Thursday, April 03, 2014

Phase One Airport Renovations Complete: San Angelo Regional/Mathis Field (KSJT)

We are one step closer to the completion of the airport renovations as phase one wrapped up this week.

The first phase includes renovations to the ground floor lobby, which entails a new meet and greet area, administrative offices, and upgrades to airport security. Airport staff expect the renovations to assist in a quicker, smoother, and more comfortable experience for everyone.

San Angelo Regional Airport is now showing off their new renovations to the ground floor which completes the first of three phases.

It's  been two years in the making and Airport Director, Luis Elguezabel, says he's looking forward to the changes.

"We've finally opened phase one of the terminal renovations, behind us the meet and greet area, our administrative offices, and the TSA and airlines offices are finally opened," Elguezabel said.

Phase one renovations include a new meet and greet area, which one passenger enjoys the most about the new additions.

"The first time I was here there wasn't really any seating. I was actually sitting on my bags just kind of over by the counter waiting for a taxi. I'm actually sitting in a chair right now, and it's a lot cleaner and they were just doing a lot of construction when I was here before," said a passenger, Lexi Morales.

For airport staff, after being in temporary trailers for two years, they now have four permanent administrative offices and a conference room in the building. Airport Operations Manager, Mitch Sprunger, feels a sense of relief to get out of those trailers.

"It was just cramped. It was an interesting dynamic, I mean we get state, local, federal employees that come in. We have a lot of construction meetings, we do security badging, so it was cramped; so now that we have this new space to do all that, it's going to be a lot more comfortable and be a better showcase for this airport," Sprunger said.

Now airport staff say Mathis Field will operate quicker and smoother with the new Transportation Security Administration exit lane, and by utilizing new screening equipment.

"Before we had that exit lane they actually had to funnel the exit through the actual checkpoint, so it's just a cramped process," Sprunger said.

Renovations are not focused solely on appearance and comfort, but the vaulted see-through glass windows near the departure gates beautifully light up the airport as the sun rises.

"We're halfway through phase two and phase three, which will be the front of the terminal, will be opened at a later date," Elguezabel said.

Phase two of the project is scheduled for completion in November, which will include an expansion of the baggage claim and rental car area, the airline counters and northside parking lots.  


Aircraft maintenance company says work to land at Hernando airport has been worth the effort

A lot has changed for Tony and Bradley Dye in the past year, and officials say those efforts are benefiting both Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and local economic development.

The aircraft maintenance company run by son and father, respectively, had to battle a tough political climate to secure a lease and become the second fixed-base operator at the airport.

The Dyes had to navigate a maze of maintenance and upgrades to bring their site up to snuff.

And they had to run their new Brooksville business by day while spending nights packing and moving their entire operation from Clearwater to Hernando County. At the same time, they were clawing their way through the federal bureaucracy, complicated by the sequester, to secure an important airplane maintenance certification.

Looking back, Bradley Dye says it's been worth it. He is vice president of Corporate Jet Solutions, the airport maintenance arm of the business, and Dyenamic Aviation Services, the fixed-base operator.

Recently, the business celebrated the issuance by the Federal Aviation Administration of a special certification known as Part 145, which means it is now a certified repair station.

That designation goes to facilities that do routine maintenance, preventive maintenance, inspections and alterations of aircraft and aircraft products. Those facilities must pass written and demonstration procedures.

"It means more scrutiny from the FAA,'' said Tony Dye, who is president of the companies.

That is scrutiny that charter plane owners want to see, and so they seek out certified repair stations for their regular maintenance requirements, he explained.

"There is more oversight. It's all about the paperwork, the cleanliness of the shop,'' Tony Dye said. "It will make the business grow.''

Bradley Dye agreed. He said that it already has grown in several ways because of the designation.

Two new customers have come to the company recently for service. Existing customers are also beginning to take advantage of the expanded maintenance opportunities. And, since the company can now serve bigger airplanes, fuel sales are likely to soar, Dye said.

A standard small airplane flying out of the airport for pleasure would have fuel tanks that hold 20 to 100 gallons. Once the big airplanes come for services, they will be filling tanks with between 500 and 5,000 gallons.

