Saturday, August 9, 2014

Blizzard of rules by the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation threaten to 'kill’ air charter companies

Since February, a Cessna Citation CJ2 corporate jet, which on a good day can fly up to 1,700 miles nonstop, has been mostly lying idle at the Delhi airport. The aircraft belongs to developer Supertech Group, which has leased it for Rs 40 lakh a month. Yes, it is the same company that reportedly told the Supreme Court it would face ruin were it to immediately repay customers looking to exit a disputed residential project in Noida.

Supertech wants to use the aircraft to carry its executives to projects located in north India and liaise with government officials. It also harbours a strong desire to enter the charter business.

But the company needs to first receive a non-scheduled operator's permit (NSOP) from aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). A year has passed since it applied for one. As it waits for the permit, Supertech has been losing a humongous `60 lakh a month since February — it has to also pay parking and maintenance fees — according to director Mohit Arora. (He denied that the company said it would face ruin or showed an unwillingness to pay customers.)

Supertech's jet and ergo, its aviation dreams have been shackled by a blizzard of rules contained in the DGCA's Air Operator Certification Manual. The 267-page thick rulebook, also called CAP 3100, lays down 36 checklists for each operator. Each lists additional compliance tasks and resultant checks, resulting in a regulatory quagmire for aviation entrepreneurs.

Bureaucratic Nightmare

Since it was introduced last August, CAP 3100 has become synonymous with long delays in getting permits and "humongous losses" for new aviation entrepreneurs and existing operators. It takes nearly a year to receive a flying permit while NSOP holders have to wait for up to six months to induct aircraft.

The DGCA introduced CAP 3100 (it underwent two revisions in November and March this year) to comply with a safety audit by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). That meant the 165 NSOPs in India had to apply afresh with the DGCA and have their operations reviewed. CAP 3100's introduction was sudden, according to NSOP players, who said this was done under duress to avoid a revision of India's air safety rating by The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA still downgraded India, but for no fault of the NSOPs. Rather, it was due to the failure of DGCA to hire enough officials to oversee the safe running of flights. The first to be hit were Indian operators that offer jets on charter to fly abroad. A year later, the review process of CAP 3100 remains incomplete and barring corporate powerhouses like Reliance Industries and DLF, around 20 charter companies still haven't received permission to fly abroad.

Even operators that passed the CAP 3100 test have to undergo the entire process again if they wished to induct aircraft. It took more than three months for a charter company in Pune to induct an 18-seater Gulfstream 550 into its fleet this year. Likewise, a Delhi-based operator has been knocking on DGCA doors since May to add a Beechcraft King Air 350.

CAP 3100 is understandably a byword of revulsion for NSOPs, but few were willing to speak on record for fear of crossing DGCA officials. "We have no complaints," said Supertech's Arora.

Many others were more forthcoming with their grouses against DGCA but wished to remain anonymous. CAP 3100 has led to a massive increase in operating costs, said the head of an NSOP aspirant based in Delhi. "It requires an NSOP holder to create 11 compulsory posts. Hiring of this scale makes operations unviable for a small operator with 1 or 2 aircraft."

If this rule is unreasonable, there are plenty of unfair ones too. An operator looking to induct a new type of aircraft has to bear the cost of training of DGCA inspectors. Training at least two flight operations inspectors, two airworthiness inspectors and "any other officer(s) of DGCA as specified by DGCA" sets back an operator by nearly Rs 75 lakh. (The FAA, which the DGCA is trying hard to please, operates its own fleet of more than 100 jets and helicopters for inspections. ) CAP 3100 has also turned into a potent tool for harassment. "I was told to resubmit my manual because a DGCA official was not satisfied with the font," said an official of the Delhi-based NSOP applicant.

Every time a manual is resubmitted with corrections, pat comes a new observation, said DK Mishra, COO, Freedom Charter Services in Mumbai, which is awaiting permission to fly abroad. "It is really frustrating." Rohit Kapur, president of Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA), said the DGCA has implemented a process for which they don't have their own resources. "We are running from department to department for permissions."

Clueless Regulator

Blizzard of rules by the aviation regulator DGCA threaten to 'kill’ air charter companies As a last-ditch gambit to avert the FAA downgrade, the government approved the hiring of 75 flight inspectors. The DGCA has so far hired only 35 inspectors, of which only 14 have joined so far, aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju Pusapati told parliament recently.

Incredulously, not one DGCA officer has a clue about these certifications, said Mishra. "Small operators have to keep their staff parked at DGCA headquarters at Delhi because approvals move at a snail's pace." NSOP players said DGCA views them from the same prism as airlines, which have bigger operations, and whose rules are therefore irrelevant to them. To cite two examples: NSOPs are required to have contracts with ground-handling agencies and refuelling companies.

In May, DGCA head Prabhat Kumar issued a 'Standards of Services' document to help applicants avail services and approvals "without procedural delays". For example, the document has set a timeframe of six months to issue an NSOP licence. Most deadlines remain on paper. DGCA officials have actually told NSOP aspirants they would now receive a permit only after an audit by FAA in December. (A FAA spokeswoman said no visit has been scheduled.) Kumar had no comment for this article.

Cloudy Future

At the heart of the problem with DGCA's new rules is a confusion over setting standards. The FAA wants India to adhere to the standards for aircraft operations established by ICAO. India does follow ICAO standards, but wants its regulatory structure modeled on FAA principles. It is not as simple as it looks.

Mark Martin, an airline consultant based in Dubai, said India cannot use FAA standard as a model because the structure of aviation in the two countries is different. "The US is an evolved aviation market — airports and airfields are omnipresent and so are service centers and maintenance facilities. In India, aviation is still a luxury and private aviation is limited to a privileged few." The increased red tape that has pervaded India's aviation industry should not surprise given that FAA own regulatory mechanism is similar. For an existing carrier to add aircraft, routes and so on, it takes 30 days in the US. Fresh permits will vary depending on each applicant. Yet, there are key differences.

"In the US too, there is a fair amount of red tape but the rules don't change that often," said Alex Wilcox, CEO of JetSuite, a private jet company in California. Wilcox, who was previously COO of the grounded Kingfisher Airlines, said he spent a great deal of his time in Delhi despite living in Mumbai because of the " ever-changing requirements" of the DGCA.

Martin said Indian rules come with a subliminal "everyone out there will cut corners " approach while the FAA is more "operators are responsible for their aircraft". The official of the NSOP applicant said as much: "Isn't it in our interest that we maintain safety?" He said NSOP players are not saying no to compliance or checks. "All we are asking is some accountability. They [DGCA officials] will kill the sector."

- Source:

Lafayette Regional Airport (KLFT), offers new destination

Excitement is growing for frequent flyers and staff at the Lafayette Regional Airport. The airport continues to grow in number of commuters year after year. Several projects are in the works to improve the physical appearance and next, on August 23rd, the airport will offer nonstop flights to Denver.

Seven days a week, a fifty seat, RJ Regional Jet will transport Lafayette flyers to Denver, which is expected to increase revenue.

Mike Burrows, airport Director said, “The profit margin is going to be through landing fees. We'll probably see an increase in passenger and we also get a four dollar and fifty cent passenger facility charge."

