Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Tenants say Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO) must operate until at least 2023

National aviation groups and Santa Monica Airport tenants, including actor Harrison Ford, filed a federal complaint Wednesday challenging the long-held position of city officials that the embattled airport can be shut down next July.

Santa Monica officials have insisted that the terms of federal airport improvement grants the city has received over the years allow them to close the general aviation hub next year because all conditions will have expired.

But in a complaint filed with the Federal Aviation Administration, the tenants point out that in August 2003, $240,600 was added to a $1.6-million grant, pushing back the closure date to at least August 2023. Grant terms usually expire after 20 years.

"It's pretty much self-evident," said Richard K. Simon, an attorney for the tenants. "This is a very important issue. The city is already studying actions that would violate the grant assurances."

Deputy City Atty. Ivan Campbell, who has handled airport matters, declined to comment Wednesday, saying he had not yet discussed the complaint with city officials.

In addition to Ford, the action was filed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., the National Business Aviation Assn., an aircraft brokerage, a flight school, a repair shop, an aerial film production company and several aircraft owners. 

The complaint sets in motion an administrative process in which both sides present their positions and evidence to a high-ranking FAA official. The decision can be appealed in federal court.

Santa Monica went through a similar proceeding several years ago after it tried to ban certain types of jets at the airport. The FAA overturned the ban and the city lost on appeal.

In various court and FAA proceedings, the city has asserted that the funds received in 2003 were "just an accounting on a previous grant" and included no new grant requirements. Santa Monica also has disputed the findings of a hearing officer, who disagreed with its position.

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Women soar at LebanAir Aviation: Lebanon State Airport (S30), Oregon

The airport was active with flights as LebanAir Aviation hosted a Ladies Day on June 28.

The event featured presentations from female pilots, free plane rides for everyone and helicopter demonstration flights.

Jenny Langmann, a helicopter flight instructor from Hillsboro Aviation, spoke at the event and provided demo flights for $69 dollars.

Langmann said she prefers helicopters to planes because they are able to land anywhere.

On the way from Hillsboro to Lebanon, she stopped to land on a bank on a river.

During demo flights, Langmann landed the chopper on top of a nearby hill.

“I thought it would be like a simulation at Disneyland where you have your feet dangling out,” said Sage Killeman after going on a demo flight. “It was very relaxed. For a second, I thought it would be terrifying.”

Killeman is familiar with small-craft aviation, and she has her fixed-wing pilots license.

“There’s so much interaction with a helicopter,” Killeman said. “With an airplane there’s a lot of sitting back.”

With helicopters, a pilot’s hands never leave the controls, Langmann explained.

Langmann has been flying helicopters for about five years, she said, and was hired about a year ago as a flight instructor.

Langmann also is a member of the Whirly-Girls.

The Whirly-Girls is a support network for pilots that provides scholarships to women for helicopter training, according to its website.

Langmann said there is a network of people in aviation, and attending events such as Ladies Day at the Airport helps expand that network.

Langmann has not faced any gender discrimination, but has heard horror stories from other female pilots dealing with gender bias.

“It’s still a very male-driven industry,” Langmann said.

Evelyn Rackleff Lohr, of Lebanon, spoke about her experiences as pilot. Lohr wrote the “The Beckoning Storm,” about those experiences.

Lohr started flying when she was 36.

“I started here in 1959,” Lohr said. “My life was at this airport. We had fly-ins and pancake breakfasts.”

Lohr started writing the book in 1988, and finished in in 1995.

Lohr had trouble finding a publisher, so she decided to self publish.

“It’s very real; it’s exactly what it’s like to learn to fly,” Lohr said. “I’ve seen lots of terror. I’ve been lost, but I always made it out.”

Lohr plans to release another book next month.

The next event at LebanAir Aviation is LebanAir Day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on July 12 at the Lebanon State Airport, 1600 W Airway Road; Lebanon, OR 97355.

The event is open to the public. There will be an outhouse flour bombing, an antique car and plane show and a beer garden.

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Small-plane overseers come up short on safety: Our view

The Editorial Board, 9:23 p.m. EDT July 2, 2014 

Airline travel has become remarkably safe. Although a South Korean 777 hit a seawall in San Francisco a year ago and killed three people, no U.S. passenger airliner has crashed since Colgan Air Flight 3407 went down near Buffalo in 2009.

Too bad the same thing can't be said about the tens of thousands of flights every day that make up "general aviation" — everything from small private planes and medevac helicopters to crop dusters and business jets.

FAA: We're working to reduce accidents

Year after year, this segment of aviation suffers more than 1,000 accidents. Some are as minor as scraping a wing, but far too many are crashes. They kill 300 to 400 people a year and injure many others. 

Most of this is the fault of pilots whose overconfidence, lack of skill or momentary inattention get them into mortal trouble. Aggressive safety reminders to pilots helped bring down the general aviation accident rate until the improvement stalled in the late 1990s.

But as USA TODAY's recent investigative series "Unfit for Flight" showed, accidents are also the preventable result of airplane defects or manufacturing lapses that federal agencies charged with airline safety could do much more to identify and fix.

For example, the National Transportation Safety Board is quick to blame pilots for most accidents. But the agency's investigations of general aviation accidents can be cursory, and the inquiries sometimes rely on manufacturers to say whether something they made played a role.

Subsequent lawsuits have revealed that some pilots were done in by safety defects or design errors that manufacturers had denied or covered up. USA TODAY's Tom Frank found 21 court verdicts ordering manufacturers cleared by the NTSB to pay nearly $1 billion after juries found their products contributed to accidents.

Further, the NTSB's heavy focus on what causes aircraft to crash can obscure why pilots and passengers die, or are badly injured, in accidents they might have survived. For example, evidence existed for years that fuel tanks on the Robinson R-44 helicopter could rupture and cause fatal fires in otherwise survivable accidents. Last year, Australian aviation authorities mandated changes to the R-44's tanks after three fatal post-crash fires. Finally this January, the NTSB asked the Federal Aviation Administration to do the same here, but the FAA refused.

The FAA has often declined to order safety retrofits to older aircraft for fear of the costs to aircraft owners. An example is the agency's refusal to order installation of shoulder belts in older planes, despite statistics that show they could cut death and serious injury rates in half.

More troubling is the FAA's policy of allowing manufacturers to sell new aircraft that don't meet current safety standards — as long as the new models are based on a previously approved design, some of which are decades old. That's like allowing Ford to sell new Mustangs without air bags or anti-lock brakes.

Aviation groups insist that general aviation is safer than activities such as boating or motorcycle riding. That misses the point. Small planes could be safer, and there are many ways to make that happen. For something as important as general aviation, that's where the focus should be.

USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.


SALARIES SERIES: I want to be an air traffic controller. What will my salary be? (Canada)

Brenda Bouw
The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jul. 02 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Jul. 02 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

The role: Air traffic controllers co-ordinate the movement of airplanes, making sure they stay a safe distance apart, says Leslie Calhoun, national manager of on-the-job training programs at Nav Canada and a former air traffic controller. The job’s focus is primarily on safety, but also to help keep flights running efficiently and on time. “There are no traffic signs or stop lights in the air, so the air traffic controllers are organizing the flow of the airplanes within the airport and between airports,” she says. There are two different types of controllers, those who work in the control towers at the airport and those who work in a separate control center.

Salary: Pay starts at about $64,000 annually and can increase to about $145,000 depending on experience. Those being trained to receive their air traffic controller license are paid about $35,000 annually.

You need a high school diploma to apply to be an air traffic controller, but Ms. Calhoun warns it’s a highly competitive field and most successful applicants have more education or life experience. Air traffic controllers undergo about two years of training before receiving their license from Transport Canada. Training includes about a year of classroom and simulation work, with frequent testing along the way, then a final year working alongside a licensed air traffic controller.

By the numbers: There are more than 1,900 air traffic controllers at Nav Canada, which is the private owner and operator of the country’s air navigation service. Nav Canada owns and operates all 41 air traffic control towers and seven area control centers in the country, where air traffic controllers work. Its employees manage 12 million aircraft movements a year for 40,000 aircraft customers, including major airlines, private planes and helicopters, covering more than 18 million square kilometres. Nav Canada says that makes it the world’s second-largest air navigation service provider by traffic volume.

Job prospects: Moderate. There is always a steady demand owing to attrition, Ms. Calhoun says, but competition for jobs is stiff and not everyone makes it through the training. Nav Canada usually has about 60 to 80 training seats open across the country each year.

Challenges: There is a lot of shift work, including early mornings, late nights, weekends and holidays. The training can also be gruelling, Ms. Calhoun says. “In this job, you really need to retain almost all of the information you receive in training because you will use it every day.…You also need to be alert, very self-confident and decisive.”

