Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Airport Authority considering bids to run general aviation services

If contract negotiations go well with a Virginia-based company, ISO Aero Services, which is currently based at the Wilmington International Airport, will be gone within the next month or so.

Tom Barber, chairman of the New Hanover County Airport Authority, said the Brixtel Group and Aero Services both responded to a request for proposals for general aviation services at the airport.

Brixtel Group met more of the desired qualifications and stayed within the five-year lease the authority was offering.

Aero Services officials, however, asked for a 30-year lease, which is something the authority could not honor and still operate in the airport’s master plan, Barber said.

“Their proposal did not meet the requirements of the RFP,” Barber said of Aero Services.

Before the vote was made, which came to a 3-2 split, about a dozen people told authority members they want leaders at Aero Services to win the request.

Authority members Al Roseman and Carter Lambeth voted against entering negotiations with Brixtel officials. Roseman moved to reject both proposals.

Barber and authority members John Perritt and Jonathan Crane voted in favor of Brixtel.

The request called for all proposals of a fixed-base operator to operate at the county’s airport.

The site in question is currently being operated by Aero Services, run by WFC Management’s Ann and Gerry Tremblay, under a month-to-month lease.

They’ve had the month-to-month lease for at least five years, Barber said, but have not had anything longer term.

With the Tremblays losing the bid, they could be out of the general aviation industry at the airport.

Barber said negotiations with Brixtel officials do not guarantee they will take over the site.

If an agreement cannot be made, the authority can choose to absorb the responsibility of the operations or send another RFP out for more bids.

General aviation business is anything relating to planes and flying that is not in the commercial sector, such as standard airlines and flight options. Typical services include overseeing hangars, selling fuel and other private aviation services.

Barber said authority members have tried to stay transparent in the RFP process, something many speakers Wednesday night called foul on.

“We want to promote general aviation and not hurt it,” Barber said.

Earlier in the meeting, Barber said Jon Rosborough, the airport’s director, will retire at the end of the year.

Barber said the board will start the search for a new director and was expected to review resumes for the post Wednesday evening.

Rosborough is currently serving in his 16th year at the airport. Barber said the authority advertised the position several months ago and has received 42 resumes so far.

He said he hopes to take action within the next several months to find someone to replace Rosborough once he leaves at the end of December.

Article and comments/reaction:

Delta Flight Makes Emergency Landing at JFK

A Delta flight had to make an emergency landing at Kennedy Airport Wednesday evening because of hydraulic pressure problems, officials say.

Delta Flight 886 was scheduled to land at LaGuardia but had to divert to Kennedy when the plane experienced low hydraulic pressure, according to a Port Authority official.

It landed safely at Kennedy Airport at 8:42 p.m., and passengers were taken by bus to a Delta arrival terminal.

There were no injuries.

The FAA and Port Authority say they're investigating. 


Increase in runway ‘incursions’ a concern for Canadian air authorities

OTTAWA — The pilot of a single-engine Cessna airplane preparing to depart the Ottawa airport two years ago was instructed to taxi to runway 32 and “hold short” while two arriving aircraft landed on the same runway first.

Instead, as a tower controller watched in disbelief, the Cessna inexplicably entered the active runway without authorization. The inbound planes were ordered to overshoot their approaches and make routine “go-rounds.”

It was one of about 25 runway “incursions” at the airport over the last three years. None resulted in anything more serious than perhaps a bad scare.

But Transport Canada is concerned. It issued an advisory last week telling aircraft operators the rate of runway conflicts at Canadian airports remains stubbornly high. It wants operators, if they haven’t already, to adopt “sterile” flight decks. That means reducing pilots’ workloads and potential distractions while aircraft are taxiing to and from runways.

Incursions are on the Transportation Safety Board’s watchlist of critical safety issues, too.

“Given the millions of takeoffs and landings each year, incursions are rare, but their consequences can be catastrophic,” says the federal safety watchdog agency.

The deadliest accident in aviation history resulted from a runway incursion in March 1977 when two Boeing 747s collided on a foggy landing strip in the Canary Islands, killing 583 passengers and crew.

In Canada, there are approximately 350 incursions a year during roughly six million takeoffs and landings. For every 100,000 aircraft movements, the incursion rate dropped steadily to 4.25 in 2007 from 5.89 in 2003, according to Transport Canada.

But the rate has been slowly rising since. In 2011, it stood at 6.61 and at 6.09 in 2012. No one is certain why, though some aviation experts suggest it may be a case of improved reporting due to increased use of technologies and new airport procedures.

Nav Canada, the company that controls Canada’s civilian airspace, has installed airport surface detection and other sophisticated anti-incursion equipment at several major airports, including in Ottawa. Additional changes and improvements by industry and government include, for example, adopting clearer phraseology for ground instructions between pilots and controllers.

“The department continues to collaborate with industry stakeholders and our international partners to address the risk of aircraft collision with vehicles and other aircraft on the ground at Canadian airports,” Transport Canada said in a statement Wednesday.