United Airlines will soon offer greater opportunities for Acadiana travelers, including those connected to one of the area's largest and most profitable industries.

"The oil industry is going to see a big use out of it because there are so many people going to the northwest corridor for the oil and gas up there. So, we do see just a great outbreak of people liking it," Burrows explained.

Should travelers prepare themselves for a longer stay when awaiting flights, now that there will be an increase of airport traffic? Burrows said slightly.

“However, I think at the timeframe that United has selected, it shouldn't be too hard on anybody coming in. It's a 4PM flight."

The connection was added after demand rose from business and leisure travelers. As officials anticipate future growth, a new terminal is in the works with an expected completion date of three to five years. 

 - Source:

Twin passions keep airport manager flying high: Central Colorado Regional (KAEJ), Buena Vista, Colorado

Jill Van Deel Central Colorado Regional Airport manager Jill Van Deel sits inside her sporty Glasair I. 

For Jill Van Deel, trips to the airport with her father stoked her lifelong passion for airplanes.

“My dad flew,” she says. “I grew up flying.”

Van Deel is one of those lucky people who are able to turn their passion into a career.

A commercially rated pilot and certified flight instructor, she was chief pilot for Altitudes Flight Training. She also flew corporate and charter flights out of several Denver airports.

“I flew Goose Gossage. And John Denver’s hangar was next to mine. I became friends with his Learjet mechanics and pilot, so they got me a backstage pass and I met him.”

Being a huge fan of Denver, she was thrilled when he autographed an album and CD for her. Though she never piloted the singer, she did once fly in his plane, though this was after Denver’s death in 1997.

Her job as manager of Buena Vista’s Central Colorado Regional Airport has kept her busy for 5 years.

“There’s CDOT and FAA requirements to stay in compliance with, aircraft and hangar management, marketing, grant writing, airport operations, customer relations and planning for airport growth.”

Another important aspect of her job is overseeing high-altitude training and testing of personnel and equipment, both in conjunction with High-Altitude Training Site and national and international aircraft manufacturers of our country’s military helicopters.

Van Deel also organized a fly-in in October 2013, “to show BV their airport.” There were kids’ activities, live music, breakfast and lunch, a P-51 Mustang, Flight-for-Life, workshops taught by Fantasy of Flight, simulators, local planes and the BV Car Club.

The Young Eagles program gave first flights to kids between 9 and 16.

“We had about 300 people attend. We didn’t have time to do one this year, but we’re planning another in 2015. We’d like to make it an annual event.”

Not surprisingly, Van Deel owns her own plane, a Glasair I. “It’s sporty. It can do 200 miles an hour. It’s a lot of fun.”

Van Deel warns about high altitude flying, though. “All flying is risky, and mountain flying is a compounded risk. Aircraft performance is reduced due to the altitude.

“It’s pretty tricky to navigate mountains. You need to have good weather briefings and to understand how the air flows over the mountains.”

Well-acquainted with mountain flying, when the Van Deels moved to BV in 2005, she opened a small flight school that she ran successfully for about 5 years.

Along with airplanes, animals are a passion for Van Deel.

“I’ve had such a love for animals all my life – all kinds. I even take spiders outside.”

She’s rescued many animals over the years, beginning in childhood.

While most have been cats and dogs, there have also been birds and horses, and even fish that aren’t being well taken care of by retail stores.

“Sometimes I have many bowls on the counter,” she says with a smile.

Currently, Van Deel’s household consists of herself, husband Roger, owner of Van Deel Homes, son Nathan, three dogs, four horses, and three barn cats. An elderly fourth dog passed away in his sleep in June.

Nathan has inherited his mother’s love of horses.

He’s now competing in his third rodeo season with the Colorado Jr. Association in calf roping, team roping, and poles. He also plays the guitar and mandolin with The Mighty Pickin’ Pickles.

Just as Van Deel has followed her passions, she’s happy to see the next generation do the same.


NAME Jill Van Deel

POSITION Airport manager

FAMILY Husband Roger, son Nathan,15

HOMETOWN St. Louis, Mo.

 WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR TIME OFF? Hike, kayak on Twin Lakes, horseback ride, take back roads and see the country

HOBBIES Flying, following the Cardinals and Broncos

NOTABLE  Was hangar neighbor to John Denver at the Centennial Airport in Denver

QUOTABLE  “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” Helen Keller


CURRENTLY READING “Fly Navy: The View From a ‘Jungly’ Cockpit 1958-2008” collated by John Beattie

FAVORITE KIND OF MUSIC I’m all over the board, but ‘80s rock and country are my biggest favorites.

FAVORITE SMELL Fresh grass, especially after a rain.

FAVORITE SOUND The start of a jet engine

FAVORITE PLACE TO VACATION Camping in the mountains


 THING I LIKE BEST ABOUT BV There’s always some sort of adventure just around the corner, like a new hike or going kayaking. You don’t have to go far. It’s all right here – endless adventure.

Story and Photo:

Alberta man lists $1.5M jet in Kijiji ad, calls it 'the ultimate toy'

Ex-Royal Navy Harrier Jet Serial number ZD615 

A retired Royal Navy FA2 Sea Harrier jet owned by an Alberta-based aircraft collector is listed on online classified website Kijiji for $1.5 million. 

A website devoted to selling old records and used bicycles may not be the first place you’d think to list a military fighter jet with a seven-figure price tag.

But if you’re in the market for a used Royal Navy FA2 Sea Harrier jet, there’s one for sale on Kijiji for you.

Aircraft enthusiast Ian Cotton has been collecting planes for six years. Earlier this week he posted his prized fighter jet on Kijiji, listing it under “cars and vehicles” with a four-line description, a video and some photos.

Unsurprisingly, the rather modest listing is generating interest online, although most people clicking on it are likely just window shopping – the aircraft is being sold for a cool $1.5 million.

“It’s about time to get rid of it, I haven’t had the time to spend renovating it,” Cotton said in a phone interview Friday.

Cotton, who lives in Red Deer, Alta., acknowledges that Kijiji may be an unusual place to sell a retired British fighter jet.

The owner of Orbital Energy, a company that provides gas turbine equipment, said he chose the classified ad route in an attempt to reach out beyond a relatively small inner circle of collectors.

Ultimately, he’s hoping the eventual buyer will put the plane back in flight.

“I think there’s a possibility someone could get this flying – it would be great.”

Needless to say, the aircraft, which is listed to be in “outstanding condition,” is a rare purchasing opportunity for those who can afford it.

To Cotton’s knowledge, there is only one other Sea Harrier that is privately owned in North America, and it’s based in the United States. Cotton says he purchased the Sea Harrier from the U.K.’s Royal Navy approximately five years ago.

The rest of the Sea Harrier fleet was later sold to the U.S. military in what many called a steal of a deal, says Cotton, who has “closely watched” the Canadian government’s controversial efforts to replace the military’s own aging fleet of fighter jets.

According to the listing, the aircraft was built in 1986 and was last flown in 2001. The plane has been demilitarized, and as such, has no working gun or missile functions. It would require several parts before it can be flown again, Cotton said, which is why it is not being sold as “airworthy.”

“I think it’ll be for people that want something exceptional, that nobody else has,” Cotton said.

