Friday, March 14, 2014

New Orleans flight instructor targets business travelers with small aircraft booking service

The recent addition of direct flights from New Orleans to Austin and San Diego has made traveling to those cities less burdensome for local businesspeople. But for those who regularly travel to regional cities like Shreveport and Jackson, Miss., easy options are limited.

A round-trip drive from New Orleans to Shreveport takes around 10 hours, and chartering a small private jet for the trip can cost upward of $5,000, not including possible fuel surcharges and airport fees.

David Cusimano, 36, started Day Flier to make life easier for the New Orleans businessperson who would rather not waste a day traveling by car or shell out thousands of dollars for a two-hour business meeting.

By consolidating the offerings of small aircraft operators, Day Flier acts as a kind of for light aircraft flights that lie outside the major airline industry.  

"Private air charter companies like Beech and Cirrus exist in a pretty fragmented market, which can make it tough to book flights quickly or compare prices," Cusimano said in a phone interview. "Day Flier puts all the available options and information in one place."

A New Orleans native, Cusimano used to run a flight school called Gulf Coast Aviation, based out of New Orleans Lakefront Airport. A few years ago he helped found a small air charter company by the same name.

Booking the company's four-seat Cirrus SR22 for an hour costs around $500, Cusimano said, far more than the cost of a road trip to Shreveport. But many busy local businesspeople preferred the extra cost to the lost day of travel. He created Day Flier to meet the demand.

When booking a flight online, the site compares the total travel time of Day Flier charters with those of a car or a commercial plane. For now, operators help expedite the online booking process over the phone. Within six months, Cusimano said, the company intends to launch an "instant-booking" option, allowing people to book flights as easily as they might on major travel websites.

"We're trying to highlight the value of your time," Cusimano said.

Day Flier officially launched on Monday (March 10.) It is now available in the New Orleans and Houston markets, but Cusimano plans to expand the service to 10 other cities by the end of the 2014.  

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Northern Command boss worried by cut to aerial firefighting wing

U.S. Northern Command boss Gen. Chuck Jacoby said he's concerned that proposed cuts at Peterson Air Force Base could hurt aerial firefighting efforts.

Quizzed by Colorado's Democratic Sen. Mark Udall at a Thursday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Jacoby said he's worried that pulling a squadron from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson could leave too few flight crews to drop retardant ahead of future fires.

"My biggest concern would be crews," Jacoby said. "Those are terrific crews, fearless men and women. It's as tough flying as any flying."

Under an Air Force budget plan, the wing would lose 200 airmen and four of its 12 C-130 aircraft. The cut would eliminate the 52nd Airlift Squadron, the reserve wing's lone squadron of full-time airmen.

Planes from the wing helped battle the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire and the 2013 Black Forest fire, the most destructive wildfires in Colorado's history.

Jacoby said while the wing would retain the same number of aerial firefighting systems - devices inserted into the cargo bay of the C-130s to disperse retardant - the unit could lose airmen crucial to making them work.

"I want to make sure that squadrons aren't disadvantaged by loss of folks that form those crews," Jacoby said. "So, I will be talking to the Air Force about this one as soon as I get the chance."

How the cuts would impact aerial firefighting is far from clear.

The 302nd is responsible for about 40 percent of the Air Force's firefighting effort in recent years. But firefighting is a small part of the 302nd's total job, which is mainly focused on hauling cargo and passengers.

With C-130-equipped airlift wings flying an average of about 4,000 hours per year, firefighting represents a small percentage of their work. In its busiest year, 2012, the 302nd made 400 drops to control fires in 10 states, using 334 hours of flight time.

The impact of the cuts on aerial firefighting crews also is unclear. The bulk of the firefighting is carried out by squadrons in the wing that aren't on the block for cuts. The wing has said a handful of airmen in the 52nd are trained in aerial firefighting.

But those full-time airmen in the 52nd conduct most of the wing's transport and cargo missions, which could put a squeeze on its sister squadrons that do more of the firefighting.

Congress, which hasn't begun to consider the 2015 defense spending plan, must sign off on the cuts.

Udall said he'll twist arms to keep the planes and crews in Colorado Springs.

During the hearing Udall credited the air crews and other military efforts against fires and floods in the state with limiting damage and saving lives.

"Colorado owes you a great debt," Udall told Jacoby.

