Saturday, August 02, 2014

Delaware County, Pennsylvania natives to reach new heights in second season of ‘Airplane Repo'

Ken Cage was in Las Vegas a few months ago and waiting for a car when a man walked up to him.

“Hey mate, love your show,” he said.

Cage asked him where he called home.

“New Zealand” came the response.

“You see that in New Zealand?” the Delaware County resident and star of Discovery’s “Airplane Repo” said.

“Yeah,” the guy answered. “Love the show.”

And, it’s such widespread appeal that led the channel to air a second season of the high stakes game of reposessing luxury aircraft from America’s wealthiest individuals who have become behind on their payments. Cage works with former bounty hunter and MMA fighter Danny Thompson through the Media-based company International Recovery Group, which has collected more than 1,600 airplanes, boats, RVs and a couple helicopters.

For Cage, the recognition can be disconcerting.

“I’m proud of it but I don’t want anybody else talking about it,” he said. “I don’t want anybody to take that the wrong way. I cannot say enough to people who take a second to tweet something or message on Facebook. It’s been all over the globe. But, how do you wrap your head around that? It’s impossible. And, that’s how they raise you in Aston. It’s a very Aston thing - you’re raised to be proud, be proud of who you are and where you’re from, but let it lie there.”

When he was younger, his life experience grounded him and provided him a basis for which he hopes his newfound fame sets the groundwork to realize his ultimate dream.

On the night of Oct. 21, 1980, as the Philadelphia Phillies were clinching the World Series title from the Kansas City Royals, 15-year-old Cage noticed a back pain. On Halloween, his parents took him to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where he was transferred to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after doctors thought he had bone cancer.

“If you’re a spiritual person,” Cage said, “God takes you places for a reason.”

He was misdiagnosed but the images of 2-year-old children pushing chemotherapy carts never left him.

In February 1981, he returned for one of six surgeries to correct the condition in his back and he once shared a room with another 15-year-old named Jeff.

“I left the hospital on the 13, came back on the 19 for a doctor’s appointment, found out Jeff died on the 15.”

Cage remembered the teen and his devoted brother, Michael, who was always by his bedside. That memory fueled a dream he has to this day.

“At the end of the day, if I had a choice, I would be a full-time baseball/basketball/soccer coach,” he said. “I would spend all my time with my kids and other kids. That’s what I love to do.”

It’s why he agreed to do the show, even though it took him away from his wife, Karen, and their children, Madalyn, 20, Megan, 17, David, 12 and Jimmy, 10, even as David was in the middle of capturing a state district championship with the Aston Valley Baseball League.

“I can’t do that right now so how am I going to get to do that at some point?” he asked about being a youth coach. “Well, the show has the opportunity to do some huge things that I couldn’t do without it. So, ok, I’ll sacrifice this now to get to where I want to get to.”

There was a point he wasn’t certain what would happen.

“That ebbed and flowed for me because it did take so long,” he said. “We had highs and lows throughout the process.”

In December, his former agent said to him, “Ken, I’m telling you now. It’s been too long. You’re not getting a second season.”

“And, I’m like, ‘Well, did they say that?’” Cage said.

“Well, no, they didn’t,” the agent replied.

“Well, then why would you?” Cage asked.

And, the agent told him he had never seen a season renewed after such a lapse.

“I had to swallow that for a while,” Cage said.

Finally, in January, the call came - Discovery was interested. But, then, more time passed.

“I have no idea what they go through in a network,” Cage said but it was becoming unnerving again. “I had never held any ill will or grudge. (I thought,) ‘Gosh, this takes a long time.’”

In April, the path was clear for the eight episodes to be filmed.

For the first week, Cage and Thompson met with the Undertow Films production team of Jorge Abarca, Jeremy Baron, Timmy D’Antonio, Gab Taraboulsy and Amy Hatfield-Love.

“That meeting allowed us to get to know each other,” Cage said, adding they asked him a lot of questions about how and what he does. “We had time to plan more this year. (They asked, ) What do you do and how do you do it? What makes you nervous? What makes you comfortable? What makes you happy out there? That gave them a lot of background to take the season further.”

He said that helped, especially on scene.

“I get quiet,” Cage said. “I’m lasered in and trying to see everything. Danny’s the same way. When we’re on, it’s very quiet.

“But, at some point, the story has to be told ‘cause you can’t have 15 minutes of....” he said as he twitched his head. “After 30 seconds, people are like, ‘Next channel....’”

At the L.A. meeting, Cage wanted to know one thing - compatibility.

“I said, ‘If you’re not my friends, this won’t work because ... there’s got to be a trust and a friendship,’” he said. “If we ain’t friends, this isn’t going to work. And, we all committed to that. And, like any friendship, there are times when things get hairy and you go, ‘I don’t like you right now.’”

He explained.

“It’s very frustrating at times because I’m on the move,” he talked about being out in the field. “We’re not actors and there is no script. There’s times when we’re ready to move on a repo and they say, ‘Hold on. We need something first.’”

Despite the initial resistance, Cage learned to have great appreciation for what the production team did.

“There’s just times we’re just in this hairy, hairy, hairy spot and stuff’s going down, 1,000 miles an hour for us and (Abarca) might be tucked behind a wheel of a truck or something,” Cage said.

Afterwards, he’d ask the cameraman, “Where were you?””

“Oh, I was over there,” he’d say.

“These guys are so talented they could get me ordering a coffee and make it look like, ‘Oh my God!’” Cage said. “I’m a very straight line analytical person and these guys see rainbows and clouds. I’m a little jealous because they can see things out there. That’s the fortunate part of working with geniuses.”

Yet, it was an abbreviated timeframe - what took six months last year was crammed into two this one.

“It was a fast, fast turnaround, but it was great,” Cage said. “It made me crazy. I missed (his sons’) baseball games that I didn’t want to miss. But, you know what - do you want a show or don’t you? All of us missed stuff.”

He compared the two seasons.

“The first season is weird, it’s surreal,” Cage said. “They originally started saying they wanted me in ‘09, so it took from ‘09 until ‘13. After all that time and all that work and all that effort, finally. You see it and you’re like, ‘Ok, this is so awesome.’ For a second, you’re like, ‘That’s really me. Who would have thought?’”

Now, he’s gotten through what he’s been told is the most difficult thing to get - a second season.

So, he’s simply trying to savor the moment, even with the anticipation there may be more to come - a lot more.

“And, that is just so wacky to me and I don’t get it,” he said. “I don’t get it. But, you know what? I’m having fun. I like to see how processes works, how things happen.”

And, it’s a moment he, and all those who worked on it, can cherish forever.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve done,” Cage said. “This year will absolutely blow away last year. I guarantee you that. It’s going to be incredible. It’s going to be off the charts. It’s going to be by far the best.”