Another new development at the facility is that HondaJet has visited to test equipment on its aircraft that is in development, Bradley Dye said. The aircraft has a unique design, with its engines mounted above the wings.

"They were doing proving runs you have to make'' to gain FAA certification, he said. "They were testing equipment on board to make sure it worked the way it was designed to do, and it did.''

When asked about the company's service while in Hernando County, the Honda representatives responded that they "were treated better than they are at (their) home base and that they will be back,'' Dye said.

He has also been "laying the groundwork'' for the next big deal, which will be finalizing details for flight training and education. That operation should be up and running within three months, he said.

Once student pilots begin training, he said, that will help the airport's control tower by beefing up the number of takeoffs and landings, a figure the FAA uses to analyze the need for control towers.

Between the two connected businesses, there are currently 19 employees, including the recent additions of Steve Young, who heads up technical sales; Yulia Kropocheva, aircraft sales and acquisition; and Roger Bingham, heading up avionics.

Job creation has been a big plus with the arrival of the Dyes in Hernando, said county Commissioner Diane Rowden, who supported the business getting a lease. "They've also brought fuel sales, and the county gets a nickel from every gallon of gas sold," she said.'

The business is bringing more flights in and out of the airport, and those numbers help justify the airport's control tower, she said. And the Dyes are also working toward aviation-related education programs.

Bradley Dye noted that, since the county approved the company's lease, he has been visited by community leaders from a variety of political philosophies. Those folks are needed to provide support for helping find Hernando and the airport their special niche.

"We've wanted to make this a destination, and we need the help of our civic leaders to do that,'' Dye said. "That is the way we're all going to grow here.''

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Category One Re-assessment: Federal Aviation Administration May Slam Nigeria over Poor Training

 There are indications that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may sanction Nigeria for the failure of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to meet the recommended number of training program for its inspectors. The NCAA is the regulatory institution for the aviation sector.

This was the finding of the FAA team currently carrying out the mandatory re-assessment of Nigeria’s aviation sector for the retention of the Category One safety status given to Nigeria in 2010.

THISDAY gathered on Wednesday night that the Supervising Minister of Aviation, Dr Samuel Ortom has signed approval for the immediate commencement of the training, which fund would also be made available.

The inspectors are the critical part of the Flight Safety Group that determine the airworthiness of the aircraft but THISDAY gathered that politics and desperate jostling for training by officers in other departments side-lined the inspectors and for more than three years they have not gone on training.

A source disclosed to THISDAY that beside the shortcoming on training there was no major deficiency with the process and documentations of NCAA.

“So far, there is nothing major that the team has found except the deficiency in training and there is effort to address that. We have been closing all the other findings. Sometimes our documents are not in line with their own system, so we just rectify them,” a source told THISDAY.

US gave Nigeria its Category One safety status after the country had passed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit, known as ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP).

The audit of NCAA would be predicated on eight critical elements which include primary aviation legislation, which is the Civil Aviation Act; specific operating regulation; civil aviation system and setting oversight function, and technical personnel function and training.

Others are technical guidance material, tools and provision of sensitive critical information; licensing, certification, authorization and approval obligation; surveillance obligation which is monitoring compliance and resolution of safety concerns.

The certification elevated the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations and cast the country as a nation that is serious with air transport.

The benefits of the FAA Category One Safety Status is that the Nigerian aviation sector  is rated highly in the world aviation industry; Nigerian airlines have easy access to credit facility from international financiers and insurance premium for Nigerian registered aircraft is relatively low.

It has also improved the volume of traffic into the country, which has been increasing annually in the aftermath of the award of the certification by FAA with the influx of scheduled commercial airlines operating into the regional hub for West Africa and there has been business and cultural exchange in the region and it enabled Nigerian registered aircraft to fly directly to the United States of America.

It is also expected that next year more international airlines would start operation into the country and some may have indicated interest to establish domestic carriers in Nigeria.


Drone aircraft crashes in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania: RQ-7 Shadow worth $125,000 destroyed

LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. —A drone aircraft crashed onto Fisher Avenue in Jonestown, Lebanon County on Thursday afternoon.

