Sunday, August 31, 2014

Brazil's Embraer flying high in the United States

They were just two men trying to sell Brazilian airplanes from Dania Beach. 

Robert Terry was an independent entrepreneur who dared to represent Brazil's aircraft company, Embraer, in marketing its sole product at the time: the turboprop Bandeirante, or Portuguese for "pioneer."

Newton Berwig was a Brazilian pilot who had served in the U.S. Air Force and long worked with Piper Aircraft. He came to open Embraer's first U.S. subsidiary to provide support for burgeoning sales here.

Today, 35 years later, Embraer has grown into the world's largest producer of small planes (37-120 seats) and the third-largest manufacturer of aircraft overall, after Boeing and Airbus. Its regional jets form the backbone of commuter airlines worldwide.

With U.S. headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, the company employs more than 1,300 people nationwide, including more than 700 in Florida. The company makes executive jets on Florida's Space Coast, assembles military planes in Jacksonville and plans a high-tech research center in Melbourne employing former NASA engineers.

Next week, Embraer will open that $24 million research center, with plans to hire 200 more people there. Plus, the company plans to add 600 employees in Melbourne at a $48 million facility that will turn out a new line of executive jets starting in 2016, said Gary Spulak, long-time president of the U.S. operations.

"They're arguably the most transformational foreign direct investment in Florida," said Manny Mencia, who runs the international division of Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development group.

"They're the first foreign company ever to assemble airframes in the United States. And that they chose Florida has attracted enormous interest in Florida in the aviation and aerospace world. There now are projections that we will surpass California in the industry," Mencia said.

It's all a giant leap from the 1970s, when Terry began to work with Embraer, just in time for deregulation of U.S. airlines and a boom in demand for small planes by new airlines entering the market with short routes.

In 1979, Embraer followed with its own office, led by Berwig, who was familiar with Fort Lauderdale because he had ferried planes between Brazil and the United States.

Embraer later moved the U.S. headquarters to the Fort Lauderdale airport, where it has grown to employ 270 people and runs a maintenance facility for its executive jets.

Embraer invested heavily in Brazil in the 1990s to develop its regional jets, but the cost proved too much for the state-owned company nurtured under a military regime. In 1994, Brazil's democratic government sold Embraer to a private group, which has revamped operations, boosted growth and now lists shares on Wall Street.

Sales of the regional jets soared worldwide, but the new private owners saw opportunity in executive jets and recognized the U.S. as the world's No. 1 market for private planes.

So, in the 2000s, after an extensive search, Embraer chose Florida's Space Coast as the global headquarters for their executive jet business and the site to produce those jets.

Melbourne won because of its engineering and technical talent, including former NASA employees who had worked on the space shuttle program. It had an airport with room for expansion. Costs were reasonable, partly because Florida has no state income tax, and the area has a port nearby to handle imported supplies. Plus, the Melbourne site is only a couple hours' drive from Embraer's U.S. base, Spulak said.

Embraer has made its Phenom jets in Melbourne since 2011. Customers come from around the country and the world to order to their specifications. The smaller Phenom, which seats up to six people, sells for $4.7 million, and the larger one, seating up to nine, costs $10.3 million.

In all, Embraer's employment in Melbourne should grow from about 350 today to top 1,150 when the tech center and new executive jet lines are fully staffed, Spulak said. One-third of the workforce in Melbourne comes from NASA or NASA contractors, he said.

To service the executive jets, the company also has built multimillion-dollar maintenance facilities in Arizona, Connecticut and Fort Lauderdale, employing hundreds more.

Embraer's military expertise also helped it win a contract recently to supply Super-Tucano planes to the U.S. Air Force. Those two-seaters are being assembled in Jacksonville, and the first of 20 should be delivered in coming weeks.

For Spulak, who has dedicated 31 years to Embraer, what's most exciting is not the company's growth but its culture and its people.

Like its Brazilian parent, the U.S. unit fosters a family-like atmosphere, living its motto: "Our people are what make us fly." Employees in Florida this year voted Embraer one of Florida's best companies to work for, in a ranking published in Florida Trend magazine.

Then, of course, Spulak loves the thrill of aviation.

"You're whisked up in the air 40,000 feet and come down," Spulak said. "It's a magical experience."


Business: Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, with U.S. headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.

Founded: In Brazil in 1969, in Fort Lauderdale in 1979.

Financials: $6.2 billion in revenues and $342 million in net income in 2013

Employees: 19,300, including Brazil, United States, Europe, United Arab Emirates, China, Singapore

U.S. employees: More than 1,300, including more than 700 in Florida.


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Airmotive takes flight: Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport (KBRD), Brainerd, Minnesota

Something is happening at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport that hasn't taken place in 33 years.

Airmotive Enterprises, the fixed base operator at the airport, last sold a Piper plane in 1981. Then the airport's plane sales stopped. This year, Airmotive is back in the business of selling planes and is expanding its flight school as part of its business rejuvenation.

It's goal of selling three Kodiak floatplanes this year is well within reach with two planes sold and another interested party in the wings. The Kodiak draws attention as it sits on the tarmac, high above many of the other small planes and corporate jets.

"People come out and look at it every day," said Mark Mathisen of Airmotive Enterprises. Mathisen wears many hats, pilot, mechanic, plane salesman and base operator. Mathisen came to Brainerd from Alaska bush flying. Mathisen piloted the Kodiak to such smooth landings on Gull and Pelican lake it was hard to tell when the plane left the air to become a flying boat and when it was back out of the water.

The Kodiaks were designed for mission work. Mathisen said there are five other Kodiaks like the amphibious one in Brainerd. The 10-passenger floatplanes burn just about any kind of fuel, take-off and land in short distances to accommodate difficult terrain and reach remote areas - from the sides of mountains to the North Dakota oil fields. It may need 850 feet to get off the ground, fully loaded with passengers and cargo, and has an ability to fly 350 nautical miles before refueling.

Potential customers range from fishing and mining camps in Canada to the Chicago Police Department. Airmotive sold one of the $2 million Kodiaks to a buyer in Italy and another in Toronto, Canada.

Airmotive co-owner D.J. Dondelinger said there are numerous applications for the Kodiak, which is able to fly in any kind of weather, from sky-diving groups to those who want to cut a drive of maybe 9 hours to Williston, N.D. to a flight of two hours and 15 minutes.

Airmotive is the licensed dealer for Mission Aviation Fellowship's Kodiaks in six U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. Mission Aviation Fellowship serves medical teams, missionaries, churches, relief agencies and other serving people in remote places in the world.

"It's a pretty capable airplane," Dondelinger said. "It does an amazing job. ... We call it the turbine suburban."

Dondelinger said Airmotive profits have been going right back into improving the operations, both the physical offices and services, since they bought the business from John Reidl Jr. a couple of years ago.

Now Airmotive hopes to add mechanics and not only sell more Kodiaks, but service planes from the six-state area. The planes are made by Quest Aircraft Co. in Sandpoint, Idaho. Dondelinger said they'd like to install the de-icers in Brainerd. The Kodiak at the Brainerd airport is also a prototype for Aeroset carbon fiber floats. Mathisen said the floats are 394 pounds lighter than other certified floats making a difference for take-off distances and handling.

The Kodiak isn't the only addition at the Airmotive.

Airmotive's flight instructor Matt VanCura has six students now and will be teaching high school students what they'll need to know for their ground work in the spring, including a trip to the aviation museum in Anoka. Dondelinger said the classes are significant as the aviation industry expects to face a 15,000 pilot shortage.

The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport is in phase three of its design and decor project. Many local artist's work can be viewed out at the airport while waiting to catch a flight or walking the halls to eat at Wings Cafe.

