Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pennsylvania State Police Get New Choppers

The Pennsylvania State Police are replacing their aging helicopter fleet.

The state police received two new Bell 407GX helicopters earlier this week. The two will be joined by four new helicopter in the future, state police said in a release.

“We operate six aviation patrol units across the state and provide aerial support to all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies within the state,” Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said.

The new helicopters will provide troopers with “real-time situational awareness to incident commanders and first responders during times of critical incidents or disasters,” a release said.

“It is very important that we have modern, reliable and mission-ready helicopters to patrol and serve the citizens of the commonwealth,” Noonan said.

The new choppers will allow state police to continue to carry out there aerial support mission, which ranges from photographing accident scene to patrol and criminal surveillance. State police operate six bases throughout the state and also use fix-wing aircraft as part of the state-wide police duties.

Lower Bucks County authorities often call in the Philadelphia Police Department’s helicopter unit for local efforts. Pennsylvania State Police, New Jersey State Police and Coast Guard helicopters have also been spotted before participating in searches in the area.

The new helicopters were paid for with Pennsylvania State Police reserves and federal forfeiture monies.

Credit: Pennsylvania State Police

Rep Nolan announces $31,500 grant for Walker Municipal Airport (Y49), Minnesota

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have awarded $31,500 to the Walker Municipal Airport, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan announced July 24.

The grant will provide federal funding for the restoration of airport apron (the area where aircraft are parked while boarding), taxiway, and runway through crack repair and pavement patching.

 Nolan, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, as well as the General Aviation Caucus, emphasized the importance of local airports for tourism and business in Minnesota’s Eighth District.

“Regional airports, like Walker Municipal Airport, play a crucial role in our rural economy by providing transportation to business commuters and visitors alike,” he stated. “Maintaining safe and efficient airport operations with this grant will support good-paying middle class jobs in the region, from construction, to business and tourism.”

Original Source:

Thunder over the Boardwalk: Atlantic City Airshow coming soon

Earplugs will be back in style on Aug. 13 as the annual Atlantic City Airshow returns to full volume after last year’s federal sequester grounded two of its biggest draws.

The Army Golden Knights parachute team and the United States Air Force Thunderbirds are back after their one-year hiatus, which has organizers expecting this year’s show to be as big — and loud — as ever.

“We had a good show for what we were up against last year,” said airboss David Schultz, who has been directing the show since it started in 2003. “It’ll be a louder show this year, with (the Thunderbirds’) six F-16s in the air.”

The show typically draws about 800,000 people to Atlantic City’s slice of the South Jersey Shore, but only drew about half that many last year without the military acts on its schedule. In 2012, its last year with military acts, the show had an economic impact of $42 million according to P.J. Rebovich, spokesman for event organizer Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce. He did not have numbers for last year’s show.

And while that 800,000 figure may sound like a promise of chaos on the roadways, Rebovich said that number includes Brigantine, Atlantic City, Ventnor and Margate, and with the South Jersey Transportation Authority well-experienced in handling airshow traffic, the impact to any single artery shouldn’t be too severe.

The show will come ten days after Lady Antebellum’s hotly-anticipated beach concert and thirteen days after Blake Shelton’s, capping off a two-week stretch of good returns for a city that’s seen a lot of bad news lately.

“It’s great exposure for us,” Rebovich said on behalf of Chamber President Joe Kelly. “It shows we’re quite a patriotic town and always welcoming visitors and doing big things, like this show and the free beach concerts the Atlantic City Alliance is pulling off.”

The show will begin at 11:50 a.m. with tow-banner planes, followed immediately after by a pair of jumps by the Golden Knights in what should be one of the day’s grandest spectacles. A 1:10 demonstration of a Marine Corps Harrier jet should be a highlight, as should the aerobatics performances of civilians Andrew McKenna and Jim Beasley at 2:16 p.m. and World Unlimited Aerobatic Champion Rob Holland at 2:26 p.m. The Thunderbirds’ show-closing performance will start at 3 p.m.

While visitors will be spread throughout Atlantic City and nearby towns, travel into the city could prove difficult, so the Chamber is offering park-and-ride shuttle service to and from Mile 4 on the Atlantic City Expressway for $20. Shuttles will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Before summer began, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian promised the city would be flush with fun, free events for visitors and local alike, and he said the airshow is just another part of fulfilling that vow.

“We’ve been delivering that every day and every weekend,” he said. “We had a great weekend last weekend and I think that’s what you’ll see every weekend, from now until the kids go back to school in September.”

For more information on this year’s Airshow, visit

Original Source:

Bison sculpture installed near Billings airport to honor former director: Billings Logan International (KBIL), Montana

The late Bruce Putnam.

When Joliet sculptor Charlie Ringer says he’ll ride his newest creation, that’s no bull.

On Thursday morning at his Joliet studio, Ringer deftly climbed up the side of the bison, possibly his last chance to ride the bull before it was installed Friday morning near the Billings airport.