The second season of Airplane Repo will premier at 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22 on the Discovery Channel.

Story and Photos:

When he's not filming for his reality TV show, "Airplane Repo," Aston native Ken Cage, right, is the Aston Valley Little League commissioner. From left are his son David, 12, wife Karen and son Jimmy, 10. (Times staff / JULIA WILKINSON )

Careers taking flight: Kishwaukee Education Consortium trains future pilots

DeKALB – Ryan Yochum and Kalvin Parker knew they were taking their last flight together as they ascended into the sky over DeKalb.

In a few days, their careers would pull them to different parts of the country. Yochum, 23, will be an officer in the U.S. Air Force, reporting for duty at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio on Monday. Meanwhile Parker, 18, will venture to Stanford University, where he'll major in electric engineering.

Yochum, an instructor with Fly America, the pilot school run out of DeKalb's airport, and Parker, a student, had a connection before they began working together this summer. Both graduated from the Kishwaukee Education Consortium's aviation program, which has been teaching students about flying for a decade.

Some 40 KEC aviation students have gone on to become pilots in the past decade, aiding an aviation industry that some fear could face a severe pilot shortage in the next two decades as pilots retire and standards and costs increase.

On Tuesday, Parker flew circles over DeKalb in a Piper Warrior, a small single-engine plane, with Yochum in the passenger's seat. They climbed to 2,000 feet, soaking in the views of cornfields, homes and businesses dotting green space below.

About 15 minutes later, they landed the plane at DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport.

“That was my last one,” Yochum said, head hanging, his feet on the earth.

'I'm not a desk guy'

Yochum went through the KEC program in his junior and senior years at Rochelle Township High School, graduating in 2010. He went on to the University of Illinois, where he earned a bachelor's degree in aviation human factors along with a handful of flying certifications from the school's Aviation Institute.

He returned to the area this summer to help other would-be pilots before starting his military service piloting drones.

“I knew I couldn't do anything else,” Yochum said. “I'm not a desk guy.”

Parker, who graduated in May, also went through KEC's program his junior and senior year. He started flying lessons this summer.

"I always just really liked planes," Parker said. "Going on vacations, I enjoyed the flight as much as the place."

Although he didn't get his private pilot's license, Parker did hit a milestone with Yochum's help: flying an airplane unassisted.

“It was awesome being up there alone,” Parker said.

The number of hours flying with an instructor also in the plane before being able to soar alone can vary wildly, according to David Gillingham, who's been a Fly America instructor for three years. He's seen as little as four hours and up to 20 stand between a student and their first “solo,” as it's referred to around the hangars.

Bruce Griffith, work-based learning and special project coordinator for KEC, said students are different when they return to the ground after their first solo flight.

“They float back, because they just did something most people can't,” Griffith said.

Investing time and money

Earning a pilot's license isn't all about camaraderie and floating. It also requires a substantial investment. Gillingham tells students to budget about $9,000 to earn their private pilot license, which does not allow a pilot to charge for their services.

To earn a private pilot's license takes a minimum of 40 hours of instruction and solo time, though Gillingham said it typically takes about 55 hours.

“That does not get you a job,” Griffith said. “In order to do that, you probably need a minimum of 1,500 hours, you need a commercial license, you need an instrument license, you certainly should have a multi-engine license. You should have an airline transport pilot's license. It's an expensive investment and not knowing what the return is going to be.”

Mixed jobs reports

Although expensive, there are promising job prospects for would-be pilots, according to industry reports. Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. this week projected that worldwide, the aviation industry would need 1.1 million new commercial pilots and maintenance technicians in the next 20 years.

A report this year from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found mixed evidence of an imminent worldwide pilot shortage. Although officials said employment numbers did not show evidence of a shortage, flight schools had reported lower enrollment over concerns about the cost of the program and low-paying entry-level jobs at regional airlines.

The Airline Pilots Association does not believe there's a shortage of qualified pilots, but a problem with the entry-level wages. According to the agency's pay-rate data, the average starting salary for a new co-pilot at a regional airline is $22,400, compared with the $150,000 or more a pilot might invest in earning licenses.

Griffith can recall being asked by someone with the Federal Aviation Administration if he felt he was directing students to a career that's expensive and unattainable. After circling around the answer, he finally came to one.

“No,” Griffith said. “And are we helping for that shortage? Yeah, we're putting some students in the market.”

By the numbers

• KEC aviation students who have become pilots: 40
• Number of hours required for a private pilot's license: 40
• Number of hours required to be a co-pilot on a passenger and cargo plane: 1,500 

Source: Kishwaukee Education Consortium 

Story and Photos:

Yochum and Parker check the fuel of a Piper Warrior before their last flight together Tuesday.

Dr. Irvin 'Al' Roseman, civic and university leader, dies

Dr. Irvin 'Al' Roseman 

Dr. Irvin “Al” Roseman, a local endodontist who had long been an active figure in civic organizations and politics, died Saturday morning, said Jon Rosborough, director of the Wilmington International Airport. 

“He did not just sit back. He was very participative and very passionate about aviation in general,” Rosborough said of Roseman, who served two terms on the airport’s board of directors, once from 1995 to 2002 and then again beginning in 2011.

“He liked very much serving on the airport authority – so much that he sought hard to get back on the board,” Rosborough said.

In addition to the airport authority, Roseman spent time on the New Hanover County Board of Health, the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors and the board of directors of UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, among others.

Hannah Gage, who served on the Board of Governors with Roseman for eight years, recalled him quickly honing in on small campuses in the eastern part of the state.

“It’s always easy to get people interested in the big, flagship campuses, but it’s not as common that a board member sets out to make a difference on the smaller campuses,” said Gage, who is now an emeritus member of the Board of Governors.

Roseman focused on growing Elizabeth City State University’s aviation science program, Gage said, as he felt the campus needed something to distinguish itself. During his time on the Board of Governors from 2005 to 2013, Roseman often flew to Elizabeth City in his own plane to help with tasks such as hiring people, Gage added, while also working with legislators to secure funding for the university.

Roseman showed that kind of dedication in his friendships as well, Gage said.

“Whether your life was on the upswing or you were down and out and had endured a lot of hard knocks, Al was the kind of friend that was there for you no matter what,” Gage said. “Once you were his friend, you were always his friend.”

In 2006, Roseman also ran unsuccessfully for the N.C. Senate District 9 seat then held by Julia Boseman.

Roseman entered the oft-contentious race as the Republican candidate in June 2006 after Sherman Criner dropped out. The campaign was marked by a series of pointed ads, with Roseman claiming Boseman voted to raise taxes to pay for the Wilmington Convention Center and Boseman claiming Roseman used taxpayer money to take trips to Florida, Savannah and Las Vegas.