The most common incursion scenarios involve an aircraft or vehicle crossing in front of a landing or departing aircraft; an aircraft or vehicle crossing the runway holding-position marking; an aircraft or vehicle unsure of its position and inadvertently entering an active runway; a breakdown in communications leading to failure to follow an air traffic control instruction; and an aircraft passing behind an aircraft or vehicle that has yet to leave the runway.

Airport improvement projects are another potential problem, resulting in more complex runway and taxiway layouts, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization. The situation is made worse, it says, by inadequate signage, markings, lighting and other factors.

Nav Canada statistics offer a more detailed picture. In the three-year period ending March 31, 2013, there were 1,099 runway incursions at airports overseen by Nav Canada. Of those, 662 or 60 percent were blamed on mistakes by pilots. Almost 60 per cent were classified as minor and posing “little or no chance” of collision.

The most revealing figure, however, shows that general aviation and private pilots — versus commercial airline and military pilots — were responsible for 68 per cent of incidents where an aircraft was at fault.

The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, representing pilots who fly for personal travel and recreation, said it was unable to offer immediate comment for this story.

On the commercial passenger side, “sterile” cockpits are the norm during critical takeoff and landing phases, said Dan Adamus, president of Airline Pilots Association International’s Canada board.

“Almost every airline I know has procedures in their operating manual that talks about sterile cockpit and it’s from the time you push back (from the gate) until 10,000 feet ... and the same thing on the way down.

“The majority of checklists are done beforehand,” at the gate. “When it comes to taxi clearances (from controllers) if there’s ever any doubt — ‘are we supposed to cross (a runway) or not?’ — we always get clarification,” from the tower. “A runway incursion is a big deal, but there’s a lot of checks and balances in place, a lot of company procedures.”

He knows first-hand. Around 1990, Adamus was bringing in an airliner for a landing in London, Ont., when a sudden snow squall hit and obscured his visibility. He did a go-round and was cleared to land on another runway.

“I was just about to land — it’s snowing pretty bad — but all of a sudden I see some lights and I realize there’s snowplows on the runway,” that hadn’t been advised of the runway change. He pulled up and went around again.

“That was one of those ones that you don’t think about until you get on the ground.”


Colorado may rent firefighting planes - Unclear where $22 million to cover cost will be found

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to rent firefighting helicopters, small air tankers and spotter planes, but not large air tankers for the upcoming fire season.

It would be Colorado’s first significant move into the expensive world if aerial firefighting. Last year, the state had contracts for just two single-engine air tankers.

But it was unclear Wednesday how the state will cover the $22 million cost. Senators will try to set the money aside Thursday afternoon when the Senate debates the state budget.

“I think there’s a will to do it. The question is how,” said Doug Young, an adviser to Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper’s top fire official, Paul Cooke, took legislators by surprise last Friday by endorsing the idea of a stationing a fleet of aircraft in Colorado this summer.

Hickenlooper has downplayed the idea in the past, saying it was intriguing but expensive. And his political adviser, Alan Salazar, told a Denver television station last Thursday that a bill to lease helicopters and buy airplanes would never pass.

Young and Salazar clarified the administration’s position Wednesday afternoon in an interview with the Herald. Senior Democrats in the House and Senate also support the idea, meaning that it is likely Colorado will have helicopters and small airplanes on standby when the wildfire season arrives.

Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, has been prodding Hickenlooper to lease or buy airplanes dedicated to Colorado. He and Salazar squabbled publicly last week, but they made up earlier this week during a meeting that included Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.

“I think Sen. King deserves a lot of credit for pushing. I think the governor deserves a lot of credit for making sure we get the facts,” Salazar said.

King could not be reached for comment.

Last Friday, Cooke released a report calling for the state to enter into exclusive-use contracts for four single-engine sir tankers, four helicopters, two spotter planes and two large air tankers, with the goal of pinpointing the location if every fire within an hour of the first smoke report and providing air support within an hour of every request from fire bosses.

In a verbal briefing to the governor Friday, Cooke recommended against renting large air tankers this year, because the ample snowfall in most parts if the state make it hard to predict when the big tankers would be needed, Salazar said.

Without the heavy tankers, the cost will be about $22 million next year. The state would contract for the planes, but it would not own or lease them, under Cooke’s plan.

Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, is sponsoring a bill with King to boost the number of helicopters and airplanes stationed in Colorado. Her support makes it likely the Senate will find the money needed for an air force.

Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said he’s also on board with the idea, and it fits in to his top priorities for the year, which include disaster assistance for floods and fires. Both parties in both chambers want to see more air resources, he said.

“I think there’s an ability to make that a reality. It means difficult choices, of course, but that is one of the priorities we’ve had this session,” Ferrandino said.


Wings A-Blazin, Hermann, Missouri: Hot Wings On The Fly!

Airplane display at Hermann’s aviation-themed restaurant not your average wall decoration

Wings A-Blazin, Hermann’s aviation-themed restaurant on East Fourth Street, will soon have seating on the second floor. It will also have an airplane coming out of the ceiling and walls.

When Leif Johnson came across an experimental airplane in Sullivan that was rendered un-airworthy, he jumped on it. He wanted it for the restaurant that his wife, Beth, co-owns with Robert Riddell, a long-time friend of the Hermann couple.

The story of how Johnson picked up a unique airplane came about after last spring’s flood. The plane might have been worthless, but it had some value to him.

Johnson, a commercial pilot, had to move his private plane from the hangar at the Hermann Airport because of major flooding, and temporarily parked it in Sullivan. While he was there he noticed a plane in the hangar that was burned.

(Read the rest of the story in this week’s Advertiser-Courier

University Park Airport (KUNV), State College, Pennsylvania


University Park Airport Seeking Input for Master Plan

STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - A master plan is underway to bring a boost to the economy in Centre County.

University Park Airport officials will host an open house Wednesday to discuss the future of the airport, including a study to go green.

The airport is one of 10 picked by the Federal Aviation Administration to create this type of master plan.

"No one has the crystal ball, so 10 years ago, it was a whole different picture than it is today," Centre County Airport Authority Director Jim Meyer said.

Meyer said the past several years at University Park Airport have been a bit like playing catch up.

"The economy crashed, the airlines crashed," Meyer said. "Five years later, we went backward instead of this massive growth."

They're hoping it's a trend they'll reverse and said they're already making progress.

"This year, we started Chicago service and we expect those numbers to exceed our records in 2007," Meyers said.

Bryan Rodgers said that's just the beginning.

"Delta will start Atlanta service on June 7 this year, so we're starting to see the economy improving and as a result, the airlines are coming in and providing service," he said.

That's not all. Rodgers said part of the plan includes sustainability and going green.

"We're going to look at making better use of technology," he said. "For instance, we have a project where we're replacing our taxi way edge lights and making them LED."

Folks from across the county are invited to give their input. Ronda Vaughn, from Curwensville, wants to see more space to accommodate a growing crowd.

"We definitely could use a boost," she said. "I know they need a bigger parking lot."

The meeting starts at 5:30 Wednesday night in the General Aviation Terminal building at the University Park Airport. The meeting will last until 7:30 PM.

Story, photo and video:

Opinion: Private-jet lobby defends federal financing of private jet exports

Washington Examiner
By Timothy P. Carney
APRIL 2, 2014 AT 3:19 PM 

I've got nothing against private jets and helicopters (also known as "business aircraft," and "general aviation,"). I argued it was a cheap shot for Obama to claim there was some special tax break for corporate jets. But I don't like federal subsidies for them (or just about anything else), as I made clear in my column.

Today, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association wrote to object to my arguments.

See their full letter:

As with Ex-Im's response to my column, I've got objections to GAMA's arguments, but I've had my say for today.


Flower Aviation ends 44-year run at Pueblo Memorial Airport (KPUB)

Flower Aviation has closed its Pueblo Memorial Airport operations after 44 years, airport director Mark Lovin said Tuesday.

Rocky Mountain FBO continues to provide fuel and other fixed-base operator services at the airport.

On the Flower closure, “I think it’s just a culmination of competitive pressures and the changes in the market,” Lovin said.

Corporate jet traffic remains down at the airport in Pueblo and others in the rest of the country since the recession, he said.

The fuel tanks and facilities used by Flower are owned by the city.

The city plans to issue a request for proposals in coming weeks to determine whether any other fixed-base operators are interested in opening at the airport, Lovin said.

Flower’s absence will result in a loss of rent revenue and possibly a decline in fuel sale fees if general aviation traffic declines, he said.

Story and Comments/Reactions:

Kestrel’s tax status heading to court: Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority seeks clarification over aviation company’s claim to tax exemption


The question over Kestrel Aviation’s tax status may be decided in court. It was revealed at Monday’s Town Council meeting that the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority will seek a declaratory judgment in superior court over the aviation company’s claim to tax exemption.

MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque said on Tuesday that the request for the judgment will be filed in the next week or so.

A declaratory judgment typically resolves legal uncertainties between litigants.

Under Maine state statute, airports and associated structures on a municipal corporation’s land are tax exempt. What is not exempt under the statute, however, is any structure within the airport not used for airport or aeronautical purposes.

Kestrel’s share of MRRA’s tax bill to Brunswick in 2013 was reportedly $114,000.

Kestrel Aviation was one of the first companies to locate to Brunswick Landing in 2011. It resides in 83,000 square feet of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, taking up about half of Hanger Six.

However, Kestrel has had a difficult history.

According to a 2013 report in the Bangor Daily News, Kestrel, which employs about 40 in Brunswick, was beset by funding problems, and had been late with rent payments to MRRA, late with employee paychecks, and failed to pay its employees’ insurance premiums.

Last year, Gov. Paul LePage’s office attempted to intervene, introducing a bill that would have exempted Kestrel from property taxes, before withdrawing support.

Levesque said Kestrel looks to be solvent and is now current on its rent, and the company’s outlook is improving.

“They’re going through a capital restructuring period,” Levesque said. “It looks like they’re going to be in good shape.”

The declaratory judgment would have an impact beyond Kestrel, said Levesque, because MRRA is seeking to attract more aviation and aerospace industry.

According to Interim Town Manager John Eldridge, the Kestrel property has been assessed for taxes for the last two years. “We have a legal opinion that it was a taxable piece of property,” Eldridge said.

Kestrel had appealed its tax status to the local board of assessment review, said Eldridge, which denied a change in status.

Levesque said the declaratory will save time and money. “We believe the company

The law says ...

UNDER MAINE STATE statute, airports and associated structures on a municipal corporation’s land are tax exempt. What is not exempt under the statute, however, is any structure within the airport not used for airport or aeronautical purposes. qualifies for an exemption because it’s an aeronautical business,” Levesque said. “The town doesn’t believe that. It’s not being adversarial. We have an obligation to the existing tenants, to know whether it’s exempt or not.”

Neither Eldridge nor the Town Council seemed perturbed by the request for declarity judgment. “It’s just a difference of opinion,” Eldridge said on Tuesday.

“No one’s suing for damages, we’re just asking for someone to referee,” said Levesque.


Is Kestrel exempt from property taxes?

Last week the Forecaster covered what it described as a feud between local leaders on one side and the MRRA board, along with Senator Stan Gerzofsky, on the other side Like a car wreck, the article made for some high quality rubbernecking; it even went statewide as the Bangor Daily News picked up the article.

But the important question of the town’s right to tax businesses on the base should not be lost, especially on those who just enjoy watching the town’s democratic leaders savage one another.

MRRA, and indirectly Kestrel Aviation, are asking to be granted a tax exemption for an activity that has always been taxed.  The Governor’s office has submitted a bill, L.R. 492, to exempt the activities of Kestrel Aviation from property taxes.

The state tax code has long contained an exemption for airports and landing fields and structures at municipal airports, so long as they are used for airport purposes.  But, like all exemptions, this one is limited to particular circumstances.

The purpose of the exemption is so that services that are necessary to sustain the airport operations are not taxed.  It’s to help a public airport survive; the implication is that a public service is provided by the mere availability of a municipal airport.  The legal jargon used is that there must be a “public use.”  Typically, exempt property would be related to maintenance and operations.  The exemption is not intended to include anything that has any connection to airplanes.  Nor is it intended to include private, commercial, for-profit businesses (although the mere fact that a profit is made does not disqualify one for the exemption).

One way to look at this is to ask, can a public airport survive without it?  If it can’t, the use is tax exempt.

On the other hand if it is merely a business that benefits from proximity to an airport it is taxed.   In fact, an easy argument can be made that Kestrel, and similar commercial enterprises, are already receiving a free benefit from proximity to publicly funded airport.

Read more here:

Brunswick officials feud with senator, state over base redevelopment

Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI), West Palm Beach, Florida

Airport drill - simulated plane crash in West Palm - draws real firefighters, student actor victims 


A plane crashed at the Palm Beach International Airport this morning - but the victims were high school student actors and the wreckage did not fall from the sky but was driven to the property long ago.

This disaster was a drill.

The police and firefighters, however, were genuine. They rolled from their various homes with sirens blaring when the drill began on the airport’s north side at 9 a.m.

The drill was a simulated crash required by the Federal Aviation Administration. It is an opportunity to test the airport’s emergency plan and involves several agencies including law enforcement, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, Homeland Security, Federal Air Marshal Service, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The American Red Cross also participated, as did the actors and special effects artists from G-Star School of the Arts. 


Brace for sirens: Airport drill - simulated plane crash in West Palm - at 9 a.m.


A plane will crash at the Palm Beach International Airport this morning - but the victims will be high school student actors and the wreckage did not fall from the sky but was driven to the property long ago.

This disaster is a drill.

The police and firefighters, however, are genuine and they will be rolling from their home with sirens blaring when the drill begins on the airport’s north side at 9 a.m.

The drill is a simulated crash required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

It is an opportunity to test the airport’s emergency plan and involves several agencies including law enforcement, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, Homeland Security, Federal Air Marshal Service, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The American Red Cross will also participate, and so will the actors from G-Star School of the Arts.

Cape May County Airport (KWWD), Wildwood, New Jersey

Development committee has high hopes for Cape May Airport 

LOWER TOWNSHIP — Build it, extend utilities and they will come.

That was one of the messages as the Lower Township Economic Development Committee set its sights Tuesday on the Cape May Airport.

The committee wants to create jobs and has previously explored initiatives such as new oyster hatcheries, changing the township’s name to Cape May Township, finding beneficial uses of dredge spoils, and other ideas to spur economic development.

On Tuesday, the committee joined local, county, state and Delaware River & Bay Authority officials brainstorming ideas for the 1,000-acre underutilized airport property. The airport is owned by the county but leased to the DRBA.

The airport already includes an industrial park that hosts a brewery, print shop, several construction firms, an auto-parts store and other businesses. There are currently about 30 tenants leasing space. The airport also hosts aviation businesses and several museums. It features a business-friendly regulatory environment in that it is not subject to the state’s Coastal Area Facility Review Act or CAFRA. Former state Sen. James Cafiero had it exempted when CAFRA was created and the airport was dubbed “Cafiero’s Donut,” Deputy Mayor Norris Clark noted.

The committee felt more businesses would locate there if more buildings to house them were constructed. One problem is large sections of the airport are not hooked up to utilities. The Naval Air Station Wildwood Museum wants to expand by building a Coast Guard museum but has no space. Aviators want more hangar space. The DRBA gets a steady stream of requests for space from landscape firms, construction businesses and people seeking commercial kitchens.

“Utilities are one of the hurdles. We have the land,” said Michelle Griscom, property manager for the DRBA.

Griscom said there is a project in the works to renovate one industrial building and build another one. The street hockey rink would be relocated to make space for the new building. It would be sectioned into spaces of 1,500 to 2,000 square feet for businesses.  Griscom said the DRBA gets a lot of requests for this size space, but she said there is “no time frame” set yet for this project.

She noted a new entrance into the airport has been constructed at this section of the airport and aesthetic improvements such as removing unwelcoming security fencing in some areas have been made. The beer brewing company wants more space and has discussed opening a bottling plant here.

State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, praised the township for coming up with tax incentives for businesses that locate at the airport. Van Drew more has to be done to improve the local economy, which suffers from a high unemployment rate.

“We have to do everything possible to make business happen. We need creativity. There are a lot of people not working and the economy is not what it needs to be,” Van Drew said.

Others promoted aviation development. Freeholder Will Morey said as domestic uses of unmanned drones are created, he is working to bring such businesses here. Morey said an environmental assessment of the airport must be completed first and it could result in capping defunct wells and the removal of several buildings, which would free up space in areas with utilities. One is the massive Everlon building near the street hockey rink and the other is the former World War II mess hall next to the township police station.

The township also is discussing moving the police to the Villas section, which would free up that building.

“Cape May County has a three-quarter million environmental assessment study going on now,” he said.

DRBA Airports Director Steve Williams said aviation business is down due to high insurance and fuel costs. Williams said one growth area is business aviation.

“We need to sustain general aviation and make it attractive to business aviation,” Williams said.

The problem is air traffic here is tied to the resort economy and is seasonal, running only from April to October.

Township Manager Mike Voll explained the new tax incentives that cover the first five years of a new business but said the airport still needs an identity, such as a link to the tourist or fishing industries, to attract people.

Williams cautioned that most airports run at a deficit.

“The airport will help enhance the economy, but it’s not going to remake the economy,” Williams said.

Clark pushed measures that would “attract capital and investment.” Morey said once the environmental work is done, in about six months, the airport would be ready to actively market.

Van Drew promoted the idea of attracting wineries. DRBA Deputy Director Frank Minor said there have been some discussions with vineyards.

“Job creation is No. 1. We get that,” Minor said.

The meeting ended with a bus tour of the airport.

Story, photo gallery and comments/reaction:

Stephen Williams, (center back) airport director with the DRBA, talks about current use and possible development at the Cape May Airport. State and local officials along with members of the Lower Township Economic Development Committee took a tour of the Cape May Airport with officials from the Delaware River and Bay Authority, to come up with ideas to boost business at the airport. Tuesday April 01, 2014. (Dale Gerhard/Press of Atlantic City)

Abu Dhabi International Airport, United Arab Emirates

 German logistics firm DHL has launched an investigation into how one of its aircraft suffered a nose up incident while offloading cargo at Abu Dhabi International Airport on Tuesday. 

“We can confirm that an Airbus A300-600F aircraft, operating flight DHX520 from Lahore to Abu Dhabi by a DHL airline suffered a nose up incident during the offloading process at Abu Dhabi International Airport on April 1, 2014,” the company said in a statement.

“DHL is liaising with the airport and relevant authorities in order to lift the aircraft to its proper position and to assess the damage,” it added.

No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.

Story and comments/reaction:

Xconomy: In California Pilot Trial, AirPooler Offers Ride-Sharing in the Sky

By Bruce V. Bigelow 
April 02, 2014 

How long are you willing to drive for a weekend getaway?

Steve Lewis figures most folks are willing to drive two or three hours each way. If you live in the Bay Area, that means you might get as far as Mendocino. If you live in San Diego, sandwiched between the ocean and the desert, the drive to Las Vegas can easily takes six hours or more.

Lewis, a pilot and software executive in Cambridge, MA, figured a lot of people might be willing to throw a few bucks his way if he could make it easy for private pilots to share their ride with passengers willing to pay their share of airplane fuel and tie-down costs. He is in San Diego and Silicon Valley this week to introduce a beta trial of AirPooler, an online platform that matches general aviation pilots and passengers who want to share flights and costs.

“We’re trying to create a whole new repertoire of regional travel experience,” Lewis said. “In a light plane you can travel three times as far as you can in a car over the same period of time.”

In San Diego, Lewis says AirPooler has struck a partnership with the local flying club Pacific Coast Flyers, which enables local AirPooler users to fly out of the McClellan-Palomar Airport near Carlsbad. In Silicon Valley—AirPooler’s second test market—Lewis is working with the Sundance Flying Club, so passengers can fly out of the Palo Alto Airport.

In a statement, Sundance Flying Club CEO Evan Williams says, “We are excited to be at the forefront of demonstrating how the shared economy can promote general aviation by introducing more people to flying.”

The idea is for private pilots to list their recreational flights with empty seats on the AirPooler website. Passengers who book a trip through AirPooler pay only their pro-rata share of the trip’s cost because federal law prohibits private pilots from transporting passengers for hire.
Because of such prohibitions, the AirPooler idea is not so much of an Über for general aviation as it is Couchsurfing in the sky. The law says passengers can only pay for certain operating costs, but Lewis says general aviation pilots are thrilled at the opportunity to defray the cost of flights they are making anyway for personal business or pleasure.

“The plane as an asset is way under-used,” he explained. “Because of rising fuel costs, the average flight-hours for pilot-owners has declined by 30 percent.”

Read more here:

Lufthansa Grounds Flights as Pilots Strike: Airline Lays on Extra Staff to Help Passengers

The Wall Street Journal
By Caitlan Reeg
April 2, 2014 5:06 a.m. ET

FRANKFURT— Deutsche Lufthansa AG pilots began what could become the longest walkout in the airline's history Wednesday, grounding 3,800 flights over the next three days, in a protest over changes to retirement benefits.

Germany's national carrier began warning passengers of the strike, expected to cost it tens of millions of euros, earlier this week.

Lufthansa, which is also Europe's largest airline by passenger traffic, has increased the number of staff working at Frankfurt and Munich airports to help travelers rebook flights on other airlines or with the Germany's national railway operator Deutsche Bahn. The airline said as many as 425,000 passengers would be affected.

The strike is set to have a major impact on Lufthansa's main passenger business, as well as its cargo operations and its short-haul, no-frills Germanwings passenger carrier.

While the airline has canceled 3,800 flights in anticipation of the strike, it will operate about 500 Lufthansa and Germanwings flights and eight of the 31 cargo flights, the airline said.

The strike comes after pilots union members voted overwhelmingly this month in favor of industrial action in protest at changes to retirement benefits.

Vereinigung Cockpit represents between 85% and 90% of the 5,400 pilots who fly for Lufthansa and its cargo and Germanwings units.

The union is protesting against changes to retirement benefits for flight personnel that include raising the retirement age and requiring new pilots to pay into a transitional retirement fund.


Man's £4,000 bill for taking surveillance plane through no-fly zone

An aviation enthusiast who flew a surveillance plane through a no-fly zone has been ordered to pay more than £4,000 by a court.

Robert Knowles, 46, was found to be in control of an unmanned aircraft which travelled within 50 metres of Walney Bridge and over the BAE shipyard in Barrow on August 25.

The aircraft crashed into Walney Channel and was recovered by a BAE employee.

A camera on the plane filmed its journey and Knowles was only identified due to it capturing his car registration number as it set off.

It is against air regulations to fly aircraft over the BAE facility without permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Knowles, of King Street, Dalton, was convicted at Furness Magistrates’ Court yesterday for failing to comply with air regulations.

He was fined £800 for being both the controller and operator of the plane, and was ordered to pay £3,500 in court costs and a £40 victim surcharge.

Alison Slater, prosecuting on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority, said that the video footage showed Knowles launching the aircraft, incriminating himself in the process.

Following the hearing, Knowles said he was considering launching an appeal against the verdict.



Beijing demands special security for its aircraft in Nepal

Beijing has asked its Nepalese government to arrange special security for aircraft that are making direct flights from Kathmandu to different destinations in China.

Following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, the Chinese government has shown concern about its airlines operating to and from Nepal's only international airport.

"Sending a letter to the Home Ministry, the Chinese authority asked to arrange special security for the landing and taking off of the Chinese planes that operate from our airport," a high-level official at Nepal's Home Ministry told Xinhua.

He said that the ministry has already forwarded the letter to the Ministry of Aviation for the consideration.

In the letter the Chinese authority demanded security for its diplomatic officials, people visiting to Nepal and its aircraft, sources said.

Meanwhile, Nepal's Aviation Ministry said it has instructed the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the country's aviation regulatory body, to address the demands of the Chinese government.

"We have initiated some activities to address the concern of the Chinese authority, including stricter screening and thorough inspection of the passengers and their belongings," said Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, chief of CAAN, on Monday.

He added that even stricter inspections will be made for all airlines to ensure security in Kathmandu-based Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).

Currently, three Chinese carriers including Air China, China Southern and China Eastern are running direct flights to Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) while another, Sichuan Airlines will soon begin its commercial operation in Nepal.

Of late, there has been immense flow of Chinese tourists to Nepal which has also made it necessary for Nepal to make its air connection with the northern neighbor better organized and safer.


Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam: Aircraft manufacturer will build planes in Sebring, Florida

SEBRING - Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam, an Italian manufacturer of light aircraft, announced Tuesday the Naples company will assemble planes at Sebring Regional Airport.

"We've been after them since 2005, and we finally got them," IDA-EDC Director Stephen Weeks said. "They announced it at Sun n' Fun."

That's the 40th annual international fly-in at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

Weeks wasn't sure how many employees Tecnam would hire, but they will be higher-paying manufacturing and sales jobs.

"I don't know the details of that now," he said. "The logistics are still being worked out, but they will have assembly and sales there."

Like Cessna, Tecnam builds single-engine two-seaters and twin-engine four-seat aircraft.

One source reported that Tecnam currently assembles aluminum aircraft that follow and general aviation regulations.

Tecnam also makes aircraft parts for other manufacturers. The Tecnam 2008 was displayed at the 2010 U.S. Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring.

Wikipedia lists 10 Tecnam models, including the P92, P96 Golf, P2002 Sierra, P2004 Bravo, P2006T Very Light Twin, P2012 11-passenger Traveller for commuters, and the Multi Mission Aircraft.

"This is a global company. They do business all over the world," said Mike Willingham, Sebring airport executive director.

Even more important, he said, is the "clustering effect." When GM started building cars in Detroit, battery, transmission, tire and glass manufacturers moved in too.

Lockwood Aviation also builds planes at the Sebring airpark, and several other tenants have aviation-related businesses. Willingham said all should be helped by Tecnam's production.

"I think it is probably the most significant economic development opportunity in my career at the airport," Willingham said. "If things work as they plan, if they bring all of their assembly people, the clustering potential could be significant."

Although 10 jobs are initially planned, Willingham said that number could grow exponentially as Tecnam gears up to build all 10 models in Sebring.

"This will be their North American assembly center, and hopefully, in the not-too distant future, South America too."

- See more at:

Gazette opinion: Powder River Range: Federal Aviation Administration bombs on public participation

When the U.S. Air Force first proposed using one-fifth of Montana’s airspace for a bomber testing range, ranchers and pilots objected.

That was six years ago. Since then the skies over southeastern Montana have gotten a lot busier, especially with traffic in and out of the Bakken oil fields. On the ground, ranchers worried about impacts on livestock from aircraft flying as low as 500 feet, sonic booms and aircraft dropping flares and chaff from higher elevations. Recent summers of devastating wildfires have done nothing to allay fears of fire risk from bomber training flights.

Delegation weighs in

Montana’s U.S. senators, Jon Tester and John Walsh went on record opposing the expansion over Montana airspace in February. More recently, the senators called on FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to allow the public more opportunity to comment. The FAA isn’t accepting public comment electronically and the proposal isn’t readily available to the public. Walsh and Tester told Huerta that the FAA should accept public comment online, as most federal agencies do, and that the public should have 90 days to comment online. Presently, the comment period is scheduled to end May 3.

On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., wrote to Huerta, noting Montanans’ concerns saying: “I will not support the expansion unless the Air Force, working with the FAA and Montana stakeholders, makes additional mitigations that satisfy these objections.” Daines also asked that the comment period be extended beyond May 3 and that the FAA “remedy concerns” about the comment process.

All cost, no benefit

We concur with our congressional delegation’s call for giving Montanans a reasonable opportunity to comment on this proposal. Setting up online comments should take a competent IT staffer an hour, maybe less. And for goodness sake, lengthen the public comment period. This project has been kicked around for six years, another 90 days isn’t a major delay.

As for the project itself, we note that it is all cost and no benefit to our state. The Powder River Training Complex already in operation includes Broadus and the southeast corner of Montana. The proposed quadrupling of the range would consume airspace over Hardin and nearly as far west as Billings. It would stretch north nearly to Interstate 90 and swallow up Colstrip and Baker. As previously reported by The Gazette, the proposed range would cover 33 small airports in Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota.

Most of the flight area would be over Montana, but all of the benefit would accrue to the Dakotas where the aircraft using this training space are based. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., is pressing for quick approval so Ellsworth Air Force Base will have more flight space. Aircraft from Minot, N.D., also use the Powder River Training Complex. Perhaps the bulk of the training area should be over North and South Dakota where the crews are based.

Walsh previously told The Gazette that there is too much at stake beneath the proposed training area.

“Many of the more than 4,000 pilots in our state would be impacted, which is why it is crucial that they, as well as other stakeholders, are aware of this study and have ample time to comment,” Tester and Walsh said in their March 24 letter to Huerta.

The FAA should post the plan on its website, extend the comment deadline 90 more days and make the decision that protects public safety in a region that depends on small civilian aircraft for daily transportation and commerce. Send the Air Force back to the drawing board for a better plan.


Melrose, Putnam County, Florida

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. -- According to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, a plane made a hard landing in the western part of the county.  

The Sheriff's Office said it happened near Hotel Street in the Melrose area.

The hard landing was reported to 911 as a plane crash, but deputies determined that was not the case.

A neighbor reported seeing the plane go down nose-first with the tail up. Once deputies arrived on scene, they found the ultralight plane had not been damaged and the pilot unharmed. The pilot told Action News that he was landing the plane on his property, but declined to comment further.

Story, photo and video:

Story and comments/reaction:

Is the U.S. Ready for a Cut-Rate Jet Fighter? Textron Bets It Can Sell a Military Plane Using Off-the-Shelf Parts

The Wall Street Journal
By Doug Cameron

Updated April 1, 2014 7:27 p.m. ET

In an age of budget-busting weapons programs and tighter defense purse strings, Textron Inc. is betting it can sell a cut-rate military jet assembled in part from off-the-shelf components.

Textron, the world's largest maker of business aircraft, developed the new Scorpion jet with its partner AirLand Enterprises LLC in less than two years—a turbocharged time frame for a military plane. It borrowed technology developed for its high-end Cessna Citation corporate jets, and it added components like ejector seats from suppliers' catalogues rather than custom designing them. Textron used its own funds—analysts estimate it spent hundreds of millions of dollars—without a contract, which is rare in an industry where companies generally secure government backing and clear design specifications before starting projects.

Some prospective suppliers had so little faith in the project that they declined to take part. But Textron Chief Executive Scott Donnelly says he's confident a global market exists for small, cheap-to-run jets able to carry out intelligence, security and reconnaissance work for the military as well as functions like patrolling borders and tracking drug smugglers. The jets can also carry weapons under their wings.

"There was a need out there not being satisfied," he says.

Textron estimates the size of the global market at more than 2,000 planes and says the company could start to deliver them in 2015 if it wins an order this year. The Scorpion is priced below $20 million, and aims to have lower operating costs than those of pricier jets flying similar missions. That sandwiches it between slower turboprops such as Embraer SA's $11 million Super Tucano—a big seller to nations in Africa and Latin America—or advanced supersonic combat fighter jets like Saab SA 's $43 million Gripen, and offerings from Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co.  and others costing $50 million or more.

Experts on military aircraft are divided on the Scorpion's prospects. The 2,000-aircraft estimate "is ambitious but reasonable," says Kristin White, a senior associate at Avascent, a defense-industry consulting firm. "The competition is going to be tough, but [air forces] will have to take a look" because of the price and capabilities.

Others see limited demand for such a plane and say the market is already well served. "I just don't get it," says Richard Aboulafia, a vice president at Teal Group, an aerospace consultancy. He reckons demand for the Scorpion's niche is fewer than 20 planes a year.

Textron says it's developing a price proposal for a potential governmental customer. It declined to identify the country, but people familiar with the discussions say it is in the Middle East. "The militaries of several U.S. partner nations have expressed interest and have been briefed, and proposals are being submitted," Textron says.

Providence, R.I.-based Textron, which had $12.1 billion in revenue last year, is one of the more diversified defense contractors. In addition to business jets, helicopters and military hardware such as armored vehicles and drones, it makes golf carts, car parts and what it calls the "world's fastest lawn mower."

The Scorpion's roots go back a decade to when entrepreneurs started developing so-called very light jets carying four or five passenger that used composite materials, lean manufacturing techniques and off-the-shelf parts. The jets were supposed to cost less than $5 million each, opening a market for private ownership beyond the elite.

That vision fizzled because of development problems and scarce funding. But a group of former military officers and aerospace engineers embraced a similar notion. They formed AirLand Enterprises and started pitching the idea of a low-cost jet to defense companies.

Whit Peters, a former secretary of the Air Force who led the AirLand effort and now supports the Scorpion sales push, says many companies balked. But in 2011 he pitched the idea to Mr. Donnelly and found a fit. Textron's Cessna unit hadn't built a military jet for three decades, but it was developing composite technology and manufacturing for its business jets.

The companies formed a joint venture, Textron AirLand, to pitch the planned plane to countries that couldn't afford higher-end models. They also targeted the U.S. National Guard.

More than half of the Scorpion prototype was built using parts developed for the Citation jet. Another 20% were acquired off the shelf.

Bill Anderson, president of Textron AirLand, says two large defense contractors declined to participate in the project because they doubted the size of the market or were wary of using the lightweight composite materials increasingly used on commercial planes to build a military jet.

Mr. Donnelly told potential partners to view Scorpion as a commercial project with military applications, and he urged them to be more flexible. That approach mirrors a push by Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, for companies to be more agile and develop systems in the style of Lockheed's legendary SkunkWorks program. Under that program, small teams designed ultra-fast jets and rockets away from the traditional military acquisition process.

Taking decades to move from drawing board to operation "just won't cut it" for some military platforms, Mr. Donnelly said.

Some suppliers agreed to back Textron's approach for the Scorpion. Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. supplied ejector seats, donating them as part of its investment in the Scorpion. "I bought off on their vision," says Andrew Martin, vice president, business development.

The work was carried out in an unused building on Cessna's Wichita, Kan., campus known as the Glasshouse with a team that grew from nine to almost 200. Textron managed to keep the work secret for 18 months before its unveiling last September.

With the tight deadline and budget ceiling, executives approved redesigns in mere days or weeks. Wind-tunnel testing happened after the tools were already made to manufacture the jet. "We broke all the rules," Mr. Anderson says.

The ejector seats proved to be too big for the cockpit, and tailoring them to fit would have cost more than $100 million and delayed the project by 12 to 15 months. "[So] we modified the cockpit," says Mr. Anderson, an approach that defied convention in military projects, where designs are fixed to meet strict specifications.

Ultimately, the Scorpion's success—and whether more companies go it alone developing military systems without a contract--will depend on the jet's sales.

"That will embolden more companies," says Mr. Donnelly. "Or we'll have a bunch who will say: 'Told you so.'"