The steel bison is a bit bigger than Ringer originally planned, standing 10 feet high and measuring 24 feet long. It weighs 1,000 pounds. It looks bright orange because Ringer has been applying vinegar to the steel to rust it.

“It’s basically a cave drawing of a bison,” Ringer said.

The sculpture was commissioned by the Aviation and Transit Commission in 2013 as a way to honor Bruce Putnam, director of aviation and transit for the city of Billings for 27 years. Putnam died in October 2012 of cancer, but just a few weeks before he died, the commission agreed to support the project to install bison near the airport.

Putnam envisioned a string of bison sculptures that would stretch from the airport down to the city center and on to the Yellowstone River. The larger project is not part of the plan, but eventually the commission hopes to raise enough money by selling smaller bison sculptures made by Ringer to fund two additional bison at the airport. The commission is working with the Billings Community Foundation to collect money for the project.

Angela Babby, a Billings mosaic artist, created a fused-glass mosaic of shades of red with a sun at the center as the heart-line of the large bison. The sculpture will be lit from two sides and landscaping will be placed around it. It sits outside between the roundabout and the Yellowstone County Museum. A public dedication ceremony is planned for Aug. 30.

The small bison sculptures are still available for $500. Ringer said 50 have been sold so far and others are available.

Story and Photo Gallery:

Metal sculptor Charles Ringer and Lakota Sioux representative Angela Babby install a bison sculpture at the entrance to the Billings airport on Friday morning. 

Charlie Ringer takes a ride on his new bison sculpture before it was installed outside the Billings airport on Friday to honor the late Bruce Putnam, director of aviation and transit for the city of Billings for 27 years. 

Joliet sculptor Charlie Ringer shows off the heart-line mosaic created by Billings mosaic artist Angela Babby. The piece is part of his steel bison sculpture installed Friday outside the Billings airport.

Funding for North Platte Regional Airport Lee Bird Field (KLBF) at risk

Lee Bird Field, along with other area airports, is facing difficulty in keeping wind beneath its wings.

Airport authorities have rejected two proposals from Great Lakes Airlines for 2014-15 service, along with airports in Scottsbluff and Kearney. The proposals were denied on grounds that Great Lakes lacked clarity, said Mike Sharkey, airport manager. The proposals have been turned over to the Department of Transportation for review.

Sharkey said Great Lakes has 30 days to respond to the rejection, and then North Platte Airport Authority will have an opportunity to comment. The process will be completed by Sept. 1, Sharkey said. The current agreement with Great Lakes doesn’t expire until Oct. 31.

Currently, Great Lakes is the only airline bidding to service North Platte.

One of their proposals undercut the necessary 10,000 enplanements — passenger boardings at Lee Bird Field — required by the Federal Aviation Administration for the airport to receive $1 million per year in federal funds for maintaining the airport. If an airport doesn’t make 10,000 enplanements, Sharkey said federal funding drops to $150,000 per year.

The trouble stems from an FAA law that went into effect in August 2013 that requires first officers to have training, that was formerly required only of captains, before they can set foot in the cockpit of a commercial airline. The FAA law requres that pilots applying for first officer in a commercial airline must have an Airline Transport Pilot rating, which includes 1,500 hours of specialized flying experience, ground school, similator training and a check-ride in an aircraft over 12,500 pounds — all funded by the applicant. Sharkey estimated the cost of all of it out of pocket is around $125,000.

Sharkey said he has discouraged his own grandson from pursuing a career in commercial airline piloting.

“The airline itself can’t even hire them to train them,” he said.

It used to be that pilots anticipating the ATP would gain flight time as first officers, and requirements for hire were 500 hours of flight, with some specialized flight. The new regulations were driven by the crash of Colgan Airlines flight 3407 in Buffalo, N.Y., which was attributed to pilot fatigue, Sharkey said. He said he sees the reason behind requiring more specialized hours for new hires, but thinks a better solution for pilots just starting out is dropping the ATP requirement and requiring 1,000 hours or so with stipulations on specific flight training.

The regulations don’t apply to pilots of smaller craft, though, so Great Lakes has started flying more nine-seater crafts than 19-seater planes to allow their pilots to stay in the air. The smaller planes and fewer flights translates to challenges at the airport to fulfill enplanement.

“This is through no fault of Great Lakes,” Sharkey said.

Commercial flights aren’t the only source of income for Lee Bird Field. The demand for private hangars and charter flights hasn’t decreased. In fact, Sharkey said most of the 50 hangars are full. But without the $1 million in federal funds, the airport won’t be able to complete maintenance at the level it currently is, particularly in the winter when ice and snow removal demands employee time, heavy machine use and fueling.

“They have painted small airlines and airports into the corner,” Sharkey said.

Original Source:

Touring a bomber, with memories of flying one: Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport (KGFL), Queensbury, Warren County, New York

QUEENSBURY -- The B-17 bomber “Sentimental Journey” picked up an extra crew member for its weeklong visit to Warren County airport.

 The vintage plane travels the country with a crew from the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum and will be open to visitors Saturday and Sunday before departing on its next mission, a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine.