In May, the airport authority scheduled and quickly canceled a special meeting to discuss removing Roseman from the board.

At the time, Roseman had opposed entering negotiations with the Brixtel Group to provide general aviation services at Wilmington International. Roseman also proposed rejecting the proposal of ISO Aero Services, the provider that had been in place at the airport but asked for a 30-year lease instead of the five-year one the airport authority was offering.

Roseman served on many professional boards, including as chairman of the Carolina section of the American College of Dentists, according to his website. He also was a past president of the N.C. Association of Endodontists, the Tar Heel Endodontic Association and the N.C. Fifth District Dental Society.

- Source:

Records explain why US Airways flight buzzed The Centre at Salisbury shopping mall - Maryland

US Airways passenger Flight 4343 was on its way to the Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport (KSBY) when a rapid descent caused the flight attendant to look out the window.

What she saw was scary. The plane was low, and it was going quickly.

“My brain went into emergency/evacuation mode,” flight attendant Charlene Helgason said, according to a record of her phone interview with Federal Aviation Administration officials.

She didn’t know the pilot-in-command, Edmund C. Draper, had purposely lowered the plane in order to fly over his home, according to Federal Aviation Administration documents recently reviewed by The Daily Times.

His Zion Road home is near The Centre at Salisbury shopping mall, which was still open for holiday shopping during the late-night hours of Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, according to the documents provided in response to a Freedom Of Information Act request.

About 24 passengers were aboard the DHC-8-102 aircraft heading from Philadelphia to the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport, along with two fellow crewmembers.

“On or about December 21, 2012, you operated an aircraft with reckless disregard for safety during a Part 121 flight with 24 passengers on board at an excessive speed and dangerously low altitude when not necessary for landing,” an FAA determination of emergency in this case reads. “Your acts endangered the lives of your passengers, fellow crewmembers and people and property at The Centre at Salisbury Mall. You have demonstrated that you are unable or unwilling to comply with basic regulatory requirements.”

Emergency order

Draper’s airline transport pilot certificate number was revoked June 19, 2013, with an emergency order of revocation from the FAA.

The order alleges that Draper violated these federal aviation regulations:

• a. Section 91.13(a), which states no person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

• b. Section 91.119(b), which states no person may operate an aircraft over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, below an altitude of 1000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

“As a result of the foregoing, the Administrator finds that you lack the qualifications necessary to hold an FAA Airline Transport Pilot Certificate,” the order reads. “He therefore has determined that safety in air commerce or air transportation and the public interest require the revocation of the above-mentioned certificate(s).”

The order stated that Draper wouldn’t be allowed to apply for a new pilot certificate nor be issued one for a year.

Pilots in Draper’s position have an opportunity to appeal the case. An administrative law judge from the National Transportation Safety Board will hear the appeal or petition, according to the board’s website.

“The pilot initially appealed the FAA’s revocation order to the NTSB, but later withdrew the appeal and entered into a settlement agreement with FAA,” a spokeswoman for the administration wrote in an email. “He surrendered his certificate and was eligible to apply for a new one after January 20, 2014.”

Draper didn’t appear to have a current listed phone number, and a reporter was told that the Air Line Pilots Association, per its policy, does not comment on ongoing investigations. The Air Line Pilots Association is a large pilot union.

Jackie Jennings, spokeswoman for Piedmont Airlines, said Dec. 21, 2012, was Draper’s last day flying for Piedmont, and he is no longer employed there. Documents provided by the aviation administration indicate he had been employed there since 2000.

Draper, now 38, does have his airline transport pilot certificate back. According to the Federal Aviation Administration registry, his airline transport pilot certificate was issued Feb. 25, 2014. Draper also has a flight instructor certificate, issued Feb. 26, 2014, according to the registry.

“Draper One Arrival”

First Officer Neil Hoy was the co-pilot on Flight 4343 on Dec. 21, 2012. He was new to Piedmont, hired in March 2012.

“Everyone Knows about the Draper One Arrival,” First Officer Christopher Quillen said, according to a record of his interview with administration personnel. “Ed has a house right off Highway 13 and he likes to fly over his house on the way into Salisbury. I hear he usually does it at 1500’ but I hear that on the 21st he did it at around 400’. Man, that’s crazy being that low, and over the mall, all those people. That’s like the busiest day of the year for shopping there.”

Quillen shared how Draper wouldn’t try to do the Draper One Arrival with more seasoned pilots.

“Ed won’t do it against the older guys, only the young guys, they are impressionable and try to fit in,” Quillen said, according to the record of the interview. “I have been around and would not put up with that. Ed is very knowledgeable about the systems on the airplane and even writes study guides unofficially but his leadership and judgment is not good.”

It was unclear Friday whether Hoy was reprimanded in any way. The Federal Aviation Administration advised filing an additional Freedom Of Information Act request.

In the case of Draper’s Dec. 21, 2012, flight, the EGPWS –– Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System –– alerted “too low gear.”

An interview with Capt. John Buchanan, included in the administration’s documents, revealed information was originally withheld. Among the findings of a company investigation were these:

“7. The chief pilot determined that the flight was a deliberate action on the crews part.

8. The crew were buzzing Ed Drapers house and looking out the window. As a result of this distraction, the ... EGPWS sounded the warning “TOO LOW GEAR.” Draper told FO Hoy to look out the window for his house, Hoy was the non flying pilot on this leg.”

Downward path

Two minutes and 45 seconds before the plane was to land at the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport, it was flying at a height of about 1,400 feet above ground level. Then, during just more than a minute, the plane descended to 557 feet above ground level when flying over the mall, and 525 feet above ground level when flying over Draper’s home, according to a graph included with administration documents.

The order of revocation notes the plane went as low as about 493 feet above ground level before the plane went higher to prepare for landing.

As the plane made its descent toward the mall, the plane was flying at about 245 knots, according to the documents, which is about 281 mph.

After the plane was flying low in the area of the mall, Draper ascended to about 1,000 feet above ground level to prepare for landing at the airport, the graph shows.

Justin Saulter, the son of flight attendant Cindy Saulter, was at the mall that night. The plane had taken off from Philadelphia at about 10:51 p.m. and landed in Salisbury at about 11:29 p.m., documents show.

He said in a Federal Aviation Administration witness statement that he was in the mall parking lot by the food court, theater and Macy’s, waiting for his wife, when he saw the headlights of the plane.

Justin Saulter called his mom about the low-flying plane, the witness statement reads. He told an administration official that the plane rattled his car windows.

In Cindy Saulter’s witness statement, she spoke of how her son had called to check on her, but she was at home sleeping. She realized another flight attendant, Charlene Helgason, was expected to be on a flight coming into Salisbury that evening and called her. Cindy Saulter said it was the fear she could tell Helgason was feeling that led her to report what happened.