Non-commercial pilots can fly military aircrafts legitimately in Canadian and American airspace, as long as the plane is registered with the appropriate authorities.

He said the only other privately owned Sea Harrier was flown at an airshow in Toronto last summer. When in flight, it is often considered the “star” of the show, due to its vertical takeoff capability.

Cotton himself does not fly his planes, and says a pilot must be “highly trained” to fly a Sea Harrier.

In 2013, Cotton put his Sea Harrier on static display at an airshow in Airdrie, Alta., where an estimated 2,000 people lined up to sit in the pilot’s seat. The experience was documented in a video posted to Youtube.

Cotton said he hopes his favorite jet ends up in the right hands. And, he said, if someone makes the right offer, he would consider selling his other planes, which include a BAC Strikemaster, an English Electric Lightning jet fighter, and three Hawker Hunters.

And it appears he may not be completely ready to give up on his hobby.

“Maybe in a few years, I’ll start collecting again.”

Story, Comments and Photo:

Greg Raiff: Keep flying the friendly skies

By Greg Raiff
Guest commentary

Is it safe to fly?

We are coming off the fifth-worst month in modern commercial aviation history. In July, three major commercial airline disasters led to almost 400 deaths. Many are left asking, "is it still safe to fly?"

The answer is simply yes.

Air disasters are rare, and when three happen back-to-back-to-back, we all take notice. Two of the disasters seem to be due to a mix of bad weather and poor piloting. The other was the result of an apparent missile attack.

If one good thing comes out of all the misery, it is that international carriers and air controllers will now take war zones very seriously and reroute aircraft around them, despite the costs.

As domestic and international airlines consolidate more and more, the pressure to cut costs and maximize profits has led to two issues. First, piloting and real skills. As we saw with the Asana crash, a good pilot has to be able to fly an aircraft on instinct, and not be overly dependant on automated systems. As with Capt. Sullenberger, there is no replacement for a pilot with good airmanship skills in a crisis — and in those rare occurrences, the ability to fly may be the deciding factor. But many airlines fail to demand those basic skills as planes become more and more sophisticated. And that leads to tragedies such as Air France flight 447, where faulty instruments led to bad decisions.

The second challenge is cost. In the brave new world of commercial aviation, airlines cut costs to compete, and often that means taking the most direct route, even if it passes through a conflict zone.

I think we are seeing a reaction from the 3.3 billion commercial air passengers who fly worldwide each year. They will demand safer routes, even if it takes longer to get there.

In the end, the real factor is how much this industry has changed. With so many airlines offering basically the same services at the same prices, customer loyalty and brand preference is evaporating. Gone are the days when flying was something special, and consumers paid more to fly on the shining jets of a TWA or a Pan Am.

So, yes, despite the headlines, flying is still very safe. But lessons need to be learned from July 2014 to make it all safer — and that may take longer than we would like.

Greg Raiff is chief executive officer of Private Jet Services, a corporate aviation consultancy.


Temporary flight restrictions over Nantucket through August 24th

(Aug. 8, 2014) Temporary flight restrictions have been issued for the skies over Nantucket from August  9th  through August 24th  due to President Barack Obama's vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

Nantucket Flying Association president Chris McLaughlin said flight restrictions are imposed for a 30-mile radius of a president's location, and Nantucket falls just within the 30-mile ring.

According to the restrictions, flights within the airspace must be on either visual flight rules or an IFR flight plan, and talking to and obeying air-traffic control. Anything that would be considered loitering, such as sightseeing, flight-training activities, aerial photography, etc. are prohibited until President Obama returns to Washington, D.C.

 "Essentially, you have to be going somewhere," not just doodling around," McLaughlin said.

Temporary flight restriction violations are taken very seriously by both Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration, he added.

"Pilots should be very careful not to fall foul of the conditions attached to the restrictions, unless they want to see what F-15 Eagles and unmarked Blackhawk helicopters look like from up close," he said.

For aircraft flying to or from Martha's Vineyard itself, there is another whole layer of complexity and security and this is described in the body of the restriction.

- Source:

Courtesy of Nantucket Flying Association 
 Temporary flight restrictions have been issued for the skies over Nantucket from today through Aug. 24 due to President Barack Obama's vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

More air service to oil sands

Another air carrier is expected to use Kelowna International Airport as a base to shuttle workers between the Okanagan and the Alberta oil sands.

Calgary based Suncor Energy Services has applied to operate an air service on a scheduled seasonal basis between Vancouver, Kelowna and Edmonton.

The company would use the service to transport employees to and from the oil sands.

It says the service would be a means of expanding the available labor pool while allowing them to access skilled labor quickly.

Suncor would utilize a CRJ-900 86 seat aircraft for the service.

Kelowna City Council is expected to approve the request Monday.

- Source:

Salinas Airshow promises sizzle and salute to veterans


 Last year, thanks to the Congressional budget sequestrations, all of America’s military jet demonstration teams were grounded and prevented from appearing at airshows anywhere.

Locally, organizers of the California International Airshow Salinas agreed that the 2013 show wasn’t bad but that it lacked some of the normal aerial sizzle that a military jet team typically provides.

“Our mission each year is very simple: To produce a world-class, community-based airshow that benefits local charitable organizations. In our 34 years, we have become the most successful airshow organized to support charitable organizations in North America,” said Executive Director Bruce Adams. “We’re pretty proud of that.”

The Airshow – a non-profit, nearly all-volunteer-run event – is known for its philanthropy as much as for the fun and excitement of its aerial shows. Through its first 33 years, the show has raised more than $8 million for local charities.

The good news for this year is that the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration Team will be thundering back across the skies of the Salinas Valley.

The Thunderbirds are celebrating 60 years of performing for airshow enthusiasts around the world. The Salinas Airshow, however, will be just one of two places in California where the team will perform.

Based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the Thunderbirds perform both aerobatic formation and solo acts and fly the striking red, white and blue F-16 C/D Fighting Falcon.

“It’s so great to have them out of sequestration and back into the air where they belong,” Adams said.

Some 50,000 spectators are expect to attend this year’s show, Sept. 27-28 at the Salinas Municipal Airport.

The two-day show will feature a couple of ground-based non-aviation acts that are guaranteed to thrill the crowd, too.

“Metal Mulisha” a motocross stunt team, will perform amazing jumps, twists and spins. Also, two monster trucks will crush cars and create generally fun mayhem. Kelvin Ramer will drive his “Time Flys” truck while daughter Rosalee drives ”Wild Flower.” Rosalee Ramer is the youngest known professional female monster truck driver in the business today.

But make no mistake, it’s what’s in the air that counts at an airshow and this year’s lineup likely will not disappoint.

Hometown hero and world-renowned aerobatics ace Sean D. Tucker and his bright red Oracle Challenger III biplane will be in the air stunning people with a unique routine that is athletic and balletic all at the same time.

Tucker, who started with humble local roots as a Salinas Valley crop dusting pilot years ago, now has more than 20,000 hours in the air and has received just about every honor and award there is to get in their aerobatics business – including induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the International Aviation Air and Space Hall of Fame. Tucker also was named one of the 25 Living Legends of Flight by Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.

Tucker has flown more than 1,200 performances at nearly 500 airshows in front of more than 105 million fans.

