Monday, March 31, 2014

Skydiver who died following midair collision is Jimmie Johnson's brother-in-law

JAMUL - A skydiving instructor who died following a midair collision is the brother-in-law of NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, according to the racer's foundation. 

Jimmie Johnson's foundation issued the following statement Monday: 

"The Johnsons are saddened by the tragic passing of Chandra’s brother, Jordan Janway, 27. Jordan was an incredible son, brother, uncle and friend and will be dearly missed. Please keep the Janway family in your thoughts and prayers. The family asks for privacy at this time."

Jordan Janway, 27, of San Diego was found dead near Otay Lakes (outside of Jamul) late Sunday afternoon. He had been reported missing earlier in the day while teaching a group how to skydive. He was a contract employee for Skydive San Diego.

Buzz Fink, skydiving company's owner, said Sunday that Janway was practicing a maneuver called tracking when he collided with his jump partner's knee or leg.

"He was unable to deploy his parachute, probably because he was incapacitated after he hit the other jumper," Fink said.

The other jumper involved in the collision was not injured and was able to land in the drop zone.

Fink said the surviving jumper had a Cybernetic Parachute Release System (CYPRES), a reserve parachute which monitors a skydiver’s speed and altitude and automatically deploys if it senses a problem.

Janway was not using the system during his jump. Fink said the skydriver had a CYPRES, but it had been sent in for maintenance within the past couple of weeks.

Fink said Janway was an experienced skydiver who had completed more than 1,000 jumps.

Story, photos and comments/reaction:

Mineta San Jose International Airport (KSJC), California

SAN JOSE -- A small plane made an emergency landing Monday at Mineta San Jose International Airport, according to an airport spokeswoman.

The pilot of a two-engine King Air 350 aircraft reported an emergency of a mechanical nature, according to airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes. The exact nature of the problem was not immediately released.

There were three people on board the plane, which landed safely at 6:53 a.m., Barnes said.

San Jose police and fire responded to the airport as a precautionary measure.

InsideCounsel: Do attorneys ignore the NTSB's 45-day rule, which protects privacy rights of victims and their relatives? - By Ed Silverstein

The likely crash of a Malaysia Airlines’ plane highlights the 45-day rule, which bans early contact between attorneys and victims’ families.
By Ed Silverstein
March 31, 2014

It is widely known among aviation lawyers that attorneys are supposed to wait 45 days before contacting the families of victims involved in an airline crash in order to solicit them as clients.

The reasoning behind such a rule – passed by Congress in 1996 – is that it allows a family privacy at a very traumatic time. It probably makes sense from a strategic point of view, too. Often, it takes a while for the basic facts of a case to be revealed, such as information from a plane’s black box.

But there are those attorneys, eager to get clients, who do not value the rule. The rule, some sources add, may not apply outside of the continental United States. This would be important in the case of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, given most of its passengers are from overseas, especially from China and other parts of Asia. 

And even with regards to violating the 45-day rule in the United States, opponents may argue they want to sign up a client quickly in a very competitive (and lucrative) field of legal practice. Plus, they might argue that relatives of passengers have a right and need for legal counsel, before insurance companies and other possible defendants try to settle with them. 

In the case of the still-missing Malaysia Airlines’ plane, now assumed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, there was speculation by some attorneys in private practice that the federal government was monitoring whether plaintiff’s lawyers were following the 45-day rule.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) could not be reached for immediate comment on Friday. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago said on Friday he would neither confirm nor deny if any investigation was taking place.

Already, one law firm, Ribbeck Law of Chicago, has filed a petition for discovery, preparing the way for a lawsuit in response to the missing Malaysian plane. The firm claims it expects to represent half of the victims’ families. It is not clear how they became counsel for them, if they did not contact their relatives. They did specify one relative of a passenger who appears to be a client. 