Jacoby said troops did a good job assisting during Colorado disasters for Northern Command, which coordinates Defense Department response to natural disasters and defends the nation from terrorist and other threats. The military had Fort Carson helicopters over the Black Forest fire shortly after it started.

But it could have been better.

"Senator we felt really good about being up in the air in an hour, but if you lost your home in that hour, that's not fast enough," Jacoby told Udall. "We to continue to refine the process."

The command plans changes in 2014 as fire season approaches. The general said he's seeking closer coordination with the federal National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

He also wants to assign Northern Command officers to fire incident command teams so firefighters have a better understanding of available military resources and faster access to them.

The military resources available will change, too, with Northern Command bringing drones to the fight in 2014.

"The old-fashioned 5,000 infantrymen with shovels and boots, we're going to add to that with bulldozers, UAVs with infrared sensors and other capabilities," Jacoby said.

With the ability to loiter above fires for long periods of time, staring down with cameras that include heat-sensing infrared capabilities, drones could help fire commanders examine the situation in real time and devise better plans to stop advancing flames.

"It's all about being to identify a requirement and answer the call of our partners as quickly as possible," Jacoby said.

District Attorney investigating Open Meetings Violation with airport name change

WICHITA, Kansas — The city has asked district attorney, Marc Bennett, to investigate a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act by its airport renaming committee. 

KSN spoke to one of those committee members tonight, who says of the two meetings he attended as part of the naming committee, no public notice was given for either one. That is the violation that D.A. Marc Bennett has been asked to investigate.

John Hennessy was on the airport’s renaming committee and was the only member who voted against the recommendation to rename Mid-Continent Airport after Dwight D. Eisenhower. Hennessy told KSN that he knew something was wrong when the committee first met.

“There was no advertisement done. It was a meeting that was not publicized in the public as far as I’m concerned, I don’t believe it was anywhere,” said Hennessy.

Hennessy says the committee met twice, once in December and once in January.

Despite his concerns about a lack of public notice for those meetings, he says he did not file a complaint with city staff.

“I was there, so I was aware of it when it was being done, and I did voice an objection but there was a 6-1 consensus already in the room about everything that we were doing so it was a waste of my time to go any further. So I thought to just let it go on,” said Hennessy.

But the city’s legal department eventually caught wind of the concern. How they did is unknown but the committee self-reported a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.

Now the D.A. will have to investigate just how serious the violation was and whether the name change process would have to be done again.

“Certain things can be done. We can ask them to have the hearing again, but if it’s already done and action has been take, sometimes it’s too late,” said Sedgwick County District Attorney, Marc Bennett. “I’ll give you the straight lawyer’s answer: ‘It depends, depends on how things were handled.’”

It is unclear whether the city staff or the committee itself would be responsible for issuing public notice for meetings. Most of KSN’s attempts to reach city officials today went unanswered and Mayor Carl Brewer declined to comment on the situation.

Bennett’s office says there is no timetable on how long their investigation will take.

“People want to know what their government is up to,” said Bennett. “Old smoky back rooms where decisions are made, that’s not how people want their government to run.”

Another interesting piece of information is that the city council is also the airport authority in Wichita and they have to give the final approval on the name change.

As for what the D.A. can do, some of the possible consequences include up to a $500 fine for the city and training sessions for committee members or city staff.

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Cirrus SR22T GTS X, D-EPRB: Fatal accident occurred December 21, 2019 in Bruck an der Glocknerstrasse, Zell am See, Austria

NTSB Identification: GAA20WA104
14 CFR Non-U.S., Non-Commercial
Accident occurred Saturday, December 21, 2019 in Salzburg, Austria, Austria
Aircraft: CIRRUS SR22, registration:
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

The government of Austria has notified the NTSB of an accident involving a CIRRUS SR22 airplane that occurred on December 21, 2019. The NTSB has appointed a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the government of Austria's investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13.

All investigative information will be released by the government of Austria.

Mozambique: Airline Crew Members Robbed At Gunpoint

Maputo — Unknown assailants on Wednesday morning attacked and robbed at gunpoint members of the crew of a Mozambique Airlines (LAM) plane as they were on their way to Maputo International Airport to begin their day's work.

Eyewitnesses cited in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, said the robbery occurred at about 05.30 at a set of traffic lights on the road from the center of the city to the airport.