Danae Blanck Anderson, interior designer/owner of I.D. Your World, reported the next section of the plan is to create a history timeline of the airport and local aviation information. Anderson along with airport enthusiast Mike Peterson and Jeff Wig, airport manager, have been working on generating ideas, memorabilia and historical facts for this timeline.

"We are looking for any community involvement as well," Anderson said. "Our hope is to include items from people pertaining to aviation or specifically the airport whether it be letters, postcards, posters of events, photos or any airport nostalgia that can be located." 

For more information or if interested in donating items contact Wig at 825-2166 or Anderson at 218-330-2338 or

Story and Photo Gallery:

DJ Dondelinger (left), a co-owner of Airmotive Enterprises and Mark Mathisen, pilot, mechanic, plane salesman, pause after taking a quick ride in the Kodiak float plane. Airmotive, the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport fixed base operator is selling Kodiaks at the airport. 
Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch

Department of Environmental Conservation slates Mattituck Airport for removal from Superfund program

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed removing Mattituck Airbase from New York’s Superfund program, saying the property no longer poses a threat to public health or the environment, DEC officials said.

Before it makes a final determination, the DEC will accept public comment for the next month. The property is currently on the state’s Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site list, which identifies properties being investigated for potential hazardous waste and outlines any cleanup efforts taking place.

The airbase, located off New Suffolk Avenue in Mattituck, is one of 11 properties currently being investigated across Riverhead and Southold towns.

It was created in 1946, when Parker Wickham of Mattituck, who overhauled airplane engines during World War II, converted part of his family’s New Suffolk Avenue potato farm into a small airport and plane engine rebuilding shop under the name Mattituck Services, according to previous Suffolk Times coverage. The property is still owned by the Wickham family.

The site currently operates as an “informal airbase used by a few area pilots,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell.

The 12-acre site included a half-acre parcel where chemicals — including fuels, oils and cleaners — were once used for maintenance and repair work, according to state DEC officials.

According to the state agency’s listing, solvent rinses and wastewater used on the property were discharged to leaching pools in the area from 1946 to 1979, leaving elevated levels of copper, iron, nickel, zinc, lead and cadmium in nearby soils, as well as several pesticide ingredients.

To remedy the pollution, 25 tons of contaminated but non-hazardous soils were excavated from the area surrounding the leaching pools in 1997, with excavation extending at least three feet below the water table, the DEC listing states. The area was then packed with clean fill and closed.

Soil testing conducted in November 2013 found no lingering impact from the contaminants in question and it was determined that no public or environmental threats exist at the site, according to DEC officials.

Mr. Russell said he’s encouraged to hear that the historic site stands to be removed from the Superfund program.

“If the DEC is satisfied, naturally we are,” he said. “Certainly it is in the town’s interest to see all [of these areas] get remediated and delisted.”

Agency officials are asking that any public comments regarding Mattituck Airbase be mailed to Cynthia Whitfield, project manager, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Remediation, Remedial Bureau A, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7015 or emailed to You can also call 518-402-9564.

The comment period will close Oct. 5 and a final decision will be made on or after Oct. 26, according to the DEC release.
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Flight line tram rides provide good look at Stearman planes: Galesburg Municipal Airport (KGBG), Illinois

GALESBURG — Stearman biplanes carried most of America's World War II-era military pilots into the air for the first time.

After victory was won, many flew on spraying and dusting crops. A relative few became air show stars. A handful now reside in museums. But over the years, most of the nearly 8,500 trainers built in Wichita, Kansas, simply disappeared.

Visitors to the National Stearman Fly-In held every September at Galesburg Municipal Airport can experience the sights, sounds and smells of the old warbirds. This year's Fly-In — the 43rd consecutive celebration of the airplane — is scheduled Monday through Saturday.

Tram rides along the Stearman flight line provide an “up close and personal look at the airplanes,” says Dale Ruebner of Galesburg, who's in charge of the rides.

