Friday, July 11, 2014

Piper Cub pilots celebrate 30th fly-in

More than 100 World War II-era aircraft will descend upon Lompoc today to kick off one of the longest-running events of its kind.

The West Coast Cub Fly-In will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Lompoc with what is expected to be its largest event yet. The fly-in, which will be based at the Lompoc Airport and is scheduled to last through Sunday, has become one of the Central Coast’s more popular events. Most of the participating pilots will arrive in Piper Cubs, a light aircraft model that was manufactured between 1937 and ’47 and used extensively during the Second World War.

Last year’s Lompoc fly-in drew about 85 pilots, which was the most in the event’s history. This year, organizers are anticipating anywhere from 100 to 120.

“We’re planning for this to be our biggest ever,” said Greg Janke, the event’s media coordinator. “We’ve already got a great event and we’re just gonna do more of what people like.”

The various activities related to the fly-in are free to spectators, who will have the opportunity to walk among the aircraft and interact with the pilots. Organizers do ask, however, that dogs be on leashes and that parents closely watch their children on the tarmac. T-shirts, souvenirs, food and drinks will be on sale.

The event will begin with pilot registration today, followed by a traditional spaghetti dinner at 6 p.m.

The most popular events will take place Saturday, with the start of the flour bombing and spot landing contests at 1:30 p.m., and the mass scenic flight at 4 p.m.

In the flour bombing contest, pilots will attempt to drop a 1-pound flour “bomb” into a marked barrel from an altitude of 200 feet. Spectators can bring lawn chairs and watch the action from the ground. A cash prize is up for grabs for any pilot who can land a flour bomb — each pilot gets two attempts — but so far, after 29 years, no one has claimed the money.

In the spot landing contest, pilots will attempt to land on a marked line on the runway.

Following that action on Saturday, there will be a tri-tip barbecue dinner beginning at 5 p.m., and an award ceremony at 7 p.m. Awards will be given to the oldest and youngest pilots, farthest distance flown, and best Cub, among other categories, and there will be a raffle for donated gifts.

The theme for this year’s event is World War II, which is fitting since Cubs served in wartime as artillery spotters and air ambulances. Still, the planes are best known as trainers for the thousands of student pilots who learned to fly between the late 1930s and ’50s.

The Lompoc fly-in is the brainchild of Bruce Fall, who is still involved in the event, and the late Monty Findley. Findley and Fall, who were Piper Cub owners in Lompoc, wanted a fly-in closer than the annual event that takes place at the Cub factory in Lock Haven, Pa. The West Coast Cub Fly-In grew in prominence and has become one of the best attended Piper Cub fly-ins in the nation. It is also the longest consecutively running Cub fly-in in the U.S.

“It started with very inauspicious beginnings,” Janke said. “A couple of guys just thought, ‘Why don’t we have our own fly-in?’ It just got bigger and bigger. This year we’re expecting to be the big kahuna on the West Coast.”

The camaraderie between the pilots, as well as among many of the regular spectators, is a big draw for the event, according to Janke.

“There’s a lot of friendship that goes on,” he said. “For a lot of these Cub guys, this is the only chance they get to see each other. It’s kind of a homecoming, and it’s also a Lompoc tradition. It’s really a great thing for the community.”

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Evergreen aviation campus up for sale

MCMINNVILLE, Ore.     (AP) -- The headquarters of the dissolving Evergreen aviation empire in McMinnville are for sale.

The Yamhill Valley News-Register reports the sale is a result of bankruptcy proceedings begun in January.

Evergreen companies dealt in baggage handling, helicopter operations and global cargo transport, especially for the military.

The buildings are across Oregon Highway 18 from the well-known Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, a nonprofit operation that plans to remain open.

The paper said the campus buildings are listed for nearly $23 million individually. As a package deal, the price is $20 million.

The campus includes a 13,500-square-foot Learjet hangar and 2,500 square feet of office space, as well as the building now occupied by Erickson Air-Crane.