The Nissan Urvan, in which the LAM crew members were traveling, stopped at a red light, and was then attacked by six men armed with pistols. Two of them immobilized the driver and took the keys from the ignition. The rest of the gang took all the bags of the crew members out of the boot of the vehicle, and then made good their escape.

This is the second such incident involving airline pilots so far this year. On 15 January, an attack was reported against two pilots of the Portuguese airline TAP.

They were traveling in a taxi, which was stopped by five armed men using a pick-up truck. One of the gang entered the taxi, and forced the driver to drive to a more remote part of the city. The thieves then obliged the two pilots to hand over all the money in their wallets.

No-one has yet been arrested in connection with these thefts.


Great Bend Municipal Airport (KGBD) Kansas: Great Lakes to end air service a month early

Fate of next Essential Air Service provider remains unknown

 Cheyenne, Wyo.,-based Great Lakes Airlines notified the city this week that all of its air service at Great Bend Municipal Airport will cease at the end of this month, Airport Manager Martin Miller announced Thursday. This is one month shy of its original contract with the United States Department of Transportation. 

So, effective April 1, Great Bend will be without airline service until the next Essential Air Service order takes effect, in May of this year, Miller said. Great Lakes will, however, continue its flights from Hays to Denver. 

Both Hays and Great Bend have experienced substantial decreases in scheduled flights over the last several months. 

“We will be in a transition period with a new type of service,” Miller said. “The City Council has recommended that DOT accept a bid from SeaPort Airlines for Great Bend and we are excited about working to get more reliable air service to our area.”

But, as of now, DOT has not yet issued its order for Essential Air Service for the next two-year period, commencing May 1. The DOT’s selection of SeaPort Airlines of Portland, Ore., for Great Bend is anticipated, though not official as of yet. SeaPort will provide twice daily service to Wichita, and  once daily service to Kansas City through Salina.

The fact that the order has not been issued could delay the start of the probable SeaPort service beyond the first of May, Miller said. “We are in contact with both SeaPort and DOT.”

Under the next contracts, Hays will retain Denver service.  This allows area residents to choose either an east-bound destinations through Great Bend, or a west-bound destinations through Hays. 

This allows area residents to choose either an east-bound destination through Great Bend, or a west-bound destination through Hays, Miller said. “The City of Great Bend looks forward to sharing efforts with Hays, so that area residents have the option to fly east out of Great Bend, or west out of Hays.”

At its Jan. 6 meeting, the Great Bend City Council accepted its Essential Air Service Committee recommendation to pick SeaPort as the EAS provider. This recommendation was forwarded to the DOT which has the final say in the matter.

The USDOT sent the two proposals the city. The federal agency administers the program and will make the ultimate decision, but wanted local input first.

At the January meeting, it was noted that SeaPort offers 18 round-trip flights to Wichita each week via a nine-passenger aircraft. There is also a chance some of the flights could be through Kansas City.

The other bid came from Great Lakes. Its plan, which is similar to the current one, called for 12 round-trip flights per week to Denver via a 19-passenger plane.

Every two years, the USDOT solicits bids for EAS carriers.

There were several factors that went into the committee’s decision.

First, the current carrier wasn’t meeting city expectations. The airline canceled 22 of 48 flights in November, canceled 18 in December and has only flown limited flights so far this year.

There were other stories of poor service, passengers being stranded in airports and lost luggage.

But, some on the council supported Great Lakes and said the Federal Aviation Administration changed pilot hour requirements. This has lead to a pilot shortage for Great Lakes.

A Great Bend resident who flies out of Great Bend to Denver often spoke at the meeting as well. The frequent passenger said a flight to Wichita is “pointless” and Denver is a major hub, making for fewer layovers.

 However, during the EAS selection two years ago when Great Lakes was selected, there were also bad reports about Great Lakes. At that time, there were no FAA changes.

A city’s EAS status depends on the number of passengers and its distance from a hub. However, passenger count is the big factor, and should people stop flying Great Lakes due to the service, the city runs the risk of losing EAS.

The SeaPort bid was lower than Great Lake’s bid. It came in at $1.4 million and was $541,000 lower than Great Lakes, and the feds might look favorably on that.

Also, SeaPort uses Cessna Caravan planes which are still in production. Great Lakes flies Beechcraft 1900s which are not being made anymore, causing problems getting parts.

