

Under Chapter 7, Evergreen has 20 days to respond to the summons. The company can dispute allegations that it’s not paying its debts. Ultimately a trustee may be appointed to liquidate assets, if any remain, and distribute them fairly.

-- Richard Read

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Key Evergreen museum planes to go on the auction block 
The world-class air museum developed by Evergreen International Aviation founder Del Smith may be in for some painful losses in the wake of the apparent collapse of Smith’s network of for-profit operations on the other side of Highway 18.

Though the museum’s land and buildings are owned and operated through the nonprofit Michael King Smith Foundation, named after the 83-year-old founder’s late son, up to 20 percent of its 140-odd exhibits are owned by financially troubled for-profit elements of his crumbling aviation empire. Foremost among them is Evergreen Vintage Aircraft, listed by the Federal Aviation Administration as owner of 15 planes currently on display at the museum.

Another subsidiary, Evergreen Holdings Inc., owns just two of the planes on display at the museum, according to the FAA. But they are among the choicest, and both have been listed with brokers — one of 12 still-airworthy Ford Tri-motor passenger liners, a meticulously restored 1928 listed at $1.75 million, and a Grumman TBM-3 torpedo bomber, a World War II military craft listed $250,000.

However, the aviation museum’s centerpiece, Howard Hughes’ iconic wooden goliath, the Spruce Goose, is safe. It is owned by the museum, according to Executive Director Larry Wood.

Wood said Evergreen Vintage Aircraft owns several of the older planes in the museum’s inventory, including fighters and bombers dating to World War II and some replicas of the earliest planes flown. With judgments and liens piling up against various of Evergreen’s for-profit subsidiaries, he acknowledged, some of those planes could be sold or repossessed to satisfy debts.

However, he downplayed the impact.

“I think the total is less than 20 percent of the collection, if they took them all, and I don’t think they’d all be at risk,” Wood said, explaining that new owners might choose to donate craft back to the museum for the tax write-off rather than take physical possession.

He is an admirer of the older planes, he said, but thinks the majority of visitors come either to see the Spruce Goose or the museum’s large collection of newer planes, most of which are safe.

“You don’t want to lose an artifact if you can avoid it, but many of the things that are in the museum are on loan from somebody anyway,” Wood said. If not, he said, “When we have money again, we’ll go and buy them back. Or we’ll buy different ones.”

Craft owned by Evergreen Vintage Aircraft, thus at peril, include a Messerschmitt ME 109G-10, which the museum calls “the spearhead of Germany’s World War II fighter force;” its British nemesis, the Supermarine Spitfire Mark XVI; a Curtiss Wright Sedan and a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk.

Craft owned by the Michael King Smith Foundation, thus not in jeopardy, include a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, which Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in his historic solo flight in 1927.

The Ford Tri-Motor, known in its day at the “tin goose,” is arguably one of the museum’s most charming exhibits. Its wood-paneled interior, featuring small seats and narrow aisles, illustrate the rigors of early commercial air travel. The museum notes passengers “had to be almost as tough and resilient as the planes in which they traveled,” and by all accounts, the tri-motor qualified.

The Grumman Avenger was a World War II torpedo bomber. It was equipped with radar pods as well as rockets, enabling it to conduct surveillance as well as pound the enemy.

After the war, it was put to many other uses, including search and rescue work. According to the sale listing, the museum’s plane is one of only 42 still airworthy.

Wood said he understood the two planes were part of the Evergreen Vintage Aircraft inventory. He said he was not aware of any Evergreen Holdings ownerships.

For the past year, the state Department of Justice has been investigating alleged financial co-mingling between the museum and company, which would not be legal. But so far, the state has refused to release any information.

Wood has downplayed the probe, saying any such co-mingling was inadvertent, minor in nature and in the process of being corrected. But privately, some former employees blame the complany’s demise on the museum, maintaining Smith funneled airline profits “across the street” to his pride and joy. 


Where in the world are Evergreen International Airlines' cargo planes? 
A modified Evergreen Boeing 747 drops fire retardant near Yucaipa, Calif. in August 2009.

By Richard Read | on December 10, 2013 
at 1:05 PM, updated December 10, 2013 at 9:53 PM

Readers are beginning to send in stories about their experiences with these planes. Send in yours, too, to, including your name and contact information.

Pilots who flew Evergreen International Airlines Inc. freighters are trying to find out what will happen to the McMinnville-based airline, which flew its last flight Dec. 2, parking its remaining planes.

On Friday, two former employees filed a federal class-action suit in Portland against the airline and its holding companies, saying the companies failed to provide 60 days advance written notice of terminations. They seek to recover wages and benefits on behalf of more than 200 aggrieved employees.

Creditors apparently control the decision on the cargo carrier's fate. Managers aren’t talking.

But pilots can track the whereabouts of the Evergreen planes they flew. Crew members know the cargo jets’ tail numbers by heart, the way railroad engineers know engines. N492EV, for example, is an old Japan Air Lines Boeing 747-400 converted in China to a cargo jet and flown Dec. 2 from Travis Air Force Base to Victorville, Calif., on Evergreen's final flight.

Following are details reconstructed by crew members on the remains of Evergreen’s fleet, listed by tail number. Ownership information is supplied by a Federal Aviation Administration database.
  470. Boeing 747-273C, a former supertanker parked in Marana, Ariz., where Evergreen used to own a maintenance center. Owned by Evergreen International Airlines Inc. 

471. Boeing 747-273C, a nose-loader that flew Evergreen’s South American contract. Located in Portsmouth, N.H. Owned by Wilmington Trust Co. owner trustee. Former Evergreen employee David Bragdon recalls riding in 471 on Nov. 7, 1991, from Hong Kong to Khabarovsk, Russia, carrying $15,000 in cash to pay for fuel. "$15,000, even in hundreds, is quite a brick," Bragdon said. The freighter landed at 2:05 a.m. "It was like landing on the far side of the moon at the time, in a junkyard of disabled Soviet planes," he said. "The plane was on the ground for over three hours just to get fuel, and then I stayed behind as the plane went off to Anchorage without me. One of the loneliest feelings you can imagine!"

473. Boeing 747-121, FAA registration canceled, owned by Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA, location unknown. "Location unknown!" Bragdon said. "Oh, 473 brings back such memories, too. I spent 23 hours and 39 minutes on that one, once, going about halfway around the globe." Started in Brussels on a Saturday morning bound for Dharan, Saudi Arabia, in the buildup to the Kuwait war.

"But we got to the German/Austria border and the Austrians would not let us proceed into their airspace because we had military cargo." The crew called McMinnville for instructions. "They finally called us back and said, literally, 'OK, go over to France, turn left, then when you reach the Mediterranean stay over the water...'" The freighter refueled in Cairo, unloaded in Dharan and arrived in Hong Kong Dec. 1, 1990.

Less than three years later, 473 took off from Anchorage and encountered severe turbulence that ripped the No. 2 engine off the plane. A gripping voice-recorder transcript relates the chaotic dialog between the cockpit and the control tower as the crew struggles to gain control and land the stricken plane. Cockpit voice 3: "Ah. roger. Can you make a call to Evergreen ops and ah, check." Cockpit voice 1: "We don't need this." The engine narrowly missed an apartment complex and a shopping mall.

477. Boeing 747-SR46, owned by the airline, location unknown.

479. Boeing 747-132, a supertanker parked in Marana, this plane was used by Evergreen for firefighting. Owned by the airline.

481. Boeing 747-132, gutted and parked atop Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark in McMinnville. Owned by the airline.

482. Boeing 747-212B, parked in front of Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, planned for construction into a hotel or conversion into a hostel. Owned by the airline.
485. Boeing 747-212B, parked at John F. Kennedy International Airport, stripped of most parts to keep Evergreen 471 flying on a South American contract. Contains thousands of cargo-jet parts loaded for storage after Evergreen was evicted from its JFK base for overdue rent. In August, 485 was prepared for sale to a customer in South America, but the deal fell through. Owned by the airline.

486. Boeing 747-212B, stored in Marana, Ariz., where Evergreen International Airlines used to own a maintenance center. Owned by the airline.

487. Boeing 747-230B, believed to be in Marana. Owned by Ventures Acquisition Co. For sale on Evergreen’s web site.

488. Boeing 747-230B, located in Louisville for possible storage. In 2012 it was sent to Oscoda, Mich., for scheduled maintenance and held there for nonpayment of the bill. Owned by Ventures Acquisition, for sale on Evergreen’s web site.

489. Boeing 747-230B, believed to be in Marana. Owned by Ventures Acquisition, for sale on Evergreen’s web site.

490. Boeing 747-230F, stuck in repair shop in Xiamen, China. Flown there in exchange for release of Evergreen 492 after that plane was converted in Xiamen to a freighter. Apparently 490 has corroded, so it can no longer be flown. Owned by Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA trustee.

491. Boeing 747-412F, in Marana, where it was moved from Oscoda after heavy maintenance. Owned by Wells Fargo Northwest NA trustee.

492. Boeing 747-446, stored in Victorville, Calif. The former Japan Air Lines plane went to Xiamen to be converted into a cargo jet. Held for nonpayment and then released in exchange for Evergreen 490. 

492 flew the airline’s last flight Dec. 2, from Travis Air Force Base to Victorville. Owned by Wells Fargo Northwest NA trustee.

493. Boeing 747-4H6, in Rome, N.Y. Owned by Wells Fargo Northwest NA trustee.
779BA. Boeing 747-4B5, impounded in Hahn, Germany, for several days last August for nonpayment of airport fees. Evergreen paid the fees, freeing the plane. Owned by Boeing Aircraft Holding Co. Parked in Marana, Ariz., Nov. 23.

917W. Gulfstream Aerospace G-IV, a corporate jet leased from GC Air LLC and reportedly repossessed recently. The plane landed Dec. 9 at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport in western Massachusetts. Smith rode Whiskey far and wide, swinging through Panama at one point in 2006.

22MS. Learjet, a corporate plane registered by Evergreen Trade Inc. FlightAware tracked it landing May 13 in McMinnville, where it reportedly ran off the runway. FAA registration canceled July 18.

-- Richard Read

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Emus on runway likely cause of Cessna's outback crash at Honeymoon

A pilot who crashed at an outback airstrip with the landing gear retracted was probably distracted by emus, an accident report has found.

The Cessna 441 pilot was making his third trip for the day between Adelaide and the outback Honeymoon mine area in the far north of South Australia.

There were eight passengers on board when the aircraft crash-landed, in early September, and none was injured despite the belly landing.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says the pilot had noticed emus on the runway while making his landing checks and somehow forgot to engage the Cessna's landing gear.

It says a horn which usually warns of such a failure did not sound.

The bureau says the incident highlights the danger pilots can face from distractions, especially at a critical stage of flights.

It says research by the bureau has found 13 per cent of accidents between 1997 and 2004 could be attributed to pilots getting distracted during the approach stage of their flights.

It urges pilots who get distracted during their check list stage return to the start of the list to reduce the likelihood of making a mistake.


Wheels up landing involving a Cessna 441, VH-SMO, Honeymoon (ALA), South Australia on 3 September 2013

On 3 September 2013, at about 1531 Central Standard Time, a Cessna 441 aircraft, registered VH‑SMO, departed Adelaide on a charter flight to the Honeymoon airplane landing area (ALA), South Australia.

While en route, the pilot determined that the wind conditions were favorable for a straight‑in‑approach to runway 01 at Honeymoon.

During the descent, the pilot selected the first stage of flap. The pilot reported that normally he would lower the landing gear and confirm that it had been extended, but on this occasion he could not recall performing this action.

The pilot then selected the second stage of flap and established the aircraft on a 5 NM final to runway 01. When about 500 ft above ground level (AGL), the pilot commenced his pre-landing checklist. After selecting full flap, the first item on the checklist, the pilot looked at the windsock to confirm the wind and observed 4-5 emus on the right side of the airstrip. He watched them run away from the airstrip and then continued the approach, but inadvertently omitted to complete the remaining checklist items, which included confirming the landing gear had been extended. The aircraft subsequently landed with the landing gear retracted.

This incident highlights the impact distractions can have of aircraft operations, particularly during a critical phase of flight.

Durham Tees Valley Airport will be closed in 10 years, say nearly 85% of Gazette readers polled in survey (UK)

Online survey taken as chiefs carry out two-month public consultation on master-plan to secure long-term future of Durham Tees Valley Airport 

An airport is vital to Teesside’s future, say more than 65% of Gazette readers polled in a survey.

But nearly 85% think the struggling Durham Tees Valley Airport will be closed in 10 years’ time.

The online survey of 400 people was taken as airport chiefs carry out a two-month public consultation on the masterplan to secure the long-term future of DTVA.
As revealed last month, the sale of land for housing is at the heart of the ambitious blueprint to save the airport, which could create thousands of jobs.

Bosses say the development of up to 400 homes on land to the west and north of the terminal would generate millions of pounds for investment back into DTVA.

The Gazette poll revealed 60% of those questioned had not used the airport in the last year, while 22% had flown from there one to five times.

Just over 12% had used it more than 10 times.

More than 14% of people said the last time they used the airport was 2005 or before.

A conclusive 81% believe “better choice of destinations” would make them use the airport more, followed by 12.2% saying flights to London.

Flights to western Europe would be attractive to 56.2% of those polled, with 23.5% saying flights to London.

While 65.8% feel the airport is “vital” to Teesside’s future, 25.3% say it is “important”.

Only 4% and 2.5% say it is “unimportant” or “irrelevant”.

Just 0.8% believed DTVA would be thriving in five years’ time, with 6.8% saying it would be ticking over, 30.5% struggling and 62% saying it would be closed.

That rose to 84.7% believing it will be shut in 10 years’ time.

Looking further into the future, 52.7% of readers think the airport site will consist of housing in 25 years’ time, with only 8.6% having the faith it will still be an airport.

Industrial units was the opinion of 17.5% while 14.9% thought it would be wasteland.

The cash from the sale of the airport land for housing would pay for nine new hangars, 9,600sq m of office space and industrial units covering 16,820sq m to expand the existing Northside Employment Park, say airport chiefs.

This could create up to 3,800 new jobs, plus a further 450 jobs during construction phases, adding more than £348m to the regional economy, it is claimed.

The publication of the plan comes after DTVA confirmed the airport was cancelling the majority of its holiday charter services in a bid to cut costs - a move which will lead to a number of redundancies.

The consultation on the master plan, 2020 and Beyond, runs until January 10. It includes briefings with stakeholders, the business community and public exhibitions to explain the proposals.

Plans will be on show at Middlesbrough Teaching and Learning Centre (MTLC), Cargo Fleet Lane, Middlesbrough, on Thursday, at 11am-4pm.

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Previous stories

400 new homes included in ambitious plan to save Durham Tees Valley Airport

Durham Tees Valley Airport scraps mainstream holiday flights

Background: A turbulent decade for Durham Tees Valley Airport


Snowy Owls at NYC Airports Were Unfazed by Other Scare Methods: Port Authority

The agency that oversees New York's airports says it tried other methods of scaring away snowy owls from its airports before issuing the shoot-to-kill order for the birds.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has promised a new effort to trap and relocate the growing number of snowy owls at the city's airports, but said it was initially forced to shoot down three birds when other methods failed to scare them away. 

A total of five planes were hit by snowy owls in the last two weeks, including two at Newark, two at Kennedy and one at LaGuardia, according to the Port Authority. The agency tried using pyrotechnics, setting off fireworks and driving toward the birds to scare them away. However, snowy owls do not like to move and were apparently unfazed, the agency said. 

The agency added that it is not allowed to move wildlife in New York state without permission, which was only granted Monday from the Department of Environment Conservation. That's when the Port Authority announced it will make an effort to trap the snowy owls and relocate them instead of shooting them down. 

Authority workers shot down one snowy owl at Kennedy Airport last Friday, and another two on Saturday.

It wasn’t the first time the Port Authority has killed birds over flight concerns. More than 1,000 geese were caught and gassed near Rikers Island between 2003 and 2009 to curb the potential threat to aircraft, according to the Daily News.

A commercial jet hit a goose upon takeoff in 2009, forcing the plane to land on the Hudson River in what was referred to as the Miracle on the Hudson. That brought renewed focus on the threat of bird strikes, and about 2,000 geese were rounded up and killed that year.

Hundreds have since been killed each year near airports and in parks throughout the city.

Associated Airline Crash: Oduah, DGs Evade Questions on Aircraft Worthiness

After two months, the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, yesterday appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation to brief the committee on all she knew about the October 3 Associated Airline plane crash in Lagos.

Oduah, who led other heads of aviation parastatals to the meeting, presented a video clip of how the pilot turned deaf ears to appeals from his co-pilot to shelve the flight as a result of obvious fault in the aircraft.

According to her, the sector had presented a preliminary report of investigation into the crash barely a week after the incident occurred. At the meeting were Director General (DG) of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Captain Shuaib Usman;  DG, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency  (NAMA), Nnamdi Udoh; DG, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Eniola Akinkuotu; DG, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), George Uriesi;  Rector, Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and DG, Nigeria Metereological Agency (NIMET), Anthony Anuforom.

In the video clip, which showed the conversation of the captain with other members of the crew, some of the voices heard were saying: “It is not climbing, it is not climbing;” “Oh! We are in trouble,” “Don’t stall, don’t stall;” “Jesus, Jesus!”

The clip clearly established that the aircraft was faulty before take–off and yet the pilot ignored several pleas from his co-pilot not to take off.

Upon take-off, the aircraft lost control in the sky as it swerved to the right instead of following the proper direction before eventually crashing.

Oduah said the conversation was retrieved from the black box.
The panel was told that the state of the aircraft showed that there were problems with “configuration take-off” as well as engine of the aircraft, which were said to be enough warnings for flight to have been cancelled.

But when asked who authorized the aircraft to fly, Usman, who had been authorized by Oduah to respond to the question, said investigation into the crash had not been completed, promising that when the full report into the incident was finally presented, it would reflect every information required to be known.

The DG, who also said the engine of the aircraft was not producing effectively, added that it had been taken for further analysis outside the country.

When asked why the control tower did not intervene when it was obvious the aircraft could not fly, he stated that nobody could force the crew from flying if it chose not to obey the order asking it to come back.

Another issue of contention was the age of the pilot who was said to be 64.
But Akinkuotu said no rule had been broken by the pilot’s age, disclosing that aviation rules allow pilots to fly up to the age of 65.

While describing the pilot as irresponsible by insisting to go ahead with the flight despite enough warning signals, he noted that the co-pilot should have insisted that the pilot should not take off instead of falling into the pilot’s trap when he knew that tragedy was imminent.

Also, Oduah evaded attempts by journalists to ask her questions on the N255 million armored car scandal as well as other emerging issues in the sector as she forced her way out of the scene and left.

Oduah also told the panel that she inherited rots in all Nigerian airports, adding that as a result of the need to prevent accidents in the sector, she decided to rename AIB as Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (AIPB).

But the Chairman of the committee, Senator Hope Uzodimma, asked her to jettison the idea, saying AIB was a creation of the law and hence, the law must be amended before any change can be effected.

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Associated Aviation, Embraer EMB-120, 5N-BJY, charter flight SCD-361

Gary Jet Center sues previous airport board

The Gary Jet Center is suing the former Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority, alleging it schemed to give unfair competitive advantages to a prominent Chicago real estate firm and ultimately shortchange taxpayers.

The lawsuit filed in federal court Monday alleges former Indianapolis Airport CEO and Gary airport consultant John Clark hatched the deal that led to East Lake Management & Development Corp. being extended unusual airport privileges, including a nine-month waiver for collecting standard airport fees.

East Lake Management & Development operates a fixed-base operation, basically a service station for aircraft, at the airport under the name of B. Coleman Aviation. It currently operates out of modular housing units but yesterday broke ground on a new 25,000-square-foot hangar facility.

"I'm not here to shut anyone down," said Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis on Tuesday. "I'm just here to say, 'Wait a minute, let's play on a level playing field.' And right now, it's not."

The Gary Jet Center has been the airport's fixed base operator for more than 20 years. B. Coleman was launched when the airport authority granted it a 20-year lease to build a hangar earlier this year.

Among privileges the lawsuit alleges East Lake Management & Development enjoys are a lack of any requirement to collect landing fees, parking fees, fuel flowage fees and others that the Gary Jet Center must collect and turn over to the airport authority. The suit claims those exemptions give East Lake a huge competitive advantage.

B. Coleman General Manager and Partner Benjamin Toles on Tuesday said he had not seen the lawsuit, but vigorously denied the allegations made by the Gary Jet Center.

"We pay every fee Wil Davis pays," Toles said. "We pay every fee the airport asks us to pay."

The lease for B. Coleman aviation's hangar facility spells out it must adhere to the regulations and standards of the airport and it abides by those, Toles said.

The lawsuit alleges John Clark's JClark Aviation, working as a consultant for the airport, developed the unlawful plan to exempt East Lake Management & Development from rules and regulations. Clark could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The lawsuit states treating all airport tenants equally is a requirement of federal law and by discriminating the Gary airport is endangering millions of dollars in taxpayer funded benefits from the Federal Aviation Administration. It also takes issues with the no-bid contract the former airport authority awarded East Lake Management & Development for managing the airport's hangars for small planes.

It also alleges B. Coleman's use of truck-to-truck refueling for aircraft violates both regulations and best practices for fixed base operators.

Toles said B.Coleman's fueling operation has been inspected by the Gary fire department and comports with all regulations. He said B. Coleman was forced to use truck-to-truck refueling when the Gary Jet Center enforced a provision of its own lease, which basically grants it exclusive use of the airports fuel tanks until the airport chooses to install more.

East Lake Managment & Development's interest in the Gary airport has caused a stir among Chicago political observers, because the company is run by Chicago real-estate baron Elzie Higginbottom. He was at one time a top fundraiser for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Toles defended his boss against any allegations special favors may have been extended to him because of his political prominence.

"Elzie stayed completely out of these negotiations," Toles said. "If anything, all he's ever told me is make sure I do everything according to the law."

The lawsuit asks for the court to issue an injunction forbidding the current Gary airport authority from discriminating against the Gary Jet Center. It also seeks monetary damages.

It names the Gary airport authority and five former authority members who voted for a waiver from airport requirements for East Lake as defendants.

Gary Jet Center lawyer John LaDue said Davis wants to ensure a secure future for the airport where he has made his living for more than two decades and employs 48 people.

"He expects to be here for a good long time and want to make sure everyone is treated fairly, not just today, but going forward," LaDue said.


David Miller and David Crombie hate the Island Airport, and so does the Board of Health

Monday was quite a day for Porter Airlines. The company’s bid to start flying jets out of the Island Airport not only earned rebukes from both Davids (former mayors Miller and Crombie, both of whom are opposed to what they see as runaway waterfront development), it also managed to draw official criticism from the city’s Board of Health, which voted unanimously to oppose the plan because of its possible negative impact on the well-being of residents.

The board of health is known for making sweeping, sometimes unpopular recommendations, and so its decision to intercede in a pitched political fight like this one isn’t out of character. What is a little surprising is what David McKeown, Toronto’s chief medical officer, said during the meeting. According to the Post, his exact words to the board were, “No airport is the healthiest option.”    Great, we’ll just knock it down and put some lawn chairs on the tarmac. Problem solved.

Talladega Municipal (KASN), Alabama: Airport considers self-service fuel pumps

The Talladega Municipal Airport Board discussed putting in self-service fuel pumps for planes at the airport during their regular board meeting Tuesday.

According to board engineer Ken Gilbert, Gadsden is the most recent of several general aviation airports in the region to add self-service. “That was about a $35,000 project, and the state paid for half of it. Not only do they not need to pay an attendant, but fuel sales are up to two or three times what they were, with most of the new sales after 10 p.m.”

The board would not profit from increased fuel sales directly, but the self-service pumps would lower prices and be an added convenience for pilots, who would not have to wait for an attendant.

“I know of at least four or five airports that have put in self-service pumps in the last few years,” Gilbert said. “You all have plenty of space right now. I know there was some controversy in Alabama about information and equipment, but that has all been resolved.

Board Chairman Ray Miller said putting in the new pumps would ultimately be up to NASCAR and the Talladega Superspeedway, which is the airport’s fixed base operator. “We’ll get with (manager) Jim Brock and see what we can do,” Miller said.

The discussion of the self-service pumps evolved out of a discussion of pilot amenities in the terminal, which currently include a lounge and catered food during race weekends.

Also Tuesday, the board:

  • Heard Gilbert report that recent cold, wet weather had delayed work on the cargo apron, which he said nonetheless could be finished before the next race.
  • Heard Gilbert report that the new sealcoat on the taxiway was also delayed by weather.
  • Heard Miller announce that he, Gilbert and some other board members would be traveling to Washington, D.C. early next year to meet with the city’s congressional delegates.
  • Approved repairs to fences damaged by downed trees.
  • Appointed the nominating committee for board officers for next year.