A spokesperson at Fort Indiantown Gap confirmed that the aircraft took off from their headquarters. According to a press release from the base, the drone was performing training operations when it experienced an uncontrolled landing and was run-over by a civilian vehicle near the Comfort Inn.

The vehicle reported minor damages and the drone, an RQ-7 Shadow worth $125,000, was destroyed. It is operated by the Combat Aviation Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, a heavy aviation unit of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. It is used for real-time observation and is one of the smaller drone aircraft that the 28th Infantry operates.

The RQ-7 Shadow weighs approximately 375 pounds and is approximately 11 feet long and has a wingspan of 14 feet.

In the press release, the base says it presently conducts training operations with the RQ-7 Shadow and RQ-11 Raven unmanned aerial vehicles out of Fort Indiantown Gap over the installation’s approved airspace.

The cause of the accident is under investigation by base officials.

The scene was being cleared shortly before 5 p.m. 

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Delta Seeks Offers from Boeing and Airbus for New Jets: Delta Air Lines Is Considering Buying Up to 50 Widebody Jetliners

The Wall Street Journal
By  Jon Ostrower

April 3, 2014 4:44 p.m. ET

Delta Air Lines Inc. said it is considering buying up to 50 widebody jetliners to replace its aging long-haul aircraft.

The airline said on Thursday that it has requested sales offers from Boeing Co. and Airbus Group NV for the jets. The two plane makers have benefited from a wave of replacement demand from U.S. carriers who have moved to renew their fleets with more fuel-efficient models.

The Boeing and Airbus aircraft that Delta is evaluating seat between 250 and 380 passengers and are aimed at replacing its aging fleet of Boeing 767-300ER and jumbo 747-400 jetliners, which make up a significant portion of its long-haul fleet. A Delta spokesman said it expects to decide on a potential order in the second half of 2014.

Delta, the third biggest U.S. airline by traffic, is evaluating the Airbus A350-900, A350-1000, A330-200 and A330-300, as well as the current-generation Boeing 777-300ER and all models of the 787 Dreamliner.

Delta currently has 18 of the 787s on order with Boeing, which Northwest Airlines ordered prior to the carriers' 2008 merger. Northwest had been set as the Dreamliner's U.S. launch customer, but as delays piled up during the jet's development from 2008 to 2011, the airline deferred delivery until 2020.

The airline industry's painful experience with the introduction of new jetliners with advanced technology has dissuaded Delta from considering aircraft currently on the drawing board. The airline is "only interested in proven technology aircraft," said a spokesman, ruling out Boeing's recently-launched 777X, which is due in 2020.

Airbus, too, is evaluating installing a new generation of fuel-efficient engines on the long-range A330, which seat between 250 and 300 passengers, but the Delta spokesman said it is only considering "what is out there currently," not models yet to be launched.

Delta in recent years has done aggressive deals with all the major aircraft manufacturers to secure lower-cost deals on current generation jets. Those aircraft are facing lower demand and nearing the end of their production run as newer more-efficient models with advanced technology are becoming available. Delta also differs from some of its rivals by buying used aircraft, including a large fleet of MD-90s and Boeing 717s.

Delta in 2011 bought 100 current-generation single-aisle 737-900ER jets and last year purchased 10 of the A330s and 30 of the single-aisle A321 jetliners.


Boeing Commercial Deliveries Rise: 787 Dreamliner Continues to Boost Total Results

The Wall Street Journal
By  Anna Prior

Updated April 3, 2014 12:27 p.m. ET

Boeing Co.'s first-quarter deliveries of commercial aircraft rose 18% from a year earlier as the plane maker's 787 Dreamliner continued to boost total results.

The company resumed deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner last May following a four-month hiatus. The Dreamliner had been grounded earlier last year because of problems with its lithium-ion batteries.

Boeing on Thursday reported 161 commercial deliveries for the latest quarter, compared with 137 deliveries a year earlier and 172 in the fourth quarter.

The first quarter included deliveries of 115 of Boeing's 737 next-generation planes, up from 102 a year earlier and 110 during the previous quarter.

Boeing delivered 18 of its Dreamliners in the latest period, up from just one a year earlier and down from 25 during the fourth quarter.

The company also said Thursday that it had booked orders for 86 new 737 planes, lifting net jet sales for the year, through March 31, to 235. All but six of the company's net jet orders are for 737s.

Boeing said 61 of the new orders came from Air Canada, while not identifying the other 25 in its weekly update of finalized deals. 


Gary Jet Center wins round in lawsuit

The Gary Jet Center's lawsuit against the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority took a step forward on Wednesday when a federal judge rejected all motions to dismiss the case and ordered it expedited.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen in his order dismissed various legal arguments brought forth by the airport authority and intervenor East Lake Management and Development Corp. Van Bokkelen also granted all sides the right to depose witnesses in the case.

That would appear to open the door to the Gary Jet Center's lawyers deposing witnesses such as former Indianapolis Airport CEO John Clark or perhaps even East Lake Management and Development CEO Elzie Higginbottom.

The Gary Jet Center's lawyer, John LaDue, said Thursday no decisions had been made on who to depose. He said the Gary Jet Center would still prefer the new airport authority, appointed in September, would grant the relief it seeks.

"The Gary Jet Center is not worried about competing with other fixed-base operators as long as it's a level playing field," LaDue said.

Higgenbottom's East Lake Management and Development Corp. intervened in the case because many of the Jet Center's allegations are aimed at its subsidiary B. Coleman Aviation, an aircraft maintenance and charter company that set up shop at the airport last summer.

Such operations are known in the industry as "fixed-base operators" and much of the lawsuit revolves around whether or not the airport authority has held B. Coleman Aviation to its standards for such operators.

The Gary Jet Center has been a fixed-base operator at the airport for 23 years and maintains it is required to adhere to all the airport authority's standards.

The airport authority in its filings claims B. Coleman is held to the airport's standards and has not been granted special privileges.

"We appreciate the business of both the Gary Jet Center and East Lake through B. Coleman," said airport authority lawyer Lee Lane. "And we want both of them to continue to operate on our property."

The Jet Center in its original complaint alleges the airport authority and John Clark schemed to grant unusual privileges to B. Coleman Aviation during last year's negotiations over its lease. Clark was working as consultant to the airport and led those negotiations.

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

LaDue said the lawsuit was only brought after attempts at negotiating a settlement with the airport authority fizzled.

"The beef here is with the airport authority," LaDue said. "East Lake is only doing what the authority permitted it to do."

East Lake Management and Development contends in its filings that it is the Gary Jet Center that has endeavored to gain an unfair competitive advantage. The filings allege the Gary Jet Center did so by first refusing B. Coleman Aviation access to the airport's jet fuel tanks and then filing its lawsuit.

The general manager of B. Coleman Aviation, Ben Toles, has submitted a sworn declaration to the court that B. Coleman Aviation collects all fees required by the airport authority. It does not collect fuel flowage fees on jet fuel because it cannot use the airport's jet fuel tanks. Instead, it does truck-to-truck-to-aircraft refueling, Toles states.


Firefighters train with a new ‘prop’

Fort Hood firefighters had their first opportunity to test out the department’s newest training tool March 27 as they practiced putting out a live fire on a helicopter prop.

The Falcon X, a mobile prop helicopter trainer that replicates a mid-body, four-blade helicopter, is designed to light on fire in a controlled, safe manner.

“The modular pilot and burner systems can be used to create cockpit and cabin fire scenarios while integrated burners create engine fires that challenge firefighters with high heat and intense flames,” said Chief Sergio Campos, assistant chief of Fort Hood Fire and Emergency Services.

In addition to being mobile, needing only a 100-foot clearance zone, it is also safe and relatively environmentally friendly.

“The fire simulator allows the operator to safely control the training scenarios at the push of a button, while clean-burning propane fuel eliminates or minimizes environmental concerns,” Campos said.

“In today’s world, with the environmental concerns, we can’t simply just go out and burn houses anymore,” he said, referring to houses that had been donated for training. “It’s almost impossible to get something like that approved.”

However, having a live-fire training for the firefighters remains important, Campos said, and that’s what this Falcon X provides.

“With LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) being a clean fuel, it allows us to actually get real fire training,” he said. “You get the fire; you get the heat. Otherwise it would always be pretend.”

Because the Falcon X creates a live fire, certain safety measures are constructed within the prop.

“Anytime the fire stops, when the flame goes out, in order to not dispense any more raw fuel, it’ll shut itself off,” Campos said. “Otherwise, it could continue for a while and find an ignition source and become potentially hazardous.”

The new tool, costing roughly $90,000, will serve as supplemental aircraft rescue firefighting, or ARFF, training to what the department does annually at Texas A&M Engineering Extensive Service, also known as TEEX, in College Station.

“Due to the large-frame aircraft that come to West Fort Hood, to our Killeen joint-use airport, we’re required to have annual live-fire training on aircraft rescue firefighting,” Campos said. “And in order to fulfill the large-frame aircraft, we still have to go over to TEEX.”

The Falcon X, something the Fort Hood Fire Department had been eyeing for several years, Campos said, brings a TEEX-type tool back to Fort Hood.

“This allows us to actually do additional ARFF training,” he said. “And not only that, but it’s portable, so we can send it to Fire Station 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. It’s an enhancement to our ARFF capabilities. We can’t afford to go but once a year to Texas A&M, So this is giving us the ability to have live-fire training more often.”

In addition, the training also created a scenario for the firefighters to practice handline techniques and nozzle configurations while operating in pairs.

“We always operate in a buddy system, same as in the military,” Campos said. “For safety reasons, we always operate in two, anytime we’re doing anything physical.”

Campos said the department plans to use the Falcon X about once a quarter to every six months to keep the firefighters fresh.

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Fort Hood firefighter Terry Blackburn has a grip on the handline nozzle as the crew prepares to put out the fire on the Falcon X, a helicopter prop trainer.

Loaded handgun was American pilot's personal weapon, authorities say

Authorities confirmed the loaded handgun that an American pilot is accused of attempting to bring through Calgary airport security was a personal weapon.

In addition, he was not part of a federal program that allows certain trained flight crew members to be armed on flights.

The pilot with SkyWest Airlines was arrested after screening officers at the U.S. security checkpoint discovered what appeared to be a loaded firearm in a bag that was passing through an X-ray machine at around 7:30 a.m. on Friday, and immediately notified Calgary police.

The firearm was confirmed to be a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380-calibre handgun, according to court documents.

Marissa Snow, spokeswoman with SkyWest Airlines, said the firearm was a personal weapon.

“SkyWest’s top priority is the safety and security of our passengers and employees. This includes following all federal regulations and SkyWest policies that prohibit transport of personal firearms on board aircraft,” Snow said in an e-mailed statement.

Snow said the man was one of the crew members on a flight departing from Calgary on Friday, but could not specify which carrier he was flying with and where he was heading.

The airline lists a number of network carriers it partners with, including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, US Airways, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

“We are investigating his trip history right now,” Snow said in a phone interview.

She added he’s on administrative leave while investigations are underway internally and by authorities.

According to a U.S. official who did not want to be named, the accused pilot was not part of the federal flight deck officer program, which allows certain trained flight crew members to be armed.

The Transportation Security Administration, an agency which oversees travel security in the U.S. and was created following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, allows eligible flight crew members to use firearms “to defend against an act of criminal violence or air piracy attempting to gain control of an aircraft.”

The TSA says these federal flight deck officers may be pilots, flight engineers, or navigators assigned to the flight, and are trained by the Federal Air Marshal Service.

The official also confirmed that the weapon seized by authorities on Friday would not be one used in this program. The federal flight deck officer program primarily operates on U.S. domestic flights, the official added.

Utah resident Joshua Petty White, 38, has been charged under the Firearms Act with unlawful storage, handling and transport of a firearm, as well as unauthorized possession of a weapon and possession of a prohibited weapon.

White was also charged under the Customs Act with failing to declare a prohibited firearm to the Canada Border Services Agency upon his entry into Canada on Thursday.

Upon learning that he was allegedly trying to clear security with a loaded firearm, officers with CBSA criminal investigations subsequently charged White with smuggling under the Customs Act and importation of a prohibited firearm under the criminal code.

White was released on a $4,000 bond. He is expected to appear in court on April 29th.

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Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN) finds success in niche market, fastest growing domestic operation in U.S.

EWING — Passenger traffic at Trenton-Mercer Airport grew at a faster rate than at any other domestic air operation in the U.S. last year, according to a report by an airline consulting group.

There were 4,180 passengers in 2012, a 100 percent increase over 2011 when there was no passenger service at the airport, according to a study by Oregon-based Sixel Consulting Group.

Frontier arrived in November 2012, and in 2013, passenger activity increased by 2,715 percent to 117,680.

The company used data from the federal Department of Transportation, which releases a 10 percent sample of all domestic commercial airline tickets sold. The sample is then used to calculate and project the actual number of passengers, president Mark Sixel said.

“Those numbers are based on percentage growth,” he said of Trenton-Mercer’s top rank.

If the estimated passenger numbers were compared with the real figures, passenger traffic would appear to be lower.

Nevertheless, Frontier has found a new market and has been very successful in selling tickets, he said. “It’s a traffic base that has been tapped now and grew quite substantially in the first year.”

Newark-Liberty, up 0.6 percent in domestic passenger traffic, ranked 134 on the list and Philadelphia International, up 0.1 percent, ranked 146.

Across the airline industry, carriers are offering fewer seats, but Sixel said the report shows there are still pockets of growth. Niche carriers like Frontier, he said, see opportunities at smaller and mid-size airports like Trenton.

“There’s a huge base of population between these markets (Philadelphia and Newark),” he said. “They can either compete with everybody at Philadelphia and Newark or put service at Trenton and attract people who don’t want to fight crowds.”

It takes the right carrier to succeed, though, Sixel said.

Frontier attracts customers who will fly out of an alternative airport for a lower price and who are willing to travel on the days and times it operates, he said.

“There’s enough people around Trenton to make it work,” he said.

The nation’s three major airlines — American, Delta and United — aren’t as interested in going after those passengers, he said.

“American is not going to undercut prices to try to run Frontier out of business,” Sixel said. “It’s going to continue to operate out of Philadelphia and Newark the same way it has, which creates opportunities for differentiated products at Trenton to be successful.”

In his analysis, Sixel found that nearly half of the 300 airports that posted year-over-year growth were mostly smaller and mid-size airports that attracted low-cost carriers like Spirit Air, Allegiant Air and Frontier.

Many of the airports near or at the bottom of the list were dominated by Southwest Airlines, which he said has been reallocating aircraft to new markets.

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Westchester County Airport (KHPN) deal saves neighboring schools from tax threat

You know the deal struck by a company servicing corporate jets and Westchester County Airport is unusual — and complicated — when it brings relief to 1,500 students in the Blind Brook-Rye schools.

Signature Flight Support agreed to extend its lease at the county-owned airport another 10 years at high rates in return for the opportunity to take over at least one neighboring business that provides similar services.

The company also agreed to stop fighting its tax bills with a lawsuit that could have forced the county, Rye town, Rye Brook and the Blind Brook-Rye schools to repay $4.5 million.

“I think this is a win for everybody,” said county Legislator MaryJane Shimsky, chairwoman of the infrastructure committee. “Obviously it’s a win for the airport.”

Shimsky stressed that the legislators had to make their decision based on what was best for the airport, not the tax case.

Signature Flight Support is one of several “fixed-base operators” at the airport offering hangar space, lounges, de-icing service and fuel for private jets. The company argues that its services, like those of its tax-exempt fellow operators Panorama, Jet Systems and Million Air, amount to a “public use” on government land, exempting it from municipal taxes.

Such an exemption could have forced the Blind Brook-Rye schools to refund as much as $3 million in property taxes the company paid over five years, said Mark Tulis, an attorney for Rye town and the county in the negotiations.

That sum equals more than 7 percent of the district’s entire $41.3 million budget for the current school year. What’s more, the district would have lost a major taxpayer: The company pays about $600,000 a year in school taxes.

Schools Superintendent William Stark said the exact payment, if any, would not have been known until the court case was resolved. But he said the district was happy with the outcome.

“School taxes are a significant portion of people’s property-tax responsibilities and therefore we are obviously impacted disproportionately,” he said.

He spoke in favor of the deal at the legislature’s March 24 meeting, when the board approved the agreement 13-4. Board of Education President Nancy Barr and PTA Co-President Debbie Handler also encouraged the legislators to approve it.

Rye Brook, a village of about 9,500 residents, could have been hit hard, too. It could have been forced to repay about $880,000, about 6 percent of its current $14.3 million budget.

“I think it turned out well for all parties involved,” said Mayor Paul Rosenberg.

Westchester County’s share could have been more than $410,000; Rye town’s, more than $10,000.

While Signature’s rent will be reduced by $200,000 to $1.9 million, it will end up paying more over the next decade because it would increase 5 percent annually rather than 3 percent. Also, the company agreed to extend its lease 10 years past its previous 2016 expiration, rather than renegotiating at potentially lower rates.

Over the life of the lease, Signature will pay about $30 million, perhaps almost $4 million more than if the previous deal had run its course and been renegotiated at market rates in 2016, Tulis estimated.

The money goes to the airport fund, which sustains itself without taxpayer funds.

Signature Vice President of Operations Planning Larry Jorash said the rent is higher than similar neighboring businesses and other airports in the region.

“A lot of time, effort and resources were exhausted to reach this legislation,” Jorash said at the hearing. Signature officials did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

The agreement gave Signature the county’s permission to absorb two other businesses — Jet Systems and Million Air — but appears likely to only take over Jet Systems.

Combined with Landmark Aviation’s recent takeover of Panorama Flight Services, the deal will leave three fixed-base operators at the airport instead of five.

John Johnston, president of the Westchester Aviation Association, said he did not feel pilots who use the airport would be greatly affected.

“I don’t believe that there’s going to be a large impact on general aviation,” he said.


Skydiver dies during record group-jump try in Arizona

ELOY, Ariz. — An attempt to set a world skydiving record by having more than 220 people freefall from an airplane in formation turned tragic Thursday when one of the jumpers died during the daring effort.

Skydive Arizona blamed the accident on a malfunctioning parachute that was released too low to the ground to allow a reserve parachute to fully open. The skydiver was declared dead at the scene.

“It had nothing to do with the size of the group or the aircraft,” World Team spokeswoman Gulcin Gilbert said. “It was a malfunction of the parachute.”

The accident occurred during an attempt to break a world record for what is called a “formation jump.” The skydiver’s name was not released by World Team or Skydive Arizona.

The group of 222 people from 28 countries was to free-fall from about 18,000 feet, come together in a formation before separating and doing another formation, then pull their parachutes.

The skydivers jumped at such a high elevation that they needed oxygen masks in the airplane, and they hurtled through the air at speeds of more than 100 mph. They need 10 airplanes to hold all the skydivers, who have about 70 seconds to complete the freefall before they have to deploy their parachutes.

The group did not complete the formation during the ill-fated jump and therefore did not set the record Thursday.

But the parachutists quickly returned to the air and completed a special jump to honor their friend — and planned to continue their pursuit of the record. They planned to keep a spot open in the formation to honor the victim.

“Our dear friend cannot and will not be replaced,” said Gulcin, whose organization organized the record attempt. “The group will continue to hold the slot open in the skydiver’s honor.”

Skydivers cried and hugged each other and prayed after they learned of the death. But they also had no interest in quitting because of the tragedy.

“You can die crossing the street,” said skydiver Debbie Franzese of New York. “It’s sad, but also it happens. You know, it just happens.”

Skydive Arizona, between Phoenix and Tucson, has become one of the nation’s top skydiving spots since it opened in the 1980s. The location is ideal because Arizona’s climate and terrain provides clear, sunny skies most days of the year and vast uninhabited stretches of desert that are perfect for jumping opportunities.

Skydive Arizona bills itself as having the largest aircraft fleet in the world for skydivers with 12 planes, as well as the world’s largest drop zone.

Skydive Arizona has been the site of other skydiving deaths in recent months.

Two skydivers — from Germany and the United Kingdom — died in November as their parachutes collapsed and they fell to their deaths during an attempt to set a jump record.