Friday, March 21, 2014

Tracy Municipal Airport (KTCY), California

Prices drop as city resumes airport fuel sales

They’re selling aviation fuel again at Tracy Municipal Airport, and it’s sure a lot cheaper than it used to be.

“They” in this case is the City of Tracy, which took over fuel-service operations Feb. 4 after terminating a multiyear contract with Steve Stuhmer’s Turlock Air Center.

It has taken a bit longer than expected to make the transition from Stuhmer to the city operation of the self-service fuel service — mostly because of credit card changes — but the self-service pump went back into service last week, reported Bruce Ludeman, the city’s airport coordinator.

“We are now beginning to sell aviation fuel, but it will take awhile to get the word out that we have competitive prices again,” he said. “There are several websites listing the prices of fuel, and we are in those already.”

While Stuhmer was selling fuel at the airport, before his contract was terminated for not complying with a number of contract provisions, the price hit $6.57 a gallon. Now it is down to $5.25 a gallon.

The higher price charged here reduced the amount of fuel pumped here, as many pilots went to other area airports to fill their tanks.

Ludeman said the city aims for a modest markup of 50 cents a gallon, and $5.25 is in the competitive range where most fuel at regional airports is priced.

Tuesday night, the City Council allocated $40,000 to purchase 8,300 gallons of aviation fuel to be sold at the airport.

Another cost in front of the city is a study outlining provisions to prevent spills from the airport’s aboveground fuel tanks and to respond to potential spills.

That study, required by the Federal Aviation Administration, was due to be completed two years ago. Doing so was one of the contract provisions that Stuhmer failed to perform.

“We expect to get moving on the study in the next several months,” Ludeman said.

The staff report accompanying the fuel-purchase item on the City Council’s Tuesday agenda indicated that a recommendation about long-term fuel operations at the city-owned airport would be made later.

One of the bids on a new contract could come from Richard Ortenheim, the president of SkyView Aviation, the airport’s major tenant. The major stumbling block, he said, was a $50,000 upfront annual fee the contract holder has in the past been required to come up with.

Regardless of who sells the fuel, Ortenheim feels the lower fuel price gives him more confidence that staying at the airport makes business sense.

He said he was applying for a Part 141 FAA license that would allow SkyView to start a full-scale flight-training school where students from the U.S. and other countries would stay on site for consecutive months while receiving full-time instruction.

“There’s a growing shortage of airline pilots, so prospects are good,” he said. “We could have 50 to 100 students here at one time for six to nine months at a time.”

At present, student pilots take lessons on weekends or when they have free time.


AirFest’s not yet here, but the planes sure are

To find the AirFest full agenda, visit

 TAMPA — The man they call Swagger climbs out of the 74-year-old former Navy training plane with a big smile. 

“It’s good to be mayor,” says Bob Buckhorn, moments after taking a flight across Tampa Bay in a SNJ single engine prop plane. The plane was part of the Geico Skytypers Airshow team, in town for the MacDill Air Force Base Presents Tampa Bay AirFest 2014.

A few minutes earlier, Buckhorn, wearing his aviator jump suit and a Airshow team green and blue helmet, was in the back seat of the plane as it flew in a tight formation, traveling about 130 mph about 1,000 feet above the water.

It was a far cry from the speeds and heights Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s wide receiver Vincent Jackson would later achieve as a passenger in one of the Air Force Thunderbirds’ F-16s.

But for Buckhorn, it was still a thrill.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” says Buckhorn. “These were great pilots flying great aircraft. It was an amazing experience.”

Air Force Col. Scott DeThomas, the base commander, says he won’t be flying in any of the military or civilian aircraft coming to MacDill to perform in the AirFest, which runs Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s all work,” he says, laughing. “I’ll have my fun Sunday when it’s all over.”

A few hours after the SNJ’s landed, Herb Lewis, an 88-year-old WWII veteran now living in Madeira Beach, climbs aboard another old warbird, a B-25 Mitchell bomber named Panchito.

“I never flew in an Army Air Corps plane before,” says Lewis. “I always flew in Navy planes.”

Panchito, owned by Larry Kelley, has partnered with the Disabled American Veterans to raise awareness for the organization and its efforts on behalf of veterans.

“This plane is like the magnet that draws people, so we can let them know that there are veterans out there that need help,” says Kelley.

After a few practice landings, Lewis buckles into the “jump seat,” right behind where the pilot and co-pilot sit.

With puffs of smoke, the old plane’s twin radial engines kick into life and the plane rattles and shakes, rumbling down the Kissimmee runway until it is airborne.

During the AirFest, Panchito will do a re-enactment of the April 18, 1942, raid on Tokyo in which 16 Mitchells took off from the bucking deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet for a bombing run on the Japanese capital.

“That was pretty amazing,” Lewis says after the plane landed at MacDill.


More Information 

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa

Tickets: Free admission; $15 preferred seating at

Other info: Coolers, glass containers, pets, fireworks and large totebags are prohibited


8 a.m. — Gates Open

10:30 a.m. — Opening Ceremonies with USSOCOM Jump and National Anthem

10:55 a.m. — Rob Holland-Mike Goulian Dual Aerobatic Demo

11:10 a.m. — MacDill KC-135 Demo

11:15 a.m. — RV-8 Demo

11:25 a.m. — B-25

11:40 a.m. — JCSE Static Line Jump

11:55 a.m. — Scott Yoak P-51 Demo

12:10 p.m. — Melissa and Rex Pemberton (Edge 540 and Wingsuit demo)

12:25 p.m. — USSOCOM Jump — Aerial Formation

12:45 p.m. — P-51 / F-4U Heritage Flight

1 p.m. — T-28 Demo

1:15 p.m. — Randy Ball - Mig 17F

1:25 p.m. — GEICO Skytypers

1:45 p.m. — Michael Goulian

2 p.m. — L-39

2:15 p.m. — Matt Younkin (Extra 330SC)

2:30 p.m. — Rob Holland (MXS/RH)

2:45 p.m. — AeroShell Aerobatic Team

3 p.m. — U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds


Pennsylvania: House Committee eyes Piper J-3 Cub as official state aircraft

Myrtle Rose stands by her 1941 Piper J-3 Cub named "Winston" on her property. 

LOCK HAVEN - After several years of futile attempts to gain Pennsylvania General Assembly approval, a bill to designate the historic Piper J-3 Cub as the official state aircraft is again making its way through the state House.

This time, Mitzi Gallagher told the Clinton County commissioners on Thursday, the chances of final approval look good ... or at least better than they have in the past.

At the urging of local officials, state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre counties, again submitted the bill for consideration and approval, according to Gallagher, who serves as Hanna's local legislative aide.

This time, Gallagher said the chances look better because the bill is up for consideration before the House Tourism Committee, instead of the House Transportation Committee, where several years ago, the chairman declined to allow the matter to move forward for a vote.

It's possible this bill could be voted out of committee on schedule on April 2, Gallagher said.

The concept of an official state aircraft - frequently recommended by local historians, fans of the aircraft, elected officials, legislators and others -has lagged in legislative limbo for close to four years due to inaction.

Rep. Hanna, continues to support legislation to designate a Piper-built plane as state aircraft - and yesterday, the commissioners, particularly Jeff Snyder, promised strong support for the bill, and action in the form of a telephone call campaign to each member of the House Tourism Committee.

With past attempts at passage, Commissioner Joel Long has noted there's really no competition for the Piper J-3 Cub when it comes to designating it the state's official plane.

The commissioners are hopeful that this year - and in time for Clinton County's 175th Anniversary celebration - the effort proves successful.

The Piper J-3 Cub was built in Lock Haven between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft Corp.

It became an industry standard for its safety, ease of operation and stability. A favorite of private fliers, it was also vital to the country's military preparedness and participation in World War II.

"Flying" magazine ( has called the Cub "Aviation's Holy Relic." Just about 20,000 J-3 Cubs were manufactured during a 10-year span that shadowed World War II.

Today, the Piper J-3 remains a popular aircraft for fliers and collectors with well-attended annual fly-ins in Lock Haven.

Snyder noted that, in the heyday of civilian aviation, Piper was the training ground for many pilots who went on to serve in the U.S. military, and was frequently the plane of choice for those who came back home after their service.

The Piper J-3 Cub is easily recognizable by its fuselage's famous standard yellow paint, which has come to be known as "Lock Haven Yellow."



Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport (KVVS), Connellsville, Pennsylvania

Fayette County Airport Authority: Corrections made since audit include checks and balances, signed leases

 Fayette County Airport Authority on Wednesday night approved the 2011-12 audit report, which included several findings that ranged from the lack of tenant leases at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport to inadequate financial checks and balances.

The Uniontown accounting firm McClure & Wolfe conducted the audit, which examined the airport's financial records from two or three years ago, when the Dunbar Township facility was facing financial problems.

“I think it's very important to note that this audit dates back several years ago before the new airport manager and new board members were involved at the airport,” said Bill Gerke, newly appointed board president. “I want to make it clear that the current board members had nothing to do with these findings. It was the previous administration.”

Board member Sam Cortis, who was the airport manager many years ago, said the audit cited the authority for not having signed leases with airport tenants.

“We do have signed leases with our tenants right now, and that's no longer an issue,” Cortis said. “That has been resolved.”

Cortis said auditors also cited the authority for not having adequate financial “checks and balances” in place.

During the time period covered by the audit, the authority employed an airport manager but no other employees who had access to financial records, Cortis said.

Since then, Cortis said, the authority hired an administrative assistant to work directly with the airport manager.

“We now have two employees who handle the finances, and we have checks and balances in place now,” Cortis said. “The newly appointed authority members have been working hard to turn the airport around and to eliminate the financial problems that the airport faced in the past.”

For the past few months, authority solicitor Bill Martin and airport Manager John “Bud” Neckeraurer have been working directly with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's Bureau of Aviation to correct recent land-use deficiencies.

“We are communicating with them and providing them with a timeline of when we plan to have the deficiencies corrected,” Martin said. “The FAA is willing to work with us, but they want specific details of how long it will take for the airport to be in compliance with land-use deficiencies.”

In other business, the authority accepted the low bid of $119,844 from Ramp Construction Co. Inc. for a roof-replacement project at the former fixed-based operations building — the airport's largest hangar — pending the solicitor's review.

Other bids received for the project included $127,200 from G&W Roofing and Construction Inc.; $186,000 from Donald M. Miller Inc.; and $218,900 from Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal Inc.

Neckeraurer said the solicitor will review the lowest bid to determine the cost of masonry and brick work included in the bid price.

“We want to make sure that the airport has enough money in a state grant to cover the project,” he said.

The authority also voted to update and modernize its bylaws, a long-awaited move that had been tabled since 2012.


Fundraiser slated for family of plane crash victim: Ryan Underhill left behind wife, children

Ryan Chester Underhill

 OKEECHOBEE, Fla. —The family of a man who died in an ultralight plane crash will remember him this weekend.

Ryan Underhill, 36, died at a hospital after the crash on the family's farm in Martin County.

Underhill's family said he lived not for work, but for his loved ones. They said people looked up to him and counted on him.

"If I could walk in my son's footsteps and stand in his shade, I would be, really, a man," his father, Edward Underhill, said.

Edward Underhill learned at his son's funeral that he wasn't alone in his feelings; many people turned out to pay their respects and express their sorrow to Ryan Underhill's wife and their children.

"He never met anyone that he didn't have time to stop and help," Edward Underhill said. "No matter what it was, he would help."

Ryan Underhill helped a lot of people with his knowledge of mechanical and electrical engineering. They were the same skills he used to get the plane up and running.

Victoria Trzeszkowski heard the engines cut out Feb. 23 with the plane just 100 feet overhead. She rushed out to see what happened.

"I was looking, saying, 'He's out there. He's checking to see what damage he did,' and as I got closer, I could see there was more than just a seat there, and I was just panicked," Trzeszkowski said.

But Ryan Underhill reassured her and even told her how to get him out of the wreckage. He would only say that it hurt, and she said she was sure they would see each other again.

"I ran back there to get him out from under the plane. He was conscious the whole time," Trzeszkowski said. "They rolled him out of here. I just believed he would be OK."

Ryan Underhill died at an Orlando hospital.

The family will hold a fundraiser in Okeechobee beginning Friday. For more details, call 561-358-2852 or 863-634-1084.


Ryan Chester Underhill 
(December 13, 1978 - February 23, 2014)

Ryan Chester Underhill of Okeechobee died February 23, 2014. He was born December 13, 1978 in Stuart, Florida to Charles Edward and Cynthia Underhill. A lifetime resident of Okeechobee, he was a cable installer and enjoyed RC hobbies and flying. He was a member of Christ Fellowship. He had the gift to build, fix and take care of many things including the land, dairy, anything mechanical and electronics. He was a devoted, father and son.

Mr. Underhill was preceded in death by his grandparents, Chester Underhill, Inez Underhill, Dorthe Chilcutt and Booth Chilcutt.

He is survived by his wife of 14 years, Carla Underhill; son, Chester Underhill; daughter, Haylie Underhill; father, Edward Underhill; mother, Cindy Underhill all of Okeechobee; and brother, Aaron Underhill (Jessica) of Palm Beach Gardens.

Visitation will be 2 p.m. until services at 3:30 p.m. Friday, February 28, 2014 at Buxton & Bass Okeechobee Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to his children’s trust fund at Bank of America.

Those wishing to leave a message of condolence may sign the register book at,

All arrangements are entrusted to the direction and care of the Buxton, Bass and Conway families of the Buxton & Bass Okeechobee Funeral Home, 400 North Parrott Avenue, Okeechobee, Florida, 34972.