The Christian Science Monitor has reported that William Wang, who works for Ribbeck as Of Counsel, and is licensed to practice in China, “headed for Beijing as soon as he heard that the plane had disappeared,” and “says he has offered his firm’s services to the relatives of more than 100 passengers on a ‘no win, no fee’ contingency basis, and that about 10 have signed up with Ribbeck.” 

What is known is that in 2009 Ribbeck’s solicitation practices were highlighted in web reports on how they procured clients after a plane crash in Buffalo. “I questioned whether it was violating both New York’s 30-day moratorium on contacting victims/families as well as the federal 45-day rule that prohibits solicitation,” according to a recent blog post from New York attorney Eric Turkewitz. 

Last year, there were more questions over Ribbeck’s solicitation of clients involving the crash of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco. The NTSB reported the law firm to the Illinois agency that regulates attorneys in response to questions about its online communications and in-person meetings with passengers on that flight, according to a report from The Associated Press.

In the Asiana crash, the NTSB “received an unspecified number of complaints about solicitations since the July 6 accident that killed three Chinese teenage girls and injured 180,” The AP said. 

On Friday, James Grogan, deputy administrator for the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, said there was a pending public disciplinary proceeding against Monica Ribbeck of Ribbeck Law regarding a Turkish Airlines crash. The commission could not confirm or deny if the commission was looking at her for any other incidents.

Grogan did confirm too that the commission would consider federal law when it comes to the solicitation of business by attorneys regarding air or railroad crashes. 

Key in this could be the 45-day rule, which is found in 49 U.S.C. 1136 (G)(2), and explains unsolicited communications.

“In the event of an accident involving an air carrier providing interstate or foreign air transportation and in the event of an accident involving a foreign air carrier that occurs within the United States, no unsolicited communication concerning a potential action for personal injury or wrongful death may be made by an attorney (including any associate, agent, employee, or other representative of an attorney) or any potential party to the litigation to an individual injured in the accident, or to a relative of an individual involved in the accident, before the 45th day following the date of the accident.”


Related stories:
Filing over missing Malaysia Airlines flight called premature as search for plane continues

Asiana Airlines to pay $10,000 to San Francisco crash survivors

Independence Bank subleasing airport space for its King Air 350: Owensboro-Daviess County Regional (KOWB), MidAmerica Jet

Franklin Aviation, a subsidiary of Independence Bank of Kentucky, has subleased space at the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport from Mid-America Jet to house the bank's King Air 350.

Independence President and CEO Chris Reid said the plane is for the bank's private use to transport Independence employees as the company's footprint continues to grow.


Bahrain: Airport plan faces turbulence

 Opponents of a proposed new airport want the project to be scrapped or relocated.

They say if it goes ahead at the proposed location off the northern coast of Bahrain, it could destroy more than half of the country's fisheries.

MPs plan to highlight the issue tomorrow during their weekly session, while fishermen will hold an urgent meeting to discuss potential action against the government plans.

"This means the number one fishing area in Bahrain near Fasht Al Jarim will get destroyed by at least 50 percent depending on the area selected for reclamation," said MP Hassan Al Dossary, who is parliament's public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman.

"That area has already been affected by reclamation work for the Northern Town and I can't believe that there is any study in the world that says reclamation is damage free.

"The government has to re-evaluate its plans.

"We will take a stand during our next session and it is ridiculous that Bahrain wants to destroy its own fishing resources with its own hands."

Earlier this month, parliament rejected plans for the second airport near Fasht Al Jarim, which is off the coast of Duraz, and instead demanded the government spend money on developing Bahrain International Airport.

Mr Al Dossary, whose constituency covers the fasht, said the government should stop spending money on unnecessary projects.

"The existing airport is fine and just needs developing, and spending money for show on the expense of fishing resources is something we don't accept," he added.

"Fasht Al Jarim has been selected because it has shallow waters and would cost less to reclaim, but in reality the costs are higher since fish supplies will drop significantly."

