Thursday, May 01, 2014

Price County Airport (KPBH), Phillips, Wisconsin

Airport Improvement Project: weighing individual rights versus larger public impact

Tree-cutting work, one aspect of the Airport Improvement Project that drew protests from some community members as updates approached, is now winding down in newly negotiated easements around the Price County Airport.

Affected landowner

For Trudy Schragal, who’s lived in the Elk Lake neighborhood since 2005, tree-cutting meant a loss of a much enjoyed wooded view and the morning walks through the woods that had become a routine for her and a group of neighbors.  

“Now, I can stand on my back deck and look all the way to Airport Road, which I never did before,” Schragal said. 

Schragal noted that she was fortunate in that she didn’t lose any trees out front like some of her other neighbors, though she still lost that section of woods she so enjoyed strolling through.

“I think it’s just horrible to look out there and see all those piles of perfectly fine pine trees, and you know, now instead of beautiful scenery, we’re going to have vacant land,” Schragal said.

Schragal points back to the devastation of trees seen when the big downburst moved through Phillips in 1977. “It’s sort of easier to understand nature… but when it’s manmade and they bring these huge machines of destruction in to cut trees off at their bottoms, it’s completely different.”

The family of her partner, currently a resident at Aspirus’ Regency House, had inhabited the land around Schragal’s current home for 50 years, building a small retirement cabin on the site. In time, Schragal and her partner also decided to retire on the land and constructed a home of their own there.

Moving to the Northwoods from Chicago, Schragal said that she was “thrilled to come up here and enjoy small town life and not have the hustle and bustle of everything that goes on there.”

Schragal added that in her time in the Northwoods, she’s tried very hard to become a real part of the community, joining the Countryside Artists, the Northwoods Players theater group and working with Regency.

“I mean, I consider this my home. I don’t want to have to leave,” Schragal said. “It’s still beautiful, but my problem is… one of the things about the Northwoods that’s so beautiful is that you can have nature all around you, and every time they take away trees like that, you lose a habitat.”

She expressed concerns about the environmental impacts of the work, mentioning that she hadn’t seen as many birds or the fox that had frequented the neighborhood since tree-cutting work began.

“…With every newscast, you hear about global warming or the change in the weather pattern, and I think this winter, we’ve experienced that firsthand.”

Schragal also wonders how the neighborhood’s changed look will affect travelers’ plans to stay in the area. Her house serves as something as an informal resort for out of town relatives, Schragal noted, adding that family members give business to restaurants and other local establishments when in the area.

“They always say, they never sleep as well as when they stay up here,” Schragal said.

Close to an acre of Schragal’s land has been impacted by tree cutting and trimming work. In total, 17 privately owned parcels ranging from 0.59 of an acre to 37.43 acres were touched by airport updates in some form or another. All but five of those property owners saw less than two acres impacted by the overhaul. Compensation for easements ranged from a low of $3,500 to a $90,000 settlement, with the median compensation rate coming to $27,800, according to figures in an airport financial statement prepared on April 2. 

Compensation for easements are included in AIP funds, according to Price County Airport Manager Brian Ernst.

The estimated cost for easement and simple land purchases came in at about $489,200 as of April 2. Other acquisition costs brought total land-related expenditures to around $1.1 million, according to figures in the financial report.

The total estimated cost of all project aspects, including construction and engineering work, came to about $4.1 million in April 2 financial updates.

Based on funding guidelines for the federally managed Airport Improvement Program, 90-percent of the costs for approved projects are covered at the federal level with the county and state sharing evenly in the remaining 10-percent of expenses. 

That means, given current estimates, the county’s share of project costs comes to about $196,621.

Schragal said that she’s learned a number of lessons as a result of protesting the project, adding that she was always interested in politics but never politically active in the past. This process caused her to really start writing letters to the editor along with letters to the governor, senators, and the FAA, as Schragal explained.

“I really got involved, questioning what the sound reasoning was about needing this expansion when we know that we don’t have an airport that’s that busy,” Schragal said.

From where she stands, Schragal counts maybe one corporate jet flying in a week, the rest being mainly pleasure fliers, she stated.

These types of recreational flights might increase, depending on the weather, Schragal said, “but I don’t think corporate-wise it’s increasing.”

Schragal noted that she’s not against the airport and is happy it’s here, having lived with it for 50 years; she just doesn’t think the airport expansion was necessary.

“…Now I think we’re seeing the absolute consequences of people thinking, ‘if we don’t take this money, somebody else will,’ and in the meantime, we’ve changed the landscape for many, many years to come,” Schragal said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to see a woods again in my lifetime. I was hoping to leave this [land] as a legacy to the younger generation, and hopefully they’ll be able to see it.”

From Schragal’s perspective, the one good thing coming out of the airport project was its power to bring neighbors together for visits and help them get to know each other better.

“...It made us all realize we were not alone in this. We had people that were willing to work together, and we tried as best as we could to plead our case,” Schragal said. “But I just would say to people, don’t ever think that you’re going to beat the government because they have a big stick. You can only fight it so long, and then they’ll come and just condemn your property, so you’re going to lose either way, which is unfortunate.”

Industry impact

While he’s not able to provide exact figures on airport usage, Price County Airport Manager Brian Ernst emphasized that airport facilities serve as a vital link between the county and those high-profile executives who do business in the area.

In fact, Mike Henningfeld, director of operations and development for Four Seasons Community Development, said that “if it wasn’t for the airport, Barry-Wehmiller [parent company of MarquipWardUnited and Four Seasons] wouldn’t be here.”

Back in 2002 when that business known simply as Marquip pre-merger filed for bankruptcy, Price County Airport’s close proximity to the manufacturer of corrugated and sheeting machinery really served as the main selling point for getting Barry-Wehmiller in Phillips, as Henningfeld explained.

He said that initially Barry-Wehmiller CEO and Chairman of the Board Bob Chapman was unsure of just where the little town of Phillips was or how to get to it. Finding out there was an airport right next-door, he thought he’d check it out, as Henningfeld explained.

“And the rest is history,” Henningfeld said.

Four Seasons, a hospitality and general contracting business, own all Price County locations of Barry-Wehmiller outside of MarquipWardUnited facilities. Among other buildings, Four Seasons holds two hangars at the Price County Airport, the second of which was built recently to accommodate upgraded aircraft that no longer fit in the original hangar, according to Henningfeld.

Once aircrafts have access to the parallel taxiway and extended runway currently under construction, the flight ceiling will be lowered, meaning Barry-Wehmiller should be able to bring more flights in when weather conditions are marginal, as Henningfeld explained. Currently, planes are redirected to Rhinelander, Wausau or another area airport in such weather conditions.

The longer runway will also make larger fuel purchases possible, Henningfeld said. “We love to buy fuel in Phillips, and the longer the runway, the more weight you can take off with.”

Ernst noted that the main factor prompting runway 1/19’s extension came down to safety, given the potentially dangerous intersection with runway 6/24. However, he acknowledged that the update does carry the possibility of an economic bonus in the form of allowing larger fuel purchases. A number of factors, such as passenger and luggage weight, conditions on the runway, and air temperature, influence the amount of fuel jets are able to take off with, as Ernst explained.

If ideal conditions fell into place, he estimated that with the longer runway a jet could carry an additional 200-gallons worth of fuel, amounting to about $962 when figuring in today’s fuel cost of $4.63 per gallon, according to Ernst.

The company’s use of airport facilities varies depending on what’s going on in its calendar. At times, there may be multiple jets coming in over the course of the same day, or a few weeks can pass without a single jet visiting, according to Henningfeld.

But access to the airport is crucial when the time for a meeting does arrive, as Henningfeld explained. If company reps and customers flew commercial, it would take them about a day to get to Phillips, a day to go through the meeting, and then a day to make the trip home, he said. With private aircraft, they are able to fly in, hold a meeting and return home all in the same day, meaning airport access saves those involved about two days in travel time each gathering, according to Henningfeld.

Barry-Wehmiller is currently at the helm of 50 companies falling in all different points across the U.S. and even overseas. With such widespread bases of operation, air transportation is the only really reasonable way for the corporation to meet its needs, as Ernst explained.

Henningfeld said that the presence of Barry-Wehmiller-owned businesses impacts local communities in a big way. 

In the Department of Workforce Development’s most recent Workforce Profile completed in 2011, the Phillips location of MarquipWardUnited is listed as one of the top-two employers in Price County, boasting between 250 and 499 employees at the time that snapshot of local industries was taken.  

Four Seasons has 10 full-time employees and hires other temporary workers on an as-needed basis, according to Henningfeld.

Henningfeld noted that in addition to meeting the accommodation and travel needs of those traveling to Phillips from outside of the area, Four Seasons opens up its facilities for use by other groups in the community. For example, members of the Phillips School Board have led their annual meeting from a conference room at the Barry-Wehmiller University Learning Center on Phillips’ Long Lake.

Ernst said that additional corporately-owned businesses, including Family Dollar, Subway, Krist Oil, CDW, & Jeld-Wen, are also served by the airport. In addition, facilities see firefighting aircraft stop by at times to meet their fueling needs. Then, there are those private individuals who regularly land at the airport to stay at vacation properties, drop off or pick up new passengers, or visit local businesses, as detailed by Ernst. A fulltime airplane mechanic is also on the field, drawing in a fair level of traffic from aircraft in need of inspections or repairs, according to Ernst.

“In this case, I would tend to look at it as the good of the whole versus the individual,” Ernst said, noting that the affected landowner is “correct in that the government has the right through the eminent domain process to take what it deems necessary from the individual for the overall benefit of the county when the individual is unwilling to come to an agreement.”

As Ernst explained, it would then still be up to the county to prove its case via the judicial system and process of eminent domain. 

Ernst added that he holds the position that the county needs the airport, with its facilities serving as “a vital link to a healthy economy. Ernst stated, “In order to maintain this link at an acceptable level to be attractive to current and future job-producing businesses, we had to acquire these avigation easements to make sure Airport operations are conducted in a safe manner according to FAA standards.”

Outline of project work

As of April 15, Karl Kemper, resident project representative of Becher-Hoppe Associates, Inc., reported that probably a week’s worth of approach clearing remained on the project site’s south end, and one property on the north side still had to be “brought into compliance.”

In an interview this March, Kemper explained the process determining whether a tree needs to be taken or trimmed.

 “Off the ends of the runways, there are approaches that come up, so what we’re doing is clearing anything that is poking up into that approach surface,” Kemper said. “…That’s just for the safety of the airplanes.”

Ernst noted that trees coming within five feet of the approach surface, forming something of an inclined plain over the airport and surrounding lands, are also being trimmed.

That gives the trees some time to grow before they’re penetrating the approach surface, Kemper said, explaining that maintenance work on the approaches then needs to be repeated every five-ten years, depending on how fast the trees grow.

The location of the property in relation to the runway largely determines how tall the trees there can grow, with the approach space falling lower the closer a property gets to the airport, as Kemper explained.

“Wherever possible, the trees are being pruned instead of removed,” Kemper said.

Trees located on airport property are being clear-cut to avoid dealing with maintenance down the road, as Ernst explained.

Once tree cutting and trimming work is done, the focus of crews on the project will shift to any restoration tasks that remain, Kemper explained, noting that this area of work involves stump grinding, raking and planting grass in people’s yards. 

So as not to interfere with bird nesting season, tree work above the ground needs to wrap up by May 1.

Ground wood products from the easement sites are being sent for use at the local hardwoods plant. Harvested pulpwood cut to chord length is either going to landowners who requested the wood or will be piled up for sale by the airport to get some revenue from it, Ernst said.

All personnel on-site for tree-trimming and cutting are certified arborists, Kemper emphasized.

Each member of the crew is required to have five years worth of experience, Ernst added, noting that the landowners met with arborists as the process was moving forward. The arborists looked over individual properties with the permission of landowners, after which a whole plan was put into place for each property incorporating the recommendations of the arborists along with wishes of the landowners, as Ernst explained.

“Sometimes, they don’t mesh exactly,” Ernst said.

The reports, prepared ahead of easement negotiations, broke down not only the arborist’s recommendations to bring the property into compliance given its proximity to the approach space but also future maintenance observations, a breakdown of merchantable timber on the land and recommendations for trees that could safely be replanted without interfering with approaches, along with other info, Ernst said.

The task of replanting is generally up to the individual landowners, though in at least one case, the agreement calls for planting some screening trees to block a property’s view of the airport.

As part of her easement agreement, Schragal and three neighbors are going to collaborate on a plan to try and reforest some of the land “so that we can at least, you know, have the woodsy feel,” she said.

One remaining component of the Airport Improvement Project beyond tree-cleaning work involves relocating the driveway that provides some property owners with access to their land. Residents in a section of the Elk Lake neighborhood currently reach their homes via a road that cuts across airport property. Once updates are complete, their access point will be Elk Lake Drive, with new sections of driveway added along property lines to get residents home. Trees growing along the current driveway will be replanted by a property owner in the area, as Ernst explained.

A fair amount of electrical work, including signing and lighting modification and relocation of navigational aids, also remained as of the last project update. Remaining paving work on the runway and adjoining features is set to resume once the ground dries out and weather conditions are right.

Story and photo:

Trees are trimmed and removed from properties falling in newly acquired easements around the Price County Airport as part of larger updates to airport features. Karl Kemper, resident project representative of Becher-Hoppe Associates, Inc., noted around the time this photo was taken that things might look a little rough on some properties as cleanup and restoration work had yet to take place.

Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino benefits local economy


With tens of thousands of aviation enthusiasts in town for the Planes of Fame Airshow this weekend, the event benefits the local economy.

The annual event at Chino Airport draws anywhere from 24,000 to 28,000 spectators -- many from out of town. This weekend’s air show will feature more than 50 historic aircraft, aerobatic teams, and a modern F-22 Raptor from the U.S. Air Force.

Local shops, restaurants and hotels are expected to benefit. The event also brings both national and international attention to the region.

“The benefit of the airshow is that we raise public awareness of the airport, and aviation as an industry,” said Felisa Cardona, spokeswoman for San Bernardino County, which operates the airport. “The event draws an international audience typically 10 days prior to the event and several days after.”

At least three nearby hotels are sold out, said Harry Geier, marketing director for the Planes of Fame Air Museum.

Among hotels booked for the weekend is Ayres Hotel in Chino Hills. The hotel, at 4785 Chino Hills Parkway, is 5 miles away from the event. Robert Kirst, director of sales for the hotel, said about 80 to 90 percent of his guests this weekend are here for the air show.

About 45 of the hotel rooms are occupied by people and pilots affiliated with the 475th Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps of WWII.

“You get a lot of exposure,” Kirst said of the how the event helps the hotel. “Most of these people are from out of the area, so what brings them to the show, brings them to our hotel. It helps us with exposure and it helps us financially. Anytime you can sell out, it’s a good day,”

Flo’s Airport Cafe, located at the airport, 7000 Merrill Avenue, has also seen a bump in business in the past week from people here for the airshow.

Pam Visser, manager of the restaurant, said things get quiet during the event however, because regulars don’t want to mess with traffic and parking associated with the crowds, and air show patrons are usually eating at the event.

“Generally, we are busier leading up the week prior because there are people here that would either be vendors or part of the show itself,” Visser said. “We do get extra people. We were busy today with people like that.”

The airport is at 7000 Merrill Avenue. The show takes place on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $25 and children 11 years of age and under are free. Parking is free, with preferred parking at $15.

For more information, visit


What: Planes of Fame Airshow

Where: Chino Airport, 7000 Merrill Avenue

When: Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much: General admission is $25. Children 11 and under are free.

Parking: Free, preferred parking is $15



Parents sue for daughter’s death in hang-gliding accident

The parents of a woman killed in a hang-gliding accident in B.C.’s Fraser Valley have filed a lawsuit alleging that gross negligence led to the woman’s 300-metre plummet to her death.

Lenami Godinez Avila, 28, died in April, 2012, during a tandem flight that had been arranged by her boyfriend as an anniversary gift to her.

The lawsuit seeks damages from pilot Jon Orders, his partner and several groups associated with the sport.

Mr. Orders, 51, was convicted of criminal negligence causing death by a B.C. court and was sentenced to five months in jail in February.

The judge said the pilot should not have missed several fundamental steps during a prelaunch safety check.

The court determined she fell because her harness wasn’t hooked to the glider. Video footage presented in court showed the woman clinging desperately onto Mr. Orders and the hang-glider as he attempts to clip her in, but she slipped off and fell.

Mr. Orders had also been charged with obstruction of justice after he admitted to swallowing the video camera’s memory card, but that charge was later dropped.

Also named in the lawsuit are the pilot’s partner, Shaun Wallace, the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada, British Columbia Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, the West Coast Soaring Club and others.

“The defendant, Orders, launched the hang-glider when he and/or the defendant, Wallace, knew or ought to have known Lenami Godinez was not secured safely to the hang glider and/or at all,” the lawsuit alleges.

The action, filed by the woman’s father, Miguel Godinez Villegas, and her mother, Herlinda Avila Ramirez, claims that before their daughter’s death, she “experienced conscious pain, suffering, shock and terror.” After Mr. Orders was sentenced earlier this year, Mr. Godinez Villegas said the court didn’t go far enough and the sentence was light.

The civil lawsuit, which asks for general and aggravating damages, contains allegations that have not been proven in court.

The defendants haven’t filed statements of defence.

The lawsuit alleges Mr. Orders, Mr. Wallace and their company Vancouver Hang Gliding, failed to follow safety procedures or conduct a prelaunch inspection, including a “hang check.” It singles out the hang-gliding associations for negligence, alleging the organizations failed to ensure proper training and safety standards for commercial operators, failed to inform the public of basic safety requirements and failed to protect the public’s safety because they didn’t have an adequate system for preflight inspections.

“The defendants … knew or ought to have known of the reasonable possibility of causing severe physical harm to persons such as Lenami Godinez by their actions and/or inactions. This demonstrated a callous disregard for public safety,” the lawsuit claims.

During Mr. Orders’s trial, his lawyer told court that his client was distracted by many things before the launch, including an argument with his assistant earlier in the day.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brian Joyce said Mr. Orders was a well-trained and experienced pilot who was expected to work through distractions.

“Connecting Ms. Godinez Avila was a fundamental step in the procedure, not a minor step that should be overlooked because of these kinds of distractions,” Justice Joyce said.

After Ms. Godinez Avila’s death, Mr. Orders apologized to her family and friends. He said he was sorry again before he was sentenced.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in air almost every 3 days as chopper use surges

TRENTON, New Jersey — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R, is relying on the state-owned helicopter fleet more than ever, with 106 trips last year at a cost of $2,500 an hour.

Flight logs for Christie, 51, were released to Bloomberg as a result of a New Jersey Open Public Records Act request. Christie has stepped up his air time even as he imposes municipal budget constraints and insists that public workers must pay higher costs for pensions and benefits.

The flights last year compare with 23 in 2010, his first year in office; 66 in 2012; and 70 in 2011, records show.

Christie, who took office promising to "tear up the state's credit card," was criticized in 2011 after he arrived at his son's high school baseball game on a State Police helicopter, then re-boarded for a political meeting at the governor's mansion in Princeton. He and the Republican Party, some of whose fundraisers were courting Christie to run for president in 2012, reimbursed the state for the trips.

The chopper trips last year in the fifth-smallest and most densely populated U.S. state were for purposes including updates on Hurricane Sandy relief, town-hall meetings and other official duties on his public schedule, the records show.

On Aug. 25, the governor and his friend, the best-selling novelist Harlan Coben, were inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The governor flew to Williamsport Regional Airport aboard a $12.5 million State Police-owned AgustaWestland AW139. The flight log included eight unnamed passengers, and the aircraft was engaged for eight hours, with almost three hours of flight time.

The governor and his family — and not Coben — were aboard, Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said Thursday by e-mail. "The costs of the flight were reimbursed by the governor's re-election campaign," he said.

From the time Christie took office in January 2010 through February 2013, the most recent period Bloomberg examined prior to Thursday's records release, the flights for the governor and his lieutenant, Kim Guadagno, cost at least $390,200. The itineraries included media interviews and news briefings, the funeral of Democratic congressman Donald Payne, and an announcement that WrestleMania, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.'s biggest annual event, would take place in East Rutherford.

Drewniak last year told Bloomberg that the state receives reimbursement for Christie's personal and political use of the aircraft. Taxpayers bear no expense for transporting governors because the crews fly training or security missions daily, according to a 2012 statement from the New Jersey State Police. The police aviation unit has estimated the helicopters cost $2,500 an hour to operate.

Christie has said he uses the helicopter to balance his duties as governor, husband and father.

"I am not going to be, with four children, driving around this state at 90 miles an hour trying to make stuff, and put my life at risk and put the life of other people at risk," Christie told reporters in Bridgewater on April 12, 2012. "When it's appropriate to use the helicopter, I will."


Queens, New York: First airport noise roundtable is held - Residents meet with Port Authority and Federal Aviation Administration

For the first time in New York City history, representatives of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the Federal Aviation Administration joined representatives from surrounding communities for a roundtable discussion on the noise and other impacts of flights arriving and departing from LaGuardia Airport, on Monday night.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo made clear his concerns about aircraft noise in communities surrounding JFK and LaGuardia airports and that’s why we’re here tonight,” Ralph Tragale, the Port Authority assistant director of aviation, said. “He’s directed us to take some aggressive action.”

The governor issued the executive order on March 24, almost a year and a half after Queens Quiet Skies formed to advocate on behalf of the people whose homes are bombarded with constant plane noise to the point where it was disrupting their conversations, activities, sleep and overall quality of life.

The first meeting was largely dedicated to presentations on the status of the airport itself and discussions about the functions of the roundtable and the direction it will take. At the moment, the schedule has not been determined and the members have yet to agree on bylaws.

QQS President Janet McEneany laid out the basics. Some core tenets are that roundtable members must represent entities or groups with a stake in aviation, operate under written bylaws signed by all members (except the FAA, which is barred by federal statute) and follow a work-plan to address specific issues in committees, McEneany said.

“Roundtable members — this is a very important principle — they agree that we will not shift noise from one community to another,” McEneany said. “Roundtables all over the United States have found ways to get rid of the noise.”

Queens Quiet Skies recommended forming one roundtable for both JFK and LaGuardia Airports, but the Port Authority chose to form two, one for each airport, but Tragale said that if there are many overlapping issues and the members of both groups support it, the Port Authority will consider consolidating the two.

Roe Dario of the COMET Civic Association also supported one roundtable as communities like Maspeth are subject to noise from both airports, she said.

The Port Authority and the FAA are adding staffers and hiring consultants to conduct a three-year, $3 million study of noise impacts and possible mitigation measures.

The Port Authority is doubling its noise monitoring program and will work with the roundtable members to find locations for the new ones, especially in communities that currently do not have any. If more are necessary, the Port Authority will add them. There are permanent noise monitors at the end of runways so that the Port Authority can inform the airlines when their departing planes violate noise limits and portable monitors in surrounding communities, which look like mini fridges with a microphone atop a tall pole that must be placed in otherwise quiet residential areas.

The roundtable will also ease communications between the communities and the agencies, as there has been a lot of confusion in the past, since the Port Authority operates the airports, but the FAA dictates flight patterns.

“There was always a lot of misunderstanding about what the airport operator does and what the FAA does,” Tragale said. “Sometimes they were at a meeting, sometimes we were at a meeting and people felt they were getting the runaround. This meeting does a lot to establish that we’re both going to be here and you can respond to both of us equally in front of each other so there can’t be any finger-pointing.”

The Port Authority also revamped its website to make it easier for people to register complaints by simply typing in their address and hitting a complaint icon. This will enable the Port Authority to compile data over time and make appropriate changes.

Rosemary Povoromo of the United Community Civic Association was also there on behalf of several politicians and expressed her hope that the roundtables “will not just be venting sessions to tranquilize the masses.

“LaGuardia Airport is our immediate noisy neighbor and we who live in northwestern Queens have suffered its ongoing assault on our quality of life for decades, not only from heart-pounding, earsplitting noise from the thousands of arriving and departing jetliners, but from jet fumes belched from its thunderous engines and both these assaults must be coupled when addressing airport negatives and both if at all possible must be neutralized,” Povoromo said.

“We don’t run these airports to detract from the quality of life, we do it to improve the quality of life,” Tragale said. “The airports are a very important economic generator, the airports provide a lot of jobs and a lot of economic benefit to the city, but it’s very important to us that they be good neighbors and I think we’ve made a lot of progress over the years, but we obviously have some work left to do and that’s why we’re starting these roundtables.”


Korean Air starts scheduled flight services to Houston

SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) -- Korean Air Lines Co., South Korea's top carrier, said Friday it inaugurated its scheduled flight service between Incheon International Airport (IIA) and Houston, Texas.

The company will service seven flights per week to the U.S. city on B777-200 jets. The wide-body jets can carry up to 248 people and fly non-stop to George Bush International Airport.

Houston is home to plants run by South Korean companies such as LG Electronics, Samsung Heavy Industries and SK Energy.

The opening of the route marks the 14th city serviced by Korean Air in North and South America. The company currently has flights to places like New York, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo.

The number of cities serviced is the largest of any airline operating flights around the Pacific Rim, the company said.

Story and photo:

Pilots and crew members pose ahead of the inaugural flight of Korean Air to Houston, Texas, on May 2, 2014.

Union says downsizing could halve regional pilot jobs at Envoy Air

Envoy Air may need only half as many pilots after American Airlines Group downsizes the regional carrier, the airline’s pilots union said Thursday.

In a note to pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association said American plans to park 59 small regional jets and transfer 47 larger regional jets away from its subsidiary carrier. As a result, Envoy will need 47 percent fewer pilots, the union said.

“Currently, the future looks very bleak,” said Bill Sprague, chairman of the union’s master executive council, adding that the carrier won’t have any aircraft to replace the ones it is losing.

Envoy has about 2,700 pilots. With current fleet plans, it will need only about 1,430 to staff its operations.

Envoy has 12,000 workers, although 8,000 are dedicated to ground services operations, in which it performs baggage-handling and gate operations for other airlines at smaller airports.

The news comes about a month after the pilots voted down a proposed union contract that would have provided Envoy with larger aircraft in exchange for a pay scale freeze until 2018 and other concessions.

During the contract talks, American Airlines Group management, which owns Envoy, had threatened to take regional aircraft away from Envoy if the pilots did not approve the contract.

Sprague said the company intends to park 59 Embraer 140s and transfer 47 CRJ-700s to another third-party regional carrier to operate under the American Eagle brand. No timetable has been set for the drawdown, he said.

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Aviation careers taking off with help from University College of the Cayman Islands program

With airport redevelopment on the horizon and the emergence of two new airline carriers to Cayman in coming months, the aviation industry needs qualified people just to keep up. That according to aviation expert Edward Jerrard.

“One of the biggest problems we were facing in the future was the lack of personnel coming into the aviation industry,” pointed out Mr. Jerrard.

UCCI’s air transport management program – now in it’s 4th year – is partnering with upstart carrier Blue Sky airlines to help meet the demand for skilled aviation workers.

Mr. Jerrard is a lecturer in UCCI’s Aviation Management Program as well as a consultant for Blue Sky Airlines.

“We provide a complete global picture of the entire business, not just the pilot side of it, the regulatory side of it, the economics of it, how airports work, how airlines work, why some fail, why some make loads of money,” said Mr. Jerrard.

“The more the aviation industry expands here in Cayman, the more they are going to need educated Caymanians who will be able to fulfill the roles that are going to be available,” said  UCCI’s Dr.

JD Mosley-Matchett, “You have managerial positions, you have the management of the flights themselves, you have all of the things that are part of the service industry that we often don’t think about.”

The 10 to 12 week course gives students a broad overview of the industry, one Mr. Jarrard argues is vital to a modern economy.

“Aviation is a really really big global industry, and without it, society, industry collapses,” said Mr. Jerrard.

Mr. Jerrard says having a home-grown workforce is essential to the future of Cayman’s aviation industry.

“The last thing any company wants to do is import people. We have to find local people and the best way to find these people for Blue Sky is to at least get them into the air transport management program so those people applying for jobs have a fundamental understanding of what the business is all about,” said Mr. Jerrard.

The course runs twice a week starting 7 May and costs a thousand dollars.

For more information on the program, contact Diane Campbell, UCCI’s deputy director of Executive training program at (345) 623-0546.

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Michigan airport fixes in holding pattern

Michigan airport executives are asking for the first aviation fuel tax increase in 85 years to make improvements and repairs at the state’s 235 public airports — an effort that has stalled after taking flight late last year.

A House-approved tax hike plan — which would help general aviation and commercial airports avoid falling far short of more than $730 million needed for fixes in the next five years — is stuck in the Senate in part because of concerns by Delta Air Lines, the state’s biggest commercial passenger air carrier.

At stake is nearly $190 million in runway and taxiway reconstruction, as well as demolition of the Smith and Berry terminals at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, included in the state’s five-year plan. The airport emphasizes it is a self-financing operation that receives federal dollars through the state.

Other big-dollar projects include $70 million in improvements at Willow Run in Ypsilanti, $60 million at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids and $29 million at Bishop International Airport in Flint.

Holland’s West Michigan Regional Airport plans $642,000 in taxiway improvements and breaks ground in 2015 on a $3.6-million terminal built with local money and $500,000 from the state to replace a converted ranch-style house. The project will require a new $3-million apron, where airplanes are parked, refueled or boarded, that will go on the next five-year plan.

Some upgrades and fixes could be delayed or scrapped because the 3-cent-per-gallon aviation fuel tax isn’t generating enough revenue — just as Michigan’s gasoline and diesel taxes are falling an estimated $1.2 billion short on road and bridge repairs. Collections have been declining for at least a decade.
Rising challenges

The state increasingly is challenged not only to pay for airport amenities that assist travelers, but also to cover the costs of safety-related maintenance such as runway signaling and crack sealing, said Kevin Klein, president of the Michigan Association of Airport Executives.

“It’s a question of having enough money to meet our infrastructure needs,” said Klein, who runs Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport where $8 million in improvements are proposed through 2019.

“We can’t have potholes in our runways.”

But Michigan’s overall fuel tax costs — including sales tax and environmental fees — are the highest among Delta’s hubs and third-highest behind California and Illinois among all states with major airline hubs, said Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter.

“Michigan has one of the least competitive fuel tax structures in the nation,” Banstetter said. “That’s why we’re working with legislative leaders to find a solution that both addresses the competition problem and creates a permanent, stable funding source for Michigan’s airports.”

Michigan has received about $90 million a year in federal funds for airport maintenance and capital improvements with a $10 million state-local government match, Klein said, but is in danger of experiencing a significant federal funding dip.

Revenues from the aviation tax — adopted in 1929 — were just under $8 million in 2004, subsequently dropped below $6 million and now threaten to fall below $5 million even as airports require more money for maintenance, Klein said.

With no revenue increase, Michigan can expect a $16 million drop in federal funding per year and “a degraded airport system,” a 2007 study committee report said.

Lawmakers adopted a temporary fix in 2012. It moved two-thirds of the revenue from Michigan’s six-percent sales tax on aviation fuel transactions — $10 million — from the state General Fund to airport maintenance for a year.

In December, the state House approved a two-bill package that would provide a permanent $17-million annual boost. The compromise legislation is $9 million less than originally proposed but a good start toward a permanent solution, Klein said.

It would switch the aviation fuel tax from 3 cents a gallon to 2 percent of the average per-gallon wholesale price. It also would soften the hike by exempting pilots and airlines from one-third of the 6-cent sales tax — 2 cents on the dollar.

That 2 percent was added to the state sales tax in 1994 under Proposal A’s school funding plan. If the aviation legislation passes, the School Aid Fund would lose about $16 million a year, according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis.

The legislation also would end a 1.5-cent-per-gallon rebate, half the per-gallon rate, which interstate airlines, like Delta, have enjoyed since 1945.

The legislation is in the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Republican Sen. Jack Brandenburg, of Harrison Township, the sponsor of overlapping Senate-approved bills to exempt airlines and pilots from one-third of the sales tax.

Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, architect of the House-passed bills, said he and Brandenburg are discussing how to proceed given Delta’s concerns.

“It provides stability ... at about $17 million a year so we can draw down our usual federal match and then also can start working on our airport infrastructure,” Schmidt said. “We don’t want to get into the same situation we have with roads.”
Taxes, fee adding up for Delta

But Delta’s Banstetter said jet fuel is the airline’s largest expense — 35 percent of operating costs — and has risen more than 400 percent in price in the last decade. Michigan’s 3-cent fuel tax, 6-percent sales tax and environmental fee for underground storage tank cleanup add 20.4 cents a gallon to Delta’s fuel cost — even with the rebate, he said.

Delta made a $10.5 billion profit in 2013, following profits ranging from $593 million in 2010 to $1 billion in 2012.

The legislation is supported by the Michigan Department of Transportation, although it falls short of the $150 million a year needed for the $750 million in projects planned through 2019, said department spokesman Jeff Cranson.

“Rep. Schmidt’s proposal rights the ship, so to speak, and implements a funding mechanism that adjusts as the price of fuel increases,” Cranson said.

Schmidt, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he intended the airport proposals to be a model for parallel legislation containing tax changes proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder to address the state’s $1.2-billion-a-year road repair shortfall.

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, recently rolled out a road funding plan that, instead, would boost revenue nearly $500 million a year through tax shifts, funds transfers and higher fees on heavy trucks.

“This is what taxpayers are looking for — solutions, not one-time gimmicks,” Schmidt said about the House aviation tax package.

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The runway at the Oakland County International Airport has some big cracks. An aviation fuel tax hike would fund repairs at public airports.

Airport plans 

Improvements scheduled for Metro Detroit airports as part of the state’s $730.4-million five-year plan:

 Detroit Metro: $189.74 million for 2015-19 
 Reconstruct taxiway W, displacement of runway 4R threshold, improve service road west of taxiway M, rebuild eastern taxiways for $71.8 million in 2015.
Runway 3L/21R extension environmental processing, replace airfield lighting vault, demolish Smith & Berry terminals for $13.29 million in 2016.
Reconstruct south portion of runway 3L/21R and taxiways M & F, rebuild west portion of taxiway G, reconstruct north portion of taxiway H for $68.9 million in 2017.
Rebuild north portion of runway 3L/21R and taxiways, acquire land and extend runway 3L/21R, surface monitor improvements on runways and taxiways for $79.7 million in 2018.
Reconstruct part of taxiway Z, rebuild taxiway K, reconstruct part of shoulder on runway 9R/27L, buy land and extend runway 3L/21R for $51.14 million in 2019.

■Detroit Willow Run: $70 million for 2015-19.
Remove runway 14/32, runway 5R touchdown lights and develop sign replacement program for $2.55 million in 2015.
Phase 1 of parallel taxiway for runway 5R/23L, update airport layout plan for $8.25 million in 2016.
Phase 2 of parallel taxiway for runway 5R/23L, shorten and rehabilitate runway 5L/23R, phase 1 residential sound insulation program for $19 million in 2017.
Phase 3 of parallel taxiway for runway 5R/23L, phase 1 rebuilding runway 9/27, remove displaced threshold & obstruction, phase 2 residential sound insulation program for $23.6 million in 2018.
Phase 2 rebuild runway 9/27, phase 3 residential sound insulation program for $16.6 million in 2019.

Non-primary airports

■Ann Arbor: $2.66 million for 2015-19.
Extend runway 6/24 and taxiway for $1.92 million in 2015.
Expand parking, relocate entrance drive for $242,000 in 2016.
Buy snow removal equipment for $166,667 in 2017.
Phase 1 terminal expansion and improvements for $166,667 in 2018.
Phase 2 terminal expansion for $166,667 in 2019.

■Detroit City: $9.78 million for 2015-19.
Land acquisition for mini-take area (2015) $2.93 million in 2015.
Land acquisition and runway rehabilitation design for $950,000 in 2016.
Phase 1 to close French Road for .9 million in 2017.
Phase 2 close French Road for $500,000 in 2018.
Phase 3 close French Road for $500,000 in 2019.

■Grosse Ile: $6.72 million for 2015-19.
Rehabilitate runway 17/35 for $3.7 million in 2015.
Rehabilitate taxiway lighting and drainage for $950,000 in 2017.
Rehabilitate taxiway-design for $166,667 in 2018.
Rehabilitate taxiway for $1.9 million in 2019.

■Howell: $1.26 million for 2015-19:
Rehabilitate access roads and parking for $376,500 in 2015.
Design snow removal equipment building and seal cracks for $65,000 in 2016.
Build snow removal equipment building for $280,000 in 2017.
Build south connector taxiway for $375,000 in 2018.
Phase 1 master plan for $166,667 in 2019.

■New Hudson: $3.04 million for 2015-19
Wetlands mitigation for $690,000 in 2015.
Rehabilitate runway for $2.08 million in 2016.
Fencing for $166,667 in 2017.
Engineering studies for $60,000 in 2018.
Design for rehabilitating taxiways and apron for $60,000 in 2019.

■Plymouth: $970,000 for 2015-19
Build terminal, crack sealing & paint marking for $520,000 in 2015.
Build hanger for $450,000 in 2019.

■Pontiac: $1.5 million for 2015-19.
Design to rebuild taxiway for $40,000 in 2015.
Rebuild taxiway for $600,000 in 2016.
Survey consultant coordination for $20,000 in 2017.
Rehabilitate runway lighting, $740,000, 2018.
Rehabilitate taxiway lighting, $100,000, 2019.

■Romeo: $1.5 million for 2015-19.
Build hanger, $477,895, 2015.
Crack sealing, painting, marking runway, $20,000, 2016.
Remove old runway, $170,000, 2017.
Buy land for approaches, $830,000, 2019.

■Troy: $2.3 million for 2015-19
Rehabilitate terminal apron and terminal building, $341,000, 2015.
Install fencing, remedy detention basin, $200,000, 2016-2017.
Rehabilitate taxiway (hanger area) and lighting, $568,000, 2018.
Rehabilitate runway lighting, $250,000, 2019.

Source: Michigan Department of Transportation

From The Detroit News:

Mick Osborne, of Tulip City Air services, looks over a Citation that is due to fly in a couple of hours at the West Michigan Regional Airport in Holland, Mich., on April 9, 2014. The airport offices are due for replacement. Michigan airport executives are asking for the first aviation fuel tax increase in 85 years to make improvements and repairs at the state's 235 public airports.


Dallas Executive Airport (KRBD), Dallas, Texas

Editorial: Dallas Executive Airport’s good news has a hitch 
We should be celebrating the news coming out of Dallas Executive Airport right now. So why does it feel like these good developments come with a big asterisk?

After all, the airport is undergoing a $33 million renovation that will expand its main runway to 7,000 feet. Its tower is also getting an upgrade. The improvements will put Dallas Executive in position to land the sort of serious corporate jets that today go to Addison Airport and Collin County Regional Airport in McKinney.

The state, not the city, is paying for the runway work. Without the expansion, Dallas may as well have written off Dallas Executive as basically a place for hobby pilots to play with their toy planes.

That won’t be the case anymore. The old Red Bird Airport in far southern Dallas will soon have the infrastructure it needs to be a player among regional airports.

That’s big news. Just as big is the announcement that the airport was chosen as the headquarters of the Commemorative Air Force. The group maintains 164 World War II-era planes and will move at least five of those from Midland to Dallas Executive. It will invest in two hangars and an exhibit hall. The city is pitching in, naturally. Though the exact figure isn’t known, it will be north of $1 million.

The investment is well worth it. Dallas Executive needs an anchor like the CAF to begin to become a self-sustaining place.

So why the asterisk? City Hall has done a poor job of communicating plans for Dallas Executive with the surrounding communities. The city’s aviation director, Mark Duebner, has promised to correct this deficiency with quarterly meetings. That’s a good start.

The bigger problem is that the city of Dallas doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants Executive Airport to be.

Council member Tennell Atkins, the airport’s biggest booster and formerly its master leaseholder, foresees a day when Executive becomes busier than Addison Airport, a major destination for corporate jets.

But Duebner’s goals are more tempered. In the short term, success is getting the airport to pay its own way. He acknowledged that the city needs to craft a plan for what long-term success looks like at Dallas Executive.

That effort will need a lot of community involvement. Dallas Executive is a potential asset for the entire city. Thanks to the renovated runways and the arrival of the CAF, it has never been in a better position to grow. But people who live around the airport must have a place at the table as its future is defined.


Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (KBTR), Louisiana

LSU baseball team safe and back on ground after plane scare

 KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather


The LSU baseball team is safe and back on the ground after their charter plane had to return to the airport after experiencing a mechanical failure.

The plane which had departed from the Baton Rouge airport had not reached cruising altitude  when the pilot reported the incident. The eighth-ranked Tigers were headed to College Station, TX to play Texas A&M this weekend. The team will practice at Alex Box Stadium and then leave later tonight for College Station.

Officials at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport say there were problems with the wing flaps on the plane. Wing flaps allow the plane to change speeds for landing.

The pilot had to circle the airport to burn off fuel before making the landing on the main runway at the airport, to lessen the weight of the aircraft, according to officials. WAFB's Jacques Doucet spoke to LSU Baseball Coach Paul Mainieri and said the plane circled the airport for about 30 minutes before they landed, which was a very fast landing. He said they were greeted at the airport by fire trucks on the runway but the entire team was fine.

Officials say because the Baton Rouge airport has a long runway, landing the plane was not an issue. The pilot was able to land the plane without the wing flaps, they just had to do it at a faster speed than one would prefer.

There were 43 passengers on board and no injuries were reported.

Story, photo gallery and video:

LSU Baseball Team back on the ground safely

(Source: LSU pitcher Cody Glenn via SnapChat)

(Source: LSU pitcher Cody Glenn via SnapChat)

Aerobatics precision pilot grounded after complaints: Cairo-Grady County Airport (70J), Cairo, Georgia


A Cairo pilot has been grounded from practicing his aerobatic maneuvers at the city airport. The decision comes after complaints from people living near the airport but not everyone is complaining.

Bridgette Davis stands outside of her home that is located across the street from the airport and shows where aerobatic pilot Chris Rudd usually does his training. With Rudd's flight privileges suspended at the airport, there is no telling when she will see him perform again.

"Sometimes I will come outside on the patio and sit and watch him do his tricks," said Bridgette Davis. Davis says some of the moves she watches are frightening but it holds her attention. "I heard his engine shut off and he started to dive down, and I got scared I thought he was going to crash."

Rudd is right now preparing for a competition out of town. He says he has been flying at the airport for eight years and this is the first time anyone has complained to the city about the noise and safety concerns.

At a trailer park located next to the airport, several residents told me off camera the noise was not a problem and they were not concerned about Rudd's flying. "I can understand because he does just stay in this general area while the other planes are taking off and leaving, but he's practicing where else is he suppose to practice," Bridgette Davis.

She says some noise is to be expected when you move so close to a functioning airport. Cairo city manager Chris Addleton says while the complaints are taking place in the county the airport belongs to the city, so the city is responsible for finding a solution. He says the situation has not yet been resolved. Davis says she wishes the pilot well in his upcoming competition.

"I'd love to see how he does, I hope he does well," said Davis. Rudd says he has several competitions lined up but with no place to practice as of now preparing is going to be tough.

Story and photo gallery:

Plane concerns hover at meeting 

CAIRO — Monday evening’s Cairo City Council meeting featured concerned citizens and local pilots voicing opposing views about the noise and safety of aerobatic manuevers taking place at the Cairo Municipal Airport.

Chris Rudd, a Grady County pilot, competes in aerobatics competitions that are sanctioned by the International Aerobatics Club and has been practicing at the Cairo Municipal Airport, a public facility. He is currently preparing for a contest set this weekend.

The Cairo City Council decided in an April meeting to ground the pilot based on complaints from citizens living near the airport.

On Monday, the council listened to Rudd and the citizens as they presented their cases.

Mayor Bobby Burns opened the discussion and said, “This is not a debate. Everyone speaking must address the council only.”

Rudd was the first to address the council. He began by thanking it for hearing him.

He said, “I’m not a stunt pilot. I’m an aerobatics precision pilot. It’s my right to fly at the airport. I have done nothing wrong.”

Rudd also disclosed three possible locations that could be used for aerobatics if he is not allowed to keep practicing at the Cairo Municipal Airport. According to him, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would approve of one of those locations.

“I just want to practice aerobatics,” concluded Rudd.

Several citizens who live near the airport expressed their safety and noise concerns.

Olin Sampson of Cairo claimed he does not mind Rudd’s flying, but mechanical issues cannot be controlled when he is flying over areas with houses.

He said, “He needs to be flying over proper areas, not over a trailer park or edge of the city. He needs to keep it away from there.”

Tommy Faircloth has spent 34 years in his location in Cairo. He said Rudd’s plane exceeds the noise produced by other planes at the airport.

“The gentleman comes by on Sunday when I’m wanting to take a nap after church. You can hear noise easily when he’s doing stunts,” said Faircloth.

He also said that he used to be a pilot himself, but was never allowed to fly over heavily populated areas.

Faircloth said, “Go to areas where there are woods and fields, not houses. There are possible issues with the plane stalling out. This is not good for Cairo.”

Cairo citizen Homer Reid claimed to have been out to the airport before to talk to Rudd about the noise problem but was never able to make contact with him.

“We have a severe problem with the noise — and that’s the only problem I have is the noise. It’s all the time. Maybe if a time was allotted for him to fly, that would help,” said Reid.

Jimmy Carver of Cairo also has a problem with the noise.

He said, “He flies over our area on Old Thomasville Road the most. It not just 30 minutes a day. It is all day.”

Carver said he doesn’t want to hear an airplane all day after attending church on Sundays.

“People live here and want to enjoy their Sunday after working all week. I also drove out there, but I never made a connection with him,” said Carver. “The noise level is unbearable and it’s dangerous. There has even been talk of him flying over the ball field where children, the most precious things we have, are at.”

Rudd also had supporters.

Faith Drewry, a pilot, told the council that being an aerobatics pilot requires the highest level of training and makes for a better pilot.

“People need to understand it’s not stunts. This is about precision and skill. All pilots need this because it is the highest level of training,” she said.

Larry Prince and his son, Gerren Prince, are both pilots in Cairo and make their living with agricultural aircraft.

Larry Prince has been using the local airport since 1967.

“Never before have I been concerned, but now I’m concerned. What if they begin complaining about my ag aircraft,” asked Prince.

He also explained that he had experienced two engine failures in his plane before and never damaged anyone’s property.

He said, “I also used to do aerobatics when I was younger. We are probably more conscience that any other pilots around.”

Gerren Prince seconded his father’s remarks.

“I make a lot of noise with the ag aircraft. These are Chris Rudd’s days off and that’s what he wants to do. If the noise law pertains to him, they will also pertain to me,” said Gerren Prince.

Sidney Gainey, another local pilot, addressed the council and said, “Noise is not a new issue. I agree with Chris and I consider him to be a safer more proficient pilot than myself.”

Mary Beth Rudd spoke to the council about the realities of living next to an airport.

“I’ve lived next to international airports before and no one lives any closer to the airport than I do now. It is an airport and it’s public. Airports are noisy and that’s just the way it is,” she said.

No delegations were made by the council.


Nigeria: Air Crashes and Role of Regulation

Chinedu Eze writes that the causes of air crashes in Nigeria, particularly that of Dana Air in June 2012, could be traced to lack of adequate regulation provided by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority for scheduled airline operations in the country 


Air crashes in Nigeria have been unduly attributed to bad weather and mechanical faults, with less emphasis on the human factor of pilot error. The federal government has taken weather issues so seriously that it has invested much in the provision of weather equipment lately.

The human factors of negligence and errors on the part of operators and pilots have often been treated with kid gloves with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) lacking in requisite regulation to keep operators on their toes.

The issue of mechanical fault of aircraft and pilot errors were in the fore in the crashes involving ADC Flight 53 of October 2006 and Sosoliso Flight 1145 of 2005, though low level wind shear may have also contributed to the ADC crash.

But Dana Air Flight 0992 crash on June 3, 2012 and that of Associated Aviation which occurred on October 3, 2013 were chiefly attributed to bad equipment and pilot error.

The two accidents were caused by engine failure and while the later was obviously not air worthy before it took off in Lagos and crashed seconds after; the former is still subjected to debate whether its Minimum Equipment List established it as air worthy before it embarked on the flight from Abuja to Lagos.

There are issues that are worthy of note about the two crashes in 2012 and 2013. Insiders and aircraft engineers attributed the two accidents to the incompetence of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

This is their argument. During investigations on the Associated Aviation air crash, it was obvious that the aircraft had not flown for at least 45 days. It is a failure of NCAA to have allowed an aircraft that was not maintained or operated for that number of days to go into service.

Also when the accident happened, the then Directed General of NCAA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu said that it is the responsibility of the airline to ensure the air worthiness of its aircraft.

But other industry observers and even operators posit that the regulatory body must effectively monitor the activities of the airlines, check their logbooks and monitor their maintenance schedules because most airlines across the world like to cut corners.

Less than 10 days before the Dana Air Flight 0992 crashed, an aircraft inspector had grounded the fleet of the airline with documentation that the aircraft were not air worthy. But the then management of NCAA overruled the decision of the inspector and let go the fleet to resume operation. Few days later the tragic crash took place, and Nigeria lost 153 souls on board.

It could be noted that when the grounding of the airline was lifted six months later and it resumed operation, the aircraft in the fleet started having engine hiccups again. There were records of two engine failures; the last one happened on the Port Harcourt to Lagos flight leading to the grounding of the airline’s operations.

By this time NCAA was unable to identify the recurrent engine problems of the airline until during the last inspection of the aircraft engines when it was realized that the engineers working on the engines were not competent enough and NCAA directed that Dana Air should change the engineers.

So today Dana Air is the only domestic carrier that has successfully undergone an operational audit conducted by NCAA in conjunction with its foreign partners The Flight Safety Group. But it ought to be noted also that if the airline were not grounded the last time, those engine failures could have continued and possibly lead to another crash. And NCAA would have been held responsible.

The Problem with NCAA

The problem of NCAA is what many Nigerians refer to as internal politics; ego flexing and clash of interests. There is a lot of ethnic dichotomy and struggle for supremacy and even after these accidents and change of leaderships, it has not abated.

Many observers in the industry believe that it is what would lead to another tragic air crash because the internal struggle in many ways impugn on the regulation of airlines.

This example will suffice. Recently an aircraft inspector in NCAA, Zakari Maude was transferred to Kaduna and he kicked. Many in the agency described the transfer as punitive measure and because he was from the north the management decided to throw him out of Lagos.

Inside source also alleged that his transfer had to do with his views about the plan to issue Air Operator Certificate (AOC) to a new airline which he objected because the airline was yet to meet the five critical processes before it be issues AOC.

Such bickering and rancour impede the activities of NCAA because as each person fights another the job of regulation is left undone. In fact, the acting Director General of NCAA, Benjamin Adeyileka in a telephone interview with THISDAY admitted that NCAA is rotten; that the authority needs to be revamped urgently.

He said that inspectors collect money from airline operators and look the other way when they compromise their safety regulations.

This is another example; a Nigerian pilot that was certified by NCAA aero medics to have eye problems and was subsequently stopped from flying took NCAA to court sometime in 2007, requesting that his license be restored.

NCAA won the case in court, but it was alleged that because the pilot is a member of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and has influences, officials of the regulatory body are trying to reverse that decision.

Adeyileka told THISDAY that he would find out if there was a conspiracy about the case; that he was treating the case now and that if the pilot was fit to fly, he would be allowed to fly; but if not, he would never be issued licence to fly.

THISDAY learnt that the head of aero medics had refused to reverse it and insisted that she must give the pilot three tests which if he passed he would regain his certificate to fly.

Over Bloated Workforce

NCAA management is alleged to employ “through the back door”; that every new Director General that comes wants to employ “his own people”, but Adeyileka denied this allegation and said that the existing employment process was the one he inherited.

THISDAY also learnt that the members of the National Assembly on regular basis send their relations and others to be employed by NCAA. Also government’s anti-crime agency recently was alleged to have brought 50 persons to NCAA to be employed so that it could stop the investigation on the armoured cars, which saga and controversy dominated the media for major part of last year.

Presently NCAA has over bloated workforce, which increased from 550 workers to 1,250 within a short period of time.

Dwindling Fortunes

Ironically the number of workers is increasing at a period the agency is witnessing dwindling revenue. During the period between 2007 to 2010, there were more than 20 scheduled domestic commercial airlines but this number has reduced to six that could be described as financially viable which include Arik Air, MedView, Aero, Dana Air, First Nation and Overland Airways.

Inside source said domestic carriers have almost stopped paying the compulsory Passenger Service Charge (PSC) to the regulatory body; that most airlines are indebted to the agency, and these charges are really not the airlines’; they are monies added for the agency on the ticket fare of the airlines.

Ordinarily, airlines should not be computing the funds as part of their revenue, but literally their itching hands cannot get away from the money and because they do not deduct it at source they find it difficult to pay NCAA later. Domestic carriers are said to owe the regulatory over N200 million. So NCAA relies on revenues from international airlines to sustain its operations.

The implication of the dwindling fortunes means that workers are denied their allowances and there may be no enough money for training, which is the bedrock of the NCAA. In fact, THISDAY gathered that workers who went for training since 2012 are still owed their duty travel allowance and these debts are still piling till date.

Urgent Action

Infighting, ego flexing and corruption have stymied the regulatory body and unless something is done urgently the failure of the agency as regulatory body will become discernible.

For the fact that the inspectors and others in the agency allegedly collect bribes from operators it is obvious that it cannot strictly enforce regulations against the airlines. Perhaps this is the reason why NCAA reluctantly punished airlines when they abuse passengers and cancel flights with impunity.

On the transfer of Maude to Kaduna, Adeyileka said that he was not the only one that was transferred from Lagos; that there are airline operators in Kaduna and Kano so NCAA had to deploy inspectors to these cities, instead of allowing all of them to stay at the headquarters in Lagos.

“After training the inspectors we send them to out stations. All the people who were transferred came from Lagos. I am even planning to promote one general manager and transfer him to Kaduna because we have airlines in Kaduna,” Adeyileka explained.

He also explained that although he is the Director of Air Worthiness, no single person can issue AOC, which has to pass through many procedures before it is recommended that it be issued, adding that the concerned airline has not been issues AOC.

Adeyileka described NCAA as a disjointed place that needs urgent improvement and that is what he was set out to do, adding that inevitably he had to step on toes in the effort to cleanse the agency of the existing rot.

“There is a lot of rot in the industry. Some of these people who are complaining take money from the operators. We cannot prove it; we don’t have evidence but we know that they receive money from the operators.

"Some of them have turned themselves to tin gods. There is no smoke without fire. When Maude was transferred those under him were jubilant. I have taken it as my duty to revamp the agency and they have reported me even to the Presidency.”

The acting Director General said the allegations were a distraction that the major challenge facing NCAA now is facing US Category One safety status reassessment.

“People have to do the job they are paid for. Lazy people will hate my guts forever. People are complaining because there are those that are there who are not supposed to be in the industry.

"Sometimes files will disappear and no one will take responsibility. The Presidency is aware of my case. I have been accused of intimidating people. I want to sanitize NCAA; the operators are not happy with us,” Adeyileka said.


SG Aviation Storm S-280, C-GIQV, Kostam Designs Inc: Calaway Park, Springbank, Alberta - Canada

Officials play blame game after Springbank airplane crash sparks safety concerns

Officials, parents and residents in Springbank are questioning the approval given for a small plane to fly out from the parking lot of Calaway Park given its proximity to two schools after the aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff.

A British Columbia pilot, who was working as a contractor for the outdoor amusement park on the western edge of Calgary, was taking off in his Storm S280 when the plane crashed at around 3 p.m. Thursday near the park’s entrance. The man was taken to hospital with serious injuries, but his condition has since been upgraded to stable.

Calaway Park said the man was given authority from Springbank Airport to fly out of the park’s property and called this a “one-off occurrence,” while the airport said it cannot give approval for landings and takeoffs that occur on private property and only has control over planes once they’re in the air.

But some say the plane should never have been allowed to fly out from the park’s property in the first place, citing concerns over the safety of the students who attend Springbank Middle School and Elbow Valley Elementary School, not far from the crash scene.

“I find it unbelievable that it is allowable,” said Jerry Arshinoff, a councillor with Rocky View County. “It’s beyond ridiculous, having planes take off next to schools.”

At first, Arshinoff thought the plane was forced to make a crash landing on Calaway Park property due to an emergency. But when he learned the plane had actually been attempting to take off from the park, he was stunned.

Arshinoff has been living in the area for nearly three decades. All five of his children attended the schools near the park, and the majority of the kids in his neighbourhood still go to those schools. He said this was the first he’d heard of planes landing or taking off from the park.

Since the crash, he has received numerous emails from constituents expressing their concerns.

While he recognizes that airports are the jurisdiction of the federal government, he said he plans to meet with Rocky View administration and fellow councillors, and do some fact-finding to “make sure it never happens again.”

“It’s just inconceivable that Calaway park would’ve allowed such a thing,” he said. “Springbank Airport is very close by ... it’s literally down the road.”

Margaret Bahcheli, reeve of Rocky View County, agreed with Arshinoff.

“I think it’s shocking they were having permission to use space so close to the schools,” said Bahcheli, whose 14-year-old son attends Springbank Middle School.

“That seems extremely unusual. It’s not very sensitive to resident safety, that’s me as a parent.”

Calaway Park declined to comment on whether or why the company approved the flight from its property.

Angela Spanier, spokeswoman for Rocky View Schools, said in an e-mail Saturday that the Springbank parent community had been made aware of the crash and the board “continues to believe the safety of students is paramount.”

“As such, Rocky View Schools will be corresponding with both Transport Canada and Calaway Park to register its concern with this activity and to get assurances that no such activity will be authorized in the future given the proximity to our schools.”

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Injured pilot attempted takeoff from Calaway Park before crash 

CALGARY – We’re learning more details about a pilot seriously injured when his small plane crashed near Calaway Park on Thursday.

39-year-old Steve Kostamo’s two-seater aircraft hit the ground around 3:15 p.m., dangerously close to a nearby school.

He had landed his plane successfully in the parking lot of Calaway Park several weeks before, but crashed the plane on Thursday while attempting his takeoff.

Vice-president of Calaway Park Bev Beanson says Kostamo works as a contractor, and had clearance from the Park and NAV Canada to takeoff from the parking lot. However, some question why that was the case, as the area is close to two schools as well as the Springbank Airport.

 “I’d never heard before today that there were planes coming and going from the parking lot,” says concerned parent Lisa Skelton. “I think if there’s an airport close by with safety precautions and safer distances from businesses, schools and houses, all flight traffic should be in and out of the airport.”

Pilots that Global News spoke with add that landing in a parking lot is never something they would recommend, if there were other options nearby.

“If it’s a non-emergency situation, our students are only told to land at controlled or uncontrolled airports,” says Leon Cygman, assistant chair of Aviation at Mount Royal University.

Kostamo was the only person on board the plane, and suffered life-threatening injuries. His condition has since been upgraded to stable.

The Transportation Safety Board is now investigating.

An afternoon plane crash, west of Calgary, has sent the aircraft's lone occupant to Foothills Hospital.

The single engine plane, a Storm S-280 two seater, crashed shortly after 3:00 p.m. near the access road to Calaway Park.

According to Fire Chief Dax Huba with the Rocky View Fire Department, the impact of the crash tore the aircraft's engine from the fuselage and mangled the body of the plane. Fire crews sprayed a retardant on the wreckage as a precautionary measure.

The remains of a single engine airplane following a crash near the entrance road to Calaway Park

EMS transported the pilot, a 39-year-old man, to hospital in serious, potentially life threatening condition with multiple traumatic injuries.

The vice-president of Calaway Park says the operator of the plane was an experienced pilot who was working at the amusement park as a contractor. The pilot had been taking off and landing his plane in the Calaway Park parking lot throughout his time at the park.

A Transportation Safety Board investigation into the crash is underway.

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