“I like to think that I bring the fans’ dreams of flying into the plane with me and there’s nowhere I'd rather be than in the cockpit. That’s why I train so hard to keep a finely tuned edge,” Tucker said in a prepared media statement.

Tucker says his goal is to share the magic of flight with his fans.

“I want them to go away saying that the airshow was one of the most engaging days of their lives,” he said.

This year’s show also will feature a historical theme marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 – a day that marked a turning point in World War II and the eventual end of Hitler’s Germany.

“I think what I am most excited about, besides the return of the Thunderbirds, will be the historic warbirds that will be coming to salute the anniversary,” Adams said. “It’s an ultra-rare collection of historic aircraft that will be in the air with historical narration and backed by patriotic music.”

The Texas-based Liberty Jump Team will leap from vintage C-47s to give fans a sense of what D-Day must have been like as American and British paratroops landed all over France under wilting enemy fire during the invasion still considered the largest air and sea-borne invasion ever conceived or executed in the history of human warfare.

Adding to the historical aspects of the show will be the appearance of a rare operating B-25 Mitchell bomber named “Executive Sweet.”

Finally, in addition to what promises to be a stunning “static” display of a variety of aircraft old and new will be veteran aerobatic pilot Clay Lacy and his famous Lear Jet and a rare Russian MiG-17 fighter flown by aerobatic ace Randy Howell, founder and president of the Patriots Jet Team that wowed the airshow crowd last year.

Finally, Watsonville native Vicky Benzing will be flying her perfectly restored Boeing Stearman biplane.


The California International Airshow Salinas will be held Sept. 27-28 at the Salinas Municipal Airport. For tickets and other information, go to the show’s website at or call 831-754-1983. Gates open each day at 9 a.m. and flying begins at noon.


Keep Planes a Quiet Space: Cellphones and Airplanes Shouldn’t Mix

The Opinion Pages 
AUG. 8, 2014

Cellphones have provided humanity with many benefits. They have also enabled the most annoying among us to find new ways to disturb the peace in all sorts of public places, like trains, theaters and restaurants. One shared space that has heretofore been protected from the chattering of cellphone users may soon join that list: airplanes.
The Federal Communications Commission, which has barred the use of cellphones in planes since 1991, is considering allowing airlines to decide whether their passengers can make calls. Some airlines, like Delta, have already said that they will not allow cellphone chatter. But other airlines could well decide otherwise, and in anticipation of this the Department of Transportation is readying proposals to govern in-flight cellphone calls.
Officials at the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, has argued that the carriers should decide; some European and Asian airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and Emirates, already allow passengers to make calls from their planes at international roaming rates, usually $1 a minute or more. Many frequent travelers and the unions representing flight attendants, however, want a ban on all flights.
We agree. There is no compelling reason to allow cellphone calls on planes other than to provide airlines with another source of revenue. Passengers who really need to communicate with people on the ground can already do so through wireless Internet service provided by many airlines for a fee.
Meanwhile, there are good reasons for restricting calls, not least of which is preserving peace and quiet on planes, which are increasingly flying at or near capacity thanks to multiple airline mergers in recent years. 
So far as we can tell, the majority of the flying public is not clamoring for the right to make phone calls at 30,000 feet. The Transportation Department should listen to their quiet voices.


Sen. Chuck Schumer to Federal Aviation Administration: Ban Drones from Drug Dealers, Private Investigators

Americans by now are familiar with the government’s use of drones to kill alleged terrorists—with civilians oftentimes caught in the crosshairs—or as a tool for surveillance, but it’s how some people domestically are using drones that has Sen. Chuck Schumer calling for stricter guidelines.

New York’s senior senator this week penned a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration and Commerce Department calling for a ban on drones used by private investigators and drug dealers and a release of privacy rules and guidelines for private drone use by the end of 2014.

“Confusion over the lack of regulations surrounding drone use is causing problems throughout the country,” Schumer wrote. “There are a number of unregulated small drones throughout New York City, as well as other parts of the state, threatening safety and privacy.”

Schumer cited reports of private investigators spying on couples cheating on each other, people lying about disabilities and others involved in criminal activities. He also mentioned several cases of drug dealers using drones to deliver illegal drugs, a near drone-NYPD helicopter collision over the George Washington Bridge in July, reports of drones flying too close to airports, and a failed attempt by someone using a drone to fly marijuana and cell phones into a South Carolina maximum-security prison. The drone crashed short of the prison, he said.

He blamed a lack of clear rules from the FAA for the “confusion as to what is legal, and the blatant abuses of this great technology.”

“New York City has become the wild, Wild West for commercial and hobby drones,” he said.

Drones are currently used by the U.S. government to aid in military operations overseas and domestically for border patrol operations, disaster relief, search and rescue missions, real estate sales and agriculture.

Currently, the FAA says drones should be flown below 400 feet and a “sufficient distance from populated areas and full scale aircraft.”

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act, passed in 2012, stipulated that the FAA come up with a plan for safe integration of drones by September 2015—a deadline the agency may not meet, according to a recent inspector general’s report, Schumer said.

According to Schumer, President Obama will issue an executive order to have the Commerce Department develop guidelines and best practices for commercial drones.

- Source:

Remembering deadly plane crash one year later: Rockwell 690B Turbo Commander, Meridian (Rgd. Ellumax Leasing LLC), N13622 -- Accident occurred August 09, 2013 in East Haven, Connecticut

Photos of East Haven plane crash anniversary 

EAST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A special ceremony will be held in East Haven Saturday to mark the anniversary of a deadly plane crash a short distance away from Tweed-New Haven Airport. 

On August 9, 2013, a small plane crashed into a home on Charter Oak Ave. killing two children on the ground and a father and son onboard the aircraft. Over the course of a year a lot has changed. Two new homes now stand in place of the ones that were damaged in the crash. It’s a welcome sight to those who live in the area.

It was a chaotic and tragic scene along Charter Oak Ave. after the twin-engine plane on approach to Tweed Airport fell from the sky, a day neighbors including Edward Tracey won’t soon forget.

“I heard, like, the explosion sound,” he said. “I went right down there and I’d seen the house on fire.”

The crash killed 13-year-old Shade Brantley and her one year old sister, Madisyn Mitchell. Both were inside one of the homes. The pilot, Bill Henningsgaard, and his son Maxwell, from Washington state were onboard the plane. They also died in the crash. The homes were eventually leveled, and today two new houses stand in their place.

“Seeing the empty space over there, it made you do a lot of thinking about it you know, so I am glad that the houses are there now,” Tracey said.

News 8 spoke with the family who lives on the property where the two young girls were killed.

“We said we don’t have any problem because it happened only one time. not always,” a woman who didn’t give her name said. “We not feeling any negative energy. We are happy.”

The plane crash impacted many different people here in town. That’s why community leaders have organized a special ceremony to take place Saturday morning to remember the four lives lost one year ago.

“You feel like you’re safe at home and your kids are safe at home,and then a plane drops out of the clear blue sky and lands on your house; how horrific is that,” said Rev. Karen Gronback Johnson of Old Stone Church.

Rev. Johnson says anyone is welcome to attend the service. “We thought you know what, it’s really not fitting to let an anniversary like that go by without some remembrance.”