Trams will be operated daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting. Cost to ride is $1 per person.

A narrated program will help riders learn about the airplanes, why the people who own and fly them are dedicated to what they do, and about the Fly-In's history, Ruebner says.

Members of Knox County AMVETS Post 8 will be hosts on the trams again this year.

The tram rides were started several years ago to provide a convenient, safe and securite way to allow large numbers of people to get closer to the airplanes. Access to the flight line is generally restricted to registered Fly-In participants.

 Balsa plane competition

Youngsters from 3 to 12 can compete for prizes in a balsa airplane-flying contest during the Stearman Fly-In.

The event will be held from 1-3 p.m. Saturday in the Jet Air Inc. hangar at Galesburg Municipal Airport.

Competitors will be divided into three age groups — 3 to 5 years old, 6 to 9 years old, and 10 to 12 years old — according to Heather Godsil of Oneida, contest director.

Youngsters who successfully “pilot” their planes from 20 feet away to a landing in a 20-inch-in-diameter circle will qualify for a drawing for prizes.

First-, second- and third-place prizes will be awarded in each age group, Godsil said. The first-place prize is an airplane ride with a parent; second-place winners will get a 2013 Stearman Fly-In T-shirt; and third-place winners will get 2014 Stearman posters and buttons.

No pre-registration is required to enter the contest, and there are no charges for admittance to the airport or to compete in the balsa airplane contest. Competitors may keep their balsa planes after the contest.

 The event is planned to give youngsters the opportunity to watch the Fly-In's annual formation flying contest, scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

Breakfast to wrap up Fly-In

GALESBURG — An all-you-can-eat breakfast served by the Galesburg Noon Lions Club will conclude the Fly-In.

The breakfast will be served from 7 to 11 a.m. Sept. 7 in the Jet Air Inc. hangar at Galesburg Municipal Airport.

The menu includes pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, coffee, milk and orange juice. Prices are $6 for adults and $3 for children.

Proceeds from the breakfast will benefit Lions Club projects.

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Port Columbus: Forgetful gun packers get a break

Who would try to bring a gun through airport security?

Only someone incredibly stupid, say the people who have been caught with weapons in their carry-on luggage at security checkpoints at Port Columbus.

“Hell, no,” a 70-year-old West Side man told airport police when they asked if he knew the unloaded handgun was in his bag in January 2013. “Not only no, but hell no. Only a dumb--- or a professional football player would do that.”

Since February, these forgetful gun carriers have gotten a break. Airport police are no longer criminally charging those who unknowingly pack a firearm in their carry-on luggage. In the seven months since then, eight people have been stopped, but none was charged.

All of last year, and in the first month of this year, eight others were slapped with a criminal trespassing charge and summoned to court for the same thing. Gun carriers who aren’t concealed-carry permit holders also could face a gun charge, but none of those charges was filed.

“It goes back to intent,” said Angie Tabor, a Port Columbus spokeswoman. “These are not people who are coming through the airport with the intent to do harm.”

Part of the criminal trespassing statute involves an offender knowing they are in violation of the law, chief city Prosecutor Lara Baker-Morrish said. When guns are found, the owners usually say they didn’t know or forgot they were in there.

“While one might question whether such a statement is accurate, it is still the prosecution’s burden in these cases to prove that they were aware the loaded firearm was with them or were reckless in that regard,” she wrote in an email.

Charges were dismissed or reduced for each of the eight people charged with criminal trespassing in the past 20 months.

The number of firearms found at checkpoints in Columbus has increased: There have been 10 so far this year, compared with six in all of 2013. That mirrors nationwide trends. Last year, more than 1,800 firearms were found at U.S. airports, most of them loaded, according to the Transportation Security Administration. The agency is on track to find about 2,100 guns this year.

Among the nation’s 63 large and medium airports, Columbus is in the top 20 for the number of weapons found at checkpoints through July of this year. There were 2.94 firearms found for every million passengers at Port Columbus, ranking it 18th.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky was 15th with 3.60 guns recovered per million. Dallas Love Field was first, with 6.71.

But both the airport authority and people caught at the checkpoints say the potential of criminal charges — and a steep fine from the TSA — isn’t really a deterrent.

“People simply forget,” Tabor said.

One 52-year-old Lawrence County woman found with a 9  mm pistol in her purse in June told police that she knew full well that bringing a gun to the airport wasn’t allowed.

“In fact, she stated that she had recently made fun of idiots that do bring firearms to the airport, which now she is one of them,” an officer wrote in her incident report.

A nongun owner might not understand how anyone could forget they were carrying a firearm, said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association. But to a regular gun carrier, being unarmed is what would feel strange. He compared it with the odd feeling of driving without your seatbelt.

“We’ve got millions of people carrying firearms every day in our country, so occasionally somebody’s going to forget something,” he said.

Irvine, an airline pilot, said lots of people are under stress when they travel. Forgetting to leave their gun at home might be one of the things that slip their minds.

“That stress causes people to do silly, stupid things,” he said.

In some of the cases at Port Columbus, women forgot guns in their purses or men left a firearm in their briefcases. Others used a bag that they hadn’t traveled with in awhile, not realizing there was a gun in there.

That’s what happened to Frank Titus. He was at his Victorian Village home packing for a trip to Washington, D.C., and realized he could fit all his stuff in a smaller bag. Unbeknownst to him, a loaded Smith & Wesson .38 special was tucked in a pocket.

“I had no idea the firearm was in that piece of luggage,” the former Ohio State University police officer said.

Titus, 68, said a relative had put the gun in the suitcase awhile ago. Airport police were very nice, he said, and he wasn’t criminally charged, but he paid a $1,500 fine from the TSA.

Only three of the accidental gun carriers the Dispatch reached this week were willing to talk on the record. Most were embarrassed by their mistake and readily admitted to being at fault.

As Michelle Cefola watched her purse slide into the X-ray machine last year, she suddenly realized she’d left her loaded Ruger .38-caliber revolver in there. She told the agent.

“You would have thought I just blew up the airport,” she said. “They swarmed me.”

Cefola, a guidance counselor who was traveling back to Gilbert, Ariz., after driving her daughter to college in Ohio, was charged with criminal trespassing. She hired an attorney, and the charge was dismissed after she forfeited her bond and gave up her gun. She also fought the $3,000 TSA fine, hiring her attorney again to argue it down to $600.

While she didn’t benefit from it, she’s happy to see officers don’t charge mistaken gun carriers anymore.

“To just slap a criminal trespassing (charge) on someone like me was ridiculous,” she said. “Obviously, it didn’t hold up in court because they couldn’t prove intent.”

It was a stupid mistake, she admits, but she’d just driven across country with her daughter and had a lot going on.

“Life is not always that simple,” she said.

Linda Henry thought TSA agents were upset over some tweezers she might’ve left in her carry-on bag when they questioned her in May on her way to Galveston, Texas. They asked the Newark woman three times if there was anything they should know about before they opened her bag.

“There was my hair dryer and magazines and shoes, and they open this little side flap, and there’s this gun,” she said.

Henry, 63, started yelling at her husband, Alin, who had misplaced a Colt .25-caliber pistol years ago. He’d even accused others of stealing it. Turns out, it was in Henry’s bag all along.

“I had no clue,” she said. “And it was loaded to boot.”

She, like Titus, was grateful for the kindness the police officers and agents showed her. She wasn’t charged.

“I do know the next time,” Henry said. “I’m going to double-check and triple-check everything I take.”

Story, Photo and Comments:

Columbus Regional Airport Authority photos
Security checkpoints at Port Columbus have found eight guns in carry-on baggage since February. According to a new policy, none of the passengers was charged.

Vintage World War II planes a plenty to display during annual Mustangs and More Days

Mustangs and more will be on display in October as the annual Nut Tree Airport Mustangs and More Days returns.

Sparky, Red Dog XII, Merlin's Magic, Kimberly Kaye and Strawboss 2 are scheduled to return to the Nut Tree airport on Oct. 18. These are names adorned on the North American P-51 Mustang, the best World War II fighter.

The public is invited to come out and enjoy a fun-filled family day at the 6th annual event. This event is sponsored by the Travis Heritage Center, along with the Solano County (Nut Tree) Airport.

The event is scheduled for gates to open at 9 a.m. Parking is $5 vehihcle, and admission is $5. All proceeds go directly to support the maintenance and operations of the Travis Heritage Center on Travis Air Force Base.

The event honors both the North American P-51 Mustang and the men who flew this steed into combat both in Europe and the South Pacific. Many aces were made flying the great fighter into combat. Visitors will enjoy the Mustangs, which will grace the ramp and be able to talk to the pilots who keep these aircraft maintained in flyable condition.

Other World War II aircraft, commonly known as Warbirds will be in attendance as well. Expected to attend would be various Boeing PT-17 Stearmans, North American T-28 Trojans, and an L-39 Albatross jet fighter as well as other antique and classic aircraft. Other aircraft that will be displayed are a Hawker Sea Fury and a Grumman FM-2 Wildcat.

Also available for special viewing will be the Gonzales Tractor No. 1 Biplane, built in 1912. This magnificent aeroplane is powered by a 4 cylinder Kemp engine that is still operational. Located with this Biplane for viewing is a replica Fokker D-7.

Several Mustang auto clubs will also be on hand to show their classic automobiles. Other vintage automobiles are expected to arrive unannounced. World War II vehicles will also be on display.

Food and retail vendors will be available to make this a complete family day. Representatives from the Travis Heritage Center will be available to discuss volunteerism and how to arrange for access to and receive guided tours of the Travis Heritage Center. Learn about the extensive restoration programs underway on the Cessna O-2 Skymaster, the A-26 Invader, C-7 Caribou, as well as other projects such as rework of a B-52 Hound Dog Missile pylon.

For those who would like an opportunity to view this display from up above, rides will be available in a Travelair Bi-plane.

For more information, please call Event Director, Larry Smigla at 689-4848, or by email at 

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Donnie Bragg: Southern Poly grad killed in skydiving accident

Donnie Bragg, a 27-year-old father and Southern Poly grad, died in a skydiving accident 


Channel 2 Action News spoke to the family and friends of a local father who died in a skydiving accident over the weekend.

Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant spent Monday crisscrossing north Georgia speaking with those who knew, loved and respected Marietta resident Donnie Bragg.

People at Dive the Farm outside Rockmart say Bragg had more than 300 jumps under his belt.

"He was into so many different things. For a 27-year-old, he had accomplished so much," said his girlfriend Brooke Teague.

Teague said she wasn't quite ready to appear on camera, but did want people to know the Donnie she knew.

"He was confident in every single thing he did – that was Donnie. He grabbed life by the horns," she said.

His life ended when he and surviving jumper Tracy Sutherland, who both worked for Dive the Farm, collided at 13,000 feet.

"Both of them became unconscious. Both of them had good functioning parachutes when at that point, but after that we're not exactly sure," said instructor Steve Haseman.

Haseman is one of many now working to put all the pieces together.

"Folks need to know that we do everything we can to be safe, accidents happen no matter what we're doing," he said.

Bragg, a recent graduate of Southern Polytechnic State University, leaves behind his 1-month-old son Rowan, while Teague takes comfort knowing her boyfriend died doing something he loved

"So even if I don't know the exact details, I still find closure in him passing,” she said.

Sutherland suffered several broken bones and is recovering a hospital in Rome.

Donnie Bragg