Why they do it: It interesting and challenging to most people, and it’s a stable job, Ms. Calhoun says. “People typically find it’s exciting to be part of the aviation industry.” The pay is also good and the hours are flexible.

It’s not as stressful as it appears in Hollywood portrayals of the job, Ms. Calhoun says. “It’s a high-performing job and you do need to be on your toes,” she says. “Some people find that stressful, but most of our controllers do not. They thrive on it.”

Give us the scoop: Are you an air traffic controller? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.


Aerobatic pilot who escaped death returns to performing over Vermont

(NECN: Jack Thurston, Highgate, Vt.) - More than two months after he was forced to ditch his plane in a fiery wreck, aerobatic pilot Dan Marcotte is scheduled to perform again in Vermont. On April 18, Marcotte parachuted to safety after he said his biplane lost a propeller and suffered catastrophic engine failure. The plane hurtled toward Interstate 89 North in Highgate, narrowly missing vehicle traffic on the ground and erupting into a fireball.

Thursday, Marcotte will perform his choreographed maneuvers over Lake Champlain near the Burlington waterfront. He said he'll fly at about 8:20 p.m. before the city's Independence Day fireworks extravaganza, which is held annually on July 3.

"People were relieved to know that everything worked out ok [after the crash], and then as soon as the relief passed that I was ok, there was lots of concern over, 'When are we going to see you fly again?'" Marcotte told New England Cable News.

Marcotte has a new biplane, the same early 1980s model as the one he lost. It boasts a slick black, white, and yellow paint job, and should be eye-catching in the sky, Marcotte said. It is equipped with a device that emits smoke behind the plane, he added. "It's very practiced," Marcotte said of his routine.

In April, Marcotte's parachute became tangled in a tree after ejecting from the plane. He said the parachute manufacturer, Strong Enterprises, supported him by repairing the gear. "I'm flying with my original parachute because we know it works great," Marcotte said. "We always hope never to use it, but we like to think if we have to, that it functions as advertised."

Maggie Leugers with the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department told NECN she was relieved to hear Marcotte was uninjured and was glad his crash didn't cancel his appearance at the July 3 celebration. "He does a fantastic show," Leugers said.

Leugers said tens of thousands of people are hoping for good weather Thursday night for his show. "The only way that he wouldn't do the show is-- we wouldn't do the fireworks either-- if we really had that high wind and lightning," Leugers explained, noting the final call would be made Thursday morning.

Leugers added that the air show meets a rigorous set of safety guidelines, and officials including ones from the U.S. Coast Guard have met to discuss security. "Danny is just so, so safety conscious," Leugers said. "It's done in a very, very safe manner in keeping with all the federal regulations that have to happen."

NECN asked the daredevil if he's nervous getting back into the cockpit after the wreck. He said he's not. "When I'm there, I'm at work," Marcotte explained, saying he is too focused on executing his pre-planned maneuvers to let his mind wander to the past. "When I'm flying my airplane, it's all business."

After the Burlington show, Marcotte is scheduled to appear in Bakersfield, Vermont at 7 p.m. this Saturday, July 5. Marcotte thanked his sponsor, Queen City Steel, in Burlington, for the company's support of his shows, as well as Catto Propellers of California for replacement propellers.

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -    Preparations are underway for Burlington's Independence Day celebration. Thousands are expected to pack the waterfront Thursday.

But before the fireworks display, Dan Marcotte will take to the skies. The aerobatic pilot put the finishing touches on his airshow routine during a final practice run at the Franklin County State Airport.

Marcotte will perform in a new plane after his last one was destroyed in a fiery crash on Interstate 89 back in April. Marcotte says he's pleased with the new plane's performance and is promising an action-packed show.

"I think one important thing that it adds is a little bit of entertainment as a precursor to the fireworks. People get down to the waterfront early to get a good spot to watch the fireworks and they're a little bit entertainment starved for a while before the fireworks start. So people can get restless. This gives them something to look forward to and a little bit of a break before the main event," Marcotte said.

The airshow, put on by Queen City Steel, kicks off at 8:30 p.m. And will run for about 15 minutes.

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Ultimate Aero 10-200, N827D: Accident occurred April 18, 2014 in Saint Albans, Vermont:

NTSB Identification: ERA14LA202 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 18, 2014 in Saint Albans, VT
Aircraft: OCONNOR PAUL A ULTIMATE AERO 10-200, registration: N827D
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On April 18, 2012, about 1203 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur built Ultimate Aero 10-200, N827D, was substantially damaged near Saint Albans, Vermont, after an in-flight separation of a propeller blade. The commercial rated pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, which departed Franklin County State Airport (FSO), Highgate, Vermont about 1200.

According to the pilot, He had just recently returned from an airshow in Florida where he had been performing aerobatics with the airplane. On the day of the accident, he was performing a "high-level shakedown" flight, which was his common practice after a long cross country flight. He stated that "the shakedown flight is made at a higher altitude to ensure the satisfactory condition of the aircraft". He departed FSO at approximately 1200 (he reports this is his normal daily practice time) and departed the traffic pattern to the west. He then climbed to 3,000 feet above mean sea level (msl), over some farm fields. He went to begin his high-level shakedown maneuvers but since he was in a "flat pitch attitude" decided to head approximately northeast. As he did so, there was a sudden loud bang/shudder and the canopy shattered. The pilot initially thought there was some type of catastrophic structural failure, and thought a wing had failed. The engine "stopped instantly" and the canopy "clam-shell opened and then slammed back down". He realized that the airplane was "un-flyable" after trying to control the airplane with the flight controls. The airplane then began to spin and he could not arrest the spin. He related that it seemed like a "car accident" loud and sudden and that it seemed the aircraft had lost a lot of forward airspeed.

He advised that before every flight he would practice his egress routine. When he realized that he could not arrest the spin and the airplane was un-flyable, he decided to leave the airplane and initiated an egress. The egress went as planned but his headset jacks would not unplug easily and he ended up breaking them off. He advised that this caused him some concern and a challenge to alleviate the issue. He could not remember what altitude he egressed from the airplane but, after exiting the airplane, his parachute deployed fully at 700 to 1,000 feet msl, and he came to rest in the top of a tree.

According to two witnesses at FSO, They were both familiar with the pilot's airshow practice routine, and the airplane. Both witnesses stated that a couple of minutes after the airplane took off that they heard a normal engine noise followed by a "pop" or a "bang". They both stated that they then ran to the open door of the hangar they were in and looked to the northwest of the airport they saw that the pilot had egressed the airplane and was already descending under a fully deployed chute. They stated that he was approximately 500' to 1,000 feet high and above the trees and was drifting to the northeast.

The airplane was later discovered on the shoulder of the north bound lane of Interstate 89 were it had impacted, and was subject to a post impact fire which consumed the majority of the airplane.

Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed that a propeller blade had separated from the two bladed constant speed propeller's hub.

The propeller hub, the remaining propeller blade, and the propeller governor were retained by the NTSB for further examination.



Dan Marcotte

U.S. investigators will not reopen TWA Flight 800 crash probe

(Reuters) - The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday it will not reconsider its finding that the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 was caused by a fuel tank explosion.

Former NTSB investigator Henry Hughes has said he believes a bomb or a missile caused the Boeing Co 747 to crash into the Atlantic Ocean off New York's Long Island, killing all 230 people on board.

The NTSB concluded in 2000 that the jet broke apart and crashed because of an explosion in the center fuel tank, likely caused by faulty wiring.

"After a thorough review of all the information provided by the petitioners, the NTSB denied the petition in its entirety because the evidence and analysis presented did not show the original findings were incorrect," the agency said.

Hughes had petitioned the agency in June 2013 to reconsider its investigation, saying the initial probe was flawed.

"The witness statements, the physical evidence and other facts clearly show there was an explosion external to the aircraft, not the center fuel tank," Hughes told reporters last July.

He said the NTSB had discounted witness statements, radar data, explosive traces and holes in the fuselage that pointed to an external explosion such as a bomb or missile.

Hughes said he had raised these concerns years ago and subsequently was moved from the aviation to highway investigations before he retired.

The missile theory was one of many initially investigated by the U.S. government after a number of witnesses said they saw a streak of light move toward the plane before it crashed.

But the NTSB concluded that the witness descriptions of the streak of light were consistent with the crippled flight of the airplane after it had exploded at 13,700 feet (4,176 meters). 


NTSB Identification: DCA96MA070.