 Last year Erickson bought Evergreen's helicopter operation. The company hasn't said whether it plans to buy the building.

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Laser pointers source of contention in Ocean City, Maryland

Imagine you’re sitting in your living room on a quiet weeknight when a 13-million-candlepower searchlight starts hovering over your home. You wonder, what in the world are the police looking for? In a few minutes, Maryland State Police are at your doorstep.

They’re looking for your child, because he decided to zap a state police helicopter with a laser pointer, one purchased during the family’s last trip to Ocean City.

Maryland State Police Aviation Unit spokesman Lt. Walter Kerr said this scenario has happened — twice.

“We did get a spike on lasering at the same time it became popular on the Boardwalk,” he said. “Some folks had purchased their lasers in Ocean City on the Boardwalk and had brought them home. These were juveniles, kids between the ages of 12-17 that we actually caught through our processes. One parent said, ‘We got that down in Ocean City last week.’”

Ocean City’s recent ban on the sale and possession of what should be a harmless office supply tool stems from a police decision to eliminate the threat to police helicopters and to the eyes of public safety and resort employees, officials said.

The medevac helicopter that serves the Lower Shore, has gotten its share of lasering, too, though not as much as more populated areas where their helicopters are busier, Kerr said.

Still, in 2010 state police threatened to curtail medevac service to Ocean City unless something was done about the out-of-control laser pointer abuse. Town leaders passed a law in response, banning laser pointer sales to minors. The green-laser devices had been flying off the shelves at Boardwalk shops.

There have been two cases where juvenile males who were caught lasering state police helicopters, and each were apprehended and prosecuted, Kerr said. Fines were assessed, and the boys both ended up sentenced to public service. There were also several occasions where troopers were not able to find out who’d shone the laser into the cockpit of their medevac helicopter.

State police have documented less than 10 lasering incidents since 2009, Kerr said. Most occurrences are during landing, when Kerr says crews are most vulnerable. The laser beam itself fragments as it extended farther from its source, reflecting and bouncing around the cockpit. At night, it can come as a blinding momentary flash.

“They think it’s a video game. They think it’s fun, without any concept of what they’re doing on the other end,” he said. “They’re not being cut a break. This is serious stuff. In those 8-10 seconds, a catastrophe can occur. There’s no question about it.”

‘We don’t want anybody getting hurt’

Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said he finally decided to ask town leaders for a ban this year because police had seen 975 calls for service for laser pointer abuse in a three-year period. He also cited aircraft concerns, and the effects of lasers directed into another person’s eyes, as reasons for the ban.

“That is a lot of time and energy spent trying to figure out and investigate laser pointers,” he said. “Officers can divert their attention and very to a more focused and appropriate matter. We have a small force that deals with a large population in the summer months. Whatever I can do to make sure we provide the best service for the community, I’m going to do that.”

Since the Town Council passed the ban May 19, there have been no incidents or arrests for laser pointer abuse, said police department spokeswoman Lindsay O’Neal.

There are still opportunities for legitimate, noncriminal laser pointer use, according to Guy Ayres, Ocean City’s attorney, who wrote the law banning laser abuse.

“We didn’t want to ban their legitimate use,” he said. “For example, at the convention center, when groups make presentations, someone may want to use a laser pointer. And that’s OK. We certainly didn’t want to fashion an ordinance that made that illegal.”

Boardwalk tram operators had been targeted by rogue laser pointer users as well, said Steven Bartlett, operations manager for Ocean City’s Public Works Transportation department.

He said his office tracks laser abuse incidents in a daily log book. Last summer, there were three instances of tram drivers being lasered, without serious injury. So far this year, there were none.

“In years past, yes, it has been a problem,” Bartlett said. “It had been addressed by the police department, when we could figure out where it was coming from.”

It’s also a problem for municipal bus drivers on Coastal Highway, he added, when laser pointers come shining down from the high rises on Condo Row.

“It’s a little different through a windshield than through the side windows of a tram. It does happen and it’s mainly on weekends when there’s larger numbers of people here. This is just a nuisance, and we don’t want anybody getting hurt, which is why we report it,” Bartlett said.

A profitable pest

For the people selling the laser pointers, business had been very, very good. Police did a back-of-the-envelope tally in 2010, and found that 23 resort retailers had sold more than 30,000 laser pointers. When demand was hottest, customers happily paid $30 to $50 apiece. Stores posted hand-written signs telling passers-by WE HAVE LASERS.

“I understand the point for the city,” said Maria Ruiz, a manager at the retail shop Paradise Island at Second Street and the Boardwalk. “The law is because the kids, with the eyes, the airplanes – I understand. But at some point, it affects a lot of the businesses. We make really good money in the green lasers.”

She said her shop had to send back lasers already ordered by catalog, and they’ve since warehoused lasers already on the shelf that can’t be lawfully sold anymore. That includes not just the traditional laser pointers, but other gimmicky laser toys, like keychain-sized lasers used, she noted, “for chasing pets.”

Resort merchants can expect to take a major revenue hit from a laser pointer ban, said Jeff Morris, who identified himself as a laser pointer wholesaler during the May 19 Town Council discussion on laser pointers. Morris, of Frankford, said he’d been selling green laser pointers in bulk since July 2013.

“I'd like you to reconsider,” he told the council. “It would hurt the merchants, really and truly. Say a merchant sells 1,500 in a season, that’s $30,000. That’s a lot of cash to them. Wholesale, what they pay for it, they make a lot of money — three times their money. It’s an economic thing.” Morris was not able to be reached for further comment.

At the meeting, Ocean City Councilman Doug Cymek wasn’t buying it. He said laser pointer abuse was a public safety issue, and the ban was “long overdue.”

“They've had their chance,” he replied to Morris. “There are people who have been injured because of them. You know what these can do. I have no further patience for these. It has to come to an end.”

The issue is not new to the resort. In July 1998, in an emergency measure, the Ocean City Council banned any harassing or annoying shining of laser pointers on a person. Less than a year later, state lawmakers passed an identical ban, one buoyed by testimony from Ocean City police.

Recorded abuse of laser pointers has increased with their availability in the last several years, according to a 2001 Federal Aviation Administration report.

“The misuse of laser pointers involving exposure greater than 10 feet is not likely to cause permanent eye injury,” the report said. “However, at very close range, the light energy that laser pointers can deliver into the eye may be more damaging than staring directly at the sun.”

Rich Drake, 33, of Ocean City, was a victim of a laser pointer in the summer of 2009. He took a direct hit to the eye with a red laser pointer while walking on the Boardwalk at night. At 6 feet 4 inches tall, Drake admits he made for an easy target.

Afterwards, he noticed his vision took on a pinkish tone, and altered the colors he was seeing. The effects lasted more than a year. Drake already wears glasses and has a condition that makes his eyes extra-sensitive to light. The experience left him shaken.

“That's why I was ecstatic to see Chief Ross Buzzuro being proactive and finally drafting the legislation that could ban these devices for good,” he said. “I'm glad the mayor and council voted quickly to put this ordinance into effect. It appears to be working, as I have not seen any laser pointers on the Boardwalk this summer. It's nice to see this dangerous nuisance out of our town.”

A bother at other beaches

Ocean City’s recent ban on laser pointers mirrors moves by other East Coast resort towns to hinder laser pointer abuse, according to Patrick Murphy, who runs the website Laser Pointer Safety from his home in Orlando, Fla.

He keeps track of laser pointer abuse laws as they are written, and his website notes that the seaside resorts of Ocean City, N.J., and North Myrtle Beach, S.C., also have made moves to restrict the sale and possession of laser pointers. Overall, 18 states have state and local restrictions on the books relating to laser pointers, the website states.

“I think these beach towns have a situation that may be somewhat unique due to the widespread sale of these things at retail,” he said. “It’s not really seen through much of America. And it’s a party town atmosphere too. They’re selling it to people who want to have a good time. They’re readily available as a kind of impulse purchase.”

Murphy, 57, is the executive director of the International Laser Display Association. It’s a trade association of about 125 members for the industry that puts on laser light shows.

He said in the past, laser light shows produced by his association members would present a problem to aircraft. As a result, the trade group helped clear the way to regulations and clearing performances through the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Then hand-held laser pointers came of age. With each new generation of tech, they became brighter, more powerful — and cheaper. Murphy says green ones are up to 40 times brighter than earlier red-hued models.

He said the technological advances in laser light have come so far that we’re on the verge of a light revolution “like the microprocessor.”

“Now the average person can do the kinds of things we did in the 1990s, and they should not be doing that to airplanes,” he said. “It’s unfortunate there are people out there who don’t understand the hazards or are deliberately misusing them.”

Murphy said Ocean City’s laser pointer ban is bound to help the rampant abuse by simply removing the problem from the marketplace. Still, he said, “There’s going to be plenty of people who already have something in their drawer, they bring it to the beach on vacation.”

On a weekday in late June, Michelina Kovarnik, of Harrisburg, Pa., came to visit Ocean City with her family. She had not heard of the town’s recent ban, but did recall what the resort looked like during the height of laser pointer popularity.

“I know when I was younger, when they first came out, they were all over,” said Kovarnick, 28. “They were on the rides, people were on the beach with them. It’s like anything else. You have to be responsible with it, not flashing it in people’s eyes. I didn’t let my (6-year-old) kid play with it here. It’s too much of a hassle, people driving trams and stuff.”

“It is dangerous, so it’s probably a good call,” said said her father, Mark Jones, 50, also of Harrisburg. “I think what happened is, a few bad eggs made it bad for everybody. A lot of those things are used for meetings and presentations, or messing with the cat or dog, or something like that. Other than that, I don’t see any other reason to have one.”

Examples of laser pointer abuse  as recorded by Ocean City Police:

Aug. 23, 2013: Officers were on patrol at 123rd Street at 11:40 p.m. Two boys were on the sidewalk shining green lasers into cars driving north on Coastal Highway. The boys shined the light into the police car. Officers stopped the youths and confiscated the laser pointers.

July 22, 2012: Plain-clothes officers saw three kids on the Boardwalk sea wall at 9:50 p.m. They were shining green laser pointers onto buildings and people, causing passers-by “to become confused and annoyed.” Police learned the three juveniles were siblings. Police issued them criminal citations. The mother told police she understood that her children’s actions were wrong, and that the business where the lasers were purchased did not inform them of the local ordinance. The police seized the laser pointers.

July 27, 2010: Officers on Boardwalk foot patrol at 21st Street at 8:40 a.m. Someone from a hotel balcony was zapping pedestrians, including the officers. Police tracked the laser beam to a 13-year-old boy, whose father had “given permission” to use it, police said.

July 29, 2010: Police officer on horseback was riding on the beach when someone from the Belmont Towers condos shined a laser pointer in front of his horse, and then on the horse's face. It spooked the horse and bucked the rider, who sustained minor injuries. The person with the laser was never found.

July 29, 2010: Officers responded at 2:07 a.m. to reported laser pointer harassment at the Carousel hotel. The victim said a green laser beam had been pointed directly in her eye, and she complained to paramedics of blurred vision and a headache. Police found a 20-year-old man had zapped her three times in the eye. The perpetrator was issued a citation.

July 12, 2010: It was 8 a.m. when paramedics responded to the Boardwalk to treat a person who was reportedly having a seizure. While treating the individual, someone shined a laser into paramedics’ eyes.

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Firm accuses city of 'civil conspiracy' in airport landscape flap

Outgoing Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino allegedly sought to improperly oust a company contracted to landscape the city’s airports in order to replace it with a firm she and other city officials wanted, according to court documents filed earlier this week.

The amended complaint to the lawsuit, which was originally filed last year, claims CityEscape Garden Center & Design Studio was targeted by officials. They allegedly made up requirements not found in the contract to landscape O’Hare and Midway airports in an attempt to force the landscaping company to “default or abandon its contract,” according to the court document filed Tuesday.

The city also sought to re-bid the lucrative airport landscaping contract despite CityEscape’s existing agreement and the three years it had left, according to the lawsuit, which alleges Andolino and others were involved in a “civil conspiracy” to harm the landscaping company financially and to interfere with its work.

“We believe that once the efforts to oust CityEscape through re-bidding the contract were unsuccessful, Andolino and [Department of Aviation’s Chief Operating Officer Jonathan] Leach intentionally accelerated their efforts to replace CityEscape by making it too costly and difficult for CityEscape to perform, chiefly by manufacturing ‘requirements’ that have no basis” in the contract,” said Sarah Steele, an attorney for CityEscape.

City spokesman John Holden said in an email, “The allegations in the amended complaint are baseless and we intend to vigorously defend the city’s position in court.” The $12 million contract to provide landscaping at the airports was won in 2011, went into effect in January, 2012 and is effective through Dec. 31, 2016, court records show.

But beginning in the spring of 2013, “the city undertook efforts that are a patent effort to oust CityEscape,” its lawyers have said in court documents.

The defendants in the lawsuit, which also include the city of Chicago; Jamie Rhee, the chief procurement officer; an aviation consulting firm and two of its employees, “applied those purported requirements at the basis for improperly deducting and withholding payment on CityEscape’s invoices,” the lawsuit claims.

Leach allegedly threatened CityEscape, “claiming that it owed the city roughly $100,000 and stating that if CityEscape did not essentially capitulate and agree to end its contract, the city would bankrupt CityEscape or at the very least, make the remainder of the contract term very difficult.”

CityEscape claims the city has withheld over $100,000 in payments.

CityEscape, among its demands, is seeking an order from the court prohibiting the city from terminating its contract without cause and from rebidding the contract. It also seeks to be paid for all services rendered.

Andolino last month told Mayor Rahm Emanuel she will step down.

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Aurora Municipal Airport (KARR) hit by thieves-- hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment stolen


A thief, or thieves hit the Aurora Municipal Airport late Wednesday night, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment off planes parked there.

Someone broke into the airport hangars and the planes themselves.
All 23 planes were hit, and on every one, the thief took off with the GPS systems, the plane radios and the transponders.  To replace those three items, pilots say it would cost at least 15-thousand dollars.

Now the question is why?

The pilots we talked to say they're guessing there must be a demand on the black market.

Each plane has a designated transponder which is what allows the plane to be traced.  It's how the tower and other planes know where the plane is flying.

"This is definitely a planned out, my opinion, it's definitely a planned out thing because like I said, it's not equipment that you use in your cars, not equipment that you use in your house, so what other purpose would there need to be unless there was a high demand for it on the other side of the market" said pilot Toby Sumners.

KY3 does not know if the cases are related, but just a few weeks ago, another plane was parked out at the Flying Bar H Airport just east of Springfield by 125 and Sunshine.  A plane owner there says someone stole the engine off his plane, valued at 30-thousand dollars.

Tampering with any plane is a federal offense in most cases.

The airport operator in Aurora tells us in his opinion, this has everything to do with money, not with terrorism.

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Fresh Complaint Filed Against Airport Commission: Martha's Vineyard Airport (KMVY), Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts

Legal and personnel troubles at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport continued this week as a former airport employee filed a lawsuit against members of the airport commission, county, and airport management claiming that she faced retaliation for reporting concerns about the airport manager over his alleged drug use.

A complaint filed Wednesday at Dukes County superior court on behalf of Beth Tessmer alleges that she was suspended without pay from her job at the airport for voicing concerns about the alleged impairment of airport manager Sean Flynn.

The 45-page complaint filed by Ms. Tessmer’s attorney Theodore A. Saulnier names members of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission individually and as members of the commission, Mr. Flynn individually and as airport manager, assistant airport manager Deborah Potter and the county of Dukes County.

The lawsuit alleges some 35 counts, including slander and defamation, discrimination, retaliation in violation of the state whistleblower statute, wrongful discharge and negligent retention of an employee.

The latest legal action provides new details about an ugly workplace dispute that has bedeviled the airport commission over the last year, spilling frequently into public meetings. Ms. Tessmer, who was suspended and later terminated from her job at the airport, now has three separate complaints pending. One is with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. A separate complaint filed in Dukes County superior court claims wrongful termination and seeks reinstatement of her job. The latest complaint, filed this week, seeks treble lost wages, damages and a jury trial. That complaint is the next legal step following a so-called whistleblower or presentment letter sent six months ago, Ms. Tessmer’s attorney Theodore Saulnier told the Gazette Thursday.

Mr. Flynn is currently on an eight-week medical leave of absence from his job, granted at his request in June by the airport commission. Assistant airport manager Deborah Potter has been named acting manager.

The complaint filed this week alleges that beginning around December 2012, Ms. Tessmer and other airport employees “began to notice their manager, defendant Mr. Flynn, acting in a manner consistent with someone who was under the influence of intoxicating substances during working hours, at the airport.”

Ms. Tessmer and other employees allegedly observed Mr. Flynn ingesting what appeared to be prescription medications “on numerous occasions” at work, and that Ms. Tessmer observed Mr. Flynn to be unsteady on his feet, have garbled speech, pinpoint pupils and displaying mood swings and loss of control of his emotions.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Tessmer was concerned about the safety of the public because Mr. Flynn was driving personal and airport vehicles on public ways while impaired. In May 2013, Mr. Flynn was allegedly walking on an active runway without the required communications equipment in his possession while incoming aircraft approached, the complaint said.

In the month before President Obama visited the Vineyard in August 2013, the complaint said, Ms. Potter told airport employees, including Ms. Tessmer, “that the defendant, Mr. Flynn, promised not to use drugs while the president’s C-17 transport planes were at the airport offloading equipment needed for the president.”

Ms. Tessmer also alleges that Mr. Flynn directed sexually related comments and insults toward her.

The complaint filed this week contains affidavits from other airport employees and some records not previously made available, including Ms. Tessmer’s letter of suspension.

In November 2013 she was suspended without pay for two weeks by Mr. Flynn for poor job performance and insubordination. In December 2013 she filed a complaint with MCAD; the complaint was later amended and remains pending. In April of this year, following failed attempts at mediation over the MCAD complaint, the airport commission voted to terminate Ms. Tessmer.

Two months later Mr. Flynn went on medical leave following a domestic incident with his wife that involved Edgartown and West Tisbury police and triggered an emergency meeting of the airport commission.

The complaint filed by Ms. Tessmer this week also alleges that the airport commission held a series of private meetings that did not conform to the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law and amounted to civil conspiracy.

“The plaintiff has suffered physical, emotional and financial damage as a result of this conspiracy,” the complaint said.

Current airport commissioners named in the lawsuit are Norman Perry, Constance Teixeria, James Coyne, Peter Bettencourt and Denys Wortman and former commissioners John Alley and Benjamin Hall. Ms. Texeira is the current chairman; Mr. Alley is the former chairman. Ms. Texeira could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

The airport is also engaged in another lawsuit of its own in superior court. In the spring, the airport commission filed a lawsuit against the county commission asking a judge to declare its legal autonomy in managing airport affairs.

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