Other considerations were the Transportation Security Administration screening process and the proximity to other airports in the area.

Up until two years ago, Great Bend worked with four other western Kansas cities as sort of a rural air coalition  – Dodge City, Garden City, Hays and Liberal. Garden City has since sort of broken away and sought a different carrier, and Hays is doing the same thing this year.

 The city learned of the two competing proposals sort of at the last minute in late December. Mayor Mike Allison and Miller quickly formed a committee to study the matter. The goal is to have the panel in place by the end of the year and a proposal before the council this meeting.

The committee was made up of Miller, city administrators and staff members, council members, airport users and other interested individuals.

 City officials forwarded comments to the DOT by the Jan. 13 deadline.

According to the DOT, the Airline Deregulation Act, passed in 1978, gave airlines almost total freedom to determine which markets to serve domestically and what fares to charge for that service. The EAS program was put into place to guarantee that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers.

This is done by subsidizing two to four round trips a day to a major hub airport. The department currently subsidizes commuter airlines to serve approximately 163 rural communities across the country that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service.

For more information contact Miller at 620-793-4168.


Dublin-based Star Fly takes action to recover aircraft: Austrian Globeair failed to deliver five aircraft worth more than $9m, it is claimed

A Dublin-based company has brought a legal action aimed at recovering five Cessna Citation Mustang aircraft valued at more than US$9 million leased by it to an Austrian company. 

Star Fly CJM 1 Ltd, with registered offices at Ballsbridge, Dublin, claims its lease agreements with Globeair AG, of Hoersching, Austria, which provides air charters, were validly terminated last November arising from alleged breaches by Globeair of those agreements.

Following the alleged termination, Globeair was asked to deliver up the five aircraft but has failed to do so, it is claimed.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly this week granted an application by Rossa Fanning BL, for Star Fly, to fast-track the proceedings in the Commercial Court.

In its action, Star Fly wants to recover all five aircraft, each valued at about $1.8 million, and also claims it is due sums of about €500,000 and US$400,000 under the lease agreements.


Former aviation company trustees file $7M claim

City Manager Tony O’Rourke 

 For now, officials with the city of Yakima and Yakima County are not sweating a $7 million claim filed for a wrongful eviction by Yakima Air Terminal in March 2010.  

The Langdon Family Revocable Trust, a trustee of the assets for the now-defunct M.A. West Rockies Corp., filed the claim Thursday against the two governmental entities, which co-owned the airport at the time of the lease termination.

City Manager Tony O’Rourke said he’s “not going to lose any sleep” over the claim.

“We know there is some damages involved, but they’re not $7 million,” O’Rourke said Friday.

In its claim, the trust states the $7 million in damages accounts for several wrongful actions by the airport.

The trust also states it could seek triple damages for statutory trespass, or wrongful injury or interference with the M.A. West Rockies property. With those damages, plus attorneys fees and other legal costs, the total amount could be much higher than $7 million.

Aaron Okrent, a Seattle attorney representing the Langdon Family Revocable Trust, could not be reached for comment Friday.

A claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed, but there is a case now pending in Yakima County Superior Court in which a judgment could be issued regarding damages. That one was filed by a creditor.

In December, the state Court of Appeals sent the case back to Yakima County Superior Court after it ruled that the airport improperly evicted M.A. West Rockies Corp.

The appeals court determined that the company, which operated as Noland Decoto Flying Service, paid sufficient rent for airfield access when the airport evicted the company.

The ruling reversed a June 2010 decision by now-retired Superior Court Judge James Lust that affirmed the eviction, which M.A. West Rockies appealed two months later.

The appeals court recommended payment of legal fees and financial losses that resulted from the eviction.

In January, a creditor for M.A. West Rockies filed a $3.4 million claim against the city and county.

The city of Yakima now has sole ownership of the airport, but there is an agreement with Yakima County that both entities would be responsible for paying any potential damages because they co-owned the airport at the time.

Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott said the city and county are working jointly with local attorney Ken Harper on the case.

“The two legal departments will look over the claim and decide a course of action,” he said.

Like O’Rourke, Elliott expressed skepticism about the claim amount.

“I think most rational folks would think that was high,” he said.

O’Rourke was more blunt.

“Anyone can claim anything,” he said. “Show me the business operating losses during that operating period. Then we’ll take it seriously.” 

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