The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 17, 1996 in EAST MORICHES, NY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/23/2000
Aircraft: Boeing 747-131, registration: N93119
Injuries: 230 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 17, 1996, about 2031 eastern daylight time, Trans World Airlines, Inc. (TWA) flight 800, a Boeing 747-131, N93119, crashed in the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York. TWA flight 800 was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 as a scheduled international passenger flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York, New York, to Charles DeGaulle International Airport, Paris, France. The flight departed JFK about 2019, with 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 14 flight attendants, and 212 passengers on board. All 230 people on board were killed, and the airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The investigation revealed that the crash occurred as the result of a fuel/air explosion in the airplane's center wing fuel tank (CWT) and the subsequent in-flight breakup of the airplane. The investigation further revealed that the ignition energy for the CWT explosion most likely entered the CWT through the fuel quantity indication system wiring; neither the ignition energy release mechanism nor the location of the ignition inside the CWT could be determined from the available evidence. There was no evidence of a missile or bomb detonation. For more information please see National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Report NTSB/AAR-00/03.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
An explosion of the center wing fuel tank (CWT), resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank. The source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty, but, of the sources evaluated by the investigation, the most likely was a short circuit outside of the CWT that allowed excessive voltage to enter it through electrical wiring associated with the fuel quantity indication system. Contributing factors to the accident were the design and certification concept that fuel tank explosions could be prevented solely by precluding all ignition sources and the design and certification of the Boeing 747 with heat sources located beneath the CWT with no means to reduce the heat transferred into the CWT or to render the fuel vapor in the tank nonflammable.


French Enthusiasts Restore Old Airplanes

Vintage airplanes always attract a lot of attention and aviation enthusiasts spend much time, effort and money to restore them to flying condition. When they do not have original planes to restore, they build replicas which can be seen flying through the skies of period movies.

Since 1929, the Salis aircraft collection, at the La Ferté-Alais airfield about 40 kilometers south of Paris, has been a place where old planes - like this Boeing Stearman PT-17 - are restored to flying condition.

It was built in the 1940s for training U.S. military pilots. Out of more than 10,000 produced, only about 20 remain, flying mostly at airshows.

But the most prized possession of the collection is the Bleriot XI in which Louis Bleriot became the first pilot to fly across the English Channel in 1909.

Baptiste Salis, grandson of the man who started the collection, says flying it makes you feel the weight of the history.

“It is rather extraordinary to fly a machine that is 100 years old," he said. "Sometimes these machines have really high performance, on the contrary of what one might think; and you can feel these emotions coming from the history of these planes and the pilots that were flying them.”

Aircraft mechanic Xavier Gach said one of the greatest challenges is finding parts and material for restoration.

“If you want to make an identical old plane with original pieces - it will be complicated," he said. "You would need to invest in much more expensive canvases - you can still find them - but they will cost let's say 4-times more. Screws are not easy to find, engines - even more difficult; very often you have to make pieces yourself. It costs a lot of money.”

To make money for restoration, the workshop builds replicas of vintage aircraft for use in films and commercials, like this British World War I fighter plane SE5.

“For example, here [behind me] you have a star that was in film Ace of Aces with Jean-Paul Belmondo. It is a replica of SE5, it has its shape but it is not the real one,” said Salis.

The collection features several warplanes, including the World War I French fighter Spad XIII and World War II B-17 Flying Fortress.

Pilot Gaelle Damico, who owns a Belgian trainer Stampe SV.4, said flying vintage planes gives you a special feeling.

“I feel like being 50 years back in time and the sensation of having your head outside. That is superb,” said Gaelle Damico, a vintage aircraft pilot.

Every May the Salis collection organizes an air show and visitors can see many of the planes as they were meant to be seen - in flight.

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Lakeland Airport (KARV) manager to get estimates for terminal roof: Estimates will be presented at annual airport meeting

Over the course of the last year or so, several improvements have been made to the interior of the terminal at the Lakeland Airport.

The improvements, basically a complete remodeling, were privately funded and in the $160,000 range.

However, one area that needs to be addressed is the terminal’s roof, which wasn’t included in the building’s renovation.

The airport’s administrator, John Schmitz, said the roof needs repair.

“It was brought up about a year ago that the roof had some leaks and should be repaired,” he said. “It’s along the eaves, where ice backs up. It sits there as an issue that needs to be done but we don’t have the money to do it.”

He wasn’t told to do it at the June 19 meeting of the airport commission but what he plans on doing is approaching the four towns – Minocqua, Woodruff, Lac du Flambeau and Arbor Vitae – that jointly make up the Lakeland Airport Commission when they next meet for their annual meeting in October.

A representative from each town making up the airport commission meets with Schmitz monthly.

The annual airport meeting is a meeting of all the town supervisors and town chairmen involved.