“This is negligence”

Capt. Ross Aimer, a retired United Airlines captain and the CEO of Los Angeles-based Aero Consulting Experts, said he’s heard of pilots flying over someone’s home –– maybe a pilot who wants to go over the home of a girlfriend or a friend.

“This usually happens when the pilot is new and inexperienced and perhaps young,” Aimer said. “I would say it’s very, very rare that a seasoned commercial pilot would do something like that.”

Aimer said it’s a basic rule any pilot would know.

He said people are generally safer at a higher altitude because there is more time to react if anything goes wrong. Also, the plane would be closer to any obstacles if it were flying at a lower altitude.

According to Helgason, the passengers on Flight 4343, who were reading or sleeping, didn’t seem to notice there was any problem.

The incident made Helgason not want to go on a flight with Draper again.

“I didn’t know what was going on then, but now that I do know, I’m furious,” the report of a Federal Aviation Administration interview with her reads. “I will never fly a trip with him (Draper) again. I feel that I didn’t sign up for this, the passengers didn’t sign up for this. I’m doing my job in the back and they are running an air show up front. Other people are coming out about it now. ... It’s called the ‘Draper 1 Approach.’ This is negligence.”


500 ft

above ground level:

Federal Aviation Administration documents show Capt. Ed Draper flew Flight 4343 at about 557 feet, 525 feet and 493 feet above ground level in the area of The Centre at Salisbury.

1,000 ft

above the highest obstacle:

According to Federal Aviation Regulation, Section 91.119(b), a pilot is not allowed to fly an aircraft over a congested area below 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a 2,000-foot horizontal radius.


1,400 ft

above ground level:

Flight 4343 from Philadelphia was flying at about 1,400 feet above ground level prior to descending toward The Centre at Salisbury and Capt. Edmund Draper’s home, Federal Aviation Administration documents state.

- Source:


WWI aviation flies high at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome (NY94), Red Hook, New York

RED HOOK >> There’s still a place where buzzing biplanes swoop in pursuit of German triplanes, where pilots in open cockpits let their scarves flutter in the wind.

The sights and sounds of World War I flight are re-created regularly at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Northern Dutchess, where an original American Curtiss JN-4H “Jenny” shares the sky with reproductions of a French Spad VII and German Fokkers.

“I get to shoot down a Fokker triplane every Sunday afternoon,” said air show director Chris Bulko, who flew the Spad. “I call it playing with the toys here and sharing them with everybody else, and inviting them into our sandbox.”

The aerodrome — actually in the town of Red Hook despite having neighboring Rhinebeck in its name — is one of a few places scattered around the world that put on air shows based on World War I, which began July 28, 1914. The attraction also boasts a museum and hangars packed with planes from the dawn of flight up to World War II. But the weekend air shows bring the crowds. Saturday shows highlight the early history of aviation. Sundays are devoted to WWI.

Men dressed in old-time overalls start balky engines with a hard pull down on propellers. Bulko blows kisses to the crowd on takeoff and chases a doppelganger of the Fokker triplane that was piloted by Manfred von Richthofen (aka the Red Baron). No machine guns here, though pilots show off their skill by flying through falling streams of toilet paper.

Back on the ground, a cartoony melodrama plays out involving Sir Percy Goodfellow, Trudy Truelove and the scheming villains. It’s family entertainment harkening back to a perilous period.

Flying could be deadly for the young pilots, some of whom were teenagers. Planes were wood-framed, fabric-covered and flammable. Enemy pilots attacked with the sun behind them to blind their prey, sometimes amid barrages of anti-aircraft fire. Machine guns jammed. There were no parachutes.

“It’s a dangerous business simply because the planes are not reliable, in many respects. They are also sometimes difficult to fly,” said John H. Morrow Jr., an expert in WWI aviation who teaches history at the University of Georgia.

Many of the planes that made it through war were destroyed as surplus, a big reason why originals are so rare.

Aerodrome founder Cole Palen bought a few old planes in 1951 when a Long Island hangar at the site of Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic take-off made way for a shopping plaza. Palen collected pre-WWII planes for the rest of his life and reproduced hard-to-find historical planes, usually with original engines.

In 1960, he put on his first air show at an old farm he bought. Though Palen died in 1993, the not-for-profit organization is now run by other vintage air buffs. Paid pilots and staff are helped by volunteers, many who are enamored of the comparatively clunky aircraft.

The Jenny, for instance, has a top speed of around 75 mph, but pilot and head mechanic Ken Cassens notes it had a “pretty advanced engine for its time” as he gave a post-flight tour of the plane.

“Building and maintaining and recovering airplanes, in a way, it’s a lot of fun,” Cassens said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s enjoyable work.”

Story and Photos:
David King pilots a War War I-era Fokker DR-1 reproduction triplane during an air show at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Mike Groll — Associated Press

Professor once Vietnam pilot saved by tapioca

As Don Eversole enjoys his golden years, the 81-year-old has been able reflect on the many unique chapters of his life.

From growing up in New Jersey, raising a family and even becoming a Wayland Baptist University professor, the chapters of Eversole's life have been well-written for the longtime Plainview resident.

However, for Eversole, some of the most exciting passages of his life were written in the clouds as the former pilot served 22 years in the United States Air Force, ending his career as a major in that branch of the service.

During some of the most pivotal moments in our nation's history, Eversole served as an aircraft commander, experiencing everything under the aviation sun from flying nuclear bombers to surviving a horrific crash in South East Asia.

"I really enjoyed flying," said Eversole, who retired as a WBU professor in 2000.

Though raised in New Jersey, Eversole graduated in Ohio in 1952.

Pushed to become an engineer, Eversole said he attended a few years of college, including a stint at the General Motors Technical Center.

However, that route wasn't in the stars for the young Eversole, who started to explore different career paths for the future.

And the new path came after seeing an advertisement for an aviation cadet program offered through the Air Force.

"It was a program that you didn't have to be commissioned or be a college graduate. You could just enroll and they'd send you to train as a pilot. It seemed like a great program" said Eversole.

Convinced that his future was in the air, Eversole signed up and headed to San Antonio for training in 1955.

Though the physical and discipline aspects of basic training took a little getting used to, Eversole said going up in the air for the first time was a piece of cake.

"I wasn't really nervous," said Eversole, who begin flight training in a small Piper Cub airplane.

But once Eversole got the basics down, he began piloting bigger planes as he moved on to a WWII T-6, which he learned to fly over North Carolina. After learning to fly a T-33, Eversole was commissioned as a second lieutenant and continued training with the Strategic Air Command program.

After graduating from aviation cadet school in 1956, he trained to fly B-47s and B-52s.