Earl Morrow, a 93-year-old Hartford resident who piloted B-17s in World War II, is spending the week giving airport visitors a more thorough experience of the bomber.

“They see the airplanes, but they don’t know what the boys who flew in them went through, what they know,” said Morrow, who was a pilot for American Airlines for 30 years after the war. “They go through the plane, and they want to know what is what like to run one.”

Morrow, who was wearing a crisp long-sleeved shirt, khaki pants and a ballcap that said “U.S. Army Air Corps,” was more than happy to tell visitors about the plane, including details of his 17th flight, when he and his crew were shot down and sent to a German prisoner of war camp.

“We were there six months, and they made us leave the camp during a blizzard, because the Russians were coming and they didn’t want to get caught,” Morrow told a group of tourists standing near the plane Thursday morning. “A lot of guys couldn’t make it. I tried to collapse in the snow, but someone came over, hit me a couple times and got me up.”

He wound up in a camp in Nuremberg, Germany, which was later liberated by Gen. George Patton.

Morrow had wanted to join the military after Pearl Harbor, but his father was on the draft board and insisted he go to college. When he turned 21, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

Even some of the veteran members of the plane’s crew were mesmerized on Thursday by Morrow’s stories.

Morrow’s daughter, Jessica Brand, who splits her time between Hartford and Indiana, kept her father hydrated and fed and tried to get him to sit down on occasion.

“But there are people here, I want to talk to them,” he said at one point.

“It’s not like they’re going to fire you,” she said.

Kristin Purcell, the plane’s loadmaster, said it has been a pleasure having Morrow around.

“He’s having a great time,” she said, sitting at the souvenir booth Thursday. “He just going up to people and asking if they have any questions.”

For a few minutes, Morrow stood still, looking at a copy of a photo of him and his crew.

“I had a good bunch of boys,” he said, picking them out by name and talking a bit about each one.

Thirteen years ago, Morrow, bombardier Sam Lisica and navigator Jerry Silverman gathered for an interview with Hudson Falls teacher Matt Rozell.

Lisica and Silverman have since died.

“My father is the last one left,” Brand said. “And as far as we can tell, he is the last one left from his high school graduating class.”

Morrow was a Boy Scout with Hartford Troop 40 and the valedictorian of the Hartford Class of 1939. He’s planning to be around to tell his stories for at least a few more years, he said.

“My father made it to 96, and I want to get past him. Then I am going to try to get past 100,” he said.

Story, Photos and Video:


The interior of the World War II B-17 bomber "Sentimental Journey" is seen from the front gunner's seat Monday, July 21, 2014.

Spectators watch as the World War II B-17 bomber "Sentimental Journey" pulls into the Warren County airport Monday, July 21, 2014. 

Arlington airfield dedicate to Wesley Schierman: Arlington Municipal Airport (KAWO), Washington

ARLINGTON — The Black Jack Squadron's Missing Man formation that flew over the Arlington Municipal Airport July 21 was itself missing one of its most important men.

The pilots were paying tribute to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Wesley Schierman, one of three founders of the squadron in 1990, who died Jan. 4.

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert was joined by Schierman's widow, Faye, in cutting the ribbon to the sign dedicating the airport's historical airfield to Schierman.

"Leadership, is action, not words," Tolbert said. "Today we will dedicate the Arlington Airport to a man whose actions exemplified his leadership."

Schierman's long career in aviation included stints not only in the Air Force and Washington Air National Guard, but also as a commercial pilot for Northwest Airlines.

He was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam from Aug. 28, 1965, to Feb. 12, 1973, before retiring from active duty in 1974. Likewise, by the time he retired from Northwest as a Boeing 747 captain in 1995, he'd logged more than 15,000 flight hours.

The Black Jack Squadron, which Schierman co-founded, is a formation flight demonstration team, whose pilots volunteer to fly Missing Man missions for fallen Pacific Northwest veterans.

During his memorial at the Boeing Museum of Flight, Schierman was lauded as one of the four strongest leaders of the 400-plus men residing at the Hanoi Hilton.

"But to know these things about Wes was to scratch the surface of this remarkable man," said Tolbert, who first met Schierman three years after he and his partners had founded the squadron. "As a budding pilot, I was both intimidated and in awe of the flying skills displayed by this group."

Tolbert credited Schierman and his fellow Black Jacks with seemingly never turning down an opportunity to honor a departed military member or aviator with a Missing Man formation.

"The collective actions of one's life is the legacy that they leave behind," Tolbert said. "It will be an honor for me to fly at Major Wesley Schierman Field, dedicated to a man who loved family, country and freedom."

Faye Schierman had little to add to Tolbert's remarks, except when she looked up and saw the Black Jacks overhead.

"When you see those airplanes flying, that says it all to me," Faye Schierman said.

Original Source:

The Arlington Municipal Airport's historic airfield is dedicated to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Wesley Schierman by Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert and Schierman's widow, Faye. 
Photo Courtesy of Kirk Boxleitner