Read more: The Daily Home - Airport considers self service fuel pumps

Cops say flyer was not assaulted at Dubai Airport

A senior police official has rubbished rumors that a passenger from Saudi Arabia was assaulted in Dubai International Airport.

Dubai Police issued a statement after some Saudi websites and social media networks published articles and comments about a Saudi man who claimed he was arrested at the airport and assaulted by cops.

A post on the official facebook page of Dubai Police read: “Dubai Police assured that an airline passenger, a Saudi national, was treated with full respect and in a civilized manner, despite the disturbance he caused with an airline employee.

This resulted in the airline cancelling his flight. They also confirm the passenger was not beaten, insulted or held in custody. He was provided with full transport assistance to his hotel. He later called Dubai Police to thank them for their assistance.”

Brigadier Ali Ateeq bin Lahej, deputy director of the airports security department at Dubai Police, explained that the flyer arrived late to board his flight.

He said: “The Saudi passenger and two friends were told they could not board the flight. An aviation officer asked them to leave the airport when they started yelling and causing chaos in the airport.”

Dubai Police said the officer closed the gate, but the Saudi insisted on boarding the plane and started yelling.

“The aviation employee blocked their way, but they insisted so he called Dubai Police,” Bin Lahej added.

Police said officers arrived and explained to the Saudi that he could not board the aircraft. “We asked them to either wait for the next flight or leave the airport and re-book. Finally they decided to leave,” Lahej added.

Police said they handled the matter in a "classy” way and later received a thankful call from the man.

“Dubai Police always respects Dubai’s visitors. What happened was a misunderstanding,” Lahej said.


Laser pointed at aircraft was third such incident in past few weeks, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says

WEST PALM BEACH — A JetBlue flight landed safely at Palm Beach International Airport Monday night after someone pointed a green laser into the cockpit. 

It was the third such incident in the area since Nov. 29, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said.

The JetBlue aircraft was landing at PBIA at about 9 p.m.

According to a release from the sheriff’s office, the control tower reported that a person pointed a laser at JetBlue Flight 521 from LaGuardia Airport to Palm Beach.

The said that, on final approach, at about 1,700 feet, he saw a very bright, constant green laser enter the cockpit from the windshield. He believed he was intentionally tracked as the laser made sweeping movements with the laser across the aircraft.

The pilot said he had to shield his eyes to continue trying to land the plane. The pilot believed the laser came from the northeast corner of Belvedere Road and Benoist Farms Road. The PBSO Aviation Unit checked but did not come up with anything.

On Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff’s office sent out a release stating that this has been the third time since Nob. 29 that someone has shined a light at an airplane at PBIA.

The report stated that on Dec. 1, at 8:30 p.m., deputies were told of a similar incident with another JetBlue plane. The laser was seen by a passenger who thought the laser had come from west of State Road 7 and south of Southern Boulevard.

Also, on Nov. 29, a PBSO pilot was flying in the area of Hagen Ranch Road and Lantana Road when the aircraft was struck by a green laser light. The pilot believed a person was tracking them with the beam.

The issue of green lasers being pointed into the cockpits of aircraft’s has been an ongoing problem, the sheriff’s office said.

Misuse of a laser lighting device is a third-degree felony. Knowingly pointing the beam on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft is a second-degree felony if the act results in bodily injury.

If such an act caused an aircraft to crash, the penalty would be a first-degree felony.

Anyone who witnesses the misuse of a laser lighting device is asked to call the nearest law enforcement agency, Crime Stoppers at 800-458-TIPS (8477), or text to

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Laser light points deputies to suspect's location: Sacramento County, California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A man accused of pointing a green laser light at a police aircraft was arrested Monday morning.

Justin James Nesbitt, 20, was arrested by Sacramento County sheriff's deputies in his backyard after the aircraft pilot guided deputies to Nesbitt's home, Sgt. Lisa Bowman said.

The pilot and the aircraft occupants were not injured in the incident. Bowman said pointing a laser at an aircraft could distract pilots or impair their eyesight, leading to "devastating" consequences.

Deputies were able to take Nesbitt into custody without incident. He was booked into Sacramento County Jail for felony charges of discharging a laser light at an aircraft. His bail is set to $75,000.