"They were six engine jets. Bombers built for nuclear weapons. They were good planes," said Eversole.

After being promoted to first lieutenant Eversole continued to train, traveling the country with the Strategic Air Command through the end of the 1950s and into the early 1960s.

It was during this time Eversole meet his wife and had children.

But with the ’60s came change and diplomatic unrest, as Cold War tensions heated up and fighting grew in Vietnam.

With the nation on alert because of the actions of Communist countries like Russia, Eversole was assigned to his first tour, spending three years in Puerto Rico near Communist Cuba.

With threats of nuclear war abuzz, Eversole said SAC was always on alert.

"We were ready," said Eversole.

As they waited, Eversole, who by this time was promoted to an air commander, said they would often run training missions, sometimes spending two days on practice fly routes.

But eventually tensions eased over Cuba and Eversole was sent back to the States for continued training.

However, matters were escalating in Vietnam as American forces were fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

"Most of us knew we'd be tapped for a session over there," said Eversole.

And the pilot was right as he was chosen to lead a team into a tour of Vietnam in 1969.

Before departing, Eversole was trained to fly the smaller EB-66C aircraft which specialized in electronic reconnaissance.

Heading into Southeast Asia, Everole and his team were stationed in Thailand. From there they would assist ground troops by using equipment to electronically jam enemy radar looking for gun layouts.

"We didn't have any armaments in that plane, I flew and the guys would use the jammers," said Eversole.

Also during the missions the crew would try to figure out where enemy missile sites were in case they needed to start bombing.

Eversole was eventually moved to an airbase in Korat, Thailand.

It was there that Eversole had a brush with mortality after crashing-landing in a tapioca field on Oct. 26, 1970.

"We were in an old plane coming back from a night combat mission," said Eversole, as he explained that the nighttime darkness was intensified by fog and sheets of rain.

With five crew members on the plane, Eversole said they were ready to return to the base and were clear for landing. However, the pounding rain and low visibility made conditions difficult to land.

After checking in with the tower, Eversole elected to make the approach to see what conditions were like before diverting if necessary to a clear base at Takhli.

According to a report filed by a crew member on the plane, all was going well down to the six-mile point where the aircraft was cleared to the published minimum descent altitude of 1,140-feet.

Eversole continued to descend without caution from the navigator, even though neither had the air field in sight.

With the navigator announcing the field looked clear, Eversole continued to drop altitude.

Unfortunately, the navigator was referring to his radar presentation rather than a visual reference.

"We came in too low and took out the tops of two trees," said Eversole.

Eversole said the tree limbs entered the engines, causing them to flame out.

With no engines, Eversole knew the plane was going to crash.

As the plane descended, Eversole's pilot seat was equipped with an ejection seat he could still deploy at that altitude. But fellow crew members needed at least 400-500 feet to eject from the bottom of the plane.

"I knew there wasn't any 400-foot trees in Thailand, so I knew there wasn't enough time for them to get out," said Eversole.

"I gave the signal for a crash landing and that's the last thing I remember," said Eversole.

The next thing Eversole recalls is waking up jammed in the crashed cockpit.

"I remember a shadowy figure yelling at me 'Major, we got to get you out of here,' " said Eversole.

Stuck in the cockpit, Eversole said he had broken his ankles and three vertebrae in his back.

"I could hear hissing and fuel pouring everywhere," said Eversole.

Knowing that the engines were hot, Eversole ordered the crew member to run away before the plane exploded.

"I said get out of here — things are about to explode," said Eversole.

Still connected to the ejector seat, Eversole became worried that it would go off, slamming him right into the side of the wrecked plane.

With time running out, Eversole said he did all he could to get free.

"With rain in my face, I said 'Lord, I got four kids at home, this is not the way I'm going to meet you,’ " said Eversole.

About that time, the seatbelt came loose and Eversole was out the harness.

It was then that Eversole saw more fuel heading back to the burning disabled aircraft.

"I saw one spot to the left of the cockpit that was not in flames," said Eversole. "I dove for it."

With a broken back and ankles, Eversole was able to get to the muddy spot in the tapioca field, which helped soften the landing of the crash.

"From there, the crew came back and got me. I was so thankful to be alive," said Eversole.

Eversole was transported to a medical facility in Thailand where he was treated for 2-3 weeks before being transferred home. It would be Eversole's last mission.

After time passed, Eversole healed nicely and eventually regained his flying status.

For the remainder of his flying career, Eversole continued as air commander and flew test flight at Pinker Air Force base in Oklahoma.

After retirement, Eversole decided to go back to college where he eventually earned a master’s in business from the University of Central Oklahoma.

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Don Eversole
Courtesy Photo 
An EB-66C aircraft, flown by Plainview’s Don Eversole, is shown after it crashed in a Vietnam tapioca field in 1970.

Gillespie and Warner quarrel over use of charter planes

Ed Gillespie, the challenger in Sen. Mark R. Warner’s re-election bid for the U.S. Senate, has slammed his opponent for using chartered planes to travel the state at taxpayers’ expense.

“He wasn’t hitting the road (in Virginia); he was flying in style on a luxury jet from a company named Zen Air and charging taxpayers $8,500 for it,” Gillespie told reporters in a call Friday.

The Republican nominee and former chairman of the Republican National Committee responded to a story in USA Today on Thursday that detailed the senator’s trip to Southwest Virginia but noted that Sen. Timothy M. Kaine made a similar trip by car for a fraction of the cost of the plane lease.

“If you don’t want to drive, you could get a round-trip commercial flight from Dulles (International Airport) to Bristol for $350, or less than 5 percent of the cost of Senator Warner’s chartered luxury jet,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie also cited Warner’s Senate expenditure report, which shows that Warner took 32 flights for a total cost of $150,000 since assuming office in 2009.

“That’s about $5,000 per trip, averaging a charter luxury flight about every other month since he has been in office,” the Republican said.

Warner spokesman David Turner said the senator keeps “a breakneck schedule” and that in 2013, he participated in more than 150 official events all over Virginia.

“Occasionally, he uses charter flights to get from one end of the state to the other. But the fact is, Senator Warner is a careful steward of taxpayer dollars. During his time in the Senate, he has returned $1.6 million in unspent office allowance to the Treasury,” Turner said.

In regard to the Zen Air charters, Turner said Warner has “only used propeller planes, not luxury jets.”

He also called out Gillespie for criticizing Warner for something that he himself would do.

Gillespie on Friday said he could not rule out using charter flights, if elected, but would book only modest planes.

“We’re glad to see that Ed Gillespie has said he will hold himself to the same standard Senator Warner has set,” Turner said.

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Ed Gillespie, (left) the challenger in Sen. Mark Warner’s reelection bid for the U.S. Senate, has slammed his opponent for using chartered planes to travel the state at taxpayer’s expense.

Dubai's Emirates suspends flights to Guinea over Ebola

Aug 2 (Reuters) - Dubai's Emirates said it had suspended flights to Guinea, one of the west African countries affected by an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

Flights would be suspended from Saturday until further notice, the airline said in a statement on its website. "The safety of our passengers and crew is of the highest priority and will not be compromised," it said

The Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea and has spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, has killed more than 700, making it the deadliest since the virus was discovered almost 40 years ago.

International airlines association IATA said on Thursday the World Health Organization was not recommending travel restrictions or border closures due to the outbreak, and there would be a low risk to other passengers if an infected person flew.

Some pan-African carriers have suspended operations to Liberia and Sierra Leone, where Emirates does not fly.

West African leaders agreed on Friday to take stronger measures to try to bring Ebola under control and prevent it spreading outside the region.

Sierra Leone on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and called in troops to isolate Ebola victims.

Emirates said any further actions in connection with the outbreak would be "guided by the advice and updates from the government and international health authorities."

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Drunk woman 'threw prosthetic leg at Thomson Airways cabin crew'

 A plane had to be diverted to Gatwick Airport last night after a woman allegedly unleashed a foul-mouthed tirade and threw her prosthetic leg at cabin crew.

A Sussex police spokesman said trouble started when the woman, 48, began "swearing blue murder" and throwing food at staff on the Thomson Airlines flight 297.

The captain became so alarmed by her behavior that he diverted the plane, which was flying from Enfidha in Tunisia and destined for Edinburgh, to Gatwick.

The woman, who is unemployed and from Edinburgh, was arrested by police at the North Terminal at 10.22pm last night.

She was taken to Crawley police station where she is being quizzed by officers on suspicion of using threatening behavior.

 Holidaymaker John Smith, 48, from Falkirk, said: “We were coming back from Tunisia when this lady kicked off. She was off her face on drink.

“She was shouting ‘I want cigarettes’ and that she wanted a parachute to jump off the plane.

 “She slapped a young girl and then assaulted the cabin crew with her prosthetic leg.

They took it off her, but she started kicking them with her good leg.

“It sounds funny, but it was not a laughing matter at the time. It was serious. She was totally drunk. It was pretty shocking.”

Passengers said the woman had been involved in an argument at the resort in Tunisia and the bust-up had escalated on the bus to the airport.

At Gatwick airport, waiting police officers escorted the woman off the plane and took statements from passengers.

Mr Smith said the flight had originally been due to arrive in Edinburgh at 11.30pm on Wednesday but they eventually arrived back at around 2.30am on Thursday.

 In a statement, Sussex Police said: "At 10.22pm on Wednesday (30 July) a 48-year-old unemployed woman from Edinburgh was arrested at the North Terminal, Gatwick Airport, on suspicion of using threatening behaviour while aboard Thompson flight 297 from Tunisia to Edinburgh.

"The flight was diverted into Gatwick after it was alleged the woman had been abusive and had thrown a prosthetic leg and food at cabin crew."

A spokesman added: "She was swearing blue murder, saying she was going to do this and that and the other, so the flight was diverted to Gatwick."

But he refused to comment on reports the woman was drunk when the alleged attack took place.

In a statement, Thomson Airways said: "Thomson Airways would like to apologize to passengers for the diversion into Gatwick airport of flight TOM 297 traveling from Enfidha, Tunisia to Edinburgh on 30th July.

"Unfortunately a passenger became disruptive on board and as a last resort the captain decided to divert the flight to Gatwick. Upon landing, the aircraft was met by local police and the passenger was removed for questioning.

"We would like to reassure customers that their safety is our priority at all times. Thomson Airways operates a zero tolerance policy with regards to any disruptive behavior on board and incidents of this type are extremely rare."

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Why the Blue Angels aren't worth the traffic headaches

It's hard to argue the Blue Angels screaming across Lake Washington in perfect formation isn't breathtaking, but not everyone loves the Seafair performances.

Critics complain of the loud noise, government waste, and certainly of closing down I-90 for the practices and show.

KIRO Hosts side with frustrated drivers.

Dori Monson:

"I've been pretty enthusiastic about the Blue Angels, (but) I think I'm done with the Blue Angels. Yesterday, I was coming down I-5 and it was gridlock."

"So I punched up my nav system and it took me on a route to work that I've never taken in 20 years because I had to weave all around the city. It was gridlock."

"If I'm upset with the Washington State Department of Transportation for shutting down I-90 for repairs, wouldn't I be a gigantic hypocrite to celebrate shutting down I-90 so that we fly around the city and make a big rumble?"

"There's nothing more valuable than people's time."

Luke Burbank:

"I friggin' love the Blue Angels. There's something visceral about the Blue Angels flying overhead. I feel a physical response in my chest of happiness. It really regresses me to being like a 4-year-old."

However, that all changed for Luke on Thursday when he was stuck on the 520 bridge during the I-90 closure.

"I have always loved the Blue Angels, but when I was stuck in what very much felt like a parking lot and they were just up there doing their little dipsy-dos for practice, I just thought there's gotta be a better system."

Luke highly doubts Microsoft will ever ask him to its campus after he was so late for his gig.

Jason Rantz:

"I don't care that people are really excited about it. Good for them. I feel a little bit of jealousy that I can't share the same excitement for small things like planes flying really fast over our heads."

"I can't understand why they have to close the I-90 bridge for this. You can't practice anywhere else? There's all this land in Washington that's comparable to the area. It's just air you're going through."

The I-90 bridge will be closed from 12:15 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday for the Blue Angels' Seafair performance. 

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Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation: WEDC-backed Kestrel Aircraft now rehiring staff in Maine

The story of WEDC-backed Kestrel Aircraft has taken another turn with the announcement that a new foreign investor will help bankroll the venture.

But a report from Maine says the investment will be used to rehire employees at the Brunswick Landing facility in that state — not to fund operations in Wisconsin.

"As we have funding, we bring people back and say, 'Here's the next thing we need to get done,'" Kestrel CEO Alan Klapmeier told the Bangor Daily News this week.

Kestrel had promised to build an airplane manufacturing plant in Maine before it announced in January 2012 a move to Superior based on financial incentives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 

When the announcement was made about Kestrel moving to Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker said the company would eventually employ 600 people, but so far the company has just a few dozen workers here.

WEDC has provided $4 million in loans to the firm, with the city of Superior contributing another $2.4 million in loans. In addition, Kestrel is certified to receive up to $18 million in enterprise zone tax credits from WEDC, and $30 million in federal New Market Tax Credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).

No dollar figure has been attached to the new foreign investor but Klapmeier downplayed the amount of money. Kestrel is looking to develop a 6- to 8-passenger carbon fiber plane Klapmeier says will be the fastest single-engine turboprop aircraft on the market.

"It's positive news for the company, but it's not big news,” he told the Bangor paper.

In the Bangor report, Klapmeier also says it’s now unclear how much of the project the company will do in Maine and how much will happen in Wisconsin.

Klapmeier — who with his brother and fellow Wisconsin native Dale had founded the successful Cirrus aircraft company in Duluth — did not say how many employees were now at the Brunswick location, only that it’s "more than there were last week."

The aircraft industry website reported this week that Kestrel secured a new foreign investor and was looking to get its plane to market within three years. Those comments came from company's technical officer, R.J. Siegel, during an appearance at the Experimental Aircraft Association conference in Oshkosh.

The company says it needs to raise between $100 million and $125 million to get the plane designed, built and certified by the FAA.

Klapmeier had initially told officials in Maine that it was going to build a manufacturing plant in Brunswick by 2010 but later complained the state had not delivered on promised financial assistance.

Klapmeier has since made similar comments about Wisconsin, saying the state did not help the company secure New Market Tax Credits, a federal program that provides low-cost financing to areas in need of redevelopment. Northern Wisconsin has some of the highest unemployment in the state.

Kestrel has not moved forward on its plans to build two construction plants in Superior, and has fallen behind on loan payments to WEDC, the quasi-private entity formed by Walker to help jump-start the state economy via tax breaks and other business subsidies.

WEDC and Kestrel have since worked out a deal where Kestrel won't pay anything until November, when it will begin interest-only payments for a year. After that, it will make equal interest and principal payments for 59 months, ending in October 2020, according to a Friday report from
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Police Suspect Disgruntled Worker Over Runway Explosives: Mayaguana Airport (MYMM), Abrahams Bay, Bahamas

Police suspect that a disgruntled worker may be responsible for planting two “explosive caps” in the middle of the runway at Mayaguana Airport on Sunday.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson confirmed to The Tribune yesterday that police are investigating the possibility that an employee, who was working on the Mayaguana runway, may have planted the explosives.

“We are investigating many different angles, but we have heard that and are investigating that,” he said, responding to questions from The Tribune. “We are following that angle and looking into it.”

On Sunday, police in Mayaguana went to the airport after receiving anonymous information that persons had been seen tampering with the runway. When they arrived they discovered someone had removed the portable solar lights and drilled a hole in the runway to place the explosive caps.

Fortunately, ACP Ferguson said, the blasting caps alone could not have caused an explosion. “That is not the way those devices work,” he said. “What was there could not have formed or caused an explosion, the caps do not function like that. You need other parts to cause an explosion.”

A team of officers from New Providence is in Mayaguana conducting interviews and searching for suspects. No one is in custody.

The Mayaguana Airport reopened to commercial carriers and planes over 6,000lbs in April. The opening came a year after an aircraft, forced to make a risky midnight landing, crashed into a truck, setting it on fire and killing its three occupants.

The truck was being used to light the runway for the plane to land because there were no night lights at the airport. Two months after the tragedy, permanent solar lights were purchased and installed at the airport.

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Delivery drone carrying marijuana, cellphones and tobacco crashed outside a South Carolina prison

Police still looking for drone pilot who tried to fly illicit goods over prison wall 

Police are seeking one man and have arrested another who they believe tried to smuggle contraband into a South Carolina prison by way of drone.

On the morning of April 21, officers discovered a small drone that had crashed in the bushes outside the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, S.C., according to the Associated PressThe drone never made it over the 12-foot fence, though the AP noted that “officials aren’t sure exactly where the drone would have gone if it made it over the wall.”

The drone was carrying marijuana, cellphones and tobacco, according to Stephanie Givens, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Corrections.

One person, 28-year-old Brenton Lee Doyle, has been arrested in connection with the incident and appeared in court Wednesday. He has been charged with attempting to smuggle contraband into a prison and possession of the drug flunitrazepam, also known as “roofies,” according to Reuters.

Police have issued a plea for information about a second suspect who may be connected to the incident. They released a series of surveillance photos of the man taken in a convenience store near the prison.

As smuggling attempts go, this is slightly more sophisticated than the old cellphone-over-the-wall trick — which somehow still manages to be effective.
It isn’t new, however.

In November, four people were arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle a few pounds of tobacco into a Georgia correctional facility using a remote-controlled helicopter. According to WALB, they were caught after prison officers noticed the helicopter trying to get over the prison walls.

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Henry County, Indiana: Drone to remain grounded until approved by Federal Aviation Administration

A local drone will remain grounded until its use is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ron Huffman, director of Henry County Emergency Management, said the aircraft is not a drone, but a quad copter. The copter weighs less than three pounds and has a one-fourth mile photographic range. It cost $1,300 and was purchased with EMA donations.

Preliminary paperwork has been submitted to the FAA stating Henry County EMA is a government entity, Huffman said. Once the FAA acknowledges that document, Henry County EMA can proceed with the application process to get the copter's use approved.

So far, the EMA office has not received any negative calls or emails regarding the copter, Huffman said during a phone interview Tuesday morning.

"I think by having our standard operating procedures online, it allowed people to understand that the entire purpose is to protect our responders and handle emergency situations," Huffman said. "If you don't have the equipment, you can't do good things with it."

If a true emergency situation were to arise before FAA approval was received, the copter could be used with approval from the Henry County Commissioners, Huffman said.

On July 1, Indiana added a new section to a law concerning unmanned aerial vehicles. According to the new section, 19. IC 35-33-5-9, law enforcement must have a search warrant to use the vehicle, except in certain circumstances.

Such circumstances would include the substantial likelihood of a terrorist attack, the need to conduct a search and rescue or recovery operation, the need to respond to a natural disaster or any other disaster, or the need to perform a geographical or environmental survey for a non-criminal justice purpose.

Huffman cited a recent instance in Wisconsin when such a helicopter was used to locate a missing 82-year-old man. The man was located in a bean field that would have taken people hours to search on foot, according a news article from

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Winter Haven City Manager Fires 2 Employees: Mishandling of a city utility billing error cost the women their jobs - Winter Haven's Gilbert Airport (KGIF), Florida

WINTER HAVEN | Winter Haven City Manager Deric Feacher fired two employees Friday, including the city’s airport director, for mistakes they made that led to the Abbey Lane Apartments lawsuit.

Chasity Hall, account service manager, and Debbie Murphy, utility account and field services director and airport division director, met with Feacher on Friday, according to a city news release.

Both also turned in letters Wednesday that asked the city not to fire them. Murphy provided the city with her past eight years of employee evaluations, almost all of which were extremely positive.

Feacher issued the two employees identical termination letters Friday afternoon.

“Continuing your employment offers no benefit to the Utility Account Services Department or the city as a whole,” Feacher wrote to both.

Attempts to reach Murphy and Hall for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

The firings come less than two weeks after the City Commission agreed to settle with Abbey Lane Associates for nearly $135,000.

The owners of the Abbey Lane Apartments at 100 Evergreen Place SE filed a lawsuit in June alleging that the city overbilled them for water used by the complex’s office building. A city internal investigation conducted by executive and support services director Michele Stayner last month confirmed an overbilling occurred.

The investigation concluded that the error was caused by a meter incompatibility issue and that Hall and Murphy made numerous mistakes in dealing with the issue.

Hall deleted a message, at Murphy’s request, that seemed to indicate the reason for the overbilling. The investigation report noted the message could be considered a public record.

The investigation also concluded that both women looked to deflect responsi­bility for the overbilling error onto the customers.

The letter Hall returned Wednesday blamed her errors on Murphy, while Murphy’s letter focused on the amount of responsibility the city placed on her between her utilities services and airport positions.

Murphy recommended the city separate the two jobs, which it plans to do. Winter Haven’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year includes a full-time airport director, separate from the utilities account services position.

Murphy asked to become the airport director at the end of her letter, but her request was denied. City spokeswoman Joy Townsend confirmed that the city terminated Murphy completely, not just from one of her posts.

Hall and Murphy have both been on paid suspension since July 25, leaving the city slightly shorthanded. Growth Management Department staff are sharing leadership duties at the airport. Finance director Cal Bowen is managing the account and field services unit.

Townsend declined to estimate how long the positions will be vacant.

Utilities Services staff have begun auditing all city utility meters to “validate proper meter operation,” Feacher said Friday.

Hall and Murphy will now schedule an exit interview with human resources director Shawn Dykes and arrange for a final check and payout of benefits.

Townsend said the city has no appeals process for the fired workers.

How much both employees will receive on their way out is still unclear.

“Any type of calculation of the final check has not been calculated yet,” Townsend said. “So that’s unavailable right now.”

Murphy’s annual salary was $88,026, and she was hired by the city in 2001. Hall’s salary was $41,683, and she was hired in 2009.

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U.S. Orders Airlines to Fly at Higher Altitudes Over Iraq: FAA Prohibits Flights Over Iraq Below 30,000 Feet

The Wall Street Journal
By Robert Wall
Updated Aug. 1, 2014 3:57 p.m. ET

The U.S. government told airlines flying over Iraq to remain at higher altitudes, amid growing concerns about carriers operating around conflict zones.

U.S. airlines are now prohibited from flying over Iraq below 30,000 feet, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The agency, which had previously restricted airlines from flying below 20,000, issued the new requirement because of "the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Iraq."

The guidance, which is mandatory for all U.S. airlines but not others, comes amid increased disquiet about airlines flying near conflict zones after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over war-torn eastern Ukraine.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 jetliner was flying at 33,000 feet in airspace the Ukrainian government had said was safe when it was shot down by a suspected antiaircraft missile fired by pro-Russia separatist rebels. Russia denies the rebels downed the plane.

Some airlines have already opted to avoid Iraqi airspace altogether. European aviation safety regulators on Friday issued their own nonbinding safety bulletin on the country.

Air France said this week it stopped flying over Iraq, and Deutsche Lufthansa AG said late Friday it would suspend overflights and halt operations to the northern city of Erbil.

Virgin Atlantic Airways also has ceased flying over Iraq. "Safety and security is our top priority and we will always follow government advice in such matters," the carrier said.Emirates Airline, the world's largest by international traffic, said it is reviewing the situation.

Airlines generally operate along two trunk routes in eastern Iraq as they travel between Europe and the Persian Gulf hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, while others fly over the region to connect Europe and Southeast Asia.

The FAA's guidance on Iraq also requires planes taking off from countries neighboring Iraq to have reached 30,000 feet before traversing the country.

In another example of concerns about flying near conflict areas, the Cologne-based European Aviation Safety Agency warned airlines Friday about flights in Libya's airspace "taking into consideration the recent escalation of violence and the attacks on the Tripoli airport." The FAA has already issued a flight ban for airspace in the area.

The FAA last month also temporarily barred flights to Tel Aviv after a rocket struck near Ben Gurion International Airport. Some European carriers also suspended operations though others continued flying highlighting differences in risk assessments.

The air-safety arm of the United Nations on Tuesday convened a meeting to discuss the issue of operating around conflict zones. The meeting with airline, air-traffic control and airport representatives said they would "urgently review" ways to share information on flight risks.

International Consolidated Airlines Group SA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said Friday that "individual airlines have to remain in charge of making the final decision" on where to fly.

IAG's British Airways unit has continued flying over Iraq, but avoided the eastern Ukraine airspace even before the government shut those routes after the downing of Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that killed all 298 people on board.

"We constantly look at our operation and assess whether it is safe or unsafe to operate, and if we identify any areas where we consider to be unsafe we will stop flying there," Mr. Walsh said.

The key now is to find ways for airlines to better communicate flight risks among each other, Mr. Walsh said. "It would be helpful if it was easy for us to share that with one another," he added.

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Warner Responds to Charter Plane Report

Rockingham County, VA -- UPDATE: 08/01/2014 4:40 p.m.

David Turner, a spokesman for the Warner Campaign shares, "Senator Warner has only used propeller planes, not luxury jets. We're glad to see that Ed Gillespie has said he will hold himself to the same standard Senator Warner has set."

Turner adds that the newest plane used by Warner was built more than 20 years ago in 1991. Most were 30, even 40 years old. Also, yesterday Ed Gillespie said he would not take any chartered planes, now he is saying he will.

A plane chartered by U.S. Senator Mark Warner cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars last year.

We caught up with Senator Warner as he toured Cargill in Dayton Saturday afternoon. He was talking with leaders in the poultry industry, but he also answered my questions about the $8,500 spent flying around Virginia last summer on a chartered plane.

Warner's reps say the plane helped him visit more places than afforded by a car. Meanwhile, Senator Tim Kaine took a similar trip by car that only cost about $690. These numbers are based on a report by USA Today.

Warner's opponent, Ed Gillespie, says if elected, he'll only use basic planes or fly commercial when getting around Virginia.

Warner responded to this report Friday afternoon saying, "Over the last five years, I've returned more than $1.6 million to the taxpayers from my staff and travel budget. I'm glad that I get all over Virginia to see people and meet with constituents. That's part of my job."

The report detailing the $8,500 plane bill accounts for a four-day trip around Virginia that covered about a thousand miles. Senators pay for their official duties from taxpayer-funded accounts set aside for them to cover costs of staff and travel. 

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