Schmitz had already planned to ask for more money from the towns to help cover expenses such as the increased cost in snow plowing and removal, especially after a winter like 2013-14.

He doesn’t expect to get any extra money. But he will try.

“Money is tight for the towns, too,” Schmitz said. “We have some savings we could use but that’s for aviation equipment.”

In the overall scheme of things, the terminal, he said, is nothing. But the rest?

“We have to keep the runways and equipment in working order before we worry about fixing a building or whatever,” Schmitz said.

With that in mind, however, he will get an estimate for roof repairs on the terminal.

“We have to get a cost estimate to bring to the towns,” Schmitz said.

Even if the towns do approve an expenditure for roof repairs when they meet in a few months, he said it would be too late for the work to be done in 2014.

“That would mean we’d have to get through another winter,” Schmitz said. “Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as last winter.”



Lafayette City-Parish Council Passes Comprehensive Plan, Airport Tax: Lafayette Regional (KLFT), Louisiana

The Lafayette City Parish Council has voted to approve the Lafayette Comprehensive Plan. Council CAO Dee Stanley says the board voted to implement the plan, called Plan Lafayette. Plan Lafayette is designed to improve the parish through community growth, development, and redevelopment.

Also discussed by the council tonight is a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport. The council voted on whether to enter into an agreement with the Lafayette Airport Commission to place an 8-month, 1-cent sales tax on the December 6th Ballot. Stanley says the council voted in favor of the agreement. The estimated $37 million generated from the tax would be used to construct the new terminal and its infrastructure.

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Martha's Vineyard Airport (KMVY) Commission Defends Its Conduct

Amid growing upheaval around governance at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, members of the airport commission have declared they will serve out the remainder of their terms, despite a call from the Dukes County Commission to consider stepping down.

In a letter sent to the county commission this week, airport commission chairman Constance R. Teixeira wrote that commission members would “continue to discharge their responsibility until the completion of their statutory terms.”

Her letter came in response to a letter sent two weeks ago from county commission chairman Leonard Jason Jr. which asked the airport board to seriously evaluate its performance.

“The county commissioners believe the time has come for the airport commissioners to re-examine their behavior, their actions and their conduct in their meetings,” Mr. Jason wrote in the June 19 letter. “A public body that is in charge of the greatest asset of the county has an obligation to conduct their business publicly, politely and respectfully not only to the public but also to its members.”

When voting to send the letter, county commissioners expressed displeasure and concern over the way airport meetings had been conducted.

“They are all good people but put them together in one group and they just become dysfunctional,” Mr. Jason said at the time.

A reply was requested by July 1.

The county commission appoints the airport commission.

In their response, dated June 27 and signed by Ms. Teixeira, airport commissioners defended their behavior.

“The airport commissioners have . . . at all times conducted [themselves] in conformance with the requirements of open meeting law and consistent with long-standing airport commission best practices,” the letter says in part.

Ms. Teixeira wrote that the county had made the request “because you do not agree with recent decisions made by the airport commission.”

The airport commission recently filed a lawsuit against the county commission asking a judge to declare its legal autonomy in managing and administering airport affairs. The airport has also been the subject of a tangled workplace dispute involving a former employee and airport manager Sean Flynn. Last month Mr. Flynn was granted a paid medical leave of absence; assistant manager Deborah Potter has been named acting manager in the interim.

Earlier this year, the county commissioners ousted two of the incumbent airport commissioners in favor of new appointees. At the time, Mr. Jason cited the poor management of a personnel hearing held in public and televised on Martha’s Vineyard Community Television.

At an airport commission meeting last Friday morning, five commissioners voted to send the letter of reply to the county commission, while one commissioner, Christine Todd, opposed it.

Ms. Todd, who is also a county commissioner and a new appointee to the airport board, suggested commissioners should send individual letters in response. Ms. Todd said she had already sent her own response.

“It’s my belief that the commissioners are individually appointed and I just believe that the commissioners should individually reply, that is my opinion,” she said.

In her letter, she said she intended to continue as an airport commissioner.

“I fully intend to continue my pursuit of honesty, integrity, respect and transparency in this governing board of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport,” Ms. Todd wrote. “I feel my efforts and actions have begun to at least reveal the true character of the commission as it has existed.”

Commissioner Richard Michelson, also a new appointee, abstained on the motion. He indicated that he too would send his own letter. Reached Monday by telephone, he said he had not sent his letter yet and did not intend to resign.

“I have been there a short period of time and am trying to make some change,” Mr. Michelson said.

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