Bahrain Fishermen Society president Jassim Al Jeran said urbanization was necessary, but not at the expense of marine resources.

"Fasht Al Jarim is the biggest shrimping and small fish reproduction place and is rich with coral reefs," he said.

"Reclamation in that area would change the entire marine system which will have huge consequences.

"The current water flow will be altered and that's dangerous.

"We will also be cut off from the Arabian Gulf's fishing resources that move to this area.

"It is a shame we are going to lose it, but that's the government's call. But, it doesn't mean we can't contest it because we will fight for the plans to be scrapped or the site changed."

The project was recommended to the Cabinet for approval by the ministerial committee for services and infrastructure last Wednesday.

The next phase will focus on preparing detailed studies including links with roads, water networks, electricity grids and the GCC railway network.

The GDN earlier reported that a $900 million expansion to Bahrain International Airport will be carried out at the end of the year.

The project, which will be financed from the $10 billion GCC aid, will help meet the requirements until work on the new airport project is completed. 


U.S. 23 South Reopens In Ross County, Ohio, After Medical Helicopter Broke Down


A medical helicopter that was responding to a crash broke down after landing in the southbound lanes of U.S. 23 in Ross County early Monday morning.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a AirEvac helicopter responded to U.S. 23 near Trego Creek Road for a single vehicle crash in the area that required a patient to be air-lifted to the hospital.

Troopers say the helicopter had engine problems after it landed, and had to be grounded until it could be fixed.

The southbound lanes of U.S. 23 were closed at Trego Creek Road until a mechanic was able to respond to fix the helicopter, according to OSHP. The southbound lanes reopened just before 6 a.m.

According to dispatchers, the driver, who is suspected of driving under the influence, crashed into a guardrail in the area. The driver sustained extensive injury to one of their legs and was transported to Adena Medical Center by ambulance.

No other information was immediately available.


Panel to meet on Natchitoches Regional Airport (KIER) master plan

After two years of work, the Natchitoches Regional Airport has a master plan for the next 20 years.

The airport commission will meet today to discuss the plan which was recently approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airport was established in 1940 and has gone through several changes in its 74 years. The new master plan recommends aviation facilities that are necessary for potential growth over the next 20 years.

One possible project would be a runway extension. Airport Development Group, Inc, the master plan consultant, says completing that project would allow the regional airport to bring in bigger planes and, in turn, bring in big business.

The Airport Commission is expected to present the plan to the City Council on April 14.


Safran Aerospace Composites and Albany Engineered Composites: Aerospace companies mark opening of New Hampshire airplane engine blade facility

ROCHESTER, New Hampshire — Two companies that are partnering to manufacture light-weight airplane engine blades are marking the opening of a large production facility in Rochester, New Hampshire

Safran Aerospace Composites and Albany Engineered Composites are officially opening the plant Monday at a ceremony attended by U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, and U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

During construction, the companies have been collaborating with Great Bay Community College to develop training programs aimed at allowing newly hired workers to adapt existing skills for the plant's advanced manufacturing operation.

The new manufacturing plant is expected to employ about 400 workers.


Feud over seaplane makes waves far beyond Lake Keystone, Florida

 ODESSA — The seaplane is so loud, the author said, it scared his wife's horses.

It rattled the orthodontist's new hurricane-resistant windows. It woke the plastic surgeon on a Sunday, just after he returned from vacation in India.

For months, a feud has raged on Lake Keystone. The seaplane, some say, makes the lake its personal runway, buzzing homes and treetops, forcing boats to swerve, shattering the tranquility of this wealthy, waterfront enclave.

Nine government agencies and two Hillsborough County commissioners have been involved. None has come to the aid of complaining neighbors.

The plane's owner has flight logs and global positioning system records he says refute complaints. He's the victim, he says, of the homeowners association president, who he asserts has lorded over Lake Keystone for years.

Last week, this characteristically Floridian feud took an inevitable turn: the plane owner sued. But there's more at stake than legal damages or a man's recreational aviation habits. Life on Lake Keystone may never be the same.

• • •

In 1990, Jim and Laura Swain moved onto Keystone, a roughly 430-acre lake in northwestern Hillsborough. Jim, a mystery author, is the longtime president of the Lake Keystone Property Owners Association.

The Swains have made fighting nearby development an avocation. Over the years, they have protested or demanded input on a proposed housing development, expanded roads, the design of a new strip mall, a new carwash and a new elementary school.

Neighbors credit them with preserving the rural charm of Keystone, where empty lots sell for seven figures.

"People trust him to be our eyes and ears," said Dr. Mark Eberbach.

"They wield a lot of power up here," said Jim Griffin.

Late last year, neighbors started calling Jim Swain, 57, about the seaplane. Besides noise, some worried about safety. What if it crashed? What if it hit a boat or a swimmer? Would it scare away the eagles?

• • •

Gary Cohen sat recently in an airport hangar, in designer jeans and a monogrammed shirt, explaining why complaints made by Swain and others are absurd.

"He thinks it's Lake Swain," Cohen said, "and he's acted that way for years."

Parked behind Cohen was his six-seat, white-and-blue 1971 Cessna 206 Amphibian. Cohen, executive director of the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, declined to say how much he paid for it last year. The plane is worth between $200,000 and $300,000, he said.

Cohen, 54, moved to Keystone in 1993 and raised three children there with his then-wife. He's now engaged to Ericka Ciancarelli, 36, who's learning to fly.

A conversation with Cohen is an exercise in the art of polite interruption. He speaks quickly and at length, with a thick Brooklyn accent. He had prepared a white three-ring binder with 75 pages of evidence: FAA regulations, emails with Tampa Port Authority officials and a propeller manufacturer, and copies of his flight logs.

He read aloud emails complaining about him, listing what he calls inaccuracies. In one, Swain alleged Cohen took off 14 times on a Saturday, starting at 7:30 a.m. Cohen took off four times that day, he says his logs show, starting at 11:11 a.m. He was giving rides to neighbors.

A boat has never had to swerve to avoid his plane, Cohen said, and he does not buzz homes or tree tops. He pulled up GPS logs tracking his plane's elevation. Typically, as he clears the lake's edge, he's between 250 and 400 feet up, or at least 100 feet above trees, they show.

"He's a fiction writer. He lives in a fiction world," he said of Swain. "This stuff is somewhere between Harry Potter and Star Trek."

• • •

Swain and others have contacted the following about the plane: the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Tampa Port Authority, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and offices of County Commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman.

The FAA investigated and found nothing wrong. The DOT said it couldn't do anything, but county government could.

County Attorney Chip Fletcher disagreed. Florida Statute 330.36 (2) says a "municipality" can regulate seaplanes. A county is not a municipality, he said.

Swain turned to the Port Authority, which owns the land under the lake. A port official gave the same answer: The port is not a municipality.

Word reached the national Seaplane Pilots Association in Lakeland. Executive Director Steve McCaughey routinely deals with complaints about seaplane noise and safety, when he's not on the road lobbying.

Safety concerns are overblown, McCaughey said. Florida, home to about 650 seaplane owners, is among the most seaplane-friendly states in the country. Statistically speaking, he said, boats are more dangerous. There were 662 boat accidents and 50 fatalities in Florida in 2012, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The FAA does not keep statistics for seaplane accidents, but a review of newspaper articles from 2012 shows three seaplane accidents in Florida, none fatal.

A colleague of McCaughey's flew with Cohen in December, when the complaints started.

"I can absolutely assure you this pilot's not doing anything wrong," said McCaughey.

He acknowledged his bias.

"I try to be as objective as possible in these situations," he said. "I don't want my operators making headline news. I don't want them being bad neighbors."

• • •

In the past month, another complaining neighbor has taken the lead: Richard "Skip" Hirsch, 66, a retired orthodontist. Hirsch measured the plane at 95 decibels using an app on his smartphone, he said, putting it between a passing motorcycle (90 db) and a pneumatic drill (100 db).

"When the yard people come to do the yard, until they're right up near the house, I can't hear the mowers," said Eileen, Hirsch's wife. "This plane, I can hear it when it's out on the lake."

On March 6, Hirsch emailed a port official who, months earlier, told Cohen the port had no problem with his seaplane.

"You and the Port Authority have forever changed the status quo of our lake," Hirsch wrote. "Your two sentences of implied permission have enabled Mr. Cohen to threaten our way of life."

The official — Phil Steadham, environmental affairs director— sent Hirsch's email to a port attorney with this introduction: "This is absolutely preposterous."

• • •

On Jan. 29, Cohen's attorney sent a letter to Swain, advising him to stop "all defamation of Gary Cohen's character and reputation." Cohen has asked Swain to resign as president of the property owner's association.

Swain declined to meet in person with the Tampa Bay Times. In phone interviews, Swain said the situation has been resolved, and he's not resigning.

"I consider this a dead issue," he said.

Cohen doesn't. Friday, he sued, alleging Swain led an "ongoing, personal crusade" against him consisting of "fraudulent reports and complaints."

The conflict has already shaken up the association's board.

As tensions mounted last year, Swain asked longtime treasurer Tom Werner — Cohen's next-door neighbor — to step down until the dispute was resolved.

"He said it would be best for all parties involved," said Werner. He decided to quit.

"Personally, I think the plane is really neat," Werner said.

A few weeks ago, Werner said, he was standing on his dock when Skip Hirsch pulled up in his wakeboat.

"Is that your plane?" he said Hirsch asked.

"No," Werner recalled saying, "It's my neighbor's. What's the problem?"

Hirsch said he wanted to get the plane banned.

"I told him, 'Well, I don't like your boat. Maybe I'll try to get that banned,' " Werner recalled.

Wakeboats create waves that cut into his shoreline. He said Hirsch looked at him, puzzled.

"He said 'Are you kidding me?' " Werner recalled. "He thought I was being ridiculous."

Story and photo gallery:

Gary Cohen and fiancee Ericka Ciancarelli, who’s learning to fly, stand in front of his seaplane at the Bartow Municipal Airport in Bartow. Cohen says the complaints about his seaplane are overblown and he has records to refute the allegations. 

Angry Chinese tourists confront Cebu Pacific pilots

MANILA – An irate Chinese tourist allegedly punched a policeman Friday, after a Cebu Pacific (CebuPac) chartered flight to Shanghai was forced to return to the Kalibo International Airport due to low visibility.

A source from the airline industry said the policeman was trying to pacify the tourists who had allegedly "surrounded" the pilot and co-pilot upon their return to the Kalibo airport.

"Pinaligiran sila," the source said. "Arm-in-arm ang mga Chinese, but they did not hurt the pilot and co-pilot." This is also contrary to news reports that the Chinese held hostage the pilots.

In an incident report, Kalibo airport officer-in-charge Cynthia Aspera identified the pilots as Captain Johnny Tinto and co-pilot Richard Avila.

She told the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) that “passengers of the said flight surrounded and blocked the two pilots [from entering] the terminal building. They are demanding for free hotel accommodation.”

The source also said that when police tried to break up the group, one Chinese tourist punched a policeman.The assailant was eventually handcuffed and detained.

Aspera did not mention anything in her report about the police being punched. She said, however, that “a certain Mr. Xue Weilang, Chinese national…was brought to the [PNP] for questioning [due to] being arrogant and disrespectful to the pilots.”

She said they eventually reached a settlement “and the pilots did not file any formal complaint.”

The source emphasized that the cancelled flight was chartered.

The aircraft and pilots were rented by a tour company, which in turn sold the airline seats to the Chinese tourists.

Asked why the tour company failed to adequately explain the situation to the tourists, the source said: “Dumating naman ang tour guide to explain. Pero yung ibang pasahero mainit, gusto nang umuwi."

In a statement, CebuPac said flight 5J074 Kalibo – Shanghai was cancelled last Friday, March 28, 2014 due to the weather condition (low visibility) in Shanghai.

“Passengers of this flight will be re-accommodated in this evening’s chartered CEB flight 5J074 Kalibo-Shanghai. It will depart at 1855H and arrive in Shanghai at 2245H.” 


Yeager Airport (KCRW) votes to help fund Coonskin bridge project

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When it comes to the West Virginia Air National Guard, few are more supportive than Yeager Airport. The two entities share the runway and grounds at Yeager and the Air Guard provides the airport's fire and crash response service.

"It's one of the best units in the country and we're very fortunate to have them," said Assistant Airport Director Brian Belcher. "It probably saves our airport one point five to two Million dollars a year just having them there."

The savings alone would explain the recent vote by the Yeager Board of Directors to help construct the new entrance to Coonskin Park. Yeager will pay 150,000 dollars each year for the next ten years to help pay for a bridge over the Elk River which will serve as the new park entrance.  The new entrance will allow for the closure of the present entrance which runs through the guard base. The openness of the base was a security problem identified in the most recent BRAC inspection of the guard's headquarters.

"We always try to partner with the 130th unit and it's important for them to get their base more secure," said Belcher. "It's something that's been one of their goals and we'd like to help them get it done."


Bowling Green State University, University of Toledo to partner for aviation

BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo are planning an aviation partnership, details of which will be announced at 11:30 a.m. today at the Wood County Regional Airport Hangar in Bowling Green.

The announcement is to be by BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, State Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), and others.

Earlier this month, BGSU said North Star Aviation Inc. would provide flight instruction for its aviation program, a deal designed to allow BGSU to expand its program without increasing its costs for new equipment and additional personnel.

BGSU did not say how the North Star deal would affect the UT partnership.


Letter: Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO) serves a purpose

By Dr. Bernard Harris on March 30, 2014 in Opinion


How is it that Valerie Davidson (“Not-so-friendly skies,” Letters to the Editor, March 28), a Mar Vista resident, or any other resident living outside the city of Santa Monica, can talk about what Santa Monica needs or wants for its own airport. She says that the majority of residents want the airport closed. But is that really what the majority of Santa Monicans want?

The airport brings in millions of dollars into the economy of Santa Monica and its surroundings and multitudes of patients needing the health facilities of Santa Monica’s health resources. All of these indigent and needy patients are brought in from far outlying areas or taken back home at no expense to them by many pilots, including me, through voluntarily donating our time, use of our aircraft, and at our own expense, through the coordination of Angel Flight, an organization started here at SMO in the early 1980s, still based here at SMO, and since gone nationwide. Take away SMO and you have taken away the hopes of thousands of needy, sick and potentially doomed adults and children, whose only hope is the care they receive from health facilities in and around Santa Monica. Most, if not all of these patients, would suffer severely if not for Angel Flight West, because most could not tolerate the long drive from their homes, or afford the costs of transportation they would have to pay otherwise.

And as far as being a health risk to the community, what about all those fumes generated by those automobiles and trucks that ply our streets, contributing thousands of amounts of fumes and contamination more than are generated by the aircraft that come and go to and from SMO. By the same reason that the Santa Monica City Council is contemplating closing down fuel sales at SMO, perhaps they should also ban cars and trucks from our streets and close down all service stations that sell gasoline to them in our city, as well. Isn’t that what one would consider being anti-discriminatory?

Dr. Bernard Harris

Santa Monica


As trees in Connecticut grow, Westchester County Airport (KHPN) runway trimmed

For pilots landing into a west wind at Westchester County Airport, the first 1,300 feet of the runway is already off-limits because of trees the airplanes must fly over in Connecticut.