Saturday’s remembrance ceremony will start at 11:30 a.m. at Margaret Tucker Park. It’s directly across from the Old Stone Church in East Haven.

As for the cause of the plane crash, the NTSB tells News 8 the investigation is ongoing.

Story and Video:

Bill Henningsgaard, and his son Maxwell

13-year-old Sade Brantley and her sister 1-year-old Madisyn Mitchell

NTSB Identification: ERA13FA358
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, August 09, 2013 in New Haven, CT
Aircraft: ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL 690B, registration: N13622
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 9, 2013, about 1121 eastern daylight time, a Rockwell International 690B, N13622, was destroyed after impacting two homes while maneuvering for landing in East Haven, Connecticut. The airplane was registered to Ellumax, LLC, and was operated by a private individual. The commercial pilot, one passenger, and two people on the ground were fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Teterboro Airport (TEB), Teterboro, New Jersey, about 1049 and was destined for Tweed-New Haven Airport (HVN), New Haven, Connecticut.

Review of preliminary data from the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that at 1115:10, the flight was cleared for the instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 2, circle to land runway 20 at HVN by New York Approach Control (N90). At 1115:43 the pilot contacted HVN tower and reported 7 and one half miles from SALLT intersection. The HVN local controller instructed the pilot to enter a left downwind for runway 20. At 1119:26 the pilot reported to HVN air traffic control (ATC) that he was entering a left downwind for runway 20. HVN ATC cleared the pilot to land on runway 20. While circling to runway 20, the HVN tower controller asked the pilot if he would be able to maintain visual contact with the airport. The pilot replied "622 is in visual contact now". At 1120:55 the HVN air traffic controller made a truncated transmission with the call sign “622”. No further communications were received from the accident airplane. The last recorded radar target was at 1120:53, about .7 miles north of the runway 20 threshold indicating an altitude of 800 feet mean seal level.

According to a student pilot witness, who was traveling on interstate 95 (I-95) at exit 51; he looked to his right while traveling east bound and saw the airplane at the end of a right roll. The airplane was inverted and traveling at a high rate of speed, nose first, towards the ground in the vicinity of where HVN was located. He stated that he stopped at a local business and found out that the airplane had crashed.

According to another witness, who lives two houses from the impact point of the airplane, he was in his living room when he saw the airplane descending about 90 degrees right side down into the homes.

The airplane was located inverted, with the forward half of the airplane inside the basement of the primary home on a heading of 192 degrees magnetic. The cockpit, left engine and forward two-thirds of the fuselage were located inside the basement. The left wing was located on the back porch of the primary home. The right wing impacted a secondary adjacent house on the north side of the primary home. The right engine and propeller impacted the ground in between both homes. A postaccident fire ensued and consumed a majority of the wreckage.

The recorded weather at HVN, at 1126, included wind from 170 degrees at 12 knots, gusting to 19 knots, visibility 9 miles, and overcast ceiling at 900 feet.


NTSB senior air safety investigator Bob Gretz, back to camera, confers with emergency responders on the scene.

New Tazewell celebrates its airport (3A2)

Whether floating along the air currents high above land or witnessing the activity up close at ground level, the New Tazewell Municipal Airport seemed to be having the perfect day for its second annual appreciation event.

The public came out Saturday to enjoy riding high in the sky, aerial shows, live music by Tazewell Pike and mingling among a wide variety of aircraft.

New Tazewell Mayor Jerry Beeler says the city put a good amount of “blood, sweat, tears and grant money” into transforming what was once a pastureland with a tiny strip of runway into a state-of-the art airport that attracts pilots from every walk of life.

“When I took over as mayor in 2006, the city was in the early stages of completing what became a five-year long project to extend the airport runway,” said Beeler, adding the initial 90/10 matching grant for $6.4 million eventually ballooned to some $9.6 million.

New Tazewell government began the process of acquiring land adjacent to the airport.

“It was a nightmare process. It seemed like every step of the way we ran into hurdles that had to be jumped. We had to move many, many tons of dirt to level the ground so that rainwater runoff wouldn’t affect the neighbors’ properties,” he said.

An inordinate amount of rainy weather hindered work, as well.

“Every time we moved forward with the project, it seemed some disaster would happen, like the guy we contracted with to move the dirt went bankrupt,” said Beeler.

Without the extensive knowledge of certified city building inspector Jerry Hooper, Beeler says, the project might have crash landed at any point along its arduous journey.

“When I came on as Mayor, I was basically thrown into it. I didn’t know the right way to go, but I jumped in with both feet and learned,” he said.

Today, the extended and resurfaced runway routinely accommodates twin-engines to Lear jets. The airport regularly plays host to area businessmen, politicians and stars.

“This airport is a vital part of the county. A little-known fact is, we’ve had local pilots fly critically ill people out of here to hospitals in different states, all at no charge,” said Beeler.

The airport currently boasts a maintenance hangar, a roomy office/conference room/lounge area, 16 T-hangars and a 24 hour aviation fueling service via an updated card reader system.

The airport manager, Mitch Edwards, is also a certified aircraft mechanic and veteran pilot.

The city expects to continue its renovation project with the addition of possibly 12 more hangars and the installation of an AWAS (Aviation Weather Avoidance Service) system.

And, fencing around the perimeter of the airport property will prevent problems with wild animals making their way onto the runway, he said.

The city receives some $13,000 in state grant money each year to maintain the airport, meaning no taxpayer funds are used, said Beeler.

- Source:

Visitors mingle among aircraft, enjoy live music and jump aboard planes for a ride in the sky during the second annual New Tazewell Municipal Airport Appreciation Day. Aerial views show the airport and a main artery snaking its way through a portion of the county.

Diverted Denver planes give boost to Cheyenne Regional Airport (KCYS), Wyoming

CHEYENNE - It's not every day one sees the bright blue of a Southwest Airlines jet tooling across the tarmac at Cheyenne Regional Airport.

But that was just the case on Thursday, when Southwest and several other airlines saw planes diverted to Cheyenne due to inclement weather in Denver.

The large number of diverted flights - eight in all - prompted airport staff to send out pictures on Twitter with hashtags like "#planeseverywhere" and "#tightsqueeze."

Summer is a busy season for diverted flights in Cheyenne due to the greater occurrence of thunderstorms in the Denver area.

Frank Cooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colorado, said the primary hazard posed by thunderstorms is wind shear, which can affect the plane's trajectory as it makes its approach to Denver International Airport.

"In the summertime, you get a lot of colliding outflow boundaries, and what that does is it changes the wind direction suddenly when they're moving through the airport," Cooper said. "Because of that, they'll tend to delay the incoming flights until things settle."

Cooper said the NWS issues regular terminal forecasts four times each day to inform air traffic controllers of what kind of weather they can expect over the next 30 hours.

"Basically, we're concerned about winds, wind shifts, visibilities, cloud ceilings and any kind of precipitation in the area," he said. "The meteorologists up at Longmont will talk to us, and then they'll talk to the air traffic controllers directly. So they're using our input, but they make the final call."

Cheyenne Regional Airport deputy director of aviation Jim Schell said the airport handles anywhere from 80 to 100 diverted flights each summer, sometimes as many as a dozen at a time.

"Cheyenne Regional Airport serves as a pretty major diversion airport for Denver International, as do a couple of other airports in the region," Schell said. "Aircraft will typically get diverted to Cheyenne, Pueblo or Colorado Springs."

Which city the planes go to is often determined by where they're coming from, with Cheyenne often handling flights approaching Denver from the north, east or west. Schell said most diverted planes spend one to two hours at the airport, taking off once the weather in Denver has cleared.

But that's not always the case. When many planes have been diverted at the same time, or if the bad weather is exceptionally persistent, diverted planes may have to resort to deplaning entirely while they wait to be refueled.

"We can take right around 100 people in our sterile holding area, but anything over that, they would need to be deplaned back into the main area at the terminal, and they'd have to be rescreened to get back on the plane," Schell said. "It doesn't happen all that often, so if we get 80 flights in a summer, we might see a handful - five or less - that have to deplane the entire plane."

Due to the unpredictable nature of flight diversions, the airport's fixed base operator, Legend AeroServe, makes sure to stock up on fuel during the summer, since most planes that are diverted here require additional fuel to make it the rest of the way to Denver.

Schell noted that gas sales and commercial landing fees can actually provide a bit of a boost to the airport's finances, though overall, flight diversions make up only a small part of the airport's overall operations.

"We can handle quite a few. Really the biggest factor in that is how much fuel we have on hand," he said. "But in the big picture, as the airport side of it goes, it's a relatively small financial impact."

- Source:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Twin Lakes Village Board considering lifting seaplane landing ban

The Twin Lakes Village Board is considering lifting or modifying a ban on landing seaplanes on Lakes Mary and Elizabeth.

But after a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday it’s not clear what course of action would have the support of a majority of the board. That in part was because three board members — President Howard Skinner and Trustees Aaron Karow and Jeremy Knoll — were absent for discussion of the issue.

A ban on landing seaplanes on the lakes appears to have been in effect since at least 1997, though why it was enacted was not known among the officials at the meeting.

Repealing or modifying the seaplane ban came up after Knoll sought to land a plane on Lake Mary in conjunction with the upcoming screening of the movie Planes at Twin Lakes Movies in the Park. Knoll is a dealer for a light aircraft company.

Police Chief Dale Racer said some other lakes in the area do allow the landings, notably Silver Lake. Racer said he consulted with the police department there and found that the landings have not been problematic. When some people have landed on Lakes Mary and Elizabeth, they have been ticketed Racer said.

He did not have a professional opinion on the ban either way, Racer said.

Most opposed to lifting the ban was Trustee Sharon Bower.

“I think we’re asking for problems,” Bower said.

Trustee Kevin Fitzgerald appeared to be willing to consider some type of modification of the ban that might allow landings on either lake with a permit or only on Lake Elizabeth, which is larger and in his opinion less crowded.

“If it’s going on on other lakes, what is the rationale for not allowing it on the largest lake in Kenosha County?” Fitzgerald said.

Bower said she was not sure she would support allowing landings with a permit.

During the same discussion, the board also talked about other possible modifications to the same ordinance.

Village administrator Jennifer Frederick had added a provision banning flyboarding on either lake. Here is Wikipedia’s description of flyboarding: “A Flyboard is a type of water jetpack attached to a personal water craft (PWC) which supplies propulsion to drive the Flyboard through air and water to perform a sport known as flyboarding. A Flyboard rider stands on a board connected by a long hose to a watercraft. Water is forced under pressure to a pair of boots with jet nozzles underneath which provide thrust for the rider to fly up to 15 metres in the air or to dive headlong through the water.”

Frederick said she felt the relatively shallow depth of the lakes warranted consideration of banning flyboarding, due to the diving into the water aspect of the activity.

The board members present also agreed that removing set hours for driving vehicles on the frozen lakes made sense.

- Source:

Howell again challenges Airport Authority on 'incorrect information': Greater Cumberland Regional (KCBE)

WILEY FORD - Del. Gary Howell has written a letter to Dr. Gregg Wolff, the incoming chair of the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority, pointing out what he says is "a fair amount of incorrect information" that has been cited by authority members on several occasions.

The authority has been at the center of at least two controversies since their decision earlier this year to not host the National Road Autocross at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport in Wiley Ford.

In making the decision, several members based their vote on the belief that hosting non-aeronautical events at the airport would endanger Federal Aviation Administration funding for the runway renovation project.

When Howell questioned that reasoning and asked for copies of the minutes of the executive session in which the topic was discussed, authority members informed him they were operating under Maryland Open Meetings laws and the minutes were therefore to be sealed for a year before they could be released.

To confirm that decision, the authority voted during the July 24 meeting to include in their by-laws the statement that they would be operating under Maryland laws.

In making the motion to do so, member Bill Smith cited as one reason, "The FAA plan lists the airport as being in Maryland."

In his letter to Wolff, however, Howell says that is inaccurate.

"I contacted Susan Chernenko, director of the Aeronautics Commission ... (who) provided a letter showing there is no truth to the rumor that the FAA lists the Cumberland Regional Airport anywhere other than Wiley Ford, West Virginia," he wrote.

Howell also provided the News Tribune with a copy of Chernenko's letter, in which she states, "The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport is (and always has been) a West Virginia airport."

Howell also took exception with the authority members' contention that a non-aeronautical event on the airport property would jeopardize FAA funding.

"I contacted FAA administrator Michael P. Huerta to request clarification," Howell wrote.

"The FAA administrator's office stated the request for non-aeronautical events or hosting non-aeronautical events with FAA permission will in no way jeopardize funding of airport projects if the submitted safety plan is followed."

To support that statement, Howell provided the News Tribune with a letter from Eduardo A. Angeles, who replied to the legislator's inquiry on behalf of Huerta.

Angeles wrote: "Airport sponsors who request the FAA's permission to use aeronautical property for a non-aeronautical event would not be in jeopardy of FAA withholding future airport funding for simply seeking permission to do so."

In addition, he wrote, as long as an airport followed the "terms, conditions and/or requirements imposed by the FAA" in hosting such an event, the funding would not be jeopardized.

In closing his letter to Wolff, Howell said he understands the authority "lacks the staff ... to gather information in a timely manner," but the authority "should be doing a better job of eliminating misleading information from its decision-making process.

"One thing that would help in that regard is holding the meetings in accordance with the West Virginia Open Meetings Act as required by law," he continued.

"Because the public comes from all walks of life, public insight and tight scrutiny sees things that may otherwise be missed.

"Again I request that the PHAA follow the W.Va. Open Meetings Act, not only because it is the law, but because it is always in the best interest of the public to hold the meetings in the most open format possible."

The next airport authority meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 28.


Editorial: A long time coming - Conway, Arkansas

The need for a new municipal airport in Conway was first identified in the 1975 Conway Municipal Airport Master Plan Study, which recognized that the existing Cantrell Field was adequate for most propeller aircraft but not for business jets or the larger, executive-type general aviation aircraft.

Full disclosure—we lifted that opening sentence word-for-word from a 2008 FAA environmental document. It was one of the many documents we went through as we taxied down memory lane. Forgive us for feeling nostalgic as our community prepares to open a new Cantrell Field in Lollie Bottoms. But this project has been a long time coming and it has truly taken a village of engineers, politicians, public officials, aviation professionals and many, many dedicated volunteers and neighbors.

On September 5th when planes officially land at the new airport it will be the first time many Conway residents will have ever laid eyes on the site. What will they see? A fantastic new terminal building for starters. The new terminal has first class meeting space and will make a great first impression on anyone who flies to Conway. They will see a 5,500 foot long runway that is capable of safely handling any and all of the aircraft that currently have a reason to visit Conway. They’ll see new hangars and a natural setting that’s downright peaceful.

What they won’t see is a finished airport. And that’s a good thing. Because growing communities are never finished building and improving their infrastructure. This airport is ready to open. But this airport is also prepared to grow.

The runway could be extended to 6,000 feet in the near future. There are future phases of hangar construction and room for more corporate tenants. Some of that work will very visible if you venture out to the airport in the next few months. The new location also comes with real estate available for aviation related businesses and industries that will one day create new jobs for our community.

The work that so many have put into this project finally have the new Conway airport “cleared for landing.” And the thoughtful preparations that have gone into that process have it “prepared for takeoff.”


Air tricks, Tuskegee Airmen and 40 war aircraft at Pikes Peak Regional Airshow

Tuskegee Airmen. 
Courtesy Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Red Tail Squadron.

F4U Corsair. F7F Tigercat. B-25 Mitchell bomber. P-51C Mustang fighter.

These World War II aircraft and about three dozen others will fly in from all over the country this weekend. They'll land at the Colorado Springs Airport for the first Pikes Peak Regional Airshow.

"More than half are World War II vintage," says John Henry, a volunteer for the air show. "Some were active into the Korean conflict, and one of these old-timers was active all the way into Vietnam."

The event is Saturday and Sunday, and includes aerial demonstrations by the planes and crews from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. each day, and performances by the U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue Parachute Team and The Trojan Phlyers, two combat veteran pilots who perform aerobatic routines.

"Colorado Springs is a community that is so supportive of men and women in the armed forces," Henry says, "that we felt it was a great time to found it here in town, and bring forth a rich aviation legacy that we all have from World War II."

A highlight of the weekend is the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron's traveling Tuskegee Airmen exhibit, a semitrailer that houses a 40 foot panoramic movie screen. The 30-minute documentary "Rise Above" will air throughout the weekend to educate visitors about America's first black military pilots.

Col. James H. Harvey III, 91, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, will be on hand for a few hours each day, spending time at both the Tuskegee exhibit and World War II veterans tent. Harvey won numerous medals for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters. He joined the military in 1943, retired in 1965, and says they didn't realize the history they were creating.

"We just wanted to fly for our country," he says from Lakewood, where he now lives, "and to prove a point: We can do anything you can do, and do it better. I always say we were better, and we proved we were better because we went overseas and finally got a mission to escort bombers. Casualties dropped. And we had the first ever Air Force top weapons meet, and we won it."

A restored P-51C Mustang fighter airplane with a bright red tail, like those flown by the Tuskegee Airmen, will also be part of the air show.

"They put black aviators into a squadron," Henry says, "trained them and discovered this was a tremendously talented group of aviators selected for this special duty."

The Tuskegee Airmen protected the slow bomber planes, Henry says. The bombers were designed to carry heavy loads to targets, drop the bombs and come back. But they were constantly at risk of being shot down by enemy aircraft. Part of the Tuskegee mission was to protect them.

"They (Tuskegee Airmen) developed a reputation for tenacity," Henry says. "They didn't give up. They didn't depart from those bombers. They didn't respond to the enemy's tactics. They would try to draw them off into dogfights, but the Tuskegee Airmen stuck with the bombers, protecting them at all costs. The crews being protected by Red Tails called them Red Tail Angels."

Harvey recently heard an air show attendee talk about the Tuskegee reputation back in the war. "If you see a red tail, don't engage," he says. "Instant death."


When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: West side of Colorado Springs Airport, 5750 Fountain Blvd.

Tickets: $13-$15, $8-$10 military, ages 6-14 and 65 and older, free 5 and younger, $5 parking, cash only event;
Something else: Aerial demonstrations 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday


Chip Lamb and John Sledge are part of Trojan Phlyers Inc., a group of aviation professionals dedicated to preserving and demonstrating the military history of the T-28 Trojan warbird.

They'll perform precision, close formation aerobatic routines at 11:55 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Pikes Peak Regional Airshow.

Since 1995, the Trojan Phylers have performed at air shows around the country, showcasing the finesse of the fully aerobatic aircraft, which can take off in less than 800 feet of runway, climb to 10,000 feet in less than 90 seconds, race level above 335 mph and dive faster than 380 mph.

Lamb is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and flew F4 Phantoms in the Air Force and F16s in the Texas Air National Guard. After 30 years in the military, he retired as a colonel. He is also a retired American Airlines captain.

Sledge, the demo team wingman, flew F8 Crusaders from aircraft carriers in Vietnam and retired from the U.S. Marine Corp after 30 years as a colonel. He is a retired US Airways captain.

Article and Photo Gallery:

Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Red Tail Squadron's P-51C Mustang fighter named "Tuskegee Airmen." 
Courtesy CAF. 

Dominic Puntoriero, 16, recently completed his first solo flight in a helicopter — and he has a tougher test ahead

Dominic Puntoriero, 16, of San Juan Capistrano, and Revolution Aviation chief flight instructor Mark C. W. Robinson pose for a portrait at Signature Private Airport in Santa Ana. Puntoriero is one of the few teenagers in the U.S. to fly solo in a helicopter. 

While most young people are obsessed with getting their driver's license, Dominic Puntoriero has fed a loftier ambition: flying a helicopter.

After training for more than 65 hours over a four-year span, the San Juan Capistrano resident, formerly of Newport Beach, completed his first solo flight at Long Beach Airport on July 16, making him one of the few teenagers in the United States to fly a helicopter solo.

Dominic, 16, finished hours of helicopter training before obtaining his on-the-ground driver's license. Now he's focused on earning his driver's license for the sky.

"It's quite the skillset," said his instructor, Mark Robinson of Revolution Aviation at John Wayne Airport. "But doing it at that age, it's quite the achievement."

Flight training can start at any age, but an aspiring aviator must be at least 16 years old to fly solo. Beginning at age 17, a person can obtain a private pilot's license and fly any aircraft, within limits, with passengers.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, individuals who are issued certificates must have completed the required training and passed written and oral exams as well as a practical, behind-the-wheel test. At 18, one can become a commercial pilot.

Dominic, who is entering his sophomore year at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, in Rancho Santa Margarita, became interested in flying when, at age 12, he toured Hawaii with his family via helicopter.

"Dominic had a seat next to the pilot, and he could not get enough of it," said his father, Michael Puntoriero.

A few months after the family's vacation, Dominic approached his parents and asked if he could begin helicopter lessons. His father found Robinson and asked to schedule classes.

But the 12-year-old had a requirement to meet before he could sit behind a helicopter's flight controls.

Could he reach the pedals?

Not quite.

Robinson placed a cushion behind Dominic's back.

On his first day of flight school, Dominic arrived at Signature Flight Support, based at John Wayne Airport, where private planes can be flown in and out of Orange County. For the introductory lesson, Robinson flew the helicopter with Dominic as the passenger. The instructor wanted his student first to acclimate to sitting in the cockpit.

Dominic enjoyed the challenge of the ride.

"Helicopters are a lot harder than planes, because planes are very stable — they have two wings," Robinson said. "In a helicopter, it's like balancing a basketball on your finger."

For a while, Dominic finished a lesson every weekend, said his mother, Adriane. But because practices can be expensive — ranging from $250 to $525 — the family decided to stretch them out.

"He would love to go every day," his mother said. "Dominic started at age 12, but he was kind of like a 50-year-old at age 12."

During one training practice, Dominic was learning autorotation, where the descending maneuver of the engine is disengaged from the main rotor system, and the rotor blades are driven just by the upward flow of air through the rotor.

"I asked him, 'Didn't that scare you?'" said his father. "And he looked at me like he didn't understand the question."

Last week, Dominic, his 13-year-old brother, Anthony, and their parents stood on the John Wayne Airport tarmac talking to Robinson about the helicopter before them, a Robinson R44 four-seater, which Dominic flew for his solo.

The next day, Dominic started practicing maneuvers, and he will continue lessons with Robinson to prepare for a solo cross-country flight, which in helicopter parlance is a flight of 50 miles or more. He'll sit in a R22 Robinson two-seater, the hardest helicopter to maneuver, according to Robinson.

"The smaller the helicopter, the harder, because it's so light," Robinson said.

To become a private pilot, Dominic must have 40 hours of flight time, 10 hours of solo flight time and at least five hours on cross-country flights.

His next step is to complete a cross-country flight to San Bernardino International Airport and return to John Wayne, one of the busiest airports in the U.S. He's done it before, but now he has to finish the journey without Robinson.

"It's a great hobby and an excellent form of discipline, management, and it gives a different perspective," said Robinson, who once flew the Goodyear Blimp.

Dominic said that once he finishes school and earns his pilot's license, he would like to pursue delivering air medical services for hospitals.

"When I first soloed, I was nervous, but once I got up there, I was fine," Dominic said. "It's been great. I've learned that practice and dedication pay off."

Story and Photo:

Flight from New York to Savannah makes emergency landing at Hunter Army Airfield

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WJCL) – We have just confirmed that a Delta passenger flight from LaGuardia was forced to make an emergency landing at Hunter Army Airfield. The flight had 155 passengers.

Officials have confirmed that the flight experienced a fuel emergency after being placed in a holding pattern by Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport due to an electrical storm in the area.

Delta Flight 1947 landed at 4 p.m. Friday at Hunter Army Airfield. The flight is awaiting a chance to take off to land again at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport.

However, Stormtracker radar is showing that the current storm will be holding out for at least an hour.

Stick with WJCL for updates and watch us LIVE at 4:30 p.m. as we cover the situation here.

A commercial aircraft Friday afternoon made an emergency landing at Hunter Army Airfield after experiencing low fuel, an Army spokesman said.

Delta Flight 1947 safely landed just before 4 p.m. at the Savannah Army post after circling for an extended period of time to avoid dangerous weather in the area, said Steve Hart, Hunter spokesman. 

The plane had been en route to Savannah from LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

The 155 passengers who’d been on the MD-88 aircraft safely deplaned at Hunter where they were escorted into Truscott Air Terminal to await the end of the storm.

The passengers were expected to be either flown or bussed to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport after the storm had passed.

Lori Lynah, the airport’s spokeswoman, said it was an unusual and unprecedented situation.

“We’re a diversion airport,” she said. “When there’s an emergency planes have landed at Savannah instead of Atlanta or Charleston, but this is very unusual. To my knowledge we’ve never had to land a plane at Hunter before.”

- Source:

Construction mistake delays McCarran International Airport (KLAS) tower opening

An error during construction of McCarran International Airport’s $99 million, 352-foot Federal Aviation Administration tower will delay the opening of the facility by at least a year and could cost millions of dollars to fix.

Workers on the job site say a chemical coating to prevent the spread of toxic fungus was improperly applied and is ineffective. That means workers might have to cut through interior walls of the building to assure that the chemical treatment is properly applied.

Workers familiar with the construction project say the coating was supposed to be placed within walls, ducts and subfloors to curb the spread of a potentially toxic fungus that can cause flulike symptoms.

Instead of applying the coating to dry surfaces, it was placed in flexible ducts that had been lubricated for installation. The chemical substance never adhered to the oily surfaces, and when workers tested the air conditioning and heating system, flakes of the substance were blown from ducts into rooms.

Problems with the installation of the coating were first discovered in January. Representatives of union workers, the contractor and subcontractors and the FAA have begun meeting to assess the best way to address the problem.

Workers on the project feared for their health and conditions were serious enough to warrant a visit from leaders of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union from Washington to inspect the site.

The treatment in question during construction of the tower was aimed at curbing a potentially toxic fungus: stachybotrys chartarum.

With symptoms as gnarly as the name suggests, this persistent fungus led to the shutdown of several state and local public buildings when it was detected in the Las Vegas Valley in the late 1990s and early 2000.

The fungus, linked to colds, flulike symptoms and headaches, turned up at a rented state employment office in North Las Vegas in 1997 after it was found at the Las Vegas Academy building on Seventh Street. An industrial hygienist who investigated the problem in North Las Vegas determined the fungus was growing on a wallboard under repair.

Illnesses related to the fungus are not contagious. A person cannot “catch (the) symptoms from other sources,” according to the hygienist who probed that incident.

Clark County health officials have said the fungus grows if there is enough water and cellulose to support the organism.

The fungus has as much chance to show up in similar buildings with similar conditions on any side of the city.

In March 2000, fungi samples from UNLV’s Lied Library, while it was under construction, were tested by a university microbiologist who confirmed the presence of stachybotrys.

The FAA has acknowledged the problem at the tower but won’t comment on specific details.

“The FAA has a diligent inspection and oversight process and is closely monitoring the construction of the new Las Vegas air traffic control tower and TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control),” the agency said in a statement issued this week.

“The FAA identified some construction issues and is working with the contractor to address them. The FAA will ensure that any outstanding issues are resolved before accepting the final project from the contractor to ensure our employees and operations will not be affected.”

The tower project is under contract to Chicago-based Walsh Construction and Archer Western Contractors. The company’s Las Vegas office phone was unanswered this week, and calls for comment to the corporate office in Chicago were not returned.

The tower project, a facility designed to give air traffic controllers a better view of air and ground traffic at McCarran, was begun in June 2011.

The project includes the tower and a 52,800-square-foot, four-story TRACON building, a two-level parking garage and a guard station.

The TRACON building will house air traffic control training simulators, administrative offices and equipment and will consolidate the FAA’s presence in Southern Nevada.

The current control tower, built in the early 1980s, is about 200 feet tall, while the base building is 13,740 square feet. The new tower is designed to control air traffic more efficiently at McCarran, the nation’s eighth-busiest airport, which is expected to serve 700,000 flights annually by 2020.

Officials said the tower was expected to be operational by 2015, but the FAA now says it won’t be able to use the facility until late 2016 or early 2017.

Story and Comments: