Sunday, May 18, 2014

Donald Wayne Hauck: Accident occurred May 18, 2014 at Franklin Flying Field Airport (3FK), Johnson County, Indiana

Donald Hauck

FRANKLIN -- A skydiver from Greenfield died Sunday after trying to perform a maneuver just 100 feet above land, a move that sent him slamming hard into the ground before he could complete it.

Donald Wayne Hauck, 50, died at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Franklin Flying Field, according to the Johnson County Sheriff's Office. Emergency crews soon arrived at the airfield in southern Johnson County but were unable to revive Hauck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Hauck's son had been jumping with him on Sunday, Sheriff Doug Cox said.

Hauck had been jumping with a business called Jerry's Skydiving Circus, which is based at the Franklin field, about four miles south of Franklin. A skydiving instructor with the business, Dave Marsh, said Hauck found trouble in the final seconds of his jump.

"Some people were saying he had a parachute malfunction," Marsh said. "His parachute opened OK, but he was doing a maneuver at 100 feet."

Witnesses told the Sheriff's Office that he landed hard on the ground.

Hauck had been a skydiver for three years and had completed dozens of jumps, many of them with his son Joshua, said Bob Dougherty of Skydive Indianapolis, a Frankfort-based business where both men received their initial training. The pair took their diving to Franklin about two years ago because it was closer to their homes, he said. 

Dougherty was not present in Franklin on Sunday, but he said skydivers can get in trouble if they execute sharp "hook turns" in the final few hundred feet before landing. Like an airplane making a turn, the chute can turn at a steep angle. If the skydiver doesn't straighten out before getting to the ground, the landing can be hard and dangerous.

"It is the single biggest source of fatalities in the sport," he said. "You're turning too low for your parachute to recover."

Dougherty said there is no reason to make a turn so low, and he instructs his jumpers to avoid them below 500 feet. Nobody does it purposely, he said, but it's possible Hauck could have misjudged the situation.

"What you do at 2,000 feet doesn't matter, but once you get down to 500 feet you need to be prepared for landing," Dougherty said. "If you make a turn like that and you misjudge it, you can get killed."

Marsh, the instructor with the Franklin business, declined to describe the maneuver Hauck performed.

The Sheriff's Office deemed the death an accident. FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – A Greenfield man was killed in a skydiving accident in Franklin on Sunday.   According to a release from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, officers were called to the Franklin Flying Field, located at 3477 South 200 East in Franklin, on the report of an injured skydiver.   When emergency personnel arrived, they found 50-year-old Donald Wayne Hauck, of Greenfield, unconscious and CPR being performed.

Hauck suffered severe leg injuries. Police say a medical helicopter was called to the scene. Despite lifesaving efforts, Hauck was pronounced dead.  His parachute was open, but witnesses say something happened when he was about 100 feet from landing.

“Witnesses said he came in at a high rate of speed, they’re not sure if there was abnormal lift,” said Deputy Jeremy Witherington, Johnson Co. Sheriff’s Office. “According to one of the witnesses, it looked like the parachute kind of jumped a little bit as he was turning in at a 180 degree turn.”    After the maneuver Hauck’s chute never recovered, sending him into the ground.

Workers at Franklin Flyign Field didn’t want to comment on what happened out of respect of Hauck’s family. However, one sky diver who works there says he was very close to Hauck, as were a lot of people who worked and jumped there often.   The incident shocked not only the sky diving community, but those who see them jump every day.

“At any given time you can look up in the sky and see four to eight parachutes coming down,” said George Reinacker.  Deputy Witherington said the FAA will open an investigation into this case.   According the United States Parachute Association, there were 24 fatal sky diving accidents in the U.S. in 2013, out of a total of 3.2 million jumps.

Linda Christopherson: Airline captain’s flight to Kauai changed her life

Posted: Sunday, May 18, 2014 12:45 am

By  Pamela Varma Brown

As a pilot for U.S. Airways since 1986, Linda Christopherson, has flown and landed planes throughout the United States including Oahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, Canada and Mexico.

But the first time she saw Kauai, her life changed. It was 2009, she was flying a Boeing 757 with 190 passengers on board.

“We broke out of the clouds at about 1,000 feet and I saw the island for the first time. My hair just stood on end and I had goose bumps,” she says. “I knew in an instant that this is where I was supposed to be.”

Puzzled at her reaction because she had always felt emotionally grounded wherever she lived her whole life, Linda’s feeling that Kauai was her new home stuck strongly with her that entire first day. “Even after we landed, all day I couldn’t get rid of the goose bumps. They just kept popping back up,” she says.

Five years later, the only route Linda flies for U.S. Airways is from her headquarters in Phoenix to Kauai.

“The airplane I fly goes to three other islands, Maui, the Big Island and Oahu, and sometimes to Cancun, Mexico and Washington, D.C., but I only fly to Kauai,” she says. “If I get assigned to fly to another island, I call up the pilot who got assigned to Kauai and I say, ‘Switch me!’ They are very accommodating; it’s a small brotherhood on this airplane.” Besides, she says, “the guys all know my love for this island.”

She’s doing her best to make Kauai her home. Lively, warm and friendly, Linda has friends all over the island with whom she has dinner and golf dates every time she lands. She has her own truck here and this month brought a bicycle over from Arizona. She helps out at the weekly Lydgate Park beach clean-up whenever she’s in town on a Saturday morning and was recently honored with a palm tree planted in her honor by beach steward John Lydgate who is grandson of the beach park’s founder. She even has a Hawaiian drivers license.

One time Linda and her co-pilot even borrowed two dogs from the Kauai Humane Society and took them for a walk along Kapaa’s walk and bike path to support the humane society’s program to exercise dogs that are up for adoption.

“My dog got really hot with the “Adopt Me” vest she was wearing. She was panting a lot so I took the vest off her and put it on my co-pilot!” she says. “People were coming up to him asking, “What breed are you?”

Youngest Female Captain

Linda’s pursuit of her passion for flying airplanes has led her to set or be part of at least two world records.

When she was first hired by Frontier Airlines in 1986, after her training but while she was still on reserve, she received a call from Frontier’s scheduling department: “Hey, you need to get to the airport. The co-pilot is sick and you need to fly to El Paso and back.”

Twenty-six years old and being asked to make her first official flight for the airline, “I was thinking, ‘This is going to be so great!’ “

Upon arriving at the airport, Linda learned that Emily Howell Warner – the first woman ever hired as a pilot by a United States airline – and Linda’s idol – will be her captain.

“Emily Howell Warner’s pilot’s uniform is in the Smithsonian Museum. I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ “ Linda says.

“Emily says to me, ‘Linda, come on, we’re late! Let’s go!’ We got in the airplane, took off for El Paso, got there, landed. Then she tells me, ‘You’re flying it back.’ “

After taking a deep breath, Linda takes control of the Boeing 737 and begins flying it back to Denver. As the plane gets up to altitude, Emily says she is going to make an announcement to the passengers that Linda needs to listen to.

“Emily says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. I’m turning off the seat belt sign. I do have a little bit of an announcement to make. We’re making history today. Today is the first time there has ever been an all-female flight crew.’ “ Both pilots and all three flight attendants were women.

Being part of that flight crew was clearly an auspicious start to Linda’s career. Only three years later, at the age of 29, while flying for American West Airlines, she became the youngest female captain for a major U.S. airline. “But I’m sure some sweet young thing has probably beaten that by now,” she says laughing.

Then, shortly after she first flew to Kauai in 2009, she captained her own all-female flight crew. “As soon as we landed we all went out to celebrate at the hotel where we stay on Kauai, had a barbecue and made s’mores!”

Teaching students

Captain Linda enjoys sharing her love of flying with students at career days and as a guest speaker in classrooms, appearing in uniform and inspiring children with stories of her life as a pilot. She has even built a flight simulator for elementary school-age kids that they can sit in and pretend to push buttons.

“I talk to them about staying off drugs, staying in school, that your parents are your first sponsor in life and to treat them well,” she says. “It is fun.”

One time she spoke to a class of brilliant elementary school students who were learning on a computerized flight simulator that was so elaborate it could do things a bit beyond the reality of today’s airplanes.

“The students would say, ‘Captain Linda! Captain Linda! Come watch me fly this airplane and tell me what I’m doing wrong. Every time I get to this one part, the airplane spins out of control.’ I’d say, ‘That’s because you’re flying at 90,000 feet. You’re not the space shuttle. Try staying a little lower.’ “

Another boy told her that every time he came in for a landing on the electronic flight simulator the airplane “crashes for no reason.” Linda advised him, “You can’t come in at 200 mph. You’ve got to slow down.”

I would truly be home

Captain Linda is enjoying every moment of her life while fondly envisioning the day when she will make Kauai her permanent home.

Months before I met her, Linda had even consulted a Feng Shui expert in Arizona about how to create the life she desires. The expert recommended that she place a “nice, loving, warm book” on her Phoenix bedroom nightstand. Linda chose the book “Kauai Stories.”

“Kauai is the only place I’ve ever considered moving,” she says. “If I lived here, I would be truly home.”

Story and photos:

• Pamela Varma Brown is the publisher of “Kauai Stories,” and the forthcoming “Kauai Stories 2.”

U.S. Airways captain Linda Christopherson, in her “office,” plans to make Kauai her home one day. Five years after first landing on the Garden Island, the only route she will now fly is from Phoenix to Kauai.

Sabah To Have Final Assembly Center For Light Sports Aircraft

PUTRAJAYA, May 18 (Bernama) -- A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed to facilitate the opening of a final assembly center for light sports aircraft in Kota Belud, Sabah.

Dosh Rain Consult International, KB Star Flying Club and Delta Aerospace Sdn Bhd were the signatories of the moU here Sunday.

The state-of-the-art facility will be equipped to cater for the assembly of a wide range of aircraft types and models, which will commence next year once the construction phase for the facility is completed.

Dosh Rain Consult International managing partner Ahmad Hawardy Abd Hamid said the facility would commence with two-seater aircraft but it would quickly be expanded to cater for four-seater aircraft in the near term and larger aircraft over the medium term.

He said the center would have an initial production capacity of 40 aircraft annually, employing some 50 staff, adding that the final production capacity was anticipated to exceed 100 aircraft a year.

Meanwhile, Delta Aerospace director Paul Cranswick said the establishment of the center would involve significant investment to the country, and would also provide suitable employment, especially for Sabah's local population.

"Malaysia is one in only six countries in the world which has license to manufacture and export completed, that is why Malaysia is such an ideal country for this program.

"We will eventually be looking at full manufacturing of general aviation and light aircraft, and making Malaysia as the regional center for maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft," he said.


Cheeki Rafiki Lost at Sea

Coast Guard: Hull of missing yacht found off Mass. 

Posted: May 23, 2014 10:40 AM EST
Updated: May 23, 2014 5:47 PM EST

A U.S. Navy warship has located the overturned hull of a British yacht that went missing last week in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but officials said Friday night's deadline to end the search remains in effect.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson said a helicopter from the warship spotted the hull Friday afternoon, in an area roughly 1,000 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. A small boat crew confirmed it bore the name of the 40-foot Cheeki Rafiki.

The hull had previously been spotted by a container ship last Saturday. The Coast Guard, at the time, said there was no sign of the sailors or a life raft.

Simpson said Friday was the first time rescuers examined the hull, which had a breach where the keel had broken off.

A Navy swimmer found the boat's cabin completely flooded and its windows shattered. Simpson said the swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached below the waterline but got no response.

Simpson said confirmation of the overturned hull does not change its deadline for suspending the search. He said among the items rescuers are searching for is a bright-colored life raft.

The Coast Guard has said it would only extend the search beyond 10 p.m. EST if they find evidence the crew members are still alive. The search has involved American, British and Canadian vessels and aircraft.

The British Foreign Office said it has informed the missing sailors' families of the discovery. The Foreign Office said earlier Friday that the families were "saddened to hear that the US Coast Guard will be suspending the search. But they were prepared for the fact that this would have to happen."

The Cheeki Rafiki had had been returning to England from a regatta in Antigua when it reported trouble last Thursday. Contact with the crew was lost Friday, May 16. The crew included 22-year-old captain Andrew Bridge and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin.

James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin (l-r) are all experienced yachtsmen 

We are saddened to hear the plight of the crew of Cheeki Rafiki.

News coming in today confirms the boat was taking on water on its Atlantic Crossing but contact was lost early on Friday as they diverted to the Azores and a coast guard search has now been called off.

They are feared to have capsized and abandoned to a life raft, Southampton charter firm Stormforce Coaching said, who are the official Managing Agents for the boat.

Updates can be found at 

Media inquiries are being handled by Louise Nicholls of the Royal Yachting Association

We are saddened by the news but remain hopeful that a renewed search effort will find the crew.


The Cheeki Rafiki, seen here in a photograph issued by the Royal Yachting Association, had taken part in Antigua Sailing Week 

Photo by Tim Wright 

The families of four British sailors missing since their yacht capsized in the Atlantic Ocean have appealed to the US Coastguard to resume their search.

Contact with the men was lost on Friday after they reported running into difficulties about 1,000 miles (1,600km) off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The US Coastguard-led air and sea search was called off on Sunday.

But MP Caroline Nokes said the families of the men were "absolutely convinced" they could still be alive.

'Saturated area'

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) named the four crew members as Andrew Bridge, 21, from Farnham, Surrey, the yacht's skipper; Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset; Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and 23-year-old James Male, from Southampton.

They were returning from a Caribbean sailing event when their boat, the Cheeky Rafiki, began taking on water.

Ms Nokes, the Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, said the men were well-equipped and trained for an emergency.

She also said she had been in contact with the Foreign Office and it was "investigating every avenue it can do" to try to encourage the US Coastguard to act for longer.

The families were "desperately keen that the search be resumed, that although conditions are not good they're better than they were when the search started", she added.

"So they're keen to emphasise the life raft could well have been deployed, that the men are trained to survive this sort of eventuality and so really they're beseeching the US Coastguard to carry on with that search and just give them a bit more of a chance."

Holding out hope

Mr Warren's sister Kay Coombes told the BBC: "We appreciate everything that the US coastguard and the Canadian coastguard has already done but we would just like them to search a little bit longer."

She described the crew as "very strong" and said she believed they managed to escape to a life raft.

Mr Bridge's aunt Georgina Bridge told Sky News: "We are holding out great hope that Andrew and the guys on board Cheeki Rafiki will be found.

"We are hopeful that they were able to launch a life raft and that they are still on board that, so we would just really like the search to be resumed."

Speaking to the Times, Mr Male's father Graham Male said: "We just want them to continue searching."

Robin Knox Johnston, President of the Sail Training Association, said it was possible the men could still be alive.

He said life rafts were designed to be accessible in emergency situations and it was "very likely" they could have escaped.

Sea conditions

The crew ran into difficulties on Thursday while returning from Antigua Sailing Week.

They were delivering the vessel back after it participated in the week - one of the world's top regattas - when it started taking on water.

The RYA said typical supplies on a life raft would include survival suits, water, food, flares and a first aid kit.

Three US and Canadian aircraft and three merchant vessels looked for them on Friday and Saturday.

The US Coastguard said the search area had involved approximately 4,146 square miles and it was "extremely disappointed" not to have found the sailors.

Winds at the start of the search were said to have been blowing at more than 50mph, the sea reached heights of up to 20ft and visibility was reduced to under a mile.

The Foreign Office confirmed it was aware of the missing yacht: "We are in contact with the US Coastguard and have offered consular assistance to the families."

 Searching were crews from:

  • A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, HC-130 Hercules aircraft
  • A U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft, from Moody Air Force Base, in Valdosta, Georgia
  • A Canadian air national guard C-130 aircraft
  • The 600-foot motor vessel Teesta Spirit
  • The 652-foot motor vessel Georgia Highway
  • The 1,000-foot motor vessel Maersk Kure
 Read more here:

May 18, 2014 - 4:00am | By United States Coast Guard 

UPDATE: The Coast Guard has suspended its active search, pending further developments, for four sailors 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 5 a.m. Sunday.

Weather on scene is 50-knot winds and 15-foot seas.

Crews from the 600-foot Teesta Spirit and the 652-foot Georgia Highway diverted to assist.

The Coast Guard is searching for four sailors 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Friday.

Watchstanders from the 1st Coast Guard District command center in Boston were notified at approximately 12:30 a.m., Friday, of two 406MHz personal locator beacons registered to the 40.7-foot U.K.-flagged sailing vessel Cheeki Rafiki. See the photo below of a sister-ship. 

The Cheeki Rafiki's agent in the U.K. also told the U.S. Coast Guard the last message they received from the crew stated they were taking on water with four people on board. 

A Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew immediately launched to locate the sailing vessel.

The district command center watchstanders also contacted available vessels in the area to assist. Crews from the 600-foot Teesta Spirit and the 652-foot Georgia Highway diverted to assist.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, also launched a Canadian Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to assist in the search.

The Hercules crew arrived on scene at approximately 8:30 a.m. The crew continued to search through the morning and located small pieces of debris, but no sign of the sailors. The air crew departed the area for Halifax, Nova Scotia, to refuel and swap flight crews.

"It is extremely challenging to respond to a distress case so far off shore, which is why it takes a joint effort with our international partners to put forward an effective search," said Capt. Anthony Popiel, 1st Coast Guard District Chief of Response. "We are especially grateful to have the merchant vessel assistance with the surface given the inclement weather."

Weather on scene is 50-knot winds and 15-foot seas.

The 1st Coast Guard District covers from New Jersey to Canada with search and rescue duties extending approximately 1,300 miles from shore. Units across the Northeast conduct more than 2,500 search and rescue cases in a year, and rescue more than 300 people.

The photo below is a similar Beneteau 40.7 from the company website.


Employment Opportunity: Airport Manager - Altoona-Blair County (KAOO), Martiburg, Pennsylvania


Hazleton, Pennsylvania: Many volunteered to aid Civil Air Patrol project

Published: May 18, 2014


In September 2013, the Civil Air Patrol issued a revised regulation requiring all squadrons with airplanes to remove all non-airplane-related materials from hangar facilities. These changes were mandated for obvious safety reasons, but members of Hazleton Squadron 203 knew work would be required at their own hangar at the Hazleton airport in order to come into compliance with the revised regulation.

Capt. Tom Hall, deputy squadron commander, reached out to squadron members for input on alternatives to getting the job done. Upon review of the supplies and materials stored in the hangar, the members determined that the bulk of the contents would have to be moved out.

That, of course, presented a new problem: where to put everything. Space within the squadron building was already limited. The team determined that an outdoor shed would sufficiently meet their newly created storage requirements.

The Civil Air Patrol is a nonprofit organization, and all CAP members are volunteers. Finding sufficient funds for those items CAP needs to properly manage its facility is always a challenge.

This case was no different. The team would have to locate and pay for a new storage shed. Team members found an appropriate 10-by-14-foot shed at Lowe's, who was then generous enough to donate it to CAP. The team, however, would be responsible for transporting the assembled shed from Lowe's on Route 93 in West Hazleton to the facility at the Hazleton Regional Airport themselves.

Capt. Hall first contacted the appropriate local and airport officials to obtain approval for the placement of the shed. Lts. John Beavers and Terry Hartwell assisted Capt. Hall with the site prep work.

Chris Herbener, of Herbener & Son Trucking & Excavating of White Haven, volunteered his time and resources to transport the shed from Lowe's to the airport. Flying enthusiast Al Roman donated resources and manpower (Chris Sanzi) to assist with getting the shed off the truck and placing it on the stone pad prepared by CAP volunteers.

To ensure a safe trip from Lowe's to the airport, West Hazleton police (Gary Sanzi) and Hazle Township Fire Department (Matthew Marsicano) provided an escort during transportation. At the airport, CAP members Capt. Gary Ziegler and Lt. Rob Rabinowitz joined the other Squadron 203 members to assist with unloading the shed and getting the shed on its pad.

With the shed now in place, Squadron 203 members can move their equipment and supplies out of the hangar and into the shed for proper storage. And, after a few minor renovations to the hangar, Squadron 203 will be compliant with the CAP regulation, and able to house a CAP plane in the hangar.

This project was a success thanks to the volunteer efforts of many. Hazleton Squadron 203 thanks everyone involved in the project. Volunteer service is a core value that CAP members demonstrate time and again.

As a result of the time, support and generosity volunteered by others in the community, Squadron 203 remains at the ready and able to perform required emergency service and training missions.

1st Lt. John Beavers,

public affairs officer,

Hazleton Squadron 203,

Civil Air Patrol


Civil Air Patrol cadets attend recent Wing Glider Program

Civil Air Patrol cadets from Smyrna Squadron TN005 explored aviation through the CAP Tennessee Wing Glider Program on May 3.

Five cadets ages 12-18 and one senior member travelled to Tullahoma to explore glider aviation training onboard the Civil Air Patrols two unpowered gliders.

Upon arrival cadets were briefed by the Wing Glider program officer CAP/Maj. Ralph Bard, who provided instruction on proper wing walking procedures, and introduced the flight areas to be utilized in the full day of glider training.

After the briefing cadets were taken to the aircraft hangar where they met their flight instructor and national champion glider pilot, Leo Benetti. The team walked with the aircraft as it was towed the one-fourth mile to runway 18 at the Tullahoma Airport.

There the glider was setup to be towed by the Civil Air Patrol’s Cessna 182. Each cadet received a minimum of two sorties and one hour of introduction to glider piloting. Cadets who display interest may further pursue their glider pilot rating. The cadets from the Smyrna CAP Squadron flew the entire day, 12 hours and 16 flights total.

Civil Air Patrol is the Air Force Youth Auxiliary, with more than 60,000 members nationwide. CAP flies over 80 percent of First Air Force missions, and cadets participate in the three core missions of CAP, Emergency Services, Aerospace Education and Cadet Programs.

Our many thanks goes out to Major Bard and Lt Benetti for their dedication to the Tennessee Civil Air Patrol Glider aviation program. This is a pinnacle activity for the cadets and some are planning to achieve glider pilot rating. The Smyrna Civil Air Patrol Squadron meets weekly at Stones River Baptist Church in Smyrna. 

For more information visit


Silver Airways

Silver Airways???
May 18, 2014, 7:15 AM

"Does anyone know what is going on with Silver Airways??  I am trying to book a flight to Eleuthera thru Florida and no matter what date I search there are no flights available. I went on Silver Airways website and they have flights available.  So I am wondering if they are not dealing with United any longer?"


Three years old, Silver Airways embracing its niche

The day Silver Airways first stood on its own, Mother Nature brought the carrier to its knees.

A major storm struck in South Florida on the night before Silver’s first day as an independent airline last June, knocking out power in the Fort Lauderdale headquarters and forcing employees to work from a Margate call center and nearby hotel.

Flights were canceled, leaving passengers stranded at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport — and because the airline had switched over to a new reservations system at midnight from its own shared system with United Airlines, gate and flight information had changed, leading to mass confusion.

“Day one of Silver Airways here in Fort Lauderdale was exciting, to put it mildly,” said president and CEO Dave Pflieger.

Just over a month into the job at that point, Pflieger went to the airport and found a “conga line of 100 people” waiting to get out. The airline had to cancel flights elsewhere, move planes into South Florida and keep the crowds informed. Pflieger said he walked around looking up flight numbers on his iPhone and telling people when to expect their flights to depart.

“We got every single passenger out of Fort Lauderdale,” he said. “It wasn’t our finest day, [but] I was proud of the way the team handled it.”

Silver Airways has had smoother sailing since then, though plenty of challenges remain for the airline that describes itself as a hybrid: part startup, part turnaround, both independent carrier and partner of a larger airline.

In the past year, the company has taken several steps to strengthen the business, including sharpening its Florida focus and adding interline agreements with partners including American Airlines, Bahamasair, Delta, JetBlue, US Airways, German airline Hahn Air and Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways. Just last week, Silver announced an expanded partnership with JetBlue that will allow passengers to earn that airline’s loyalty points while traveling on Silver, and to book connecting flights between the two airlines on JetBlue’s website.

Silver announced earlier this year that it had secured up to $73 million in financing from GB Credit Partners in a recapitalization. The money will be used to partially repay some of the investments made by owner Victory Park Capital and provide up to $25 million for growth.

“These days, if you’re going to start a new airline, you need to be prepared to spend about $100 million and a couple years to get into flying if you’re going to be a low-cost carrier,” Pflieger said. “In the regional space it wouldn’t be that onerous. The airline industry is not for the faint of heart.”

Pflieger would not reveal financial details about the privately held company or say whether it is turning a profit yet.

“Things are going well and we’re sort of resetting and making sure we’re well positioned for future success,” he said.

The airline was born three years ago — May 11, 2011 — when Chicago-based investment firm Victory Park Capital acquired select assets from Gulfstream International Airlines, which had filed for bankruptcy the previous November. Financial details about the transaction were not released.

By the end of 2011, the investors announced that the new airline would be called Silver Airways. With the addition of six refurbished Saab 340B Plus aircraft — 34-seat turboprop planes — the airline unveiled its new fuchsia, silver and dark gray livery.

In the first couple years of its new existence, Silver Airways operated essentially under the radar when it came to public attention. Travelers who booked on United Airlines might notice a leg of their journey “operated by” Silver Airways as a regional carrier. The airline shared a reservation system with United but still started to earn a reputation as “a vibrant, dynamic newcomer,” as Air Transport World called it in early 2013.

The industry publication named Silver Airways its regional airline of the year in February 2013, citing its “strong leadership and a passion for providing safe, upscale and reliable service.”

“The thing that impressed us about Silver is it’s somewhat unique in the U.S. airline market right now,” said Aaron Karp, senior editor for ATW. Most regional carriers operate larger planes under capacity agreements with major airlines, he said.

“Silver is operating under its own brand and it’s operating smaller turboprops on niche routes that a lot of the larger airlines and larger regional airlines have stopped flying to,” Karp said.

The airline moved to a reservations system powered by Sabre, the global travel technology company, last June. That allowed customers to book flights directly on Silver itself rather than only ending up on it because of an agreement with another airline.

“I like to say down here, we’re a free agent,” Pflieger said. Silver flies as an independent airline from Atlanta south, and as United Express up north.

Now, Pflieger is focusing on digging into the markets Silver can best serve, with an emphasis on flying direct between cities in Florida and from Florida to the Bahamas. The carrier flies between 10 Florida cities — a new nonstop Key West-to-Orlando route starts June 12 — and seven in the Bahamas. It boasts more service between Florida cities and more flights between Florida and the Bahamas than any other airline in the country.

Airfare varies, and becomes especially expensive when demand is high. A check on the airline’s website shows round-trip flights for about $331 from Fort Lauderdale to and from North Eleuthera, Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas during the first weekend of June. A round-trip ticket to and from Orlando comes in at about $170.

While Pflieger said the low-cost model “doesn’t really fit in the regional space,” he said he does hear complaints from passengers when ticket prices get too high.

“Anybody who’s not talking about being low cost is going to go out of business,” he said.

Silver is still a small presence at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, where it has increased available seats since 2010 while decreasing the number of flights — possible because it is flying larger aircraft these days.

This month, the airline has 18,350 available seats flying to and from FLL, a nearly 34 percent increase compared to the number its predecessor Gulfstream had at the same time in 2010 before filing for bankruptcy.

The airline, which employs 925 people, has its headquarters on the second floor of the Sheltair Aviation facility near the FLL tower. Silver has 58 employees within the airport itself and 139 at the main office.

With the push in Florida and the Bahamas, Pflieger is also moving to limit the airline to one type of plane — the 34-seat Saab turboprop. There are 28 in the fleet, and five 19-seat Beech 1900D that the airline is phasing out.

Part of Silver’s business has been flying federally subsidized “Essential Air Service” routes to underserved markets including small towns in Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama. Those represent more than $44 million in various stages of contracts that typically last two years. Silver has bid to continue two more years of service for up to nine of its existing cities, including five in West Virginia, three in Pennsylvania and Shenandoah Valley, Virginia.

Pflieger already pulled the airline out of that type of service in Montana late last year and announced in February that Silver intends to leave the Cleveland hub, which serves three Pennsylvania cities plus Jamestown, New York, and Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Last month, the airline said it would cease service between Atlanta and five cities in Alabama and Mississippi, a system where it had run into delays, cancellations and other operational issues. All of the service was considered “essential” by the federal government.

“What I’m doing is rationalizing our fleet, then the network — only flying where it makes sense,” Pflieger said.

In the case of the Cleveland and Atlanta hubs, the airline placed part of the blame on lower-than-expected passenger use and new federal regulations that govern flight and duty limitations and increased requirements for new pilots. The rule, which went into effect last year, requires new co-pilots to hold a certificate that requires 1,500 hours as a pilot, compared to one that only requires 250 hours of flight time.

Pflieger said the rule has contributed to a nationwide pilot shortage. Low-cost carriers hired away regional pilots, and new graduates coming out of aviation school aren’t yet qualified with enough flight hours to fill the jobs.

To make a dent in what’s expected to be a short- and long-term shortage, Silver formed a partnership with Broward College that will give preference for interviews and hiring to co-pilot candidates who graduate from the Professional Pilot Technology degree program.

Silver also announced a $12,000 hiring bonus for first officers, or co-pilots, to be paid out at key points over two years. The airline doesn’t disclose how much it pays its pilots, but the Air Line Pilots Association said the average starting salary for new first officers is $22,400 a year.

Russell McCaffery, dean of transportation programs at Broward College, said both the bonuses and partnership would be attractive to students.

“There are a lot of pilot jobs out there currently,” he said. “What’s special about the agreement is it makes the path for a student a lot easier.”

McCaffery said students have access to representatives from the airline during their training and don’t have to wonder who is hiring, how to navigate that process, worry about what the interview is like and where they might be based if they’re hired.

“It just makes it more convenient for them,” he said.

Several students are close to having enough hours to be hired by the airline, he said, and after that there’s “a whole pipeline” moving forward.

In addition to working on the pilot shortage issue and readjusting routes, Pflieger has built a new team by bringing in 20 executives from regional and larger airlines. The new leadership group is part of the plan to take Silver to the next level, he said.

“Don’t just be a regional airline working for one partner; now it’s all about we’re an independent startup airline for all intents and purposes,” he said. “It’s a higher bar.”

Silver does not release on-time performance, but for the time period between June and December of last year, the flight information site shows a low of nearly 77 percent of flights on time in June and a high of more than 90 percent in October. Some passengers on social media and news stories in communities outside Florida have complained about excessive delays and cancellations — issues the airline has been working to deal with.

“As we restructure our fleet, pilot bases and hubs, we plan to fly where it makes the best operational sense — where we can not only meet, but exceed our guests’ expectations and continue to grow the airline,” said spokeswoman Misty Pinson in an email. She added that improvement efforts under way are being led by an entirely new team that has already made “huge strides.”

Those efforts are earning praise. In its readers’ choice awards late last year, Condé Nast Traveler listed Silver at No. 8 in its top 10 list of U.S. airlines. The magazine said Silver “burst onto the scene with a fleet of small to midsize turboprops that can zip fliers in smaller U.S. cities to points in the Bahamas and beyond.”

Silver isn’t shy about sharing its news: The airline has a robust media operation that sends frequent updates about its partnerships, awards, service additions and withdrawals and other tidbits.

Fort Lauderdale resident Liz Caldwell, who sells real estate in Broward, found out about Silver through real estate clients and a neighbor who worked on advertising with the airline.

Now, she uses Silver Airways to get to Eleuthera five or six times a year. Her family has a home there that it uses for its own vacations and as a vacation rental.

Previous air options, including a single-engine nine-seater, had ceased flying to the island, so Silver’s service was a welcome addition.

“To me, I think it’s great,” Caldwell said. “I think it’s comfortable. It was better than what we used to fly.”

Caldwell has even sent photos of her traveling crew — with the plane in the background — to airline executives she knows.

Pflieger said Silver evokes those kind of emotions in passengers.

“It’s almost sort of nostalgic-days-of-old flying, the Elizabeth Taylor era of walking on the tarmac, getting on the airplane, looking at the window and seeing the propellers,” he said. “Our flying hearkens back to the age-old flying.”

Story and comments:

Silver Airways

Headquarters: On the grounds of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Employees: 925

Destinations: 38, including seven in the Bahamas and 10 in Florida

Daily flights: 152

Daily seats: 4,770

Available seat miles: 25.5 million

Total number of flights scheduled in 2013: 64,843

Owned by: Victory Park Capital, a Chicago investment firm that also owns the consumer business of Fuller Brush Co. and Surefire Industries, a supplier of equipment for the oil and gas industry

Laos Declares Days of Mourning After Plane Crash: Major Impact on Lao Regime Is Unlikely, Says Analyst

The Wall Street Journal 
By  Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol
Updated May 18, 2014 7:29 a.m. ET

BANGKOK—Laos declared three days of mourning through Monday after a Saturday plane crash killed a number of senior government ministers and officials, including Defense Minister Douangchay Phichit, but an analyst predicted there would be no serious impact on the communist government.

The official Lao News Agency published a government announcement confirming the deaths of Mr. Phichit, who was also a deputy prime minister, Minister of Public Security Thongbanh Sengaphone, Cheuang Sombounkhanh, secretary of the ruling communist Lao People's Revolutionary Party, and Soukanh Mahalath, the mayor of Vientiane, the capital.

The cause of the accident is under investigation, the statement said. It didn't specify the number of passengers aboard the Antonov 74TK-300 aircraft or details about other casualties. The news agency has published several photos of the accident.

Landlocked Laos is one of Asia's most secretive countries and remains under the heavy hand of communist rule, which was enforced by some of the people aboard the plane. The regime deals harshly with dissent and doesn't face a visibly large and organized opposition, though ethnic groups with ties outside the country are repeatedly accused of trying to foment unrest.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer in international relations at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, said that the loss of the senior officials will unlikely cause any serious impact in the ruling party because of the strong control it exercises among its members.

"The latest accident may lead to changes within the structure of the ruling party, and the government, as some senior and older members with alleged corruption and family issues may be replaced with younger people whose reputation and background are better," Prof. Panitan said.

Any shake-up in the leadership of Laos's accident-prone aviation would likely be done quietly in a regime that strongly controls the flow of information, he said.

The plane crashed at 7 a.m. local time in Nadee village in the Paek district of Xiangkhouang province, the prime minister's office said Saturday, about 435 kilometers (270 miles) northeast of Vientiane, near the Plain of Jars. The area suffered heavy bombing during the Vietnam War.

Officials in neighboring Thailand said the plane was carrying 18 people and crashed into a forest after it lost control as it was descending. It was bringing passengers to mark the 55th anniversary of a military victory against royalist forces.

Thailand and Laos share a long border and work closely on combating drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

The latest fatal aviation incident follows a Lao Airlines plane crash in October, near Pakse Airport in the southern part of the country, during a heavy storm that killed all 49 people on board.

—Wilawan Watcharasakwet contributed to this article. 


Antonov 74TK-300,  RDPL-34020,  Laos Government

Great Lakes Airlines leaves Arizona town high and dry

From George Francuski
Kingman, Arizona

Great Lakes Airlines, headquartered in Cheyenne, has lost Essential Air Service funding. This means the end of the only regularly scheduled commercial air service for the entire county of Mohave County, Arizona.

Once more, the leaders of this airline have failed us.

Kingman Airport is owned by the city of Kingman. Great Lakes Airline provides year-round air service at the airport. Travel options are now fewer for the 200,000 residents of Mohave County.

Great Lakes officials have done our county a tremendous disservice. This national airline is the largest recipient of Essential Air Service funds. At the time of its application to secure the funds, half of its revenue - yes, half of its total revenue - was this government subsidy.

When Congress decided to deregulate the airline industry, it recognized airlines would drastically cut back the cities they serviced - flying only those cities that would be profitable.

It developed the Essential Air Service program to let airlines keep flying to cities like Kingman. These subsidies were intended to provide funds until the airline could promote and establish the profitability of these routes.

Great Lakes had no desire to promote air service in Kingman. There were no advertisements in our local newspapers, no radio spots on our radio stations, no television ads on our station, or even direct mailers.

Its business plan was to fly its planes only to meet the terms of the federal contract. That meant Essential Air Service money for every landing, regardless if any passengers deplaned.

Why fly passengers requiring additional fuel, airline personnel, baggage handling, servicing customers, etc., when you can collect a tidy sum and save the wear and tear on your aircraft and pay for the very minimum of employees needed?

By failing to build ridership, Great Lakes has eliminated any commercial airline from considering servicing airports in the county.

If Great Lakes used the federal funds for what they were intended, this route would show a profit for any airline wishing to serve Mohave County.

If Great Lakes would have acted as a responsible member of our business community, we would not be losing this valuable resource.


Michigan Senate panel move to increase airport spending draws criticism

Lansing— A Senate committee last week dramatically ramped up proposed spending to catch up on $730 million worth of improvements at Michigan airports, but its plan is drawing significant opposition.

The proposal would add $32 million to $42 million a year to the pot of money available for airport improvements through an adjusted aviation fuel tax. But a provision to offset the hike by eliminating Michigan’s 6 percent sales tax on aviation fuel sales has upset city and school officials.

“It causes us great concern,” said Jennifer Smith, the Michigan Association of School Boards’ assistant government relations director. “We’re losing guaranteed revenue.”

Up to $57 million a year in aviation sales tax revenue, which automatically flows to schools, would be lost. The Senate plan would replace the lost revenue with $57 million a year from the General Fund — the main state checkbook — but it is less certain because it would be subject to annual legislative approval.

Another $7 million in General Fund revenue would be shifted to local governments to offset their lost aviation sales tax revenue. The Michigan Municipal League also has qualms about the uncertainty in this strategy.

Without an inflationary factor in the legislation, “that $7 million at some point would be worth considerably less than $7 million,” said Municipal League specialist John LaMacchia.

The airport funding proposal, approved in the Senate Finance Committee last Wednesday, revamps a House-passed plan that would boost annual airport funding by a smaller amount — $17 million.

Lawmakers are trying to meet requests from state transportation officials and airport executives to step up funding for runway repairs and other upkeep. The 3-cent-a-gallon aviation fuel tax, unchanged in 85 years, no longer yields enough revenue to keep up with the needs, they say.

Legislators have estimated the state must bolster its annual airport allotment by an amount within the range provided under the Senate committee’s plan. Currently, state and local governments put up about $10 million a year to draw down $100 million in yearly federal funds for airports.

The House approved a bill package shifting the flat aviation fuel tax to a 2-percent rate and at least partly offsetting the impact on airlines by knocking 2 percent off the 6 percent sales tax on aviation fuel.

It drew opposition from Delta Air Lines, Michigan’s largest commercial carrier, which says the state’s combined fuel-sales taxes result in the highest rates it pays at any of its state hubs. The combined rate also is third highest in the nation, Delta says.

Under the Senate committee’s revised version, which goes to the full Senate for consideration, the 3-cent-a-gallon fuel tax becomes 4 percent but the entire 6 percent sales tax goes away.

A Delta official told the committee the revision is an improvement, but corporate spokesman Trebor Banstetter was less committal on Friday.

“We don’t really have anything new to say,” Banstetter said. “I would like to reiterate our position that we’re working with state leaders toward a solution that addresses the competition problem and creates a permanent, stable funding source for Michigan’s airports.”

Kevin Klein, who heads the Michigan Association of Airport Executives, endorsed the Senate plan. It meets airport funding needs, makes Michigan’s aviation fuel levy more competitive and follows Federal Aviation Administration fuel tax policies, he said.

“(The association) believes an aviation funding solution must be part of any legislation that is signed into law to address the road funding crisis in Michigan,” added Klein, director of Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport. “This legislation is a great step in making sure that happens.”

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Solent Coastguard called into action after low flying plane spotted

A major rescue operation was launched after reports that a plane had crashed into the sea.

Solent Coastguard sprung into action following a call that a light aircraft had come down in the sea.

A helicopter scoured the coastline while rescue teams questioned the public along the shoreline at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight last night where the plane was thought to have gone down.

A man had reported that a Cessna 150 or Cessna 172 had flown low over his house and he heard a noise and thought it had gone into the sea so called 999 at around 4.15pm yesterday.

This sparked a three-house search for the supposed missing plane involving the Solent Coastguard and the National Rescue Center in RAF Kinloss in Scotland.

Teams interviewed members of the public on the shoreline who had also seen the low-flying aircraft, put out a broadcast to all ships for sightings of the aircraft and contacted local air traffic control including at Southampton and Bournemouth to see if they were aware of any incident.

The Coastguard helicopter searched the water for possible wreckage and oil, but found nothing.

Searchers finally concluded that it had been a false alarm.

Operation PROP in Hancock County, Mississippi: Stennis International Airport (KHSA), Bay St Louis

KILN -- Operation PROP -- People Reaching Outrageous Potential -- aims to propel participants to new heights.

More than 70 wounded veterans and Coastians with disabilities learned the sky's the limit Saturday at Stennis International Airport.

Linwood Nooe started Operation PROP after realizing hand controls can help paraplegics fly airplanes.

"You can give them their life back," he said. Nooe hopes to eventually give the FAA-approved hand controls to flight schools.

"Flying is a passion," Nooe said. "To see the smiles on these folks' faces is incredible, and the pilots love it."

Operation PROP is free to anyone with disabilities, as well as wounded military.

Participating in Operation PROP for the first time was Atlanta skydiver Warren Cleary.

In 2011, Cleary suffered a spinal cord injury while participating in a skydiving competition in Colorado.

He said before his injury, he jumped out of planes every day.

"It was eight months after the accident" before he jumped again. "Not being able to do it was more detrimental," he said.

A wheelchair doesn't stop Cleary, who jumps out of planes on the weekends, saying, "It's just a hobby now."

Wearing a huge grin and giving thumbs up, veteran Jimmy Cook, 87, flew with Maryke Houben, a member of the Mississippi Ninety-Nines women pilots' organization. Cook is seeking treatment at the VA Blind Rehab Center in Biloxi.

All the pilots participating in Operation PROP donate their time and fuel to the cause.

Ground volunteer Natalie Guess with the Magnolia Business Alliance said, "It's definitely a feel-good project, seeing the kids and their faces light up."

Guess emphasized how great it is to "provide them a day where their disability is not on their mind."

While waiting to fly, participants played wheelchair basketball and softball and enjoyed a cookout in one of the hangars.

This was Stennis Airport's first year to host Operation PROP, but Nooe said the event will be back next year.

Story, photo gallery and video:

Giving two thumbs up, pilot Maryke Houben and military veteran Jimmy Cook, 87, prepare for take off from Stennis International Airport during Operation PROP on Saturday, May 17, 2014.