But soon, the Federal Aviation Administration may force the airplanes to touch down a few hundred feet farther down the airstrip, even as the county is waiting for a report on how to get more use of the runway, the shorter of two the airport offers.

Vacationers flying on JetBlue, Delta or US Airways use the airport's main runway, not the shorter one, which is called 11/29. But their waits for flights could become longer if more small corporate jets and turbo-prop airplanes are forced to use 11/29, some warned.

"People aren't going to stop going there, they're just going to wait longer," said John Johnston, president of the Westchester Aviation Association.

The FAA first ordered the airport to move the landing line, called a displaced threshold, in 1988 because of the height of the maple and ash trees, the closest of which are several hundred feet from the end of the airstrip. Last year, the inspectors said the trees continued to grow, and the line might soon need to be pushed farther along, said airport general manager Peter Scherrer.

"The last time, they said that, hey, you're getting close; it's tight at the bottom," Scherrer said.

FAA officials told The Journal News only that they continue to monitor the situation.

But Scherrer said a change could come as soon as the next inspection, scheduled for this week, or it could happen in later years. Either way, any change would need to be a significant move, he said. The current threshold stops just before the intersection with the main runway, 16/34. Since markings can't be made in the intersection, the line on 11/29 would have to be moved 350 feet or more, Scherrer estimated.

This comes as the airport prepares to chop 300 feet off the other side of the runway next year to meet an FAA requirement for a safety zone.

"The runway will be so short, it will be only be able to be used by very few airplanes," said Bill Weaver, the head of Million Air, a private-jet service company at Westchester County Airport.

In November, 2011, the county hired McFarland Johnson of Binghamton for $350,000 to figure out what to do with it. That report is expected to be completed soon.

One idea, shifting the runway, would cost $40 million, money that would be difficult to find, said Patty Chemka, deputy commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Public Works and Transportation.

Installing landing guide lights called a precision approach path indicator system may help persuade inspectors to leave the runway as it is, but adding to pilots' abilities to approach on a steady path, especially at night when the trees are hard to see, Scherrer said.

"It would probably buy us some time," Scherrer said. "It's a short-term solution."

For now, the county is holding off on a $12 million project to give the runway its first repaving in 20 years.

Westchester's attempts to coax and even to force the landowners in Connecticut to remove or trim the trees failed years ago. The battle went all the way through the federal courts in the 1990s, and Westchester officials don't intend to try it again.

"We lost that battle at the Supreme Court," Chemka said. "We're not revisiting that now."

On a typical day, only about 5 percent of the airplanes landing and taking off at the airport use runway 11/29, Scherrer said. But it becomes more important when traffic is heavy and air traffic controllers want to alternate the landings and departures. Also, when a strong wind blows from the west or northwest, approaching runway 11/29 from the east allows small planes to land into the gusts rather than fighting a crosswind.

"That's the most important runway for landing when we have heavy winds from the west or northwest," Scherrer said.

While the airport has become popular with vacationers, such commercial flights made up less than 20 percent of the 151,000 landings and take-offs last year, Scherrer said. Corporate flights are the most common by far. It is also used by flight schools and private pilots, who appreciate having the second runway.

"You don't get stuck behind all the jets when you can use the shorter runway," said Dr. Jill Silverman of Yorktown, a psychologist and private pilot who flies single-engine Cessnas.

Taking away the alternate runway robs efficiency by halting operations if there's a problem on the one working airstrip and by mixing different types of airplanes that fly and land at different speeds.

"It's almost like going on the Taconic Parkway and someone's doing 40 miles and hour and someone else is doing 65 and someone else is doing 80," Scherrer said.

If the airport becomes less convenient to use, Johnston said, it would take away from one of the benefits that make Westchester attractive to corporations and other businesses such as flight schools.

"When the pain level gets to a certain point, they're going to say 'Thank you very much,' " Johnston said. "Aviation is a mobile product."

Story and photos: